Tag Archives: Theology

Visual Catechism 

Table (PDF) Based on the ocular Catechism of William Perkins, but humbly modified by me.

Table

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Trinity (Sunday School Lessons)

For friends and family that have asked, I’ve set a link to my church’s web page where you can find my lessons and other lessons from our gifted teachers. 

http://www.mcopc.org/sunday_school.php

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Trinity Dictionary 

A simple quick reference for Trinitarian words:
ousia (essence/being/substance): Formalized by the council of Nicea (325), it declared the Son to be of the same essence (homoousious) or co-essential with God the Father.

hypostasis (entity, “substance”, or person): Although typically used as a synonym for ousia (the word literally means “to stand under” i.e. “sub-stance”. Theologians will speak of there being one ousia (essence) and three hypostases (entities or “persons”). Why the two terms? Because it was deemed contradictory to say God is one essence and three essences or one substance with three substances. So one synonym was made to serve the other. 

prosopon (person, “mask/face”): Literally meaning “face” and implies the persona or image we present to others (commonly used in acting). Although the term is virtually synonymous with hypostasis it did not convey as strong a sense as hypostasis of an actually existing entity/person, as we use the term today and was feared to be a foothold for Modalism. Today speaking of the three “persons” of the Trinity is more accepted and common.

  • The classic Trinity formulation of doctrine is that: God is one essence (ousia), existing as three persons (hypostases or prosopon): Father, Son and Spirit.

physis (nature): In reference to the Trinity it is sometimes a synonym for ousia, but in Christology it is a way of speaking of the humanity and divinity of Christ.

hypostatic union: A term used to describe the relationship of the divine and human natures in Christ. In the unity of Christ’s substance/person there is no mixing, confusion or hybrid of the divine and human natures.

  • The classic Christology formulation of doctrine is that: Christ is one person (hypostasis or prosopon), who possesses two natures (physes): divine and human.

communicatio idiomatum (the communication or exchange of properties): A Christological precept that, because of Christ’s unity of person, allows for the attributes of the divine and human natures to be described as belonging to the other. We speak of God’s blood or God being born of Mary, dying on the cross….

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God’s Regret 

In the adult sunday school class at church we are working through the book of 1 Samuel. As we got into chapter 15 there was discussion of two statements that God regretted having made Saul king (15:11, 35), but also a statement in verse 29 that God is not a man that he should have regrets. This post is some of my thoughts on reconciling the two points. 
For me the key is to differentiate emotional terms as applied to a holy God, as opposed to how fallen humanity uses the term. I hold God’s regrets to be as like feelings, not that a poor choice was made but that the choice was necessary, yet grievous to watch play out (Luke 22:41-44). God’s providence is not detached from his character. He may have created the wicked for judgement (Prov. 16:4), and yet he can say this is not pleasing to his character (Ezekiel. 18:23). Although providential, He is not enjoying the judgement of Saul, in the same way Jesus/God can ordain Lazarus’ death, and fully know His intent to raise him from the dead, but be greatly grieved in seeing the death come to pass (John 11:5-42). 

In the case of Saul, the people demanded a king, so God gives them one knowing what the out come will be. Yet the giving of Saul and now his removal is not pleasing to Him. He must teach his people a lesson, yet it is still grievous to have to do so and watch it unfold. Scripture is full of the Roman 1:26 judgements of God giving people what they want, in opposition to wanting him. God installed Saul, to teach a point that hurt Saul, the people, and God himself (taking our iniquities on Himself). He does not sit back, like us, waiting for the “ah-ha” moment so He can yell, “I told you so”! Instead He is a God that knows perfectly what is necessary and can sympathize with us, not withholding from us, or Himself, any pain that must come to pass as part of His design. 

I think this teaches us to withhold judgment as long as possible, praying for the best in others, and not their swift destruction. Also we should be warned that what we demand of God, He may possibly give us in judgement. God is surely the great potter, making some vessels for honor and some for dishonor, but I believe the vessels of dishonor are wept over in their destruction. 
One anticipated question is that, couldn’t God have made the people wait for David, or appointed someone else, instead of suffering through all this and making David’s rise to power so hard? The simple answer is, No. As this is what happened, it must have happened as God’s perfect unfolding of His plan. Just the same we could ask if God could have destroyed the classes of Scribes and Pharisees prior to Jesus, so to make His days less confrontational. But He didn’t, and it served its grievous and glorious purpose. 

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All things for work for my eternal good. Romans 8:28-30

What Paul says:”And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (ESV)
Most segregate verse 28 from the rest, and without this context some common errors come up. 
It’s not saying Christians will have any less pain, suffering or general hard/bad circumstances in life than anyone else. The “all things” is simply that, all of life – the good, the bad and the ugly, are part of the Christian experience. Jesus didn’t die to lessen our hard times in this life. 
It’s not saying that because you did not get your initial dream job (bf/gf, car, college….) that the “working together for good” means that a better job (or whatever you’re after) is just down the road a few days or weeks at most. 
It’s not a negative version karma where I look at bad circumstances in life as something that triggers an equal and opposite positive circumstance. 
It’s not saying to look at bad circumstances as if they are good or come with silver linings. Bad things are really bad. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus was mad and wept, because death was real, and it was bad. He didn’t look past the pain of death and approach the situation as if He was looking to prove a point with a smile on his face. 

We so often tell people, who are in the midst of a tragedy that God will make it good, as in they will be able to comfort somebody else later on who befalls the same thing. That may be, but that’s not the promise here. 
It is saying:

* That all of life, for God’s children, is fixed and structured in a manner that it works to mold us, more and more into the image of Jesus (our greatest “good”). 

* That circumstances (good or bad) are the means/tools by which God molds us into Christ’s image. They are no less great or as bad as God intends, as He knows exactly what we need and can withstand. He never cuts off too much or too little. 

* That within this image bearing, God can refer to all Christians (men, women, children, Greeks, slaves…) as inheritors (“sons” as a position/title, not just gender). 

* That glorification is so fixed for the children of God, that it can be referenced in the past tense as already a part of what we are. 

* That, as Tim Keller summarizes in a sermon on joy, Christians have joy that transcends circumstances because these passages tell us 1) bad things are for our ultimate good, 2) the good (Christ) we can never lose, and 3) the best is yet to come.

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One interpretation, many applications 

Here is a new sermon/ lesson/ passage application grid. It’s borrowed in part from the Puritan model of sermon preparation for application, but modified. 

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Pascal’s Wager

Simply stated, the wager is that if eternal life and death are contingent on believing or not believing in God, then it’s logical to believe, Even if “just to be safe” because the risk of eternal damnation is too great.
To me it seems the wager is not an apologetic, appealing to natural reason in a fear/risk model as most cite. This then suspends (denies) the basic reformed position that in sinful depravity you could just logically convince someone to believe in God. Pascal does not attempt this tact in his other writings, so contextually as a writer, why would he start and even contradict other things he had written?
Now within the context of his other writings he maintains great descriptions of man’s depravity and its impact and cause of illogical reasoning’s of man. A famous quote of his places the motions of the heart against logic when it comes to love. This fits the moral rational view he holds that as man makes decisions there are calculations being made. You go to cross the street, and you mentally calculate your ability to accelerate against the speed and distance of on coming traffic. In anger you may ignore the calculation and just gun it and take your “chances”. I think this the observation being made in Pascal’s wager. He is not looking to apologetically convince someone to believe, but instead makes an acute observation that men make such an irrational choice with so much in the balance, that sin and depravity could be the only reason to not believe in God. It’s a proof observation that belief in God is a moral rational belief. One that man actively suppresses. If man approached the God question as he does other choices, the rational/logical conclusion would be to believe, because of everything at stake. I think this matches well with his “thoughts”, especially those on distractions and diversions.

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