moving… new posts ahead…
I don’t know what you think about the so called prosperity gospel. It seems to exist in so many shapes all from people who say that if you only do certain things God will prosper you and give you health, wealth and security to those who hold the same theological position but seem to say that God will give you all of these things just because he loves you.
On the other end of the scale we find those who rather would endorse self-chosen poverty or perhaps shared ownership as the Christian ideal.
Personally I do believe we need a theology that gives room for the rich and the poor together as one, where principles such as generosity and contentment reign as well as allowing ourselves to hold a theology that gives room for suffering.
I’ll share a video of John Piper sharing his view on this subject. It is very well worth listening to. What do you think about this?
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Today I will continue my reflections on Reformed theology in Scandinavia and the theological stream that I will reflect on today is what I call Reformed charismatics. It’s a quite broad group, but what holds it together is the combined emphasis on solid biblical teaching together with a charismatic church life. Some people that would fit into this theological stream would be CJ Mahaney, Terry Virgo, Rob Rufus and RT Kendall to name a few together with songwriters such as Stuart Townend and Matt Redman. These would all come from different church movements and have different ways to apply their theological understanding practically in church life but underneith there would be a similar reformed theological framework.
There is a common understanding of grace and a celebration in our justification by grace, rather similar to how “the grace teaching” would emphasize this and hand in hand with the charismatic church life there would be a rejoicing in grace. However, at the same time there would be an even stronger emphasis on the whole word of God than I have seen in the grace teaching. If grace teaching would emphasize “grace and faith”, reformed charismatics would rather emphasize “the word of God and the Spirit of God” and as a part of understanding the word is to rightly we need to understand law and grace but also biblical teaching on the sovereignty of God, the church, New Testament teaching on works and reward, biblical leadership etc. Thus there would be a stronger emphasis on preaching the word of God and not uncommonly preaching through books of the bible. Reformed charismatics generally are theologically very close to some non-charismatic reformed preachers and teachers such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller and Martyn Lloyd-Jones and would not only quote them, but actually read their books.
Personally this would be the theological stream that I would feel most identified with myself. That also makes it difficult to reflect on this theological stream because I personally agree with most things. What attracts me in this theological stream would be the solid approach to the word of God. It’s not the doctrinal system that is important but the heart to understand truth and preach in a way that unpacks the truth in God’s word. At the same time the Christian faith is not only about having the right doctrine, but also about a life in the Spirit where the relationship to God becomes a relationship of passion and feelings at the same time as there is depth and understanding.
The critics would probably say that emphasizing charismatic life, gifts of the spirit, passionate worship, hearing God’s voice in more ways than through the Bible will take focus off from the word of God and place it on human experience in an unhealthy way. Altough true in many cases and something we always need to be aware of, I simply can’t get around the fact that experiencing God through our emotions, supernatural prophecy, physical healings, signs and wonders, tongues and other charismatic expressions are in the Bible and seem to be a part of church life taken for granted in the New Testament. For this reason I have a very difficult time to see how taking these things away from our church life would make us more biblical.
Please get involved in the discussion. Agree or disagree. Fill the spots and point out the weaknesses that I can’t see. Take care.
My next blogpost on reflections on Reformed theology in Scandinavia will be a few more days, but meanwhile I’d like to share this interview with Michael Eaton. He is a reformed theologian originally from Westminster Chapel in London, but is now since many years back leading a church in Kenya that has seen many churches being planted.
In the interview Michael Eaton is sharing his perspective on many issues such as justification, grace, works, sanctification, the warnings in scripture and the sermon on the mount. I believe that his thoughts feed very well into the discussions that has taken place on my earlier reformed theology posts.
The interview is 25 minutes long but is well worth the time.
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This morning when we were about to eat breakfast Esther beat her previous walking record of 11 steps. I had her in my arms when I put her down and she just started walking. During all day she has been taking steps trying this new thing of walking about. About three weeks ago I wrote about Esther’s first steps and since then she has taken some steps now and then, mostly in order to get from one point to another, but today it is actually walking. In the evening she has taken many more steps and she is walking and walking. It is great as a father to see your children taking steps in growing.
This weekend has been great but intense. We’ve spent Friday and Saturday in Karlskrona where me and my wife and our kids attended a church camp hosted by the Klippan church in Rockneby. We had a great time catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for long. I was preaching during the Saturday from Ephesians 2 on the gospel summarized in two words “But God” (verse 4), and then connected the first 10 verses about the grace of God with understanding the purpose with the church in verse 11-22. I truly believe that if you have properly understood the grace of God, then you will also love the church. That’s how grace works; “Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” Rom 15:7. On the cross God does not only reconcile you with himself but he creates a new people, one new man in Christ, ie the church. This grace of God is truly amazing.
Today I have an action picture for you of Esther walking in our kitchen.
In this blogpost I’d like to reflect on yet another theological stream that I can see in Scandinavia, often referred to as grace teaching. I have seen a number of examples especially in Norway and Sweden, and some of the influences would be for example Joseph Prince from Singapore and Åge Åleskär from Norway. Some might object to call this stream reformed and I’m not sure if they would themselves, but I’ve heard for example Joseph Prince quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones to back up his theology, and he is undoubtedly reformed, so whether “the grace teaching” is reformed or not is not the topic, they are at least inspired by reformed theology and therefore belong in these reflections.
The theology of the grace preaching would emphasize that Jesus has lived and perfected the whole of the law and given the result (righteousness) to those who believe. Therefore we are not under the law and it doesn’t apply to us any longer. The focus would be to liberate people from all kind of legalism and musts that Christians so easily fall under. At least some preachers in this stream would put a strong border line at the cross basically saying that everything that takes place before the cross (including the life of Jesus) belong to the Old Covenant and therefore does not apply to the New Covenant established at the cross of Jesus. The critics would call this stream licensious (i.e. giving permission to “sin under grace”) and neglecting for example Jesus teaching in the sermon on the mount.
My primary reflection is that there is actually very much in this theological stream that I appreciate. They are inspired by solid reformed theologians in their understanding of law and grace and they truly know how to rejoice in God’s gift of righteousness. This is not a bad thing in my perspective but something I believe they are right in doing!
My second reflection is a concern I have. In the 80′s the “faith movement” started because they felt that there was a need for teaching on faith in Sweden and everything was built around one topic in Scripture. Altough many things were very healthy with this faith teaching, some things did go wrong and that was partly, I believe, beause their theology was all focused around one area in the Scripture. The current grace teachers, many who have backgrounds in the faith movement, I believe are sometimes very close to do the same mistake all over again, but this time the theological focus is another issue lacking in Scandinavia, i.e. grace. The risk would be that longing to see the teaching of grace being restored to church they will start to build “grace churches” rather than “faith churches”. I strongly believe in the grace of God and the need for a biblical understanding of the grace of God to be restored to the Scandinavian churches, but my longing is first of all to build with “the whole counsel of the Lord” in order to see a biblical church, rather than just a grace church.
My third and final reflection is on the division of Old and New Covenant on the cross. I don’t want to claim that they are wrong because I would need to study the details of what they claim before I would like to make that kind of statement, and certainly the cross is very central to the Christian faith. However, sometimes I feel that it is a quick and unreflected way to get away from Jesus teaching. My perspective would rather be that Jesus came with grace and truth and when Jesus began his public ministry he proclaimed “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15. I believe there is a breaking in with the kingdom of God, which is part of the New Covenant which starts with Jesus coming to earth rather than with the cross. Jesus also certainly preached the good news, the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation, and central for the New Covenant, so even if the death of Jesus at the cross is establishing the covenant in blood, it certainly comes to us through the life of Jesus.
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I got the note today that one of my blogposts is now posted at Lastword Publications. Please check it out, and you’ll find some articles by people who has much more to say than me there as well, so it’ll be worth a look.
If you have never heard of the book A12 to heaven I would like to take the opportunity at hand to recommend it to you.
A very powerful testimony about dealing with death, grief and forgiveness from a Christian family who lost their two eldest daughters in a car accident with a drunk driver involved.
I’ll share a video with you of Matt and Beth Redman’s song “Blessed be the name of the Lord” which was also the opening song for the memorial service for these two teenage girls. Oh that we would learn to have our strength in God even in the midst of suffering and loss.
In a few days I will post my next post on reflections on Reformed theology in Scandinavia. The grace preaching will be reflected on then. Until, feel free to join the discussion.