Minister's Blog

An alternative to thepareutic theology

An alternative to thepareutic theology

There are many books designed to help Christians deal with issues such as anxiety, depression, alcoholism, loneliness, (lack of) fulfilment, bereavement, grief, marital struggles, addiction, low self-esteem, and so on. Many of them are very good - I've read a good handful myself. However, it seems to me that there might be a more fruitful way of addressing the issues underlying these symptoms.

This alternative way is to wrestle long and hard with the biblical doctrine of the exhaustive sovereignty of God.

If this foundation has not been laid, it strikes me that none of these therapeutic paths to emotional stability will be likely to yield much fruit. But if this foundational conviction is firmly in place, there's a good chance that many of the above trials may not arise so severely (or, in some cases, even at all) in the first place.

The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over everything that happens in his creation. This means not only that he sustains all things in being, but that he directs and brings about every event that takes place. From the affairs of nations to the fall of a single sparrow, the Living God is sovereign over it all.

Most strikingly, according to Scripture, this includes what we customarily think of as our "free" decisions and actions. It's true that we make genuine, meaningful, responsible choices. We're not robots. But these choices are "free" only in the sense that we are "free" from creaturely compulsion; we are not "free" from God's sovereign hand.

Furthermore, the living God is sovereign over the situations in which we find ourselves - whether those situations arise from external events or internal emotions. Our emotional angst and personal ups and downs frequently take us by surprise, but God is not shocked by them, and he is perfectly able to shepherd us through them, since he is the author of them. Our lives may feel out of our control, but they're never out of God's control.

The path of wrestling with the sovereignty of God is long, and at times perplexing. It's not an easy quick-fix. But it's a journey well worth travelling. Among the best places in the Bible to begin would be the Psalms, Isaiah and Daniel, though to be honest the whole of Scripture shouts this message loudly and clearly that it's more a matter of reading the whole Bible with our eyes open to it that studying any individual passages.

But if I had to pick a single chapter with which to begin, it would probably be Psalm 139.

Liturgy for the Lord's Supper

A good friend of mine (prompted by this post on the Lord's Supper) recently asked what we actually do during the Lord's Supper at Emmanuel. The easiest way is just to reproduce an expanded version of my own notes for that portion of the liturgy. The Minister's words are in normal type; the congregational...

How many deaths?

The fact that Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50-56) was "rich" (Mt 27:57) is widely and understandably regarded as a fulfilment of Isaiah 53:9, which says of the Suffering Servant of the LORD, "And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth." Alec Motyer (Isaiah, pp. 435-436) highlig...

The artistry of Luke and the fulfilment of the Torah

Both Arthur Just (Luke, vol 2, pp. 951-952) and Richard Hays (Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, p. 212) highlight a subtle inclusio in Luke's Gospel (which is part of a larger chiastic structure), where the presentation in the Temple (2:22-38) is paired with the burial in the tomb (23:50-56). During the presentation in the temple, A man and a ...

Take, eat, this is my body

At Emmanuel we celebrate the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day, so regulars will be very familiar with the words that we use in that part of the service. Nonetheless, it's worth thinking a little about these words in order to get a deeper and clearer understanding of what's going on when we eat and drink at the Lord's Table. Perhaps the most striking words occur just before we eat and drin...

Eschatology and Public Theology

There's still time (just about...) to join the current crop of students on the next module at Emmanuel Training and Resources: Eschatology and Public Theology. Here's an extract from the course description: "Eschatology has for too long been the exclusive haunt of sects and cranks, while Public Theology has often been neglected altogether...
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