Salvation is the healing from sin

“The whole creation, as it will be completed in the new heaven and the new earth, is the fruit of the work of Christ.”

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 3:380.

“Salvation is re-creation because salvation is simply the elimination of sin–now, in its condemnation; progressively, in its power; and one day, in its entire presence.”

Dane Ortlund, “‘Created Over a Second Time’ or ‘Grace Restoring Nature?’ Edwards and Bavinck on the Heart of Christian Salvation.” The Bavinck Review 3 (2012): 18.

Trinity in creation

“Scripture left no doubt on this point. God created all things through the Son … and through the Spirit …. In this context the Son and the Spirit are not viewed as secondary forces, but as independent agents or ‘principles’ (principia), as authors (authores) who with the Father carry out the work of creation, as with him they also constitute the one true God.”

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:421.

“The Father is the first cause; the initiative of creation proceeds from him…. The Son is not an instrument but the personal wisdom, the Logos, by whom everything is created…. And the Holy Spirit is the personal immanent case by which all things live and move and have their being, receive their own form and configuration, and are led to their destination, in God.”

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:423.

Creation reflects God’s divinity

“[Scripture] teaches, first of all, that God is the Creator of heaven and earth. The things we perceive ‘were not made out of what is visible’ (Heb 11:3) but existed and exist eternally as ideas in the mind of God. They, therefore, derive their origin from God, are to a greater or lesser extent related to him, and so also have the capacity to display his perfections before the eyes of his creatures. Because the universe is God’s creation, it is also his revelation and self-manifestation. There is not an atom of the world that does not reflect his deity.”

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:109.

What does the Kingdom require?

“The Gospel is not content to be one opinion among others of the lie but claims to be the truth, the truth that by its very nature is exclusive of every area. The church is not just an arbitrary association of people who wish to worship together but something instituted by the Lord, the pillar and ground of the truth. The world would gladly banish Christianity and the church from its turf and force it to a private inner chamber. We could give the world no greater satisfaction that to withdraw into solitude and leave the world peacefully to its own devices. But the catholicity of Christianity and the church both forbid us to grant this wish.”

Herman Bavinck, “The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church,” 248.

The transgender flag in my son’s classroom

My wife and I recently attended our son’s first High School parent-teacher conferences. We walked into a his first period classroom, French, and immediately noticed a large transgender flag on the far wall. It wasn’t an immense surprise, we talk regularly with our kids about sexual ethics, gender identity, and what it means to follow Christ in a society that is increasingly distant from what might quaintly be called, “traditional morality.”

I, for one, am glad there’s a transgender flag on a classroom wall. I’m glad there are rainbow stickers on notebooks, and laptops, and other symbols of the progressive worldview.

I’m glad, not because I support or believe them, but that because as a parent and as a pastor these symbols make it abundantly clear to me that the classroom is no neutral space.

It is not a demilitarized zone of free inquiry. And that’s something I need to know because I’m tempted to assume the contrary. I’m tempted to assume that I don’t need to actively catechize my kids because, well, we live in the suburbs and go to an evangelical church, and how bad can it be? We live in Glen Ellyn, for goodness’ sakes.

It’s important for me–for us–to know that we classical Christians no longer hold much sway in key societal institutions.

The Christians voices–such as they are–that do have influence are oftne the voices of modernist Christians, those who have come to believe that the old answers (the ones in the Biblle, for example) no longer hold and accomodations must be made to the evolving nature of reality.

These Christians tend to begin with perosnal experience and argue to a range of meanings for the Bible because, in their view, the Bible is a record of other peoples’ experiences with God and those experiences aren’t necessarily the same as ours.

Those of us dissent from this revisionist view–call us fundamentalists if you wish–believe that this approach is wrong-headed and results in a slavish egoism that, in the end, could be degined as “hellish.”

As C. S. Lewis noted,

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

The public perception of the church

I’m writing from Oxford, where I learned that–once more–the Anglican communion is in turmoil.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has affirmed the Church of England’s 1998 ruling that named gay sex as sin and also declined to seek the authority to punish provinces that fail to uphold that ruling.

To be a tad tongue in cheek, this is taking the via media (“middle way”) a little bit far. It’s akin to what some states Attorneys General have done post overturning of Roe v. Wade, they’ve declared that they will decline to prosecutor doctors and patients who provide or receive abortions.

Both are, of course, an untenable places in which to stay for long. But do offer a short term solution that seems to allow the Archbishop (not to mention the AGs) the opportunity to have their cake and eat it too.

The calculus behind Welby’s decision appears to be that of cultural sensibilities or perhaps witness.

The Guardian reports Welby’s rationale for retaining the current resolution as follows:

“In many countries, [it] would make the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For many churches, to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.”

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

At the same time he acknowledged that in progressive democracies, failing to recognize same sex marriage could make the church “a victim of derision, contempt and even attack”.

The question this rationale raises, of course, is to what is extent is the public perception of a Christ’s church a legitimate guide for the way in which she conducts herself?

I hope to spend some time considering this question later this week. Stay tuned.

Five characteristics of effective pastors today

I was ordained to the pastorate in 2010 although I had been serving in campus ministry since 2004. Of all my ministry roles, being the pastor of a local church has been the most enjoyable and also the most challenging. Effective pastoral ministry in 2022 looks very different from what I expected when I graduated with the Master of Divinity in 2002.

In the early 2000s we believed that the best days were ahead of the church. And I entered ministry with a naive belief that my “trajectory” would onwards and upwards. It seemed to me that effective ministry was pretty simple. Preach well. Administrate well. Run good programs. That’s it.

Ministers like me made a fundamental mistake. We failed to see the structural weaknesses in our model of Christian formation. And as a result, we placed our confidence in a way of being Christian that failed to withstand the cultural cross-currents of a postmodern society.

If I was entering seminary today, here are five characteristics I would cultivate in my youngers self.

  1. Be rooted.
  2. Be patient.
  3. Be curious.
  4. Be humble.
  5. Be grateful.

Be rooted. Any pastor needs to be immersed in a tradition–a way of being Christian–that is deeper and older than his personal experience. Making up “ways of doing church” is a burden that God has not asked pastors to bear.

Those of us rooted in the Reformed tradition, we have received a very simple model of ministry. Pastors are the stewards of God’s mysteries made visible in the means of grace. Pastoring is never less than walking with people as they pray, read the Bible, and receive the Lord’s Supper. That’s the foundation. Every pastoral moment occurs because the table has been set by the experience of grace.

Be patient. More. Bigger. Faster. That’s what we want as contemporary world citizens. The kingdom is rarely quick and efficient. And when we find ourselves, as pastors, wishing to more, bigger, and faster, it is often accompanied by resentment toward our church members for not getting with the program to make it happen.

Be curious. One of the best gifts a pastor can give is to make someone feel heard, known, understood. That can only come from an honest curiosity about the people we’re in relationship with. We’ve all been in conversations with pastors where the “get to know you” was a pro forma recitation of basic data–name, occupation, etc. To pastor someone you need to know their story, and that sort of knowlege takes time and leisure.

Be humble. Pastoral ministry will humble you. And if you’re not humble in advance, you’ll get mad. Work to cultivate humility by reminding yourself of Christ’s emptying of himself in order to redeem us.

Be grateful. Pastoral ministry is a gift of God’s grace. And what makes grace, grace is that it is unearned. There are all kinds of trials in the life of a pastor, but in the end it is a gift.

Murder in the suburbs

My daughter and I returned from the Wheaton July 4th parade to the news that six people had been murdered at the Highland Park parade. Highland Park is another suburb some 25 miles from us. I know a few people who live in that part of the northern suburbs. And its striking to conceive that one might simply go to a public parade and be murdered. There are so many things wrong with this picture. Lord, have mercy.

Lent is for a world on fire

The world seems like it’s on fire.

Photo by Cole Keister on

As I write my extended family is mourning the untimely death of a son, husband, father, and brother.

Ukraine is valiantly trying to bear up under the yoke of Russian aggression.

The United States has suffered another State of the Union address–the ultimate in artificial celebrations.

This all seems grim.

It is grim.

It seems like the 80s all over again.

Then comes Lent.

In a fit of contrariness I recently told my wife, “I’m so over lent.”

I’m not. I need it.

We need it. More than ever.

We have yet another opportunity to enter into Lent in the full knowledge of our own brokenness.

We have the gift of forty days to look beyond the mess. To take our eyes ever so slightly off of the death, destruction, decay, and depression, and broaden our focus.

We have the chance to see that there is something bigger, deeper, wider at play here than our own mess. God is at work bringing a new world, a new people, and a new reality into being.

It’s already here. But not in its fullness.

And we find it so easy to lose the glimpses of it that we see. Lent lets us reframe and refocus. It lets us focus on Christ–God with us.

My favorite devotional book

Several years ago now, my Mom sent me a devotional book out of the blue. I grew up reading My Utmost for His Highest, but it had been more than a decade since I’d moved on from that veretable classic of evagenlical devotion.

Over the years, I’ve found that I don’t like many devotional books. Some feel moralistic. Others feel bereft of meaningful interaction with Scripture. Many seem remote from my own life. When I started reading the book my Mom got me, I was hooked.

The One Year Walk with God is been a companion more days than not for several years now. I’ve found it to be insightful, biblical, concise, and timely. And it’s one of the reasons that I came to work at Tyndale House Publishers.

If you’re looking for a devotional book I highly recommend this one.