Geoffrey C. Bingham dies – (goes home!)

3 06 2009

Geoffrey Bingham – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Today Geoff Bingham died. He is one of the dearest of men, that I know. He has been a friend, a mentor, a joyful preacher and teacher of the Christian faith, a doctor of theology, a missionary to Pakistan, a former POW in Changi in WW2, and a prolific and notable Australian author – and one to whom many, many people are grateful for his help and encouragement.

In particular Geoffrey has taught the heart of the Cross of Jesus Christ, and the grace of God known there, he has taught the hope and joy of creation redeemed through Jesus resurrection, and he has – perhaps as well as any – taught the Fatherhood of God.

Geoffrey has been a theologian and preacher of the heart! He has left a rich legacy in New Creation Teaching Ministries. 

May the Lord comfort Laurel—his dear wife, and his family, and the many, many people who will miss him. Much will be written about him. As the years roll on, many will undoubtedly discover his writings, and do so with great joy.

That is my small comment, for now.  … thanks dear Geoff, thank you!





The Cross Crucial For Destiny

14 10 2008

THE CROSS CRUCIAL FOR DESTINY

 

Study 8

 

Trevor Faggotter

 

INTRODUCTION

 

There is a strange statement in the New Testament, where the Apostle Paul speaks of God the Father’s active involvement in the event of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, saying:

 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

 

Given that human sin is not ‘but a remora, or drag, on Humanity’, but rather, ‘its death and hell’ – and given that, ‘the wrongest thing with the world is its sin’, then the need to deal with sin finally and fully is the matter upon which the destiny of humanity, and the holy character of God, must centre. What it means for Jesus Christ, God’s Son, to be made to be sin lies at the heart of the gospel.

 

THE CRUCIALITY OF THE CROSS

 

In following P.T. Forsyth’s book, The Justification of God, (1917), we now come in our series, to Chapter IX.  It is entitled ‘The Eternal Cruciality of the Cross for Destiny’, and it may remind you (if you know of Forsyth’s other books), of his work first published in 1909, entitled The Cruciality of the Cross. While we have much to read, digest, and study already, I would nevertheless like to include in this study some quotations (taken slowly), from the final few pages of The Cruciality of the Cross.

 

In being “made sin,” treated as sin (though not as a sinner), Christ experienced sin as God does, while he experienced its effects as man does. He felt sin with God, and sin’s judgment with men. He realised, as God, how real sin was, how radical, how malignant, how deadly to the Holy One’s very being.

 

When Christ died at sin’s hands it meant that sin was death to the holiness of God, and both could not live in the same world. When He rose it meant that what was to live and rule in the world was the holy God.

 

Dying as man, Christ placed His whole self beside man under the judgment of God. He was beside man in court but on God’s side in the issue, confessing God’s holiness in the judgment, and justifying His treatment of sin. Justifying God!

 

Forsyth then gives a poignant illustration, with a comment, which is pure theodicy:

 

A missionary to the North American Indians records that having seen his wife and children killed before his eyes, and being himself harried in bonds across the prairie amid his tormentors, he “justified God in this thing.” I do not know a sublimer order of experience than from the heart to bless and praise a good and holy God in despairs like these. It is to this order of experience that the work, the blood, of Christ belongs. And there is no justification of men except by this justification, this self-justification, of God.

 

Never is man so just with God as when his broken, holy heart calls just the judgment of God which he feels but has not himself earned; and never could man be just with God but through God’s justification of Himself in the blood of Christ.

 

In speaking here of atonement, Forsyth is keen to retain the word ‘satisfaction’:

 

We cannot in any theology which is duly ethicised dispense with the word satisfaction. It was of course not a quantitative replacement of anything God had lost, nor was it the glutting of a God’s anger by an equivalent suffering on who cares whom. It was no satisfaction of a jus talionis.

 

But it was the adequate confession, in act and suffering, “Thou art holy as Thou judgest.” That man should confess this vicariously and victoriously in Christ crucified and risen is the re-establishment of God’s holiness in the world. We can only understand any justification of man as it is grounded in this justification—this self-justification—of God. The sinner could only be saved by something that thus damned the sin.

 

In a far more nuanced manner, than is employed by many evangelicals today, Forsyth then speaks of what is not the Father’s action in the cross (punishing Jesus), as well as what is his action in the cross, (namely imparting unto Christ, the penalty upon sin). 

 

The Saviour was not punished, but He took the penalty of sin, the chastisement of our peace. It was in no sense as if He felt chastised or condemned (as even Calvin said), but because He willingly bowed, with a moral understanding possible only to the sinless, under the divine ordinance of a suffering death and judgment which was holily ordained to wait on the sin of His kin.

 

The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin. The metaphor denotes the radicality, totality, and finality of the whole action in the realism of the moral world which even high sacrifice, not resisting unto blood, only slurs or shelves—when it does not toy with it. 

 

Forsyth notes that Jesus early teaching wholly relates to his suffering deeds in the cross:

 

It is notable that Christ speaks of His blood only at His life’s end, while during life He spoke only of forgiving grace without any such expiation (except in the ransom passage). Why was this so?

 

Two reasons are given:

 

1. Was it not, first, because His grand total witness, which death but pointed, was to the grace of God’s holy love; and the exposure of sin could only come by the light of that revelation?

 

2. And was it not, second, because His revelation and offer of holy grace without sacrifice and judgment failed of its effect; because even the great, uplifted, and joyful invitation, “Come unto Me,” failed till it was enacted from the mighty gloom of the cross; because only the uplifting of the cross, and not the uplifting of His voice, draws all men unto Him;

 

The cross draws people. It does so as the holy love of God breaks through to human beings by revelation. God’s very wonderful loving kindness is brought home livingly by the Spirit of God – the mystery of the cross is opened, and poured into hearts and minds.

 

THE CROSS AND GRACE

 

Forsyth saw the biblical relationship between the cross and grace, in a way, that many others failed, and fail still to see and proclaim (that is why many abandon atonement theology).  Robert McAfee Brown followed Forsyth’s corrective theology well:

 

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!’

 

SALVATION IS THE SOLUTION

 

We are not taught or argued by proofs, or theology into the kingdom of God.  Rather we are transferred, by way of rescue.  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14) The victory of the resurrected Christ is our salvation. The work of the crucified Christ is our forgiveness of sins, and it means the redemption of the world. We are not seeking our own solution. We are given one.

 

Not only can God solve the world, He has solved it, in His own practical way of solution, by saving it—by an act done, and not a proof led, nor a scheme shown. His wisdom none can trace, and His ways are past finding out; but His work finds us; and His grace, His victory, and His goal become sure.

 

The message of the apostles was always of what God had done, in the death and resurrection of Christ (see Romans 5-8). And yet, Forsyth identifies good reasons why God’s ways in revelation, are unsearchable; Drawing upon apostolic insight – O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33) – Forsyth comments:

 

If we saw all His scheme our faith would be compelled, and not free. It might do more to overwhelm us than to raise or fortify. It would be sight—something too satisfactory to a merely distributive justice; it would not be faith creative and constitutive for the holy soul. The faith we keep means more for our soul than the views we win.

 

Faith in receiving the truth of God in the cross is an absolutely essential factor.  Faith is not some well-reasoned conclusion. Faith is at once a gift from God, and an action of personal trust, of belief, of receptivity.

 

Job’s friends had sounder views on some points than he, but they did not receive the reward that his desperate faith had. In the Cross of Christ we learn the faith that things not willed by God are yet worked up by God. In a divine irony, man’s greatest crime turns God’s greatest boon. 0 Felix culpa! The riddle is insoluble but the fact is sure. The new man, remade in Christ and not simply impressed by Christ, is sure amid a world of strident problems. We know what God has done for the world in redeeming it; we have tasted that in our soul; but we do not know why He took the way with it that He did, why it must mean the Cross. He speaks not an all-solving but an all-liberating word.

 

THE FATHER AND SON CARRY AND SUFFER THE MISERY OF THE 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, 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’.

 

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.

 

The war is an occasion, to turn anew to the sufferings of God 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.

 

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 theodicy).  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.

 

This suffering however, achieved the Father and the Son’s shared purpose for the world:

 

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.

 

THE SUPREME THEODICY IS ATONEMENT

 

As we have been saying in other studies ‘that day’ – the coming close of history as we know it, the telos – is an essential part of God’s plan, through the cross and Christ’s resurrection; this is a continuation of what Forsyth, understands the Father is saying to us.

 

In that day the anguish will be forgotten for joy that a New Humanity is born into the world.’

 

However, the matter is never just hoping for heaven. It is the holy name of God fully honoured, through atonement. It means leaving no room or place for sin, eternally.

 

But all this is groundless if in the Cross of Christ we have but the love of God shown in sacrifice and not its holiness secured in judgment; if the Cross be but to reconcile man and not atone to God, to impress many and not first to hallow the holy name.

 

In hallowing the Father’s holy name, Christ is doing more than being obedient unto death he is being obedient unto judgment, the final judgment of holiness. Paul says, ‘For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.’ (Romans 5:19) Others who have studied Forsyth have also pointed out that he saw Christ’s obedience as of prime importance:

 

The important thing is not the “wounds of Jesus”, but the fact that in going to the cross he offered a perfect obedience to the holy will of God. This has never been sufficiently emphasized.

 

As this series of studies, is looking at this whole matter of theodicy, it is appropriate that we close this study, with Forsyth’s closing words for the chapter:

 

Christ was the new Humanity doing the one needful and right thing before God. God’s justification of man, therefore, was by His justification of Himself in man. The last theodicy is a gift of God and not man’s discovery nor an achievement. It is not a rational triumph but the victory of faith. Christ is the theodicy of God and the justifier both of God and the ungodly. The supreme theodicy is atonement.


Luke also draws attention to the Father’s involvement in the cross, saying that Jesus was handed over to the Israelites, ‘according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God ‘ (Acts 2:23); In Acts 8:32-33 Luke shows how Isaiah 53 is a prophecy including the Father’s involvement in the cross – the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6); similarly Matthew 26:31 takes the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered, indicating the Father’s sovereign activity. 

Remora a suckerfish – which attaches itself to sharks, whales, sea turtles or the hulls of ships

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, 1988, p. 146

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 167

P. T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, NCPI, (1909), 1984, p. 212

P. T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, p. 213

P. T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, p. 213

P. T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, p. 213-214

P. T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, p. 214

Jus talionis:  an eye for an eye; quoted from P.T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, p. 214

P.T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, p. 214

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

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 154

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 154

Felix culpa – Blessed fault or fortunate fall’, or “O happy fault”.

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 154

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 169

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 165

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 165

Robert McAfee Brown, P. T. Forsyth: Prophet For Today, p. 83

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 169





Theodicy: The Justification of God

19 05 2008

 

THEODICY: THE JUSTIFICATION OF GOD

 

Study 1

 

‘To justify God is the best and deepest way to fortify men’  – P. T. Forsyth

 

Trevor Faggotter

 

Prayer: Dear Father, we give you thanks for your great and amazing grace towards the human race, in Jesus Christ, our Lord. We praise you for the work of the Holy Spirit, deep in our hearts, revealing your nature, your love and your gift of redemption, through the Cross of Christ. We pray for a fresh hearing of the gospel, in our lives, in our day, and among the nations of the world, in Jesus name, Amen.

                       

A STRANGE TITLE

 

Theodicy: The Justification of God! The title of this series of studies is unusual. Since the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit and Scripture, have given the human race a revelation of the grace of God, in the beauty of Jesus Christ, in his holy love and kindness towards us.  For those of us who have come to know God, as Father – in and through his dear Son Jesus, the Messiah, we do now – in all our joy, as well as in our frailty and weakness – actually love God.  We also love his world, his humanity. We love because he first loved us.  We trust him concerning his plan for for creation.  We also seek to know God more and more, in all his ways – even his seemingly strange ways, in all his deeds and actions.

 

Many things, we barely understand. However, to a person stirred, gripped, moved and motivated by the grace of God, the very notion that God needs justification may now, in our renewed frame of mind, appear to be a foolish one.  In many ways, it is. Just as it has been said: Defend Scripture? Defend a Lion! – it can also be said – Defend God? Defend the Lion!  However, as responsible members of the human race, and of our present world, Christian people continue to wrestle with the difficult questions, which confront us – in order to more helpfully proclaim Christ, and all that he means to and for the world.

 

In the Foreword to the 1988 reprint of this book by P.T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, Dean Carter says: ‘God is justified in and by the crucified Christ’. That is the premise, or basis, upon which the book proceeds, and concludes: ‘Christ crucified and risen is the final, eternal answer to the riddle of life’.

 

The book is the gospel expounded – with a view to grasping something of the dynamics of evil, grace and holiness, outworking in human history.  It has its roots deeply implanted in the Scripture, and is written amidst a time of global crisis.

 

THINK IN CENTURIES

 

Our studies are based upon the text of a book, which was first published in 1917. That is, it was written during World War One – ‘the war to end all wars’.  It is important also to consider that New Creation Publications Incorporated reprinted this book in 1988, some 71 years later. If my maths is correct, the contents of this book (here in 2008) are now 91 years old. A short comment once made by the author, P.T. Forsyth (in a different book), is prophetically coming to pass in our own day:

 

Theology simply means thinking in centuries.

 

Forsyth thought deeply, and wrote works that have endured, and continue to speak to us today. It takes time to grasp his meaning, but it is well worth the effort. This is a difficult book.  But I urge you to persist with its conents. For the reading of a book beyond our current ability can become a defining moment in the way of maturity.

 

Following the September 11th 2001 attack upon the New York World Trade Centre Twin Towers, like us all, I too needed steady insight.  So, of all the possibilities open to me, I reached for this book. Apart from my own need, I was confronted once again, with:

  1. A shocking event – evil and terror
  2. The sudden death and suffering of everyday people – who seemed much like me,
  3. A barrage of political – and at times very shallow – media comment, and
  4. A pastorate, a community of people, and a world of nations that need wisdom.

I found here, valuable wisdom, which I have sought to share, as able.  I trust others heard it too, and took heart.

 

WHAT IS THEODICY?

 

Our studies focus on the matter of Theodicy. That is, the attempt to justify God in the face of all the evil, misery, suffering and all injustice in the world.  Theodicy seeks to answer the question: How can the justice of a sovereign God be defended in the face of evil – especially human suffering, particularly the suffering of the innocent?  Our society and indeed all nations need to be equipped to grapple more fully with such questions.  For our world is blessed with so many benefits of modern technology, and advanced medicine, that we have often become fixated upon the idea of endless ‘progress’ – as if that is all there is, and all that matters.  When something like a Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, or a complex, volatile war, shatters the settled domestic lives of millions, and touches our own lives, we are easily prone to erronous, foolish or unhelpful responses. We just react.

 

N.T. Wright identifies three things that characterise much of our current day inadequate approach to problem of evil:

 

Firstly, we ignore evil when it doesn’t hit us in the face.  Second, we are surprised by evil when it does.  Third, we react in immature and dangerous ways as a result.

 

AN OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTERS

 

Foreword

Overture and Outline

          I.     The Expectations of Popular Religion and their Fate. Religion as centred on God and centred on Man

        II.     The Problems: Revelation and Teleology

      III.     Metaphysic and Redemption

      IV.     What is Redemption?

        V.     Salvation Theological but not Systematic

      VI.     The Failure of the Church as an International Authority

    VII.     Teleology Acute in Theodicy

  VIII.     Philosophical Theodicy

      IX.     The Eternal Cruciality of the Cross for Destiny

        X.     Saving Judgment

      XI.     History and Judgment

    XII.     The Conquest of Time by Eternity

Bibliography

 

P.T. FORSYTH – A WORD ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Peter Taylor Forsyth was born in 1848, and studied at the universities of Aberdeen, Gottingen and New College, London. He served various Congregational Churches in England, and became Principal of Hackney Theological College, Hampstead – a position he retained until he died, in 1921.  He was a member of the theological faculty of London University, and also a one-time chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales. He wrote over 30 books and many other pamphlets and articles, championing in his writing, the cruciality of the cross.  Reading Forsyth will undoubtedly deepen one’s understanding of God as holy love, and of the gospel as the power and weakness of God.

 

WHAT IS FORSYTH ON ABOUT?

 

Forsyth’s concern is for the nations, but his eyes are set upon Christ:

 

In many forms my belief will appear that the site of revelation and the solution of history it to be found, not in the moral order of the world, but in its moral crisis, tragedy, and great divine commedia; not even in the conscience. But in its Christ and His Cross.  It seems quite certain that it is only a living faith in the right kind of unity, unity with power that can bring to the race public peace and concord.

 

The focus of the race is moral, in the conscience. ‘Morality is the nature of things.’  Guilt is therefore the last problem of the race, its one central moral crisis; the Cross that destroys it is the race’s historic crisis and turning point. Were there no sin, there would be no war. Were there no world sin, there would be no world war. War makes at least one contribution to human salvation – it is sin’s apocalypse. It reveals the greatness and the awfulness of evil, and corrects that light and easy conception of it, which had come to mark culture and belittle redemption.

 

This book is a coming to terms with the very fact of evil, and of its enormous effects and impact upon the world.  It comes to grips more closely with its remedy, its nemesis and doom, in the Man Jesus, the Lord Jesus. His triumphant Cross, we pray, will open to us in ways which will deepen us, and so bless our proclamation.

 

DEPTH NEEDED FOR OUR OWN DAY

 

Our own culture in Australia in 2008 has emerged from a mixture of many peoples, nations and historical factors, for good and for ill.  We live this peaceful side of two world wars, and a strange war in Vietnam. We live amidst other global conflicts, which we witness nightly on our TV screens. We live this side of the rebellious 70’s where many values, foundations and institutions were questioned, challenged, rejected, replaced or ignored.  However do we now have the wise insight we need to approach the future?

 

Many Christian people in our land laid excellent foundations in their love for Christ.  We benefit from their good work.  However, as churches today, we are prone to live by image, rather than substance. It won’t do. So many nations, are such a long way away from the things of Christ, and his gospel.  It is depth and substance that is needed, and not the creating of impressions and the projecting of images. Only a profound understanding of the depths of the cross can produce anything more than a shallow culture. And only the Spirit searches the deeps of God and reveals them to people like us. ‘… for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God (1Corinthians 2:10).

 

This being the case – and given that the Spirit comes to us – we can embark upon a deep and profound and difficult book, with great expectancy. God reveals himself through his Word, written, preached, expounded and imparted by his servants, such as Forsyth.

 

And so the first work before the Church is to set her own house in order, … to acquire that note of moral authority which gives practical power and historic weight to all her mystic insight and her sympathetic help.  It is not help that either the Church or the world needs most.  It is power.  It is life.  It is moral regeneration.  If the greatest boon in the world is Christ’s Holy Father, the greatest curse in the world is man’s unfilial guilt. Whatever, therefore, undoes the guilt is the solution of the world. Everything will follow upon that peace and power.

 

 

May the Spirit of the Lord impart to us, that which is most needful in our day, that we might share his gospel with others, with conviction. 


P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, 1988, p. 14

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 4

Ibid.p. 221

P. T. Forsyth, The Work of Christ, NCPI, 1993, p. 144

N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, SPCK, 2006, p. 8

Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 16-17

As you might expect, many of our studies, will include a good sprinkling of quotations from Forsyth. 

Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 19

For a biblical theodicy, see also Martin Bleby, Where Was God on September 11th 2001, NCPI, 2001

Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 22 








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