Charles’s quotes

"It is surely ours to combine these elements of mourning for sin and joy in our salvation in one complex and composite experience which keeps us perpetually humble and yet perpetually joyful too."— Rev William Still

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Before the creation, there is the Creator .... (Genesis 1:1-12:9)

Genesis 1:1-2:3
Before the creation, there is the Creator.
* He is the chief focus of attention in the Bible’s first chapter. Wherever we look in Genesis 1, we see the word, God. This is about Him. Genesis 1 speaks about us. It tells us where we have come from. We have come from God. He is our Creator. Take away God, and our life has no meaning, no purpose, no direction.
* Move on from the Bible’s first chapter. Read the rest of Genesis, the rest of the Old Testament,the rest of the Bible. What do you find? The Bible is a Book about God. It’s not only a Book about God. It’s a Book that has been given to us by God. It’s His Word.
* What about our faith and our life? Our faith comes to us from God. Our life has been given to us by God. We are to put our faith in God. We are to live our life for God.
* “God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). The light of God’s love and holiness. “He created us in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). Created by God - love. Created for God - called to holiness. The light of His love - a sure foundation for our faith. The light of His holiness - The Lord is calling us to walk with him in the light of His holy Word.
* “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). This was before our sin spoiled the world. We must not blame God for our sin. We are the ones who have spoiled His good creation.
* “God completed His work” (Genesis 2:2). This was the end of the beginning. When we come to Genesis 3, it seems like we’re reading about the beginning of the end. It’s not. It’s the start of a new beginning - God’s rescue plan (Genesis 3:15).

Genesis 2:4-25
Do what God tells us to do. This leads to blessing. Do what God tells us not to do. This leads to trouble. It’s been trouble ever since.
Here, on earth, things can be turned around. We can be set in the right direction. We are not yet at our final destination, but we’re travelling towards it.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they “died” spiritually. Immediately, we see conflict. The devil has won a battle. He has won many more battles. He will win many more battles. He will not win the war.
In Genesis 3:15, we catch a glimpse of God’s eternal Kingdom, in which “there will no longer be any curse” (Revelation 22:3).

Genesis 3:1-7
The tragedy of Adam and Eve: their fall into sin. We compare this with the triumph of Jesus - His victory over Satan.
What made the difference?- standing on the Word of God.
Adam and Eve believed the lie of the devil.
Jesus took His stand on the Word of God.
What about us? Do we stand? or Do we fall? Will we listen to Satan? or Will we listen to God?
We cannot be facing in two directions at the same time. We must make our choice.
Will our life be self-centred? or Will it be God-centred?
God is calling us out of the old life (the Adam life). He’s calling us into the new life (the Jesus life). When we choose to walk with Jesus, He walks with us.

Genesis 3:8-24
Here, we focus on three verses.
* Genesis 3:9 - "Where are you?" This is the voice of love: "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
* Genesis 3:15 - A prophecy concerning our Saviour and His mighty triumph over Satan
For Christ, there was suffering. For us, there is salvation.
* Genesis 3:22 - Salvation is not something we can reach out and take.
It must be given to us by the Lord. We must receive salvation from the Lord. It is always His gift.

Genesis 4:1-16
We read about Cain and Abel. We look beyond them to Christ. He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin. He is "the Passover Lamb." He "has been sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
We read here about the parting of the ways. Cain went one way - away from God. Abel went the other way - towards God. When we come to the Cross of Jesus Christ, we must make our choice. Our  life can never be the same again.
Will we be like Cain? - "He went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of wandering" (Genesis 4:16). What does God say to those who are wandering away from Him? He says, "Awake, sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (Ephesians 5:14).
We read about Abel, and we look beyond him to Christ. Let us walk with Christ on the way of faith and obedience, the way of His salvation, the way of holiness. When we read about Abel's offering being accepted by God, we must remember this - It's Christ who makes the difference. It's "His blood" which "cleanses us from our sins" (1 John 1:7).

Genesis 9:8-17
We look at the rainbow. We see the love of God. We look beyond the rainbow. We look to the Cross. There, we see the supreme demonstration of the love of God. There, we see Jesus, suffering for us. His suffering is the suffering of love. It wasn't the nails that held Him to the Cross. It was His love for us that sent Him to the Cross. It was His love for us that kept Him on the Cross.

Genesis 12:1-9
This was a major step for Abraham - and for God. Abraham would never be the same again. For him, this was the beginning of a journey. It was more than a journey into a new land. It was a journey into God's blessing. Notice that Abraham was "75 years old" (Genesis 12:4) when he set out on this great journey of faith and blessing. 75 years old - we don't normally expect big changes at this age. Big change - this was what God expected of Abraham. Can we ever say, "It's too late to make a new beginning with God?" No! We must never say this. Whatever age we are, we must be ready to say "Yes" to God, to move forward with Him. Pray that God will give you a new hunger for Himself, for His Word, for prayer. As we get older, are we getting colder or bolder? Do we say, "My best days are behind me? or Do we rise to new challenges?

You get nothing for nothing ... ?

“You get nothing for nothing. You only get what you pay for.” Is this cynicism – or realism? Let’s think together about something else – something that lifts us above all of this – the love of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God, the gift of God, the peace of God, the joy of God.
“Amazing love! how can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? …  He left His Father’s throne above – so free, so infinite His grace. … ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free; For, O my God, it found out me!”
These words, from Charles Wesley’s great hymn of praise – “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood?”, lift us into a way of thinking that is, truly, out of this world. We leave the world and its way of thinking behind us. We turn our thoughts to Jesus, our Saviour. We think of all that He has done for us – and we rejoice. We think of all the blessings that He gives to us – and we give thanks to Him.
* God’s love is amazing. We see His love in the death of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. As we think of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, we remember His wonderful words- “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son … ” (John 3:16).
What’s so amazing about God’s love? It comes entirely from His side. There was no love for Him, coming from our side – “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Roman 5:8).
God’s love for us is His gift to us. We don’t earn the right to be loved by God. Our love for God can never be anything more than a response to His love for us.
When we think of how much the Lord has loved us, we can only say, “Thank You, Lord” – “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable or inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15).”
* God’s grace is “so free” and “so infinite.” His mercy is “immense and free.”
Free – the grace and mercy is all coming from Him. God isn’t rewarding us – because of our great love for Him. In Jesus Christ, His Son, He’s reaching out to us – to save us.
“Infinite” grace and “immense” mercy – There’s no sin that’s greater than the grace and mercy of God. All of our sin was laid upon Jesus Christ, our Saviour – “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6); “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
* As we consider God’s great gift of salvation, our hearts are filled with His peace and His joy – “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7);  “you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). We rejoice in this – we were lost, and now we have been found by Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Before we can “seek the Lord while  He may be found”(Isaiah 55:6), He comes to us,seeking for us. He seeks for us, and He finds us. Before we can  “call on Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6), He comes to us with His call. It’s the call of His love, the call of His grace, the call of His mercy. We hear this call, as we think of Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift to us. As we consider our Saviour, we are “found out” – He shows us our sin, and we are found – He gives us his salvation. We hear the call to turn from our sin – “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts” (Isaiah 55:7). We hear the call to turn to the Lord: “Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). In God’s call of love, grace and mercy, we catch a glimpse of what He means when He says to us: “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Amazing love, infinite grace, immense mercy – We can hardly begin to put into words all that this means. We can hardly begin to take it all in. All we can do is praise the Lord and give thanks to Him, giving all the glory to him and rejoicing in His free gift of salvation.

Who are we listening to?

 * Who are we listening to? Where do we get our understanding of life from? There are two very different stories. There's the world's story. It's the story of life without God. There's the Lord's Story. It's the Story of His salvation.
 *Who are we listening to? We listen to what we want to hear. If we don't want to hear what God is saying to us, we will listen to the world's story. If, in our hearts, we know that there's more to life than what the world tells us, we will ask the question, "Is there a Word from the Lord?" (Jeremiah 37:17).  
 * Who are we listening to? Many people tell us that we must live in the here-and-now. They tell us to forget about the past - to forget about the God of the Bible. They say that God isn't relevant to today's world. When we listen to God's Word, are we losing ourselves in the past? or Are we hearing a message from the past, which is also a message for today? Are the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles to be left in the past? Is Jesus Christ to be left in the past? These are real questions. They're not questions we can answer if we're not prepared to take time to read the Bible.
 * Who are we listening to? Sometimes, we must listen to something we don't really want to hear. The world tells us, "Don't listen to all this talk about God?" We must, however, ask ourselves the question,
"How can we learn anything of any real value if we only listen to what we want to hear?" There may be something that we need to hear - but we're missing it because we're only listening to what we want to hear!
When we hear the old question, "Is there a Word from the Lord?", we must not be too quick to dismiss it - "That's not for us in today's world." It may be that God has something to say to us - but we'll only hear what He has to say if we're listening to Him.

“The days are coming.”

“The days are coming”: These words introduce a prophecy concerning the land (Jeremiah 30:3). The greatest blessing is not being in the land. It is belonging to the Lord. This is the blessing, spoken of by Jeremiah. When, speaking God’s Word, he writes, “You will be My people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 30:22).

God’s “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3) and God’s “everlasting salvation” (Isaiah 45:17)

‘His love endures for ever’. This is the great message contained in every single verse of this Psalm. It’s a message worth repeating – over and over again! God’s love is an everlasting love – ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s love is an unfailing love – ‘My unfailing love for you will not be shaken’ (Isaiah 54:10). Let us ‘give thanks’ to God for His love (Psalm 136:1-3,26). In His love, the Lord has provided for us ‘an everlasting salvation’. His ‘salvation will last for ever’ (Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 51:6). We must not be like those who refuse to love the Lord – ‘Pharaoh… great kings… mighty kings …’ (Psalm 136:15,17-20). Those who reject God’s love will not receive ‘eternal life’. Their future will be very different – the ‘raging fire that will consume the enemies of God’ (John 3:16-18; Hebrews 10:26-27).

Real praise continues after we leave the place of worship.

Jeremiah 31:7-14
“Sing with joy” (Jeremiah 31:7,12-13).
This is to be our response to the Gospel. It’s more than a singalong. It’s “praise.” This praise continues after we leave the place of worship.
“Shout” - “I am not ashamed” (Romans 1:16).
“Proclaim” - Make the message known: “for the Good News” (Romans 1:1,5-6).
This for everyone (Jeremiah 31:8,10).
We come as we are - “blind” and “lame” (Jeremiah 31:8). We come to our “Shepherd” (Jeremiah 31:10). He has “ransomed” us. He has “redeemed” us from the “power” of Satan, Our enemy is stronger than we are, but he is not stronger than Jesus - “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:40.
With Christ in our life, everything changes - “new wine, fresh oil... Their life will be... They will be no longer...” (Jeremiah 31:12). It is “abundant” life, a “satisfied” life (Jeremiah 31:14). We have received new life in Christ - “This is the Lord’s declaration concerning us (Jeremiah 31:14).

Sing with joy ...

Jeremiah 31:7-14

“Sing with joy” (Jeremiah 31:7,12-13).
This is to be our response to the Gospel. It’s more than a singalong. It’s “praise.” This praise continues after we leave the place of worship.
“Shout” - “I am not ashamed” (Romans 1:16).
“Proclaim” - Make the message known: “for the Good News” (Romans 1:1,5-6).
This for everyone (Jeremiah 31:8,10).
We come as we are - “blind” and “lame” (Jeremiah 31:8). We come to our “Shepherd” (Jeremiah 31:10). He has “ransomed” us. He has “redeemed” us from the “power” of Satan, Our enemy is stronger than we are, but he is not stronger than Jesus - “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:40.
With Christ in our life, everything changes - “new wine, fresh oil... Their life will be... They will be no longer...” (Jeremiah 31:12). It is “abundant” life, a “satisfied” life (Jeremiah 31:14). We have received new life in Christ - “This is the Lord’s declaration concerning us (Jeremiah 31:14).

God forgives and forgets.

Jeremiah 31:31-40

God forgives and forgets (Jeremiah 31:34). It’s not “God cannot remember.” It’s “God chooses not to remember.” The rebuilding of our life - we are to be “holy to the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:38-40).

Everything changes?

We live in a changing world. Everything changes. Nothing remains the same. This is life - as we know it; but what if there's something else, something that's unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable! You may ask the question, "Is such a thing possible?" In the Bible - in the heart of the Old Testament, there's a long Psalm, containing twenty-six verses. It's Psalm 136. The second part of every single one of these twenty-six verses says this: "God's love endures forever." Some things are worth repeating - again and again and again ... We read the same thing, again, in Lamentations 3:22 - "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases." Here, we read something else about the enduring love of God, the "forever" love of God -  "His mercies ... are new every morning" (Lamentations 3:22). New! That's the word many people like to hear. In our ever-changing world, the old is thrown away. It's out-of-date. Here, we have God's unchanging love described as new! When we're reading Psalm 136 and Lamentations 3 , we're reading words from a very long time ago - but they are words that speak to us of something that doesn't grow old, something that's always new - the love of God. In today's world, something that starts off new, very soon, becomes old. The love of God isn't like that - His "mercies never come to an end." (Lamentations 3:22). When everything else is going past its "sell by date", the love of God remains the same. His love is for today - not just yesterday. His love is not only for today. It's for tomorrow. It's for every tomorrow. His love is a faithful love - "Great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:23). "New every morning" - Day-by-day, God chooses to be faithful. He chooses to keep on loving us. He chooses to never stop loving us. Love - this is His eternal choice, the choice that He affirms to us, again and again and again ...

Great Words Of Faith And Victory

"David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the Name of the Lord  Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give all of you into our hands”" (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
What great words of faith David spoke to the Philistine. He was a facing a giant. Goliath, the giant, was convinced that he would defeat David. The possibility of defeat had never even crossed his mind. David, however, was not afraid. He knew that the Lord was with him. He knew that the Lord would give him the victory,

Don't forget God!

"Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified" (1 Samuel 17:10-11).
The Philistine needed to know that he was facing more than the armies of Israel, more than the man they would choose to represent them. He was battling against the Lord! Saul and the Israelitess needed to know that they were not alone in this battle. God was with them!

What we do for God can never compare with what He has done for us.

"Be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you" (1 Samuel 12:24).
What we do for God cannot even begin to compare with what He has done for us.  Anything that we do - fearing the Lord and serving Him faithfully - can never repay the Lord for what He has done for us. He has done more for us than we could ever do for Him.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

God's love for us comes before our love for Him.

Jeremiah 31:1-6
God’s everlasting love: His love for us comes before our love for Him.
We’re living in a wilderness - spiritual and moral. We’re always searching, but never finding. We’re never sure which way to turn.
Into this situation, comes God - from “far away” (heaven). He speaks of His love, and putting our life together again (Jeremiah 31:3-4).
We can’t do this for ourselves. He must do this for us. It’s not a self-improvement programme. It’s a new birth into a life of praise (Jeremiah 31:40, service (Jeremiah 31:5) and calling others to come and worship the Lord (Jeremiah 31:6).

Building On The Past, Building For The Future

Jeremiah 6:9-19
The Word of God is to be preached - and heard.
Real hearing begins with listening. It doesn't end there.
The preacher's message doesn't begin with himself. The preacher is a messenger. The message comes from God. He has sent the preacher to deliver His message.
The message of Jeremiah 6:16 is not just 'the old ways are always the best ways.' How could there be progress if we were always thinking like this? How could we move beyond the Old Testament and into the New Testament? We are to look back to what God has done. We are to build on it, as we move on with Him, into His future. From the past, we learn about what God has done for us, what He has said to us and what He requires of those whom He has redeemed. We learn from the past, but we must not allow ourselves to get locked in the past. God is the God of the future as well as the God of the past - and He is the God of the past as well as the God of the future.

Do not trust in deceptive words ...

"Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,  the temple of the Lord!”... Has this house, which bears My Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 7:4,11).
Jeremiah spoke to the people of his own day. He speaks to us as well. Don't let the place where you worship become more important than it really is. This is what he says to us. These are not only the words of Jeremiah. This is the Word of the Lord. What's happening in our hearts when we are gathered together in the House of the Lord? Are we thinking to ourselves, "I never miss a church service - not like those who've stopped coming to church"? What kind of "worship" is this? Lord, take us to the heart of worship. Give us a worshipping heart.

Yes, Lord.

“The Lord is the only God. He is the living God and eternal King” (Jeremiah 10:10). The contrast between God and the gods is simple. God made us. We made the gods. In the Lord our God, there is majesty and mystery - the majesty of the “eternal King”, the mystery that He is always beyond our understanding. Before this majesty and mystery, we bow down in worship. We acknowledge his greatness. We give Him glory. He is worthy of our worship. When God speaks His Word to us, “Obey Me, and do everything that I have told you to do. Then you will be My people, and I will be your God. I will keep the oath I made to your ancestors and give them a land flowing with milk and honey, the land you still have today.” We are to give our answer, “Yes, Lord” (Jeremiah 11:4-5). There will be many times when our "devotion" to the Lord will be put to the "test" (Jeremiah 12:3). These will be times of temptation - times when our 'Yes, Lord' could so easily become 'No, Lord.' When this happens, may God help us to return to Him and hear, again, His wonderful Word of amazing grace: "I will have compassion on them again ..." (Jeremiah 12:15).

The human situation, the divine solution ...

Jeremiah 31:15-20

The human situation, the divine solution
 * “She refuses to be comforted” (Jeremiah 31:15). Often, we dig a hole for ourselves.
 * “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears” - This is what “the Lord” says to us (Jeremiah 31:16).
If anyone else says this to us, we might well say, “It’s all right for you to say that. You’re not suffering like I am.”
God gave His only Son - to die for us. He knows what we’re going through. He’s been there, and He hasn’t forgotten it,
He came out the other side for us - the resurrection.
 * “They shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future” (Jeremiah 31:16-17) - “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
How are we to understand our times of suffering?
 * “You disciplined me” (Jeremiah 31:18) - There is a purpose of God in our suffering. “Bring me back, let me come back, for You are the Lord my God” (Jeremiah 31:18) - the story of the prodigal son, your story, my story.
 * “After I had turned away, I repented” - two stages of life.
 * Jeremiah 31:20 - God puts a question to us, and He answers it for us. It is the answer of His love. Don’t stop believing in His love. He’ll never stop loving you. Believe in His Son. Believe in His promises.

Faithful And Fearless Preaching

God’s Word speaks against us so that we might learn not to speak against God’s Word. God calls us to holiness – “Run away from Babylon! Run for your lives!” (Jeremiah 51:6). The final outcome is described in Jeremiah 51:8 – “Babylon will suddenly fall and be shattered.” God is warning us. It is folly to live the world’s way rather than the Lord’s way. In the light of the Lord’s Word, preached so faithfully by Jeremiah, we must learn to pray, “Your will be done, Lord.”

What People Want To Hear? or What They Need To Hear?

Jeremiah was not a popular prophet. He didn’t tell the people what they wanted to hear. He wasn’t concerned with gaining their approval. He was determined to keep on speaking God’s Word – whatever the people thought about him, said about him or did to him. The first priority is faithfulness. We must not make relevance the be-all and end-all. Relevance must be built on faithfulness. The two are to be held together – faithfulness and relevance. If we do not remain faithful to God’s Word, our words will be irrelevant. They will not be God’s Word for the people. “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17) – This must be at the heart of both our preaching and our living.

Out of depression and defeat, into vigour and victory

Jeremiah’s message had been ignored. His faith was sorely tested. Despite all of this, he was able to say, “Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Jeremiah 20:13). This was not his constant theme. In the very next verse, he says, “Cursed is the day that I was born.” We are pulled this way and that way by a turmoil of confused and confusing emotions. Our heart is a battleground. May the Lord lift us out of depression and defeat. May He lift us into vigour and victory.

God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us and through us

“Listen and pay attention! Don’t be arrogant. The Lord has spoken” (Jeremiah 13:5). “Do something, Lord, for the sake of Your Name, even though our sins testify against us” (Jeremiah 14:7). We listen to God, and we call upon Him – “If you return, I will take you back … I am with you, and I will save you and rescue you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 15:19-20). Along with the great promise, “I am with you and I will save you”, there is also the call to return to the Lord. God knows what we are like – “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). God knows that we cannot change ourselves. We can only be changed by Him. He calls us back from the way of the “fool” (Jeremiah 17:11). He calls us to Himself. The Word, given to the prophet, is also the Word, spoken to the people. It is the Word of salvation. “Where is the Word of the Lord? Let it come!” (Jeremiah 17:15). The Word of the Lord comes. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord. We cannot create the Word of the Lord. We must let it come to us. The Word is His. It’s not ours. We must pray, “Let the Word of the Lord come to us.” Let the Word of the Lord be God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us and through us.“Where is the Word of the Lord? Let it come!” (Jeremiah 17:15). The Word of the Lord comes. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord. The Word of the Lord – This is God at work. He is speaking to us. He is working in us. We cannot create the Word of the Lord. We must let it come to us. The Word is His. It is not ours. We must pray, “Let the Word of the Lord come to us.” Let the Word of the Lord be God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us, God working through us.

Monday, 25 June 2018

"Is there any word from the Lord?" (Jeremiah 37:17).

There are different ways of asking questions.
"Is there any word from the Lord?" This is a question which invites Jeremiah to speak the Word of the Lord.
In Genesis 3:1, we have a very different way of asking questions - "the serpent ... said to the woman, Did God really say ... ?"
The "ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan" (Revelation 12:9) is always trying to get us to stop believing the Word of God.
"Is there any Word from the Lord?" - Jeremiah's answer is "Yes" (Jeremiah 37:17).
What was the Word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah at that time? - "You will be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon" (Jeremiah 37:17).
What are we to do when God's Word doesn't say what we had been hoping to hear? - We must refuse to ask the Satanic question, "Did God really say?" We must learn to say, from the heart, "This is the Word of the Lord."
It's not our place to say what the Word of God should say to us and what it should not say to us. Our response must always be, "Let it be to me according to Your Word" (Luke 1:38);  "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17).
We're not to set up as those who have the right to keep on asking the Satanic question: "Did God really say?" We're to bow before the Word of the Lord, which says to us, "This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven" (Matthew 16:17).
We must take care that we don't get drawn into the way of the foolish man who builds his life upon the shifting sands of human opinion. There is a better way than that. It's the way of the wise man who builds his life on God's revelation:  "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24).

The Exodus is more than a departure. It's a deliverance ...

Exodus 2:23-25
The Exodus is more than a departure. It's a deliverance. It's more than a protest against Egypt. It's an answer to prayer. It's more than a social revolution. It's a spiritual revelation of God's love.

Exodus 3:1-22
Moses may have been content to remain in the background. God was calling him to step into the foreground - for God’s people.
This is more than the story of Moses. It’s the story of Israel. It points forward to God’s purpose for all nations. When we read the Old Testament story, we find that God is saying to us, ‘This is just the beginning. There is more than this.’ From Exodus to the Gospels, to Acts, to the book of Revelation: We’re not at the final triumph yet. Like those who have come before us - Moses, the Psalmist, the prophets, Jesus, Peter, Paul, we must face conflict. There will be glimpses of glory, but the full glory is still to come.
In Exodus, we see God’s people on a journey. It’s a journey with God. It’s a journey of faith. We see the same thing in Acts.In the work of God, there are people who are very significant - Moses and Peter. The work of God is always bigger than such individuals. Let us never forget the people who remain in the background. They’re not just making up the numbers. They’re important - loved by God and valued by God.
* What does God have to say to each and every one of us concerning His purpose for our lives?
Exodus 3 and Acts 2 - God’s holiness (burning bush, holy ground, Holy Spirit); God’s love (the redemption of Israel, the salvation of three thousand sinners.)
His holiness and His love: This is what God wants to reproduce in our lives. This is not only for big names, like Moses and Peter. From the Father, the Son and the Spirit - new life, abundant life, eternal life.

Exodus 20:1-21
Before the Ten Commandments, there is love (Exodus 20:2). There is more than law. There is more than the exodus. There is Jesus, our Saviour. He does for us what the law can never do for us. He saves us.
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17) - What effect do they have on us? Read Exodus 20:18-21 - "thunder and lightning", "the mountain surrounded by smoke", "the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance", "don't let God speak to us, or we will die", "the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was".
Distance, darkness - This is where the law leaves us.
If we are to move from distance to nearness, from darkness to light, we need more than the law. We need Jesus, our Saviour.

Names - with a meaning and a message!

"She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel”" (1 Samuel 4:21). "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”" (1 Samuel 7:12)
Ichabod - a word of warning: The glory had departed - We must take care that this doesn't happen to us!
Ebeneezer - a word of encouragement: The Lord wants to bless us - We must pray that the blessing of the Lord will increase as we give ourselves to listening to Him, learning from him and walking with Him.
Ichabod and Ebeneezer - the names tell a story. Which will be the story of your life? Will it be Ichabod - The glory has departed? or Will it be Ebeneezer - Thus far the Lord has helped us?

"Praise the Lord!" (Psalm 104:1).

We have come here to praise the Lord. Why do we praise the Lord? "Lord my God, You are very great." God is great in power. His power can impress us, but it will not save us until we are touched by a special power - the power of His love. God is great in holiness. His holiness (Isaiah 6:3) shows us our sin (Isaiah 6:5). It's His love that brings us salvation (Isaiah 6:7). When we see the greatness of His love, we can truly say, "Praise the Lord."

Friday, 22 June 2018

Is there a way out of the desert?

God speaks to His people about their sin - "The people of Jerusalem turned away from Me without ever returning ..." (Jeremiah 8:5). He is not pleased with them. He is calling them to return to Him - "Change the way you live ..." (Jeremiah 7:3). The life of Israel is “like the desert” (Jeremiah 9:12). This moral and spiritual desert is described in Jeremiah 9:13-14 - “The Lord answered, They’ve abandoned My teachings that I placed in front of them. They didn’t obey Me, and they didn’t follow them, They followed their own stubborn ways and other gods ...” This was a serious situation. These words are very relevant to today’s Church and world. God is not being taken seriously. His Word  is being ignored. The situation goes from bad to worse. God is speaking. Few people are listening. He speaks through His Word. Few people are reading His Word. We must listen to what God says and do what He tells us to do.

Is there still hope of God's blessing?

Jeremiah speaks of God’s judgment - “I’m bringing disaster and widespread destruction ...” (Jeremiah 4:6). This message comes to us as a word of warning, a plea to the people to return to the Lord and find His mercy - “So put on sackcloth, mourn and cry because the Lord’s burning anger hasn’t turned away from us” (Jeremiah 4:8). This is the call to repentance. We read of God’s burning anger, and we wonder,”Is there still the hope of God’s blessing?” God is speaking of His judgment - “Nation of Israel, I’m going to bring a nation from far away to attack you,declares the Lord, I won’t destroy all of you” (Jeremiah 5:15,18). God’s Word  concerning the threat of judgment is a call to the people to honour Him as God: “Pay attention to My warning, Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you. I will make your land desolate ...” (Jeremiah 6:8). The ministry of Jeremiah differs from the ministry of the false prophets. They say, “Everything is alright!” He says, “It’s not alright! (Jeremiah 6:14). Jeremiah calls upon the people to make a new beginning with God - “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask which paths are the old reliable paths. Ask which way leads to blessings. Live that way, and find a resting place for yourselves” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Called into the service of the eternal God

Jeremiah was called into the service of the eternal God - “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for My holy purpose. I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah called the people back to the Lord, “the fountain of living (life-giving) water” (Jeremiah 2:13). He called them to be converted - to turn around. They were turning their backs on the Lord. They were replacing Him with something else, something useless, something that would never bring them real satisfaction (Jeremiah 2:13). Now, they were to turn their faces to Him (Jeremiah 2:27). To a returning people, God promises his mercy - “Come back, unfaithful Israel. It is the Lord speaking. I will no longer frown on you because I’m merciful, declares the Lord, I will no longer be angry with you.” returning to the Lord means confessing our sins - “Admit that you’ve done wrong! You have rebelled against the Lord your God ...” The message of Jeremiah is summed up in the words, “Come back, you rebellious people” (Jeremiah 3:12-14).

Listen to the Word of the Lord!

The Word of God, spoken by Jeremiah, still needs to be heard today – “O land, land, land! Listen to the Word of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 22:29). God has much to say to this land and every land. Are we listening to His Word? or Have we closed our ears? Jeremiah speaks of our Saviour, Jesus Christ – “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will grow a righteous Branch for David” (Jeremiah 23:5). Like Jeremiah, we must direct attention to the Saviour. Speaking God’s Word, Jeremiah said, “I am a God who is near. I am also a God who is far away” (Jeremiah 23:23). We must maintain these two emphases in our preaching. God is greater than we can imagine, yet He has come near to us in Christ.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’ (Jeremiah 31:3).

So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’(Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us.

The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’.

As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’(Jeremiah 31:18).
So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’(Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us.

The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’.

As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’(Jeremiah 31:18).

Life's Disasters And God's Love

“Maybe the nation of Judah will hear about all the disasters that I plan to bring on them, and they will turn from their wicked ways. Then I will forgive their wickedness and their sins” (Jeremiah 36:3). Even in all life’s disasters, we must never lose sight of God’s love. He sends disasters. This is not because He hates us. He loves us. Through these disasters, He’s calling us back to Himself. He’s calling us to receive His forgiveness.

Called To Be A Prophet Of God

Jeremiah 1:4-10
How old was Jeremiah when he was called to be a prophet of God? We don't know. We do know that this was the great turning-point of his life. This was the day that he discovered the meaning, purpose and direction of his life. This was revealed to him by God. This call gave him strength to face many difficult times.

"The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say ... Listen to the Word of the Lord.”

“The Lord’s glory rose from the angels” (Ezekiel 10:4); “The Spirit lifted me” (Ezekiel 11:1 - These prophecies of Ezekiel bring us into the presence of God. “the sound of the Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5); “The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say” (Ezekiel 11:5) - When we are in the Lord’s presence, He speaks His Word to us. He speaks to us, so that we might speak for Him. “The Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 11:24); “The Lord spoke His Word to me” (Ezekiel 12:1) - The Word and the Spirit belong together. The Spirit inspires the Word. The Word expresses the mind of the Spirit. “This is the divine revelation” (Ezekiel 12:10); “This is what the Almighty Lord says, Everything that I say will no longer be delayed. Whatever I say will happen, declares the Almighty Lord” (Ezekiel 12:28). Through His Word and His Spirit, the Almighty Lord is leading us on to His future. He is lifting us up to glory - His heavenly and eternal glory.
“Listen to the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 13:2). We must not “follow our own ideas” (Ezekiel 13:3). “Change the way you think and act” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are changed, as we pay attention to what the Lord has to say to us. What is the alternative to turning to the Lord, listening to Him and being changed by Him? We turn from Him, and our lives become a “wasteland” (Jeremiah 15:8). The message of the prophet, Ezekiel, comes as a call to choose - Turn to the Lord and be saved, or turn from Him and be lost.
For more notes on Ezekiel - 

We need both the Spirit and the Word.

"As He spoke to me, the Spirit entered me, stood me on my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me" (Ezekiel 2:2).
If we are to stand in Christ, we need both the Spirit and the Word - not the Spirit without the Word, not the Word without the Spirit.

Rivers Of Living Water - Flowing Into Us And Flowing Out From Us

Ezekiel 47:1-12

“ankle-deep, knee-deep, up to the waist, deep enough to swim in, a river than could not be crossed on foot” (Ezekiel 47:3-5).
Jerusalem - ankle-deep, all Judaea - knee deep, Samaria - up to the waist, the ends of the earth - deep enough to swim in (Acts 1:8)
Before there can be witness, there needs to be worship: from a trickle to a river - John 7:37-39.
The rivers of living water must flow into us before they can flow out from us. “There will be life everywhere the river goes” (Ezekiel 47:9).

Sunday, 29 April 2018

The Providence of God

In 'The Providence of God', Berkouwer relates providence to both the love of God as the object of the believer's faith and the believer's faith by which providence is subjectively experienced: "in the doctrine of providence we have a specific Christian confession exclusively possible through a true faith in Jesus Christ ... this faith is no general, vague notion of Providence. It has a concrete focus: 'If God is for us, who is against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?' (Rom.8:31,32) ... the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. There is no purer expression than this of the depth of man's faith in God's Providence. " (pp. 45, 47).

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Warfield and Berkouwer: The Evangelical Attitude toward the Bible

On the differences between Warfield and Berkouwer, P. Rees speaks wisely, “is it not right to say that there is a difference between the evangelical attitude toward the Bible and an evangelical’s views about the Bible? Go back to Warfield and Berkouwer. Their views of how to construe the Bible’s matchless revelatory quality and authority are not precisely the same… But their attitude toward the Bible is identical – God’s Word that shines in our darkness, the unerring pointer to the One ‘who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven…” (Biblical Authority, edited by J Rogers, p. 13, emphasis original).

The difference between Berkouwer and Warfield lies not at the point of emphasizing the unbreakable connection between origin and authority but at the point at which divine and human activity are related to each other.

Both Berkouwer and Warfield emphasize the divinity and the humanity of the Scriptures.

Their differing interpretations of the relationship between Scripture’s divine and human aspects are closely related to their differing interpretations of the boundaries set by Scripture for theological reflection.

The decisive question for Berkouwer as well as Young and Warfield is this: What does the Bible teach? In discussing their views, it is important to emphasize that differences in precise interpretation should not be permitted to obscure the shared concern with affirming Biblical authority.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Christian Faith in Dialogue with Herbert Marcuse

Marcuse observes the tension between the notion of liberation and its possibilities of historical realization.
He maintains that “On theoretical as well as empirical grounds, the dialectical concept pronounces its own hopelessness” (One-Dimensional Man (ODM), p. 253). Marcuse draws this conclusion on the basis that “The human reality is its history and, in it, contradictions do not explode by themselves” (ODM, p. 253, emphasis mine).
He asks, “Does this mean that the critical theory of society abdicates and leaves the field to an empirical sociology … ? Or do the dialectical concepts once again testify to their truth … ?” (ODM, p. 254).
Marcuse is both critical of and sympathetic to the dialectical analysis of society. He suggests that “‘Liberation of inherent possibilities’ no longer adequately expresses the historical alternative” (ODM, p. 255, emphasis mine), while contending that “the critique of society would still be valid and rational (even if) … incapable of translating its rationality into terms of historical practice” (ODM, pp. 254-255, emphasis and brackets mine).
The tension between Marcuse’s notion of the rationality of the dialectical analysis of society and his recognition of the decreasing likelihood of any historical realization of its ideal does not quench his revolutionary hope: “the chance is that … the historical extremes may meet again: the most advanced consciousness of humanity and its most exploited force. It is nothing but a chance.” (ODM, p. 257).
Acknowledging that the critical theory of society remains negative, holding no hope and showing no promise, Marcuse continues to advocate the absolute refusal to accept the established system despite the political impotence of this refusal (ODM, pp. 255-257).
The New Testament hope for the future is quite different from that of Marcuse.
Marcuse’s hope is directed towards the end of capitalism.
The Christian hope is directed towards the end of sin.
Marcuse speaks of the irrationality of capitalism which is characterized by internal contradiction.
The Christian faith speaks of the irrationality of sin: “There can be no reason for sin in God’s creation and the gifts of God, or in anything that God has wished for man and has given to man” (Berkouwer, Sin, p. 136, emphasis mine).Sin, in Christian theology, speaks of the internal contradiction which is central to man’s being – man, created in the image of God, has rebelled against his Creator.
Marcuse maintains that organized capitalism has a deceptive character which is designed to cover up the social and economic alienation which it has created – “deceptive liberties (are) … made into a powerful instrument of domination” which “sustain(s) alienation” (One-Dimensional Man (ODM), pp. 7-8).
This, according to Marcuse, is “one of the most vexing aspects of advanced industrial civilization: the rational character of its irrationality” (ODM, p. 9).
According to the Bible, sinful man has a deceptive character which is designed to cover up his self-alienation from God – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9); “All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive” (Romans 3:12-13).
Marcuse holds that the complete overthrow of the capitalist system is highly unlikely.
Observing that the critical theory of society defined “the actual contradictions in nineteenth century European society”, Marcus insists that “Confronted with the total character of the achievements of advanced industrial society, critical theory is left without the rationale for transcending this society” (ODM, p. xiv, emphasis mine).
He analyzes advanced industrial society thus: “advanced industrial society is capable of containing qualitative changes for the foreseeable future … forces and tendencies exist which may break this containment and explode the society … The first tendency is dominant, and whatever preconditions for a reversal may exist are being used to prevent it” (ODM, p. xv).
* The Christian faith maintains that a radical reversal of man’s sinful nature is humanly impossible. The contrast between the “highly unlikely” and “humanly impossible” emphasizes that, from the standpoint of man’s radical alienation from God, the Marxist concept of alienation is not radical enough since man does not have the power within himself to overcome this alienation which lies at the centre of his life” (S H Travis, I Believe in the Second Coming of Jesus (SCJ, p. 232).
* Christian ‘this-worldly’ hope is quite different from the idea of a secularized eschaton inferred from history itself. Bertrand Russell, whose hostility to religion was uncompromising as Marx’s and who was “one of the intellectual leaders of the left in politics” during the twentieth-century, discounted, discounted the predictive element in Marx’s thought as “unscientific, in the sense that there is no reason whatsoever to suppose (it) true” with this scathing comment – “Marx professed himself an atheist, but retained a cosmic optimism which only theism could justify” (History of Western Philosophy, p. 816, cited in C Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith, p. 137).
* Christian ‘this-worldly’ hope is not based on any anthropocentric attempt to logically infer the nature of society’s future from a particular interpretation of its past history. A penetrating critique of the anthropocentric attempt to logically infer the nature of society’s future from a particular interpretation of its past is found in K R Popper, The Poverty of Historicism.
* Christian ‘this-worldy’ hope is entirely bound up with faith in Jesus Christ as the Liberator. Christian ‘this-worldy’ hope is set in the context of Christ’s redemption which “consists in being redeemed from and redeemed unto” (Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification, p. 181, emphasis original).
* Christian ‘this-worldly’ hope sets about changing the world, believing that Christ’s redeeming power is already operative in this present world. Christian ‘this-worldly’ hope, believing that Christ’s redemptive purpose awaits its final consummation beyond this present world, may never identify itself with the kind of optimistic Utopianism which tends towards a premature anticipation of the fullness of that redemption.
S H Travis emphasizes that “We do not have to choose between this world and the world to come, because the purpose of God embraces both” (SCJ, p.250). Critical of the Marxist future expectation, Travis writes, “any quest for a perfect society which has no possibility of a life beyond death is illusory. It offers nothing to those who are sacrificed in the present time for the sake of those who are expected to enjoy the promised utopia. And even for those who experience the future perfect society, their enjoyment of it will be short-lived” (p. 233). He draws a contrast between this “illusory and short-lived” hope and “a real hope of eternal life with God (which) sets us free from anxiety about death, and frees us to work for the transformation of this world” (p. 250).
Berkouwer insists that our thinking and living should not be controlled by the ‘this-worldly’ – ‘other-worldly’ dilemma: “On the route of faith and action, along with hope, we see that the gospel we believe is far removed from the picture of a future without bearing on the present, a heavenly hope without concern for the neighbour and his world” (A Half Century of Theology, p. 214).
Understanding Christian hope thus, Christian theology can receive the Marxist critique if religion appreciatively without surrendering the religious foundation upon which its social ethic is built. The Marxist critique is to be received with a humble confession of sin and a greater commitment to demonstrating, through deeds as well as words, the love of God for the whole man.

Berkouwer on the authority of Holy Scripture

Discussing the authority of Holy Scripture in the modern world, Berkouwer writes, “The confession of the authority of the Word of God can never be isolated from the saving content of the Word of God” (Modern Uncertainty and Christian Faith, p. 14, emphasis mine).
In confessing that the Bible is the Word of God, the believer confesses that God is speaking to him through the Bible concerning salvation.

Our Faith is rooted in the Truth of the Gospel.

Berkouwer emphasizes both objectivity and subjectivity.
He does this by emphasizing that faith’s subjective certainty is rooted in the truth of the Gospel.
“Faith involves a certain subjectivity, … a subjectivity which has meaning only as it is bound to the gospel.” (Faith and Justification, p. 30).
“the church’s … certainty is bound to certain norms and … a feeling of subjective certainty does not guarantee irrefutable certainty … it is not the certainty, but the truth in the certainty that makes us free … there is a way of understanding Holy Scripture that does not estrange us from the gospel.” (Holy Scripture, p. 20).

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Some Theological Connections between G. C. Berkouwer and Herman N. Ridderbos

The idea of witness in connection with the New Testament witness to Christ.
Drawing upon the work of Herman N. Ridderbos, Berkouwer writes, “it is the product of a perception that was not infinite. It is subject to human limitations, its record does not exceed the limits of human memory” (Holy Scripture, p. 162, n. 75).
He does, however, emphasize that there is a “deep dimension of the human witness”: “This witness does not well up from the human heart but from the witness of God, in which it finds its foundation and empowering as a human witness” (p. 165).
This conception of “Scripture” as “human witness empowered by the Spirit” (p. 167) transcends the “wholly divine or wholly human” dilemma (p. 24). It emphasizes that “the Word of God does not draw us away from the human but involves us with the human” (p. 167).
* Understanding the witness of the Gospels to Jesus Christ
Drawing upon the work of Herman N. Ridderbos, Berkouwer rejects “an absolute contrast between kerygma and that which happened” (p. 247).
Berkouwer points out that the Gospel writers did not use a form of historiography which follows the rules of modern historical criticism: “In its historiography, Scripture follows its own direction and purpose” - the sacred story is religious history which does not offer “that kind of accuracy which we often desire” (pp. 243-244).
In making this point, he insists that we must not draw a radical contrast between “the biblical picture of the Christ” and “the historical Jesus” (p. 247).
Opposing a false objectivism, he writes, “If absolute preciseness and exactness is seen as the ideal, excluding all interpretive subjectivity, in order to render ‘facts’ as objectively as possible, we must conclude that the gospels do not coincide with this ideal and therefore are not reliable … Even if we are aware of the problem posed by the connection between event and interpretation, we may not withdraw into the postulate of an historiography that separates story from interpretation for the sake of objectivity” (pp. 248-249).
Opposing an a-historical interpretation of the Gospels he insists that the recognition of “a freedom in composing and expressing the mystery of Christ” must not be set over against the observation that”(w)hat happened is decisive for all evangelists” (p. 252).
By adopting this position neither Berkouwer nor Ridderbos give any encouragement to any suggestion that the kerygmatic purpose of the Gospels should ever be separated from their intention to speak “about Jesus as he was when he walked and dwelt among us” (Ridderbos, Studies in Scripture and its Authority, (1978), p. 70, emphasis original).
Understanding the connection between election and Christ
In A Half Century of Theology, Berkouwer draws upon the work of Ridderbos who “sees election connected not with a definite number of people, but with Christ” (p. 102) and Dijk who holds that “it is better ‘not to speak of another decree that lies behind the gracious choice that is in Christ” lest we cut election loose from Jesus Christ” (emphasis Berkouwer’s).
With this emphasis on the centrality of Christ, Berkouwer seeks to maintain the absolute necessity of divine grace: “there can never be a question of too strongly accenting the grace of God. He insists, however, that this absolute emphasis should be properly emphasized: “the question is, how shall we lay the proper emphases and how can we most purely praise this grace.”Thus, Berkouwer guards against the wrong emphasis: “It is never the full accent but the wrong accent that obscures the gospel of God’s grace” (The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth, p. 349, emphasis original).
Holy Scripture as Canon (Holy Scripture, Chapter Three, pp. 67-104)
Here, Berkouwer cites favourably the view of Ridderbos that “in Christ are based both salvation and its trustworthy communication,  and … that ‘here lies to the present day the principium canonicitatis’” (p. 86; citing Ridderbos, The Authority of the New Testament Scriptures, (1963), p. 47.
Berkouwer observes that Ridderbos does not intend to put forward a criterion by which a “canon-in-the-canon” might be established but rather to “set forth relationships which make impossible any attempt to abstract the canon from Christ” (p. 87).

Monday, 12 March 2018

Berkouwer on Bonhoeffer

Berkouwer’s discussion of christology and theodicy refers to insights from theologians of different eras – Paul, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Moltmann (‘A Half Century of Theology’, pp. 254-257).
The lessons he draws from this analysis are profound:
‘ … what is involved is not a theoretical answer to the enigma of evil … but an answer of faith’
‘God’s being is expressed in earthly suffering, not an “uninvolved heavenly holiness”. The atheistic protest is rendered mute by the theology of the cross’
‘the abstract questions of theodicy fall away in the shadow of the event of the cross’
‘ … the reality of the cross, a reality that offends human logic … counters all natural expectations of divine power’
‘In the environs of Jesus Christ, we are conscious of both transcendence and closeness. It is a transcendence, however, that is not empty transcendence. And it is a closeness that reveals that God’s answer transcends even our highest concepts’.
* D. Bonhoeffer’s opposition to the tendency to think ‘in terms of two spheres’ such as ‘natural and supernatural’ is instructive (‘Ethics’, p. 198). He writes, ‘In Christ we are offered the possibility of partaking in the reality of God and in the reality of the world, but not in the one without the other. The reality of God discloses itself only by setting me entirely in the reality of the world … I never experience the reality of God without the reality of the world or the reality of the world without the reality of God’ (p. 195).
Opposing ’shallow this-worldliness’, Bonhoeffer maintains that ‘it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to believe’ (‘Letters and Papers from Prison’, pp. 225-226). He emphasizes that ‘the relation of the Church to the world is determined entirely by the relation of God to the world’ and not by ‘the world as it understands itself’ (‘Ethics’, pp. 204-205). Bonhoeffer maintains that ‘the “heart” in the biblical sense is not the inward life, but the whole man in relation to God’ (‘Letters and Papers from Prison’, p. 214). Bonhoeffer’s theme of ‘The “Worldly” Christian’ is helpfully discussed by K. Hamilton (‘Life in One’s Stride, A Short Study of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’, pp. 64-69). Hamilton observes that ‘Bonhoeffer categorically refuses to demythologize the resurrection … (and that he) finally walked to his execution saying that for him it was the beginning of life’ (pp. 65-67). Bonhoeffer’s thought is not determined by the ultimacy of this world but by his opposition to ‘the separation … (of) the two spheres of the sacred and secular’ and his insistence that ‘faith is always … an act involving the whole life’ (Hamilton, pp. 65, 67 – citing ‘Letters and Papers from Prison’, p. 224 – , 69, n. 49).
* Bonhoeffer, writes, ‘Our relation to God is not a “religious” relationship … but … a new life in “existence for others”‘ (‘Letters and Papers from Prison’, p. 210). Commenting on Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on the ‘deep this -worldliness of Christianity, Berkouwer maintains that he does ‘close the door into the “beyond”‘ without ‘de-eschatologiz(ing) the gospel’ (‘A Half Century of Theology’, p. 214). Citing these words from Bonhoeffer, R. G. Smith, , in his discussion of ‘This-Worldly Transcendence’, (‘The Whole Man: Studies in Christian Anthropology’, p. 102), describes the Christian’s relation to the world thus: ‘The Christian cannot be indifferent to this world which God made and loves. Yet how can he be other than against it in its evil and sin and hopelessness? Both positions are necessary, and both at the same time, and without reserve’ (p. 107).

Understanding Christian Truth

Berkouwer emphasizes that, if we are to understand God’s truth, we must take account of two important points:
* The question of truth in itself cannot be asked without also involving ourselves in the question of truth for me.
* To ask the question of truth for me is to find that truth for me has its foundation in truth in itself (Holy Scripture, pp. 9-10).
We will explore the relationship the relationship between truth in itself and truth for me by looking at what Berkouwer says about (a) God; (b) Man.
(a) God
Insisting that the question of God is more than an abstract question concerning His existence, Berkouwer maintains that we must enquire about God with the kind of religious attitude expressed in the words of Micah 7:18 - ‘Who is a God like Thee, pardoning iniquity, and passing over transgression … ‘. When we ask the question of God in this way, we open ourselves to the atmosphere of ‘a latent doxology, a rapturous hymn (A. Weiser)’, an atmosphere ‘that leaves all doubt behind as it revels in admiration of Israel’s God’. Observing that ‘(m)any of the questions of our time arise not in doxology but in doubt’, Berkouwer points out that discussion of the traditional arguments for the existence of God is a far cry from asking the question of the living God. While the God of the old natural theology can be discussed abstractly, the living God can never be removed to such a comfortable distance. Maintaining that the God of Christian theology - the God of revelation - is more than a deduction which can drawn from the traditional proofs for His existence, he insists that we must move beyond the question ‘Does God exist?’ to the next question, ‘Who is God?’. Describing this second question as ‘a most existential and relevant question’, he contrasts it with the first question, pointing out that it is ‘not a theoretical question about God’s existence as a “thing”‘. He insists that asking the question, ‘Who is God?’ involves us in our entire experience of life as we enquire about its meaning and purpose. Enquiring about God in this way leads us on to further questions - ‘What do we mean by his presence in the world? Where does he reveal himself here and now?’. An openness to God and His revelation allows the possibilty of asking the question of God doxologically. Doxology is the only appropriate alternative to doubt. Doxology does not depend on the foundation of a faith that is built on a natural theology. On the basis of God’s salvation (and not that of natural theology’s attempt to prove God’s existence), the believer is deeply moved to worship God (A Half Century of Theology, pp.76-77; General Revelation, p.134).
(b) Man
For much of modern theology, the question, ‘What is man?’ must precede the question, ‘Who is God?’. The approach which begins with man (theology from below) is often set against the approach which begins with God (theology from above). In this situation of much confusion - with one side speaking out against the other side without really listening to what is being said from the other side - , Berkouwer’s doctrine of man has been commended as ‘a middle course between conflicting theologies … achieved by a strenuous independence of mind’ (These words of A. Willingdale - from a review in The Evangelical Quarterly - are cited on the front / inside dust cover of Berkouwer’s book, Man: The Image of God).
* Berkouwer emphasizes that man cannot be understood properly apart from God - ‘man’s nature … is not self-enclosed, and … can never be understood outside of its relation to God’ (Man: The Image of God, pp.22-23).
* He insists that divine sovereignty and human freedom are not be set over against each other. Emphasizing that the divine superiority is ‘the personal superiority of love and grace which in man’s experience is making room for him to act by not destroying his freedom’, he writes, ‘The divine act makes room, leaves open the possibility for man’s act. That possibility is not absorbed or destroyed by divine superiority, but called forth by it’ (Divine Election, pp. 49, 46).
* He emphasizes that man’s relation to God is inescapable so that, even in his guilt, the life of man is affected by divine grace. Taking full account of the radical effect of sin by emphasizing that there is ‘not … some last reserve in man, some untouched and untouchable ‘part’ of man which has escaped the power of in and corruption’ Berkouwer insists that man has not been dehumanized. Despite the fact that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, we still remain man created in God’s image and called to glorify Him in our life as His creation - ‘Man stands and remains standing in his human responsibility and in his human guilt over against God’ (Man: The Image of God, pp. 127, 135).
* In emphasizing the relation between God and man, Berkouwer takes care to avoid the ‘erroneous’ interpretation of ‘the concept of relation’ which suggests that ‘man exists only in relation to God, and God exists only in relation to man’. Over against any suggestion that God is no more than a figment of our imagination and we are no more than a figment of His imagination, he maintains that, in using the concept of relation - God and man are understood in relation to each other - , we must speak also of ‘reality’. By emphasizing both reality and relation, we are maintaining ‘the Biblical outlook’ which ‘does not sacrifice reality to relation’ (p.35). When we emphasize the relation between man and God, we acknowledge that we cannot, without reference to God our Creator and Redeemer, give an adequate answer to the question, ‘What is man?’. When we ask this question Biblically, we think not only of man but also of God. To inquire - in a Biblical way - about the meaning and purpose of our human experience is to move from the pathway of defiance - we don’t need God - into the pathway of doxology - we worship God. In worship, we do not only ask, ‘What is man?’. We ask, ‘What is man that Thou art mindful of him … ?’ (Psalm 8:4)..
Returning to our initial observation regarding truth in itself and truth for us, we make two important points concerning Biblical truth.
* Biblical truth is truth in itself regardless of whether we believe it. If, however, we persist in unbelief, it is, in our experience, truth which stands over against us as a judgment upon our sinful unbelief. We cannot escape the presence of God simply by asserting, ‘I don’t believe in Him’. We may choose not to take God seriously. He will continue to take us seriously - in His judgment.
* Biblical truth remains truth which stands over against us in judgment until, through faith in Jesus Christ our Saviour, it becomes truth for us, a powerful, life-changing truth which leads us to glorify God as we learn to honour Him as our Creator and Redeemer.

G C Berkouwer and "the old Dutch biblical piety"

G C Berkouwer has close affinities with 'the old Dutch biblical piety, not seized by dogmatic insights but steadily pressing toward a purified life of faith according to the Scriptures' (Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation, p.21).

Berkouwer and Philosophy

Berkouwer approaches the questions of God, man and evil differently from philosophical theology. It should not, however, be thought that his approach is unphilosophical. He is concerned to think clearly about these issues. He is, however, concerned to deal with “actual knowledge of God” (This expression is used by T. F. Torrance in God and Rationality, p.165. It occurs in his chapter, “The Epistemological Relevance of the Holy Spirit.” This chapter first appeared in Ex Auditu Verbi,  a collection of articles published in honour of Berkouwer, pp. 272-296) and the perspective such knowledge offers concerning “actual man” (Man: The Image of God, p. 13) as he faces the “existential” problem of evil (Sin, p. 15). This perspective refuses to build an independent system and then apply it to the questions of God, man and evil (cf. T. F. Torrance, God and Rationality, pp. 165ff.).  In adopting such an approach, Berkouwer is allowing his philosophical thinking to be dominated by the reality of God. He recognizes that, in any Christian philosophy, God’s revelation of Himself must precede man’s knowledge of God (Holy Scripture, p. 10; cf. T. F. Torrance, God and Rationality, p. 181). The recognition of the priority of revelation is understood in neither a fundamentalist nor an existentialist context (cf. T. F. Torrance, God and Rationality,  pp. 168, 177). It is set within the  context of the affirmation of “the epistemological relevance of the Holy Spirit” (T. F. Torrance, God and Rationality, pp. 165-192) in both the revelation of God and man’s reception of that revelation (cf. Holy Scripture, Chapter Five – “The God-Breathed Character of Holy Scripture”, pp. 139-169; T. F. Torrance, God and Rationality, pp. 168, 185).
When the philosophical framework of Berkouwer’s theology is understood, it becomes clear how he is able to deal with the criticism that he has not answered the philosopher’s questions. Such a criticism of Berkouwer may also be an implicit criticism of the philosopher’s way of asking questions rather than Berkouwer’s theological method. The consistency with which Berkouwer follows through the conviction that God is the living God is most impressive. He allows the living Object of faith to inform his faith at every point (cf. Holy Scripture, p. 10; T. F. Torrance, God and Rationality, p. 115; J. Rogers, Confessions of a Conservative Evangelical, p. 58). Throughout his theology, he proclaims the living God who cannot be reduced to an abstraction, even for the purposes of theological discussion. His theology proclaims that man has to do with the living God and, therefore, man cannot be discussed without taking this God into account (cf. Man: The Image of God,  p. 27, where Berkouwer emphasizes that a true knowledge of man is not possible apart from the self-knowledge which comes through knowledge of the living God).
What is the essential difference between Berkouwer’s theology and philisophical theology? We must not suggest that the one approach is philosophical while the other is not. It is a difference in the way of asking questions (cf. D. G. Bloesch, The Ground of Certainty, p. 124. Concerning the problem of evil, he writes, “Christianity offers no all-encompassing explanation of evil. But it does point to the sure and final answer – Jesus Christ.” The conclusions reached concerning a particular question reflect the way in which that question is asked). The Christian asks his questions about God, himself and evil in a spirit of faith because he knows that he is not simply ignorant man seeking intellectual knowledge but sinful man seeking divine forgiveness.
Berkouwer’s theology does not seem to be particularly suited to overcome the polarization between the believer and the unbeliever. It appears to accentuate this polarization. This impression is, however, only apparent. His theology promises to overcome polarization within the believing Church of Jesus Christ, so that she might be set free from asking the wrong questions in the wrong way (cf. D. G. Bloesch, The Ground of Certainty,  p. 61. He holds that Berkouwer’s greatness as a theologian is directly related to his ability to “explain what the faith does not mean as well as what it means”), and thus be be set free for the real task of proclaiming Christ to an unbelieving world. Through such proclamation, the polarization between faith and unbelief is overcome not by argument but through conversion .
The value  of Berkouwer’s approach to the issues with which philosophy has concerned itself lies in his consistent emphasis on the existential character of these questions. This existential character requires to be recognized by all who discuss these questions, if the discussion is not to be merely theoretical and lacking in moral seriousness. Thus, the Christian’s concern is not simply with winning an argument but with leading others in the entirety of their existence to faith in Christ. This can happen when the non-Christian approaches the discussion with a real openness to the possibility of being converted to Christ.

Pride and Faith in Berkouwer's "Studies in Dogmatics" (God's provision of salvation)

The Bible speaks of sin. It also speaks of salvation. The gospel is directed toward ‘the restoration of the image of God’. In this connection, Berkouwer cites Eph. 4:24 and Col. 3:10 which speak of ‘the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’, ‘the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’. Concerning the relationship between creation and salvation, Berkouwer writes, 'the restoration and renewal of the image will throw light upon the meaning and content of the original creation of man in the image of God.'3
When we consider man’s creation in the light of his salvation, we find ourselves underlining the contrast between pride and faith. In his book, Divine Election, Berkouwer stresses that the Bible story is a ‘history of salvation (which) does away with any personal glory’. This history of salvation reaches its high point in Jesus Christ. Here, we have the low point for human pride, since ‘in Christ’ we have ‘the exclusion of all human merit’. This is the point which Paul makes in 1 Cor 1:31 and 2 Cor. 10:17 - ‘Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord’. We are to ‘glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh’ (Phil. 3:3). The gospel presents us with a challenge. We are to turn from our sinful pride and put our faith in Christ. Human pride does not surrender easily to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The gospel’s call for faith can be resisted.
Such resistance to Christ has drastic effects:
The gospel does not leave unchanged the person who does not listen and remains disobedient... unbelief can lead only to progressive hardening of the heart.There is no way out of the bondage of sinful human pride, other than the way of faith in Jesus Christ. Berkouwer makes this point well:
Hardening can never be broken by man in his own power. There is no other therapy that can bring about a change except the divine healing in Christ and the superior power of the Spirit.4
Central to Berkouwer’s exposition of salvation are his books, The Person of Christ and The Work of Christ. In both of these books, Berkouwer draws the contrast between pride and faith. In The Person of Christ, commenting on Mt. 16:16-17 (Peter’s confession, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’, and Jesus’ reply: ‘…flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’), he writes, 'the confession of the church touching Jesus Christ can never be a knowledge such that, with it, the church can elevate itself above the world. It is precisely within the church that people will have to remind themselves that this knowledge is a gift and a miracle which did not arise out of flesh and blood.5
In  The Work of Christ, discussing the theme - reconciliation,  Berkouwer writes,  'it is the marvel of the work of the Holy Spirit that those who really respond to the proclamation of reconciliation claim no merit whatsoever for that response, but rather find the essence of their joy in God, who reconciled us unto himself.'6
The change which takes place when we trust Jesus Christ is not only a change in our view of Christ. Through Christ, we look differently at both God’s creation and our own circumstances. In his books, General Revelation and The Providence of God, Berkouwer explores the Christian’s view of creation and circumstances. Since our view of creation and circumstances is bound up with our faith in Christ, there can be no room for any self-centred pride. Emphasizing that our
experience of salvation changes our view of creation, Berkouwer writes, 'man in and by the salvation of God is delivered from the tenacity of the egocentric and commences to sing of the glory of God. It is this salvation that opens doors and windows toward God’s handiwork.'7
In his exposition of The Providence of God, Berkouwer stresses that we are not concerned here with any mere human optimism in which man himself can take pride - 'in the doctrine of Providence we have a specific Christian confession exclusively possible through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is no general, vague notion of Providence. It has a
concrete focus: ‘If God is for us, who is against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?’ (Rom.
8:31, 32)."
Citing an earlier Professor of Systematic Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam, Herman Bavinck, 
Berkouwer emphasizes the centrality of the cross in the doctrine of providence - ‘In the cross’, writes Bavinck, ‘the Christian has seen the special Providence of God. He has, in forgiving and regenerating grace, experienced Providence in his heart. From this new, positive experience in his own life, he looks out over his entire existence and over the whole world, and sees there the leading of God’s fatherly hand.’8
3 Man: The Image of God, (Grand Rapids, 1962), 103, 21, 27, 122, 131-2, 135, 143, 144, 87-9.
4 Divine Election, (Grand Rapids, 1960), 72, 143, 149, 249-50, 252.
5 The Person of Christ, (Grand Rapids, 1954), 14.
6 The Work of Christ, (Grand Rapids, 1965), 294.
7 General Revelation, (Grand Rapids, 1955), 131.
8 The Providence of God, (Grand Rapids, 1952), 45, 47, 41.

Who is God?

Philosophical theology is chiefly concerned with the abstract question of the existence of God. Berkouwer, however, insists that the question of God should be asked religiously: “‘Who is a God like thee, pardoning iniquity, and passing over transgression … ‘ (Micah 7:18)” (A Half Century of Theology, p. 77).
To ask the question of God religiously is to see this question as “the one theme that really lies at the bottom of everything else” (p. 76). It is to call in question the detached objectivity of philosophical theology. It is to open oneself to the “different atmosphere” of “Micah’s question”, the atmosphere of “a latent doxology, a ‘rapturous hymn’ (A. Weiser), that leaves all doubt behind as it revels in admiration of Israel’s God” (p. 77).
While Berkouwer is critical of philosophical theology, contending that “Many of the questions of our time arise not in doxology but in doubt” (A Half Century of Theology, p.77), he does not opt out of the apologetic task of presenting a reasonable faith to a sceptical and unbelieving world.
His main criticism appears to be directed against the kind of philosophical approach which seems to be preoccupied with the God of natural theology.
To discuss the traditional arguments for the existence of God is, for Berkouwer, a far cry from asking the question of the loving God (pp. 76-77).
The God of the old natural theology can be discussed abstractly while the living God can never be removed to such a comfortable distance.
The contrast between the living God and the God of the proofs is, to a certain extent, a matter of emphasis rather than an absolut contrast.
Handled sensitively within the context of the Anselmic dictum, “I believe that I may understand”, philosophical arguments can perform a positive function in Christian theology. Their function would not, then, be that of ‘proofs’. Rather, they might function as an aid to Christian theological reflection concerning the meaning of faith in God.
This positive function within Christian theology rests on the recognition that arguments for God’s existence are not viewed as incontrovertible proofs and that the God of Christian theology is the God of revelation whose nature may not be simply read off from such arguments.
Removed from this context of faith in the God of revelation, the God of the proofs remains a pale reflection of the God of the Christian faith. The God of the proofs remains at the periphery of human existence. When the god of the proofs is identified with the God of the Christian faith, agnostic and atheistic philosophers are provided with the ideal excuse for their scepticism and unbelief. Man can justly be indifferent to a ‘God’ who has been indifferent to him. Such a ‘God’ hardly merits man’s attention.
If philosophical theology is to be taken seriously by the God of the Christian faith, then it must take seriously the God of the Christian faith - the God who has taken mankind seriously.
Berkouwer insists that the question, “Does God exist?” implies the further question, “Who is God?” (A Half Century of Theology, p. 77).
This latter question is to be understood as “a most existential and relevant question … not a theoretical question about God’s existence as a ‘thing’” (p. 77).
The question of God is, then, a deep question which is raised by the question of meaning and purpose in man’s entire experience of life.
The thoroughly existential character of this question involves man in asking further questions about this God: “What do we mean by his presence in the world? Where does he reveal himself here and now?” (p. 77).
Thus, when the enquirer asks the question, “Does God exist?” in an attitude of openness, he soon finds himself faced with the question of revelation as a present phenomenon impinging on his life.
An openness to God and his revelation allows the possibility of asking the question of God doxologically.
* Doxology is the only appropriate alternative to doubt. Doxology does not depend on the foundation of a faith that is built on a natural theology. On the basis of God’s salvation (and not that of natural theology’s attempt to prove God’s existence), the believer is deeply moved to worship God (General Revelation, p. 134).
* Doxology does not assert itself, claiming blind faith (Holy Scripture, pp. 351-352) and blind obedience (A Half Century of Theology, pp. 157ff).
* Doxology offers humble and grateful obedience to the God whose revelation brings meaning and purpose to man’s life. Christian faith involves “acceptance … with joy and willingness” and an obedience to “Christ whereby he is never out of view” (Holy Scripture, p. 350).
* Doxology does not hanker after the perfect system (Faith and Justification, pp. 21-22).
* Doxology acknowledges that the revelation of God is richer than any man-made system of thought (Divine Election, pp. 276-277).
* Doxology does not involve a retreat into sheer mysticism with its scant attention to the words of Scripture (Holy Scripture, pp. 289-290).
Berkouwer’s approach to the question of God and his revelation accentuates several important points:
(a) The way of authoritarianism is excluded, because of the limitation of man’s knowledge, since God, in his revelation, remains hidden.
Berkouwer writes, “we must not speculate beyond the boundaries which God in His wisdom has set us” (Divine Election, p. 15). He emphasizes the faith - character of theological statements (pp. 25-26). When theological affirmation is understood as a confession of faith which is relative to divine revelation, it is preserved from the kind of authoritarian assertiveness which fails to recognize sufficiently the limitation of theological understanding.
In his discussion, “Election and the Hiddenness of God” (Divine Election, (Chapter Four, pp. 102-131), Berkouwer emphasizes that God’s hiddenness is not to be set over against his salvation. He rejects a concept of God’s hiddenness which “separates the God of revelation from our lives and mitigates the absoluite trustworthiness of that revelation” (p. 125).
Even in confessing God’s salvation, faith acknowledges that it does not know everything about God (pp. 120-121, especially the citation of Isaiah 45:15 - “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Saviour of Israel”).
Although our knowledge of God in Christ is confessed to be true and reliable (p. 124, especially the citation of John 14:9 - “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”) , we must not presume upon complete knowledge . The attempt to attain to complete knowledge is admonished for its spiritual pride when Christ speaks of these things which are hidden from “the wise and understanding” yet revealed “unto babes” (p. 123, citing Matthew 11:25).
It is with these words of Christ that Berkouwer ends his study of divine election (p. 330). He emphasizes that the knowledge of God is not to be sought apart from a simple faith which looks to Christ as Saviour.
(b) The way of rationalism is excluded because man’s thoughts cannot be compared with those of God, whose revelation remains the mystery of revelation.
A rationalism which purports to reduce the mystery of revelation to the level of human reason is quite illegitimate because faith recognizes that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts (p. 81, citing Isaiah 55:9).
Even in the knowledge of God through his revelation, the believer acknowledges his inability to comprehend God fully.
An excellent discussion of the fundamental importance of “God’s Incomprehensibility” for theological reflection is found in H. Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), Chapter I, pp. 13-37.
(c) The way of mysticism is excluded because God’s revelation, though not comprehensive, is clear.
A mystical experience which cannot be communicated in words is far removed from the Christian experience of salvation for which the words of Scripture have a “decisive importance” (Holy Scripture, p. 289).The way indicated by Berkouwer is a way that combines positive commitment and openness. Both these characteristics of his thought are clearly observable in the ‘Foreword’ to A Half Century of Theology, pp. 7-9.
This way promises to be helpful in overcoming the problem of polarization. It does this by addressing
(a) the rationalistic impasse between “mindless fideism and faithless rationalism” (B. Demarest’s discussion of Berkouwer’s view of the relation between faith and reason, review of A Half Century of Theology in Themelios, Vol. 4, No. 1 (New Series), September 1978, p. 41);
(b) the authoritarian impasse between those who accept and those who reject;
(c) the scholastic impasse between those who subscribe to the system and those who do not;
(d) the mystical impasse between those who have the experience and those who do not (Berkouwer’s theology is experiential, but it is not experience - based in the sense that nothing can be said to those who have not had the experince except, “You’ll understand once you’ve had the experience).

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