Federal Vision Study

As part of my studies this year I have to do an independent study (IS) module. After much deliberation I have come up with the following working title:

A Critical Evaluation of “Federal Vision Theology” Arising in North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in the Last 30 Years and a Consideration of the Implications for Reformed Churches in the UK.

Rather lengthy, I know, but there it is. I have been meaning to get to grips with this topic for the last three-plus years since the 2002 AAPC controversy blew up, but I have simply not had the time. Study, work and family have made it impossible. Since I have to do an IS module anyway, it seemed sensible to combine a desire with a requirement. So, what better motive can I have?

As well as trying to understand the doctrinal distinctives of the movement/conversation, I intent to get a handle on its theological and historical roots. I also hope to look at recent responses from the reformed/presbyterian denominations.

So, anyway, here is something for you, Dear Reader – do you have any suggestions for essential background reading? I am particularly interested in any historical perspectives which are not found on the web.

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Federal Vision Study

Called Out

Term has started and study is underway. This week I have learned a few things about the word ekklesia. That’s the word translated as ‘church’ in our Bibles.

Some people, who want to sound very clever about ekklesia, can sometimes start going on about the ‘root meaning’ of it. I have probably done so myself. The ‘root meaning’ is discovered by cracking open the word and examining the fragments. So, they say, it comes from the preposition ek and the verb kaleo which mean, respectively, ‘out of’ and ‘to call’. So, the astute thinker puts two and two together and gets the doctrine of election.

What? Well, ekklesia must mean ‘the called out ones’ – it is the root meaning, isn’t it? There you have it – the church is God’s “called out ones”!

Well, not quite. The answer is four-ish. The conclusion is OK, but the line of reasoning is not. If the line of reasoning were valid then every use of ekklesia would refer to God’s ‘called out ones’. However, look at Acts 19:32. The rioting crowd is called ekklesia. Are they God’s ‘called out ones’? No.

They were called out in another sense. They were called out of the genneral rush of society to be in that particular meeting with Paul. But that’s all! This points to the more general use of the word in the 1st century. It simply meant ‘assembly’ and could be used in a variety of situations.

This does not mean that ekklesia is evacuated of its theological significance. But that significance does not derive from its ‘root meaning’. Rather, it derives from how the word is used in the Bible. In other words, ekklesia acquires its significance for the people of God from its context.

More later … possibly …

Called Out

Preaching – Pure and Simple (A Brief Review)

Last week I read Stuart Olyott’s recently published book Preaching – Pure and Simple (Bryntirion Press, 2005). It is only 188 pages long and is a very easy read. It is not intended to be an in depth treatment, as the author acknowledges, and points to other books for lengthier treatments, but I would say (from my limited experience!) it is an essential for any preacher. It is the kind of book that ought to be read regularly for self-appraisal and improvement.

I recognised much of the material in it because it is the fruit of his lecturing at ETCW and many other places. In it he sets out the essentials of good sermon preparation under five headings:

  • Exegetical accuracy – making sure that you are preaching what the Bible is actually saying
  • Doctrinal substance – preaching must open up the system of truth that the Bible contains
  • Clear Structure – the hearers must know where you are going and that you and they are making progress.
  • Vivid Illustration – Dr. Olyott likens these to windows to illuminate and otherwise dark and forbidding room
  • Pointed application – this section challenges the view that all the preacher needs to do is to throw the truth to the listener and let the Holy Spirit apply it as he will. Part of the work is the preacher is to help the hearer apply the Word to him/herself.

There is a helpful chapter on how one should deliver the sermon, dealing with voice, posture, dress, mannerisms etc.

Perhaps the must powerful chapter, though, is on ‘unction’ or supernatural authority. This reminds the preacher that what he is engaged in is a supernatural event ordained by God. For preaching to be spiritually effective God must do it. Therefore the whole process of preparation is one act of prayer and worship. While reading this chapter I realised why the earlier parts of the book were so striking. It was that it they were infused with heart and passion for God and his glory. Not only was it short and practical – it was thrilling.

The final two chapters consisted of a method for preparation, which serves a good model to start from, and a tribute to one of Dr. Olyott’s favourite preachers who exemplified the message of this book.

Preachers! Go and buy it. Now!

PS. If you want to hear Dr. O.’s own preaching, you can get some of his sermons through this web project.

Preaching – Pure and Simple (A Brief Review)

Beware the Dip

Yup. We’re in the dip. That phase of the blogging cycle where I have got bored with blogging.

Here’s what happened. I thought to myself, I need to read some of the good books which shout “Read me! Me!” from my shelves, so I started reading.

Then I thought, “this is better than reading blogs” so I stopped reading other blogs. Except for a few which are mostly characterised by few words, pithy statements, and some semblance of wit, rather than rambling verbosity – blahdee blahdee blah etc. There is nothing worse than a long post which you read, get to the end and think, “What was that all about?”, and then realise the answer was, “not much”. It is depressing enough thinking that I wasted x minutes reading it. Even more so that someone spent 10x to 100x minutes writing it.

The next logical thought is, “Is Doggie’s B one of the merry band of time-wasters? Probably. Let’s stop.”

So that’s what happened.

Now, I seem to be back. Let’s make it worthwhile.

Beware the Dip