Monthly Archives: May 2007

The Sufficiency of Christ’s Obedience in His Life and Death :: Desiring God

Found The Sufficiency of Christ’s Obedience in His Life and Death :: Desiring God from Adrian: John Piper Friday – Christ’s Obedient Life and Death Entwined.

What I find strange is that there is no reference to Jesus as a member of the trinity. Where is the divine Jesus in this teaching?

This weeks lectionary gospel is from John 14. Read verses 10-11:

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in
me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather,
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

It seems to be have dangerous hints of Arianism to focus so much on the life of Jesus as if human obedience was all that saved us, especially as that does not seem to have been the understanding that Jesus had (nor of course that of the Church through the centuries).

Confusing Humility/Modesty and Moderation

In Humility in all the Wrong Places I think Adrian is again confusing humility/modesty with moderation. So often it seems that in order to avoid the trap of wrong humility/modesty people feel the need to move to extremes. We can see this over issues  such as Penal Substitution.

There is a fear that anything other than an extreme position does not allow for passion and zeal. That anything moderate must automatically be weak and lack conviction.

This is incorrect. Jesus demonstrated this. He was extreme only in love. He refused to be driven to the extreme in dealing with the Romans or those who attacked him (except that extreme of love).

Henry has written well about this: Threads from Henry’s Web » Being a Passionate Moderate.

Good News

Following 42: Another Mother-in-law update I am pleased to say that Mum’s double heart bypass operation today (Tues) seems to have gone well.

She is in the intensive care unit overnight but has come round. The doctors and nurses seem happy with the situation.

Jane and I went there in separate cars this afternoon. I had to leave before she came round but Jane was able to stay until the end of visiting time. So she was there when her Mum came round and spend time with her.

Yet again the NHS has been excellent during this time. In both Kettering and Glenfield Hospitals all the staff have been very kind and competent.

While we were with Mum the Chaplain came around. She had given Mum communion on the ward on Sunday and came to see how things were going. It was really good to experience her care first hand. There is a different feel to the care a chaplain can offer to that provided by the local minister visiting Church members. I think they go well together.

When the nurse was talking about adjusting the sedation to keep Mum just asleep until she had warmed up and been washed I thought that would be a handy thing to have. I can think of several people in this house I would like that much control over :-)

Another Mother-in-law update

Following 42: Mother-in-law update much has happened. Mum was transferred to Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. She has had an angiogram and as a result of that is due to have a double bypass operation in the morning.

Went this morning thinking that she was going to have the op this afternoon. That did not happen so took the boys to see her this evening.

Planning to be back tomorrow, before she comes round.

More prayer a good idea.

PS Not a lot of blogging time

Backing music for Worship

One of the main reasons for going to the Christian Resources Exhibition was to look for music for worship. I need this for 3 different situations.

  1. For Sunday worship in Chapels with no musicians but strong singers
  2. For Sunday worship in Chapels with no musicians and weak singers
  3. For mid week worship and fresh expressions where we do not have musicians. These tend to be much newer songs so for some we need to sing along but once we know them we prefer to sing just to the music.

So I am looking for

  • hymns from the Methodist Hymns & Psalms book both with and without singers.
  • Songs Of Fellowship both with and without singers.

I have quite a lot of CD’s already (about 30) including many from "The 500 Series" which are by Kingsway and should match Songs Of Fellowship. However, the vast bulk of these are not good for singing along to. Typically the singer does some fancy solo bits (playing with timing or repeats), or there are long solo instrumentals (we all stand there wondering what to do), or they are live performances with lots of crowd noise (other people clapping and cheering and asking for more is very distracting).

There are a number of quite good MIDI resources (for hymns) such as FamilyFriendlyChurches, but CD’s or MP3′s can sound a great deal better and are much easier to play without specialist equipment.

I have come back from CRE very disappointed. I found two suppliers who have (very limited) MP3′s available of backing music without singing.

  • from Kingsway but what a rip off. Songs with vocals are 99p but songs without vocals at £1.99 and they only have 94 available. As there are 1690 songs in SoF 1, 2 and 3 this is just over 5% available. Note that the full set would cost nearly £3,500 !!!!!!
  • DM Music also have a small number available but the price is the same. The bulk purchase of 100 for £149 (still not very good value) does not include versions with no singing (well actually it seems to have a random mixture between singing and no singing which is ridiculous).

I think it is a terrible shame that these prices are going to keep these tracks from many small churches (who else is going to buy these tracks without singers or with singers for congregational singing). The additional cost having already paid for word books, music books (I spent £100 on 2 sets of SoF music editions today) and CCL licences is well beyond the means of many chapels I serve.

The other main supplier of CD’s is Kevin Mayhew but somehow I missed their stand. Their prices work out nearer 50p per track. NB 25% of the Kingsway and DM Music prices. They have approx 400 modern songs available, 400 hymns and 300 for young kids.

Another alternative is the Church Music Website who have 138 hymns for £37 or their full set of 312 hymns for £104.99

Still a big gap for the modern stuff (ie Songs Of Fellowship). So I am looking for suggestions that are affordable for small & poor churches (the very ones least likely to have musicians).

A mixed day

Today (Wed) has been somewhat mixed.

It was a rushed start.

  • Youngest son going on a school trip.
  • Oldest son worrying about a French exam
  • Jane off to Leicester to visit her Mum in hospital and aiming to get there before the doctors finished their rounds (after over 2 weeks in hospital we had not been able to see a doctor once)
  • Me going to the Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown Park (other side of London) and hoping to be there for an 11am seminar

But it did not quite go as planned. Just as I was passing Milton Keynes I got a phone call (yes hands free) from the youngest’s School. He has been sick, has not gone on the school trip and could we collect him. H’mm tricky. No not really. So made calls to Jane so she would know what was happening and decided to continue as there is no other chance for me to get to CRE this year.

Jane did get to see a doctor but did not learn a lot. Makes making plans very difficult.

I did get to CRE and generally had a good time. Met Cartoon Dave for a coffee and chat. Met other friends. Bought some needed stuff. Bought some unneeded stuff. Got very frustrated about backing music for worship.

Traffic terrible on way home. M25 stopped so went the other way round London. Queued for Dartford tunnel and on M11, got home 8:30pm. Youngest bit better this afternoon (some very wonderful friends from Church rescued him from school), gone to sleep on sofa.

Now playing working with new toy work related software: SongPro. Comments in a separate post.

Fresh Expressions take over bid?

We are moving towards a time when the Fresh Expression, WOT (Worship On Thursdays), at Raunds Methodist Church will have more worshippers than the Sunday Service.

Both are growing but the rate of growth for WOT is much greater. Zero to 33 people (this week, a record) in less than 9 months.

This week we tackled Nehemiah, as usual the whole programme is focused on scripture and includes:

  • worship (singing, prayer, teaching)
  • crafts
  • games
  • a meal (stew with dumplings & mash followed by real bread and butter pudding or yoghurt)

Despite the record numbers we were actually lower than normal in support from members of the original Sunday congregation (8 including 3 kids).

We are still trying to cover a wide range of scripture for people who have never used a Bible and helping them connect it together. For example we are building a really simple timeline that shows how all the different stories, characters, events we have covered relate to each other. We also use a world map a lot. We do try to relate themes to the Christian calendar but most importantly to Jesus.

Today I picked 3 themes from Nehemiah:

  • Safety (God wanted his people to be safe which is why the wall was rebuilt)
  • Celebrate (God wanted his people to celebrate his word)
  • Share (God wanted people to share with others so all could celebrate)

Some of the things we did were

  • a wall (tower) building competition (wooden blocks, duplo and lego)
  • made trumpets
  • created a prayer wall
  • played a game with trying to kick a ball past a human wall
  • sang "Blessed be the name of the Lord"
  • talked and prayed

Next Thursday being Ascension day I guess the theme is obvious.

PFOT: New Acronym FOPSA

I have just invented an important new acronym. FOPSA. The meaning is obvious.

Full-On Penal Substitution Atonement.

To be a FOPSA you need to demonstrate a commitment to Penal Substitution as the central and vital heart of the Christian gospel. You may do this in a number of ways and we have seen many of them in posts (some of which I have linked to), in comments here and many other blogs and in books such as Pierced For Our Transgressions.

Ok, maybe the term FOPSA may not catch on. However, I am trying to make a serious point. It seems to me that we are seeing a rise in aggressive support for Penal Substitution as the critical way to understand atonement, and not just atonement but everything about the gospel.

I do not believe that the arguments raging about Penal Substitution are about traditional understandings of Penal Substitution such as are articulated in scholarly works on the subject from the past. Instead the arguments are with FOPSA.

The question is not "Is Penal Substitution as traditionally understood and taught valid?" but "Is FOPSA valid?"

I started thinking about this in 42: PFOT Being changed by Penal Substitution, since then I have been thinking more.

The position of FOPSA advocates seems reasonably clear. PSA is the most important thing that we have to believe (at least that is how I understand Adrian’s series and the Coffee and Bible Club blog) it is absolutely vital and central to everything that the gospel is.

In my post 42: PFOT Being changed by Penal Substitution I described a number of aspects of my faith which appear incompatible with FOPSA. You cannot believe both. Therefore, either all these beliefs are wrong or FOPSA is taking PSA too far.

FOPSA and Christian Pacifism are incompatible.

I am clearly not alone in finding this. I invite supporters of FOPSA (ideally who are also Christian Pacifists) to explain how these are not incompatible.

My understanding is that Christian Pacifism was universal until the time Augustine. If FOPSA is incompatible with the standard teaching and position of the whole Christian Church for the first few hundred years of it’s existence then how can it be correct?

There are many texts in the gospels and rest of  the new testament teaching non-violence. These make a strong case for pacifism. How can the Bible be demanding full and total commitment to FOPSA while demanding an incompatible pursuit of pacifism.

FOPSA and Masculine Christianity

I fully accept Pam’s comment that not all PSA supporters are against women in ministry and that PSA does not demand discrimination against women and others. However, I do see a very high correlation between FOPSA advocates and those who campaign

Do FOPSA advocates speak with one voice on these issues? Where are women speaking as FOPSA advocates? Where are women pastors of FOPSA Churches? …

Conclusion PSA is not why FOPSA struggle to recognise me as Evangelical.

I now do not think it is because of PSA that Adrian and other FOPSA advocates struggle with the idea that I consider myself an evangelical. After all I have said (in 42: PFOT: My starting position on Penal Substitution):

value Penal Substitution as one theory of atonement within a range of
theories that have been considered orthodox teaching within the
Christian Church, while recognising that different groups within the
Christian Church have different views on various theories of atonement
and that there is not total agreement (and probably never has been). I
do believe that there is potential for penal substitution to teach us
something about the cross and about God.

I suspect that a key problem for FOPSA advocates is that they cannot understand how you can be Evangelical and a pacifist. They do not believe you can be an Evangelical and not stand for their idea of masculine Christianity.

Whereas, I do not see how I can be anything but a Pacifist, Egalitarian, Evangelical in the Methodist tradition. If these things are incompatible with FOPSA then I cannot accept FOPSA.

In a comment on The Coffee Bible Club Blog: Mark my words I have pointed out the dangers of a world view that sees everyone polarised to the extremes. FOPSA is a polarising view that seeks an understanding based on extremist all or nothing, as such I reject it.

PFOT: Substitution or Penal Substitution?

It seems to me that a common feature of the vocal support for penal substitution (and it is seen a lot in Pierced For Our Transgressions) is to take Biblical texts that describe the atonement and interpret them as supporting only penal substitution. It is true that some support substitution. However, it seems to me that many of these do not require penal substitution (not even substitution) as a model of atonement.

Take this recent post by Adrian The Atonement – Romans 6-7 and Penal Substitutionary Atonement. I do not understand why Adrian believes this text requires penal substitution.

I do agree with him when he says:

note the link Paul makes between Jesus’ resurrection and our empowerment to bear fruit for God.

but these texts point to issues common to all theories of atonement eg

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body
of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be
enslaved to sin

says nothing about Jesus being punished for this to happen, it says nothing about a legal justice transaction. Also it seems strange that in

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ,

Paul is writing about Christians having died to the law. That seems an unlikely argument for a legal understanding of the cross.