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Historical Theology Articles

  • Alan W. Gomes — 

    The Bible is God’s very word and therefore carries the authority of God himself. And that word of God, Scripture tells us, is a powerful thing—“living and active and sharper than even a two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It floods the soul with its resplendent rays, laying bare God’s truth and putting all darkness to flight. Yet, as this text tells us, not all receive the truth of this light, and some esteem it as folly itself. How can this be? If Scripture is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16), how could any reject its authoritative claims?

  • John McKinley — 

    Dyothelitism means that Jesus possesses two wills, one divine and one human. God the Father and God the Son are distinct persons, but they share the same divine will. The difference of Jesus’ will from his Father’s will in Gethsemane is his human will. By incarnation, God the Son took up a second way of living as a man. He now possesses two natures. Each nature is complete, including a will for each. I define will as the spiritual capacity for desires and choice in the exercise of personal agency. A caution to remember is that these are mysterious operations (desiring, choosing) of mysterious realities (persons, wills, Trinity) that may leave us continuing to wonder even after thinking it all through as best we can. We will consider briefly Jesus’ divine will, his human will, the situation of Gethsemane, and how this affects our thinking about the Trinity.

  • Joanne Jung — 

    Hell. I don't think about this subject often, so you can imagine my surprise when I found such moving thoughts on hell from an author I regard: John Bunyan.

  • Ashish Naidu — 

    I am delighted to announce the recent publication of my monograph titled, Transformed in Christ: Christology and the Christian Life in John Chrysostom, in the Princeton Theological Monograph Series, by Pickwick Publications (Imprint of Wipf and Stock).

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    This is my last post (at least in this series) on the Apostolic Fathers. But together with my class, we have come up with a list of thumbnail descriptions to help us remember the various writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Here is our list (in the order we read these writings):

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    Here’s a chapter written by an unknown early Christian to an unbeliever named Diognetus that is well-worth the three minutes it will take you to read it. This evangelist and apologist refers to Christians as “a new race or way of life” (Diogn. ch. 1). In chapter 5 he unpacks the distinctiveness of Christians.

  • Joanne Jung — 

    My article, "Building a Better Small Group," was just posted by The Gospel Coalition.

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    We had quite a lively conversation in my Apostolic Fathers class the other evening after reading The Epistle of Barnabas. (BTW, it was not written by the biblical Barnabas; and the attribution to Barnabas may not even be original, so you don’t need to assume that this author is “pretending” to be Barnabas). “Barnabas” was committed to the interpretive procedure known as allegorical interpretation.

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    I’m still teaching my summer class on the Apostolic Fathers. We just had a discussion in class about the Shepherd of Hermas. Hermas claims to have had lots of visions and appearances of angels (one in the form of a shepherd—thus the name of the work) who tell him what to do and what messages he should deliver to others.

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    A lot of critical-leaning biblical scholars dispute Paul’s authorship of the Pastoral Letters: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. Recently there has been a bit of movement toward greater acceptance of the possibility of Paul’s authorship among those more critically inclined, though there is still a long way to go. One argument supporting the Pauline authorship of these letters is a discovery I made a number of years ago while studying Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians. Polycarp inadvertently tells us in his little letter that he believes that the Apostle Paul is the author of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy (and if that is true, probably also of Titus). Why does this matter? Because Polycarp wrote around A.D. 120 (some recent scholars say around 110), and was in a position to know a lot about the apostolic age that we don’t know. Up until this discovery, the earliest known author to both quote from the Pastoral Letters and to connect them to Paul as author was Irenaeus writing around A.D. 180. This discovery moves down the external attestation for the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Letters by 60 years.

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    I have recently been convicted about the content of my praying. This has come about especially through meditating on the prayers of the Apostle Paul. What were the subjects that he thought worthwhile to focus on when he prayed? How do his prayer burdens compare to my own (sometimes insipid and paltry) prayers? I just got another challenge in this area today reading once again through 1 Clement in preparation for the Apostolic Fathers class I’m teaching right now. 1 Clement is a lengthy letter written by the church in Rome to the church in Corinth (probably by the hand of either a secretary or a church leader named “Clement”) at the end of the first century. Included at the tail end of this letter is a deep, passionate, and wide-ranging prayer (including prayer for governmental leaders during a period of persecution). If you have ever benefitted from praying in concert with devout Christians of earlier centuries (and you won’t find any document earlier than 1 Clement outside of the Bible), you may find some real spiritual benefit in praying this prayer.

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    Ignatius of Antioch was the passionate leader of the church in Antioch just after the apostolic period. He wrote five letters to churches in Asia Minor, one to the church in Rome, and one to Polycarp of Smyrna during a forced marched by ten soldiers (“leopards” he calls them) in the direction of Rome to be thrown to wild beasts because of his faith in Jesus Christ.

  • Uche Anizor — 

    As one who is kind of obsessed with questions of method in theology, I found some summary comments by T. F. Torrance on the relation of history and tradition to theological formulation helpful. He writes: No scientist ever begins his work de novo; while he works with the methodological questioning of what he has already known he builds on knowledge already achieved and engages in a movement of advance. But it is one of the worst characteristics of theological study, whether in biblical interpretation or in dogmatic formulation, that every scholar nowadays thinks he must start all over again, and too many give the impression that no one ever understood this or that until they came along.

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    Right now I’m teaching a summer readings course on the Apostolic Fathers. Ten students are reading with me such documents as 1 Clement, the Letters of Ignatius, Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians, the Didache, the (so-called) Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, To Diognetus, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, 2 Clement, and the fragments of Papias. These are the earliest Christian documents written just after the apostolic age and span the years from around A.D. 95 up until about A.D. 165. Though they are referred to as the “apostolic fathers,” they are really our earliest “post-apostolic fathers.” But how should we assess their value? Here are three options:

  • John McKinley — 

    Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History, Diana Lynn Severance (Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2011) 336 pp. $15 ($12 on Amazon; or $11.39 on Kindle) Overall, the book is challenging and informative for me as a male Christian. I have been mostly ignorant of the many deep and lasting contributions of women throughout the history of the church. The fascinating chronicles informed me to be full of admiration for these particular women, and for Christian women throughout the world today who struggle for basic human rights. I recognize that women continue to be disregarded, demeaned, patronized, minimized, and marginalized in evangelical churches and Western cultures today. Severance’s book is the beginning of a helpful corrective for the church to value women as equal heirs of the gift of grace.

  • Uche Anizor — 

    Check out this excellent and thought provoking post by theologian Stephen Holmes from St. Andrews. Read the post here

  • Clinton E. Arnold — 

    Come and find out the answer to this question on Wednesday evening, March 7th, 7:00-8:30pm, at the Mayers Hall Auditorium at Biola University. This is the title of a free public lecture by Dr. Simon Gathercole, Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Cambridge. The event will conclude with a Q&A session.

  • Uche Anizor — 

    Herman Bavinck helpfully (as usual) comments on a proper way to understand “tradition” and its relationship to Scripture and theology: “[F]or a correct understanding [of the Bible] it still often requires a wide range of historical, archaeological, and geographical skills and information. The times have changed, and with the times people, their life, thought, and feelings, have changed. Therefore, a tradition is needed that preserves the connectedness between Scripture and the religious life of our time. Tradition in its proper sense is the interpretation and application of the eternal truth in the vernacular and life of the present generation. Scripture without such a tradition is impossible . . ."

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” How many (hundreds of!) times have you heard that line rolled out? The good part about the alleged saying is that we do need to communicate that we truly believe the gospel through what we do. People need to see the gospel as well as hear it. If you have any doubts about this, please refer to my post from a few days ago on “justice and mercy” ministries. But there are two problems with the way this quote is normally used. First, it is often used by people who are oriented toward social concern but who are less comfortable with verbally proclaiming the good news about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and faith in him alone. Such hesitancy to share the gospel verbally simply will not do if you even remotely consider yourself to be a biblical Christian. Second, Francis of Assisi apparently never said it.

  • Uche Anizor — 

    Mark Thompson of Moore College offers some helpful observations regarding the difference between patristic and modern treatments of the Trinity. Here's an excerpt: Patristic trinitarian thinking and writing appears more overtly biblical, and specifically more exegetical, than much modern writing. Sometimes that exegetical work is tortuous and repetitive, as in some of Athanasius' orations against the Arians. Sometimes it is crisp and leaves important questions unanswered. Yet the Bible is in the foreground rather than in the background in many of the patristic treatments of the doctrine. In contrast, much of the modern discussion glances off the Bible and shies away from sustained exegetical comment.

  • Alan W. Gomes — 

    [This Lord's Supper meditation was given at Grace Evangelical Free Church of La Mirada on 1.29.12.] Tonight we are about to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, in which we focus our thoughts on the marvelous work of redemption that Christ accomplished for us. In the next 10 minutes or so, I’d like us to mediate upon the depth of what transpired.

  • Uche Anizor — 

    In the second chapter of Billings’ Union with Christ, he takes issue with the reduction of Reformed theology to the TULIP acronym. Specifically, regarding “total depravity” he questions the notion that one can properly understand a Reformed (or biblical) doctrine of depravity within the limited scope of the so-called “five points.”

  • Rob Price — 

    I’m not the only one who’s been reading Billings. Uche Anizor has been at it, too, and he’ll soon be posting comments here on specific chapters of Billings’s book. Meanwhile, I’ll add a few of my own on Billings’s foundational first chapter on union with Christ as the ground of our adoption.

  • Rob Price — 

    Todd Billings is one of evangelicalism’s brightest up-and-coming pastor-scholars. From missions work in Uganda, to a Harvard Ph.D., to an adopted daughter from Ethiopia, Billings is advancing many of the projects dear to evangelicalism. You may have seen his wonderful cover article for Christianity Today (October 2011) on the theological interpretation of Scripture. In November 2011 he published the distillation of nearly a decade’s sustained reflection on a theme that is central to the gospel: the believer’s union with Christ.

  • Ashish Naidu — 

    I have often wondered if the lack of interest in the external beauty of sacred space and décor, which characterizes much of our church culture today, is due to the struggle with dualism? Or is it due to the residual sense of over-correction that we have inherited from the Reformation movement? I suspect it may be both.