Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘theology of glory’


You might think it a challenge to review a book it took 3 years to read. You would be right. In this case it took 3 years to read a relatively short book. This was no John Frame tome. The problem was not the book, but my life. Other projects and books seemed of greater importance. This speaks not to the quality of this book but of the choices we all have to make.

The book of which I speak is Name Above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson. Though these two friends of Scottish descent and upbringing share a common love for Christ, they do have some differences in theology. These differences are not apparent here, nor should they be. It would be interesting if they wrote a book discussing their views of the Church and sacraments. But they wrote about Jesus Himself in this book.

You cannot really tell that two men wrote this book. Sometimes such books make references to this. For instance, sharing personal stories attributed to one of them. I don’t recall any of that (if it is there, it would be in the early chapters I read 2-3 years ago).

I would describe this book as a popular-level biblical theology focus on Christology developing 7 important titles or names of Christ in the Scripture.

“Standing in various pulpits in our native land of Scotland we have often seen words visible to the preacher but hidden from the congregation: ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’ (John 12:21).” from the Preface indicating their purpose.

It is popular-level because you don’t need to be an academic, professional or theology nerd to understand this book. As pastors, their pastoral hearts and minds are on display as they put the cookies where the average Joe and Jane can reach them. This does not mean the book is superficial, it certainly is not. But it is in “plain English” so ordinary people can understand and benefit from the book.

It is a biblical theology because it traces each of these themes through the Scriptures. Systematic Theology summarizes a doctrine. This means it can flatten out nuance, but it keeps you from heresy. Biblical Theology, when done well, shows the development through the progress of revelation and its importance to the history of redemption. It is the basis for the summary, such that they are meant to go hand in hand. This is not mere proof-texting but developing your theology from the texts in question. This book is an example of Biblical Theology done well.

It deals with 7 titles of Christ to develop our understanding of Christ, 7 being the number of completion so (okay, I’m kidding about this last part). I wish there were more chapter. One of the reasons I started the book was due to an Advent series that addressed some of these, particularly the Seed of the Woman. Over the last few years a quote or two from this book would pop up in a sermon. In addition to Seed of the Woman, they cover Jesus as True Prophet, Great High Priest, Conquering King, the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant and the Lamb on the Throne.

Each of these has great redemptive significance and they do a great job of fleshing that out for us in the book’s 180ish pages. That means the chapters are a tad long for our microwave, ADD generation. But the pages aren’t big, or writing dense so you can do it. Really!

They start with the protoevangelium, the Seed of the Woman. In other words they start in Genesis, in the Garden. In doing so they instruct the reader on why we have a Christ-centered approach to understanding the Old Testament from the words of Jesus to 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus. As Ferguson notes in another book, From the Mouth of God, the OT is a development of this theme from Genesis 3:15. How is the coming of the Seed of the Woman to crush the head of the serpent developed, and resisted. This conflict initiated and sustained by Satan, that old dragon, marks all of history. Tucked into this chapter they talk about Jesus as the Second Adam so it is a 2 for 1 deal. The Seed of the Woman crushes the head of the serpent by doing what the First Adam failed to do.

Over the next 3 chapters they delve into one of my favorite subjects, the three-fold office of Christ: Prophet, Priest and King. Jesus reveals to us the way of salvation as our Prophet, is the way as our Priest who sacrifices Himself for us and continues to intercedes for us, and applies that salvation to us by subduing our hearts and then protecting & expanding His kingdom in this world. In many ways this reveals the on-going ministry of congregations and pastors (a book for another time).

In the chapter covering the Son of Man, they spend a great deal of time in Daniel 7 before they get to the Son of Man sayings in the New Testament. The focus is not on a man but on Jesus’ role as “man as he was created to be”, an eschatalogical figure who ushers in the kingdom of God.

The road to the Son of Man coming before the Ancient of Days runs through the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. His is a representative suffering. He suffers not for His own sin but for the sins of others. He suffers not to deliver Himself but to deliver others. Before the crown comes the cross. This theme is developed in each of the last 4 chapters. They want us to grasp the theology of the cross and reject a theology of glory. Just as Jesus suffered here, we will too. But just as He was exalted, we are exalted in union with Him. But our life here is marked with suffering just as His was.

The final chapter focuses on the final book of the Bible, Revelation, to develop the title of the Lamb upon the Throne. Revelation is all about this Lamb who reigns for the comfort of His Church in conflict with the counterfeit trinity and church.

They help us to see Jesus more clearly through their examination of these 7 names. The reader will better understand the nature of Christ’s work for us. They will better understand how the Bible fits together. Begg & Ferguson have produced a book well worth reading. Tolle lege!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


The final chapter of Total Church covers the idea of success.  After a few less than stellar chapters, they end the book with a home run.

Pastors and congregations often fall prey to false (idolatrous) views of success.  Those idolatrous views often assume control, OUR control over outcomes.  We do have control over our choices and decisions, but we can’t control how those turn out.  So they suggest three shifts in outlook.

First, from larger churches to more churches.  We often measure the success of a church by how large it is (or isn’t).  There are many factors that go into how large a church becomes (faithfulness to the gospel, or lack there of an important one).  They suggest we change our model to more churches- measuring growth in terms of starting new healthy gospel communities.  Yes, this could become an idolatrous numbers game too since we are sinners prone to pride.

But smaller churches (or many mulitplying small groups) provide an environment where we can obey God’s call to love one another in various ways throughout the New Testament.  Smaller communities are more likely to maintain gospel fidelity (greater accountability), as well as work out how the gospel has application to the various circumstances of the members.

Second, a shift in leadership from performance to enabling.  It is easy for pastors to get stuck in the performance trap, and many a congregation enables or demands it.  In a smaller community, the pastor’s flaws are more obvious because he is known better.  And you also see how the gospel is at work in him.  Biblically, the pastor’s role is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.

Here is the rub, in many small churches it often falls to the pastor to do most ministry.  It can be difficult to find people to equip.  This is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

As someone in the midst of looking for a new call, I find many churches focused on performance rather than character.  Committees can want you to sell yourself rather than demonstrate character.  We need to rediscover the biblical qualifications for office- all but one is about character!

The third shift is from a theology of glory (success) to one of the cross (suffering).  I’ve been preaching this for years, and it is a tough sell.  But people want to see how to suffer/fail/lose well.  By well, I mean finding the grace to persevere and not be crushed by suffering and disappointment.  Luther took notice of what was happening in the Letters to the Corinthians.  Like the Corinthians, the church of Rome had embraced a theology of glory.  It was about power, success, honor and more.  The American church struggles with this as well today.  Paul preaches a theology of the cross, embracing suffering along with Christ.  The community is one that embraces broken people, instead of being image conscious.  It was where this mindset prospered in the early church that the church prospered.  They took in the orphans and elderly, and the gospel made great in-roads.  But when the shift to glory took place, the gospel was obscured.

Overall this is a very good, profitable book.  Not everything they say may “fit” every congregations situation.  But the overall focus they want people to embrace is a good one, and an overdue one.

Read Full Post »