Monthly Archives: November 2009

Book Reviews: Chabon on Men, Crawford on Work

Time for one of my favorite things to do: briefly review books.  It’s tough to do this in the midst of the academic semester.  I’ve got two critically acclaimed bestsellers for you today, each of which I review in summary fashion.

First up is Michael Chabon’s very recent Manhood for Amateurs (HarperCollins, 2009).  Chabon is a Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist, an essayist, husband to author Ayelet Waldman, and father of four.  He makes his home in Berkeley, California.

The text is a collection of Chabon’s essays on aspects of manhood culled from publications like GQ, the New York Times, and Details.  Essentially, Chabon traverses the confusing landscape of modern manhood.  He writes from a postmodern perspective, seeking to find the irony, beauty, and hypocrisy of men.  He is a spiritual person; he attends a Jewish synagogue, and this works its way through his essays.

Like other bestselling contemporary male authors (Bill Simmons, for example), Chabon grounds his exploration of his subject in popular culture.  His childhood included much engagement with comics, fantasy tv shows, and the like, and so these things pop up repeatedly in Manhood for Amateurs (currently around #400 on Amazon).  I do not have as much affection for this sort of culture and so did not connect with these stories as others might.

Chabon is an excellent prose stylist.  He occasionally pushes his language just a word or phrase too far, but in general, his writing is inventive and alive.  In terms of his views on manhood, they are, unsurprisingly, quite different from my own.  Chabon writes at one point of his decision to carry a “murse”, a chapter that made my stomach turn, as did Chabon’s approach to a number of other subjects, including sex.

Manhood for Amateurs is richly written and insightful.  I would not recommend it to young readers or those with sensitive consciences.  It is an eloquent statement of a postmodern take on manhood.  Of course, in the end, the book struggles to find its footing on what exactly manhood is.  Chabon regularly notes that he eschews adherence to a masculine code, though this does not prevent him from offering his own ideas on the subject.

As a Christian, one is left awed by the writer’s gift, moved by a number of his stories (“The Hand on My Shoulder” is haunting), and unconvinced by his conception of manhood.  If Chabon gets a number of things right about manhood (including its uncertainty, its beauty, and its propensity for fiery self-destruction), he has lost sight of a sure foundation for manliness, the quarry which only the Word of God can provide.

Nonetheless, this book is worth reading, for those who can handle its mature content.  It walks through many of life’s most powerful experiences, illuminates the pain of a broken world, and shows how confused the modern world is about manhood.  It is beautifully written and would be a help to the writing Christian community, the prose of which trends toward dull mawkishness on the one hand and iron didacticism on the other.

Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft (Penguin, 2009) is another example of shining prose, good ideas, and the ultimate lack of a philosophical/theological foundation for its ideas.  Crawford, a PhD graduate of the University of Chicago and motorcycle mechanic in Richmond, Virginia, writes to point out that modern society has devalued the trades, the manual occupations that allow people to get their hands dirty and build things.

His book is quite convincing.  Crawford argues that today’s educational zeitgeist militates against shop class and manual work, preferring instead the attainment of a college degree which may or may not actually equip students for meaningful work.  Crawford further argues that the modern workplace offers many workers (particularly middle-management) the opportunity not to perform important duties, but to manage workers’ moods.  Drawing, quite humorously, on his experience in a DC thinktank, Crawford makes a compelling case for his point.

The author’s background skews toward Stoicism.  As a Christian, one is left wondering whether Crawford’s view of the value of work possesses a sure base.  The Christian doctrine of the image of God, which imbues all of our activity with meaning, coupled with the Christian doctrine of the necessary glorification of God in all of life and work, seems a much stronger ground upon which to build our conception of labor.

But readers should not miss Crawford’s book (currently around #420 on Amazon).  It has reshaped my understanding of the importance of physical work, trades labor, and the modern workplace.  In short, I came away from it convinced of the need to both tackle manual challenges and to support tradesmen.  Shop-Class as Soulcraft shows that there is great intelligence and value in work done with one’s hands.  There is also a great need for skilled craftsmen, though few of us recognize this as we buzz through the technocracy.

We are simply wrong to think of craftsmen as less intellectually able than knowledge workers.  We should not send a significant portion of our students to college to earn degrees that will not benefit or fulfill them.  Furthermore, the modern workplace, replete with speech codes, is no promised land for young minds.  It is, as Crawford shows, filled with passive-aggressive signaling proceeding out of an unsure psychological climate in which no one is sure of their standing, and thus everyone says just enough to cover their tracks and rarely enough to implicate themselves should things go wrong.

Crawford is, as I said, an elegant writer, a deep thinker, and a persuasive apologist for the trades.  Those who enjoy cultivating the life of the mind in a variety of fields will benefit greatly from Shop-Class as Soulcraft.

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Josh Moody of College Church on 2 Timothy: Toward a Gospel Ministry Foundation and Vision

This from the Henry Center blog.  We recently hosted College Church in Wheaton (IL) pastor Josh Moody, and I was deeply affected by his sermons and also his discussion with the students.  He is a strong, penetrating expositor whose style reminded me of one Lloyd-Jones.  Check out the content below to do yourself the favor of benefiting from his preaching of God’s Word.

The following is what we blurbed on the site.


The Henry Center is pleased to announce that Dr. Josh Moody’s recent Timothy Series lectures and Q&A sessions are now posted free of charge for the viewing of the general public.

October 20 & 22, 2009 | Dr. Josh Moody, College Church, Wheaton, IL

Dr. Moody was born in Surrey, England and holds undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Cambridge University. He currently serves as Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois and served previously as Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in New Haven, Connecticut beginning in 1999. He has authored three books to date: The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today; Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment: Knowing the Presence of God; and Authentic Spirituality.

“The Necessary Foundation for Biblical Ministry”: 2 Timothy 3:10-17 | Audio
“The Necessary Vision for Biblical Ministry” 2 Timothy 4:1-8 | Audio
Interview Pt. 1 | Audio Video
Interview Pt. 2 | Audio Video

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Happy Thanksgiving

Having watched some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, that most American of Thanksgiving morning events, I want to wish those trolling the blogosphere in pre-game meal preparation a Happy Thanksgiving. 

You can read this a thousand different places (which is a good thing!), but I should say it again: it’s terrific that we have a national holiday devoted to the giving of thanks.  It’s good for our souls to know and own this, and to practice this not only today but as a constant daily practice.  God is great.  God is good.  God reigns.  We are thankful.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the day.

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Another Blow to Supposed Human-Caused Climate Change

An alert reader of this blog forwarded me some explosive news from a major UK blog by James Delingpole hosted on the Telegraph’s website.  I don’t know a great deal about the matter discussed below, but it certainly sounds important for the discussion about so-called global warming and human-caused climate change:

If you own any shares in alternative energy companies I should start dumping them NOW. The conspiracy behind the Anthropogenic Global Warming myth (aka AGW; aka ManBearPig) has been suddenly, brutally and quite deliciously exposed after a hacker broke into the computers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (aka  CRU) and released 61 megabytes of confidential files onto the internet. (Hat tip: Watts Up With That)

When you read some of those files – including 1079 emails and 72 documents – you realise just why the boffins at CRU might have preferred to keep them confidential. As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

“Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.”

And keep reading–there is some incendiary stuff here, if it is true.  Here’s a further quotation from Delingpole:

In September – I wrote the story up here as “How the global warming industry is based on a massive lie” –  CRU’s researchers were exposed as having “cherry-picked” data in order to support their untrue claim that global temperatures had risen higher at the end of the 20th century than at any time in the last millenium.  CRU was also the organisation which – in contravention of all acceptable behaviour in the international scientific community – spent years withholding data from researchers it deemed unhelpful to its cause. This matters because  CRU, established in 1990 by the Met Office, is a government-funded body which is supposed to be a model of rectitude. Its HadCrut record is one of the four official sources of global temperature data used by the IPCC.

Read the whole thing.  There’s much more to ponder here and think hard about.  While wanting to care for the world as a God-appointed steward, one is left wondering whether the entire anthropogenic global warming movement is not as much a political phenomenon as it is a scientific one.  Of course, one also should not forget the massive investments made in alternative energy technologies, from which, as the NYT recently noted, public figures like former Vice President Al Gore (above) stand to benefit to the tune of millions (billions, perhaps) of dollars.


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The DC Hoops Scene: Power, Points, and Presidents

The Outside the Lines side of the ESPN online network has a fun story up about the current DC hoops scene.  President Obama, a diehard pickup basketball player, has apparently ignited interest in the game. 

Here’s an excerpt from the story, “The Power Game”, by Wright Thompson:

Obama loves all things hoops. By executive fiat, the White House tennis court is being retrofitted for basketball. He mentions the game every other speech, including his controversial commencement address at Notre Dame. There’s a blog devoted to his on-court exploits called Baller-in-Chief. His brother-in-law is the coach at Oregon State. His friends hoop. His personal aide, Reggie Love, hooped his way to a national title at Duke and is the gatekeeper for the presidential game. The senior staff hoops. The junior staff hoops. Four members of the Cabinet hoop. Wanna guess what comes next? There’s a new prize to be won.

“What’s the hottest invite in Washington?” former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers asks. “Yeah, it’s great to go to White House state dinners or Stevie Wonder kinds of events. But what’s the sine qua non? It’s a pickup game with Obama. That’s the inner, inner, inner sanctum. Proximity is everything in this town. How close are you to the epicenter?”

There are some significant matters on which I disagree with the President.  But changing the White House tennis court to a basketball court is a decision I can only heartily applaud.  As an obsessed pickup basketball player (who used to play ball in a very competitive men’s league at Gonzaga High School in DC), I fully agree with this “executive fiat”!

Read the whole story–it’s fun, and shows a good deal of what makes Washington work.

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ETS Highlights: The Moore Tour and More (Including Beignets)

As some of you know, the Evangelical Theological Society met last week in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I was able to go, and I had some thoughts on “highlights” of the experience (what is it with Americans and highlights, anyway?).

1. Russ Moore gave a fun and informative tour on the literary culture of New Orleans.  It was engrossing.  I haven’t seen any material from it on Moore’s blog (have I missed something, Robbie?), but if footage turns up from the tour, check it out.  I don’t know about you, but I love learning about literature from theologians.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  How about a book, Dr. Moore?

Moore brought out the darkness of New Orleans in his hourlong stroll through the French Quarter.  At one point, he talked about how New Orleans loves a good rogue; at another, he discussed the way area residents interact with the devil.  To paraphrase, in some places in the world, people act like the devil doesn’t exist–they keep him at arm’s length; in New Orleans, they throw their arm around his shoulder.  It’s a dark and needy place.

2. Because of this reality, it was encouraging to talk with James Welch, a pastor in New Orleans and an SBTS alum.  James is a great guy with a heart for the gospel and a comprehensive grasp on all things Nola.  We talked Lil Wayne, Bourbon Street, and miraculous conversion.  Thoroughly encouraging.  If you can, pray for Sojourn Lakeview and their ministry to the city.

3. The city itself is working hard to continue the post-Katrina recovery, but from what I could see, it’s hard going.  There weren’t many people around. 

4. I had the privilege of meeting Dave Doran, who I interacted with on this blog some months ago.  He is president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and the pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church, and he’s a very kind and gracious man.  As we know, Detroit, like New Orleans, is hard-hit these days.  Let’s pray for the church and seminary Dave leads, asking God’s rich blessing on their promotion and defense of the gospel.

5. As readers of this blog know, I had the special pleasure of blogging Bruce Ware’s ETS presidential address.  I’ll remember that for a long time to come.

Other than that stuff, I was able to give an academic paper, see old friends (Ben Dockery did a nice job with the SBTS alumni event), eat good food (muffulettas, po’ boys from Mother’s, and more), and generally soak up the ETS atmosphere.  I’m thankful for ETS and how it encourages and showcases evangelical scholarship.  Over 2000 folks turned out, over 500 papers were read (including several from my TEDS buddies), and much glory was given to God.

Last but certainly not least, a not insignificant amount of beignets from the amazing Cafe du Monde were eaten (yes, order them!).


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Tim Keller, Al Mohler, and Ravi Zacharias Agree: Life, Marriage, and Liberty Are Important

The Manhattan Declaration was, as of last night, the 29th most searched term on Google.  It was a “spicy” search term.  So there you go.

Justin Taylor blogged it yesterday.  In less than 24 hours, the site has drawn over 7000 signatures.    The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Post, First Things, and other organizations have covered it already.

If you have not signed up, consider joining Tim Keller, Al Mohler, Ravi Zacharias and many others.  Make a statement to the broader culture about life, marriage, and liberty.  Our voices matter.

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The Manhattan Declaration: A Bold Statement on Family and Faith

Today at 12pm, a group of evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox leaders released a statement on the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.  Called the Manhattan Declaration, this statement represents a bold rebuke of current cultural trends and a clear call to the culture to recognize the harm it is doing itself in crucial areas.

The statement was drafted by Robby George, Timothy George, and Chuck Colson.  Prominent evangelical signatories include Al Mohler, Russ Moore, David Dockery, Danny Akin, Marvin Olasky, Ravi Zacharias, Bill Edgar, Michael Easley, and others.  Evangel has a full list of signers.  The MD is not an outreach of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. 

 The Manhattan Declaration is not simply a statement, but a grassroots movement.  All who agree with the statement are strongly encouraged to sign the Declaration in support.

 The Declaration

Join the movement!
Sign the Declaration

More on the MD:

The Manhattan Declaration is a 4,732-word statement signed by a movement of Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders who are collaborating around moral issues of great concern. Its 125+ signers affirm the sanctity of human life, marriage as defined by the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The Manhattan Declaration endorses civil disobedience under certain circumstances.

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

Visit the site for more information.


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ETS Live-Blog: Bruce Ware’s 2009 Presidential Address

I am live-blogging the 2009 Evangelical Theological Society Presidential Address by Dr. Bruce Ware, professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY).  Dr. Ware’s message, entitled “The Man Christ Jesus,” looks to be customarily rich and insightful.

It is an honor to attend this address in New Orleans and to share this exciting moment with Dr. Ware, my mother-in-law, Jodi Ware, and the ETS community. Unfortunately, my wife, Bethany Strachan, oldest daughter of Dr. Ware, and her sister, Rachel Ware, are not able to attend.  But they are with us in thought and prayer.

What follows is a recap of the talk, featuring lengthy sections of Dr. Ware’s address, with a bit of commentary spliced in.  This is not the full text; you’ll need to look at a future episode of JETS for that.  This live-blog will, however, give you a sense of the message and allow you to soak up some of the richness of this talk.

With thanks to Jacob Shatzer, this is my best attempt at a faithful live-blog.  It represents less than 50% of the message, so keep that in mind. All errors are mine, and all insights are Dr. Ware’s.


It is 8:05pm here in  New Orleans.  The room is packed to the gills with evangelical theologians and those who wish to eat chicken and beans with evangelical theologians.  The banquet has concluded, and Dr. Ware has just recognized a number of key ETS players: J. Michael Thigpen (Executive Director), Craig Blaising (past President), and James Borland (longtime Secretary).  We are about to begin the address.  Eugene Merrill of Dallas Theological Seminary is introducing Dr. Ware, and doing so with graciousness and depth.

The Man Christ-Jesus

Dr. Ware began the address by posing the question that drove the formation of his paper:

The theological question that has given rise to the reflections of this paper is as follows:  What dimensions of the life, ministry, mission, and work of Jesus Christ can only be accounted for fully and understood rightly when seen through the lens of his humanity?  Put differently, while Christ was (and is) fully God and fully man, how do we best account for the way in which he lived his life and fulfilled his calling — by seeing him carrying this out as God?  or as man?  or as the God-man?  I would argue that the most responsible answer biblically and theologically is the last, “as the God-man,” but that the emphasis must be placed on the humanity of Christ as the primary reality he expressed in his day-by-day life, ministry, and work.

Ware continued by making a major claim–that the New Testament emphasizes Christ’s humanity more than His deity:

The instinct in much evangelical theology, both popular and scholarly, is to stress the deity of Christ, but the New Testament instead puts greater stress, I believe, on his humanity.  He came as the second Adam, the seed of Abraham, the son of David, and he lived his life as one of us.  Now again, he was fully and unequivocally God, and some of the works of Jesus, in my view, displayed this deity — e.g., his forgiving of sin (Mark 2), the transfiguration of Christ (Matt 19, Mark 9, Luke 9), his raising of Lazarus from the dead as the one claiming, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11), and most importantly the efficacy of his atonement whose payment for our sin, only as God, was of infinite value — these and others show forth the truth that he lived among us also as one who was fully God.  But while he was fully God, and while this is crucial to understanding rightly his full identity, life, and the fulfillment of his atoning work, the predominant reality he experienced day by day, and the predominant means by which he fulfilled his calling, was that of his genuine and full humanity.  Paul captures the significance of the humanity of Christ with his assertion, “There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).

Update: Al Mohler, faithful Tweeter (is that a word?), caught wind of this live-blogging.

Ware then suggested two major points that he would cover in the paper:

First, we will consider what it means that Jesus came as the long-awaited Spirit-anointed Messiah.  Second, we will explore the reality of Jesus’ impeccability and consider the means by which he resisted temptation.  In both of these features, while the deity of Christ certainly is evident, his humanity is prominent such that apart from his full and integral humanity, we cannot account for these central and pivotal identifying features of his person and work.

What, Ware asked, is the significance of the anointing of the Holy Spirit on Christ’s ministry?

The answer is:  Everything of supernatural power and enablement that he, in his humanity, would lack.  The only way to make sense, then, of the fact that Jesus came in the power of the Spirit is to understand that he lived his life fundamentally as a man, and as such, he relied on the Spirit to provide the power, grace, knowledge, wisdom, direction, and enablement he needed, moment by moment and day by day, to fulfill the mission the Father sent him to accomplish.

Point One: Jesus as the Spirit-Anointed Messiah (Textual Support)

First, the ETS President looked at Isaiah 11:1-3 to support his claim.  He suggested that this passage teaches that

The Spirit rested on him and granted him wisdom, understanding, knowledge, discernment, strength, and resolve to fear God his Father.  In other words, these qualities did not extend directly or fundamentally from his own divine nature, though divine he surely was!  Rather, much as the “fruit of the Spirit” of Galatians 5:22-23 are the evidences outwardly of the Spirit at work in a believer inwardly, so too here, these qualities are attributed to and accounted for by the Spirit who rested upon Jesus, empowering him to have the wisdom, understanding, and resolve to obey that he exhibited.

Next, Ware looked at Luke 2:40 and 2:52.  From these texts, Ware argued that Christ had to learn just as we learn, and that the Spirit superintended this learning:

“All who heard him,” Luke comments, “were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Luke 2:47).  Now, the common evangelical intuition for accounting for this event in Jesus’ boyhood is this:  of course Jesus astonished these teachers of the law in Jerusalem; after all, he was God!  And while he was God, this answer misses the very hints Luke himself has given in the verses that bracket this account.  Jesus astonished these Jewish teachers, not because he was God, although he was; rather, he astonished them because as a 12 year old human boy, he had devoted himself to the mastery of the law of the Lord, and the grace of God by the Spirit had given him extraordinary insight, so that at merely 12 years old, he could astonish these greatest of all teachers in Jerusalem by the questions he asked and the answers he gave.  He truly was, then, the Psalm 1 prototype.

Ware moved next to Acts 10:38, where Peter speaks of the Spirit’s anointing of Jesus:

Peter was granted revelation from the Father that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt 16:16); and Peter was present with Thomas and the other disciples when Jesus appeared in the room, and Thomas responded, saying to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:26-29).  Peter knows Jesus is God — which is what makes this statement in Acts 10:38 all the more remarkable.  As Peter contemplates Jesus’ day-to-day life, the good deeds he did and the truth he taught, the exorcisms and miracles he performed, and when Peter considers how Jesus did these things, he says that, “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power,” and thatHe went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38)….Jesus was the Christ, a man born in the line of David, anointed and empowered by the Spirit to live out his life and carry out his mission.

Point Two: Jesus Christ, the Impeccable, Temptable, and Sinless

Ware moved to his second point.  He noted that he might have coined a new word–“temptable”.  I’m not sure, but I like the word.  If it catches on in the broader culture, well, now you know its origin.

The second line of support for the central importance of understanding Jesus’ life and ministry being lived fundamentally as a man is this:  he was really, genuinely tempted.   Immediately we understand that Jesus’ humanity must be involved in his temptations in a way in which his deity could not be, for James tells us, “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1:13).  But Jesus was tempted.  In fact, Hebrews tells us that he was “tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15).  But there is more:  Jesus was also fully God, and as such it has seemed to most theologians (myself included) that he was impeccable, i.e., he could not sin.

The paper next considered a number of proposals by prominent theologians that offer suggestions for how to understand the interaction between the human and divine natures of Christ.  Ware looked at the thought of Louis Kerkhof, W. G. T. Shedd, Herman Bavinck, Thomas Morris, and Gerald O’Collins.  I am not going to quote this section extensively.  Let me give a snapshot from the conclusion of this section, where the theologian considered what it would mean for Christ to actually commit a sin:

But, hypothetically, what would have been involved in the event that Christ had sinned?  Since God cannot sin, the deity of Christ could not have been involved in the act of sin that Christ, in this hypothetical scenario, would have committed.  But how not, since the divine and human natures are joined in the one Person of Jesus Christ in the incarnation?  Erickson suggests, “At the very brink of the decision to sin, where that decision had not yet taken place, but the Father knew it was about to be made, the Second Person of the Trinity would have left the human nature of Jesus, dissolving the incarnation.”  So, apparently Erickson considers as hypothetically possible one of the horns of the dilemma that Bavinck had wanted to avoid.

An Alternate Proposal

In this section, Dr. Ware suggested his own proposal for resolving the matter of impeccability as related to the divine and human natures.

Essentially this proposal runs as follows:  Jesus was genuinely impeccable owing to the fact that in the incarnation it was none other than the immutable and eternally holy Second Person of the Trinity who joined to himself a full human nature.  Nonetheless this impeccability of his Person did not render his temptations inauthentic or his struggles disingenuous.  How so?  Jesus resisted these temptations and in every way obeyed his Father, not by recourse to his divine nature but through the resources provided to him in his full humanity.

The ETS President then moved on to offer three major ideas.  Remember, as with the talk in its entirety, these are just summaries–there is much more to these arguments than appears here. Here’s the first:

First, we begin by affirming what is in some ways both the clearest and most important truth in the whole of this discussion, viz., that Christ in fact did not sin.  Scripture here is abundantly clear.  2 Cor 5:21, “God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him”…

Here’s the second:

Second, the impeccability of Christ is a reasonable inference from Scripture’s teaching about who the incarnate Christ is, and an inference so clear and compelling that it is unreasonable to imagine Jesus not considering this inference thereby knowing the truth of his own impeccability.  I agree here with Shedd who argued that if Christ could sin, in this hypothetical act of sin “the guilt would not be confined to the human nature” but the divine nature also would be stained.  Since this cannot occur to the immutably holy divine nature, once the union of human and divine natures has occurred, the human nature is rendered impeccable by virtue of its union to the impeccable divine nature.  Or one might think of the issue in these terms:  Since the holy One born of Mary was fully God as well as fully man, this would imply, it would seem, some limitations in expression both for his divine and human natures.

Here’s the third:

Third, and most important for the position I am here arguing, the impeccability of Christ by virtue of his impeccable divine nature united to his human nature, has nothing directly to do with how he resisted temptation and how it was that he did not sin.  Yes, Christ was impeccable, but his impeccability is quite literally irrelevant to explaining his sinlessness.  The common evangelical intuition seems to be this:  if the reason Christ could not sin is that he is God, then the reason Christ did not sin must likewise be that he is God.  My proposal denies this symmetry and insists that the questions of why Christ could not sin and why he did not sin require, instead, remarkably different answers.

Ware, a true teacher, then expanded upon this third point with an illustration:

To understand better the distinction here invoked between why something could not occur and why it did not occur, consider this example:

Imagine a swimmer who wanted to attempt breaking the world’s record for the longest continuous swim (which, I’ve read, is something over 70 miles).   As this swimmer trains, besides his daily swims of 5 to 10 miles, he includes weekly swims of greater distance.  On some of the longer swims of 30 and 40 miles, he notices that his muscles can begin to tighten and cramp a bit, and he becomes worried that in attempting to break the world record, his muscles may cramp severely and he could then drown.  So, he consults with friends, and they decide to arrange for a boat to follow along behind the swimmer 20 or 30 feet back, close enough to pick him up should any serious problem arise, but far enough away so as not to interfere in any way with the attempted historic swim itself.  On the appointed day, conditions being just right, the swimmer dives in and begins his attempt at breaking the world record.  As he swims, all the while the boat follows along comfortably behind ready to pick up the swimmer, if needed.  But no help is needed; with determination and resolve, the swimmer relentlessly swims, and swims, and swims, and in due time, he succeeds in breaking the world record.

Two questions require pondering from this illustration:

Now, consider two questions:  1) why is it that in this record-breaking event the swimmer could not have drowned?  Answer:  the boat was there all the while, ready to rescue him if needed.  But 2) why is it the swimmer did not drown?  Answer:  he kept swimming!  Notice that the answer to the second question has nothing at all to do with the boat, i.e., it has nothing to do with the answer to the first question.  In fact, if you gave the answer of “the boat” to question 2, the swimmer would be both astonished and dismayed.  It simply is not true that the swimmer did not drown because the boat was there.  The boat, quite literally, had absolutely nothing to do with why the swimmer did not drown.  Furthermore, although the swimmer knew full well that he could not drown due to the boat following along behind him, that knowledge had nothing to do with why he did not drown, since he also knew that if he ever relied on the boat his mission of breaking the world record would be forfeited.  So although he knew that he could not drown due to the boat, he also knew that he could only accomplish his goal by swimming as if there were no boat there at all.

The theologian then connected the main point of this illustration to Jesus:

Jesus lived his life in reliance on the Spirit so that his resistance to temptation and his obedience to the will of the Father took place through, and not apart from, the empowerment provided him as the second Adam, the seed of Abraham, the son of David.  Recall again Peter’s claim that God anointed Jesus “with the Holy Spirit and with power,” and that he went about doing good (the moral life and obedience of Christ) as well as healing all who are oppressed by the devil (the miracles he performed), “for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).  Although he was God, and although he was impeccable as the God-man, nevertheless he did not resist temptation and obey the Father by his divine nature but by the power of the Spirit who indwelt him….He knew that to rely on “the boat,” i.e. on his own divine nature, would be to forfeit the mission on which he was sent.  Hence, he had to fight temptation as a man, in dependence on his Father and by the power of the Spirit, and so he did, amazingly, completely without ever once yielding to any temptation.

Conclusion: Relevance to Related Areas

Ware closed by first addressing what Hebrews 5:8-9 mean.

These verses read, “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered.  And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation.” Hebrews 5:8-9 means this:  through the things that Christ suffered, through the trials, temptations, and afflictions of life, he learned to obey increasingly difficult demands of his Father until at last, he was prepared—made mature, if you will, strengthened in faith and character—to go to the cross….His resistance of temptation and obedience to the Father was not automatic since these were not brought about from his impeccable divine nature.  Rather, he learned to obey as a man, and as a man he fought temptation and sought to obey in increasingly demanding situations of life.  But he always did obey, and through this regular obedience he was made ready, strengthened, for the biggest challenge of all, death on the cross, in order that he would be the source of our eternal salvation.

He then looked at how 1 Peter 2:21-22 relates to our lives:

Christ left us an example that “we should follow in his steps, who committed no sin . . . .”  If Christ resisted temptation and obeyed the Father out of his divine nature, how could he be an example for us?  If Christ lived out his life and carried out his mission in the power of his divinity, how could we be commanded rightly to follow in his steps?  But if Christ lived the prototype of new covenant life, by prayer and the word and the power of the Spirit, and then if he shared those same resources with us, his followers, then we can rightly be called to live like him.  Indeed the expectation is so fully right and real that Peter has the audacity to say, as we’ve seen, “follow in his steps, who committed no sin.”


The message, in my initial judgment, was typical Dr. Ware: full of fresh thinking, full of Scripture, and thoroughly doxological.  With you, I look forward to the publication of this address, and to the stimulation it will engender among evangelicals, those who worship the God-Man, Christ Jesus.


Filed under Bruce Ware, Jesus Christ

Carl Trueman on How to Keep One’s Soul in the Academy

A powerful exhortation by Carl Trueman to theological students to cling to the local church from the most recent Themelios:

The temptation for a theological student at this point, of course, is to make the obvious answer to this: well, I study the things of God all day long; I am hardly likely to forget about God, who he is and what he has done, am I? Well, there is forgetting and there is forgetting. Remembering that there is a train that leaves the local station every evening at five o’clock is one thing; remembering that I need to be on it to return home to be there for my wife’s surprise birthday party is quite another. It is all too easy for the theological student to end up remembering God as an object of knowledge; it is quite another thing to remember him as the all-surpassing subject of existence.

This is why church is vitally important. OK, long-standing readers of Themelios know what is coming next: Trueman’s pitch for seeing the local church as the necessary context for the Christian life, not least for those called to study theology at the highest level. Well, here it comes; and just because I have said it before does not make it any less true or any less necessary to say it again. After all, some of you may—ahem—have forgotten the speech. As noted above, that’s what the Bible itself indicates as happening when predictable but important routines are abandoned or their content taken for granted.

These are challenging and needed words.  What sense does it make to study the Word in an academic setting if we lose our souls in the process?

And how are we to keep our souls, both as students and throughout the rest of our lives?  In the power of the Holy Spirit, by attending to the routine things of the Christian life in which are hid the pleasures of eternity.


By the way, if any readers of this blog are going to the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in New Orleans and want to indulge their lifelong curiosity in all things Harold Ockenga, I’ll be presenting a paper in the Sheraton A3/303 tomorrow, Wednesday, November 18th, at 11am entitled “Harold Ockenga and the Neo-Evangelical Renaissance: Overview and Assessment.”

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