Book Review: What is the Incarnation?

  William B. Evans, What is the Incarnation? (Phillipsburg. NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013; 31 pages.

Evans IncarnationI have a long-standing tradition of reading a book relating to Christology around the time of Christmas. This year it was a booklet rather than a book, a part of the series Basics of the Faith, whose general editor is Sean Lucas, namely, What is the Incarnation? by William B. Evans, the Eunice Witherspoon Bell Younts and Willie Camp Younts Professor of Historical Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, South Carolina.

Evans covers a tremendous amount of ground in the small compass of this booklet (a mere 26 pages): from the integral links between the person of Christ and his work (p.6–8), in which he draws upon insights from Athanasius and Anselm, to the sinlessness of the humanity assumed by the Son of God (p.24–25). Along the way, he delineates the biblical witness to the person of Christ (p.10–12), rightly pointing out that “the incarnation is a foundational assumption of the New Testament writers” (p.12), discusses the question of images of Christ (p.25–27), and summarizes six major Christological positions that Christian thought and reflection ruled to be heretical—Ebionism (the denial of the deity of Christ), Docetism (the denial of the humanity of Christ), Arianism (the reduction of Christ to a the rank of a “lesser” god, who is in fact a creature), Apollinarianism (which affirmed that the second person of the Godhead took the place of the human mind and soul of Christ), Nestorianism (the failure to maintain the integral unity of deity and humanity in the person of Christ), and Eutychianism (which so identifies the deity and humanity of Christ that Christ’s humanity is all but swallowed up by the deity) (p.13–16).

Evans identifies the creedal statement issued by the Council of Chalcedon (451), “one of the great watersheds in early church history” (p.16) as the Ancient Church’s definitive statement on the incarnation. This statement, which essentially affirmed the reality of the two natures, divine and human, in the one person of Christ—a union “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation”—held sway among Western theologians to the time of the early modern era in the seventeenth century (p.18). It was only then that theologians proposed radically different conceptions of the incarnation like the “kenotic” theory, which employed Philippians 2:7 to argue that Christ gave up all of his divine attributes when he became man.

All in all this is an extremely helpful summary of key details and issues relating to what Paul calls “the mystery of godliness” (1 Tim 3:16), a work that would be ideal for a series in Sunday School or a mid-week Bible study.

Michael A.G. Haykin Professor of Church History The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Has Marcion Invaded our Churches?

By Dr. David Barker Marcion, a 2nd C AD theologian, rejected the OT (and some of the NT) because he viewed it as “pre-Christian” or “less-than-Christian.” The question needs to be asked as to whether the church has continued this thinking by avoiding lament psalms in general and rejecting curse (imprecatory) psalms in particular. In both the liturgies of mainline churches as well in the Scripture reading practice of evangelical churches the following section of Psalm 139 is commonly left out (a confession made to me by a worship leader in one of our Baptist churches):

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them as my enemies. (vv. 19-22)

To omit this section and other “psalms of violence” in our rhythms and practices of prayer and worship does the following:

  • It refuses to affirm the full authority of the Bible. Yes, these psalms are poetic and hyperbolic, but that is part of what it is to affirm all Scripture as “God-breathed.”
  • It disobeys the Apostle Paul’s instruction to sing the psalms; and there does not seem to be an exception for the supposed “less-than-Christian” ones. If fact, he used imprecation himself (Gal 1:8-9), as did Jesus and other NT writers.
  • It removes the voice of the victims of violence and makes them/us “speechless and apathetic in the face of the overwhelming power of their suffering” (Erich Zengler, A God of Vengeance? [Westminster John Knox], 85).
  • It marginalizes a voice of worship when the Apostle Paul said of God, “’It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:19 quoting Deut 32:35).
  • It fails to recognize the multi-faceted nature of God’s character described in both violent and anti-violent texts found in both Testaments.
  • It fails to embrace the Abrahamic Covenant, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” (Gen 12:3) as a legitimate inheritance of the church (Rom 4:16-17; Ga 3:29).

So, when it comes to ISIS and other movements that propagate terror, violence, and brutality, a voice of worship of God is:

Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. (Ps 3:7)

Yes, we refer vengeance/justice/judgment back to God. No, it is not a prayer for personal vengeance (Jesus’ teaching to love our enemy [cf. Prov 25:21] comes into play here).

Marcion was declared a heretic because of his view of Scripture. I wonder if we have unwittingly allowed Marcion back into the church.


 

David Barker serves as academic dean and vice president of academics and student affairs, Heritage Theological Seminary, Cambridge, ON. This article originally appeared on the seminary’s blog.

Book Review: God’s Love for Muslims: Communicating Bible Grace and New Life

Ibrahim Ag Mohamed, God’s Love for Muslims: Communicating Bible Grace and New Life (London: Metropolitan Tabernacle, 2015), 95 pages.muslimscoverart For many in the West today, the very terms Islam and Muslims provoke fear, even hatred, and terrorist acts like the very recent Paris and Mali attacks only serve to reinforce these deep emotions. On the very day when news broke about the horrific attacks in Paris I received this new book by Ibrahim Ag Mohamed, the assistant pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the heart of London. The author, whose roots are among the Tamasheq, the nomadic shepherds of the Sahara known to the outside world as the Tuareg, is deeply familiar with Islam—in fact, before his conversion, his devotion to Islam led him to burn the Scriptures. But, as he has said, the Scriptures “I had burned came and burned my heart.”

His profound familiarity with Islam, and also his extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, is evident throughout this handsomely-produced book in which he deals with Muslim beliefs and practice (9–42), their misunderstandings about the Christian Faith (43–83), and then how believers in the West especially can help Muslims come to true faith in the Lord Jesus (84–95). While much more could be said in each of these sections, what Mohamed includes is germane and very much to the point, and the result is an extremely helpful handbook for Christians to learn about Muslims, some of whom are now their neighbours. The final section, in which Mohamed provides details on how to develop true friendships with Muslims and share the gospel with them, is extremely helpful.

Noteworthy aspects of the book also include Mohamed’s excellent discussion of violence within the Qur’an and its advocacy by many Muslims (38–42), how the Qur’an views women (29–30), and his emphasis on the importance of faith in the Triunity of God: “without the doctrine of the Trinity, there would be no salvation, because only the God-man, Christ, could offer a sufficient sacrifice to atone for the sins of men and women” (51–54, quote from page 54). One small lacuna is that there is very little said about the history of Islam. A few pages could have easily been devoted to outlining this history. If a second edition is done, such could be easily added.

Given the global situation in which we find ourselves today, a work like this is gold! Highly recommended!

Michael A.G. Haykin Professor of Church History The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Audio from Andrew Fuller Conference 2015 Now Available

Plenary sessions from the 2015 Andrew Fuller Conference are now available for download at the links below. The conference was held September 15-16 and examined the theme of “Persecution and the Church.” Also available for download is the preconference which dealt with “Martyrdom in the Early Church: Reality and Fiction.” This pre-conference was co-sponsored by the Center for Ancient Christian Studies.

Breakout sessions from the main conference will be posted soon.  

______________________________

Preconference:

Session 1 - Jarvis Williams

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-preconference-01-jarvis-williams.mp3

Session 2 - Greg Cochran

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-preconference-02-greg-cochrane.mp3

Session 3 - Bryan Litfin

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-preconference-03-brian-litfin.mp3

Session 4 - Panel Discussion

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-preconference-04-panel.mp3

Conference:

Session 1 - Tom Schreiner

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-conference-01-tom-schreiner.mp3

Session 2 - Brian Vickers

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-conference-02-session-brian-vickers.mp3

Session 3 - Bryan Litfin

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-conference-03-session-bryan-litfin.mp3

Session 4 - Jason Duesing

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-conference-04-session-jason-duesing.mp3

Session 5 - Steve Weaver

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150916-andrew-fuller-conference-05-session-steve-weaver-archive.MP3

Session 6 - Nathan Finn

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150916-andrew-fuller-conference-06-session-nathan-finn-archive.MP3

Session 7 - Benjamin Hegeman

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150916-andrew-fuller-conference-07-session-benjamin-hegeman-archive.mp3

18 Key Events of Church History a la Haykin

By Michael Haykin

1. Conversion of Paul

2. Irenaeus defence of the Faith against Gnosticism (‎preserves OT as canonical)

3. Constantine and the edict of Milan (313)

4. Augustine's baptism in 387 and his Confessions (399)

5. Patrick's mission to Ireland 430-460 and the creation of the Celtic Church

5. Rise of Islam

6. Cyril and Methodius' mission to the Slavic countries

7. 1054 schism between Rome and Orthodoxy

8. Luther and his 95 Theses (1517)

9. William Tyndale and his New Testament (1526)

10. Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan victory in the English Civil Wars (1640s and the 1650s)

‎11. Act of Toleration (1689)

12. Great Awakening (1740s-1750s)

13. The Formation of the Baptist Missionary Society (1792)

14. Intellectual work of Marx, Freud, Nietzsche

15. World War I 

16. The Fundamentalist- Modernist controversy (1920s-1930s)

17. The decision of Martyn Lloyd-Jones to go to Westminster Chapel (1938)

18. The Billy Graham 1959 NY Crusade. 

5 Minutes in "Baptist" History

By Dustin Bruce

If you are unfamiliar with Ligonier’s “5 Minutes in Church History” podcast, then I certainly recommend giving it a listen. Host, Dr. Stephen Nichols, does a fantastic job teaching church history in an engaging and accessible way. It’s the kind of podcast that appeals to a graduate student in theology or a faithful churchgoer interested in learning more about “our family history,” to borrow Dr. Nichols’ phrase.

There is one particular episode I would recommend for readers of the AFC blog. In an Episode released on August 5th, “Lon to Phil,” Dr. Nichols introducers listeners to two Baptist confessions of faith, the 1689 London Baptist Confession and the 1742 Philadelphia Confession of Faith.

Spend five minutes with Dr. Nichols as our Presbyterian brother tackles the question, “what do Baptists believe?”


Update: There were some challenges to the details of the episode, which Dr. Nichols addressed here.

 

Andrew Gifford baptizes Mrs. Deschamps

By Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin

On June 19, 1748, the London Particular Baptist Andrew Gifford (1700–1784) noted the following in the minute book of his church:

A wonderful appearance of providence at baptism. Mrs. Deschamps had been long disabled from walking alone by a rheumatic gout, but sometimes after the Lord was pleased to call her by his grace, she told the writer this: She was convinced that baptism by immersion was both her duty and privilege. He endeavoured to evade it and dissuade her from it as not absolutely necessary to salvation, but, not…satisfied with his arguments, she, after some time, solemnly demanded it of him as a minister of Jesus. Upon this the church was consulted, and after solemn searching the Lord it was agreed that if she persisted in the demand, it should be complied with. To this the pastor, A.G., was forced to comply—with great reluctance, fear and trembling, lest it should be attended with any ill consequence. To this she said, “Don’t you be afraid, I am persuaded God will prevent any scandal…” Accordingly the ordinance was administered. Unable to walk, she was carried down into the water. She went out of the water well and rejoicing and triumphing in the Lord Jesus. Blessed be his name. …Sister Deschamps was so lame as to be carried down into the water. She went up out of it without the least help, rejoicing.

 

Interview with Matthew Barrett and Michael Haykin on "Owen on the Christian Life"

Recently, Pilgrim Radio interviewed Dr. Matthew Barrett and Dr. Michael Haykin on their newly released volume, Owen on the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ.  This work, part of Crossway's Theologians on the Christian Life series, explores how Owen's theology informed his deep piety in a way that proves instructive for Christians today.

Listen to this interview for more information on this exciting new release.