Oh, what an embarrassment of riches! Rarely have so many topics presented themselves at one time for consideration through this publication, and rarely have I as a writer ever wanted to address more of them. This is one week when I certainly have no trouble finding a topic to write about.
For example, the recent conference of the Evangelical Theological Society returned the focus of evangelical scholars to the subject of inerrancy. To no one’s surprise, a good many self-identified evangelicals do not believe in inerrancy. Many more define it out of existence. Yet others affirm inerrancy but insist that it is a secondary doctrine. As many contemporary evangelicals look more and more like old liberals, this is a topic that is worth talking about.
Then there’s the whole Charismatic thing. During the past couple of months, I’ve done two preliminary sorties into the battle for cessationism. In the meanwhile, John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference has captured the imagination of much of the evangelical world, and Mark Driscoll has made a spectacle of himself (again). So much fodder, so little time.
Along the way, I need to get back to finishing a series that I left hanging some time ago. The series was (is) on the People of God. Most of it is complete, but I need to comment upon a couple more biblical texts. And I’m just OCD (or is it CDO) enough to be tremendously irked by leaving a project unfinished.
Over the past week, much nonsense has been spouted over Christian Rap. Frankly, the nonsense has come from both sides, and I’m not much interested in trying to wrestle with that muddy pig. What interests me is what the spat has revealed about the deplorable state of the evangelical mind when it comes to what they call thinking about what they call culture. For example, Mike Cosper has revealed that he does not understand the difference between nature and culture. Al Mohler has disclosed a surprising inability to distinguish judgments from preferences. Unfortunately, the way in which this episode unfolded has caught some good men (Joel Beeke, for example) in a double-bind. Now they can be shot at by the least charitable characters on both sides.
At some point, we should really discuss the moral implications of Obamacare and comparable social and economic proposals. These moral implications are important, and they are almost exactly the opposite of what the Sojourners crowd would have us to believe. Which, of course, raises again the question of the status of the evangelical Left—a movement that offers less and less Christianity to more and more people with each passing year.
Those are all topics I would like to discuss during December, but I am not going to address any them (at least not until later). Rather, I am making a deliberate choice to focus during this month upon the most important things. For hundreds of years, Christians have set aside this season for reflection upon the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The incarnation and subsequent passion of the Lord represent the pivotal point of all history. Everything that came before leads up to it. Everything that follows flows from it. We can rightly understand any of the foregoing topics in the light of the incarnation of the God-man.
December is for Advent. Historically, Christians have begun their reflections upon the incarnation, not by celebrating it, but by remembering why it was necessary. Advent is not a feast, it is a fast. It is a season for reminding ourselves of what we were without Christ, and of what we would be if He had not come.
The songs of Advent are filled with yearning, for the whole created order still groans and labors under the futility and slavery to which our sin has subjected it. Indeed, we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the day when our bodies will be fully redeemed and we will enter into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. In that day we shall experience full freedom from the ravages of sin, both in body and soul. More than that, the very created order will be restored to a freedom that it has not experienced since Eden.
We anticipate that freedom, but for now we lament. Our lamentation reminds us that these are the very things from which the Son of God came to deliver us. He came down from heaven to free us from our sins. He came to save us from their consequences. In His incarnation, He became one of us in order that He might bear our sins in His own body on the tree. He fully entered into our nature in order that He might fully redeem us.
These are the things that we remember during Advent. These are the things that I want to write about this month. We look back upon our lost state. We look around at what our sins have done to us, to others, and to the created world. We recognize that the Savior has come, but the Savior is still coming. He will rapture His church. He will redeem Israel. He will bring peace like a river. His throne will be forever. He will rule with a scepter of justice. In His kingdom, justice will roll down like waters. O come, O come, Immanuel!
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Hark, An Awful Voice is Sounding
Latin, sixth century; trans. Edward Caswall (1814–1878)
Hark! an awful voice is sounding;
“Christ is nigh!” it seems to say;
“Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day!”
Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.
Lo! the Lamb so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from Heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven.
So, when next He comes with glory,
Wrapping all the earth in fear,
May He then as our Defender
On the clouds of Heaven appear.
Honor, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father and the Son,
With the everlasting Spirit,
While eternal ages run.