Christ as Intermediary

“For as soon as God’s dread majesty comes to mind, we cannot but tremble and be driven far away by the recognition of our own unworthiness, until Christ comes forward as intermediary, to change the throne of dreadful glory into the throne of grace.”  –Calvin, Institutes 3.20.17

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Holy Communion is about Communion

After gathered worship today, my wife said out loud that she would like to speak with the pastor.

Remember -communion serviceI asked, “About what?”

“The Communion.  It was so impersonal,” she said.

You see, the pastor toward the end of the gathered worship pointed to his left and said that the Lord’s Supper is there for anyone who would like to observe the Lord’s Supper.  I noticed some people observed while the most of us did not.  In a way, the pastor had taken communion out of Holy Communion.

Up to that point, we had all prayed, sang, give, and did everything else together.

While I look forward to observing the Lord’s Supper (as readers of this blog know), I did not today, concluding that it was too impersonal (I had no idea my wife felt the same way).

As we were making our way to our vehicle, I told my wife that I knew the reason why the Holy Communion was so impersonal.  She insisted that I did not know why.

I retorted, “I know why.  Here is why: They have a weak and poor view (theology) of Holy Communion” (my wife agreed).  No one who has a high view of the Lord’s Table makes it so impersonal.”

Clearly texts like 1 Corinthians 10:14-17 and 11:17-34 teach this point: Holy Communion is about communion.  Too many of our local churches have a poor view of the Lord’s Table.  After much reflection on these 1 Corinthian texts, I’m convinced that a proper theology of the Lord’s Supper as communion would not only aid our relationship vertically, with the Triune God, but horizontally, with one another.

My wife also said, “The way the Lord’s Supper was done was not an opportunity to break bread together.”

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Quote of the Day

Just as we would not have expected to find God in a feed trough of a barn in an obscure village, much less hanging, bloody, on a Roman cross, we do not expect to find him delivering his gifts in such humble places and in such humble ways as human speech, a bath, and a meal.” –Michael S. Horton

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The Shattered Image: Corrupted by not Wholly Effaced

Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising the gifts, we insult the Giver. How, then, can we deny that truth must have beamed on those ancient lawgivers who arranged civil order and discipline with so much equity? Shall we say that the philosophers, in their exquisite researches and skilful description of nature, were blind? Shall we deny the possession of intellect to those who drew up rules for discourse, and taught us to speak in accordance with reason? Shall we say that those who, by the cultivation of the medical art, expended their industry in our behalf were only raving? What shall we say of the mathematical sciences? Shall we deem them to be the dreams of madmen? Nay, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without the highest admiration; an admiration which their excellence will not allow us to withhold. But shall we deem anything to be noble and praiseworthy, without tracing it to the hand of God? Far from us be such ingratitude; an ingratitude not chargeable even on heathen poets, who acknowledged that philosophy and laws, and all useful arts were the inventions of the gods. Therefore, since it is manifest that men whom the Scriptures term carnal, are so acute and clear-sighted in the investigation of inferior things, their example should teach us how many gifts the Lord has left in possession of human nature, notwithstanding of its having been despoiled of the true good.”  –Calvin, Institutes, 2.2.15, emphasis added

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Does this offend you?

Not me.

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Book Review: Surprised by Scripture by N.T. Wright

  • Hardcover: 240 pages9780062230539
  • Publisher: HarperOne (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062230530
  • Amazon.com

Many thanks to HarperOne for a review copy of N.T. Wright’s Suprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues.

An Overview

Surprised by Scripture is a collection of papers and addresses given by N.T. Wright in noted places both in the US and Europe, ranging from 2004 to 2013.  While Wright addresses the contemporary Western world in general terms, the reader can’t help but notice the many specific references to the US.  Wright’s reason: because of the powerful influence that the American culture in the rest of the world.  Two important elements through the book is Wright’s repeated attention to the philosophies of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, on the one hand, and the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism in a modern guise, on the other.

The book is comprised of twelve essays, which really are showcase of one of today’s most brilliant biblical scholars engaging contemporary issues, per its subtitle.  The reader must also keep in mind that N.T. Wright is not only a biblical scholar but a historian as well.  As the reader moves through each chapter, he or she encounters both the theologian and historian on each page.  The book is engaging, witty, and often focuses the reader to rethink held positions.  And what is central to the book, the one constant, is the author’s modus operandi: how God is putting the world to rights through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and thereby launching the new creation.

A Critique

Above I mentioned Wright’s modus operandi (so much more can be said).  Readers of Wright’s works would know what I mean.  It is this Wright uses to engage the contemporary issues addressed in this work.  Now what ultimately determines the usefulness of Surprised by Scripture is this: Is Wright’s reading of Scripture correct?

But not all the essays in Surprised by Scripture are engaging and useful.  While there are several gemlike and evenly balanced essays, the one I was expecting the most from turns out to be the most disappointing: “Do We Need a Historical Adam?”  Instead of an assured, challenging and thoughtful Wright, who forces you to rethink, what we get in this chapter is a very speculative and sloppy Wright.  For example, in an effort to draw a parallel between nation Israel and Adam and Eve, we find this: “that just as God chose Israel from the rest of humankind for a special, strange, demanding vocation, so perhaps what Genesis is telling us is that God chose one pair from the rest of early hominids for a special, strange, demanding vocation” (p. 37).  But Wright offers no explanation as to the origin of these socalled “early hominids” and so on.  However, all is not lost in this essay. I found his bit on the young-earth position both mature and wise.

Wright continues his critique of the Rapture and a Dispensational reading of Scripture.  Before you wonder why.  Because of Wright’s own reading of Scripture, there can be no place for a Dispensational reading, especially the Rapture position.  At any rate, before I bring this review to an end, I would be remiss if I didn’t say something on the essay “The Biblical Case for Ordaining Women.”  I consider this one of the gemlike essays.  For years, I’ve been waiting for an egalitarian to do what Wright does in this essay: “Galatians 3 is not about ministry…” (p. 65).  Instead Wright lays a foundation for his interaction with 1 Corinthian 11 and 14 and 1 Timothy 2.  After interacting with “head” in 1 Corinthians 11, favoring a “source” reading, I wish Wright would have engaged “head” in Ephesians 5, if only briefly.  As a complementarian, I challenge fellow complementarians to read this essay with an open mind.  Briefly back to those gemlike chapters (essays): I especially appreciate the last few chapters and their challenge to the church to be that prophetic voice of the new creation, right here and now, in the public square.

Conclusion

Above all, to see how N.T. Wright’s reading of Scripture engages some of our leading and controversial contemporary issues is what commends Surprised by Scripture for me.  Wright is not for the faint of heart.  But neither can he be ignored.  I’ve even read where senior denomination leaders have asked their younger pastors to stay away from the writings of N.T. Wright.  Why?  Because Wright will challenge you to rethink your beliefs, and worst, even cause you to give up some of them.  Rather than frustrating a reading of Wright’s works, the Body of Christ would be better served if denominational leaders would engage an N.T. Wright, not least in the US, rather than dismissing him out of fear and suspicion.  But a la Luther.  Semper reformanda.

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John Calvin on Weekly Communion (Lord’s Supper)

communionreflectionversesReflecting on a crucial text like Acts 2:42 and the spiritual benefits of the Lord’s Supper, John Calvin argues for its weekly observance,

Each week, at least, the table of the Lord ought to have been spread for the company of Christians, and the promises declared on which we might then spiritually feed.”  –Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.44, 46.

See my post An Advantage to Holy Communion Weekly? for my own arguments on the matter.

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