Depth and Mystery

Any lasting cease-fire in these worship wars is not likely to emerge from a resolution of the so-called culture wars which feed them, or from large-scale conversions of taste, or from carefully buttressed historical arguments about ancient liturgical precedents. Finally, such a cease-fire can only issue from the depth and mystery of the gospel which Christians proclaim. Christian worship is strongest when it is integrally and self-consciously related to the person and work of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. The study of Christian worship is most helpful to Christian communities when it demonstrated how this has happened in the past and how it might happen in the future in more profound ways.

—John Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), Page 304-305

God Alone

In the restoration of communion between God and sinning humanity, the initiative lies with God’s forgiveness: Jesus ‘blasphemously’ pronounced the divine forgiveness, and the scribes’ question ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ is a piece of ironic Christology (Mark 2:1-12).

—Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life: A Systematic Theology, 75

***Geoffrey Wainwright in memoriam (died March 17, 2020)***

I-Thou

Christian worship is not awe in the face of an irresistible and unresponsive Power, nor is it the attempt to manipulate by magic or placate by offerings remote deities or the forces of nature. Christian worship is an ‘I-Thou’, not an ‘I-It’ relationship. 

—John D. Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), 161 

Wise Words

WHAT NO VIRSU CAN TAKE

Romans 8 — “the great eight” — is a text I think everybody in this isolation period should be memorizing. I’m making that as a suggestion: it’s the best thing you could do with your time. Romans 8 gives greater foundations for this fearlessness than anything in the world — than anything the world has to offer. I’ll mention four:

1. For the called who love God in Jesus Christ, all of God’s righteous condemnation toward you was put on Jesus, and there is now no condemnation — no punishment — for those who are in Christ: “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). Condemnation for those who are in Christ is over. It happened at Calvary. That is wonderful.

2. God’s willingness to sacrifice his only Son for the called ones who love him means he not only died in their place, but will not withhold anything from them for their eternal good: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). So, everything we need to glorify God and to have everlasting joy, he guarantees in the cross for us during coronavirus time.

3. Nobody who is called by God will fail to attain eternal glory. There is a golden, unbreakable chain of covenant commitment that God will keep his called ones forever: “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). None of the called is lost — ever.

4. Finally, here is what all of this means: neither tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor danger, nor sword, nor coronavirus, nor economic collapse, nor total anarchy, nor the end of the world can separate us from the love of Christ. And that includes death — especially death — because Romans 8:36 says, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long.”

It doesn’t matter whether we’re being killed by coronavirus or anti-Christian mobs. Nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39). “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Therefore, Christian — therefore, Christian — lover of God, called out of darkness into his marvelous light, lift up your head, put a song in your mouth, love your neighbor, and do not be afraid.

—John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-fight-my-coronavirus-fears

Mutuality

What is exemplary about divine life is not three-in-oneness in the mathematical sense, not some abstract notion of a pristine community, but personal relationships that are marked by transparency, common purpose, and mutuality.  In the economy of the kingdom of God, these virtues replace both alienation and domination as the customary marks of personal relationships.

—John Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), 258-59

Different Roads

We have lived for too long in the world, and tragically even in a church . . . where the wills and affections of human beings are regarded as sacrosanct as they stand, where God is required to command what we already love and to promise what we already desire. The implicit religion of many people today is simply to discover who they really are and then try to live it out – which is, as many have discovered, a recipe for chaotic, disjointed, and dysfunctional humanness. The logic of cross and resurrection, of the new creation which gives shape to all truly Christian living, points in a different direction. And one of the central names for that direction is joy: the joy of relationships healed as well as enhanced, the joy of belonging to the new creation, of finding not what we already had but what God was longing to give us. At the heart of the Christian ethic is humility; at the heart of its parodies, pride. Different roads with different destinations, and the destinations color the character of those who travel by them.

—N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, 233-34