By coincidence, I’ve been lately reading a varying sampling of Reformed theology, all from Scotland, and all from the last century. I’m continually impressed by the quality — and, more than quality, a fervor and excitement — that inheres in so much of Scottish theology for the last hundred years. The theologians I have in mind truly loved God and loved the discipline of theology; the humility and joy given to them by the Cross is as present in their theology as it is in the greatest of the evangelical hymns. So, in the interest of proselytizing, here is my recommended list:

James Denney

The Death of Christ (1902)
The Atonement and the Modern Mind (1903)
The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation (1918)

P. T. (Peter Taylor) Forsyth

Christian Perfection (1899)
The Person and Place of Jesus Christ (1909)
The Cruciality of the Cross (1910)
The Principle of Authority (1913)
The Justification of God (1916)

H. R. (Hugh Ross) Mackintosh

The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ (1912)
The Christian Experience of Forgiveness (1927)
Types of Modern Theology (1937)

John Baillie

A Diary of Private Prayer (1936)
Our Knowledge of God (1939)
The Sense of the Presence of God (1962) 

John McIntyre

The Shape of Christology (1966, rev. 1998)
Faith, Theology and the Imagination (1987)
The Shape of Pneumatology (1997)

T. F. (Thomas Forsyth) Torrance

Theological Science (1969)
Space, Time and Incarnation (1969)
God and Rationality (1971)
Space, Time and Resurrection (1976)
The Ground and Grammar of Theology (1981)
Reality and Evangelical Theology (1982)
The Mediation of Christ (1983, rev. 1992)
Reality and Scientific Theology (1986)
The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (1988)
The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons (1996)

Protestant preacher

I’m currently reading William Dyrness’ Reformed Theology and Visual Culture (Cambridge 2004). So far, it is a fascinating work and quite helpful, especially for those of us who have often pondered exactly how aesthetics function in Reformed (versus Catholic) thought and culture. Dyrness is helpful especially for giving us a vocabulary for expressing this; something that theologians, especially systematicians, are not always equipt to do. I particularly found interesting his discussion of Calvin and how he models the approach of much Reformed aesthetics in subsequent generations. Here’s an excerpt:

“It is true, God’s presence has been removed [in Reformed worship] from particular images and practices. But a better way of putting this is to say God’s presence has been displaced so that it can be glimpsed in a larger sphere of activity. …Previously believers sought out special times and places where God’s power, and even salvation, were to be found. Now believers are not directed to particular images or places, but having their eyes opened by faith they are directed to see the world and their lives as potential material for God’s saving activity. …The controlling conviction [for Calvin] is the belief that God has given us the true image of the divine, insofar as we can apprehend this, in creation and in our neighbor. Any other attempt to ‘picture’ God or his truth is not only unnecessary but positively harmful….” (p. 76)

I am wholly Yours

March 23, 2008

In honor of the one who claims all of us for Himself on this Resurrection day and for all eternity, here is a great song (“Wholly Yours”) by my favorite band, David Crowder Band.

A Beautiful Mind

There’s a deep philosophical (and theological) principle in this line from Alicia Nash in the film, A Beautiful Mind

“Often what I feel is obligation, or guilt over wanting to leave, or rage against John, against God. — But then I look at him and I force myself to see the man I married. And he becomes that man. He’s transformed into someone I love. And then I’m transformed into someone who loves him.”

And now, Hans Urs von Balthasar, from Theo-Logic I: Truth of the World:

“The lover simply lets the real, imperfect image of the beloved sink into nonbeing. In the lover’s eyes, this image has no validity, no weight, no right to exist. It is, so to say, crossed out, banished from the cosmos of existing things. It is not honored with knowledge. It is not accorded the same measure of significance as if it were meant to unveil itself, as if it possessed, in other words, a truth of its own that was pronounced enough to take seriously. …God’s knowledge of things is absolutely archetypal and exemplary. He has in himself the ideas of things. This image is the correct one, not because God sees things more objectively than we do, but because the image he projects is as such the one true image that is both subjective and objective at once. Because God sees things thus, they should be as he sees them. It is to this idea of things held in God’s safekeeping that all of man’s creative knowledge has to look. Only in God can one man see another as he is supposed to be.” (Ignatius Press, pp. 117, 119-120)

And, hence, the importance of an Atonement that is universal.

A picture of me!

March 15, 2008

Me at Cape Hatteras, NC

In moseying around on my computer, I came across this pic my brother took of me last summer at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’m not quite sure what I’m doing (flexing my huge muscles?), but the lighthouse in the background is Bodie Island Lighthouse. Lighthouses are a pretty big deal in North Carolina, gaining a fair amount of tourists (plus, the beauty of the Outer Banks, in general, helps). Our state is the “graveyard of the Atlantic,” thanks to all the islands and sandbanks, with over 2,000 shipwrecks on record; hence, the need for lighthouses. The Outer Banks are well worth checking out, plus you can visit the Wright Brothers National Museum, located in Kitty Hawk, near all the famous lighthouses.

Music Spotlight: Flyleaf

March 14, 2008

I’ve been doing lesser known acts within the CCM world, so, for a change, here’s easily one of the most recognized Christian bands on modern rock radio: Flyleaf. The outstanding characteristic of the band is the amazing Lacey Mosley, the lead singer with a striking voice and lyrics overdosed with existential angst. The angst is not commonplace suburban whimpering but simply the ravishing effects of sin, familiar to Lacey who spent much of her teen years in depression, drugs, and aggressive atheism — leading to suicidal moments, until her conversion to Christ. Their first single, “I’m So Sick,” includes the chorus, “I’m so sick, infected with where I live; Let me live without this empty bliss — selfishness. I’m so sick.” Sounds like a true Calvinist to me!

The above video is an acoustic performance of their song, “Cassie.” Here is their MySpace Music page, where you can listen to some of their songs.

One of the many reasons why I love Billy Graham:

I thought the Reinhold Niebuhr reference at the end was interesting. For those who don’t know, Niebuhr criticized Graham for preaching a too simplistic gospel and not in tune with modern sensibilities. Well, I’m glad to see that Union Seminary has done so much good for the health of the church in America (note: that was sarcasm).

Also of interest, Billy Graham was subject to gross libel from Christopher Hitchens on C-SPAN last year. Here’s an adept rebuttal from TIME magazine with great insight into the character of Rev. Graham:

“Why Christopher Hitchens Is Wrong About Billy Graham”

John Henry Newman

Excerpt from Newman the Theologian by J.-H. Walgrave, O.P. (Sheed & Ward 1960), pp. 18-20.

This Platonism deeply affected Newman’s spiritual outlook in his Anglican days. It inspired many of his sublimest sermons at Oxford, sermons penetrated with poetic feeling. It was never to be absent from either his sensibility or his thought, but it became increasingy tempored, balanced by another typically English trait: the taste for the “given,” a clear sense of empirical reality. There we have, as it were, the obverse, the counterpoise, of his Platonism. In fact, an extreme tension pervades Newman’s thought, drawn as it was by two opposing tendencies of the English mind, namely, a Platonic longing for immaterial ideas and invisible realities, and the need for facts precisely perceived, recorded and verified. This latter tendency holds in check the possible extravagance of the other. Aided by a similar influence — his study of Aristotle, the “great master” he venerated as “the oracle of nature and of truth,” and the Aristotelianism traditional for seven centuries in Catholic philosophy — it succeeded in gradually detaching Newman from certain extreme conclusions drawn from the Platonist, or rather Platonising, standpoint so congenial to him. For example, for many years he held it not impossible that the physical qualitites we perceive by our senses are not genuine properties of the real world, but purely subjective impressions, relative to the structure of our bodies and corresponding to a divine “economy” which uses them as signs giving us a hint of a higher, invisible world.

…It might be of interest to study Newman in the light of modern characterology, were it not that its findings are still so tentative and provisional. None the less, it is very tempting to see in Newman one of Jung’s introverted types.

Newman, in fact, exhibits strikingly the characteristic of this type: the Platonic tendency to substitute for the realist, commonsense view of the world, an introverted conception, adapted to the needs of the interior life; a vivid sense of the strangeness of the world, in which the soul feels itself an alien: finally, in his reactions to the external world, a constant hesitancy, a perpetual uncertainty. Consider his ambiguous attitude towards the beauties of nature. When he encounters them directly by the contact of sense, he invariably feels ill at ease, unresponsive; but no sooner are they presented indirectly, interiorly, in memory, than they move him to ecstacy. Consider, too, his seeming “egocentricity,” because of which his heart, so sensitive and hungry for friendship, could never give itself completely; whence his continual, painful sense of isolation. All this is characteristic of the introverted type described by Jung.

Vicky Beeching - copyright 2007

Continuing my wonderful series on contemporary Christian music, I present Vicky Beeching. Here’s my one sentence bio of her: Vicky grew-up in Canterbury and is unique among CCM/P&W artists in having a degree in theology from Oxford. In the couple interviews with her that I’ve heard, she considers herself primarily as a worship leader, facilitating the gathered community in the prayer of song. One thing I appreciate in particular about her is the rather catechetical quality of her music:

Behold the God-man crucified,
The perfect sinless sacrifice.
As blood ran down those nails and wood,
History was split in two;
Yes, history was split in two.
Behold the empty wooden tree,
His body gone, alive and free.
We sing with everlasting joy,
For sin and death have been destroyed;
Yes, sin and death have been destroyed.

May I never lose the wonder,
The wonder of the cross.
May I see it like the first time
Standing as a sinner lost,
Undone by mercy and left speechless,
Watching wide-eyed at the cost.
May I never lose the wonder,
The wonder of the cross.
(“The Wonder of the Cross,” from Painting the Invisible)

Here is her MySpace Music page, where you can listen to some of her songs.