Throwback Thursday: Brian Walsh on the Postmodern Problem with Grand Stories


Throwback ThursdayChristianity is a story. That’s because the Bible is a story. One big, rich story spanning thousands of years. In my experience teaching and explaining the grand story of Scripture, I have noticed how much this excites children and teenagers. They love to trace the story. They love when I am about to teach a passage of Scripture and ask, “So, where are we in the big story?” The story of Scripture is one of glorious and grand redemption. God’s redemption of sinners through Christ for his glory is the primary theme of the story carried out from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Realizing this will transform the way you read the Bible forever.

But while this truth brings me (and truly nearly every person I have taught) much joy, many postmoderns are repelled by this metanarrative. Far too often, evangelicals are ignorant of secular worldviews. It is important to consider what the secular culture believes, so we can intelligently engage their positions and meet them where they are with the gospel. While the secular worldview has gone beyond even the postmodernism of the late 20th century, much of the secular worldview today can still be described as postmodern in nature. Why is the grand story of Scripture repugnant to the secular culture? In a book written in 1996, Brian Walsh gave a compelling answer.

Postmodern culture is deeply suspicious of all grand stories. Again, The Smashing Pumpkins prove to be insightful in this regard. In their infinitely sad song, “tales of a scorched earth,” they sing, “we’re all dead yeah we’re all dead/inside the future of a shattered past.” We live inside the future of a shattered past because that “past” told grand stories of Marxist utopia, technological freedom, or capitalist paradise. Yet we have come to see not only that these stories are unfinished, but that they are also fundamentally unfinishable, for the simple reason that they are fundamentally lies. The postmodern ethos insists that stories such as these that have so shaped our lives are not stories of emancipation and progress after all, but stories of enslavement, oppression and violence. And on such a view, any story, any world view, that makes grand claims about the real course and destiny of history will be perceived as making common cause with such violence and oppression. This characteristic of the postmodern shift is, I think, the most challenging to Christian faith. If there is one thing that Christianity is all about it is a grand story. How else can we interpret the cosmic tale of creation, fall, redemption and consummation that the Scriptures tell? Yet it is precisely this story that we must tell in a postmodern culture. In the face of dissolution of all grand stories, Christians have the audacity to proclaim, week after week, the liberating story of God’s redemption of all creation. It is, we insist, the one story that actually delivers on what it promises.

And that is the difference between the metanarrative of Scripture and the metanarratives of other ideologies and worldviews: The grand story of Scripture delivers on what it promises. Let’s not fail to continue to tell this story and pray that those we share it with find themselves in it as the people God has redeemed for his glory and our joy.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Throwback Thursday: Francis Turretin on the Love of God


Throwback ThursdayGod is love (1 John 4:8). This simple, yet profound sentence is a crucial basis for Christianity. The apostle John makes a crucial distinction. He doesn’t say, “God loves” or “God has love,” but rather, “God is love.” Love is inherent to God. It is part of who he is. Spend any amount of time meditating on the love of God and the sin of man and you should glow in gratitude for God’s love. It is clear that no one deserves God’s love, yet the God who is love has chosen to set his love upon his creation and specifically his people.

The God-is-love maxim has sinisterly become a defense for things that God in fact hates. God is love. So, how could he judge sin? God is love. So how could he oppose my autonomy? God is love. So how dare these “backwoods, fundamentalist” Christians tell me how I should live my life. God is love.

Our church culture has slowly taken a crucial doctrinal truth about the nature and character of God and turned it for its own favor. The church would do well to take God at his Word everywhere they find his Word, not just in places that suit their personal preferences. But the truth about God’s love is that it is not as simple as we want to make it. The love of God is beautifully complex. It is seen from before creation and seen in the fully consummated new creation, and everywhere in between. It is seen in his common graces showered on all of mankind, as well as his special graces shown only toward his people he has redeemed through Christ. God loves us before he creates us. God loves us as he creates us. God loves us when he recreates us. His love is tender and firm. It faces no barrier it cannot destroy. It faces no hurt it cannot heal. It faces no sinner it cannot change. From eternity past to eternity future, when God sets his love on you, it will never leave.

Theologian Francis Turretin clearly explains the complexities of God’s love as it is attested in Scripture in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology. He discusses three aspects of God’s love–benevolence, beneficence, and complacency. Here, Turretin examines how God loves us first and then loves us because of his work in our lives, which includes our response. Meditate on the complex glory and goodness of God’s love as you marvel at why he would ever set it on sinners like you and me from eternity past to eternity future.

A threefold love of God is commonly held; or rather there are three degrees of one and the same love. First, there is the love of benevolence by which God willed good to the creature from eternity; second, the love of beneficence by which he does good to the creature in time according to his good will; third, the love of complacency by which he delights himself in the creature on account of the rays of his image seen in them. The two former precede every act of the creature; the latter follows (not as an effect its cause, but as a consequent its antecedent). By the love of benevolence, the love of complacency, he loves us when we are (renewed after his image). By the first, he elects us; by the second, he redeems and sanctifies us; but by the third, he gratuitously rewards us as holy and just. John 3:16 refers to the first; Ephesians 5:25 and Revelation 1:5 to the second; Isaiah 62:3 and Hebrews 11:6 to the third.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Throwback Thursday: Thomas Boston on the Supremacy of Scripture


Throwback ThursdayIn the catechism ministry I lead on Wednesday evenings, we just finished looking at questions and answers relating to the Word of God. The catechism I adapted from historic Reformed catechisms, such as the Westminster Shorter and Baptist Catechisms, is divided into six major sections. The first section deals with the Bible. Over the past few weeks, we have studied the content, purpose, message, and nature of the Bible.

Q 2. What teaches us how we should glorify God by enjoying him forever?
A. The Word of God alone teaches us how we should glorify God by enjoying him forever.

Q 3. What is the Word of God?
A. The Word of God is the Bible made up of the Old and New Testaments and inspired by God.

Q 4. What does the Bible mainly teach?
A. The Bible mainly teaches what man must believe about God and what God requires of man.

The questions do not encapsulate everything within the doctrine of the Word of God, but they do cover most of the crucial and fundamental aspects of the Bible. What I want the kids I lead to come away with is a sense of what the Bible is and what it is for. I feel confident that most of the kids know the nature, purpose, and basic content of the Bible.

But more than a thorough and impressive head knowledge, I want the kids I lead to come away dumbfounded by the Bible. I want them to see it as amazing that God speaks. I want them to see Scripture as supremely satisfying for their lives. Because of this, I believe it is more crucial to our ministry for our leaders to show enthusiasm and joy over the Bible than to say kids should be enthused and joyed over the Bible.

Only when the Bible is seen as supremely valuable; only when it is seen as a precious treasure, will it be obeyed. There are countless competing pleasures in the world and many worldviews demanding obedience. Once we see and understand the Bible is revelation from God himself, where do we go from here? Christians far too casually confess the Bible is God’s Word. If that massively radical statement is true, then what should it mean for our lives. If the Bible truly is what it says it is, what now?

Scottish theologian Thomas Boston (1676-1732) presents four exhortations for Christians approaching the Bible. If you hold that the Bible is God’s Word, inerrant, infallible, and supremely valuable, then consider Boston’s exhortations.

  1. Let us highly prize this book for the sake of the author. The Ephesians thought that they had good ground to be zealous for the image of Diana, because they fancied it fell down from Jupiter, Acts 19:35. Your Bible is a book really come from God; let us be ashamed we do not prize it more, by using it diligently to the ends for which if was given the church.
  2. Let us believe it in all the parts thereof; the commands, that we may study to conform ourselves to them; the promises, that we may thereby be encouraged to a holy life; and the threatenings, that we may thereby be deterred from sin. Alas ! though we own it to be the word of God, that we are no more moved with it than if it were the word of man, and such a man as we give little credit to. For compare the lives of the most part with it they say, it is but idle tales.
  3. Let us submit our souls to it, as the oracles of the living God. He is the great Lawgiver, and in that book he speaks: let us own his authority in his word, and submit to it as the rule of our faith and life, without disputing or opposing.
  4. Let us study to be well acquainted with it, and make it our business to search the scriptures.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Throwback Thursday: John Calvin on Psalm 139


Throwback ThursdayI would never even consider visiting a historic location without my wife, Erica. She has eyes that see things I just can’t see. It’s hard not to be amazed and overcome with emotion when visiting Gettysburg. The battlefields, nostalgic town, and careful placement of canons and flags makes missing the grandeur and importance of that historic Civil War battle nearly impossible.

Still, when Erica and I visited Gettysburg a couple years ago, she saw things that I hadn’t even thought to look for. I would see the house where a certain General was stationed, but she would see a bullet hole on the far side of the house. As we drove around that hallowed ground, she continually pointed out the little intricacies I would not have seen without her. My joy was increased in Gettysburg because of Erica’s keen eye for intricate details. That is the role of a good Bible study resource or commentary.

As I have worked through John Calvin’s commentary on the Psalms over the past few weeks, it has served as a significant daily devotion for my soul. I think commentaries make the best devotionals. They deal directly with the text and are usually written with more biblical integrity and insight than most traditional devotionals. I would recommend the abridged version of Calvin’s commentary on the Psalms as a resource to accompany your Bible reading, particularly if you are reading through the Psalms. It will be a great friend to help point out the intricacies of the Psalms that you would otherwise miss.

As an example of Calvin’s eye for the small, yet significant biblical details, note his comment on Psalm 139:6, 11-12. Here you will feel a scathing cut to the heart in a practical comment. Marvel with Calvin at the grand, immense, unreachable, and penetrating knowledge of God.

David now exclaims against the folly of measuring God’s knowledge by our own, when it rises infinitely high above us. Many stupidly think of God as if he was like themselves, but David confesses him to be beyond comprehension. The divine knowledge has neither bounds nor measure; therefore to think we can determine its extent is patently beyond our feeble capacity…If even the speed of light cannot help us to evade God, perhaps the darkness might give us some respite from his all-seeing gaze. But God sees equally well in the darkness as at noon-day. Both verses have the same meaning. We all pay lip-service to the divine omniscience; however, although we are ashamed to let others witness our wrong-doings, how many of us are indifferent to what God may think of us as if our sins could be veiled from his inspection. Unless such stupidity is reproved, our limited light will be soon changed into darkness.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Throwback Thursday: Carl Trueman on Martin Luther


91n23Upf5ILFriends, Carl Trueman’s new book Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom is terrific! I just want to start off by saying Carl Trueman is not merely a gifted historian and theologian, he is also an excellent writer. He has written some of the most helpful biblical and theological books on many numerous subjects. But I have anticipated this book for a long time. Crossway has done an excellent job in this series with picking some of the best writers and scholars to write on Calvin, Warfield, Schaeffer, Bonhoeffer, Wesley, Edwards, and now Luther.

Luther’s significance to Protestantism cannot be understated! In this book, Trueman shows us how important Luther is to the church. For example, Trueman says,

“For Luther, however, faith is the instrument, and there is no place for merit, either before or after the individual comes to trust in God’s Word and be united to Christ. Justifying righteousness is alien righteousness, and justification is always the extrinsic declaration of God, not based upon any intrinsic quality. Further, while Luther does regard the sacraments as important, they are not strictly speaking necessary for salvation, since faith is the one thing needful in this regard” (70).

Faith and justification were at the heart of the Reformation. Friends, faith and justification are at the heart of the gospel (Romans 1:17).

Trueman does not take to task Luther’s opposing views in theology and the sacraments. His goal in this book is to simply address Luther’s massive contribution to Christian living. For any Protestant, this book will be a joy to read. Luther is fun. Trueman is fun. We should be thankful for both of them.

As Luther once said, “When faith grasps the Word, the power of the Word is imparted to the believer as heat is imparted to an iron placed in the fire.”

Friends, you only get one life and it will soon pass, only what is done for Jesus Christ will last!


1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

Throwback Thursday: Puritans on the Priestly Office of Christ


otb_throwback_thursday_featuredThe Bible presents Jesus as our great prophet, priest, and king. These three offices have been written upon by theologians for centuries. Some of the most influential and heart-warming theological reflections and writings, I am seeing, come from the Puritans. With Advent in mind, I want to spend Throwback Thursdays this December focusing on teachings on the person of Christ. Today, I highlight the thoughts of Puritan Edward Reynolds (1599-1676) on the glory of Christ’s priestly work on the behalf on sinners:

Inasmuch as the virtue of the Deity was to be attributed truly to the sacrifice (else it could have no value nor virtue in it,) and that sacrifice was to be the life, soul, and body of the Priest who offered it, because he was not barely a Priest, but a Surety, and therefore he was to offer himself, [Heb. 9:26; 1 Pet. 2:24] and, inasmuch as his person must needs be equivalent in dignity and representation to the persons of all those for whom he mediated, and who were for his sake only delivered from suffering: for these causes it was necessary that God and man should make [read: comprise] but one Christ, in the unity of the same infinite Person, whose natures they both were (A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, 353).

Joel Beeke adds this comment:

[Christ’s] satisfaction was meritorious before God because of the worth of His person. He is the God-man, and both natures were necessary in order for Christ to both present His people and make sufficient payment on their behalf…The worth of Christ’s person is such that He can be a competent substitute and render a sufficient satisfaction for all of God’s elect…Christ satisfied the Father, and He was able to act as surety (i.e. a substitute) because of the covenant between Father and Son (Ibid. 353).

Throwback Thursday: Richard Baxter to Unbelievers


header_throwback-thursdayThough Richard Baxter (1615-1691) had some notable theological flaws, or at least inconsistencies, concerning justification and the atonement, much of his work is still beneficial in a number of places. In the text that follows, you will see Baxter’s evangelistic zeal and his passion for the unconverted to trust Christ. Reading the Puritans is always both a joy and a conviction. O, God, kindle my desire for your glory and the joy of all peoples in such a way that I imitate such Puritan zeal.

If thou die unconverted, there is no doubt to be made of thy damnation; and thou are not sure to live an hour, and yet art thou not ready to turn and to come in? Oh miserable wretch! Hast thou not served the flesh and the devil long enough yet? Hast thou not enough of sin? Is it so good to thee? or so profitable for thee? Dost thou know what it is, that thou wouldst yet have more of it? Hast thou had so many calls and so many mercies, and so many blows, and so many examples? Hast thou seen so many laid in the grave, and yet art thou not ready to let go thy sins and come to Christ? What? After so many convictions and gripes of conscience, after so many purposes and promises, art thou not ready yet to turn and live? Oh that thy eyes, thy heart were opened to know how fair an offer is now made to thee! and what joyful message it is that we are sent on, to bid thee come, for all things are ready (Richard Baxter, A Call to the Unconverted, pp. 70-71)