Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2009

Praying for the Future

We often pray for the future. In fact, probably nearly all our requests are for the future. Yet mostly it's the short-term future we have in mind.  We pray for someone from church to find a job (with the assumption that it will be soon). We pray for the success of an evangelistic event (usually meaning that people will get saved that day).  My students pray to pass their exams (and it's not the resits next year that they have in mind).  We like instant answers, and so often we pray prayers that we think can get instant, or at least quick responses. However, our prayers for the future don't need to be for the short-term future.  God can use our prayers in the present for the distant future. After all, He is the Eternal God, the creator of time, and 'a thousand ages in [His] sight are but an evening gone, short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun'. In Old Testament times His saints prayed for the coming of the Messiah, yet for many of them this p

The Eternal Purpose through well adjusted lenses

After reading Frank Viola's fuzzy, out of focus account of the Church and God's Eternal Purpose, I couldn't help going back to an old Apostolic book on the same theme.  Thomas Ree's The Divine Masterpiece started life as a series of Bible readings at the Penygroes Convention in 1943. Despite the fact that it wasn't originally intended as a book, Rees is a lot more careful and nuanced than Viola. In fact he explicitly rejects many of the errors Viola makes.  While Viola's book may be up to the minute and in a contemporary style, Ree's book has the substance. Here's just a little taste: The Church is the delight of God. Eph. i, 4,5, reads: 'In love having predestinated us unto adoption, by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His Will.'  Why did God choose a church from the human race? Why not choose from among angels of spotless character, unstained robes, and undefiled garments? Surely he had much better material to reflect His Glory

Scoop! A Cautious Pre-Publication review of 'From Eternity to Here' by Frank Viola

It's not often I get a scoop. Usually I'm the last person to know about everything. However, I happened to get a book in the post yesterday which isn't officially published until 8 th March, so for once I'm a little bit ahead. The book in question is Frank Viola's From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2009). No, I don't know the author, nor do I have an 'in' with the publisher; I simply pre -ordered the book from the Bookdepository and it turned up in my letterbox yesterday morning. (To be fair, books are often available a wee bit before their publication dates, so I'm sure there are already a good number of other copies floating about out there). It was with mixed feelings that I read the book and that I now review it. I both liked it and didn't. Despite what they say, I do have somewhat of a tendency to judge a book by its cover (What?, you say, How can a responsible teacher say

Book Review: Christless Christianity by Michael Horton

Michael Horton, Christless Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 270 pages. Michael Horton is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, not because I always agree with him (I don't), but because he is a compelling and thought-provoking writer. Moreover, Horton is nice; he doesn't caricature and lambaste his opponents. His motivation in writing is clearly love for Christ, His Church and His Word, rather than any rancour against the opposition.  Yet, despite his niceness (and if you've ever listened to the White Horse Inn you'll know he even sounds 'nice'), Horton deftly gets to the core of the problems of modern evangelicalism, unveiling the danger of the hidden trend toward 'Christless Christianity'. I say the 'hidden' trend, as Horton warns us that our Christianity can be Christless even though we pepper our sermons and speech with mentions of Jesus.  Of course no one has to explicitly deny any article of the Christian creed in order to

Seminar on Pentecostalism at CTS

CTS is hosting a seminar on Pentecostalism on 5th & 6th March. We will be having papers presented by some of our own faculty, by some graduate students, and by Dr Michael Dusing, Academic Dean of Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, North Dakota. I've been asked to present a paper, so I'm busy working on that for the moment. My title is ' T owards the possibility of a Pentecostal  Ecclesiology: Some lessons from the British Apostolics' . Dr Dusing will be giving a response to my paper, which should be  interesting as he is the author of the chapter on ecclesiology in  Stanley Horton's Systematic Theology .

The Church and the Ways of the World

[The Church's] ministry to the world is not realised in compromise activities, by identifying with [the world's] practices. One of the most distressing spectacles is that of the visible Church been seen attempting to mimic the world and adopting its questionable gimmicks. It is a sad reflection on the spiritual state of the Church. A Church that is but an organisation, probably well organised, but lacking spiritual life will not effectively appeal to the world or meet the need of deeply impoverished souls. The Church is a living organism called to dispense life to a dead world and should not be swooning over its corpses or worshipping its idols.  For the Church to copy the world is tantamount to putting a shroud on a living person. Melvin J. Seaborne,  Aspects of Biblical Ecclesiology  (Penygroes: A.C.T.S., 1991), 19

The Church's Life

We are very mistaken if we think of church life as being evidenced by activity or noise. It is much deeper in essence and can only be understood as we learn something of Christ's life, which should not only be considered as corresponding terms, that is Christ life - Church life, but should be manifest as a parallel experience. The Life of the Church is Christ, life that is imparted to the members of His Body, the Church. Melvin J. Seaborne, Aspects of Biblical Ecclesiology (Penygroes: A.C.T.S., 1991), 11 Let us be open to an infusion of His life and rid ourselves of the notion that life is merely activity, or that a church is alive when it is noisy. Or even that it is a good church when it is well organised. If it is not organised in God and His purpose it is but a mere structure. Organisation, though necessary, is not enough in itself. ibid. 20

Christless Christianity

If the message the church proclaims makes sense without conversion, if it does not offend even lifelong believers from time to time so that they too need to die more to themselves and live more to Christ, then it is not the gospel. When Christ is talked about, a lot of things can happen, none of which necessarily have any lasting impact. When Christ is proclaimed in his saving office, the church becomes a theatre of death and resurrection. Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 141

A Must-Read for Pentecostals

While I was in Penygroes I spotted a book in the library for which I had been looking for some time, so took the opportunity to have a read.  David Allen (a former lecturer at Mattersey Hall, the AoG Bible college in the UK) has done Pentecostals (and Pentecostal ministers in particular) a great favour by writing Neglected Feast: Rescuing the Breaking of Bread (Nottingham: Expression, 2007). Allen is concerned by a perceived trend that the Breaking of Bread is taking less and less of a role in Pentecostal worship.  He gives an example of a church in which coffee tables were set up around the hall with bread and wine and the leader told people that, if they felt like it, to go and share some bread and wine with a few people. From personal experience, I have been present at a Pentecostal (though not Apostolic) service where the leader, as people were singing, said 'lets have something to eat and drink together as we sing'! Allen contrasts this lax attitude to the Breaking of

Back from Penygroes

I've been over in Penygroes for the last 4 days to do a bit of research. The village was white due to all the snow they've been having over in the UK, so it was beautiful, but cold.  For those of you who don't know, the picture in the title of my blog is of the convention crowds outside the Apostolic Temple in Penygroes , during one of the annual International Apostolic Conventions which took place in the village every August (recently they've moved to Swansea and are now known as AblazeUK ).  Although originally built to house the convention, the Temple was soon too small and a convention hall was built in the 1960s. The Temple is now home to the Penygroes assembly: the original assembly of the Apostolic Church. The Temple is the only building in Wales dedicated to the memory of the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905, and such Apostolic pioneers as D.P. Williams and W.J. Williams (among others) are buried in its graveyard.  On Sunday evening I went up with the students fro

Seminary & Missions: A Historical Perspective

Seminary / Bible College and missions have long been linked. (In fact, as we saw in the previous post this link between theological training and missions goes all the way back to biblical times). So, today lets look at a historical example. Back in the days of the Reformation, Calvin 'the Academy' in Geneva to train future ministers. Yet the academy did not simply exist to fill the pulpits of Geneva. Rather the academy existed to train missionary ministers to take the gospel beyond the Swiss city, to France and even further afield. The academy was opened in 1559; in 1561 the records indicate that 142 men were sent  out on 151 missions. By 1562 there were 2,150 protestant churches in France, with a membership of 3 million (out of total population of 20 million); furthermore it was estimated that half of the French nobility adhered to the Reformed faith!  Although it must be remembered that the missionary endeavour to France (and even Brazil) stared 4 years before the officia

Biblical Model for Seminary / Bible College

After a hard fortnight of exams, today was the first day of the Spring semester for our students at CTS .  So, I thought today would be a good day to post a few thoughts on seminary. I teach at seminary, so obviously I think seminary is important. I also studied theology at both a secular university and at seminary . So I've experienced both sides of the lectern. The longer I've been involved with seminary life, the more I'm convinced of its importance. Yet, some Christians are not so enthralled by the idea of seminary, claiming that is an unbiblical way to train ministers.  While it is true that the Bible does not describe blackboards, classrooms, lecterns, dorms, faculty meetings, etc., it does, however, provide the model that undergirds the idea of seminary. Acts 19:9-10 gives us a biblical example of the philosophy behind the idea of seminary or Bible College, for Paul, we are told withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus . And this cont