Archive for April 2011

World without resurrection

April 15th, 2011 — 8:06am

I was recently asked by a local newspaper to submit an Easter message for readers. What follows emerged from some pondering of Acts 17:30–31.


Tim Hill’s Hop is topping movie charts as we enter this season: can Easter in all its confectionary glory be saved? I couldn’t say what the world would be like without our friend the bunny, but as a Christian, I’m deeply interested in the question: what would the world be like without the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

To put this question in perspective, it helps to think about how totally disruptive Jesus’ resurrection really was. People die every day and don’t come back. We think it’s normal. We grieve, but there’s no stopping it, we think. And unless someone rises from the dead, dying is normal. It’s as normal as living, no better and no worse. It’s just part of how things are. It happens.

Jesus’ resurrection blows this all to pieces. In raising Jesus from the dead, God pronounced judgment on death. He announced to the world that death isn’t normal; it’s not how it’s supposed to be. It’s something terribly wrong with the world. It needs to be fixed.

But if, by raising Jesus, God judged our existence as we experience it in the world, if He delivered a verdict on our living and dying, He also announced something else: there’s a way things are supposed to be in this world, and there’s a way things aren’t supposed to be. “What is” doesn’t simply equal “what’s right.”

We may resent this judgment, we may think we’re perfectly competent to decide for ourselves how things ought to be – but there stands the resurrection of Jesus, in which God declares His judgment on our living and dying. Lots of people refuse to look this squarely in the face. Many simply deny the resurrection, little realizing that in doing so they are rejecting God’s judgment on our existence; and that, in rejecting God’s judgment, they are also rejecting any ultimate basis (beyond human preferences) for distinguishing “what is” (life and death) from “what ought to be” (life, not death). All that’s left is “what is”; there’s no objective basis for calling one thing “good” and another “evil.” Everything just happens. Whatever is (death, evil, suffering, etc.) is “normal” – and one “normal” thing is as “good” as the next. This would be our world without the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But Christ has risen! and why would we reject God’s verdict on our living and dying in His resurrection? It’s a verdict that promises life! It’s an announcement of grace: it tells us that the tragedy of death can be swallowed up in the everlasting comedy of life restored, and that Jesus is the Way to that life. We can live forever, body and soul, through Jesus; through Him, and no one else, God will finally put all things right. Jesus’ death was God’s judgment on human sin (“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree”); His resurrection was God’s judgment on death, and it stands as the promise that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. These are the alternatives: embrace God’s verdict on our living and dying, and trust in the resurrected Jesus; or accept a world in which everything is normal. We should be thankful that, because Jesus is risen, this second alternative has forever been rendered an illusion.

Comment » | Eschatological Prospects

By being perceptive

April 12th, 2011 — 8:21am

“As man is given by the Spirit to share in Christ’s authority, he cannot do so without love, both for the created order in general and for the particular beings, human and other, which stand within it in various problematic relationships. Love does not bear the dominating and manipulative traits that have been given to it in some attempts to characterize the Christian ethic. It achieves its creativity by being perceptive. It attempts to act for any being only on the basis of an appreciation of that being. Thus classical Christian descriptions of love are often found invoking two other terms which expound its sense: the first is ‘wisdom’, which is the intellectual apprehension of the order of things which discloses how each being stands in relation to each other; the second is ‘delight’, which is affective attention to something simply for what it is and for the fact that it is. Such love is the fruit of God’s presence within us, uniting us to the humanity of God in Christ, who cherishes and defends all that God the Father has made and thought.” (Oliver O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order, p. 26)

Comment » | Trinitarian Reflections

Are you a real hearer?

April 10th, 2011 — 5:45am

“Consciously or unconsciously, every hearer is necessarily faced with the question whether and how he can be a real hearer and doer of the Word. And true preaching will direct him rather ‘rigidly’ to something written, or to his baptism or to the Lord’s Supper, instead of pointing him in the very slightest to his own or the preacher’s or other people’s experience. It will confront him with no other faith than faith in Christ, who died for him and rose again. But if we claim even for a moment that experiences are valid and can be passed on, we find that they are marshy ground upon which neither the preacher nor the hearer can stand or walk. Therefore they are not the object of Christian proclamation. If it is really applied to man in a thoroughly practical way, Christian proclamation does not lead the listener to experiences. All the experiences to which it might lead are at best ambiguous. It leads them right back through all experiences to the source of all true and proper experience, i.e., to Jesus Christ.” (Barth, Church Dogmatics, p. 2.249)

Comment » | Life in Front of the Curtain

Fifth Sunday in Lent

April 10th, 2011 — 5:38am

“We beseech thee, almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Comment » | Grace and Life

Only where grace rules

April 5th, 2011 — 7:24am

“[The] life of the children of God is always a life for Christ’s sake. The foundation of the Church is also its law and its limit. . . . By its inmost nature the Church is forbidden to want independence of Jesus Christ, or sovereignty in thought or action. If it did, it would relapse into the unjustified and unsanctified nature from which it is withdrawn in Christ. This will always find plenty of means to assert itself in its life. But it cannot want to relapse into it. It is born of the omnipotent Word of grace; it would only die if it were to become or to be anything but the fulfillment of that Word. Grace holds good only where grace rules. The rule of grace which is unfailing where men are God’s children for Christ’s sake, the dependence of these men upon the Word of which they are reborn – this is the reality of the Church . . . . And in the light of it, it is and must be true that extra ecclesiam nulla salus.” (Barth, Church Dogmatics, p. 2.216)

Comment » | Biblical Authority

Fourth Sunday in Lent

April 3rd, 2011 — 6:36am

“Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God, that we, which for our evil deeds are worthily punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Comment » | Grace and Life

Stumped by a four-year-old

April 2nd, 2011 — 2:57pm

One of the things I love about being a parent is that you never know what’s coming. Never. Today I’m drying my four-year-old’s hair after his bath. Nothing profound going on in my head. The same couldn’t be said for him.

“Dad, I can’t wait to go and see Jesus.”

“We’ll see Him, son, very soon.”

“But He doesn’t have a body like men.”

“Oh, yes, Jesus has a body, son. He kept His body after God raised Him from the dead.” [Hanging up the towel, wondering where this is going.]

“Then He’s not God?”

“Yes, He’s God, He’s the second Person of the Godhead, but He kept His body when He sat down at the right hand of the Father.”

“Then we serve two Gods?”

“Well, no, son, we serve one God in three Persons. The second Person, the Son, took a body, and He still has it. As God He doesn’t have a body like men, but as the God-Man He has a body.”

“So Jesus is God, and He has a body, but God doesn’t have a body.”

“Something like that . . . .”

“People are gonna get messed up, Dad. They’re gonna think we serve two Gods.”


“Good questions, son. I’ll have to think about this some more.”

[Four-year-old exits bathroom to go play. Dad reflects that it was not his finest theological hour.]

Comment » | Belly Laughs

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