Symbol of a New Day Dawning

Rooster Colors

From time to time I am asked why I have a rooster for a profile picture, both on my blog and on Facebook.  What’s more, the rooster is also the screensaver on my phone.  I use these images for more reason than just the bucolic tranquility they depict.  The rooster has a long history as an interesting symbol.

While Celtic and Norse cultures saw the rooster as a creature of the underworld – a messenger screeching warnings of danger, and calling for the souls of those killed in battles; most have viewed the rooster in a more positive light.

In art, the rooster has long symbolized the fanning out of brilliance – i.e. showing the world the shimmering facets of ones personality.  As one  scholar has noted, the rooster is used in art to display courage, strength, pride,  honesty, vigilance, watchfulness, as well as flamboyance.  Most of these are excellent qualities. And flamboyance is not entirely bad, though too much of it may be somewhat obnoxious.

In Christianity the rooster is associated with Peter’s denial of Christ on the night of betrayal, leading up to the crucifixion.  So the rooster is associated with Christ’s death – which while tragic, was also God’s intention, the reason for which Jesus was born.  And while not lessening the tragedy, it is important to remember that Jesus himself says of the crucifixion: “I lay down my life, no one takes it from me.”  (John 10.11-18) Jesus laid down his life that those who believe would have life. Yet the effect of his substitutionary death only reached its full effect upon his resurrection – which Jesus hinted at in John 10.17.  In that sense the rooster, which symbolizes betrayal and death, cannot be separated from the purpose of Jesus’ death, and thus cannot be separated from the resurrection.  Therefore, the rooster is an appropriate symbol of the gospel itself.

What the rooster most symbolizes, at least to me, is the dawning of a new day. This is the reason I use it so freely.   The rooster crows at the first hints of new light.  This was a primary reason the rooster was used as a symbol of the Reformation – it was a reminder that the Reformation itself signaled a new day.  Of course the resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate sign of a new day.  And God himself tells us, through his prophet Jeremiah, that “his mercies are new every morning”.  (Lamentations 3.22-23)

So to me, the rooster is a constant reminder of the gospel, and that today is a new day – every day is a new day.  This being New Years Day, the rooster seems to me to be an especially appropriate symbol.

Gospel vs. Legalism

Gospel vs. Legalsim

What is the difference between legalism and the gospel?

  • Legalism (or Moralism) says God looks at how well we keep the law.
  • The Gospel says we are hidden in Christ. So God sees how well Jesus kept the Law (perfectly), all his works, and his death on our behalf.  Consequently, because we are hidden in Christ, God sees the work of Jesus when he sees us. The gospel says that, because of God’s grace, all that Jesus is and did is credited (imputed) to us, through faith.  (Colossians 3.3, Ephesians 2.8, Romans 5.2, Galatians 2.20)

So what is the difference between the gospel and legalism? It is the difference between Christianity and every religion in the world.

New City Catechism

Over the weekend I spent some time reviewing the relatively new New City Catechism.  While it has been around for a couple years now, and I had heard about it even prior to it’s original publication, I had not really given it much attention, until now.

I was impressed by the combination of depth and simplicty this catechism posesses.  Broken into just 52 questions, it is a fairly comprehensive introduction to the substance of the Christian Faith, and yet it manages to avoid being verbose in any of it’s questions and answers.  I am now giving thought to ways we might make use of this tool in our church.

The video above is an Introduction to the New City Catechism from Knox Seminary.  The New City Catechism web site not only has the Q&A’s, but for each of the 52 Questions there is a tab with accompanying scripture support, a short commentary, and even a brief video explanation by a variety of renouned pastors and theologians.

Check out: New City Catechism

New City Catechism

Easy Chairs & Hard Words

Easy Chairs

Some time ago I posted a series of fictional discussions between a young man from a Broadly Evangelical background and a seasoned minister in a more historical theological tradition.  The series is titled Easy Chairs & Hard Words. It was penned by Douglas Wilson of Christ Church of Moscow, Idaho, and first appeared in Credenda Agenda.

These engaging instructive narratives have come to mind in a few discussions over the past couple weeks, so I decided it might be good to republish the links to each of the six chapters:

Easy Chairs & Hard Words – Part 1

Easy Chairs & Hard Words – Part 2

Easy Chairs & Hard Words – Part 3

Easy Chairs & Hard Words – Part 4

Easy Chairs & Hard Words – Part 5

Easy Chairs & Hard Words – Part 6

Cotton Candy Christianity Scorecard

I don’t want to become one of those bloggers who becomes known for what he is against, or for pointing out how wrong other guys are, but this was just too funny to pass up.  It is also important to distinguish the gospel from all its counterfeits. For as Paul warns in Galatians 1.6-7:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

Upon further thought, it might not be as funny as I thought.  It would be funny, if it were not so serious & sad.

Thanks to the folks at Modern Reformation & White Horse Inn for the scorecard. As they said:

“It’s like Bingo… Only better.”

Ordo Salutis Illustrated

John Bunyan has a wondrous grasp of the theology of the Christian Life.  Pilgrim’s Progress is evidence of that.  In this classic literary masterpiece, Bunyan uses allegory to illustrate the reality, and the perils, of life in this world for God’s redeemed people.  And in the illustration above someone has taken Bunyan’s allegory and writings and made a poster of some of one of the more complex theological issues, the Ordo Salutis – or the Order of Salvation.

Why should anyone care about the Ordo Salutis? Well, a Biblical understanding of the way God has laid out our salvation not only will offer us comfort in time of our discouragement, it will move you to worship the God of our salvation when you ponder the amazing grace he has orchestrated.

I have enjoyed reflecting upon this map.  It evokes deep questions to ponder, which are also answered and illustrated on this map.  But the picture above is difficult to read clearly. To see the map in full size, or even blown up, download it by clicking: Bunyan Ordo Map

Reformation Essentials

On October 31, 1517 a young college professor, heavy of heart, wanted to discuss some of the things he was thinking.  Posting his thoughts on the front doors of the church in the center of town – the 16th Century version of Facebook or blogging – a flame ignited that  still burns today.  In fact, with the recent resurgence of the Reformed tradition that flame is burning bright.

On this 494th anniversary of Martin Luther’s simple act, I thought I would post a piece that reminds us of the essence of the movement that rocked the world.


by Michael Horton

In May, 1989, a conference jointly sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School was held at the Trinity campus in Illinois. Dubbed a consultation on Evangelical Affirmations, the meeting revealed more than it settled. In the published addresses (Zondervan, 1990), Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of American evangelicalism, sets the tone for book with his opening line: “The term ‘evangelical’ has taken on conflicting nuances in the twentieth century. Wittingly or unwittingly, evangelical constituencies no less than their critics have contributed to this confusion and misunderstanding.” He warned that “evangelical” was being understood, not according to Scriptural teaching and “the theological ‘ought,'” but according to the sociological and empirical “is.” In other words, Henry was disturbed that evangelicalism is increasingly being defined by its most recent trends rather than by its normative theological identity. Author after author (presumably, speaker after speaker) echoed the same fears that before long “evangelical” will be useless as any meaningful identification.

The term itself derives from the Greek word euangelion, translated “Gospel,” and it became a noun when the Protestant reformers began their work of bringing the “one holy, catholic and apostolic church” back to that message by which and for which it was created. People still used other labels, too, like “Lutheran,” “Reformed,” and later, “Puritans,” “Pietists,” and “Wesleyans.” Nevertheless, the belief was that the same Gospel that had united the “evangelicals” against Rome’s errors could also unite them against the creeping naturalism and secularism of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. The so-called “Evangelical Awakening” in Britain coincided with America’s own “Great Awakening,” as Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Tennant, and so many others centered their preaching on the atonement. Later, of course, Wesley’s zeal for Arminian emphases divided the work in Britain, but the Reformation emphases were clearly and unambiguously articulated in the Great Awakening.

Out of this heritage, those today who call themselves “evangelicals” (or who are in these churches, but might not know that they are in this tradition) are heirs also to the Second Great Awakening. Radically altering the “evangel” from a concern with the object of faith, the Second Great Awakening and the revivalism that emerged from it focused on the act and experience of faith, in dependence on the proper “excitements”, as Finney and others expressed it, to trigger the right response. In our estimation, this Second Great Awakening was the most important seismic shift in American religious history. Although the Reformation emphases of sin and grace continued to exercise some influence, they were being constantly revised to make the “Gospel” more acceptable to those who thought they could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Only in the last decade of this century have many of the movement’s mainstream leaders considered the loss of an evangelical substance. No longer is the evangel the focus of the movement’s identity, but it is now known more by a sub-culture, a collection of political, moral and social causes, and an acute interest in rather exotic notions about the end-times. At a loss for words, one friend answered a man’s question, “Who are the evangelicals?” with the reply, “They’re people who like Billy Graham.”

It is at this point that those of us who are heirs to the Reformation–which bequeathed to evangelicalism a distinct theological identity that has been since lost–call attention once more to the solas (only or alone) that framed the entire sixteenth-century debate: “Only Scripture,” “Only Christ,” “Only Grace,” “Only Faith,” and “To God Alone Be Glory.”

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Introduction to Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

I have benefitted tremendously from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, from the depth and richness of the writings and the broadcasts of several of the members.  So I thought I would post this introductory video for anyone who may not be familiar with this network.

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a cross denominational organization in which members from several Christian traditions come together united by their common commitment to the the gospel.  These guys (and ladies) genuinely reflect Paul’s words: “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”  (Romans 1.16)

Each of the members also comes from a tradition that has a recorded summary of their faith, expressed in various confessions of faith. These doctrinal statements vary on some secondary points, but each offers a wonderfully unique perspective on the gospel, and on the Christian faith.

The goal of the Alliance is to work toward a Second Reformation, or rather to work for a continued reformation of the church; to constantly see Christ’s Church more and more conformed to God’s revelation in the Scripture. 

Check out these Alliance links:

Friend of Kuyper

For the better part of the 20th Century the Protestant Church in the USA seemed to have divided into two camps: Those interested in Evangelism and those concerned for Social Issues.  Which one adopted pretty clearly fell along the lines of how seriously one took the Bible.  Conservatives lined up for Evangelism; Liberals for Social Gospel.

One exception to this appears to have been in the Dutch Reformed Church.  Somehow, seemingly under the radar screen, these folks managed to engage in both Evangelical scholarship and Holistic Ministry – offering valuable contributions to Gospel understanding; and offering valuable contributions to their communities, engaging in meeting felt needs and addressing issues of social justice.

Perhaps the reason these Dutch Reformed folks were immune to the dichotomy that widely afflicted the rest of American Protestantism probably rest squarely at the feet of a man named Abaham Kuyper – a one time Prime Minister of the Netherlands, newspaper publisher, theologian, etc.  Kuyper was a 19th Century Renaissance Man.

I’ve seen Kuyper’s most notable statement posted all over the blogosphere, Facebook, etc.:

In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare: “‘That is mine!”

Kuyperian thought is worthy of exploration.

I have stumbled upon a website that offers a a great introduction to Kuyper: Friend of Kuyper

Here is a quick summary:

The Kuyperian worldview is a theological tradition in Christianity (often called “neo-Calvinism”) that focuses on the redemption of all things. It is also called “Reformational Christianity” because it holds to a worldview that tells the Christian story of

  • FALL

We are in the chapter of God’s Reformational Story called “Redemption,” and therefore are called to fulfill that portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Here are four particular insights of Neo-Calvinism:

1. Creation Order

Because the Creation was created “very good,” there is an inherent potential in the created order that is good as well. The “Cultural Mandate” of Genesis 1:28 and 2:15 tells us that humanity has the task of harnessing this potentiality to develop culture as God intended. Technology, popular culture, progress, and yes, even politics, are to be understood as part of God’s original created order.

2. Antithesis

Sin not only runs through the hearts of every individual human being, but also through the entire cosmos. Romans 8 tells us that all creation is “groaning”—it suffers as well. While Sin is personal, it also manifests itself in the various organizations of society.

3. Common Grace

But God’s creation is still good, though tarnished by sin. If God’s creation is stewarded according to his good will, it still provides good benefits for human beings. By his grace, God not only allows believers to contribute to the common good, but also unbelievers. Because every human is made in the image of God, unbelievers can have true insights and perform beneficial works. This has vast ramifications on our understanding of cultural activity, by both believers and unbelievers, and how we interact together for the common good in societal renewal, technology, politics, etc.

4. Sphere Sovereignty

Neo-Calvinism states that God has designed a differentiation within society between different spheres of authority. Sphere Sovereignty offers a different matrix for understanding society from the American “two-sided paradigm” which reduces society to individual and state. Sphere Sovereignty believes there are intermediary social structures such as families, churches, businesses, and schools that contribute to the social fabric as much as individuals and the state.

In addition to the introduction, this site are a number of contemporary essays exploring Kuyper’s work.

Holistic ministry is not a new development. Sure, it seemed to have gone away for a while. But what we are seeing in our day is a recovery of an old practice – a Biblical practice.

If you are an advocate of holistic ministry, I commend becoming of Friend of Kuyper.