April 4, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.’ And again, ‘I will put my trust in him.’ And again, ‘Behold, I and the children God has given me.’ Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:10-18
Good Friday is an occasion to remember the death and suffering of Christ—the height of his atoning work, whereby he makes an end to our sin and reconciles us to God. Yet the atoning work of Christ does not begin and end on Good Friday. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, Jesus had to be made like us in every way—taking upon himself not only our death, but the whole of the curse of God, of which death is merely the climax.
When the judgment of God fell upon Adam and Eve in the Garden, we were doomed to more than simply breathing our last. Sin brought with it a curse over the whole of human existence. The earth was cursed, and no longer yielded easily to our sovereignty; relational strife marked the most intimate relationships; and new life itself was brought forth in pain—signifying that all of life, from beginning to end, would be lived east of Eden, alienated from the light and life of the love of God.
The sufferings we experience throughout our lives are the birth pangs and forerunners of death, the harbingers of the judgment and curse of God. And so when Christ came to make propitiation for our sins, it was necessary that he drink down to the dregs not just the consummation of the curse of God, but the whole of it. He entered into our sufferings, for our sufferings are part of the divine judgment.
And in this sense, Christ began his work of atonement—he began to drink from the cup of our judgment—the moment he was born.
He drank from the cup of our judgment when he came forth into our world amidst the pain of childbirth.
He drank from the cup of our judgment when he cried as an infant, eyes squeezed shut, afraid because he didn’t know where his mother was.
He drank from the cup of our judgment every time he fell ill as a child.
He drank from the cup of our judgment when he stood and wept over the grave of his father Joseph.
He drank from the cup of our judgment when he, along with his people, felt what it was to live under the uneasy rule of a foreign and unsympathetic
He drank from the cup of our judgment when he experienced the misunderstanding of his kindred and family.
He drank from the cup of our judgment when he felt the rejection of his hometown.
He drank from the cup of our judgment when he experienced the searing pain of the betrayal from one in his inner circle.
He drank from the cup of our judgment when he wept alone in the garden of Gethsemane and lifted earnest prayers to a silent heaven.
He drank from the cup of our judgment when he was unjustly accused, mocked and tortured.
And he drank from the cup of our judgment when he sank beneath the weight of the curse, the grave swallowing him.
The whole of his life was a suffering life, an atoning life, from first to last.
As the author of Hebrews reminds us: “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
He cried as an infant because we cry as infants. He experience sickness and pain because we experience sickness and pain. He wept over the death of loved ones because we weep over the death of loved ones. His prayers went unanswered because our prayers go unanswered.
And on it went. He was not shielded from the sufferings of our life, for our sufferings are the very thing he came to undo. Just as the immortal one made our death his own, so too the perfect one made our sufferings his own. As the prophet Isaiah tells us, he took upon himself our infirmities, our sickness, our chastisement.
Psalm 22 is precious to the church, and it is rightly understood to point prophetically to Christ. The sufferings described therein poignantly capture the sufferings of Christ in his passion. Yet before the Psalm was Christ’s, the Psalm was David’s. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding David’s life that compelled him to write the Psalm. Perhaps he wrote it when he was fleeing from Saul. Or perhaps he wrote it during the rebellion of Absalom. Whatever the case, it was written at a time of great distress, a time when David felt abandoned by God and surrounded by enemies.
And so when Jesus came to make atonement, to unmake the judgment and curse of God, to undo the suffering of David, he picked up David’s cup and drank it down to the bitter end. He poured the Psalm of David into himself, absorbing David’s suffering like a sponge absorbs the sour wine. On the cross when Jesus cried the cry of dereliction, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” he was making David’s pain his own, making our pain his own, making the pain of all who find themselves outside the garden, seemingly forsaken by God, his own. Jesus died because we die, and he suffered because we suffer.
I don’t know what particular places of pain have scarred your life, what burdens of suffering you carry. But I do know that you need not carry them alone. It is no act of merit, no great service to God, to insist on carrying your pain alone. We do not have an unsympathetic high priest, but one who knows and understands our suffering. One who has absorbed the full weight of human pain and sorrow.
Let the voice of the Son of God take up your cry of dereliction. Bring your pain and your sorrow and your suffering and your fear to Jesus. Bring your despair and your betrayal, your hurt and your loss. Pour out your heart to Christ, and he will take your suffering upon himself and carry it forward to a Father who loves you with the very love by which he loves the Son.2 Comments
April 2, 2015 by Matthew Mason
First, last weekend, our friend Peter Leithart spoke at two day conferences on the sacraments, at Emmanuel Evangelical Church in North London. The second was particularly aimed to serve pastors and elders, and I’d hoped to get there, but was struck down with flu. So, I’m grateful the MP3s are online, and look forward to listening at my leisure.
Emmanuel Ministerial Conference 2015 (4 lectures)
Second, Peter Jensen, former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, delivered the 2015 Gaffin Lecture on Theology Culture and Mission—Beginning in Jerusalem: The Theological Significance of the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference. Archbishop Jensen is himself a fine pastor-theologian; he argues, at times very movingly, that the crisis over biblical authority and the biblical gospel in the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the courageous response of orthodox Anglicans around the world, have much to teach Christians of all denominations about how to stand firm and testify to the truth of God’s Word.
Last, the second volume of Oliver O’Donovan’s trilogy Ethics and Theology is out. To whet your appetite, here is a short interview with Professor O’Donovan about the books, and his advice to young theologians.0 Comments
March 23, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
Patrick Lee and Robert George, in their book Conjugal Union: What Marriage Is and Why It Matters (Cambridge University Press, 2014), offer a natural law argument in favor of traditional marriage. In their work, they note the unique “one flesh” biological union that occurs during sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. They write,
“In most actions – digesting, sensing, walking, and so on – individual male or female organisms are complete units. However, with respect to reproduction, the male and the female are incomplete. In reproductive activity – sexual intercourse – the male and the female participate in a single action, coitus, which is biologically oriented to procreation (though not every act of coitus actually reproduces), so that the subject of the action is the male and the female as a unit. Sexual intercourse is a unitary action in which the male and the female complete one another and become biologically one, a single organism with respect to this function (though, of course, not with respect to others). Just as an individual’s different organs – heart, lungs, arteries, and so forth – participate in a single biological function (circulation of oxygen needed to oxygenate blood) that contributes to the good of the system as a whole, and so are biologically united as parts of a whole individual, so too in coitus the male and the female participate in a single biological function performed by the couple as a unit. Coitus establishes a real biological union with respect to this function, although it is, of course, a limited biological union insomuch as for various other functions (e.g., respiration, digestion, locomotion) the male and the female remain fully distinct” (44-45).
In other words, sexual intercourse between a man and a woman actually (not just metaphorically) creates a “one flesh” relationship. The male and female bodies both have organs that are incomplete/not fully-functioning apart from their union with the opposite gendered sexual organ. Together, the male and female sexual organs become a single organism with respect to their full biological potential (i.e., procreation), thus establishing a real bodily union between the man and the woman.
The point that Lee and George will go on to make regarding same-sex marriage is that same sex activity cannot achieve this type of bodily union. As such, their point is not that same-sex marriage should not be permitted, but rather, more simply, that same-sex marriage is not possible (see p 50). If marriage is defined by emotional, spiritual, and bodily union, then only men and women can become “one flesh.” For it is only men and women who can achieve union of bodies through the complementary nature of their respective sexual organs. So for Lee and George, the question is not, “Should we allow same-sex couples to marry?”, as though such a thing were within our power. That would be like asking if we should allow men to give birth. The decision is out of our hands. Nature (God) has already decided what is biologically possible.
All of this runs in the same direction as Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19:1-9. Jesus is asked if it is lawful to divorce one’s wife. Jesus, of course, says no. In his response, he anchors the permanency of marriage in the creation of humanity as “male and female.”“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Note that Jesus doesn’t start with “one flesh” language, but instead goes all the way back to the creation of humanity as male and female. According to Jesus, it is because humanity has been created as male and female that the husband and wife are able to become “one flesh.” And once the man and the woman have been joined together as “one flesh” (a biological union established by God’s creative design), they must not be separated. Thus marriage is constituted by the “one flesh” relationship of sexual union, and this “one flesh” relationship is itself only possible because God has made us as male and female. Following Jesus’ logic on the permanency of marriage, two men or two women can never be joined in marriage because two men or two women cannot physically become “one flesh.”0 Comments
March 20, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
In an open letter to the gay community, Heather Barwick, an adult child of a lesbian couple, offers some remarkable insight about the realities of growing up in a non-traditional family. The punchline of the piece is that gay marriage — at least with respect to children — sends the explicit message that mothers and fathers, as such, are not necessary. Children intuitively know this isn’t true, and the confusion this leaves is painful and long lasting. Heather writes,
Growing up, and even into my 20s, I supported and advocated for gay marriage. It’s only with some time and distance from my childhood that I’m able to reflect on my experiences and recognize the long-term consequences that same-sex parenting had on me. And it’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.
Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter (emphasis mine). That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.
I encourage you to read the whole thing. It’s a very gracious and honest piece.
I have no idea if Heather is a person of faith. But her experience underscores the wisdom of the Christian tradition with respect to gender, marriage, and sexuality. Men and women are not interchangeable; both exist uniquely in the image of God, complementary aspects of the one divine image.
We are often told that gay marriage is a social justice issue. Heather would agree, I suspect. But her experience suggests that the social justice issue relates first and foremost to the children of gay marriages who must carry the pain of a parental structure that not only denies them a mother or a father, but denies them even the space to grieve this loss.
May God be gracious to such children — a Father to the fatherless, a Mother to the motherless.
March 16, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
Generally it makes sense to let one’s theology develop out of sound exegesis. But sometimes we can’t get to the right exegesis until we’ve got the right theological framework.
I’m thinking here of how the disciples struggled to properly exegete Jesus’ comments about the Son of Man “rising from the dead.” The disciples, Mark tells us, “kept this matter to themselves, questioning what this ‘rising from the dead’ might mean.” Well, to their surprise, it actually meant rising from the dead. But Peter, James, and John didn’t have a theological category for a dead messiah. Given their framework, whatever Jesus was saying certainly couldn’t mean literally rising from the dead. To believe that Jesus would literally die was tantamount to believing he wasn’t really the Christ. So they searched for an alternative meaning to Jesus’ statement.
I’ve found it works that way with many of us. Theological battles are often inadequately addressed if addressed only at the exegetical level. If adopting an Arminian position on eternal security necessarily means I have embrace works righteousness, then the Arminian position isn’t an option for me. And if adopting the Augustinian/Calvinist position on unconditional election means I have to think of God as a moral monster, then the Augustinian/Calvinist position isn’t an option for me. The same can be said about a whole host of theological debates. No one will embrace complementarianism if it means embracing misogyny.
I remember the time I was teaching an adult Sunday School class at my church. The topic was election, and the folks in the class knew I held to an Augustinian position. I began by simply reading, without commentary, a number of key passages from Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. I finished and asked the class what they thought. The first response came from a lady who said, “Well I don’t agree with you.” At that point, at least with her, it wasn’t going to matter how much Scripture I could marshal or how deft my exegesis. She didn’t have a category for how God could be a loving, good God, and still ordain unconditional election. At that point, asking her to embrace my position on election was tantamount to asking her to deny that God is love. She didn’t pretend to understand election, but she knew (rightly!) that God is love. And she wasn’t willing to budge on that. And I don’t blame her.
Because of this dynamic, if I’m trying to help move people from one position to another, I tend to teach theologically first, before I get to exegesis. Because until folks have a theological category that allows for the truth I’m trying to advocate, exegesis of the biblical texts will only get one so far. Good theology helps to create the necessary space for sound exegesis. And in turn, sound exegesis confirms that our theology is, in fact, good.
February 27, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
The application process for the CPT’s Third Fellowship is concluded, and I’m excited to introduce the successful applicants below. The CPT’s Third Fellowship pulls together a diverse group of evangelical pastor theologians from across the United States, Canada, and Austria (!) This new fellowship includes representation from the Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Wesleyan, Free church, and Bible church traditions.
At present, all of our Fellowships are at maximum capacity. However, we continue to pool applications in anticipation of future openings. For more information about Fellowship requirements and benefits, see here. For more information about applying to a CPT Fellowship, please contact Gerald Hiestand at ghiestand [at] pastortheologians.com.
Third Fellowship Members
Dr. Paul House (CPT Senior Theological Mentor, Third Fellowship)
PhD in Old Testament, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Professor of Divinity and Old Testament, Beeson Divinity School
Dr. Robert Kinney
PhD in New Testament, University of Bristol
Director of Ministries, Charles Simeon Trust, Vienna, Austria
PhD Candidate in New Testament, University of Gloucestershire
Pastor, St. Mark United Methodist Church, Mobile, AL
Dr. Cory Wilson
PhD in Intercultural Studies, Reformed Theological Seminary
Pastor of Church Life, Gateway Heights Church, Cleveland Heights, OH
Dr. Chris Castaldo
PhD in Church History, London School of Theology
Pastor, New Covenant Church, Naperville, IL
PhD Candidate, University of Nottingham
Minister of Education and Discipleship, Peachtree Christian Church, Atlanta, GA
Dr. Josh Philpot
PhD in Old Testament, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of Worship and Administration, Founders Baptist Church, Spring, TX
Dr. Dillon Thornton
PhD in New Testament
University of Otago
Dr. Jonathan Huggins (Anglican, ACNA)
PhD in Theology, Stellenbosch University
College Chaplain at Berry College, Pastor at Mount Berry Church, Mount Berry, GA
PhD Candidate in New Testament
University of Saint Andrews, Scotland
Dr. Ed Gerber
PhD in New Testament, University of Whales, Trinity Saint David
Lead Pastor, Willoughby Christian Reformed Church, Langley, British Columbia
Dr. Todd Hardin
PhD Candidate, Biblical Counseling, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of Counseling, Grace Baptist Church, Knoxville, TN
MA Christian Education, Asbury Theological Seminary
Pastor of Youth and Community Life, Covenant Church, Bowling Green, OH
J. Ryan Davidson
PhD Candidate, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Senior Pastor, Grace Baptist Chapel, Yorktown, VA
Dr. JT English
PhD in Systematic Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of Training, The Village Church, Dallas, TX
Benjamin Petroelje0 Comments
PhD Candidate in New Testament Literature, Language, and Theology
University of Edinburgh, Scotland
February 24, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
(Matthew 12:1-8, ESV) “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.’ 3 He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.’ ”
Jesus is here confronted by the Pharisees for allowing his disciples to work on the Sabbath. Notice how Jesus does not respond. He does not respond by making a distinction between true Sabbath law and human traditions, arguing that his disciples are only breaking man-made rules. Indeed, Jesus argues in the exact opposite direction. He takes the Pharisees’ critique at face value (i.e., that his disciples are working on the Sabbath), and insists that there is a biblical justification for not keeping the Law.
Follow his logic: To defend his disciples’ actions he points out that both David and the priests likewise committed unlawful actions — David when he entered the house of God and ate the show bread, and the priests every Sabbath when they perform their cultic duties (i.e., they work on the Sabbath). But Jesus isn’t simply saying, “The priests break the Sabbath, so my disciples can too.” Otherwise, he wouldn’t have included the example of David, whose infraction didn’t take place on the Sabbath. The key to Jesus’ logic is that the infractions of both David and the priests took place in the temple/house of God. According to Jesus’ logic, the temple provides a “covering” over David and the priests, so that their unlawful actions are not counted against them. In other words, both David and the priests are able to do in the temple what otherwise would have incurred guilt outside the temple.
And now here’s the punchline: Jesus insists that one greater than the temple is here–namely himself! Jesus, in justifying his disciples, declares himself to be the typological fulfillment of the Old Covenant Temple (for a parallel typology, see 12:39-42). He insists that just as the Old Covenant Temple sheltered David and the priests when they performed unlawful actions, even more so Jesus shelters his disciples. If the priest can profane the Sabbath without guilt while under the covering of the Temple, how much more can Jesus’ disciples profane the Sabbath without guilt while under the covering of Jesus. And even crazier, this new freedom isn’t limited to a geographic location, but is experienced in relation to Jesus.
Jesus, as the New Temple, is Lord of the Sabbath, which is to say, above Torah. And this lordship over the Sabbath extends to all those who are “in him” just like it extended to the priests when they were “in temple.” Insofar as the disciples are with/under Jesus, they are free from the Mosaic Law.
So did Jesus allow his disciples to profane the Sabbath? Arguably, they weren’t really profaning the Sabbath, only the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Sabbath. But Jesus isn’t going to skirt the issue. Essentially he is saying, “So what if my disciples work on the Sabbath? I’m greater than the temple and Lord of the Sabbath. And so are all who are in me.”
February 23, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
The Simeon Trust is a valuable resource that helps preachers continue to sharpen their commitment and skills for exegetical preaching, post-seminary. Dr. Rev. Michael LeFebvre (CPT Second Fellowship) and a circle of other Indianapolis area pastors have recently started a new Simeon Trust Fellowship. The first Simeon Trust Workshop will be held this summer, June 3–5, 2015.
If you are in the Indianapolis area or know a pastor in central Indiana who would appreciate the encouragement, iron-sharpening-iron, and post-seminary refreshment of this opportunity, please check out the registration site for more details.
February 7, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
Registration for the 2015 CPT Conference is now open! The conference will be held in Chicago, November 2-4. The theme of this year’s conference is, The Pastor as Theologian: Identities and Possibilities.
The Center for Pastor Theologian’s annual theology conference exists to reconnect theological scholarship and pastoral ministry. Toward this end, the CPT Theology Conference seeks to facilitate conversation between pastors, academic theologians, lay leaders, and ecclesial theologians, with a view to constructing theological proposals for the betterment of the church and her theology. This year’s speaker line up includes the following plenary speakers and addresses:
Peter Leithart — The Pastor Theologian as Biblical Theologian
James K. A. Smith — The Pastor Theologian as Political Theologian
Kevin Vanhoozer — The Pastor Theologian as Public Theologian
Todd Wilson — The Pastor Theologian as Pastor
Gerald Hiestand — The Pastor Theologian as Ecclesial Theologian
Along with our plenary speakers, we’ll also have presentations from Kevin Hector, Mickey Klink, Douglas Estes, Phil Ryken, David Dockery, Kristen Johnson, Peter Cha, Scott Manetsch, Eric Redomond, Joel Lawrence, Michael LeFebvre, Jason Nichols, Chris Castaldo, and more. Worship will be led by Caleb Widmer and the Chicago Liturgists.
Our target audience is men and women who care about the church and theological scholarship, and who are interested in exploring the identity, calling and possibilities of the pastor theologian.
Early bird specials are available, as are student discounts. So hurry and register. We hope to see you there!0 Comments
January 30, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
Let me draw your attention, if I may, to a number of helpful resources.
Dr. Daniel Brendsel (CPT Second Fellowship) has published, along with Greg Beale and William Ross, An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek: Analysis of Prepositions, Adverbs, Particles, Relative Pronouns, and Conjunctions (Zondervan, 2014). The title pretty much says what you need to know about the book. Each entry includes a short gloss and lexical analysis, as well as a page number reference to BDAG. This is a short book, only 96 pages, and looks to be a helpful resource for those particularly interested in Greek grammar and syntax.
Dr. Chris Bruno (CPT Second Fellowship) has written, along with Matt Dirks, a nice little book on church partnerships: Churches Partnering Together: Biblical Strategies for Fellowship, Evangelism, and Compassion (Crossway, 2014). The grist for the book comes from their church planting and partnership efforts in Hawaii. The book looks to be a very practical, helpful book on how small churches might effectively partner together for gospel ministry.
James K. A. Smith is the CPT’s Theological Consultant for this year’s round of symposium. When he was with us in October he introduced us to Comment Magazine, of which he is one of the leading editors. Looks like a great resource for those interested in the conversations that take place at the intersections of theology, culture, and philosophy.