I have been reading the chapter What Did the Cross Achieve? in the Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer Vol. 1. I found his treatment of theological models quite helpful.
Packer raises the ‘doctrine of analogy’. This is the method of using known aspects of reality (e.g. human relationships) to explain unknown aspects (e.g. relationship to God). This doctrine operates not only in theology but in other areas too, such as the physical sciences. In the 17th century Socinus made the mistake, and so did the later reformers, of using a non-biblical analogy (16th century monarchy), to attempt to explain a divine mystery (God’s kingship), in such a way as to tie up all the logical loose ends of penal substitution. As a result penal substitution never really emerged untainted of the charge of rationalism. We have been left with the idea that God was cold and distant, and that the matter of explanation of the cross came down to the solving of a logical puzzle rather than the declaration of a gospel.
Not surprisingly, having identified this problem, Packer argues that biblical models must be adopted as foundational. These serve as the necessary controls on the dogmatic models (e.g the derived statements on the Trinity, or the dual nature of Christ) and interpretive models (e.g. penal substitution). This should lead to a more satisfying treatment of penal substitution.
In reading this I realized how easy it is to adopt non-biblical models in seeking to explain biblical truth. For example, recently I commented on The Prevailing Church by Randy Pope. The practical nature of this book left me uncomfortable with the apparent lack of biblical support. Now I think I understand why. For example, Pope uses the analogy of a business to explain the functioning of a church. It has an owner (God), an employer (elders/staff), employees (members) and customers (members/non-Christians). One would expect history to demonstrate in time that this kind of analogy will lead to real difficulties with what the people of God understand themselves to be.
Another area which springs to mind is the use of analogy in illustrating truth in a sermon. How easy it must be for the preacher to set hearers’ minds off on the wrong track while trying to keep them on it!
Packer’s work emphasises to me the need for a sound biblico-theological foundation to our thinking.
I was at ETCW for workshop on preaching. 3 hours journey there, 4 hours workshop, 3 hours back (with a half-hour lunch break in the middle). I consider it time well spent. The question of sermon preparation is pretty important and an area I need to improve in.
There were five other students, all residential, and the same bunch that were there for the workshop on marriage and divorce last week. (I didn’t blog on this. I was too tired, and then forgot until it was too late).
Most notable from last week’s session was the discussion at lunch time. The one woman in the group was talking about her normal getting up time: 9am is good, 10 am is better! I confess to a degree of shock that a theology student at an evangelical theological college should not had experienced several hours of blessed prayer before breakfast. Isn’t that the norm? (;-)) But this was notable (seriously!): her bedtime reading (note: not her study materials) included Edwards, Spurgeon and others. “You can stay with these authors”, she said.
This I found remarkable because, well, to be blunt, very few women I know read Christian books, let alone good ones, let alone old good ones, and then say, “you can stay with them”! So, good for her!
But why do so few women I know read good books?
Oh dear! I always thought those SNP guys were a dodgy lot.
They want to blame their spell checker, but clearly someone wasn’t paying attention!
I do wonder, though, whether the creeping americanisation of English is being accelerated by the careless use of software originating in the States. I constantly find that MS Word wants to correct my English English. As far as I know I have set all the settings for English English.
What’s worse is there is no sign of a setting for Scottish English!
(Ed. – What?)
I can’t help feeling a sense of dismay at the Spanish election result. There is clearly something odd going on in the psyche of the Spanish electorate. Before the Madrid bombs the incumbent party was ahead. Yesterday they lost. What’s going on?
Whatever the answer, this is a disaster for Blair and Bush, and probably for the rest of us. This is a clear sign of weakness in the face of a new form of fascism and will give the terrorists no end of encouragement. There will be more suffering, not less.
By some accounts the new socialist party of government is riddled with corruption and power rests in the hands of regional power barons. Will the Spaniards regret this choice?
I finally got my iBook back today. A week ago the display failed. Judging by the sounds it made, it seemed to boot up OK, but no screen. When taking it to Harwood’s they told me it was a ‘logic board fault’. I took this as an irritating catch-all fault description which means, “we don’t know what it is but we will replace the guts of the computer and charge you lots of money”. As I said before, call me a cynic…
Turned out that there is a well-known fault with this model. Apple has a programme to replace failed logic boards free of charge.
So, on Wednesday, UPS bloke turns up, whips iBook into large box, and scuttles off. Today, same UPS bloke returns with fixed iBook in box. Free. So here I am typing away. Excellent. It’s good being a Mac disciple… 😉
However, my propensity to waste time was not helped by this hiatus. Backing up data, borrowing and setting up Susan’s PC ( 😦 ) all took time away from study. After 2 weeks into the semester, I am one week behind.
Two bits of news in our patch.
The first appears on the front page of the Independent and on the BBC: the first two British suicide bombers. One of them is from Derby. Susan thought she may have taught him in the past at a former school. It turns out he went to another inner city school.
The second is the conviction of two arms dealers who apparently owned a farm in Little Eaton where we live. The farm house is near the centre of the village and pretty overgrown. For a while I have wondered who owned it, thinking it would be nice to buy and rennovate. Looks like it will not be occupied now for a while.
It has been a busy week. Studies for the second semester started in earnest on Tuesday. A large chunk of Monday was spent planning my time up to the end of May. (Rolls-Royce, my employer, taught me to have a 3 month horizon for planning.) The modules I have are
• The Christian Ministry (looking at preaching and various knotty pastoral issues)
• Greek Texts
• Hebrew Grammar
• Placement (Church plant project in nearby Ashbourne)
Planning was necessary since it all went badly wrong last semester. I had planned but then ignored the plan. This is a problem I am finding with working at home out of a secular office environment – it’s too easy to take half-hour ‘holidays’ to do something else and make excuses for not achieving. I’m also aware that the impact of uncontrolled study can have on family life, so it needs to be kept in check.
So Tuesday was a module on The Christian Ministry and some revision of Hebrew. Wednesday: More Hebrew, a module on Redemption.
Thursday was interesting, since we began the placement. This should run to the end of April, 2 days per week. We are a team of five men. We are starting from scratch. We spent the morning batting around ideas, defining our goal. In the afternoon we went into Ashbourne just to get a feel for the town, find out about existing churches. Thursday is market day in the town centre so it was reasonably busy.
The 6 churches looked pretty moribund. Judging by noticeboards, bookstalls, etc. We plan to visit them on the next two Sundays to find out for real. Meanwhile we will look at how we can bring the gospel to a needy town.
Today I need to prepare for Sunday’s sermon at Woodlands.