Showing posts from January, 2024

can a modern society be Christian?

In 1995, missionary and theologian Lesslie Newbigin gave an address at King's College in London entitled, "Can a Modern Society be Christian?"  Here are a few excerpts...   Both Christianity and modernity make global claims. Both are necessarily missionary faiths, because they claim to give the true understanding of the human situation, valid for all peoples at all times. Let us begin by posing a question which is central to any fundamental debate about Christianity in the public realm. It is the question: How is power legitimated? By what right do some people, calling themselves ‘the State’ exercise coercive power over others? Here we come, I think, to the central problem which now faces the liberal democratic state. Insofar as the older biblical meta-narrative still pervades society, the concept of human rights still has some anchorage in the will of the Creator who is their author and upon whose character as holy and loving God they rest. But insofar as the biblical st

God's word good for us

Under the topic "Absolute Truth" in chapter 11 of Knowing God , J. I. Packer explains how God's Word, which he calls "the index of reality", not only demonstrates the trustworthiness of God, but also does good for us as his children.  God's commands are true. "All your commands are true" (Ps 119:151). Why are they so described? First, because they have stability and permanence as setting forth what God wants to see in human lives in every age; second, because they tell us the unchanging truth about our own nature. For this is part of the purpose of God's law: it gives us a working definition of true humanity. It shows us what we were made to be, and teaches us how to be truly human, and warns us against moral self-destruction. This is a matter of great importance, and one which calls for much consideration at the present time. We are familiar with the thought that our bodies are like machines, needing the right routine of food, rest and exerci

God only wise

" the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen." (Romans 16:27 ESV) Wisdom , as J. I. Packer defines it, is "more than mere cleverness or cunning..." Rather, he says, it has moral quality, having intelligence harnessed to a right end: "Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it." ( Knowing God , p. 90)  As I was listening to the audiobook version of Packer's book, I pondered this excerpt from chapter 9:   God's wisdom cannot be frustrated... for it is allied to omnipotence. Power is as much God's essence as wisdom is. Omniscience governing omnipotence, infinite power ruled by infinite wisdom, is a basic biblical description of the divine character... Wisdom without power would be pathetic, a broken reed; power without wisdom would be merely frightening; but in God boundless wisdom and endless power are united, and this makes him u

the joy of forgiveness

"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." (Psalms 32:1-2 ESV)  "Confession is good for the soul."  We hear this often enough (and it's true), and indeed confession is a big theme in the Bible. It has an important role in the life of believers, whether individually or corporately (1 Jn 1:9). But confession is more than good for the soul, it is vital to our relationship with God, for it restores honesty and transparency before him.  In confession I am agreeing with God about who he is and who I am. It can be restorative, as in confessing my failure before God, or it can be declarative, as in confessing my trust in the Lord and what he has done.  This psalm (32), along with Psalm 38 and Psalm 51, are called "penitential" psalms, for they recount David's confession of sin and failure. It is more than admitting that &quo

meditating on the truth

During my drive time, I'm listening to Knowing God , by J. I. Packer. This is one of those classics that should be read (or listened to) time and time again.  From chapter one, "The Study of God", Packer writes of the importance of meditating on truths about God...  "Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God's attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are. As he is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so he must himself be the end of it. We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God. It was for this purpose that revelation was given, and it is to this use that we must put it. "How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God. "

why study theology?

I'm taking in J. I. Packer's Knowing God (again), this time in audiobook. It's such an excellent work, and truly a Christian classic!  In the first chapter he answers the question, "who needs theology?" The question is posed by someone who finds the study of theology unnecessary, impractical, and boring. Maybe it was of interest in past days, but not in our modern world. Why should anyone take the time for such a study?  Packer answers,    "A fair question! -- but there is, I think, a convincing answer to it. The questioner clearly assumes that a study of the nature and character of God will be impractical and irrelevant for life. In fact, however, it is the most practical project anyone can engage in. Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives. As it would be cruel to an Amazonian tribesman to fly him to London, put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fen