Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The reason for the name

I’m a strange hybrid. Part modern, part post-modern. Depending on whose definition you take I’m a late Boomer or an early Generation X-er. I’m a 60’s child, part rebel part traditionalist. I’m all mixed up for sure. Generally, relativism frustrates me. I need concrete answers. I often feel uncomfortable with ambiguity. Ask me a question and I might ask you to define your terms. Yet, in other ways I feel equally uncomfortable with precision and dogmatism – particularly the sort in the church that says you must believe exactly these things. One thing I have learned for sure: mere knowledge is never going to satisfy the deep longings of my heart. The ‘post-modern’ in me desperately yearns for authenticity and community, to experience God, to taste of His goodness, to be lifted way beyond the plane of mere knowledge. Yet the “enlightenment” side of me needs solid facts. I need to know that my experience is founded on ultimate truth. You could say I am too rational for mysticism and too mystic for rationalism! This is why I have benefited so much from two quite different streams within the church, one old, one new. Though the one that is old is still very much alive today and the one that is new has been around a long time.

The old stream is what we might call classical reformed soteriology in line with the early reformation. On the one hand this rejects what I believe to be the man-centred theology of Arminianism which elevates free will above the sovereignty of God. On the other it rejects the “limited atonement” beloved by many modern, and sadly, aggressive, internet ‘Calvinists’ who would have us proclaim an empty Gospel that would call us to repent and believe not knowing whether or not Christ died for our sins. It is NOT four-point Calvinism as some refer to it. (I suppose we are all prone to assign quick labels to things we don’t understand). This is classical reformed doctrine which can be neatly summarised with the old formula that Christ died sufficiently for all and efficiently for the elect. In one sense the atonement is limited, in another sense it is not but more of that some other time. This ‘stream’ is still alive today and I for one am thankful. It played a part in rescuing me from the clutches of cold hyper-Calvinism.

The new stream, which we might call “gospel-centredness” takes its cue from the likes of Tim Keller, the late Jack Miller and Jerry Bridges. From this I have learned that the gospel is not just the A-B-C of how we enter the kingdom and the thing we proclaim to unbelievers, but is, in fact, the A-Z though which we grow in sanctification. It has helped me understand why I have spent so much of my Christian life basically volatile and unhappy. More of that in due course too.

Of course, the doctrine of sanctification by faith isn’t new. It is a common theme amongst some of the puritans. Its just the terminology and the renewed emphasis that it brings that is new. And it is a much needed antidote to the superficiality and coldness of much of the church today. It can both expose the pride of the Pharisees and self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy on the one hand and lift-up the down-hearted and self-pitying on the other.

These are two recurring themes you will see here. In fact I’m excited about them both. I hope that if you stick around long enough you might catch some of that excitement. Of course, I don’t mean excited for excited sake. My hope is that together we may grow in love for the Lord Jesus Christ to the glory of God.

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