I started a tradition this past year of selecting a theologian and attempting to read most of their works over the course of a year, as well as reading some biographies on them and commentaries on their work. I started with St. Anselm of Canterbury. It was incredibly enriching. I am continuing this new tradition into 2019, but am trying something a bit bolder: I am selecting two very different theologians to read. I discovered with Anselm that if I had tried just a bit harder I could have read all his work much faster than I did, without compromising depth of understanding. So to test that theory I am reading two people this year. Another difference is that this year I am actually creating a schedule in order to help that theory prove correct.
The first is Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 293-373), one of the great fathers of the church…
People who are part of a particular congregation are often called church “members.” This language is profoundly biblical, and is a visible, covenantal manifestation of the believer’s union with Christ.
μέλος (melos) is the Greek word used to describe the individual parts of a body (literally “body member”). For example, the tongue is an individual member of the body (James 3:5-6). μέλος is used metaphorically to describe the relationship between believers and Christ. Individual believers are all μέλη (members) of Christ (Romans 12:4-5), because we are in Christ. This union with Christ is total: even our bodies, as part of ourselves, are μέλη of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15, Ephesians 5:29-30). We have been united to Christ as his members through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The abiding of John 14 is best described in terms of our union with Christ, our membership in and with him…
A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO) is a sister denomination to my own EPC. ECO began as a church in 2012, composed of congregations departing from the PCUSA. I have a few friends ministering in ECO, and I have made some efforts at better institutional unity between our churches. At the EPC’s 2017 General Assembly I sat on the Standing Committee (i.e. temporary committee limited to that meeting) on Fraternal Relations. I convinced the rest of the committee to recommend to the Assembly, that the Permanent Committee on Fraternal Relations should be instructed to begin dialogue with ECO aimed at forming a fraternal relationship. This recommendation was approved by the Assembly and encouraging work has begun in that direction.
I mention this to make clear that I like ECO. My hope is that the EPC and ECO formally unite as one church. But there are some significant barriers that need to be overcome if that union is to occur. The most substantial barrier is the issue of confessionalism and doctrine…
…If the word [justification] should signify as much as ‘to make righteous’, as to sanctify does signify ‘to make holy’, still we could grant it, though not in the Popish way; and indeed the Apostle [in] Rom. 5. says, ‘many are made righteous by the second Adam’, which if not meant of inherent holiness, does imply, that the righteousness we have by Christ is not merely declarative, but also constitutive; and indeed one is in order before the other, for a man must be righteous before he can be pronounced or declared so to be…so that there are these two things in justifying, whereof one is the ground of the other, first to make righteous, and then to pronounce or declare so.
-Anthony Burges, The True Doctrine of Justification.
You may say to me: ‘”You are still not removing from me the necessity of sinning or not sinning since God foreknows that I am going to sin or not sin, and it is therefore necessary that I sin, if I sin, or that I not sin if I do not sin.” But then I, in turn, respond: “You should not say: ‘God only foreknows that I am going to sin or not.’ You should say: ‘God foreknows if I am going to freely sin or not.’ From this it follows that I am free to sin or not to sin because God knows that what shall come to pass shall be free.”
-Anselm, De Concordia §1. This is the opening of his argument for the compatibility of human choice and God’s foreknowledge.