Friday, May 20, 2011

Do you know the god of Aristotle or the Triune God? (MP3s)

It's observable among Christians that some seem to be warm and generous people with a warm and generous god, while others are cold and a bit mean, like their god.Granted that's a polarising and inevitably caricatured way of coming at things, and that we all sin, it's not without basis in realty.  
(It's worth observing that most "atheists" are atheistic about the cold and mean god, and seem not to have heard of the warm and generous god)
Ron Frost comes at this as a historian as much as anything else and sees how these lines have run together generation after generation in the history of the church.

You can listen to Sessions 1 & 2 here. Continuing on, Ron draws from his PhD Dissertation (which I'm enjoying reading at the moment) and explores the difference between these two threads of church history. On the one hand William Perkins, Theodore Beza, Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle. On the other figures like Richard Sibbes, John Cotton, Augustine, Martin Luther and John Calvin. Different approaches....

Session 3: Two very different approaches (1). In this we explore what's meant when we think of God doing things for his glory, how is glory defined with the Triune God. We get into questions of free will, the heart etc. More on what it means that we're not people who did wrong who need to do right, but who love ourselves, and need to receive God's love in Christ.

Session 4: Two very different approaches (2). We get into the feel of Sibbes preaching, the love of God, the nature of the soul, the ministry of the Spirit.

More from Ron at Theology Network and Cor Deo.
And Get to the Delighted in God conference on June 4th in London.


  1. Great stuff. Been enjoying the first two talks. Thanks for recording and posting.

    Just a caveat on the titles you've used for the last two talks (which I haven't heard yet). The distinction is vital, but we need to be careful how the distinction is presented:

    Both "law" and "love" can end up being "law" in the Pauline sense. In fact, in Luther's disputes with Rome, the ones championing "love" very loudly were the Catholics. They thought that Luther had abandoned "love" in favour of his faith alone nonsense. Luther on the other hand saw that their "love" was in fact a dreadful legalism.

    There's a reason Scripture opposes law and *grace* (and unites law and love). Both legal obedience and heart-felt affection can be works of the flesh if they are *our* offerings to God. What makes grace *grace* is that Christ offers the true legal obedience *and* the heart-after-God in our place and on our behalf. And we participate in both by faith - i.e. through grace.

    I love the way you speak of the remedy to legalism in your previous post:

    "receiving the love of Christ."

    The key word there is the word "receiving". "Receiving" is what demarcates it as the grace position far more than "love".

    Maybe I'm just being picky. It's just I've seen too many people who in other contexts, have been enslaved to a tyrranical legalism of the heart. Interestingly they've tended to be enslaved to theologies of glory which Ron does a good job of debunking! Maybe that's also a clue.


  2. I was struggling for titles to sessions 3 & 4... when you've listened please suggest alternatives (and indeed for all four if you like!). Ron didn't give titles so I've had to try and make them up!

  3. Sorry, just being picky and then riding a hobby horse. Disregard :)

  4. It'd a fair point though, and what I don't want to do is put off people for whom this could be new and helpful.

  5. @Glen, could you explain a bit more what you mean by legalism of the heart?

  6. @James - my guess is that some who have a focus on the heart have a focus on the heart, and other who focus on the heart have a focus on Christ to be received by the heart. Pursuit of experience is tyranny, receiving the love of Christ in your heart is liberty... but let's see what Glen says!

  7. Hey James, sorry, I've never figured out how to sign into comments as a wordpress blogger. Only just seen this...

    If someone says they get closer to God by jumping through behavioural hoops we all cry "legalism". But if someone says they get closer to God by cultivating "habits of the heart" (a real favourite saying of Anglo-Catholics) we don't usually pick up on it. Yet hoop-jumping is hoop-jumping whether you make it a mental, physical or affective hoop.

    And what's doubly tyrannical about "getting closer to God through my inner life" is that

    1) it's harder to spot as legalism


    2) it's harder to control. I mean at least *saying* 100 hail marys is straightforward. If someone tells me I've got to *mean* them in order to get closer to God I'm really stuffed. It's a lot easier to whip up activity than emotion.

    Ron's stuff is *good* affective theology because it's about *receiving* the love of Christ. But not all affective theology is good affective theology. Mysticism for instance can enslave people in a terrible legalism as they try to affectively journey towards God.

    Grace-filled affective theology *begins* with union with Christ. It begins by saying "I'm unimprovably righteous and loved in Christ" and its affect on the heart is liberation.

    But there's also a works-based affective theology. Its *goal* is union with Christ. And the effect can only be condemnation.

  8. Ah I understand now. Thank you :)