2 Thessalonians and Hell: Separation From or Wrath Coming Forth From God?

Is Hell eternal seperation from God or the experience of wrath pouring forth from God for an eternity? Those who argue for the former often appeal to 2 Thessalonians 1:9. In a paper I recently posted on academia.edu, I argue that the best reading of the Greek preposition apo (“away from”) in this verse is “[coming forth] from,” that is, it indicates the point from which something moves away from.  Having argued this, I then expound briefly why the doctrine of Hell as the Thessalonians and the rest of the Bible expounds it matters.

You can download or read it here.

Towards a Biblical Theology of Imputation: a Consideration of an Old Testament Root for Christ’s Imputed Righteousness in Romans

In this paper, it is argued that Paul teaches imputed righteousness in Romans and that this doctrine has its roots in the Biblical storyline invoked by Paul in the introduction of the letter. Genesis 15:6 is discussed as the primary Old Testament text that anticipates imputation, but Habakkuk 2:4 is referenced as an essential step in the progressive revelation of the doctrine.

It can be read at Academia.edu

Δικαιοσυνη θεου: a Consideration of the Meaning of the Righteousness of God in Romans 1:17

In this paper, it is argued that in Romans 1:17 Paul uses “the righteousness of God” to refer to God’s righteous character displayed in salvation accomplished by the provision of righteousness through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for those who believe. Each of these three aspects is considered and argued for, the most space being spent defending the righteousness of God as the provision of imputed righteousness.

It can be read at academia.edu 

A Short and Selected Bibliography of Reformed and Evangelical Theology (tailored a bit for Regent College)

For readings from the best of the Reformed and Evangelical traditions, there are lots to explore. These traditions emphasize the Bible and not analogy or experience as the primary source of theology. Below is a very short and quite selective bibliography of reformed and evangelical theology and biblical studies from the last 100 or so years.

Scripture, Authority, and Inerrancy:

  • Biblical Authority – John Woodbridge
    • Woodbridge responds to historical revisionists who claim that the church has not believed in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture until the 20th century (proposed by Rogers and Mckim)
  • The Doctrine of the Word of God – John Frame
    • The best recent defense of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. Frame is one the most prominent Reformed theologians of the 20th and 21st centuries, he is a well-read philosopher and theologian who is not afraid to learn from secular philosophy, but only every in submission to God’s revelation in the Bible.
  • The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God – John Frame
    • Same author, a conservative Christian epistemology based on revelation
  • Gagging of God – D.A. Carson
    • Carson addresses the challenge of pluralism to the Christian faith. He addresses the challenge presented to biblical studies and theology.
  • God has Spoken – J.I. Packer
    • Packer unpacks the doctrine of Scripture in light of the Twelve Articles of the Anglican Church.
  • The Great Evangelical Disaster – Francis Schaeffer
    • Schaeffer argues that the doctrine of Scripture is the doctrine on which Christianity stands or falls (in the sense of whether it is faithful or becomes something completely not Christian)
  • The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible – B. B. Warfield
    • Classic and definitive treatment of the doctrine of Scripture from the Princetonian reformed tradition (early 20th century)
  • Select Essays in:
    • God’s Inerrant Word –  John Warick Montgomery
      • Chapter 1: Biblical Inerrancy: What is at Stake? – J.W. Montgomery
      • Chapter 7: God and Biblical Language: Transcendence and Immanence – John Frame
      • Chapter 8: Scripture Speaks for Itself -John Frame (Also an appendix in A History of Western Philosophy and Theology by Frame)
    • Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon – Ed. D.A. Carson and John Woodbridge
      • Chapter 2: The Semantics of Biblical Literature – Kevin J. Vanhoozer
        • Vanhoozer discusses how genre affects the truthfulness of Scripture
      • Chapter 6: The Spirit and Scripture
        • John Frame discusses the Spirit’s role in  the doctrine of Scripture
    • Inerrancy – ed. Norman Geisler
      • Chapter 7: The Adequacy of Human Language – J.I. Packer
      • Chapter 9: The Meaning of Inerrancy – Paul D. Feinberg
    • Scripture and Truth – Ed. Carson and Woodbridge
      • Chapter 1: Scripture’s Self-Attestation (Grudem)
      • Chapter 2: Unity and Diversity… the possibility of systematic theology (Carson)
      • Chapter 6-9: These chapters provide brief historical sketches of the authority of Scripture in the history of the Church

Against Barthianism:

  • The Doctrine of God – John Frame
    • Frame again, this is part of the same series as the others, providing a look at the Doctrine of God from a reformed perspective, he interacts with the concepts of analogy and the incomprehensibility and knowability God.
  • The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God – John Frame
    • Same book as above, addresses the knowability and incomprehensibility of God, the possibility of propositional knowledge, and the normativity of the Bible. Explicitly interacts with Barth.
  • The Doctrine of the Word of God – John Frame
    • This is the best treatment of the doctrine of the Word of God that has been written in a long time. Frame is reformed, evangelical, and committed to Scripture as the primary functional authority in the Christian life. Employing the philosophical insights of Cornelius Van Til, Frame breaks new ground here. He argues that the Bible is the Word of God and authoritative, specifically dialoguing at times with Barth.
  • Essay in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon – ed. By D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge
    • The Authority of Scripture in Karl Barth – Geoffrey W. Bromiley
      • Bromiley shows than in an attempt to rescue God’s authority from Ritschl, Barth shot himself and Christian theology in the foot.
  • A History of Western Philosophy and Theology – John Frame
    • Frame analyzes the history of Philosophy of theology in terms of the irrationality and rationalism that characterize all non-Christian thought. He formulates a Christian epistemology and view of God’s transcendence and immanence but mostly focuses on historical figures and movements. His analysis of Barth is very helpful and solid. He is highly critical though he admits that he finds much edification from Barth’s writings.

Doctrine of God and Salvation:

  • The Atonement – Morris
    • An older but solid exposition of the penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement.
  • Bondage of the will – Martin Luther
    • Luther defends what he and the rest of the reformers considered a key issue of the reformation: total depravity and the inability of man. His rhetoric is biting, but the argument is strong.
  • Christian Theology – Michael Horton
    • This is a reformed systematic theology that takes a redemptive-historical approach to systematizing doctrine.
  • The Courage to be a Protestant – David Wells
    • Wells demonstrates the secular infiltration of the church; this book is a bit outdated but still relevant (he summarizes here four of his other books– No place for Truth, God in the Wasteland, Losing our Virtue, Above all Earthly Pow’rs)
  • The Doctrine of God – Frame
    • Frame gives a unique presentation of historical reformed theology that is for the most part faithful to Scripture (his arguments or lack thereof for infant baptism and against continuing gifts are probably the weakest)
  • Freedom of the will – Jonathan Edwards
    • Edwards here argues mostly from philosophy for the view of free will–compatibilism–that characterized the views of the reformers before him and the Calvinists after him.
  • Historical Theology – Gregg Allison
    • This volume supplements Grudem with a helpful historical discussion of most chapters in Systematic Theology.
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion (Beveridge Trans.) – John Calvin
    • Calvin is insightful and writes pastorally as he lays out reformation theology for the pastor in training. The ecclesiology is a bit boring, but the first books are really interesting.
  • Knowing God – Packer
    • This is a classic popular exposition of the reformed view of God
  • Marrow of Theology -William Ames
    • A prominent puritan theologian, this volume is a short exposition of British reformed theology (presbyterian) before the enlightenment.
  • The Providence of God – Paul.Helm
    • The doctrine of God and his sovereignty over the world from a respected reformed philosopher and theologian.
  • Systematic Theology – Grudem
    • Grudem does not spend much time on exegesis, so his formulations may not convince the unconvinced, but he is a clear and easy to read author. The chapters on Scripture, Regeneration, and the gifts of the Spirit are worth reading. His discussion of covenant theology is also helpful. The book is a good summary of reformed baptist charismatic theology
  • Systematic Theology – John Frame
    • John Frame draws from much of his other work and presents a well-argued general Reformed picture of Christian theology.
  • What is the Gospel -Greg Gilbert
    • a short popular exposition of the reformed/evangelical view of the Gospel.

(For a dialogue with some of Boersma’s thought (Regent theology prof), see https://allforthegloryofhiskingdom.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/a-review-of-heavenly-participation-by-hans-boersma/https://allforthegloryofhiskingdom.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/a-review-of-heavenly-participation-by-hans-boersma-1/https://allforthegloryofhiskingdom.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/sacramental-ontology-augustines-platonism-a-historical-and-philosophical-critique/)

Rick Gamache – “The Father’s Cup: A Crucifixion Narrative” audio and transcript

One of my teachers at Pacific Life Bible College introduced me to this creative but very biblical narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is quite powerful and worth listening to this Good Friday.

Transcript from Desiring God:The Father’s Cup (Good Friday) | Desiring God

Link to an Audio Download

Reflections on Romans 8 and Suffering

Romans 8:28-39 is probably my favorite passage in the Bible. It is written on a travel mug my wife gave me and it is embedded on my heart. For me, this passage provides hope and comfort… but not of the sort usually sought from it. Romans 8:28-39 doesn’t give the hope that God will end pain today, take away poverty, or take away my distress—it offers so much more. The comfort Romans 8 gives, the answer to suffering it provides, is infinitely more than the promise of a painless life here and now, it is the promise of transformed suffering, of beauty and hope in horror and distress.

I have friends and know families that have gone through far more suffering than I could ever imagine, but that doesn’t make me a stranger to pain and suffering. Like every person on this earth, I have felt shadow of death encroaching on my delusions of immortality, bringing the reality of the deathly consequences of sin like a lightning shock to my soul. I have lost friends, and even some family. Beyond that, I have felt the utter confusion and soul wrenching distress of losing minutes of my memory at the hands of subtle seizures. I have felt the horrors of having other people recall things I did without any recollection of their occurrence. I have felt the pain of the mind numbing confusion, disorientation, and headaches accompanying daily petite mal and absence seizures. I have felt the brain cracking throbs of post-surgery aches as my brain and skull recovered from the absence of some of their members. What I only see now, in hindsight, is the great hope Romans 8 provides for suffering now. There is an end to suffering, Romans 8 testifies to that much, and this is great fodder for our hope in this life, but Paul goes beyond just telling us that our suffering will end, he tells us how our suffering will be transformed.

He calls to mind first what we should all know; “28And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (NASB). But before he lets us fill “good” with all sorts of worldly baggage—such as prosperity, health, and comfort—he informs us of the nature of this “good.”

29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

What is the good Paul envisions? Conformity to Christ, the Spirit wrought Christ-likeness emerging as our outer man wastes away but our inner man is renewed day by day, that glorious hope of God’s good creation that we await in glory. It was hard, and is now hard, to see that hope in the midst of pain; as my body was wracked by convulsions and paramedics came into my kitchen, taking me away after my seizures escalated, it was hard to see how even this agony was for my good—how could God wish, and even have ordained, such pain? Only now can I see that those birth pangs, the bitter echoes of God’s curse upon sin playing out in daily life, were needed to produce in me an eternal weight of glory, a hope and abiding faith in the one true God.

The comfort of Romans 8 is not the absence of pain we all long for, but the transformation of pain that I now treasure. Looking back at those pains, ending just over 6 years ago, I treasure all that God did then and the effects the pain has wrought in my heart by the Holy Spirit’s touch. I rejoice that I suffered for 4 years under the weight of epilepsy and a growing brain tumor, for I now see more and more each day that good for which God ordained my pain. Without that suffering, my faith would be the anemic and frail confession I once held, a profession with my lips that never pierced the stone of my heart. I would not have tasted the joy that comes from knowing and trusting God, as I now experience day by day.

I would probably still be working a pointless job to make ends meet with no desire to do what was necessary to move on in life, content to waste my days on video games, books, and sin. But God knew what I needed; He knew that suffering, pain, distress was what would shock my sinful heart from its stupor and awaken my heart to the joy of living every day to the glory of God. The comfort of Romans 8 is this hope, that as we suffer pain we rejoice that we are becoming ever more like Christ, and as such, we see more clearly every day the abundant and overflowing joy that emerges out of life in Christ and the living in the presence of God. It also gives us the hope that no matter the horrors of the trials we face, we never have to fear missing glory. Firstly, because of Christ, we have no condemnation and no accuser can bring a charge against us; we are right before God. Secondly, because of the Spirit at work in our hearts, we are assured that no matter what evil befalls us, God will work it out for our good; we will be glorified and reign with Him forever in the new heavens and the new earth. With Paul we can cry out,

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;

We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.