Thursday, 25 August 2011

Limited Atonement (Part 1)

This short series of blog posts is in response to a request made on one of my blog articles. It was a request to explain the doctrine of limited atonement. This doctrine handles the redemption of Christ and it considers the intent of the Triune God in the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many voices contend today that doctrine is not important but these kind of claims are totally unbiblical. Our view of the atonement impacts the message that we preach, the way we approach worship, evangelism, missions and the methods that people employ to build churches. Therefore let us consider this sobering subject most seriously.

The apostles all considered that God's purpose in the atonement was something central to Christianity and it must not be neglected or usurped by the latest wind of doctrine. Listen to the apostle Paul:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Cor. 2: 1-2.

There has been much debate concerning the Person of Jesus and also the work of Christ Jesus and we would fully expect sinful men, Satan and the worldview of the inhabitants of this world to 'muddy the waters'. However, the church must be clear minded concerning this subject. In essence, much of the discussion boils down to one simple question, even though there are many threads. The question is this: Who has the casting vote regarding the salvation of a sinner: Is it the sinners free will to choose the gospel or is it God's free grace to choose the sinner? It cannot be both and we need to examine ourselves and ask two further questions: How do I answer the preceding question? and secondly, what does the Bible teach concerning the answer to this question?

The coming blog articles will attempt to cover these topics, Lord willing.

* Two Systems Contrasted: Arminianism and Calvinism.
* The Synod of Dordt's Answer to Limited Atonement.
* The Answer of the Westminster Confession on this Matter.
* How should the biblical doctrine of limited atonement be applied practically?

One final comment is that the doctrine of limited atonement is sometimes called particular redemption or definite atonement. As a taster for the coming weeks, let me suggest that you read the sermon of the Lord Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum, recorded in John 6: 22- 71. One of the statements made by our Lord was this:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:44).

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Christian Race is a Marathon

Too often people forget that the Christian life is a marathon. Expectations sometimes get shattered, sometimes people view the Christian life with rose-tinted spectacles and disappointment can creep in, but we must never forget that God always remains faithful. Let us listen to the pastoral counsel of the Book of Hebrews (12:1-2):

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Christian life is a race, it is a marathon and it requires endurance. Someone once wisely said, that the only way to learn endurance is to endure. Ecclesiastes 9:11 reminds us similarly:

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

We need to pray for several things because 'the race is not for the swift'. It is not speed that counts in the Christian race but patience, steadfastness and endurance. We should pray for God's grace to remain faithful and consistent during seasons of disappointment. Attending public worship on the Lord's Day is not an optional extra for Christians, it is the command of God. We should also pray that we would finish our Christian race well and ask the Lord to help us in this. Sadly, one wise minister told me once that 'few men finish well'. This is sobering but let us 'look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith'.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

"The Church as the Image of the Trinity": A Critical Evaluation of the Ecclesial Model of Miroslav Volf

After a good number of recent years of theological research, I am thankful to the Lord that a door has opened for my PhD to be converted into a book format for publication. I sincerely desire that this book will be used for the glory of God, but also as a necessary corrective against politically correct, yet often biblically erroneous theologies, ones that all too commonly pervades theological departments in Universities in the Western world. The publishers summary on the back cover reads:

A resurgence of Trinitarian interest gained momentum in the twentieth century and it is showing little sign of abating in the twenty-first century. This research endeavours to critically evaluate Miroslav Volf’s ecclesial model for “the church as the image of the Trinity,” one which he presents with the English title, After Our Likeness. Volf proposes a social doctrine of the Trinity, one that is heavily influenced by the theological writings of J├╝rgen Moltmann, and he puts forward that this non-hierarchical Trinity should be reflected in the structures and theology of the church. If Volf is correct, then a radical reshaping is needed for the church to conform to an egalitarian pattern, one that is “after the likeness” (Gen 1:26) of an egalitarian God.
In this critical examination, Kevin J. Bidwell begins by stating the theological influences that are pertinent to Volf’s thesis in After Our Likeness and the assumptions that undergird and inform his whole theological paradigm. An important theological excursus is offered to assess the theology of John Smyth, the first English Baptist, who is Volf’s representative figure for the location of his own ecclesiology, the Free Church. A critical analysis follows of Volf’s engagement with his two chosen dialogue partners who represent both Western and Eastern theological traditions: Joseph Ratzinger and John D. Zizioulas.
Volf presents five theses for “the church as the image of the Trinity,” which could be labeled as Volf’s Free Church in the image of Volf’s revised doctrine of the Trinity. This monograph offers extensive insight into the contemporary debate on the doctrine of the Trinity, but it also assesses many aspects of ecclesiology from both Eastern and Western perspectives.


If you would like to get hold of a copy the link on Amazon is: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Church-Image-Trinity-Evaluation-Theological/dp/1610973739/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1

It is available as a book or a kindle format. Another link is the Book Depository which is: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Church-Image-Trinity-Kevin-Bidwell/9781610973731