Saturday, May 30, 2009

Systematic Theology: 5 Arguments Supporting God's Existence

Systematic Theology Lecture 3

Class notes from Theissen's Lectures in Systematic Theology

(Working on the audio)

God's Existence and Attributes:

Can God be defined?: God cannot be defined comprehensively or exhaustively. He is infinite.

He may be defined in a limited way according to what he has revealed of himself and definitions based on his self-revelation can be correct or incorrect. That the definition cannot be “complete” does not mean it is inexact

“We may know a thing correctly as far as we know it, even though we don't know all about it.” (54)

  1. We can set forth the attributes of God as he has revealed them.

We may say that: “God is” and then set about differentiating him from other things that exist.

  1. Some definitions: “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” (Westminster Shorter Chatechism)

“God is a Spirit absolute, personal, and holy, infinite, and eternal in his being and attributes, the ground and cause of the universe.” (HB Smith)

The Existence of God: God has revealed himself and we are able to apprehend his revelation. What are the arguments for his existence. They fall into three broad groups:

1. The Belief in God is intuitive: A belief is intuitive if it is universal and necessary.

a. Universal: Romans 1:18-23: All men know that God exists by the things that are made because God has shown it to them so that they are without excuse. There is not a group or a people that does not have some form of belief in some kind of God.

b. Necessary: We cannot deny his existence without doing damage to the laws of our own nature. If we do deny it, it is only forced and temporary. “Just as the pendulum of a clock can be pushed off center by an internal or external force, so a man can be pushed off his normal belief in God. But just as the pendulum returns to its original position when the pressure is removed, so a man returns to his normal belief in God when he is not under the influence of false philosophy.” (56)

Atheism is only found where educated people have trained themselves not to believe in God.

His existence is so obvious the mind is constrained to believe it. (56)

2. the Existence of God is assumed by the scriptures.

The bible does not set out to “prove” the existence of God. It is everywhere assumed and taken for granted that 1. he exists and that 2. all men know he exists. Special revelation was the sufficient ground of this knowledge.

3. Belief in the existence of God is corroborated and corrected by arguments: These arguments do not prove God's existence so much as they confirm what is already evident and known. The arguments:

    a. do not stand as independent proofs of God's existence but expositions of our innate knowledge of his existence

    b. since God is a spirit we must not insist on the same kind of proof that we demand for the existence of material things, but only such evidence as is suitable for the object

    c. the evidence is cumulative, a single argument is inadequate, but taken together they are sufficient to “bind the conscience and compel belief”

  1. The Cosmological Argument: Every effect must have an adequate cause; the universe is an effect; thus the universe must have an adequate cause.

Premise: A contingent being (a being that if it exists can not-exist) exists.

  1. This contingent being has a cause of or explanation[1] for its existence.

  2. The cause of or explanation for its existence is something other than the contingent being itself.

  3. What causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must either be solely other contingent beings or include a non-contingent (necessary) being.

  4. Contingent beings alone cannot provide an adequate causal account or explanation for the existence of a contingent being.

  5. Therefore, what causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must include a non-contingent (necessary) being.

  6. Therefore, a necessary being (a being that if it exists cannot not-exist) exists.

    Objections: Some argue that the universe is eternal/infinite

    1. But they have to contend with the fact that nothing in the universe is eternal so you will have an eternal whole made up of non-eternal parts.

    2. There is no such thing as an actual infinite. Everything in the material universe may be potentially infinite but it is also also potentially finite. In an infinite sequence without any supporting force, all potentiality will be fulfilled meaning that all that has the potential not to be will one day not be.

    3. That means that we cannot say the contingent universe will have an infinite future unless we find a power capable of keeping the potential for dissolution from coming to pass.

    4. It would also mean that the universe cannot have an infinite past since if it has the potential for non-existence then it would have already met that existence.

    a. The argument from change: There must be a First Cause

    b. The argument from potential: There must be a Pure Actuality

    c. The argument from contingency and necessity: there must be a Necessary Being.

What does the argument establish:

  1. That the universe was brought into being by an adequate cause.

  2. That the cause exists outside of the universe and that it is intelligent

  3. Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Personal, Immutable, Simple

II. Teleological Argument: the argument from design Order and useful arrangement in a system imply intelligence and purpose in the originating cause. The universe is characterized by order and useful arrangement; therefore the universe has an intelligent and free cause.

(1) Some things in nature (or nature itself, the cosmos) are design-like (exhibit a cognition-resonating, intention-shaped character R)
(2) Design-like properties (
R) are not producible by (unguided) natural means—i.e., any phenomenon exhibiting such Rs must be a product of intentional design.


(3) Some things in nature (or nature itself, the cosmos) are products of intentional design. And of course, the capacity for intentional design requires agency of some type.

1. Chance cannot create an ordered and intelligent cosmos...nor can order maintain itself: the development of the cosmos has proceeded in accordance with organizing laws and remained in order despite the second law of thermodynamics.

2. Naturalistic evolution cannot produce irreducible complexity

What can the argument prove: the existence of an intelligent and free architect who is distinct from his creation

III: Ontological Argument: We have the idea of an absolutely perfect being but existence is an attribute of perfection. An absolutely perfect being must therefore exist.

An idea of God does not necessarily demand his existence.

We might point to a correspondence between the other faculties of our mind and the existence of real things in the world and suggest that there must be or might be a similar correspondence between our idea of Superlative attributes and God—but this is not a “proof”

IV: The Moral Argument: the argument from conscience. That we all know that there is a “right and a wrong” even though we are not agreed on what it is points to the existence of an eternal lawgiver who is just and good.

Moral facts exist.

    1. Moral facts have the properties of being objective and non-natural.

    2. The best explanation of there being objective and non-natural moral facts is provided by theism.

    3. Therefore the existence of moral facts provides good grounds for thinking theism is true.

V. Argument from Congruity: the postulate which best explains the facts is true. The best explanation for the existence of the Cosmos and the character of its existence is the existence of the God who reveals himself in Scripture.

Monday, May 25, 2009

To Good Shepherd

Dear Friends,

This article by Bill Moyer appeared today in the Press and Sun. It is well written and accurate and I am thankful for Mr. Moyer's careful attention to the facts. Here is the letter I wrote to Good Shepherd following Judge Lebous' most recent decision:
Dear Good Shepherd,

The last part of the lawsuit filed by Diocese of Central New York against us has been decided and the judge has ruled that the Branan bequest now belongs to Christ Church and the Diocese of Central New York. This is not great news but it is not terrible news either. We were not counting on victory after the first ruling in this case and we have already learned that no matter what the outcome in the courts, the Lord loves us and will protect and provide for our needs.

We are, moreover, so very thankful that we live in a nation governed by the rule of law where our defense was heard by an impartial and objective judge and the Diocese of Central New York could not simply seize our buildings and assets by fiat as it would have liked. How wonderful it has been, despite the negative outcome, to have our day in court.

It is important, I think, also to be grateful for Judge Lebous who has sought nothing more than to make a just decision based on his understanding of the facts and his wide knowledge of the law. Sometimes judges and courts do make mistakes, as this one has, but we must always respect and obey the legal decisions of those God has set in positions of authority over us.

If you take the time to read the decision, and I encourage you to do so, you will find that there are a number of rather curious suggestions and I think it is important to address a few of them.

I did not know Mr. Branan but a number of our senior parishioners knew him very well and remember him to have been both very conservative and very loyal to Good Shepherd but not necessarily to the Episcopal Church. In fact, one woman remembers very clearly that he gave the bequest in order to ensure that the congregation never experienced financial difficulty. Another woman who was a very close friend of Mr. Branan recently sent a letter explaining that Mr. Branan wouldn't have wanted a dime to go to the Episcopal Church given the denomination's recent departure from orthodox Christianity. Since Mr. Branan never once mentioned the Diocese of Central New York in his bequest, it is difficult to understand how Judge Lebous could come to the conclusion that Mr. Branan would have wanted his money given to the institution that has sought the destruction of the church he loved?

Be all that as it may, given our earlier defeat in court, we were not expecting to keep the bequest. We have not counted it in our present budget.

Stranger to me than the idea that Mr. Branan was a person loyal to a larger and heretical denomination and not to his local parish was the language used by Judge Libous to describe our conduct. During the hearing, the lawyer for the Diocese of Central New York noted that Good Shepherd received very little in pledges and offerings during 2008 and accused the vestry of “diverting” income. Judge Lebous re-articulates that accusation in the judgment, finds it “disturbing”, and writes that it is appropriate for the diocese to “investigate”.

The reason for the low income, as is fairly obvious, is that after the lawsuit was filed by the Diocese of Central New York claiming possession of all of our property and money, the vast majority of parishioners made personal decisions not to give any money to the church knowing that any money given stood the chance of being seized by the diocese—as it subsequently has been.

And, of course, the vestry did not “divert” money away from Good Shepherd or spend it on anything other than the regular upkeep of the ministries of Good Shepherd—bills, maintenance, salaries, etc. We are more than willing to cooperate fully with any kind of investigation the court thinks necessary.

Finally, Judge Libous mentions items taken from the building. Most of you remember the confusion and frustration in the aftermath of the first court decision when we learned that the building and home we loved was going to be seized. We moved out of the old building mere days after receiving a letter from the Diocese of Central New York asking us to pay rent of over $2500.00 per month. There were a lot of heartbroken and confused people especially with regard to items donated to the church in memory of deceased relatives. Despite the explanations, it was difficult for people to understand that even though a given item may have been purchased with money personally donated for the memory of a deceased relative, donations given to the church belonged, subsequent to the judgment, to the diocese. No one intentionally took anything that belongs to the diocese and the items we have located that were mistakenly taken have been returned.

I've said this before, but let me say again, how proud I am to be your pastor. Jesus said that no servant is above his master and that the world would treat his followers just as it treated him (Matt 10:17-25). We have felt and are feeling the truth of those words. You have stood courageously in the face of lies and persecution and you have accepted the confiscation of your property knowing that you yourselves have a better possession and a lasting one. I am so very amazed at the graciousness and generosity with which you have responded and, indeed, the charity and forgiveness revealed in both word and deed toward the Diocese of Central New York.

God has abundantly blessed us over the last few months. Trust him. He is for us and not against us. I believe that God's loving kindness, gentle protection, and provision will carry us through these trials and for that reason we must continue to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ, forgiving and loving those who would hurt us and doing everything in our power to be at peace with all people.

May God bless and keep you.

In Christ,

Matt Kennedy

There is only one quibble with Mr. Moyer's excellent article linked above. He quotes me as saying the following:
"The judge's statement is absolutely not true," said the Rev. Matthew Kennedy..."
When Mr. Moyer called I said that the allegations were "absolutely untrue" but I was referring to the diocese's allegations...not the judge's. I don't think Judge Lebous made any allegations

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday Notes

Dear Good Shepherd,

Happy Thursday, here are your Thursday Notes

Ascension Sunday: This Sunday is the day the church sets aside to celebrate Jesus' bodily Ascension into heaven where he is seated at the right hand of God. Why did Jesus ascend? What does it mean to sit at God's right hand? Where is he now? And what does it mean for us as a church and as individuals that Jesus ascended into heaven? We'll deal with all of those questions and wrap up our resurrection appearances sermon series this Sunday. The feast of the Ascension is one of the four most important in the church year (Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost). You won't want to miss it.

Pentecost is coming up Next Sunday (the 31st): The Holy Spirit indwelt the church on the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Since that time, God himself, through the Spirit makes his home in the heart of every believer just as he once made a home in the Tabernacle and the Temple. Pentecost Day is often seen as the birthday of the Church--the day followers of Jesus, through the Spirit's power--finally left the upper room and went out into the world preaching the gospel. Remember to wear red which symbolizes the tongues of fire that came to rest on the apostles as they were indwelled by the Holy Spirit.

Parish Calendar: Don't forget to check the parish calendar every week to see what is happening at Good Shepherd. The duty roster has been integrated with the Calendar through mid June and will completed to mid July sometime today.

Great Sermon on God's Providence: God cares for us and provides for us in ways we do not see and during times we feel abandoned and alone. Dr. RC Sproul gives a great lecture on God's providence in our lives here.

Sermon Podcast: We forgot to record Anne's sermon last Sunday on Jesus' appearance to Thomas, but you can read it here.

Christian education: This week we'll be bridging from a discussion of Christ and Culture in general to specific or particular aspects of the culture that surrounds us. In particular, you may have noticed the growing influence of Islam in the United States. On the south-side, Islam has made great headway, especially in our area. As part of the process of gaining an understanding of our cultural context, we'll begin a short series on Islam--beliefs and practices--beginning this Sunday between services. Please read this brief talk by a Muslim imam in preparation for class. This will give us some understanding of what Muslims believe as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.

Single/Married/family issues...I've sensed the need lately to discuss these things. Maybe its because there are a lot of weddings coming up. Maybe its because we've been focusing so much on the historical resurrection accounts and theology lately. Maybe there are just some things that need sorting out? But in any case, I'm trying to find a way and time to have some single/married/family life courses in the near future. I'll keep you posted.

Acolytes and Acolyte Practices for 2009: Acolytes, lead worship, assist the ministers, and lead processions. Serving as an acolyte is often the first taste of Christian service for young believers. Acolyting introduces young Christians to the concept of God's holiness and the loving reverence with which all believers approach the Lord's throne of grace.

Practically, they are part of the over all task of woship--eucharistic ministers, readers, clergy, choir, its not a one person show, everybody does something to help the banquet go forward.

A banquet is a good illustration for Anglican worship as a whole and helps us to understand the role acolytes play...Jesus provides nourishment to his people through his word, read and preached, and through Communion--word and sacrament together ground and strengthen the church for mission and ministry. Acolytes are like servants at an ancient banquet. The candles light the way to the table...the crucifer's cross, reminding us of the death of Christ that makes our presence at the table possible. The crucifer helps set the Lord's table. The acolytes receive gifts and bring them forward. The bell ringer alerts our attention to the most important moments of the Great Thanksging prayer. The acolytes then show people to the table to recieve and help clean up afterward.

Assisting in worship leadership is a serious and important task. Everything an acolyte does either adds to or detracts from the beauty and reverence of worship and helps or hinders the prayers and worship of the congregation. We hope to train acolytes who love Jesus Christ and who are committed to serving him with excellence.

We are in a new building and this is, likewise, a new beginning for the acolyte program at Good Shepherd. We intend to recommit ourselves to bringing glory and honor to Jesus Christ in everything that we do.

Here is a list of acolyte practices for this coming year. The first one will be Saturday May 30th at 11am.

Every acolyte practice begins at 11am and lasts till 12 noon and lunch is provided (the practice itself lasts for approximately 1 hour. Lunch follows)


1. Saturday May 30th

2. Saturday June 27th

No Practice during July

3. Saturday August 22nd

4. Saturday September 26th

5. Saturday October 24th

6. Saturday November 21st

7. Saturday December 13th

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Tom and Brian are scheduled to cook tomorrow morning. All men are welcome to come. Breakfast is served at 6:30am. We're currently studying the book of 1st Samuel.

Women's Bible Study: Correction...there will be no Women's Bible Study this Saturday because of the BBQ.

Thursday Evening Beginners Bible Study...will meet tonight at Conklin Avenue Baptist church at 6:30pm after the Shepherd's Bowl. We're just starting to dig into Acts.

Chicken BBQ: Don't forget that the first chicken BBQ at our new location will be this Saturday 11am-2pm. Please come and invite your friends.

Systematic Theology: ST will meet this coming saturday at 3:30pm as usual. If you missed any of the previous two sessions, you can listen to them here and here. This Saturday we'll begin to discuss the "proofs" or arguments for God's existence and we'll see the way that these arguments help provide a basis for our understanding of some of the crucial attributes of God's existence. Remember to read chapter 11 of Grudem's Systematic Theology.

Canoe Race: Don and Jenna Dean will be in one canoe, Darrell Dean and I will be in another this Memorial Day for the General Clinton Canoe Regatta this Memorial Day. If you are looking for something to do, come to Bainbridge for a great festival with some of the best BBQ I've tasted at the finish line.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What is Preaching?

This is pretty much our (Anne's and my own) understanding of preaching at Good Shepherd. Of course we don't get to preach as long as we would in a non-liturgical church, but the goal and purpose is the same even though we rarely meet it.

You can read John Piper's explanation of preaching here:
Preaching Is Expository

Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all 66 books of it.

The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Every sermon should explain the Bible and then apply it to people's lives.

The preacher should do that in a way that enables you to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will end up resting on a man and not on God's word.

The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest biblical truth that will

* make your spiritual bones more like steel,
* double the capacity of your spiritual lungs,
* make the eyes of your heart dazzled with the brightness of the glory of God,
* and awaken the capacity of your soul for kinds of spiritual enjoyment you didn’t even know existed. more

Monday, May 18, 2009

Systematic Theology: Theism (class 2)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Download "Systematic Theology: Theism (class 2)" in MP3 format

Completion of Class do human beings recieve and understand God's self disclosure in Natural and Special Revelation?

Human Endowments: “Neither the outer nor the inner world would disclose anything of God without the unique endowments of man.” (42)

The endowments of humanity are of two kinds: Mental and Spiritual:

  1. Mental Endowments: Reason: “by reason we mean not simply man's logical powers or his ability to reason but his cognitive powers, --his ability to perceive, compare, judge, and organize.” (43). Reason is:

    The organ or capacity for knowing truth

      a. Intuitive Reason: furnishes us with the primary ideas of: Space, time, cause, substance, design, right, and God which are the conditions of all subsequent knowledge.

      b. Apprehensive Reason: takes in the facts presented by intuitive reason and seeks to understand them.

  1. The judge of credibility: It is the office of reason to declare whether a representation is credible.

      a. “Nothing is incredible but the impossible. A thing may be strange, unaccountable, unintelligent, and yet perfectly credible. Unless we are willing to believe the incomprehensible we can believe nothing.

      b. That which is impossible involves a contradiction.

  1. The judge of evidence: Since faith involves assent, and assent is conviction produced by evidence, it follows that faith without evidence is irrational or impossible.

    Reason must examine evidence of revelation. Is it adequate? Is it appropriate to the thing being asserted? Are the records genuine or fake?

IV. Organization of facts: Reason organizes data presented to our minds into a system so that we can apply them and use them.

Spiritual endowment: That part of humanity designed for relationship with God.

All men have the intuitive capacity to know that God is and that he is to be worshiped and obeyed.

  1. This does not mean that all have access to universal fellowship with him—only that there is universal intuitive awareness of him.

  2. The believer's spirit alone is able to enter into a real and personal relationship with God.

Lecture Notes

Introduction to Systematic Theology

Class 2: Introduction to Theism

(From Theissen's Lectures in Systematic Theology)

Theism: Four Possible Definitions:

    1. The belief in a supernatural being or beings as opposed to atheism

    2. The belief in One supernatural being (impersonal or personal) as opposed to atheism, polytheism, henotheism. This would include Deists, Pantheists, and monotheists.

    3. The belief in One personal God distinct from the cosmos and yet involved within it (transcendant and immanent) as opposed to atheism, polytheism, pantheism and deism)

    4. The belief in one personal God both immanent and transcendant who exists in three personal distinctions, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

Definition 4: This is a type of monotheism but of the trinitarian rather than unitarian form. Christian Theists hold that all other conceptions are false.

1. The Definition of God: God is a general term that has been misused by philosophers and theologians to refer to a number of “ideas” and “concepts” that do not approximate the true God as he has revealed himself in nature and in scripture.

a. Some of these are more useful than others and some have elements of truth, but none are sufficient and all convey some false understandings.

b. Some misuses: Plato: God is the eternal mind—the cause of all good in nature:

Aristotle: the first ground of all being.

Kant: the being who by his understanding and will is the Cause of nature—a being who has all rights and no duties; the moral author of the world.

Hegel: the absolute spirit without consciousness until it becomes conscious in the reasons and thought of man.

2. Biblical names for God: El, El Shaddia, Yahweh, and Adonai

    a. El (Elim, Elohim, Eloah): Generic term for God—like Theos in Greek

    b. El-Shaddai = Satisfier or Almighty

    b. Yahweh: Personal name—covenental name: “To Be” or “I am”. Theissen does not think this name denotes “self existence”. It does point to his utter independence. “I am who I am”

    c. Yahweh Jireh (provides), Rapha (heals), Nissi (banner), shalom (peace), Raah (Shepherd), Tsidkenu (our Righteousness), Shammah (present), Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts)

    d. Adonai: Lord—pointing to the relationship between a master and a servant or a king and his subjects.

JEDP: Theory that seeks to identify distinct literary sources for the Pentateuch based, in part, on the various names for God—denying mosaic authorship. A more probable explanation for the different names and their uses is that they differ in accordance with the literary context.

3. Theological Formulation of the Definition of God

Can God be defined?: God cannot be defined comprehensively or exhaustively. He is infinite.

He may be defined in a limited way according to what he has revealed of himself and definitions based on his self-revelation can be correct or incorrect. That the definition cannot be “complete” does not mean it is inexact

“We may know a thing correctly as far as we know it, even though we don't know all about it.” (54)

  1. We can set forth the attributes of God as he has revealed them.

We may say that: “God is” and then set about differentiating him from other things that exist.

Continued next week...

Reading assignment for next week (the rest of Theissen's Lectures in Systematic Theology chapter 2--if you've not already read it--and chapter 11 of Grudem's Systematic Theology)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday Notes

Dear Good Shepherd,

Good morning and happy Thursday. I've got a terrible cold thanks to our two youngest children who don't know how to not sneeze on other people yet, so my mind is a bit clouded by cold medicine but I'll do my best.

Good Shepherd Calendar: If you've ever felt out of the loop at Good Shepherd, take a look at the online Good Shepherd calendar here. I've already uploaded all the regular activities, upcoming events like the BBQ, the picnic and the parish festival. And, with some help from Cookie, I've uploaded the duty roster for May, am working on the roster for June and July. We've also entered the cooking schedule for the Men's Bible Study and Breakfast.

The calendar is a living thing and it will be updated daily/weekly so save it on your favorites menu and check it often especially if you've volunteered for any kind of ministry at Good Shepherd

BBQ and work day: I mentioned the BBQ--that will take place next Saturday (the 23rd of May) and along with it, will be a parish work/cleaning day. Please come enjoy some great BBQ and help keep your church clean.

Parish Picnic: The annual Good Shepherd Picnic is coming up on Sunday June 7th at Cole Park at shelter #1. The worship service will start at 11:00pm at the park and then we'll start up the grills. There is a baseball diamond and a playground out there so there will be lots for kids to do. Please bring guests! For those who cannot go, there will be an 8:00am service at the church.

Systematic Theology Course: There was a great turnout last Saturday for the first class which was an overview of Natural and Special revelation. This Saturday we'll begin a deeper and closer look at arguments for God's existence and the nature and character of God. Should be a great discussion. Here is the audio from last week's class and the notes.

Podcast sermon: Last week's sermon podcast is here. This week's sermon will focus on Jesus' appearance to Thomas and the place of doubt in the Christian life.

Neighborhood Festival: Don't forget to invite friends and neigbors to the festival at Good Shepherd on Saturday June 13th. I'm looking for volunteers to start going door to door with flyers in early June, so please call me and let me know if you would like to volunteer.

Sunday Morning Adult Education: The Christ and Culture series is winding down. This Sunday will be the final class in the series. So I'll be planning a new one to start on May 24th. I have an idea of my own, but please feel free to make suggestions or provide any ideas for the next series.

Prayer Meeting: Last year a group of us met every wednesday for about two months to pray for God's protection and blessing for Good Shepherd. God certainly heard our prayers. Now that we are a bit more settled, we'll be starting these meetings again for a period of two months. We'll meet beginning next Tuesday at 6pm in the chapel. We will not meet on the Wednesdays set aside for vestry meetings.

Anne's Dad is Ordained an Anglican priest: the Rev. Dr. Robert Carlson was ordained a priest by Archbishop Nzimbi at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi Kenya last Sunday. Anne has the story and some pictures here. Dr. Carlson will be here at Good Shepherd on June 14th.

Open Office Hours: We've restarted open office hours from 9am to 1pm Tuesday through Thursday every week. You are invited to come by without an appointment during those times.

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Charles and Ray are scheduled to cook. The study and the meal begins at 6:30am. see the parish calendar for details.

There will be Beginner's Bible Study tonight at Conklin avenue Baptist church. See the parish calendar.

Youth Update from Micah:
I will be working on an activity schedule for the whole summer. If you have any ideas for youth activities, give me a holler. I will be handing it out in a week or two. Parents, let me know when you will be in/out of town. It's very important that we all get on the same page. In the meantime, Junior High will be meeting regular time, Sunday, 1-3; Senior High, 6-8.

This week's youth tip: Don't make promises you can't keep. As Youth Leader, I can admit right up front that I have failed in this regard and have learned the hard way that it takes time to rebuild trust. It's especially hard for kids to deal with unkept promises, because they are typically unable to do anything about it. For example, if you promise to take them somewhere, then cancel last minute, all their preparations (mental and actual) have been all for naught. They can't simply decide to go on their own anyhow. By the same token, make sure your own kids keep their promises as well--to you, to their youth group!, to school. Don't let them overcommit to the point where they are unable to follow through.
That's it for now.

In Christ,

Alistair Begg on Christ and Culture

Here is an excellent sermon by Alistair Begg that will be a must hear for those who have been in the Christ and Culture class on Sunday morning. Pastor Begg deals cultural engagement through the lens of Christian servanthood...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Good Shepherd Google Calendar

We've been working on an online community calendar for Good Shepherd and we're ready to roll it out. I was going to send an invitation to everyone on the Good Shepherd email list, but the google calendar function does not have a "bcc" category, so I thought it best to just post it here on the blog. From here,I believe you can click on the little google logo and then save it on your favorites list so you can look at it any time you want.

This is a really great tool and it allows for a lot of detailed information. If, for example, you click on any of the "Mens' Breakfast and Bible Study" links between May and mid-July you will find the name of the cook(s) signed up for that day.

In the coming days we'll be adding ministry schedules, duty rosters, and more events. It's a living sort of thing, so expect to see changes and more detail as time goes on.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Systematic Theology: Natural and Special Revelation (class 1)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Download "Systematic Theology: Natural and Special Revelation (class 1)" in MP3 format

Class Notes:

Lecture Notes

Introduction to Systematic Theology

Class 1: Revelation

(taken From Theissen's Lectures in Systematic Theology chapter 1)

1. I. Revelation: “The act of God whereby he discloses himself or communicates truth to the mind; whereby he makes manifest to his creatures that which could not be known in any other way”(31)

2. Revelation can be immediate and direct or long-term through second causes.

3. There are two kinds of revelation: Natural Revelation and Special Revelation.

II. Natural Revelation (32):

    1. Is revelation communicated through the media of natural phenomena occurring in nature or the course of history.

    2. Is addressed to all intelligent creatures generally and accessible to all

    3. Has as its object or purpose the supplying of the natural need of the human person and the persuasion of the soul to seek after the true God.

III. Revelation of God in Nature:

  1. The works of God tell us primarily about the divine essence and nature of the Worker

  2. God reveals himself in nature in order to incite human beings to search for the a fuller revelation of God.

  3. The revelation of God in nature is a universal call to all human beings

  4. The sufficiency of Natural Revelation?

      a. sufficient so as to leave human beings without excuse

      b. insufficient to bring about salvation.

IV Revelation of God in History:

  1. World History: God reveals his power and providence—establishing civilization through Adam and Eve, raising and destroying nations and kingdoms.

  2. The redemptive history of Israel: From Abraham to Christ--is intended as a showcase of God's personal nature and the standing of humanity before him:

    a. Israel came to recognize God as Almighty, Faithful, Holy, Just, Loving, Merciful, and Gracious.

    b. They came to know humanity as fallen, in need of atonement, rebellious insufficient.

    c. God's treatment of the Nation: Promise, discipline, favor, protection, providence.

V. Revelation of God in Conscience:

  1. Conscience: “Is discriminative and impulsive. It judges whether a proposed course of action or an attitude is in harmony with our moral standard or not and urges us to do that which is in harmony with it and to refrain from that which is contrary to it. It is the presence of this sense of right and wrong, of this discriminative and impulsive something that constitutes the revelation of God. It is not self imposed, as is evident from the fact that man would often rid himself of its deliverances if he could. It is the reflection of God in the soul.”(34-35)

  1. What does Conscience reveal: It reveals not only the existence of God but his personal character.

    a. It reveals that there is a law that is in us and external to us at the same time

    b. It reveals that there is a lawgiver

    c. He sharply distinguishes what is right from what is wrong.

    d. He always does the right

    e. He always punishes the wrong

    f. He will hold us responsible for our actions

    g. He is the supreme lawgiver who embodies the Law in his own person and conduct.

    h. Lake and the moon analogy

2. I. Special Revelation: “Those acts of God whereby he makes himself and his truth known at special times and to specific peoples.”

2. Although given at special times and to specific peoples, the revelation is not necessarily intended for that time and people only. It is almost always intended to be shared and proclaimed.

3. It comes to us in five ways: 1. Miracles, 2. Prophesies, 3. in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ 4. in the scriptures, and 5. in personal experience.

  1. The Revelation of God in Miracles:

    1. Definition of Miracle: “An unusual event, not the product of natural laws or processes, accomplishing some useful work revealing the presence and power of God.”

    2. Two types of Miracles: 1. Natural Laws and processes are intinsified or augmented. 2. and those in which the “participation of nature is excluded (budding of Aaron's staff etc...)

    3. Purpose of a genuine miracle: A genuine miracle accomplishes some practical and benevolent work.

    4. Effect of miracles: They prove God's existence, presence, concern and power.

    5. Proof of miracles rests on testimony of eye-witnesses.

  1. Revelation of God in Prophecy:

    1. Prophecy: “The foretelling of events not by virtue of mere human insight or prescience, but by virtue of a direct communication from God.” (38)

  1. Measure of true prophesy: 1. Unambiguous 2. whether what is said comes true. 3.Whether what is said is consistent with what has already been revealed.

IV: The revelation of God in Jesus Christ:

Supreme Revelation:
Natural Revelation, Miracle, and Prophesy, did not succeed in leading Israel to a true understanding of God's nature and character and will. So the Father sent the Son, Jesus Christ, as the fullest revelation of himself. Jesus Christ is the center of history and revelation. To see Jesus is to see the Father. He is the supreme revelation.

VI The Revelation of God in Scripture:

1. Scripture:
In the bible we have the clearest and only inerrant revelation communicated by fallen human beings.(41)
  1. The bible is not one revelation among others, it is the revelation through which we know the others. It is the embodiment of them.

The bible, “records the knowledge of God and his dealings with the creature which men of old gathered from nature, history, and conscience as also from miracles, prophecy, the Lord Jesus Christ, and inner experience and divine instruction. The Christian therefore turns to the scriptures as the supreme and only infallible source for the construction of his theology.” (41)

VI. The Revelation of God in human experience:

  1. Revelatory Experience: the sense of direct communication and/or fellowship with God not simply through nature, history, or conscience; not by way of miracle or prophecy, but personal experience.

  2. Experience of God is transformative—making people more like the God with whom they have communion.

  3. Experience and Scripture: The revelation of God through personal experience is the primary source from which came the inspiration that produced holy scripture.

  4. Experience perfected: In those particular cases, the Holy Spirit had them infallibly recorded in the books of the Old and New Testaments

Monday, May 11, 2009

Harmonizing the Resurrection Accounts Part 5: Disciples becoming Apostles

by Matt Kennedy

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Texts: Luke 24; John 20; 1st Corinthians 15

Download "Harmonizing the Resurrection Part 5: Disciples becoming Apostles" in MP3 format


We left off last week on the evening of Easter day, about 9pm, in a locked room with ten disciples, the two from Emmaus, the women, and, probably, a small number of other followers.

Jesus has suddenly appeared in the room. He shows his hands, feet, and sides to the disciples. He lets them touch him. And, Luke says, he eats some broiled fish (42-43) . All of this touching and eating establishes two very important truths: 1 the physicality, the fleshiness, of Jesus' resurrected body and 2. that Jesus' resurrection body is the very same body in which he died.

The physicality is obvious but how do we know that his risen body is the same one in which he died? He bears the scars of his crucifixion.

His body has been changed. Paul says in 1 Cor 15:42, that the body dies perishable and rises imperishable—a body capable of death is remade into a body that cannot die. And this imperishable body, though changed, retains the ability to eat and enjoy food.

In fact Jesus' seems capable of doing all of the things that human beings were originally intended and created to do—to eat, to work, to taste, smell, touch, see, and hear—to fully experience God's creation uninhibited by physical illness or deficiency. Jesus' risen body is like Adam's body before the fall. The only difference is that Adam and Eve were not immortal by nature, they were immortal because they were in communion with God, with Christ, with the Tree of Life. But Jesus' body at the resurrection “cannot die”, It's is not merely a return to the pre-fall body, it is a transformation of human nature altogether—the resurrection body of Christ is a new thing.

Listen as I read 1st Corinthians 15:46-49:

“As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”(46-49)

Our bodies will be like his body. You'll always have the same body you have now but it'll be changed from mortality to immortality, from perishable but imperishable. All the ravages of sickness, age, anything that smacks of death or decay will be gone—and you'll be able to do the things that you do now—eat, drink, smell, see, feel, touch—but with perfect unimpaired senses.

So Jesus' shows his body to the disciples and John says that they're overjoyed(20:20).

Moving back and forth between John and Luke we get a good picture of what happens. We'll pick up in Luke 24:44 and in John 20:21. Let's look at John first. The disciples are still in a state of stunned awe and so Jesus says again, “ 21 "Peace be with you!”. They quiet down and, turning to Luke, he says: “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." All this was foretold. The prophets and Moses told these things to you long ago. And not only that...told them to you this last week. Listen to Matthew 20:17-19

“Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"

That was maybe a few days before entering Jerusalem.

If you're looking for something to do this afternoon, go back through the gospels and count the times that Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection. They never got it. They only get it now as he stands in front of them and “opens their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”(45) I'm not sure whether Luke means that they had a bible study or whether he means that what Jesus taught them before suddenly made sense, but one way or the other, they get I and they get it because Jesus opens their minds. Jesus interprets for his followers the Words he inspired in the prophets. He did it personally in the upper room he does it through the Holy Spirit for us. People without the Spirit can read and understand intellectually what is written, but apart from Jesus a lot of it just makes no sense. Now it begins to make sense for the disciples "This is what is written,” he says, “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”(46)

The resurrection appearances are jolting, profound, unforgettable experiences. Jesus wants his disciples to nail it down to scripture, to understand the resurrection in light of the Word of God. When spiritual experience is divorced from scripture people get whacked out ideas about God. That's how cults get started, people wrench their experiences of God out of the context of God's own self-revelation.

Okay, so Jesus says “this is what I told you” this is what Moses and the prophets told you. I had to die and rise. What else do the prophets say? “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem ”(47) The Old Testament is replete with promises that the kingdom of God will one day extend beyond ethnic Israel—that God will extend his kingdom to Gentiles and they will come under his sway—the nations of the world will seek the God of the Jews. That time, Jesus says, is here and it is now.

Turn to John 20:22. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (22) Up until now the disciples have been disciples, followers, learners, apprentices, trainees, that continues, but now they're being sent. The word apostle comes from the Greek word appostelein which is “to send off”. But the word “apostle” has more to it—it means one who is sent “with a message.” The disciples are now apostles. Their apostleship, says Jesus, is like his own apostleship. Jesus was sent from the Father to reveal God to humanity and call the world to repent and trust in him. Jesus was his own message. He was also sent with a mission--to do the works necessary to save sinners--to live a perfectly righteous life and die an atoning death.

The disciples are now being sent as apostles to tell the world that he did it. That the mission has been accomplished. It's important to point out here that the message that Christ's death, reconciles sinners to God and brings forgiveness of sins would never have gone out had the disciples not seen and known Jesus to be alive. The only way they could know that the death of Jesus atoned for the sins of the world is because of the resurrection. Without the resurrection we just have a dead Jewish guy. Without the resurrection we have a bunch of scared, despairing, guys in a room looking for a way to escape.

The message of the cross without the resurrection is a message of a terrible tragic unjust bitter death and there would be no reason or basis for assuming that it had any meaning whatsoever. That Jesus is alive means that sin has been dealt with and because sin has been dealt with death has been destroyed. That's why the apostles led with it in their preaching. “This Jesus whom you crucified is risen from the dead, repent and believe and be baptized.” That was the message from the very beginning and it is the same message we are charged to proclaim today. “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” Don't miss that in verse 47. Repentance and forgiveness is proclaimed in the name of Jesus. There were other religions, then as there are now, but those names do not bring forgiveness and cannot save.

Now Jesus has just said, as the Father has sent me so I am sending you, it's important to compare John 20:22-23 with Luke 24:48-49. John says:

“And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

In Luke Jesus continues:

“48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

What tension do you see in these two texts? In Luke Jesus says, stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father, wait until you are clothed from on high. What is Jesus referring too? The Holy Spirit. But in John Jesus breathes on them and says “receive the Holy Spirit.” So it doesn't seem to make sense. Why would Jesus tell them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for Holy Spirit and give them the Holy Spirit at the same time. That's one problem. The other problem comes when you compare Jesus command in Luke 49 with the angels' commands in Matthew and Mark. Where do the angels tell the women to tell the disciples to go? Galilee. So how are the disciples supposed both to stay in Jerusalem and go to Galilee?

Let's take that last problem first. The Greek word that Jesus uses in Luke 24:49 for stay is καθίσατε it's an aorist imperative. There's no real way to translate the aorist tense into English. What we can say is that when it's used in the imperative or commanding tense, the focus is not on the time but the action itself. The word καθίσατε means more than stay. It means “make your abode” make Jerusalem your home. So putting all of this together, Jesus tells his disciples to make Jerusalem home until the coming of the Spirit. He's not commanding them not to leave at all—he' just saying Jerusalem is the center. The gospel will be preached first from Jerusalem when the Spirit comes.

But what about the Spirit. It's important here to make a distinction between the activity of the Holy Spirit before and after Pentecost. How does the Spirit interact with the people of God prior to Pentecost? He comes on them for a set purpose for a set period. The Spirit fills the prophets to prophesy. The Spirit comes on Elijah and Elisha so they can heal and work miracles. What the Spirit does not do is dwell in and live in hearts. That happens first at Pentecost

Now remember that the disciples are in duress and distress. Jesus, I think breathes on them to fill them with the Spirit—to bring peace--to help them overcome their fear and anxiety in light of the dangerous mission he's just given them. This is not an indwelling, but a filling.

I'll stop here, but to give you a bit of a preview for next week, remember that Thomas is not present. What does that mean he misses...he misses this infilling of the Spirit. I think a lot of what happens next can be understood in light of his not receiving this filling of the Spirit



Friday, May 8, 2009

An old Mother's Day sermon

Sermon by The Rev. Matt Kennedy
Mother’s Day 2007
The Church of the Good Shepherd

I was born when men weren’t permitted in the delivery room. But now it’s standard for dads to be there the whole time. I remember, before Emma was born, how much I dreaded the idea of the delivery room. And still, we’re on our 4th kid, I’m not the kind of guy who wants to video-tape the event. I wish a doctor would come along and say, “Mr. Kennedy, its time for you to go smoke cigars with your friends and watch TV in the waiting room” because it takes a lot of pain and suffering to bring a baby into the world. Anne has a tough time of it too. Rowan was born in July of last year and we were planning to use whatever drugs were necessary during the delivery. But by the third baby, things go faster than they do the first time around and there’s a much smaller window to get an epidural if you want one. The nurse missed the window. I remember how horrified I was that Anne was going to have to give birth naturally, but she was calm. Her face was set. She was ready to do what needed to be done. And she did. I almost didn’t make it. She was fine.

Now that I’ve been through it a few times, I can see that it’s a good thing to be there. Men need to see what women go through to bring babies into the world. We can talk a big talk about how much we sweat to provide and protect, and we do, but while we’re sticking out our chests we can overlook what a mother does and what a mother goes through during pregnancy, birth, and throughout the process of raising kids. We don’t really have to deal with things until the baby comes out and even then, well, I don’t think my dad changed a diaper in his life. But even before the suffering of birth, a mom has already carried her baby in her body for 9 months and then for at least the first year or years, she’s the primary caretaker and there’s a bond that is formed in this period that we, as men, can observe but never really understand. And that bond continues throughout the life of the child even to adulthood. The mother in some sense always bears her children. It’s not just a one time event.

In the Update this week I mentioned the way Anne responds a lot differently to Rowan crying than I do. Sometimes at night we let him cry it out so that he’ll learn to soothe himself, they say to do this at about 6 months, but often I have to hold Anne back. It’s easy for me to ignore the crying and go back to sleep. Anne can’t do that. Her mom and mine can’t either. When we have the grandparents over, both grandpas sleep right through the screams but the grandmas are up and in the nursery sometimes before Anne can get there. I read this week that Cornell funded a study of male and female responses to crying babies. Women, they found, mothers or not, responded almost immediately to a crying infant and with far more demonstrable concern than the males. Men were uniformly slower. Some didn’t even respond at all and pretended not to hear.

I don’t want to draw any grand conclusions from this study or from my own observations. There are mothers who are less nurturing and fathers who are more so, but I think in general we can say that there’s something unique about the love of a mother for her children and I think that uniqueness has a purpose. God designed the human family, bringing male and female together in an intimate way and created the reproductive system in such a way that a human mom has a 9 month period with a little baby in her womb and then afterwards, before there was formula, babies needed years of direct nourishment from their mom before making on their own. God did this for a reason. He could have done it another way but he didn’t.

In fact, I heard an evolutionary biologist argue against the existence of God on the grounds that the way we human beings reproduce and raise our young is utterly inefficient; all of this time and effort and energy wasted on nurturing babies could be used in finding food and this inefficiency calls into question the “intelligence” of the design. The argument assumes that God is like an engineer interested in efficiency and mechanics. But the bible reveals a Personal God who loves his creatures and is concerned with making his love manifest. God went out of his way to design family relationships and he specifically designed mothers to be the physical or bodily bearer and nurturer of children and made it so that this bearing would create a bond that everyone would notice because we all have moms. When we see things like this in nature, as Christians we should always ask. Why is it there? We believe in an intelligent Creator. These things are not accidents. There’s a reason for mother-child relationships. And turning to scripture we find the answer.

The bible is full of mother imagery when it describes the love God has for his people. Take this passage from Isaiah.

“But Zion said, ‘the Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me…” (Isaiah 49:15-16)

The care and nurture and concern that that God has for you and for me, in whatever circumstance, is like that of a nursing mother for her child. You may feel alone and abandoned by God, but that feeling never reflects the truth. He could no more forget you than a mother can forget her child.

The bible also uses mother-love to describe the way God comforts. When you’re hurt or afraid or worried, the bible says to cry out to God just as you once cried out to your mother. And God promises in Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”

When the kids get hurt they don’t run to me. My response to Aedan is “man up.” Stop crying. He goes to Anne. When I was a kid and got a bruised knee or bloody nose, I went to my mom. She’d pick me up and hug me and make things better. As I grew and went through getting dumped by girlfriends or failing in sports or losing friends my mom was there to comfort me. It’s still that way. I’ll tell her about something that’s bothering me and two weeks later I’ll find out that she’s been fretting over and praying for me. That’s what moms do. They fret over you. They hover over you. They can’t help it. Your mom loved you before you were born. She loved you and nurtured you from the moment you were conceived. Nothing can separate you from her love.

There’s nothing that you can do, nowhere you can go, no amount of disappointment or sin or rebellion or sadness or despair or pain or suffering can ever separate you from the love of your mother and in that way your mom is a living picture of Christ. Listen to Paul in Romans chapter 8:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?..No…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When Jesus comes to Jerusalem and stands looking over the city full people who will reject him and kill him, he says:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Luke 13:34)

Jesus longs to gather us together as a mother hen does her chicks.

When adult children rebel and wreck their lives with drugs or alcohol or immorality, the mothers I know long to gather them up and bring them home. That longing is not weak or wimpy. It’s based on, reflects, and flows out of the longing that Jesus has for believers, his children, who fall away and reject him and sin against him. It’s a sacrificial longing, forged in the delivery room and steely enough to bear to the cross.

Mothers were created and formed to reflect or make manifest God’s love for his children. For mothers and for women in general, your capacity to bear and nurture children makes you a living picture of Christ’s sacrificial love to your kids and to the world. The question to ask yourself daily is: Am I a true picture of Christ’s love or a distorted one?

The most common way women can distort the image of Christ’s love not through any failure to love but by manifesting that love in a harmful way. Mother-love is powerful. Sometimes women confuse love with indulgence, fail to establish boundaries, and let children get away with anything and everything. Love without boundaries isn’t love. Kids need rules and boundaries. They need discipline. Children without discipline learn no one has authority over them. They get an attitude they carry with them throughout life and this attitude does them great harm. They lose jobs, friends, and often lack self-control. Children need loving discipline. This is one reason God set mothers within the context of families headed by fathers and when it comes to discipline, moms generally need to listen to dads in the same way that dads need to listen to moms when it comes to nurture and love. Love without discipline spoils. Discipline without love hardens. Mothers need fathers and fathers need mothers. Children need both.

Father’s there’s a real challenge here for you. It’s easy for kids to manipulate and disrespect their mom because she always wants to see the best. They know that. When they get away with it, Christ’s love reflected in the mother, comes off as cheap or weak. That’s not her fault. It’s yours. She has the mother bond and can be blinded by it. That’s one reason you’re there. There should be zero tolerance for disrespect or manipulation. And that means not only enforcing respect for mom but modeling it. If your kids, especially your sons, see you mistreating, manipulating, disrespecting their mom, don’t be surprised when they do the same. If you honor your wife and show her love and respect and give no tolerance for anyone doing otherwise, they’ll follow your example.

The 5th commandment still stands. Honor your mother and your father. Today especially we honor moms and in doing so we bring glory and honor to God who has given moms to the world in order to show us what his love is like....


Here is the link to this week's Update

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thursday Notes

Dear Good Shepherd

Happy Thursday...there's a lot going on this weekend at Good Shepherd so read carefully...

Saying Good-bye: Four of our BU students will be graduating and/or moving from BU after this semester. And many other students who are not staying through the summer will worship at Good Shepherd for the last time until next Fall this coming Sunday. The four graduating/moving/transferring students are: Christina Lam, Florence Luong, Jason Han and Keren Wong. We will miss them greatly and send them out this Sunday with prayers and our blessing. Please be there to say good bye.

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Joe Barham is cooking tomorrow for the Men's Breakfast and Bible Study at 6:30am. Here, also, is the enti

Sermon Podcast: Here is the sermon from last week. It was part four in our current series on the Resurrection appearances. This week we'll be looking at the first meeting between Jesus and his disciples after the resurrection and his appearance to Thomas. If you want to study in advance...take a look at Luke 24 and John 20

Summer: It's time to start gearing up for mission and ministry this Summer. God has set us down in a neighborhood for which we are the ONLY church. That is both a huge opportunity and a huge responsibility. The time to start making inroads, meeting friends, establishing relationships is now. The first big event scheduled for that purpose is the Neighborhood Festival on June 13th. We'll be passing out flyers door to door the Saturday before June 13th which is June 6th. There will be more details about this but keep those dates in mind.

Who plans and how to plan events and outreach programs: Someone asked last week how to go about planning events or programs. There are certainly organizations within the congregation, like the Anglican Church Women, that plan and coordinate events and fundraisers, but there is no bar or limitation to your creativity. If you sense God's calling in a certain direction and are willing and able to put together the plan, the resources and the people, please do not hesitate to call me up and let me know your idea and how you think it could work and I can probably help you connect with people and get started.

Open Office Hours: Before we moved I used to have open office hours between 9am and 1pm Tuesday thru Thursday. During those times everyone was invited to come by for any reason without an appointment. Of course, if you wanted to come by at another time that was fine too, but it was best to call first in case I had something else scheduled. I tried to clear my schedule for open office hours.

Now that things have (kind of) settled down, I'm going to begin open office again hours next week...this will hopefully make it easier for people taking the Systematic Theology Course to come by and discuss any questions that are raised in class or in the readings.

Systematic Theology begins this Saturday at 3:30pm. I hated setting the time because I knew that some would be unable to take the course in the afternoon...but I would have lost more if I made it in the morning. I will be podcasting for those who want to make the classes but just can't.

There are three texts we'll be using. The first I've already pointed out to you: Alistair McGrath's Introduction to Theology. The second is Wayne Grudem's "Systematic Theology" and the third is from H.C. Theissen's "Lectures in Systematic Theology". You do not need to buy any of these because I'll be providing handouts. But if you choose to purchase any of them, I would purchase one of the first two (McGrath and/or Grudem) because we'll be using them most.

Website: The main website is down and has been for a day because the server went down. It should be up today or tomorrow.

Women's Bible Study: The Women's Bible Study will be in chapter 8 of Isaiah this week.

Thursday Night Bible Study: We'll be meeting this evening at 6:30pm as usual. We're in the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.

Weekly Article: In case you missed it, I wrote an article on the role of the Church with regard to secular marriage laws.

BBQ: There will be a chicken BBQ on Saturday May 23rd at the church. We don't have many details yet but keep checking this page for more.

Neighborhood Festival: On Saturday June 13th Good Shepherd will host a party for the entire community. There will be ice cream, pony rides (hopefully), face painting, food, music, demonstrations and free health screening and much more. Please mark your calendars and tell your friends...

Well, that's all I can think of for now

In Christ,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How John Piper Studies the Bible

Three Brief Notes

Dear Good Shepherd,

Just three notes this morning:

1. Open Office Hours: Before we moved I used to have open office hours between 9am and 1pm Tuesday thru Thursday. During those times everyone was invited to come by for any reason without an appointment. Of course, if you wanted to come by at another time that was fine too, but it was best to call first in case I had something else scheduled. I tried to clear my schedule for open office hours.

Now that things have (kind of) settled down, I'm going to begin open office again hours next week...this will hopefully make it easier for people taking the Systematic Theology Course to come by and discuss any questions that are raised in class or in the readings.

2. Systematic Theology begins this Saturday at 3:30pm. I hated setting the time because I knew that some would be unable to take the course in the afternoon...but I would have lost more if I made it in the morning. I will be podcasting for those who want to make the classes but just can't.

There are three texts we'll be using. The first I've already pointed out to you: Alistair McGrath's Introduction to Theology. The second is Wayne Grudem's "Systematic Theology" and the third is from H.C. Theissen's "Lectures in Systematic Theology". You do not need to buy any of these because I'll be providing handouts. But if you choose to purchase any of them, I would purchase one of the first two (McGrath and/or Grudem) because we'll be using them most.

3. Website: The main website is down and has been for a day because the server went down. It should be up today or tomorrow.

In Christ,

Why Christians should care about secular marriage laws?

Some have asked about the current push to legally recognize homosexual unions as "marriages" in New York State. I addressed question recently on Stand Firm in the following article:

Governor Patterson recently threw his influence behind the movement to expand the definition of marriage in New York State to include same sex relationships.

I've had a number of conversations with Christians who are deeply committed to defending the doctrine of marriage within the church but who are hesitant to take a similar stands when it comes to secular legislation.

The reasons cited for this hesitancy range from worry about the social cost which inevitably results from such a stand—identification with the “religious right” and political conservatism—to fear that outspokenness about “gay marriage” legislation might make gay “seekers” less eager to “seek”.

One of the most common and curious reasons I've heard expressed centers on the perceived separation between church and state. The state is “secular”, meaning, it is assumed, that it is not subject to what are after-all, “religious,” principles. The church, on the other hand, is obliged to remain faithful to her own “religious” claims. To oppose gay marriage legislation is to cross the two streams, to muddy the clear distinction between religion and government, to expect the government—to expect the world to look like the Church. How can Christians expect people who do not believe in Jesus Christ to conform their laws and culture to him?

Some suggest that support for this passive position can be found in the writings of St. Paul who, in the context of church discipline, writes in 1st Corinthians 5:12-13
“ For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Paul points to a distinction between the standards to which Christians must be held accountable and those we expect to find in the world. Because believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Christians are to seek personal holiness and the holiness of the Church through the Spirit's sanctifying power. But those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, do not have the Holy Spirit, have not committed to follow and obey Jesus as Lord, and thus cannot and ought not be expected to live as if they have.

It's an important principle, guarding against hypocrisy. Its easy, and a lot more fun, to point out the evils of the world and a lot more difficult to identify our own personal sins and the sins of our congregations church.

And it is also true that the Church is charged with tasks that “secular” governments ought not to perform. The church makes disciples of all nations, teaches the bible, proclaims the gospel, celebrates the sacraments, provides conviction, comfort, and nourishment to believers in Jesus Christ. These are all tasks God has given uniquely to his Church.

But to agree that the church has been given a unique mission that cannot be co-opted by the state and to agree that those who are not “in Christ” are not subject to the discipline of the church or the moral standards expected of Christians is not to agree that the state is utterly godless—that it bears no responsibility under heaven...that there are no common, universal standards or principles which the government, by dint of being “created” and “instituted” is obligated to observe and protect.

The question here is not so much that of the distinction between “Church” and “State” but between God and his Creation. What responsibilities, if any, have human governments been given by the Creator?. Are there principles and practices that all human governments are called to establish, protect and observe?

In his Epistle to the Romans St. Paul writes that “government” is a gracious gift from God.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1-4)
The divinely given purpose of government according to Paul is to reward and protect the good and punish evil—to be the vehicle of God's wrath against injustice. God graciously gives the “sword” to human governments and governors as a check on human sin, as a safeguard to keep humanity from Hobbs' nightmarish “nasty brutish and short” type of existence into which, given our nature, we would otherwise necessarily fall.

But what does it mean to “reward the good” and “punish evil”, how are good and evil defined?

The “good” is fully revealed and defined in Jesus Christ but this is not to say that those outside of Christ do not know, intellectually speaking, what is “good”. Paul's indictment of humanity in Romans 1:18-3:20 in fact assumes that everyone, Jew and Gentile, knows of God's existence and what is owed to him; that human beings universally grasp God's law—to the extent that there can be no pleading ignorance—because it is written on the tablet of every heart. The problem, according to Paul, is not that we do not know God or his law—God himself has set these things in our hearts and before our eyes—but that we willfully suppress and reject what know to be good.

And yet, despite humanity's failure to observe it, preserving and defending this generally revealed “good” is, according to St. Paul, the purpose for which God created and instituted human government, vesting it with the power of the sword.

The question then becomes, how do we know those universal principles governments are to protect and preserve? There are, as we all know, basic “goods” grasped and held universally—human life, property ownership, care for babies and the elderly, etc. But because the apprehension of these values and their application in various cultural contexts is varied and inconsistent, it's probably not a good idea to ground our understanding of the goods governments must protect in principles discovered through the study of laws and norms around the world.

There were, however, certain goods or ordinances established by God at creation that have been revealed to humanity in scripture—in particular those ordinances revealed in Genesis 1 and 2 that existed prior to the fall. Creation ordinances are not specific to Christians or limited to those who believe that the bible is authoritative—they are common goods all human beings, as created beings, are responsible to observe.

Among those creation ordinances we find the institution of marriage.
“The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:20-25)

God “brought the woman” to the man. God “joined” them together. Marriage is not an institution that grew out of civilization—it is not a social “development” or a “construct”. Marriage was instituted by God as the first human community and it subsequently became the ground and basis for all others. The first marriage was also, in some sense, the first human government with Adam serving as the federal head.

Given all of this, it is no small thing for a government to determine to “redefine” marriage. Such a redefinition is not simply an act of defiance against the Creator, it undermines the God-established heart and core of human community.

It is true that the Church cannot be the state and the state cannot be the Church but when a government turns against the principles of her own founding—when it quits its God-given responsibility to uphold and protect the good, then the Church, necessarily, must take up the office of prophet. Not to call the government to follow ecclesial rules or fill the ecclesial role but because the government has stopped being and doing what the government was established by God to be and do. The church does not expect the state to be the church but it must call the state to be the state.