A Theological Evaluation of Brexit

Today is the most important day in European politics since the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

CHR Comment: Editor R. R. Reno attempts a broader historical and theological evaluation of the Brexit issue, drawing on Augustine’s City of God.

Source: Britain Votes on Brexit Today. Here’s What’s at Stake | R. R. Reno | First Things

The Campaign to Eliminate Hell

A new generation of evangelical scholars are challenging the idea that sinners are doomed to eternal torment—but traditionalists are pushing back.

CHR Comment: An extensive article describing traditional, annihilationist, and universalist views that are discussed in British and American Evangelicalism. The traditional view is associated with Augustine, the annihilationist view with Irenaeus, and the universalist view with Origen. The article likewise cites polling about the declining popularity of the doctrine of hell.

Source: The Campaign to Eliminate Hell

India: 12 Arrested for “Converting to Christianity”

Twelve people have been accused of converting to Christianity, arrested and put in jail in India, according to UCA news.

CHR Comment: Hindu activists surrounded a house in Dahar village, Madhya Pradesh, India. Inside were twelve persons suspected of converting to Christianity. In this region of India, it is illegal to convert without informing the government, which is run by conservative Hindus. Local police arrested the twelve people and took them to jail on January 14, 2016. They were later released on paying bail.

Shankar Singh, who spoke for those arrested, explained that they had not converted to Christianity and had gathered to observe a Hindu harvest festival that coincides with the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Makarsankrati). However, he added that the group had faith in Jesus, followed His teachings, and prayed to Him even though they had not joined any Christian church.

In regions where Christianity is new and in the minority, the issue of what makes for a genuine conversion is common. Augustine records an example of this same issue in his Confessions by relating the story of Victorinus, a famous Roman teacher of rhetoric who read Christian books. Victorinus confessed to his friend Simplicianus that he had become a Christian. But Simplicianus contended that he would not agree that Victorinus was a Christian until he saw him at church, to which Victorinus cleverly replied, “Then do walls make Christians?” (Confessions: A New Translation by Henry Chadwick [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992], 136). Victorinus was afraid to make a public confession of Christ due to the social pressures of the pagan society that surrounded him and celebrated his talents. A public conversion would bring down upon him the scorn of the dominant religious culture.

The followers of Jesus in Dahar village are having a similar experience. They have learned about Jesus and want to follow Him but know that formally converting to Christianity will have great personal costs. May the Lord help them and other Christians in the region work through these matters of conversion safely and sincerely. In closing, we may remember that Victorinus finally asked Simplicianus to take him to church where he received formal instruction in the Christian faith and Baptism.

 

Source: India: 12 arrested for ‘converting to Christianity’ | Christian News on Christian Today

Law and Gospel Distinction in Early Church

During the Reformation, Luther and Melanchthon first called the distinction between Law and Gospel by another title: “the Law and the Promises.” Recognizing and distinguishing these two teachings of God is at the essence of reading and applying the Bible in the Reformation but notable examples of the distinction appear in early Christianity, too.

Tertullian writes in Against Marcion:

“‘the New Testament’ will appertain to none other than Him who promised it—if not “its letter, yet its spirit;” and herein will lie its newness. Indeed, He who had engraved its letter in stones is the same as He who had said of its spirit, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” Even if “the letter killeth, yet the Spirit giveth life;” and both belong to Him who says: “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal.” We have already made good the Creator’s claim to this twofold character of judgment and goodness—“killing in the letter” through the law, and “quickening in the Spirit” through the Gospel. Now these attributes, however different they be, cannot possibly make two gods; for they have already (in the prevenient dispensation of the Old Testament) been found to meet in One.” (ANF 3:452–53)

Tyconius writes in The Book of Rules:

The [Gospel’s] promise is distinct from the Law; and since they are different, they cannot be mixed. (under Rule III)

John Chrysostum writes in a sermon on 2 Corinthians 3:

In the Law, he that hath sin is punished; here, he that hath sins cometh and is baptized and is made righteous, and being made righteous, he liveth, being delivered from the death of sin. The Law, if it lay hold on a murderer, putteth him to death; the Gospel, if it lay hold on a murderer, enlighteneth, and giveth him life. (NPNF1 12:307)

Augustine writes in On the Spirit and the Letter:

His words are, “The righteousness of God is manifested:” [Romans 3:21] . . . This is witnessed by the law and the prophets; in other words, the law and the prophets each afford it testimony. The law, indeed, by issuing its commands and threats, and by justifying no man, sufficiently shows that it is by God’s gift, through the help of the Spirit, that a man is justified; and the prophets, because it was what they predicted that Christ at His coming accomplished. (NPNF1 5:88–89)

gold-2590-1940-wallpaper