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Posts by Joel Heflin

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This Reformed Life: Finding Joy in the Contemporary American Religious Climate (part 1)

I grew up as a pastor’s kid. I’ve remained a committed Christian despite the fact. And having spent the better part of the last fifteen years looking for the perfect church I’ve finally committed to the reformed expression, jumping in with both feet. In this four part series I hope to sketch out some of the highlights of this long arduous process, anti...

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The Puritan Exegesis Project: William Cowper on Revelation 11:15, 16

We’ve stumbled upon a real test for our trusting pre-modern exegetes. Revelation. In New Horizons in Hermeneutics Anthony Thiselton summarized the differences between pre- and post- modern attitudes for interpreting as ‘trusting’ and ‘suspicious’ of traditional readings. Our series so far has looked at how 17th c. expositors have treated di...

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The Puritan Exegesis Project: Nicholas Byfield on Colossians 1:21

“And you hath he now also reconciled, that were in times past strangers, and enemies, because your minds were set on evil works.†Nicholas Byfield’s (1579-1622) Exposition upon the Epistle to the Colossians (1615/1628 3rd ed.) was regarded by Spurgeon as wordy but worth consulting. He’s right on both counts. Writing in the context of controversy wit...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: 10 for 10

God does not change, Bavinck said, because he is. He is independent of time and has life in himself. To say that God becomes as pantheism assumes diminishes his character. As Bavinck’s analysis of God’s immutability moves forward to discuss God’s infinity his conclusions are reassuringly warm: God’s eternality is not static, monotonous, rigid im...

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The Puritan Exegesis Project: William Cowper on 2 Cor. 5:5

The old bishop of Galloway was highly commended by Spurgeon for his striking clarity and evangelical warmth. Cowper wasn’t exactly a ‘Puritan’ – he took an Episcopal bishopric after years of serving the Scottish Presbyterians. Nevertheless he maintained scripture priority over the sacrament and (expository) preaching as the means by which the Spi...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: The Bear

When looking for the origin of emotion, William James asked, ‘do we run from the bear because we are afraid’ or is it the other way around? For James the bear was not the source of fear but the physical response to the situation was the cause of the emotion. While it’s not exactly ‘case closed’ for James one thing is sure: human beings resp...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: Lost & Found

There’s a TV show with a highly fantastic plot relevant to Bavinck’s formulation of God’s independence. On this show, survivors of a plane crash form tribes and collectives to solve problems and battle wits with other tribes and collectives on a supernatural island. The island itself is a character exerting powerful forces on the other players, challen...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: Smash and Grab

We’ve been sifting through some of the high points of Bavinck’s doctrine of God, offering up small, somewhat uncritical summaries of his thought. In volume two Bavinck has an almost throw-away statement that carries a cautionary tone and is even little haunting: “there is no guarantee of a better job, preferment or worldly gain that comes with the knowl...

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Herman Bavinck's Biography by Ron Gleason: on its way!

Ron Gleason’s new biography, Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, Theologian (Phillipsburg, NJ: PR Publications, 512 pps., $29.99, paperback, available May 31, 2010) is a warm and inviting portrait of one Holland’s most influential Reformed theologians. Bavinck’s theology is rigorous yet deeply concerned with the quality of the life of faith a...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: Rocket Science for all God’s Children

Creation, says Bavinck, is a revelation of God. There is not a corner of the universe that does not reflect something of his glory. But creation does not reveal God’s perfections like they do in Christ. There are distinctions and gradations throughout creation from the archetype to the ectype. The incarnation of the suffering servant finds his parallel in, “th...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: Being There

Any religion that first had to prove its god existed prior to worship is impoverished from the get go. Bavinck has demonstrated from an array of philosophical and theological authors that God’s essence cannot be grasped by (critical) reason, morals or ethics. Some have left God in the dark. Others have split God’s revelation between ethics and the rest of the...

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The Puritan Exegesis Project: William Fenner on Lam. 3:57

Walter Brueggemann once said, “When we pray we participate in the ultimate act of humanness as we yield to a power greater than ourselves.” There is a faint echo of Brueggemann’s statement in William Fenner’s (1600 – 1640) treatise on prayer: The Sacrifice of the Faithful … shewing the nature property, and efficacy of Zealous Prayer: ...

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The Puritan Exegesis Project: Thomas Manton on Daniel 7:13, ‘The Son of Man’

Rudolph Bultmann famously asked, “Is exegesis without presuppositions possible?” Many Biblical scholars since have made clean distinctions between exegesis and eisegesis, sometimes for good reason. Aichele and Phillips (Semenia vols. 69-70) contrast Bultmann’s statement with the discipline of intertextuality: they maintain that the distinction between ex...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: Herman of Damascus

The inability to know God’s essence is not a puzzle to be solved. It is instead the motive of worship and adoration. Bavinck saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness attempting to find God without the aid of sense-mediated signs and signifiers. For them the result was agnosticism steeped in a rejection of all metaphysical inquiry. So how does a dogm...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: Where There’s a Will

Last week Bavinck led us onto the negative path to knowing God. Even in the modern age, John Lloyd has humorously noted that we can’t see anything that matters. We know little about the world and we know even less about God. In Bavinck’s day the doctrine of God’s incomprehensibility tended to agnosticism (Hegel) or a theology equal to anthropology (Fi...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: Learned Ignorance

Dogmatics takes for its starting point the certainty of God’s existence. Everything else is details. For Bavinck the outset of Christian theology has one thing in common with the long history of critical reflection on God’s existence: he is unknowable. But nonattainability of the knowledge of God is not the same as nothing. As long as scripture remains object...

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Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: The Grand Scheme of Things

“Mystery is the lifeblood of dogmatics” are Bavinck’s opening words to the doctrine of God. Even when a confirmed believer moves past the sophomore debates of faith v reason and proofs for God’s existence faith, moving toward understanding, faces the incompressibility of knowing God. The great question here at the outset of our journey is: How is ...

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Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics: Supply vs. Popular Demand

It's been more than 2 months since we ended our year long series in Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics. We covered two of the volumes and some material from 'Philosophy of Revelation' and 'The Certainty of Faith.' As the new year takes shape it feels like the work is only half done. Personally I can't read Bavinck without some sense of guilt for not sharing it. So if we ...

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The Puritan Exegesis Project: John Trapp on Ecclesiastes 11:5

Handing out resumes and shuffling investments have two things in common: uncertainty and Ecclesiastes 11:6. John Trapp (1601 – 1669) noted that the only works guaranteed to succeed in this life are pure acts of mercy and kindness. He’s right. But it can be such a frustrating answer to those who have lost 1/3 of retirement or can’t get even one intervie...

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The Puritan Exegesis Project: John Trapp on Ecclesiastes 11:6

John Trapp’s (1601 – 1669) commentaries were Spurgeon’s personal treasure. As biblical scholarship progresses the minister and serious student continue to benefit greatly from consulting Trapp’s thought, suggestions and devotional contributions.  For years I waited patiently for a set of Trapp. After finally obtaining one, my dad--equally thr...

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