Nordic Preacher

Northern Reflections on Preaching, Theology and the Christian Life.

Author: Miska wilhelmsson (Page 1 of 2)

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J. C. Ryle and the Essentials of Dispensationalism

Introduction

ryle_comingeventsIn in the last few decades, there has been a resurgence of interest in the writings of Bishop J.C. Ryle. Particularly his book, Holiness is widely known and beloved by many Christians, and rightly so. Much of this renewed interest has been greatly advanced by Banner of Truth, the main publishing house that has made Ryle’s writings available to a new generation of believers. In fact, almost all the major works by Ryle have indeed been republished by Banner of Truth[1], except for one book, Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Plain Papers on Prophecy which is the only one dealing specifically with his views regarding eschatology. Ryle himself described this book as a compact manual on his views regarding future prophecy.[2] Thankfully this book has been republished by other smaller publishers, but since Banner of Truth is much more widely known, and regarded as the authority on all things Ryle, the book has remained largely in the shadows to the present generation. One cannot state for certain, but it seems very likely that the reason for Banner of Truth not republishing this book by Ryle, is due to the non-premillennial (amillennial and postmillennial) views represented by the publishing house, and since Ryle’s book presents a clear case for premillennialism, it is understandable that the publisher would not be too eager in promoting this. Whatever the reason is for Banner of Truth, it needs to be recognized that this decision of not publishing this eschatological work by Ryle, while yet publishing all his other works, has contributed to the ignorance that exists among Christians, especially in theologically Reformed circles, regarding the somewhat controversial eschatological views of J. C. Ryle. It is also ironic, that already during his own lifetime, Ryle himself noted when republishing this book in 1879 after its initial printing 12 years prior (1867), that some of the chapters which he held to have real worth, had yet received little notice.[3] More importantly, Ryle stated that in his view one of the greatest shortcomings of the modern church was that pastors did not preach enough about the second coming of Christ and his future kingdom.[4] He strongly challenged the readers of his day, that modern Christians have become most unlike the early Christians, in the regard that they tend to completely ignore the doctrine of Christ’s second coming, making it a peripheral issue, whereas the early church placed it as an issue of first importance.[5] Therefore, it is very unfortunate that the book, which Ryle wrote specifically in regard to this woefully neglected doctrine, continues to be largely unknown and neglected even to this present day. When speaking about Ryle, even in the biographies about him, very rarely is there any mention regarding the importance he placed on rightly understanding the second coming of Christ and the nature of his kingdom.

The purpose of this article is to identify the essentials of Ryle’s eschatology, and then compare those to the essentials of modern dispensationalism, in order to see if Ryle could indeed be described as dispensational in his views relating to prophetic truth.

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My Thoughts on Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism

Covenant Theology? Agree or disagree?

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Here’s a comparison chart I made contrasting the essentials of covenant theology and dispensationalism, based on content from my Theology 4 class with Dr. Michael Vlach. You can download the PDF here.

My short answer would be, no, I do not hold to covenant theology, since I don’t think it is justifiable by Scripture. That being said, I do recognize that there are many godly men who do hold to that view, men whom I have benefited greatly from, especially as it comes to other aspects of theology (such as soteriology). Even though the essence of covenant theology is often presented to be the theological covenants that seek to tie together the broader storyline of Scripture, I actually don’t think this is the most helpful way to look at the most foundational distinctives of covenant theology. Granted, I do not believe that the theological covenants (Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works, Covenant of Grace) are found presented as such in Scripture. But at the same time I do not think it has the most drastic effects on your theology, even if one were to accept the theological covenants as legitimate descriptions of biblical truths. A good example of this was S. Lewis Johnson, who was a dispensationalist and yet recognized the theological covenants of covenant theology as legitimate descriptions of the truths taught in Scripture. My personal opinion is that the theological covenants are not necessarily fully wrong, but mainly just confusing and not very helpful in theology and biblical interpretation.

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Am I a Charismatic? Do I Believe in the Holy Spirit?

Am I a Charismatic? Well, to rightly answer that question, one first needs to clarify what is meant by the question. If the question is meant as ‘Do you believe in spiritual gifts and the importance of the Holy Spirit?’ Then the answer would most certainly be an astounding yes! On the other hand, if the question means something along these lines, ‘Do you believe the modern Charismatic movement is a faithful representation of biblical truth?’ Then the answer would have to be a clear no. When I use the term Charismatic, I am here using it as a broad term to describe all Christian movements that are known for their belief that the miraculous and revelatory sign gifts (gift of prophecy, gift of tongues, gift of healing) seen in the New Testament are still operational today. Even though I recognize that there are differences between Charismatics and Pentecostals, specifically the difference in recognizing speaking in tongues as the evidence of being baptized by the Spirit,[1] for my purpose here, I will refer to all those who believe that all the New Testament spiritual gifts continue as fully operational today, as Charismatics.[2] The broad Charismatic movement is too diverse for having a clearly defined systematic theology[3] to focus on, however, the belief in the continuation of prophecy, tongues and divine healing are something shared by most Charismatics.

The main reason why I am not a Charismatic is that the modern Charismatic gifts are not the same as those described in the New Testament, even though they are referred to by the same names. Charismatics often say that they simply believe that all the spiritual gifts of the New Testament are continuing until today. However, when we look closely at how the Bible defines these miraculous gifts, and then compare that to what is practiced by Charismatics, we see that they simply are not the same. Much could be written about the differences and details of these gifts, but since the scope and length of this article is to be a simple overview, the main differences and arguments will be summarized.

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The Biblical Significance of the Beard: A God-given Sign of Gender Distinction and Maturity?

PERSONAL NOTE: Every now and then I get comments from fellow Christians suggesting that it might be unsuitable for Christian men to have beards. For the purpose of publicly explaining my views on the matter, below is the contents of a seminary research paper I have written on the subject, for which I got very encouraging feedback from my professor. Just to be clear, these are simply my own personal views (even though I certainly believe them to be biblically based) and do NOT represent any official view of the church where I have the privilege to serve. Neither do I seek to make others agree with me, rather I simply want to clearly express my own views on this minor topic, for the purpose of helping others understand my biblical reasoning on the matter, even if they end up disagreeing with my conclusions. Anyway, below is the article, which is obviously a little longer than a normal blog post, due to it being a research paper. I hope it will be helpful for others thinking through the issues involved in this subject.

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Introduction

In the well-known fictional work, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, there is somewhat interesting remark made by the senior Demon ‘screwtape’ as he is instructing the younger demon on how to entice humans to sin,

“Thus we have now for many centuries triumphed over nature to the extent of making certain secondary characteristics of the male (such as the beard) disagreeable to nearly all the females­–and there is more in that than you might suppose.”[1]

Was C. S. Lewis actually on to something with this strange comment by this fictional demon? Is there actually a God given purpose for the ‘secondary characteristics of the male’, the beard in particular? Does the suppression of this natural symbol of manliness actually signify something more than one might first suppose? Even more specifically, is it completely foolish to even suggest that there might be good biblical reasons for men to have beards? In fact, could the beard even be considered a sign of gender distinction and maturity?

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Ohjeita Raamatun lukemiseen – J. C. Ryle

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This is a Finnish translation of J. C. Ryle’s advice regarding Bible reading. Translated by Miska Wilhelmsson.

1. Aloita Raamatun lukeminen heti tänään. Ainut tapa tehdä jotain, on että vain yksinkertaisesti tekee sen, ja ainut tapa lukea Raamattua, on että todella lukee Raamattua. Pelkästään tarkoittaminen, toivominen, harkitseminen, aikominen, tai asian ajattelu ei tule auttamaan sinua pätkääkään. Sinun täytyy yksinkertaisesti vain luettava. Tässä asiassa ei ole mitään kuninkaallista tietä, ei yhtään enempään kuin rukouksenkaan kanssa. Jos et vain itse pysty lukemaan, täytyy sinun suostutella joku toinen lukemaan sinulle ääneen. Mutta tavalla tai toisella, oli se sitten silmien tai korvien kautta, Raamatun sanan on tultava sinun mieleesi.

2. Lue Raamattua totisella tahdolla ymmärtää sitä. Älä ajattele hetkeäkään, että tarkoitus on vain edetä tietty määrä sivuja, ja että sillä ei ole mitään väliä ymmärrätkö mitään tai et. Jotkut tietämättömät ihmiset näyttävät ajattelevan, että kaikki on tullut suoritettua, kunhan he vain päivittäin saavat tietyn määrän lukuja luettua, vaikka heillä ei olisikaan mitään ymmärrystä siitä mitä ovat juuri lukeneet, kunhan he vain ovat edenneet tietyn määrän sivuja eteenpäin. Tämä on Raamatun lukemisen muuttamista pinnalliseksi muodollisuudeksi. Se on melkein yhtä vakavaa kuin Paavillinen tapa ostaa aneita toistamalla muutama Ave Maria ja isä meidän rukous. Se muistuttaa minua yhtä parkaa hottentottia joka söi hollantilaisen virsi kirjan, koska oli nähnyt kuinka paljon se lohdutti naapuriensa sydämiä. Päätä siis mielessäsi, yleisenä periaatteena, että Raamattu jota ei ole ymmärretty, ei tee mitään hyvää. Sano itsellesi usein, kun luet “Mistä tässä on oikein kysymys?” Kaiva tekstin merkitystä kuin kultaa kaivava mies. Tee kovaa työtä, ja älä anna periksi kiireen takia.

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Sermon: The Person of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15)

Last Monday (27th March 2017), I had the privilege of teaching on the topic of The Holy Spirit for Women Walking Wisely, a women’s ministry group at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. If you are interested in listening to the sermon, you can now find the audio recording on the church website.

Sermon: The Person of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15)

Link: www.gracechurch.org/sermons/13052

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The First Finnish Book: A Reading Primer and Catechism

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The first printed book published in the Finnish language is ‘Abckiria’ (ABC-Book), a basic reading primer together with a small Christian catechism, put together by the Finnish reformer Mikael Agrciola.[1] The primer was printed in the royal publishing house of Stockholm, operated by Amund Laurentsson who had been trained by a German book-printer. The first year of printing was likely 1543. Amund Laurentsson would prove to be a close associate to Agricola for many years, since all his nine books would be published by Amund, whom Agricola later referred to as a good friend.[2]

The catechism found in the primer is not a translation of a previously existing catechism, rather it is the result of Agricola combining many different existing works, similarly as he did in many of his other published works.[3] The main sources that Agricola used for this are Luther’s small catechism, Melanchthon’s catechism, and Andreas Osiander’s catechism.[4] The primer begins with a short poem, encouraging both the young and old to learn God’s commandments and to master the Finnish language.

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Sermon: The Glory of Trembling (Isaiah 66:1-5)

faithbuilders-album-artA few weeks ago (8th January 2017), I had the privilege of preaching again in FaithBuilders at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. If you are interested in listening to the sermon, you can now find the audio recording on the Grace Community Church website.

Sermon: The Glory of Trembling (Isaiah 66:1-5)

Link: www.gracechurch.org/sermons/12816

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The Importance and Simplicity of Correct Bible Interpretation

How can we know what God is like and what He expects of us? The truth is, if we were left to our own wisdom and reasoning capabilities, we would never arrive at true knowledge about God and how we are to worship Him. It is true that when we look at the creation around us, we know and understand (and so does the non-believer, even though he suppresses that truth) that God exists and that He is powerful (Romans 1), but we would still remain in darkness about the specific character, requirements and promises of God. Praise be to God that He has not left us in darkness, but has instead revealed Himself to us by giving us His Word, the Bible.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

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Sermon: The Blessed Life (Psalm 1)

faithbuilders-album-artLast Sunday (12th June 2016), I had the privilege of preaching in FaithBuilders at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. If you are interested in listening to the sermon, you can now find the audio recording on the Grace Community Church website.

Sermon: The Blessed Life (Psalm 1)
Link: https://www.gracechurch.org/sermons/12178

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