The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – December, 2008

I am relieved to get to the end of another year of study. Again, the semester ended in a mad rush to get my final assessments done. Nonetheless my subjects for this semester were among the most enjoyable I have done, though only one of the 6 essays I did was “easy”. That essay was on the Trinity, which might give you an idea of what I was up against.

            As I stated last time, my subjects for this semester include Reformation History and Doctrine of God and the Work of Christ. I also mentioned last time that I regarded the Reformation as a theological bandwagon that everyone jumped on with their political agendas. At least that was the case in Europe. In England the opposite was true – their Reformation was a political bandwagon that everyone jumped on with their theological agendas! I did manage to learn a few other things as well about this important time in history. What really stood out was the extent to which politics and religion were intertwined. They really were one and the same thing. It’s very foreign to modern western thought where every effort is made to keep church and state polls apart. It was interesting watching a documentary recently on the 2005 intelligent design controversy in the U.S.A.. The objection was intelligent design should not be taught in public schools because that would constitute a breach in separation of church and state. We’ve moved way up one end of the spectrum, while 600 years ago, people were way down the other end. It was not possible to be theological without being political, and visa-versa. The Reformation had to be political as much as it was theological. This is a point that needs to be understood when addressing any period of Church History before this time.

            The subject also gave me an opportunity to read Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will which I consider to be the best book I’ve ever read, besides the Bible of course! Ever since coming to understand the Gospel as I now do I’ve struggled with prayer. Not so much the discipline of prayer, although that is an issue, but how to think about prayer. How does God’s sovereignty, free will and human responsibility work together in prayer? Do we really need to nag God off his throne to get anything done in the universe, even though he’s know about it for all eternity? What a pathetic view of God! And us! I’ve asked all kinds of people, and read a few books, including Calvin, but only this obscure former monk from 500 years ago had a satisfactory answer for me. It was a real blessing to come across. I suppose you want to know what the answer was. Well, you really should read the book, but essentially, Luther perceived that people had free will over human affairs, not God’s affairs, yet human affairs are still overruled by God. So people do have free will in human affairs, yet we can ask God for his intervention in our affairs, and trust in his sovereignty. Now, that’s an understanding that I can pray within, and not feel like I’m nagging God off his throne like an irresponsible pawn! Unfortunately, this is a hard book to get. It’s not just this book, but other books have been difficult to get. While popular Christian bookshops line their shelves with rubbish, gems like Bondage of the Will and other helpful titles are scarce! It’s a disgrace!! Apart from this I soon discovered Luther was more than capable of having his dopey moments. It was a disappointment to see how someone could write such an ingenious work, and yet be so stupid at the Marburg Colloquy where he debated Zwingli over the presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper. Such is the complexity of human nature, I suppose!

            The Doctrine of God and the work of Christ gave me an opportunity to look at the Trinity. Though I had always embraced the Trinity, I thought it was just a doctrine tact on to the rest of theology to explain some strange occurrences in Scripture. I now understand that the Trinity is integral to theology. If you deny the Trinity, the rest of Christian doctrine falls apart. The subject also gave me an opportunity to explore the work of God in the salvation of individuals. I did a paper on this in relation to people with disabilities and other social issues. Even though my paper hardly answered the essay question, it was interesting to see how the Gospel is applied to people who would appear to be outside the “norm”. Incidentally, the Gospel is applied to people inside the “norm” in exactly the same way. I do wish more theologians would realise this!

 

The church services at Allambie Heights are still going strong with numbers consistently around 10. Some of the regulars aren’t so regular these days which is sad. I suppose it’s part of getting old. But others have come and have been regular. It was encouraging to see how much some of the people are “owning” the service. This became apparent when one of the people had some family members there. When it came time to begin, they kept saying “Church! Church!” wanting the family members to come to “their church”. I felt sad for them when their family members simply ignored the request and walked off to another part of the complex. I thought for sure they would leave and join their family. But no! They stayed for the entire service as they normally would. It’s pleasing to see that this time is regard with such importance by these people. Praise God!

            After going through the Sermon on the Mount I thought it would be good to talk about how to live a godly life when not everyone recognises the only true and living God. So we started going through Daniel. I’m not sure if this is working as well as I’d hoped. The chapter readings are a bit long, despite me encouraging them to enjoy the readings as a “story”. Yet, they are still doing their best to listen, and seem to be gaining something from it.

 

In regard to my studies, I’ve still got around 3 years to go. Thank you for your prayers and support. I think I can confidently say your prayers are being answered. At the end of every semester, I’ve looked at my remaining assessments and thought, “how am I going to pull this off??” Yet somehow I manage to come through. Next year I hope to study Greek, though I’m not sure how this will work out. I found 2 days a week at college to be quite taxing. Not just from travelling, but the extra day at college meant 1 less day I’m working on essays. Technically, this means I’ve got 2 less weeks to get my work done. So I’m keen to have 1 day a week where possible. In the meantime, I intend to spend my summer doing everything I haven’t been doing. That’s going to be one busy summer!

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December 3, 2008 - Posted by | Newsletters, Site News

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