Let the Children Come

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” – Luke 18:15-17 (ESV)

This passage is important in understanding the relationship between infant children of believers and the kingdom of God. When Jesus says “to such belongs…”, people often think it means “to people like these belongs…”. In other words, people with faith like a child’s.

Big mistake. But rather than me poorly trying to explain why, why not listen to Sinclair Ferguson expounding the passage at his church’s recent Parenting Conference. Go to the page and scroll down to “Let the Children Come”.

Let the Children Come

Holy Moderation

Moderation: not a good word for an evangelical to be associated with, given its unfortunate history in the church. However, 21 years ago John Nicholls* took up this word in an article published at the inception of the EPCEW entitled “Holy Moderation”. Its about how to handle difference while seeking unity. Unfortunately you can’t find it on our EPCEW website (note to self – I must get on to our pubs cttee about this!) but you can find it as a pdf at First Pres, Jackson (PCA) on this page, or directly from this link. It is well worth a read. Here is a quote from a letter from Calvin to Farel found therein:

I entreat you, my dear brother [Farel], in so great iniquity of the time in which we live, that you will do your utmost endeavor to keep together all who are in any way bearable.

“In any way bearable”! What an excellent word…

*John Nicholls is now Director of the London City Mission and is doing excellent work in promoting church planting by presbyterians and others.

Holy Moderation

Hard Copy vs. Online

R. Scott Clark makes the following observation about the comparative effectiveness of read media:

Nevertheless, I am increasingly convinced that, for thoughtful, reflective engagement with a text, hard copy works best. I find that students (and email correspondents) do not really read online texts very closely. It might be a confusion of media. It’s one thing to breeze through ephemeral email. It’s another thing to breeze through assigned readings. In the Doctrine of God course, from the time students began to read some of the assigned readings on screen, their comprehension dropped measurably. Where students who did the same reading in hard copy seemed to grasp the material, few students seem to grasp the very same material by reading it on screen. Test scores for that portion of the course dropped markedly, even after students were notified of this problem and trend.

via The Outlook, Old School Printed Stuff, and Faithfulness « Heidelblog

Hard Copy vs. Online

The Tree of Life

Gerhardus Vos, in his Biblical Theology,  provocatively describes the two trees at the centre of the garden as symbolic of something else. The word “symbol” in connection with the first chapters of Genesis is enough to get some people in a hot flush! Yet Vos does not intend, and is careful to point out, that this does not mean that they were not real trees. Rather their function was to signify something else. It is for this reason that he describes them as sacramental. (Much in the same way that bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper are real, yet signify something else – the Lord’s body and blood.)

I am wrestling with what the trees signify. The tree of life (ToL) stood in the middle of Eden (Gen 2:9).  However, it is not mentioned again until Gen 3:22, after the fall of Adam. The risk then that Adam would *also* eat of the ToL, as the LORD God noted, shows clearly that it was different from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (ToKGE), and that Adam had not yet eaten from it. In fact, there was no recorded prohibition on eating of the fruit of the ToL as there was for the ToKGE. Interestingly, Vos suggests that this is evidence that the tree was intended for future use and Adam knew it.

That the tree plays an eschatological function in Scripture is clear from its appearance in Revelation. Jesus said to the church in Ephesus (Rev 2:7),

“To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

“Paradise” comes from the Greek paradeisos, which the LXX uses to translate “Eden”. Jesus was speaking of the future hope for the church, the place where God will be, and in which is the ToL. Eating of this tree is experience eternal life in all its fullness with God. And it comes to the “one who conquers”, not a description of sad Adam who folded at the words of his wife, but of those who belong to Christ. The Bible’s closing pictures and its presentation of future history (in Revelation 22) takes place in the city where God dwells, from whose throne the river of life flows, and astride which the ToL stands. It is a tremendous picture conveying the sense of eternal blessings to be had in the presence of the living God.

The ToL also appears metaphorically in Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4. It is used to characterise the benefits of wisdom, the fruit of righteousness, the pleasure of fulfilled desire, and the effect of a gentle tongue. It is as though the glory and wonder of that eschatological hope is permitted to intrude into the historical experiences of the people of God who make the pursuit of the Lord their life’s goal.

It seems then that with this eschatological symbolism present in the ToL, Vos sees the pre-lapsarian experience of Adam in Eden as merely probationary. In other words, despite the fact that Adam could enjoy all the pleasures of the garden God had placed him in and the near presence of God who could walk in the garden in the cool of the day with him (suggested by 3:8?), the presence of the ToL acted as a sign of even greater things to hope for than he already had.

The Tree of Life

Crisis and Cure

One of our regular attenders at SPC said she was going to a conference at which Rev. David Carmichael was preaching. I have heard of Mr Carmichael before – he is minister of Abbeygreen Church of Scotland in Lesmahagow – but have not heard him preach. So, I found and I listened to his sermon “Crisis and Cure” preached at the Scottish Reformed Conference in Hamilton in 2007. (Obtainable from this page, or mp3 directly from this link.)

I can warmly commend it to you. Carmichael observes that the danger to the church does not come from liberals so much as from evangelicals who lost confidence in the word of God and so turn elsewhere for success.

Also, it is rare to hear a preacher preach with such intensity.

Crisis and Cure