The Meta-Narrative AD

14 05 2012
The Word Became Flesh
  • 4 BC John the Baptiser (The Greatest of all the Prophets)

Magi from the East...

  • Incarnation: Birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Life, Ministry
  • 30 AD Death of Jesus
  • 30 AD Resurrection of Jesus
  • 30 AD Ascension of Jesus and Current Reign
  • Pentecostal Spirit
  • Acts of the Apostles: Peter, James, John, Paul, Others
  • ‘The Spreading Flame’: Christian Faith and Community
  • Growing Opposition: Nero, Rome
Turning Points: “2000 Years of Christ’s Power”  (M. Noll, N. Needham)
  • 70 AD   The Destruction of Temple (Jerusalem)
  • 100, 200, 300: Expansion, Persecution, Emperors, Theologians
  • 325    Nicene Creed
  • 481    Chalcedon and Heresies
  • 530    Benedict and Monasteries

Luther, the Augustinian Monk - History Maker

  • 600    Gospel in China (Nestorians and Others)
  • 630    Muhammad Conquers Mecca with (sword not Word)
  • 800   Charlemagne Crowned on Christmas Day, …“by the Pope”
  • 1054  East and West Divide
  • 1095 The Crusades begin
  • 1382 John Wycliffe’s English Bible completed
  • 1521  Reformation: Luther (& later …Calvin)
  • 1534  England – Henry VIII
  • 1540 Counter-Reform, Loyola
  • 1738 Revivals: Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards
  • 1789 French Revolution
  • 1793 William Carey to India
  • 1807 Robert Morrison to China
  • 1854 David Livingstone to Africa
  • 1904 Revival in Wales
  • 1906 Azusa Street, LA, Pentecostals
  • 1907 Pyongyang, (North) Korea, Revival began
  • 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference
  • 1914-18 World War One  (P.T. Forsyth – “think in centuries”)
  • 1922 Karl Barth on Romans; and 1934 Barmen Declaration
  • 1929 Totoyohiko Kagawa, Indigenous Missionary in Japan
  • 1939 World War Two: Suffering and Nations
  • 1945 New Beginning, Service in Love (G. C. Bingham)
  • 1962 Second Vatican Council
  • 1966 Pray for China (cf. Mao’s Cultural Revolution
  • 1979 Aboriginal Australia Revival From Elcho Island
  • 1989 Fall of Berlin Wall: ‘The Twilight of Atheism’ (A. McGrath)
  • 2001 New York Twin Towers: Faith, NOT Religion
  • 2004 Tsunami Indian Ocean and Theodicy
  • 2012 Attempt to redefine Marriage (US Obama)
  • … New things
  • … More new things
  • … The Eschaton
  • Date Not Known: ‘Behold I make all things new’ [the ‘old things’ transformed into the ‘new’]
  • The Age to Come – Eternity – Glorification of All Things




Stories That Tell: The War Stories

25 04 2012


“Thou shalt not kill”
(Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17)

 In mixing with members of SAPOL in recent years, I came across a saying, which is a bit of a take-off of the old diggers in Australia. They say something like ‘we were all standing around telling war-ies’. This term war-ies is short for ‘war stories’, and is a slang term synonymous with ‘tall tales’, bragging, or embellishing old exploits.

Geoffrey Bingham’s War Stories are not really that sort of thing. While some of them may truly recount and even embellish certain funny or even strange historical incidents, the stories are written not merely for entertainment, but in order to convey something of the truth of life, during war times, as a person of faith has seen, understood and experienced it. Most of the war stories, like the other types are undoubtedly written in the hope of helping to lead a person to ponder life more deeply, and in particular, to consider God and all his works in creation and redemption.  Christ has come to meet us amidst all of life, including painful, poignant, tragic, sad, miraculous and even, or especially in the humorous days of war.

THE PACIFIST POSITION—A BRIEF WORD

There are many Christians who regard pacifism as the only authentic response to war. One Internet blogger recently wrote: “Participation in the military… is a violation of one’s commitment to Jesus Christ”.[1] Familiarity with Geoffrey’ Bingham’s writings, and his own decision—as a pacifist—to join the armed forces during WW2, have helped me to think through this issue in a helpful way. The following extract is taken from Geoff’s theological teaching, and a subtitle: ‘The Christian and War’[2]

A “just” war might be said to be one, which, resists oppression and defends righteousness and freedom. Whilst killing in war is evil it is pleaded that the evil of tyranny, especially that which results from such forces as Nazism are worse evils and a choice between two is necessary. A realistic recognition of man as he is will determine a person’s view, e.g. whether a view of depravity is taken, or a humanistic view of man’s innate potential of good. The problem that complicates the decision about “just” or “unjust” wars is that it is rarely, if ever, that the evil is on one side. So many elements complicate the matter entirely. Such elements could be aggrandisement by one country against another, armaments interests, sub-Christian views of retaliation (for wrongs done or imagined), racial hatred, and personal lust for power by leaders or nations.

(f) The Pacifist Position

There are Christians who are pacifists. The question of whether Christianity is pacifist is a wider question. Some reconciliation of the use of war in the Old Testament and the forecast of war to the end-time in the Scriptures has to be worked out by one who would be a pacifist or a non-pacifist. The whole question of righteousness, as of love, must be sorted out, with an understanding of penal elements within the context of nations and international relationships. Realistic views of man’s sin and depravity must be taken and then decisions made. In this regard it is to be considered whether pacifism springs from a Christian or a humanistic source, and if from the latter whether it is, nevertheless consistent with general Christian teaching where the Bible does not give a specific direction. A further consideration is that wars spring Out of the evil of man and simply to accept them as a necessary evil in passive fatalism is a contradiction of the moral powers the believer possesses and may even become moral (immoral?) acquiescence. The pacifist believes in non-resistance, non violence, non-killing. He claims that man being evil does not excuse wars. Positive pacifism alerts others to war’s evil and seeks to outmode war. Retaliation is sub-Christian as also selfish aggrandisement and all national and racial hatreds. Whilst wars may be predicted as continuing this is no reason for acquiescence in any. Christ took the way of non-resistance and accomplished his goal. Because pacifism has not worked, nor may not work is no reason why it should not be espoused and followed. Evils such as slavery have been diminished by teaching. If all refused to fight wars would cease and governments would wish to gain the support of their people by not fighting. It is not a utilitarian question but a (totally) moral one.

(g) Pacifist or Not Pacifist?

Each person must abide by his own convictions whilst he is sure they are right. He does not go against his own conscience for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. He is responsible, however, to make sure – as far as possible – that his convictions are correct. That honest believers see two views in the Bible is patently clear, i.e. war is right (in some circumstances) and war is wrong (in all circumstances). These conclusions ought to be reached only when the total Biblical portrayal is considered. No conclusion is valid which omits the fact of man’s depravity, of constituted authorities and of the working of penal elements of God’s wrath in history. The question may not seem, finally, to be an “either-or” but a concession that whilst war and killing are evil of themselves it may be simplistic to work from this basis alone. The whole matter of morality and judgement is also involved.

In war, or even if a crazed violent attacker is shooting people in any society, Christians must face the moral question of ‘what shall I do in order to truly love my neighbour?’ How do I lay down my life in love, to care for or protect others?  To my shock, Mennonite Christians often view police as merely agents of State violence.[3] 

THE FIRST WAR STORIES

Geoffrey Bingham’s first book of short stories was entitled ‘To Command the Cats’. It was published by Angus and Robertson in 1980; however many of the stories had been previously published in the Bulletin, a weekly Australian Magazine, in production from 1880 to January 2008. Geoff writes:

On return to Australia a story written in the POW camp—‘Laughing Gunner’—was snapped up by the Bulletin as soon as I submitted it. That was why I chose it s the title story to this book. Thirty-three more stories were accepted y the same journal within a few years, and I was dubbed as their most prolific writer. I owe most in my writing career to the poet and short-story writer Douglas Stewart, who was literary Editor of the Bulletin for twenty-four years’[4]

A SHORT PRÉCIS OF SOME WAR STORIES—AND SOME QUOTES

It Sometimes Happens But Not Often

A professor – a Dutchman – held captive as a P.O.W. loses hope, and intends to die.  But his dear friend, an army Chaplain prays constantly at his bedside.  Then a miracle occurs. A hen arrives and lays an egg on the bed – most suitable for making eggnog –, which the Dutchman loves. Hope returns – a mystery – and miracle of mercy takes place before their eyes, and in their hearts and lives. Geoffrey heard about this event:

The Dutchman had watched it from beginning to end. He had lain still, afraid lest the hen be scared away. When it had gone, his nerveless hands had fumbled towards the warm, smooth fruit of the fowl.

‘Oh, no!’ exclaimed the chaplain. ‘Don’t touch it. It’s too precious.’

Nevertheless he did let the skinny Dutchman feel it with his long, spatulated fingers, and then he took it.

‘Wait for the eggnog,’ he cautioned cheerily, and went away to beat the ingredients together, to grind the precious shell into lime-powder, and to make the drink complete and nourishing.

The Dutchman was sitting up, this being the first time in many weeks. An orderly had arranged a couple of pillows for him, borrowing them from empty beds.

‘Praise be!’ the academic was saying. ‘Praise be!’

‘Praise be!’ agreed the chaplain. ‘Now drink this up.’

The professor needed no urging. His hands trembled as he held the rusty cup, but he insisted on holding it himself. He kept sipping and sucking and sighing, and then heaving away with asthmatic joy.

‘Gott is goot!’ he said eagerly.

‘He is good!’ agreed the chaplain.

He watched the last precious drops disappear into the pink mouth of the patient.

The Dutchman was rubbing his hands together soulfully, glee­fully.

‘A hen, eh?’ he said. ‘Just a little hen, eh?’

He chuckled to himself, and then shook his hand feebly towards heaven.

‘What a humour, eh?’ he asked. ‘The goot Gott He sends the little bird to lay eggs all over the old professor so that the old professor must not die.’

‘That’s right,’ said the chaplain, scarcely knowing what to say.

He added, ‘The good God needs the old professor, eh? He doesn’t want to lose all that training, all that wisdom, all that knowledge.’

The Dutchman stared at him. ‘You t’ink that, hey?’ he asked. He looked admiringly at his old chaplain friend, shook his head and went off into his asthmatic gurgle.

‘Oh, the Gott, He is goot,’ he said. He kept chuckling. ‘He is very goot.’

Then he remembered the hen, and his gurgling became deep, even more asthmatic. After a time he was gasping, and the tears were coursing out of his fine old eyes, and on to the silver-grey thatch on his torso.

‘Oh, so goot,’ he was saying in helpless joy. ‘Oh yes, and oh, so lovink.’

When the chaplain slipped away because he could not hold back the tide of his own tears, he heard the Dutchman repeating to himself, like some endless refrain: ‘Oh, so lovink. So lovink.’[5]

Laughing Gunner

The story of a soldier – an unusual man – who held a strange obsession for machine-guns.  Nicknamed Tiger, he was not at all interested in the duties of a regular foot soldier, with gun and bayonet. However, he was very eager to operate the machine-gun. He was passionately involved in the fighting prior to the fall of Singapore, during World War Two. He revelled in his task, taking his stand with the machine-gun, as the Japanese invaders made their relentless approach.

The Life and Death of Puggi Mahomet – (This is not a précis, but is a small direct extract)

“How many times, down through the years, I have thought about that event, and Chikka has also! As I said before, Sproggie, Blower and Chips got theirs in action. Joe and Don R had to live with the thing for all the years they worked on their sheep sta­tions, but they never wrote to us, or rang us about the matter. Every Anzac Day we would not mention the subject, be­cause there was no way of settling the matter. We would just sit to­gether in the Botanical Gardens in silence, thinking about it.

The seven of us agreed that Puggi was a slippery cuss, and would worm his way out of any trial. What was worse, he knew the whole signal system now, and if the Japs came we were done for, with that sort of communication.

The six men said to me, ‘Danny, we make this decision to­gether—the seven of us—but only you can veto it.’

In a way, the decision was left to me, and I knew we had to do something. We were not at war with Japan, but give us a few days and we would be. Of that we were all sure. To let this man go free meant disaster.

‘The court decides against you, Puggi Mahomet,’ I said, but even then I felt a bit sick.

It was then Puggi rushed us. He was an expert in karate, and had Chips and Sproggie toppled in a second. He grabbed Sproggie’s rifle to keep us at bay. This decided the other men, and in a flash Blower’s bayonet went through the old ‘point, withdraw’ exercise. Puggi fired his .303, but the bullet went into the air. Joe and Don R rushed him with their bayonets, and we were all sick in the moment that we had done it. Whilst he writhed, I fired a shot and that finished him.”[6]

The Rim

An autobiographical account of a World War 2 gun-battle: a charge near Singapore.  Australians with rifles, against a Japanese machine gunner, other soldiers and snipers; one of the many Australian men charging is badly wounded by a bullet to the leg, and as his blood flows out onto the ground. New thoughts of life and death and survival and recovery come to the man as he lays still on the ground, until help comes; profound questions of duty, heroics and folly – are raised.

The Skylark of Takafau           

The freedom of a little bird, singing in a cage, in Osaka, signals something profound to Prisoners of War, during World War 2. A story of imprisonment, hope and freedom.

Three Rice Cakes

A crisis of faith occurs in the life of a Prisoner of War. Should he continue to take the smallest rice cake, and suffer personal deprivation and hunger – out of love for others – or should he abandon this principle, and select the largest rice cake for himself? Amidst an inner personal battle of immense importance, the prisoner reasons to himself that if there is no such thing as true law, and judgment then ultimately nothing matters. If nothing matters, then self-preservation at the expense of others is nevertheless the only truly logical course of action for him to pursue. An unseen miracle occurs – and a hidden resolve is strengthened – which has ramifications for the remainder of this man’s life. Autobiographical. (Also published in the booklet of the same name). [7]

The Power Within

Upon what strength does a person draw, in order to maintain the integrity needed for a moral life? This story from WWII is of a man who can behave well, and talk well, and even tell extremely funny yarns, yet can be a person who is driven, solely, by his own self-sufficiency. It illustrates how a person can behave with high morality, and do so entirely from one’s own resources. However, the great deceit is that a person, can—of themselves—be virtually faultless and blameless in thought, speech and action.  Such deception, of oneself, is a failure to face the reality of the human race as we find it, and share in it; if not faced, this way of being can end, sadly, in self-justification and ultimately, self-destruction. Faith draws upon true power. (Also published in The Raymond Connection and other stories, and in At the End of His Tether).

From Singapore to Sydney           

An autobiographical account of the release of prisoners from the Changi P.O.W. Camp on Singapore Island (in 1945) – the story – a true one – includes some interesting personal impressions as it traces the journey, beginning with the boarding of the transport ship – Oranji – and the subsequent return to Australia.  The whole account is very moving indeed, and the service of love and kindness rendered by the Australian women in the Red Cross imparts a beautiful insight into the mystery and communion of the human race, as a male-female entity.  One feels like applauding, as Geoff Bingham captures with words, the scene of the welcome in Darwin. One is drawn to contemplate the glory of Australia as a unique and grand nation.


[2] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Christian Ethics and Their Practice’, Living Faith Studies, Series 3, No. 30, N.C.P.I., 1978, p. 218

[3] Andy Alexis-Baker, ‘The Gospel or a Glock? Mennonites and the Police’, in The Conrad Grebel Review, Volume 25, Number 2, Spring 2007, p. 23-49 (Note: “Glock” is the name of a company that manufactures handguns popular with police departments for decades). Alexis-Baker says: “Because of the idolatrous character of the police, because police represent a threat to church order, and in the spirit of the early Christians and Anabaptists, Mennonites should ban police occupations for all current and potential members, and do so with the historical recognition that the police have served as the bridge for wider acceptance of warfare, idolatrous collaboration with the state, and further breakdown of community discipline and life” (Baker, p. 40).

[4] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Preface’ in Laughing Gunner and Selected War Stories, Troubadour Press Inc. Blackwood, 1992, p. xiii; This book as been very well received in Australia, winning the 1993 Christian Book of the Year award, from the Australia Christian Literature Society. It is a great gift suitable passing on to others, especially around Anzac Day, each year. Further to this, a most comprehensive summary of Geoffrey’s war years is included in the highly recommended book by Geoffrey Bingham, Love is the Spur, Eyrie Books, North Paramatta, 2004.

[5] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘It Sometimes Happens, But Not Often’ in Laughing Gunner, p. 154-155

[6] Quote taken from G. C. Bingham, Laughing Gunner, p. 21-22

[7] This story appears in numerous books including G. C. Bingham, Angel Wings, p. 77-85.





Edenising the Whole World

25 06 2011

The term ‘Edenising’ is seldom used by theologians and preachers alike—and hardly at all, by the general public.  That is a pity really.

‘Edenising the whole world… that is God’s plan’.  It always has been his plan.

Edensing is a term which encapsulates the story of God, humanity and creation, and the purpose for which all has been created.  It is the whole story and counsel of God from Creation to the New Creation.  From the Garden of Eden, and the tragic event therein, to the “river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing … on either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, … and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:1, 3)

Some may be familiar with Jonathan Edward’s essay: ‘A History of the Work of Redemption (See The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, 1834 (1990), Banner of Truth Trust, p. 533-619). He picks up the details of the biblical story and tells them as a continual flow of events, one story.  This is the story of the Edenising of the world.

The mandate of fruitfulness given to the man, Adam, and his wife Eve, was a word of blessing which forwarded that work. It continued though failure appeared to thwart the whole plan, and it continued through Noah, Abraham, Moses and the whole nation of Israel. It continued through to the coming of Jesus Christ, the most frutiful person who ever lived. His fruitful life, is flowing out into the world now, as he is Lord of creation, and Lord of all fruitfulness.

He will speak his Word and bring forth true action, love and service in that great lan of the Triune God, until that day when he makes all things new, pristine, and full of glory. The glorification, of God, man and creation will be the Edenising of the whole world.

Israel has had a unique role in all this, being elected by God to be the focal point for the revelation of his grace ad love towards all nations.

Edenising the world, how wonderful. In Paradise again, only more fully assured. What a plan. This is the work of the Word of God, as it goes out to turn the peoples of the earth towards the central focus of the people of God – Jerusalem, outside of which Jesus was crucified, so that all through his merit, may enter the New Jerusalem, holy, sanctified, justified ad glorified.

No wonder we like to enjoy a garden and take delight in fixing and tidying it up ready for enjoyment.  No wonder blessing people with love and community in Jesus Christ, is like planting a good rich, vibrant, colourful and varied garden.

Well, by faith, come home to the Gardener, who first planted Eden and placed the man, and the woman, in it. Come home to the Gardener, and share in the work of gardening.

Responsibility and freedom were given to the first couple, with one note of caution. Sadly this warning was not heeded, and so the long saga of human history, battling with sin and death began. But it began in hope, and the flow of the rivier of life continued until it flowed fully from the belly of Jesus Christ – rivers of living water (John 7:38).

As Geoffrey Bingham said of Adam and Eve ‘they are to take what is the special life of Eden and take it to the whole world.’ (G. C. Bingham, Searching For God, RBP, 2000, p. 109)

Edenising the World. That’s the go.

 

 





The Bursting Wineskin

16 08 2010

Jesus talked about the New People of God, (The New Testament Church) as New Wine.

It would burst the Old Wineskin of Judaism.

Well it also bursts the “Churchy” Wineskins that we get into our own head, nation, denomination, etc:

All over the world, Christian churches have, unfortunately, taken up a weakened view of the church and ministry, by adopting an idea that kinda-seems right but is not.

Example of what happens:    

* Clergy are put in place as the “trained” leaders.

* Laity (from ‘Greek’ word ‘Laos’), meaning ‘The People’ are gathered to follow, or be passive recipients of the Clergy teaching and leadership:

MODEL No. 1:   The ‘old’ diagram of the church — Clergy at the top, the Laity beneath:                      

                           CLERGY

_______

                            LAITY

MODEL No. 2:   The ‘new’ diagram of the church  

                     

              LAITY        […CLERGY, within]

MODEL No. 3: The New Testament Church

Commenting, Geoffrey Bingham writes:

“All members of Christ’s body are ministers (diakonoi) and the changes history has wrought in the Church have been unhappy ones. I have made the point that the outward form of ministry is wrong, but that Christ has raised up both domata and charismata in succeeding years. Underneath the clergy-laity order, the true order of the Church must have beenand is—in spite of the imposition of the biblically wrong clergy-laity division.”

From ‘The Beautiful City of God’ by Geoffrey Bingham, p. 149-150

http://www.newcreation.org.au/books/pdf/377_BeautifulCityGod.pdf

May the Church of today be a genuinely bursting movement of the Spirit, Jesus leading onward and inspiring, new ways ahead – in this type of formation:

Church NT (Model 3)

 





A Distinct Bugle Sound

28 11 2009

As a kid, I used to really enjoy the cowboy movies, we were shown on TV; especially the ones where the US cavalry, heard of the impending problems on the frontier, and to the sound of music … came charging over the hill, to the rescue – just in time! US flag held aloft, bayonets at the ready, and a fine stream of horses and riders… (back in the days before it was politically correct, to hate all things US).

Like the urgent call of the fire siren, to the CFS volunteers in a country town, so the call of a bugle was once used to awaken the troops – to do battle.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he asks the question: “..if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” (1Cor. 14:8). Speaking in tongues, a lovely, yet somewhat minor matter, had become the big focus for some, rather than the clear Word of the Gospel, proclaimed to the nations. The Gospel is a bugle blast!  It is a clarion call. It is a trumpeted song of resurrection joy!  It makes great, grand sense of the seemingly sad and sombre notes, that cry forth, in the crucifixion.

The bugle. Yes. For what reason?

Ah, the battle!  The life of faith is undoubtedly, a battle. There is a clash of two kingdoms. The kingdom of the Son of God’s love, and the kingdom of the deceptive, evil one.

We usually nominate the enemies, in our battle, as 1. the world, 2. the flesh, and 3. the devil.  However, a more complete list really comprises of: 1. sin, 2. death, 3. the wrath of God, 4. the law, 5. the conscience, 6. satan, 7. world powers, 8. the world, 9. the flesh, and 10. the idols (see G.C. Bingham, The Things We Firmly Believe, NCPI, p. 115).

People of faith are engaged in a battle, a battle to stand firm in the freedom we have already received. Human beings are being called into freedom, through the gospel, or good news of Christ Jesus. Christians are kept in freedom by that same gospel. However, it really needs to be a clear gospel, a distinct sound. And this needs to be the case, even as we are engaged in the great mysteries, revealed to us.

Clarity. Clarity. Clarity. These three are needed amidst the information overload of our age. Especially, we need gospel clarity. To this end, many rightly turn to modern day teacher, John Piper. I do too.

Recently, however, I reviewed one of John Piper’s small talks: What is the Gospel? I appreciated his words, and work, but felt that they lacked something. I would like to make an important point, therefore. Here is his summary:

The Gospel is

  1. A Plan From Eternity
  2. An Event in History
  3. An Achievement between the Son and Father
  4. A Free offer to the world of these things
  5. Application of this Achievement – Forgiven, Justified (do not stop here, he adds, for many do!)
  6. To Bring us to God (Reconciliation for Fellowship)  (What-Is-The-Gospel—John-Piper).               The wonderful point he makes, is that we are to know, love and enjoy the Triune God. So true. But here in point 7, is a further addition, which connects the benefits of the Gospel, to the setting in which we will always find ourselves, namely – the Creation!
  7. To equip us to participate in running the Universe, together with God, eternally.

In all his writings, and especially in his stories, Geoffrey Bingham taught the significance of Salvation in relation to the Creation, and to the New [renewed] Creation. Only recently, theologians were discussing what was, or is, the priority of God – the story of salvation, or the work of creation, in order to bring humanity into fellowship, eternally.  I think the confusion comes, or the question arises, because we seldom ever glimpse the wonder of creation, from the outset, when all the angels sang and shouted for joy (Job 38:7). As a result, we fail to anticipate the role of humanity in relation to creation, into the future. We, as it were, stop short at fellowship and communion.

The real goal of the plan, is to form ‘a peer community’, together with Jesus the Son, Redeemer, who enjoy one another, in relationship, and in the ongoing action of the creation.

One of the Lord’s dear servants, Geoffrey Bingham, has put it like this: ‘God’s purpose in having a church is to train people up to be able to run the universe, with him, for eternity’.

Now, I believe, this is …. A Distinct Bugle Sound.





Pateriology: Study 8

4 12 2008

Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father

Prayer: ‘I ask… that they may all be one. As you Father are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’. (John 17:20a, 21) Jesus

The Father—His Person and His Work—is a vast subject, which is indeed at the heart of the universe, and so of Trinitarian theology. It surely deserves to be given a higher priority in our churches, and—I believe—far more attention within our theological and bible colleges. This may yet happen. Last century, Barth, (and since the Reformation, Luther) and others have laboured to show that Christian theology is Christocentric. This has had a beneficial effect on the church. While at times subject to experimental overkill, and in some quarters, a play-off between doctrine and experience, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have nevertheless in recent decades been a positive factor in the renewal of the church. As can happen with a good crop, at the end of a season, some have suggested—with good cause—that these movements have in some respect ‘gone to seed’.  As Tom Smail once said: ‘Your Renewal is too small’.  For this reason, a rediscovery of the treasures of knowing the Father also, may indeed awaken the church to fresh waves of renewal, rich theology and worship.

 

Since this is the final study (in the current series of 8 studies, in 2008), for those attending the New Creation Teaching Ministry Thursday morning classes, there are a number of important points that should yet be clarified, or underscored.

1.     ‘Abba Father’ is Not a Metaphor but a revelation of what is essentially so. It is a revelation given by the Holy Spirit, where faith is present. Ian Pennicook writes:

“the cry ‘Abba! Father!’ is actually the cry of the Spirit himself. Christ came to effect adoption and because his work of redemption was accomplished, the Spirit of his own sonship was given to us. So I am suggesting that Pentecost brought in an amazing realisation of who God is and what redemption has accomplished. That does not mean that explanation and teaching was not required but it does mean that here was no ‘appropriate’ picture language constructed for the hearers. Instead a powerful revelation came to the church, which was born that day: God is Father! Ephesians 3:14-15 introduces Paul’s prayer: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. Far from ‘Father’ being a metaphor, the ‘Application of a name or descriptive term to an object to which it is not literally applicable’, quite the opposite is true. ‘Father’ is literally applicable to God alone, and then only to others by virtue of their being the image or reflection of the true Father”. 

2.     The Trinity is a Love Hierarchy (See John 14:28; 14:10, 10:30, 5:17-18; 7:29) The Father is the Divine Fountainhead (Fons Divinitatis), “in which the being of the Son has its source; the Father is God sending and commanding, the Son is God sent and obedient”  (C. K. Barrett) Over and against the heresies of tri-theism and of subordinationism, we need to assert that—rightly understood—the Triune God is hierarchical! This has implications for all of life, for humanity is created in the image and likeness of God. Consider the following paragraph, by Geoffrey C. Bingham:

“Some years ago a theologian in our city said he had ceased to read my books because my theology was hierthere was—and is—truth in the comment. I asked whether he or others had researched the idea of hierarchy—especially biblical hierarchy—and the frank answer was, ‘No. I don’t really understand hierarchy; and no, I don’t know of any material done on it’. I suggested that we might be missing out on an essential dimension of the truth if we did not at least inquire into hierarchy.”           

This is a large subject, unable to be dealt with at depth in these brief notes. However, we need to open things a little. If we first see that within the love-creation, there is hierarchy, then we may be open to consider the whole matter. In Genesis 1:16 we read:

God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.

 The sun and moon—prior to the entry of sin into the cosmos—exercise ruling authority. The term ‘hierarchy’ usually evokes thoughts of an oppressive regime, where authorities are arrayed in steps and stairs, and the worst location, is at the bottom—eg. it is not good to be the family dog, or cat, on a ‘bad hair day’. This is not, however what is in mind. Rather, the ideas of flow and offunctionality and service are paramount, together with mutual indwelling—a combination of Jesus’ statements in John.

 

Superordination does not mean superiority

This oft-repeated statement of Geoffrey Bingham’s is hard for sinners and rebels to hear. It indicates the heart of the matter: Superordination does not mean superiority, and subordination does not mean inferiority. Further, Bingham says: One of the keys to understanding hierarchy is to see that the most prior within its order is the person who takes the highest responsibility and who must serve the most. Another key is the fact that each member of the hierarchy is in another. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:3 the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father. The Son is in the husband, and the husband in him.  The husband is in the wife and the wife in the husband, and in fact every member of the hierarchy is in every other member. This inter-dwelling of the members ensures unity, and works against the principle of oppression. 

                                                    

3.     Sonship and Inheritance: The Cosmic Dimension

The Father is creator—together with the Son who is co-creator. The family, the community of God, are placed in their home within creation. The entrance of sin however, outworks itself in alienation (due to guilt), anger, denial and disorientation concerning the whole plan of God. Many today live as if there were no plan, no future, and no point to life, except what we make of it ourselves. Not so for those who have faith. In Jesus Christ, they are redeemed and sanctified in order to participate within the new (regenerated) creation, including a profound homecoming and a grand inheritance—namely all things! (Romans 8:15-25;) Assurance from the giving Father who did not withhold his own Son, and has not abandoned us to our own miserable, little agendas, gives a person real confidence in God as Father, and as Love. The substantial nature of life, to come makes sense of creation, at last! For the creation itself anticipates glorious freedom. Bingham notes: ‘In almost every reference to sonship there is a forward looking to the end-time.  This end-time we call the eschaton, and so we say the sonship is eschatological.’  See for example, Ephesians 1:5 which speaks of adoption. And at the end of this great passage Ephesians 1:11, 1:14 and later 1:18 speaks of inheritance, as co-heirs with Christ.

The reality of adoption, sonship and inheritance refers to those who have come to maturity. A mature son is no longer a minor, under bondage to the slavery of sin. The new experience is of great freedom, even of embracing necessary suffering. The destiny is co-inheritance of the regenerate cosmos (Rom. 4:13).


   

 Thomas A. Smail, The Forgotten Father, Paternoster Press, 1980, p. 202

 Ian Pennicook, The Father and his sons, PDF File, February, 2004, p. 6

 D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Eerdmans, 1991, p. 508.

 G.C. Bingham, All Things Are Yours, NCPI, Blackwood, 1996, p. xiii

 G.C. Bingham, All Things Are Yours, NCPI, Blackwood, 1996, p. 55

 Thomas A. Smail, The Forgotten Father, Paternoster Press, 1980, p. 156

 G.C. Bingham, I love the Father, NCPI, Blackwood, 1974, 1990, p. 116





Pateriology: Study 7

26 11 2008

So Many Orphans

Globally, there are approximately 14 million orphans, with the vast majority (approx 9 million) living in Africa. These children are among the most vulnerable in the world. They have decreased access to education, healthcare and possibilities for future employment.  They are at increased risk of living in poverty, working in exploitative child labour, and becoming victims of abuse.

The plethora of reports from media, concerning human suffering, can desensitise or numb us to such news. Perhaps the shock and grief of this state of affairs, evokes helplessness before the enormity and complexity of it all.  Such horror, absence and neglect of genuine fatherhood, has roots in a sinful race.

The gospel teaches that God so loves the world, that he sends Jesus Christ into this world to bring salvation, where there is desolation, despair and loneliness. Jesus comes to effect redemption, and to work the Father’s triumphant grace and hope amidst all the pain, and evildoing that humanity knows. Nothing is too difficult for God. Our Father sends and brings his Word to bear upon our global pain. Christ comes, to the world, with—among all others—orphans in his mind and heart. It has been said that ‘to be an orphan is perhaps the most lonely of all states’. So many people – so much loneliness! So many resources to meet human need, yet so much inequity and unfairness and brutality, and sickness and squalor. Of faith in Christ, James writes that ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world’ (James 1:27). The Apostles did not teach withdrawing from society (1Corinthians 5:10). Rather they exhort us to take up genuine service in the life of the cosmos. This involves resisting the godless ‘world system’, while exercising a diligent participation in the unseen kingdom of God.  This is life.

Destined For Adoption

Creation groans awaiting future freedom. The Father has in love, destined redeemed humanity for adoption (Rom. 8:23; Gal. 4:4-8). He chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, for adoption as his children (Ephesians 1:5).  Baxter Kruger writes:

Adoption! Adoption! Adoption! This is the first thought, the mystery the secret of the entire universe. This is why this world is here, why man, humanity, the universe, history exists. Delete this purpose and there simply is no creation, for there is no reason to call it forth nor to sustain it.

Jesus is Immanuel, ‘God is With Us’ (Matt. 1:23). Jesus said, ‘I am with you always’  (Matt. 28:20). The Lord has promised ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5; Josh. 1:5). John Wesley, once said, ‘The best of all is this, God is with us’. The mystery of the Gospel is that the Everlasting Presence comes to dwell within our world, our life, our lot, as human flesh, forever. He walks our streets and feels our pain:

Immanuel! Immanuel!

God in our flesh forever,

You walk our streets, and feel our pain

With love that none can sever.

Our eyes had never seen our God

Nor known that He would shed his bloo

I will not leave you orphaned

Jesus spoke of the ‘must’ ‑ the necessity of his death, and of his resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). In John’s recounting of Jesus teaching, he spells out the conversations in greater detail. Jesus anticipates his resurrection appearances, and his ongoing Presence as God with us, by the Holy Spirit, following his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension:  Jesus said I am going to the Father (John 14:12c). He also said, concerning his care for his friends, the disciples, I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you (John 14:18).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is for the making known of both God’s fatherhood, and Jesus Presence, as the everlasting God. Jesus did not leave the disciples to figure out the Gospel. He came to them, Risen from death. They were not left orphans. The Gospel comes to the world, to incorporate the isolated, lonely and abandoned into the family of God. The Gospel comes to rebels, to forgive the sin of unbelief, and of all anti-family, anti-nation ways, that all nations, might constitute the love community. The Gospel comes to us where fatherhood is absent.

Faith of the Fatherless

In an intriguing book Faith of the Fatherless, psychologist Paul C. Vitz examines the lives of many well-known atheists. Some who’s dad’s died when they were quite young including: Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Albert Camus, Arthur Schopenhauer. Those with an abusive or weak father included: Thomas Hobbes, Jean Meslier, Voltaire, Jean d’Alembert, Baron d’Holbach, Ludwig Feuerbach, Samuel Butler, Sigmund Freud and H.G. Wells. Vitz discovers that most of these atheists had an absent or abusive father.

As a control group (similar era), Vitz considers some theists, and their fathers: Blaise Pascal, George Berkeley, Joseph Butler, Thomas Reid, Edmund Burke, Moses Mendelssohn, William Paley, William Wilberforce, Francois Rene de Chateaubriand, Friedrich Schleirmacher, John Henry Newman, Alex de Tocqueville, Samuel Wilberforce, Soren Kierkegaard, Baron Friedrich von Hugel, G.K. Chesterton, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Buber, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Heschel.

The results have been criticised as merely anecdotal and hardly scientific. However, they certainly indicate that earthly fatherhood matters!

Where fatherhood is absent

Sociologist Ronald Conway probingly evaluated the dynamics of Australian society, in 1971, and highlighted the long-term effects of a conspired ‘mateship’ as the major expression of masculinity. An anti-authoritian attitude has been perpetuated, which fails to adopt any substantial grasp of true fatherhood. A matriarchal society often forms, where true fatherhood is neglected. Many SNAGS (sensitive new-age guys) of today once took their brief for fatherhood from the mantras of feminism (often following Marx, Freud or both). The failure rate in marriage of 50%, and children scattered across the continent often in deep agony, indicates a lack of genuine perception.

Q. What type of society might develop where wise, creative fatherhood is practised?

The following points belong the John Piper.  He has, together with his wife and family, adopted a new child into their own family. He is a biblical theologian, who has reflected upon the whole matter of adoption, in the light of Scripture and experience. It may well be that churches, as the family of God, would benefit, from thinking more often in terms of adoption, (than say, in terms of nuclear families, primarily). This means embracing those who are new and different, and even difficult, in the love which is Christ’s, and extending the grace of true family, to the wider community. The message of faith, and new life in the Spirit, would, still, of course, be paramount. Here are Piper’s great insights:

Adoption of us by the Father (cf. Adoption of children by us)

1. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) costly (Gal. 3:13)

2. Adoption did (for God) and does (for us) involve the legal status of the child (Gal. 4:4-6)

3. Adoption was blessed and is blessed with God’s pouring out a Spirit of sonship (Romans 8:15-16)

4. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) marked by moral transformation through the Spirit (Romans 8:14)

5. Adoption brought us, and brings our children, the rights of being heirs of the Father (Romans 8:16-17)

6. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) seriously planned (Ephesians 1).

7. Adoption was (for God) and often is now (for us) from very bad situations (Ephesians 2)

8. Adoption meant (for all Christians) and means (for Christian parents) that we suffer now and experience glory later.

May these biblical insights, thoughts and suggestions, press us to know the Father, and to enjoy and embrace the adoption as Sons and daughters (technically we are all Sons, and simultaneously members of the Bride of Christ!!!), which the Gospel proclaims and bestows.

Geoffrey C. Bingham, I love the Father, NCPI, 1974, 2008, p. 65

Baxter Kruger, [God] Is For Us, Perichoresis Press, 1995, p. 4

Geoffrey C. Bingham, New Creation Hymn Book, No. 282 (1993)

Paul C. Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless, Spence, Dallas, 1999

Ronald Conway, The Great Australian Stupor, Sun, Melbourne, 1971 p.55   

John Piper, Eight Similarities Between God’s Adoption of Us and Our Adoption of Children, Micah Fund Adoption Enrichment Seminar, 2007.

See: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/1991_Adoption_The_Heart_of_the_Gospel/





Pateriology: Study 6

20 11 2008

Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father 

If God were your Father…

Jesus once said to some who hated him: If God were your Father you would love me”.  The disciples saw the depths of love in Christ crucified and risen, as the full implications of God’s grace broke open to them. They confessed that their change was by God’s initiative. ‘We love because He first loved us’ (1John 4:19). It takes a revelation of the love of the Father, in Christ Jesus, to create faith in a person. This faith is a gift. So is repentance. The latter, is a change of mind and heart. It means turning from one way of life, to another, from anger, isolation and dislocation in the world, to fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It rearranges a lot of things in a person’s life!

As we reflect upon the life we once lived, namely being ruled by our passions (Titus 3:3-5) and selfish, ungodly desires – we can see that we were at one time, imprisoned under the powerful influence of the deceiver of the whole world – Satan.  Wherever there is guilt, and wherever there is restless passion he has the capacity to exercise power, utilising accusation and fear.

Authentic Fatherhood triumphs over satanic fatherhood

Our age has invested much hope into psychological insight and counselling, and at the same time, has often belittled the biblical view of the world.  For this reason, people often have difficulty in thinking in terms of God and Satan.

If however, we are to grasp the dynamics of life, in which we live daily, then we must come afresh to the biblical revelation, with faith and humility, seeking understanding. As we do so, it is to the teaching of Jesus, and the Apostles that we turn, in order to consider the personality and actions of the evil one, known from Scripture as ‘that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan (Rev. 12:9). Consider, the following extract (by Geoffrey Bingham):

 “The Impediment to seeing the Father and the Son

Almost two thousand years have passed since Jesus displayed the Father. How is it then that humanity has not recognized the Sonship of Jesus and so the Fatherhood of God? It is because there is an impediment.

     On one occasion Jesus said to Jews who did not understand him:

 ‘If God were your Father you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord but He sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? Is it because you cannot bear to hear my word . . . He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason you do not hear them is that you are not of God.’

 

He explained in simple but terrible terms,

‘You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’

     We see then that man must belong to one or other of two families; one of two father–son systems; one of two action systems, both having purpose. One is true, the other false. One is good, the other evil. Each is energized by its father. This is surely the picture of the New Testament. Those who do good and love the brethren are of God and the Father. Those who commit sin and hate the brethren are of Satan. God energizes and works His will through His children, who walk as dear children of God. Satan energizes his children of disobedience and wrath, and they follow him. It is interesting to note that Satan in his pathological desire to be like the Most High God, has also to be a father, and to seek to gather a family.[1]

      Paul says, ‘The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.’ Satan, we are told, goes out to deceive the whole world. He is spoken of as the one who deceived the whole world. Those who are his are called ‘natural men’. Paul tells us that ‘The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit for they are foolishness unto him.’ This is why Jesus says, ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’

      We understand, then, that men do not see the ministry of Jesus the Son as the very action of the Father through him. Man is so far gone from his original sonship as to recognize neither the Father nor the Son. The acts and events of Christ are unintelligible to him until a revelation comes from God. Mercifully God gives this to human beings.”[2]

The Revelator

We can easily underestimate the indispensability of revelation. One cannot just simply sit down and figure God out! The Holy Spirit is ‘the Revelator’. [3] Any and all of the acts and events of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, can and do serve as the medium, or means of revelation. It may be a new thing to realise that, not only in the cross, but in all things that Jesus did and said, the Father did, does and continues to do his works.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works (John 14:10).

In all things, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them’  (2Cor. 5:19). Therefore in the work of Christ, wherever it takes place, we can study the works and involvement of the Father. We read of Jesus liberating deeds and life-giving words and in the gospels, and of His power exercised by the Holy Spirit, in the book of Acts, as well as of his work through the Apostles in the other letters of the New Testament. In the stories of the past 2000 years of human history, we learn of what Jesus has done, and thus, of the Father’s ongoing actions.

The Gospel Goes Forth Amidst a Battle

The Father was, according to Paul, pleased to reveal his Son in me (Gal. 1:15-16), so that he might preach him among the nations. The context of this breakthrough is amidst, and in spite of the hidden action of Satan’s blinding of sinful humanity. The Father has worked, and is at work now, to overcome Satanic deception, fear of death, and the imprisoning power of guilt and sin, through forgiveness and reconciliation. The gospel, or Word of the Cross is the power of God, the means by which a person comes into freedom (Rom. 1:16; 1Corinthians 1:18ff), and then the ongoing hearing of the voice of Jesus, sustains one in it. (John 8:31,36; Rom. 10:17).

Father and Son – Both, Servant and Lord of Creation

Thankfully, the Father persists to serve the creation with the gospel, for his glory. He is regal, wise, and deliberate. Sin and sinners are fully dealt with. When the power, penalty and the pollution of sin are all overcome in Jesus life, death and resurrection, then the evil one is disarmed. A justified person need not be bullied by accusations or temptations of Satan. This gives rise to true moral power. Blessings and benefits for a redeemed human race, and a regenerated creation thus flow forth (Matt. 19:28). The Father of grace and holiness is not irrational, dangerously wild, impulsive or vindictive.  Nor is his love-plan, a mere sentimental matter:

The Lord who is not the Father is demonic; the Father who is not the Lord is sentimental. Theology has erred in both directions.[4]

The Father brings his family home (Matt. 28:18-20) to rejoice in Him with all creation. His redeemed sons and daughters are called and equipped (Eph. 6:10-20) to be involved in that great purpose.


[1] Cf. 1John 3:11f.; John 8:44f.; Eph. 2:1-3; Phil. 2:12-13

[2] Geoffrey C. Bingham, I love the Father, NCPI, 1974, 2008, p. 59-61

[3] Bingham, I love the Father, p. 63

[4] Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, Chicago U.P., 1971, p. 287





Pateriology: Study 5

11 11 2008

Clarifying our terms – once again

1John teaches that God—the Father—is Love (1John 4:8). Scripture does not say ‘Jesus is Love’. Rather, Jesus is the Son of His Love (Colossians 1:13) or his Beloved Son; The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9), and at the same time, the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19). Our focus, here, is the Father.

Gregory of Nanzianzus (330-390 AD) said:

 I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendour of the three: not can I discern the three without being straitway carried back to the one”.

The Father – Patient and Kind

God is Love. Love is patient. Love is kind (1Corinthians 13:4a). That is, the Father is patient and kind. The One God and Father of us all, is kind, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6).

Therefore, all human iniquity, evil and guilt are dealt with, justly, and fully in the wisdom and holiness of God. They are never overlooked, swept under the carpet, or merely by-passed.

‘The Lord, the Lord, …keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ (Exodus 34:6a; 7)

The Father’s wrath and displeasure is provoked by evil, and this is a matter for deep reverence, genuine concern and holy fear – for the Lord is an avenger (1Thess. 4:6). It is also a cause for great rejoicing, for it is the Father, who by the atoning death of Jesus, justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5), thereby acquitting us, and as such, clearing – the guilty through the gospel. 

 The Father – Severe Toward Sin

Scripture reveals from the outset that the manner of God’s Fatherhood includes grace and judgment, kindness and severity (Rom. 11:22). Take careful note of God’s personal, gracious dealings with sinful people. The primal couple Adam and Eve­, doers or evil, received grace (Genesis 3:15-19; 21; 22-24); the murderer Cain, was preserved – ‘the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him’ (Gen. 4:15b). The heroic David, God’s chosen leader, a man after God’s own heart—was yet an adulterer and murderer. He knew very deeply the terror of guilt (Ps. 32:3-5; 51; 2Sam. 12:14); and the utter joy of a clean heart.  He was elected and secured in the most significant, most awesome standing in history (2Sam. 7:5-19) — his greater son was to be the Messiah-King. His family-line, his house, was the future ‘charter for humanity.’ Such grace.

Jeremiah, the prophet knew the anguish of preaching the righteousness of God, of calling others to faith and repentance, and yet himself being a sinful person: ‘Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing’ (Jer. 10:24). The Father wisely and personally deals with all human beings with mercy, yet with a holy firmness. The pages of the New Testament further reveal this Fatherhood, in the life of every person—amidst failure, fearfulness and rebellion. Some, like Peter, knew profound restoration (John 21:15-22), some died (Acts 5:5 ff.) The Father is ‘on our case’ as it were.  ‘God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day’ (Psalm 7:11). So, ‘make no provision for the flesh’ (Rom. 13:14).

Father Abraham – The Friend of God

And Stephen said: “Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Depart from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.’ (Acts 7:2-3)

God’s gracious, glorious appearing to Abraham, and his call and election of him, (while he was yet an idolater) was with a view to his grand purpose for creation. This plan included displaying, and revealing his gracious nature as Father. It may seem obvious to say so, but God’s plan for Abraham is fatherhood. He said to Abraham: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations”. (Genesis 17:4).

Abraham’s response to this gracious covenant-making God, who reckons righteousness to him as a gift (Gen. 15:6; Romans 4:3) is to be God’s friend (2Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). Friendship is a powerful factor in all of life, and a rich theme through Scripture. In considering further, the relationship we have with the Father, the matter of friendship should always be kept in mind. ’What a friend we have Jesus….’ and in the Father.

We repeat that God’s Fatherhood is known and understood, through the ministry of Jesus, and not primarily through our parents, or other parents we know, or even our friends! God’s ministry involves a powerful, profound friendship:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another (John 15:13-17).

Friendship is Informing the Other of what One is Doing

The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17-19) 

Jesus said: ‘The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished’ (John 5:20). We are shown the plan for creation – so as to share in it! (Eph. 3:9-21)

The Enormous Power of True Friendship

The Father’s Friendship effects good changes in the lives of his family. Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4c). Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). The Father prunes. This is great friendship: Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Proverbs 27:6).

Discipline – the Peaceful Fruit of Righteousness

Righteousness is doing right acts. Grace trains us to do this:

1. Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the LORD your God disciplines you (Deut. 8:5)

2. He who disciplines the nations, he who teaches knowledge to humankind, does he not chastise? (Psalm 94:10)

3. … the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness (Heb 12:6, 10)

Read: Hosea 11:1-11 (…it was I who taught Ephraim to walk). This is an excellent picture of the Father, tenderly teaching a toddler to make their way on two legs. Very intimate, very joyous, very profound. 

Hosea 11

11:1 ¶ When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

 2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

 3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.

 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.

 5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.

 6 The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes.

 7 My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.

 8 ¶ How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

 9 I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

 10 They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.

 11 They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

 12 Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah still walks with God, and is faithful to the Holy One.

 


Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology

Geoffrey C. Bingham, The Pastoral Power of Friendship, NCTM Pastors Study Group, 6th April 1992, p. 2





Pateriology: Study 4

11 11 2008

Doxology and Pateriology

All true theology is doxology. By faith, we can study Pateriology only as we worship the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are created for fellowship with the Father (1John 1:3; Genesis 3:8). 

Culture, Sin, Satan Bad Experiences Conspire

All nations are strongly influenced however, by their prevailing cultures.

The deep effects of sin and guilt, the activity and agenda of Satan and evil powers, unhappy experiences in family life and a culture’s suppression of truth, conspire to darken any true view of the Father.

However Christ is Victor, the Spirit is persistent, and the Father is pouring out his grace, heaped upon grace, – through the testimony of Scripture, and the power of the gospel – that we might, in Jesus the Beloved Son, truly know and worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.

The Christlike Father

It was to Phillip that Jesus said: “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9).

Bishop Michael Ramsay once remarked: ‘God is Christlike and in him is no un-Christlikeness at all’. We could take that further and say, the Father is Son-like, and in him is no un-Son-likeness at all (ha… except of course that he is the Father!)

Martin Luther claimed that the only God he knew was the one who suckled on Mary’s breast.  He wrote: ‘… Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus (On the Councils and the Church, 1539). Luther does not to confuse the person of God the Son, with God the Father, but stresses the full deity of Christ Jesus.

The key to studying Pateriology is to always see the Father’s life and work, through the lens of Jesus, the Son of God (All that the Father has is mine; the Spirit will declare it to you – seeJohn 16:14-15). In other words, a good Christology, and Pneumatology, opens to us the love of the Father, and his works – Pateriology.

Teaching concerning the Father

1. Jesus mentions the Father 17 times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:28); many people miss this fact. The Kingdom of God is mentioned 8 times (cf. 17). We have spoken briefly of our inbuilt guilt-bias against the Father.

2. The ‘Father’ is spoken of over 120 times in John’s Gospel. So much material here warrants more thorough study, in relation to Pateriology.  Such study ultimately relates to all of Scripture.

The Father in all settings of life:

God did not become Father; he is the Eternal Covenant-Father; Psalm 103:13, says: ‘Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him’.  P.T. Forsyth describes this as:

“…one of those gleams of vision in which…Israel transcended its own genius [and] …uttered an intuition whose source was inspiration, and which in the fulness of time rose into revelation of God’s first and last relation to the world.

The Father of Holy Joy

Jesus knew the holy joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2), glory and love in the Fathers presence (John 17) and cross-necessity.

‘He is father of pity to human weakness, still more father of grace to human sin, but chiefly father of holy joy to our Lord Jesus Christ’

In the cross of Christ, Jesus loved the Father. It is this mystery, we can benefit greatly by studying the Father’s works, and thereby gaining bold access to him, by faith (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16):

‘We cannot put too much into that word Father. It is the sum and marrow of all Christian divinity. It is more than natural paternity spiritualised. It is a supernatural word altogether when the cross becomes the key. But we may easily put into it too little.’

Some of the Father’s Works

1.     All things are from the Father (1Corinthians 8:6; Gen. 1:1)

2.     He is the One for whom we exist (1Corinthhians 8:6)

3.     He plans an eternal family (Ephesians 3;15; Rev. 21:3)

4.     He plans the mystery of the cross (Ephesians 1:3ff; 3:10)

5.     He initiates the Cross (John 3:16ff; 2Cor. 5:19)

6.     He participates in the cross (Isaiah 53:6b; Matthew 27:46)

7.     He sends Jesus (Gk. Pempo = sends) mentioned at least 30 times in John’s gospel (John 6:57; John 20:21).

8.     He places all things in the Son’s hands (John 3:35)

9.     He works (John 5:17) and initiates for Jesus (John 5:30)

10.  He seeks worshippers (John 3:23)

11.  Together with him, he does what the Son does, (John 5:19)

12.  He has life in himself (John 5:26)

13.  He draws people to Jesus (John 6:44)

14.  He testifies on Jesus behalf (John 8:18, John 5:37): the Son

15.  He instructs Jesus (John 8:28).

16.  He commands the disciples to listen to Jesus (Mark 9:7)

17.  He speaks at Jesus baptism (Matthew 3:17) and transfiguration (Matthew 17:5), and cross (John 12:28-30)

18.  He glorifies his own name (John 12:28)

19.  He sanctifies (John 10:36)

20.  He knows Jesus and is known by him (John 10:15)

21.  He has a ‘house’ with many dwelling places (John 14:2)

22.  He loves (John 14:21; John 16:27)

23.  He gives commandments (John 15:10)

24.  He gives what is asked of him (John 16:23) in prayer

25.  He glorifies Jesus (John 17:5)

26.  He indwells Jesus (John 1:18; John 10:38).

27.  He is with Jesus (and indwells all who believe (John 17:21)

28.  He bears hatred (John 15:23), and atones in His son, for us.

29.  He confers on Jesus a kingdom (Luke 22:29; Psalm 2:7-8)

30.  He raises Jesus from the dead (John 5:21, Ephesians 1:20.

31.  He will raise those who have faith in him, to life (2Corinthians 4:14; 1Corinthians 6:14))

32.  He gives all judgment to the Son (John 5:22)

33.  He makes promises (Luke 24:49)

34.  He gives the Promise of the Spirit (Acts 2:33)

35.  He protects his people (John 17:11)

THE PERSON: Who is the Father?

A. He is Creator-Father (Isaiah 64:8; Genesis 1:1)

B. He is Covenant Father (Malachi 2:10)

C. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3)

D. He is Holy Father (John 17:11)

E. He is Righteous Father (John 17:25)

F. He is Our Father (Matthew 6:9); he disciplines (Heb. 12:7)

G. He is rich in mercy (Ephesians 3:4) and the God of all grace.

H. He is Greater than the Son (John 14:28)

I. He is One with the Son (John 10:30)

J. He indwells Jesus, and indwells believers (1 John 2:24)

K. He alone knows the Day (Mark 13:32)

L. He will be all in all (1Corinthians 15:28), Our Father.

Fatherhood Universal, But Not Universalistic

All sons and daughters are tested, so as to begin to exercise true family dignity. We are called from servanthood, into sonship; we are called from drifting, and ill-defined spirituality, into a dynamic relationship such as Jesus shared with the Father. This will involve embracing the mandate of the first Adam to be fruitful and to subdue the disparate elements of creation, living now in the new power of the Second and Last Adam – Christ – who calls us to overcome (Rev. 21:7). We must not abdicate the high calling of Sonship.

‘While God is the Father of all people, all people are not the children of God

People of faith are joint heirs with the Son. ‘The true nature of sin …is anything which is unfilial’. No Father, no true family.

Cf. Islam: ‘The Difference is the Son’ (Daniel Shayesteh). Written by a former Iranian, Islamic fundamentalist, and politician. This book is very helpful in its title and its contents. for it helps us to see the vital importance of knowing God, the Father, through the Son. It also highlights the many deficiencies of Islam.

Discuss Implications in family and society


P. T. Forsyth, God the Holy Father, (NCPI 1897, 1987) p. 3

Ibid.

Ibid. p. 5

G.C. Bingham, I love the Father, (NCPI 1974, 1990), p. 142-143

A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 143  * I changed ‘men’ to ‘people’.





Pateriology: Study 3

1 11 2008

Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father 

Introduction

A favourite story told by Jesus is found in Luke 15:

  11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

  14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’

  20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

  25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

  29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

  31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

The story is hauntingly familiar. It resonates. This is the story humanity is made of, the world over – with mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, husbands, wives, grandparents and in-laws and cousins. It is brilliantly told by the master storyteller himself; it gets into our hearts, and minds. We think of dear ones, estranged or reconciled. It connects with prayers issuing from the depths of our hearts. Tears and sorrow are near to the surface, or anger and disappointment is concealed deeply below. Why so poignant, so stirring, so disturbing?

Kenneth Bailey says:

‘… the prodigal …planning to work as a servant …intends to save himself, [but]…on his return …is shattered by the offer of grace… the older son launches into a bitter tirade against the father. The parable closes with a final appeal for reconciliation. Both sons are seen as rebels needing a visible demonstration of love to win them from servanthood to sonship.’

We should note of this story:

1.     It echoes the human predicament – rebellion, loneliness, and folly.

2.     It echoes the gospel appeal from the Father through His son to the world: For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life (Romans 5:10). And, ‘…we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain (2Corinthians 5:20–­­­­6:1).

3.     It echoes lavish grace, new possibilities, and stubborn wills.

This story is there in all of humanity. And it is there in humanity, primarily because it is there between Our Father in heaven and his children in rebellion. As someone said ‘we are rebels with weapons in our hands’.

What is it that wins rebels, like these 2, ‘from servanthood to sonship’?

Seemingly absent from the story, is the action of atonement that takes people, sin, guilt scheming and rebellion seriously; that takes the Father and the Son of God, and the eternal family seriously. However, the storyteller himself, Jesus, is all too well aware, amidst all the failure of the human race, of what it will take to effect true forgiveness and reconciliation, namely, a cross. Nothing less.

When the State becomes your father…

1.     I once spoke with a worker, who described some failures in the Youth detention centre system, saying, ‘Young Aboriginal men come to the centre, until they are 18 yrs old. Most continue their ways and proceed to State Prison. Sadly, we are not allowed into their home lives to work on helping whole families. “When the State becomes Your Father, your Home becomes the Prison”.

2.     I am a friend of a man who has been out to prove himself, all his life. He never met his father. He knew he was adopted, and was grateful for that… but does he have a deep longing in this…

O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you (Psalm 38:9)

3.     I know a man who grew up in orphanages. He never knew his parents. He believes Jesus promise below, and is very moved by Christian messages of the Father. How beautiful is Jesus promise:

 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you… On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you….those who love me will be loved by my Father…we will come to them and make our home with them’ (John 14:18-23 selected verses)

4.     My Dream: I shared that God is Father, with a tough bikie. I said he had an inbuilt resistance to this, but that if he really heard me, he would know this to be true.  I thought he would bash me… but he heard me, and believed me, and his anger was gone! He softened.

The Male-Female Duality

The Christian revelation is that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The substitution of Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer as such, is not the Christian revelation. (Indeed, all work together in these 3 works)

‘Man’ (male-female) is made in the image and likeness of God. The word ‘Man’ is chosen here in preference to the word ‘Humanity’, because it is a single syllable and as such, conveys the sense of a single ‘block’ of human people. (God is One). The word – humanity – with the “–ity” ending, suggests a multiplicity (2 or more groups, not 1). It conveys the one-ness in creation prior to the entry of sin. It does not here, suggest ‘maleness’, but rather one-ness.

Given that Man (male-female) is the image of God then it follows, surely, that the male-female duality exists within God. There is certainly motherhood in God; this needs clarifying. Geoff Bingham says:

The male-female of God is called ‘Father’, given that God is often likened to a mother but is never as such called mother. Yet the word Father embraces both.

The Father is Love – Love is Flowing

Students of the Bible are often surprised to learn that nowhere in Scripture does it teach that ‘Jesus is Love’. Neither does Scripture speak of love as being the glue that holds the Trinity together. This would suggest a fourth action (or hypostasis), within the Triune God.

When John teaches that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16), he means ‘the Father is love’; in and from this love creation and redemption flow!

Paul supports this conclusion, when he speaks of Jesus, as being ‘the beloved Son’ (Colossians 1:13), or the alternatively phrase is ‘The Son of his Love’. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, and Spirit of the Son (Rom. 8:11; Matthew 10:20; 2Cor. 3:17; 1Peter 1:11).

Love flows from the fountainhead of love: the Fons Divinitatis.

(Psalm 36); this steadfast love flows out to the world to deal with sin, cleanse and reconcile, that the Father’s true family be formed.The Son is sent (incarnated), and the Spirit is spirated (breathed).  And we are incorporated into that flow of love (John 17:20-25).


Kenneth E. Bailey Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes (Eerdmans, 1976), p. 206

Geoffrey C. Bingham, I love the Father, (NCPI 1990), p. 20; See references Isaiah 66:13; Psalm 131:2; cf. Psalm 27:10

Geoffrey C. Bingham, Ah, Strong, Strong Love! (NCPI ,1993), p. 66





Pateriology: Study 2

22 10 2008

STUDY 2
Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father

Available Studies

Last week we saw the general absence of studies in the Person and Work of the Father. A curiosity for sure! We noted that Christology, and Pneumatology were both readily available as topics for study. However to study Pateriology seems to be rarely done, within the church. The importance of Jesus words, concerning the Father, and his relating to the Father, as well as his Post-resurrection teaching to Mary Magdalene – My Father and Your Father – suggest this needs redressing. Sources of study can be found particularly in John’s Gospel, but also in the Sermon on the Mount. Add to this the witness of Paul, Luke, and others, to the Father, and we have much material. We also have the riches and insights of theologians, who love the Father.

What is to be done?

There is a story of a famous huntsman who, when asked about the best way of trapping a fox, replied: ‘Start trapping – the fox will teach you!’

We could say – start studying, The Person and Work of the Father, Pateriology – and the Father will teach you. Indeed, it is even better than that – surely. If the elusive fox can be our teacher, how much will our Heavenly Father, teach us the good things we need to know.

Jesus said: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone. 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)

Covenant Father; Covenant Son

In the Old Testament, we note that Israel knew God as Covenant Father, and Israel was the Covenant Son.

Some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah wrote of their God:

For you are our father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our father; our Redeemer from of old is your name. (Isaiah 63:16)

Also Hosea 11:1

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

We can say that the One who had redeemed his people from Egypt had a close relationship of which the full revelation was yet to come.

The Incarnation – in these last days

The Father speaks and reveals himself by a Son, the Son:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Jesus came, yet still people missed the Father – The Forgotten Father.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

(John 14:9)

Even the close disciples failed to grasp the fullness of Jesus relationship with the Father, until after the crucifixion and resurrection. Indeed, it took the terrible cross, and the subsequent teaching concerning the Kingdom of God from the Risen Lord – during forty days – and then the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, for the new believers to be able to understand, that, God is … truly Father:

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6).

The revelation of the love and unity, and purpose at the heart of the crucifixion of Jesus, revealed the love of the Father, for his people.

Patripassionism

Now, we ask: Is there a grain of truth in that heresy Patripassionism?

Patripassionism confuses the Persons and Work of the Father and that of the Son. It claims that the Father suffered on the cross. However, it was Jesus, the Son who was nailed to the cross. The Father and Son are not the same Person. They speak to one another and have separate wills to engage, even when wholly united, as One in the work of the cross, and in all things. Heresy is usually going too far – an overstating of some point – in teaching to the detriment of other matters.

All Things Are Yours

But Paul writes: “For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God”. (1Corinthians 1:21-23) Heresies are ours, to learn of error; they are also there, sometimes, because hovering nearby is a great question, looking for an answer. It is probably this: Did/does the Father suffer?

The Initiative in the Sending

The Father is not the Son; they are discrete persons. The Son has come down from heaven, and the Father has sent him. (A work!)

37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent. (John 5:37-38)

28 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. 29 I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” (John 7:28-29)

The Motive of the Sending is Love

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1John 4:10).

God is willing to go to the length of suffering and dying to enter into fellowship with man. There is a misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of atonement that goes something like this: God is an angry God, angry at men because men have sinned, and he decides to condemn mankind; but Christ intercedes for man, and God’s vengeance is sated by punishing Christ instead. Although this is a travesty of the Christian position it has unfortunately been too often suggested by interpreters of the atonement as well as by their critics. But Forsyth, who said, “The doctrine of grace and the doctrine of the atonement are identical,” the true interpretation is that the atonement flows from grace, it does not “procure” grace. This extremely important insight means that our reading of the atonement is more like this: Because God loves men, he suffers on their behalf, bears himself the weight of their wrongdoing, and this restores fellowship, or reconciles. Grace is not something Christ earned for us from God; grace is rather something God gave us in Christ. “Do not say: ‘God is love. Why atone?’ Say: ‘God has atoned. What love!’[1]

Note then, that the Father atoned – what sending love!

And in this sending, atoning love did and does the Father suffer?

Father and Son Carry and Suffer the Misery of Ages

Jesus said: the Father and I are one (John 10:3). He also said, the Father is in me and I am in the Father (John 14:10). When we see the Cruciality of the Cross we see the action of the Father giving up his Son in love, and the Son honoring the Father. God, the Father, was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. We are often made aware of the sufferings of Christ. However, P.T. Forsyth draws our attention to the depth of the Father’s suffering too, saying: ‘And the Father suffered in His Son even more than the Son did’.[2]

There is an Eye, a Mind, a Heart, before whom the whole bloody and tortured stream of evolutionary growth has flowed. We are horrified, beyond word or conception, by the agony and devilry of war, but, after all, it only discharges upon us, as it were from a nozzle, a far vaster accumulation of such things, permeating the total career of history since ever a sensitive organism and a heartless egoism appeared.[3]

World War 1 was an occasion, to turn anew to the sufferings of God, the Father, throughout human history:

This misery of the ages, I have said, vanishes from human thought or feeling, till some experience like war carries some idea of it home. But there is a consciousness to which it is all and always present. And in the full view of it He has spoken. As it might be thus: ‘Do you stumble at the cost? It has cost Me more than you—Me who see and feel it all more than you who feel it but as atoms might. “Groanings all and moanings, none of it I lose.” Yea, it has cost Me more than if the price paid were all Mankind. For it cost Me My only and beloved Son to justify My name of righteousness, and to realise the destiny of My creature in holy love.[4]

P.T. Forsyth spotlights the love of the Father, for the Son, and calls us to consider this. (We are often very self-centred when we ask questions concerning the unfairness of life, and of our sufferings). He continues, along the lines that the Father, might say, concerning his Son, Jesus:

And all mankind is not so great and dear as He. Nor is its suffering the enormity in a moral world that His Cross is. I am no spectator of the course of things, and no speculator on the result. I spared not My own Son. We carried the load that crushed you. It bowed Him into the ground. [5]

The Father Takes the Initiative in Dealing with Sin

In 1 Peter 2:24 we read of Jesus that:

‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross…’.

There is a footnote to the text where other manuscripts include the words: ‘carried up our sins in his body to the tree’.

This is the action, or work of Jesus. But what of the Father’s work?

Isaiah 53:6 says of the crushing load of the suffering servant:

‘The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’.

This seems to indicate the Father’s action, of laying the sin upon his son, as Abraham took the knife to kill his son Isaac (Gen. 22:10). Only this time, there is not another ram in the thicket.

Further, Matthew 26:31 has it written of the action coming upon Jesus, and of the deserting flight of the disciples:

‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’.

It is the Father, surely, who takes the initiative here, to deal with sin, once for all, laying the burden, and its horrendous judgment upon the Son. This is a love-action, for the whole of creation, and it is also a severe action – that sin is dealt with. It must happen. The Father brings such complete judgment upon evil, that His dear Son is abandoned up for us all. He is utterly forsaken. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me. (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22) – the essence of these words really must be grasped. Geoffrey Bingham has written:

If he were not separated, then would sin have been really dealt with? If this alienation of the human spirit from God is the very essence of wrath, then was God’s wrath really poured out on the Cross upon sin, and was it borne by Christ, if he were not forsaken? The answer must surely be, ‘The wrath was poured out upon sin, and for man’s sake he was forsaken’… What we fail to understand is the utter desolation that is indicated by the cry. If to be forsaken is the utterness of suffering (and it is), then he actually has to suffer this. If some special knowledge tells him he is not essentially forsaken, then he does not suffer to the full. Let us understand this: he did suffer to the full. Failure to understand this cry is failure to understand the terrible nature of sin and the high wrath of the eternal God, who must destroy evil by His burning action of holiness.[6]

Jesus must know and bear the dreadful anger of God upon all sin, once, for all. It is only as a person by the Spirit, sees these facts that they can be truly at peace.

He must, as man, be taken from the Holy Presence and go out into the place of the damned. He must suffer it all, or not at all.[7]

Leon Morris concurs regarding this actual fact of forsaken-ness. The meaning of Jesus words, are that he was cut off from the Father.[8]

Another scholar, R. W. Dale would never allow that Christ only felt forsaken. He said,

‘I shrink from saying that even in my calmest and brightest hours I have a knowledge of God and the ways of God which is truer than Christ had, even in His agony. I dare not stand before His cross and tell Him that even for a moment He imagines something concerning God which is not a fact and cannot be a fact’.[9]

Forsyth alerts us to the wrecked world, where the mending requires something very deep:

Things are so profoundly out of joint that only something deeper than the wrecked world can mend them, only a God of love and power infinite, making his sovereignty good once for all, though mountains are cast into the sea. The only theodicy is not a system, but a salvation; it is God’s own saving Act and final judgment, incarnate historically and personally. The Cross of Christ, eternal and universal, immutable and invincible, is the moral goal and principle of nations and affairs.

If it seem ridiculous to say that a riot and devilry of wickedness like war is still not out of the providence of Christ’s holy love, it is because we are victims of a prior unfaith. It is because we have come to think it a theological absurdity to say that the Cross of Christ outweighs for God in awful tragedy, historic moment, and eternal effect a whole world ranged in inhuman arms. We do not really believe that it is Christ, ‘crucified to the end of the world’ (as Pascal says), that pays the last cost of war. That God spared not His own Son is a greater shock to the natural conscience than the collapse of civilisation in blood would be.

Again, Forsyth has nailed it. We too, in our day, have come to think it a theological absurdity to say that the Cross of Christ outweighs for God in awful tragedy, historic moment, and eternal effect a whole world ranged in inhuman arms. Theologians, preachers and churches – we have all too often failed to declare the whole counsel of God in this matter. We have been slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.

For civilisation may deserve to collapse, if only because it crucified the Son of God, and crucifies Him afresh. But if God spared not His own Son, He will spare no historic convulsion needful for His kingdom. And if the unspared Son neither complained nor challenged, but praised and hallowed the Father’s name, we may worship and bow the head.[10]

Hallowing the Father’s Name [Matthew 6:9]

We may worship and bow the head, before our Father, who has so spent everything – to redeem his renegade people. All this glorifies the Son, and he in turn, the Father. No length is spared. Creation rejoices.

‘Behold – see what love the Father has given us…’ (1John 3:1)

That we – the rebels – should be judged, healed, forgiven, sanctified, brought home, and called sons and daughters of the Father!

This suffering achieved the Father and the Son’s shared purpose for the world – together with all the Spirit’s help:

On the third day He rose with a new creation in His hand, and a regenerate world, and all things working together for good to love and the holy purpose in love. And what He did I did. How I did it? How I do it? This you know not how, and could not, but you shall know hereafter. There are things the Father must keep in His own hand. Be still and know that I am God, whose mercy is as His majesty, and His omnipotence is chiefly in forgiving, and redeeming, and settling all souls in worship in the temple of a new heaven and earth full of holiness. In that day the anguish will be forgotten for joy that a New Humanity is born into the world[11]

[1] Robert McAfee Brown, P. T. Forsyth: Prophet For Today, Westminster Press, 1952, p. 82-83

[2] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, p. 169

[3] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

[4] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

[5] Ibid.

[6] Geoffrey C. Bingham, Christ’s Cross Over Man’s Abyss, NCPI p. 68

[7] Ibid, p. 70

[8] Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1965, p. 45

[9] R. W. Dale, The Atonement, 1902, p. xli

[10] I believe it was David Brainerd, 1718-1747 who was able to praise and hallow the Father’s name even as his own family members were murdered, as he was dragged in a tortuous manner across a prairie, for his testimony to Jesus; all in the service of bringing the gospel to the North American Indians in Delaware.

[11] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164­­–165





Pateriology: Study 1

15 10 2008

STUDY 1

I had very good parents! However, I recognise that many, many people have not had this privilege. 

At the core of the universe

C.S. Lewis says: ‘We have learned from Freud and others about the distortions in character and errors in thought which result from a man’s early conflicts with his father. Far the most important thing we can know about George MacDonald is that his whole life illustrates the opposite process. An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe. He was thus prepared in an unusual way to teach that religion in which the relation of the Father and the Son is of all relations the most central’.

Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1Corinthians 8:5-6).

…the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him (John 4:23)

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord (Apostles Creed).

We sing the hymn: “O Come to the Father, through Jesus the Son, and give him the glory, great things he has done “(Fanny Crosby).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).

We can never arrive at a love for the Father, merely by reasoning. It takes our Elder Brother, to touch our hearts concerning the Father.

Our Lord Jesus, himself said: I love the Father (John 14:31). Do we? If so, do we say this, think this, study this way, minister this way? Is this reflected in our biblical, theological and pastoral studies?

 

A Strange Thing

Bible Colleges across the globe offer Christology, Pneumatology (even Trinitarian Theology), but not ‘Paterology’.

Googleit, and you get over 1,000,000 million articles on Christology; over 175,000 on Pneumatology, but a mere 17,000 on Paterology (the preferred word to ‘Pateriology’).

Observations from a Pentecostal Leader

In 1980, Thomas A. Smail wrote: ‘The Forgotten Father’. He said then:

The Father is in fact ‘forgotten’ today in pretty much the same way in which the Spirit was ‘forgotten’ twenty years ago. To ‘remember’ him is not so much to turn our intellectual interest in a new direction, but is much more like the remembering of the Lord’s Supper, where we are summoned to an opening of our hearts, a reorientation of our faith, a personal and corporate restoration of our relationship, so that we realise anew with praise and wonder that in Christ we have, not only forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit, but above all access to the Father.

Observations in Christian Libraries

Donald G. Bloesch: God the Almighty, in ‘Christian Foundations’ makes mention of God as Father, a mere 8 times – in 329 pages.

Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 12 major sections include, The Person of Christ, The Work of Christ, The Holy Spirit, (subsections of The Person and The Work of the Holy Spirit).  There is no place allotted to a study of, the Person and Work of the Father. Only a few quite useful, but brief mentions are made.

Bilquis Sheikh, former Muslim entitled her testimony: I Dared to Call him Father’. For Allah does not have a Son. Hear her witness to us!

Some Relevant Questions

Does the Father really come near to humanity? Do people have an experience of the Father?  If so, where, when and how? Who is the Father? And what does the Father actually do?  Is his work primarily hidden? If so, is it unavailable as a topic of study?  Is this Divine Person somewhat removed from us, as human beings, and so attracting of little attention from Christians?  Then again, is the person and work of the Holy Spirit any more visible or measurable, or knowable, than that of the Father? Is the current lack of discussion of the Father, a modern day by-product of feminist theology?  Or has feminist theology in part proceeded apace, and resonated with many, because, in part, there is a vacuum of a rich and adequate Pateriology, (or Paterology)?  Does the church in some way fail to proclaim … one third of the gospel? Can we proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) without giving due attention to the person and work of the Father?

Abba! Father! The Deepest Cry of the Human Heart

It is my growing conviction that the Scriptures are teaching us what the Lord Jesus Christ himself knew, with wonderful intimacy, namely that God is Father, that God is our Father, and that God is my Father and your Father (John 20:17). And that this knowledge is not a mere notion, or concept, or metaphor, or idea, or theological formulation, or even merely the correct Trinitarian grammar when speaking of God; rather, to know God as Father, is a very deep, very tender, very true cry.  It is a direct cry calling upon our Father.

Serenity and Profound Love

Not only is it a unified corporate invocation of true sons and daughters, calling upon the One who loves us through Christ Jesus, calling upon Our Father in prayer; it is also a very gentle cry of joy and serenity and profound love:

… God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba!* Father!’ (Galatians 4:6)

This new cry, is indeed that of Jesus himself, who spoke to the Father, in times of rejoicing (Luke 10:21-22) and of great suffering (Luke 22:42) often using the tender words ‘Abba, Father’ (Mark 14:36), the best English translation meaning ‘Dear Father’.

Invoking the Father – Not a Shot in the Dark!

In a volume published posthumously, entitled The Christian Life, Karl Barth gives to us a seriously good essay on  ‘The Children and their Father’ (p. 49-109). He says,

When God’s children invoke him as Father, this is in no sense a venture, a mere gesture, a shot in the dark, an experiment, or a gamble. They do this as those who have a part in the history in which God is their partner and they are his partners, in which they are liberated for this action and summoned to it, in which there is also given to them the promise of his corresponding action and therefore of his hearing. The dealings he has opened up with them and into which they enter when they call upon him as their Father can take no other course than to show the he for his part, in both word and deed, is in fact their Father.

Of this essay, by Karl Barth, Geoffrey Bingham – who has written numerous titles exploring the vast matter of God as Father – says:

The gentle, simple words of this famous theologian brought tears to my eyes. Having read much of his Church Dogmatics I thought, ‘He has kept the good wine until last!’ In this sixty-page treatment he shares what the Father means to him, and it is deeply moving. From the simple peasant then, to the erudite theologian, the human heart witnesses to restlessness until it finds the Father.

To Study the Person and Work of the Father

Many things the Father does, uniquely. He sends his Son (John 5:37-38); Scripture shows the Father, from before Creation, in Creation and Redemption, through to the new Home! Hear them: Jesus – in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18); Jesus prays: As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us (John 17:21). To know the Father and Jesus Christ, whom the Father has sent, is eternal life (John 17:3). The Father loves us too, and shows us, all he is doing (John 5:12); The Father raises the dead and gives life (John 5:21).

Q. Next time: Is there a grain of truth in the heresy Patripassionism?


C. S. Lewis, in George MacDonald, Phantastes and Lilith, (Eerdmans, 1975)

The Forgotten Father (Paternoster Press, 1980, 1996), p. 22

Donald G. Bloesch, God the Almighty, (Paternoster Press, 1995).

Other volumes in the series include: Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit.

Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, (Baker Book House 1988).

C. F. D. Moule, The Holy Spirit, (Mowbrays 1978), p. 29

Karl Barth, The Christian Life, Church Dogmatics, IV, 4, (Eerdmans, 1981) Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromily, p. 104

New Creation Teaching Ministries http://www.newcreation.org.au/

Geoffrey C. Bingham, Oh, Father! Our Father! (NCPI, 1985), p. viii








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