Month: April 2010

redeeming election

As I take up the challenge of becoming a little more confessional — and maybe even establishing some Reformed ‘cred’ — let me say up front that I believe in election (and predestination). I think the Bible teaches it.

I can hardly put it better than Article XVI of the Anglican Church:

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour.

I want to be clear about this. I don’t want to hedge or qualify. Election doesn’t  need ‘redeeming’.

But I do want to say that, biblically, election is purposive. It aims at redemption: God consistently chooses some for the sake of all. It thus serves God’s work of reclaiming, perfecting and transforming his dearly-loved creation.

We see this in Genesis 12. God’s choice and call of Abraham is painted against the widest possible canvas, the creation of world pleasing to God, and the subsequent tragic rebellion and fall of humanity. Into the resulting situation of curse, God speaks to Abraham ,explicitly calling him out in order to bring blessing upon ‘all the families of the earth’.

Likewise, the nation of Israel is chosen not because of its moral or military impressiveness but in order to be a priestly kingdom who mediate the knowledge and blessing of God to the nations (Exodus 19).

Ultimately, when Jesus chooses and calls some Israelites in the Gospels — rough as guts fishermen, tax collectors, and even (mysteriously) at least one who would betray him — he commissions them as ‘fishers of men’ and calls them ‘a city on a hill’ and ‘the salt of the earth’. Later, he sends them out to announce the good news of the kingdom — first to Israel then to the world.

This is partly why, I believe, Article XVI goes on to speak of the ‘sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort’ election is to the godly. Rightly taken, it doesn’t feed anxiety or gnaw away at assurance (‘How can I ever know that I’m one of the elect?’). Nor does it bolster a triumphalism that licences ungodliness (‘I’m part of the elect but you aren’t’).

Rather, election motivates the godly person to live Christianly in firm confidence and ardent devotion.This is how the promise of election is ‘generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture’ (as the Article puts it). Even in 2 Peter 1, the exhortation to ‘make your calling an election sure’ is no invitation to introspection but a call to active faith manifested in Christian character.

is blogging about conversation or confession?

OK. So this is going to get kind of introspective for a bit. Navel-gazing’s not all bad though, right? (Especially if you have a more or less attractive navel.)

I’ve been doing some reflecting on the way I tend to blog. And I’ve realised that I tend to use it to raise questions, ask for help, poke and prod at popular formulations, and generally explore the limits of established orthodoxy.

In particular, I’ve often railed against what I take to be some of the least helpful catch-cries and habits of thought of Reformed scholasticism — even though that’s really where I’m most ‘at home’ theologically.

Partly, I guess, this reflects the models I’ve taken for myself from the theo-blogs I read. Partly, it has to do with how much easier — and in some ways more modest — it is to be critical (even in the best, most generous sense) than to dare to be constructive.

But, mostly, I think I write this way because I think of blogging as something that’s more conversational than confessional. I’m always happy to hear criticisms or other points of view (or at least I try to be). To be called on my more outrageous statements. To have my kite-flying reigned in. That’s why I put it out there.

That being said though, I’m thinking that over the next little while I want to ‘come clean’ and try to speak positively and constructively about my theological heritage. Taking the traditional emphases of Reformed orthodoxy and producing a kind of position statement (or something like that). Some of the topics I want to cover include:

  • Election
  • God’s sovereignty
  • The Bible
  • The cross
  • Conversion

Of course, I’ll still be happy to hear your thoughts — and whether or not you think I’m heading in the right direction. Let’s try not to let the slightly more confessional tone close down the conversation!


*In case you haven’t noticed, all our holiday posts have been entitled with relevant theme songs. We don’t do points, but kudos if you know who sings this…

We’re five weeks into our holiday — a few days away from it’s end — and we’re totally feeling the sensory overload. So we thought we’d give you our most evocative  ‘sensory’ experiences from the trip:

  • Taste: Mexican cactus salad in NYC, Jersey 6% fat milk (that’s just how it comes out of the cow in Jersey), La Fromagerie in London, Simply Indian (also London), Pizzarium today in Rome;
  • Touch: All the tantalisingly tactile sculptures in galleries where you must not touch, cobbled streets — everywhere — our feet hurt, hugging family;
  • Hearing: Really wimpy sounding emergency vehicle sirens in Europe, bizarre unresolved minor key message alert sounds on the French Metro, the Italian love affair with the car horn, the joy of the phrase “it’s OK — I speak English’;
  • Smell: the vegetative smell of spring in Rome, espresso, cheese, vino rosso, fresh food markets in Newcastle, Jersey and London, urine in the streets of Paris.
  • Sight: Buildings — big ones in NYC and old ones everywhere else — both of which are new to us, the first spring snow drops in Cambridge, ancient art, renaissance art, modern art, street art…lots and lots of art!

And now for some photos from the last week:

Finally got the hang of taking photos at night with an automatic camera...

Glamming it up in Fortnum and Mason's wine bar with Natalie's cousin, Carolyn

The Bristish Museum: where everything Indiana Jones decided "belonged in a museum" ended up.

Try as we did, this was as close as we got to a Banksy...

Caecilius est

Moments before enjoying Campari and soda in the rooftop bar of the Castel Sant'Angelo