Archive for the 'Timothy George' Category

If You Love Jesus, You Will Love His Church

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Cor. 12:27

Biblically, the Church is the people of God, the body of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit, and the household of God. If is true that, “the church is the fulfillment of the purpose for which God created the world” [Fisher Humphreys, Thinking about God: An Introduction to Christian Theology, 210.] That purpose is to have a people who are God’s own possession, a people who love and adore him. “Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10 RSV).

In addition, the Church is the body of Christ, Origen stated, “The Church is Christ manifest in the flesh, as Jesus of Nazareth was God manifest in the flesh.”  Paul affirms this truth, “Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it” (1 Cor. 12:20 NLT).

Third, the Church is to be Christ on the earth and reflect the character of its redeemer, then the Holy Spirit must be present to make these truths actual. Theologian Thomas Oden proclaimed, “The fundamental requisite of the church is the presence of Christ.” Thus, it is necessary, that the Holy Spirit be resident not only in individual believers, but also with the assembly of God. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16 NIV).

Last, the Church is the household of God, an ongoing institution, which is called to guard the deposit of faith. Missionary Bishop, Lesslie Newbigin affirmed that the Bible regards the Church as a living vibrant fellowship made real in a visible community existing throughout history. “If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15 RSV).

Therefore, the Church is God’s own possession, the life of Christ on earth, animated by the Spirit and a visible on-going community of believers. The Church is God’s creation, led by the Lord Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. To love Jesus is to love what he loves and what he loves is his Church.

The Church is the vineyard of the Lord, his heritage, his temple and his bride; even more she is his body, for which he has shed his precious blood and outside which there is no salvation. If one is not concerned for the church then martyrdom has no crown, charity is no longer a good work, and religious knowledge brings no wisdom. The person who does not love the Church does not love Jesus Christ.

Johannes Oecolampadius cited in Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011), 41.

Donkey Ears

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Addicted to Praise

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

Prov. 16:18

In 1998, John Piper visited Beeson Divinity School for a three day lecture series on preaching. During one of the sermons, he admitted that he was addicted to praise. The type of praise Piper was describing are the compliments and attention one receives after preaching a good, or maybe great, sermon.

Piper told the story of recently speaking at Wheaton College, his alma mater, and no one, absolutely no one, came up to him afterwards and thanked him for his message. Piper said that he walked around campus for some time talking to himself wondering what went wrong and asking himself why he had to have constant affirmation to feel good about his ministry.

Piper’s admission is a powerful one, all preachers struggle with desiring the encouragement of others. Yet, we know that the gospel word we share may very well bother, offend, and convict the very people we look to for praise.

The temptation lurks that when we receive the admiration and praise for which we long, we think we have arrived, and therefore accomplished great things for God. Martin Luther calls this kind of pride: donkey ears. Why? Donkey ears dominate the animal’s appearance just like a preacher’s pride in their own accomplishments.

If, however, you feel and are inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it—if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears.

Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, “See, see! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.” That very moment you will be blessed and blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven. Yes, in that heaven where hellfire is ready for the devil and his angels.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 34:287-288, cited in Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 2011), 164.

HT: Between Two Worlds 

Evangelical First and Foremost

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Why I Am an Evangelical First

For I delivered to you as of first importance (emphasis mine) what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

1 Cor 15:3-5 (ESV)

In the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.), we adhere to the biblical, historic theology of convergence. Convergence theology affirms the person and work of the Spirit (Charismatic), the beauty of Christ and his finished work on the Cross (Evangelical), and the historic church’s sacramental worldview with its Eucharist-centered life and Trinitarian worship (Sacramental).

I affirm convergence theology as the model and practice of the Book of Acts and the early church. However, the Charismatic and Sacramental streams are subservient to the message of the Good News. Why place the Evangelical stream at the head? We cannot enjoy the sacraments and the presence of the Holy Spirit unless we have experienced Christ first in all his saving work. We must be saved before we can know the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and experience the fullness of Christ at the Table of the Lord (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Therefore, I am grateful for Evangelicalism for without this movement, I would not have known the justifying grace of God. The Evangelical message is the message that saves, delivers, and heals. Evangelicalism preaches the Biblical gospel:

The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has come into the world and by his life, death, burial, and resurrection has conquered my greatest enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death and the devil. This gospel calls forth a response of faith and repentance. Our response allows the Holy Spirit to transforming our entire beings making us a new creations in Christ.

In summary: the gospel is salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

So what is Evangelicalism or the Evangelical stream? Listed are two definitions: the first, focuses on Evangelical belief, and the second, identifies Evangelicalism’s historic roots.

An evangelical is someone who embraces the solas of the Reformation (salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, according to Scripture alone), resonates with the emphasis on the new birth and the reviving work of the Spirit found in the Great Awakening, believes in the complete trustworthiness of the Bible contra the liberals and modernists, accepts the responsibility of world evangelization and social engagement as modeled by countless missionaries and reformers, rejects the obscurantism that marked parts of fundamentalism, and, in distinction to the pragmatists and postmoderns, affirms the importance of doctrinal propositions and the knowability of truth.

Kevin DeYoung via Evangel blog

At its heart [evangelicalism] is a theological core shaped by the Trinitarian and Christological consensus of the early church, the formal and material principles of the Reformation, the missionary movement that grew out of the Great Awakening and the new movements of the Spirit that indicate “surprising works of God” are still happening today.

Timothy George, ”Foreword,” in The Advent of Evangelicalism

I am an Evangelical first and foremost because Christ and his finished work on the cross is the first and foremost message of the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Christ comes first in the Christian life because Christ is “before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:17-18 NKJV).

HT: Evangel blog at First Things

Sola Scriptura

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Evangelical Essentials (Part Eleven)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

2 Tim 3:16-17 (ESV)

The Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura affirms the priority of scripture over traditions, councils, and church authorities. No practice or doctrine is binding on the life of a believer unless that belief or practice can be found in scripture. Sola Scriptura does not negate Tradition, but simply places Tradition under Scripture as a source of authority in the church.

The doctrine of sola Scriptura is one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Reformation. From both within Evangelicalism and without: this doctrine is distorted and gravely mischaracterized. Sola Scriptura does not mean that Evangelicals reject tradition and read only the Bible (i.e., the error of Biblicism). Evangelical doctrine is not solo Scriptura, where all church councils, traditions, church authorities, and Bible commentaries are rejected as guides and interpreters of scripture’s meaning.

Reformation Church historian, Timothy George, writes,

Sola Scriptura does not mean nuda scriptura nor scriptura solitaria! It means instead that the Word of God, as it is communicated to us in the Scriptures, remains the final judge (norma normans) of all the teaching in the church.

[Timothy George, “An Evangelical Reflection on Scripture and Tradition,” Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology (Volume IX, Number 2, Spring 2000), 206.]

In similar essay, Timothy George, elaborates on the development Martin Luther’s understanding of sola Scriptura:

Under duress, Luther articulated what would come to be the formal principle of the Reformation: all church teaching must be normed by the Bible. The following year, in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther stated: “What is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.” Late medieval theologians placed Christian tradition alongside the Bible as a source of church doctrine. Luther emphasized instead the primacy of Scripture.

However, Luther did not reject tradition outright. He respected the writings of the early church fathers, especially those of Augustine, and he considered the universal statements of faith, such as the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, binding on the church in his day. But all creeds, sayings of the Fathers, and decisions of church councils must be judged by—never sit in judgment upon—the “sure rule of God’s Word.”

[Timothy George, Martin Luther, Early Years, Christian History magazine, electronic ed. (Carol Stream IL: Christianity Today, 1992).]

Sola Scriptura rejects the “two-source theory” that affirms Scripture and Tradition as being of equal weight and authority in the life of church. Alternately, the doctrine of sola Scriptura rejects the individualistic Anabaptist principle of “no creed but the Bible.” Reformed theologian, Keith Mathison adds,

Instead of advocating chaos, the Evangelical church must regain an understanding of the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura, which is essentially nothing more than the early Church’s doctrine of scripture and tradition framed within a different historical context. The Church must affirm that Scripture is the sole source of revelation. The Church must affirm that Scripture is the sole, final, and infallible norm of faith and practice. And the Church must affirm that Scripture is to be interpreted in and by the communion of saints within the theological context of the rule of faith. Only by rejecting all forms of autonomy, institutional or individual, can any branch of the Church be in obedience to Jesus Christ the Lord.

[Keith A. Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001), 347.]

I might add that the Canon Law of the Charismatic Episcopal Church affirms that Holy Scripture is “the final authority on all matters of faith and practice,” and “ . . . is to be understood in light of apostolic tradition and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (Canon Eight, I. B. 1-2). This definition is in its essence the doctrine of sola Scriptura as taught by the Magisterial Reformers.

Timothy George on the Lord’s Supper

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Holy Eucharist in the Thought of the Reformers

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

1 Cor. 10:16-17 (ESV)

I attended Beeson Divinity School at Samford University from the years 1998 to 2002 earning an M. Div. degree. I throughly enjoyed my time studying there: the teaching, relationships, and spiritual formation have proved invaluable to me as a presbyter in the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.) and as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

During my time at BDS, I had the opportunity of being Dean George’s Teaching Assistant. Dr. George is one of the foremost scholars on the Reformation Period in the English speaking world. I was privileged to watch him work and teach on a constant basis, his passion for church history and scholarly care were evident. His catholic spirit, gracious presence, and gifted teaching abilities exemplify the best in Evangelical scholarship and godly character. I am most grateful to Dr. George for his Dean’s Scholarship financed my way through my first two years at Beeson.

Recently, Dr. George wrote an insightful letter to the blog, Internet Monk, on the Reformers understanding of the Lord’s Supper. I post the entire piece here:

Question: How can Baptists respond to Catholic and Orthodox Christians who challenge our view of the Lord’s Supper as having no deeper historical/Biblical roots than Zwingli?

Answer: Among many Baptist Christians there is a growing awareness that the Supper of the Lord should have a more prominent (and frequent) place in the life of worship, as it certainly did in the early church. There is also the realization that a more robust doctrine of (what Calvin called) the real spiritual presence of Christ in the Supper is called for by the participationist language of the New Testament itself and is in keeping with the best traditions of Baptist life. No less a figure than Charles Haddon Spurgeon portrayed the Lord’s Supper as nothing less than an encounter with the living Christ himself: “At all times when you come to the communion table, count it to have been no ordinance of grace to you unless you have gone right through the veil into Christ’s own arms, or at least have touched his garment, feeling that the first object, the life and soul of the means of grace, is to touch Jesus Christ himself.”

For most of our history, Baptists have been more concerned with the externals of the Table—grape juice or real wine, who may preside, who may partake—rather than with the question of what actually goes on at this sacred meal. It is well known that Luther and Zwingli differed strongly, and actually broke fellowship with one another, over the meaning of the words of institution, “This is my body.” Historically, Baptists have belonged more to the Reformed (whether Zwinglian or Calvinist) side of that debate, but it is important to realize that all of the mainline reformers reacted against the displacement of the Lord’s Supper as the central focus of Christian worship in medieval Catholicism. They criticized the fact that the Eucharist had become clericalized (the service in Latin and only bread for the laity), commercialized (votive masses used as a fundraising scheme in much of the church), and scholasticized (the dogma of transubstantiation and the view of the mass as a sacrifice).

The reformers harked back to the teaching of the New Testament, the practice of the early church, and especially to the theology of St. Augustine. Augustine argued that in the sacrament the sign must be identified as a sign by a word spoken about it, thus making the sacrament itself a “visible word.” In commenting on John 6:50, Augustine wrote: “ ‘He who eats of this bread will not die.’ But that means the one who eats what belongs to the power of the sacrament, not simply to the visible sacrament; the one who eats inwardly, not merely outwardly; the one who eats the sacrament in the heart not just the one who crushes it with his teeth” (In Ev. Joh. Tract. 26.12). While Luther could speak of the manducatio impiorum, “the eating of the ungodly,” the Reformed tradition picked up Augustine’s distinction and emphasized the cruciality of faith for the proper reception of the beneficium of grace in the Supper. This same theology they found echoed in other pre-reformation figures including Ratramnus, Wycliffe, and Hus. What they rejected, in keeping with Luther, was an understanding of the sacrifice of the mass as an expression of works-righteousness, a theology which seemed to them to undermine the all-sufficiency of Jesus’s once-and-for-all death on the cross—where, as Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer put it, he offered “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.”

Since the sixteenth century, and especially in the liturgical renewal stemming from Vatican II, many of the changes called for by the reformers have been accepted in the practice of the Catholic Church. Yet important, church-dividing differences still remain and I think the Church of Rome is right to resist the kind of easy-going ecumenism that would ignore such differences in order to achieve a false unity. In our discussions with our Catholic brothers and sisters, we Baptists and evangelicals must learn to distinguish the unity we are called to affirm and the divisions we must still sustain. But this we should do in the spirit of Jesus’s high priestly prayer for his disciples in John 17—“that they may be one, Father, as you and I are one so that world may believe.”


Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers

Steve Harmon, Towards Baptist Catholicity

Geoffrey Wainwright, Eucharist and Eschatology

Total What? Total Depravity!

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009


Evangelical Essentials (Part One): Total Depravity

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Eph.2:1-3 (NKJV)

The term, “depravity,” does not mean that we are all deranged fanatics living in a padded cell with long hair and nails, screaming and drooling all day. Total depravity (or pervasive sin) means that our self-centeredness has affected our hearts, wills, minds, emotions, and even our physical bodies. Our attitudes and actions motivate us to selfishness and pride. Every aspect of our lives has been marred and scarred by sin. Our bondage is so great that we cannot do anything to deliver ourselves. The effect of our sin is complete: there is nothing we can do to please God. However, we are still valued in God’s eyes. We should never see ourselves as insignificant and worthless for Christ died for every one of us. Even in the midst of our fallenness, the blessed Trinity reached out to us in love and mercy.

Total depravity does not mean that there’s absolutely nothing good about anybody anywhere. I know God’s common grace extends to everybody in the world, and the fact that there’s any good anywhere is a result of God’s sustaining and preserving and common grace. But total depravity really means that, vis-a-vis God, there’s nothing we can do, in and of ourselves, to make any contribution to our standing before Him. We are totally and hopelessly and eternally lost apart from God’s radical intervention in our lives.

Dr. Timothy George, “Timothy George on Reformed Theology”

The doctrine of total depravity teaches that my essential problem is not my parents, my economic background, my upbringing, my circumstances, or my boss, etc. No, my greatest problem is I that great trinity of me, myself and I. My selfishness, my self-absorption, my self-concern, and my self-conceit reap utter destruction. Sin is selfishness evidenced through my willful thoughts, words, or actions involving a choice in which I consider myself more important than God or anyone else. The foundation of sin is my selfishness.

“Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin,” said Bishop Ambrose of Milan. With sin this deep, a great deliverance is needed. With bondage so great, a miraculous salvation is needed. We cannot help ourselves. We are dead in sin, trapped in the ways of the world, ruled by Satan, and in bondage to our sinful nature. The only way to stop sin is kill it. Yes, put it to death. This is why scripture says that the wages of sin is death and that the soul that sins shall die (Rom. 6:23, Ezek. 18:20). We deserve judgment. We deserve God’s wrath. We deserve to be utterly and completely ostracized from God’s presence. However, the good news is that Jesus suffered my just judgment and died my death so that you and I might live. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by His stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:5 NKJV).

Because total depravity is the ‘T” in the acronym TULIP, which is description of Reformed thought, the doctrine of total depravity is usually thought of as a Calvinist doctrine. However in Evangelical theology, both Arminians/Wesleyans and Reformed/Calvinists believe in the doctrine of pervasive sin or total depravity.

John Wesley, my favorite theologian, wrote:

Our old man–Coeval with our being, and as old as the Fall, our evil nature; a strong and beautiful expression for that entire depravity and corruption, which by nature spreads itself over the whole man, leaving no part uninfected.

Robert W. Burtner and Robert E. Chiles, eds., John Wesley’s Theology: A Collection from His Works (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1982), 120.

Evangelicalism takes sin seriously because the Bible takes sin seriously. We are great sinners; therefore we need a great Savior.

The doctrinal term, ” total depravity,” has fallen on hard times, but truth of our fallen condition stares back at us in the mirror. Possibly, the term, “pervasive sin,” can replace the phrase, “total depravity,” which carries different connotations in today’s English than during the sixteenth century Reformation debates.