Rufinus on the Crucifixion

The Apostle Paul teaches us that we ought to have “the eyes of our understanding enlightened” “that we may understand what is the height and breadth and depth.” “The height and breadth and depth” is a description of the Cross, of which that part which is fixed in the earth he calls the depth, the height that which is erected upon the earth and reaches upward, the breadth that which is spread out to the right hand and to the left. Since, therefore, there are so many kinds of death by which it is given to men to depart this life, why does the Apostle wish us to have our understanding enlightened so as to know the reason why, of all of them, the Cross was chosen in preference for the death of the Savior.

We must know, then, that Cross was a triumph. It was a signal trophy. A triumph is a token of victory over an enemy. Since then Christ, when He came, brought three kingdoms at once into subjection under His sway (for this He signifies when he says, “That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth”), and conquered all of these by His death, a death was sought answerable to the mystery, so that being lifted up in the air, and subduing the powers of the air, He might make a display of His victory over these supernatural and celestial powers.

Moreover the holy Prophet says that “all the day long He stretched out His hands” to the people on the earth, that He might both make protestation to unbelievers and invite believers: finally, by that part which is sunk under the earth, He signified His bringing into subjection to Himself the kingdoms of the nether world.

– Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, Sage Library, ECF 3.3. pp. 1127-1128

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Week 2

I’ve finished my last classes of the week and thought I would post another update. Probably wont be doing this every week, but I’d like to post when I can. As I told a friend, it’s a good way for me to go over what I’ve been taught and keep it fresh. It was a good week, with most of the time spent progressing in my language studies. It is still review for the most part, although we have now translated 1 John 1-2 from Greek to English. Vocab and grammar rules are slowly starting to come back to me. We had a Hebrew test today which focused on transliterating from Hebrew to English and English to Hebrew. It went well and I’m looking forward to getting my mark back.

In Intro to Theology(Systematic Theology/Dogmatics) we reviewed the basic concept of Theology. Looked at what makes it a science, rather than an art, and discussed what relationship Theology has with the other sciences. It was an interesting discussion, with the only thing we could really agree on was that when we as humans work within any area of science, we ought not to and are not generating our own thing. Rather we’re studying what already exists.

One thing that was fascinating to look at was just how well preserved the Old Testament text has been. After comparing the Dead Sea Isaiah b scroll, with the Leningrad Codex of Isaiah, scholars have found that there are less than 200 discrepancies. These discrepancies are incredibly minor. 107 different spellings of words, were the meaning is still obvious; 29 discrepencies over a waw (a Hebrew conjunction), 4 definite articles, 10 consonants, 5 misspellings, 24 different grammatical forms are used, 9 times different prepositions are used. It’s quite remarkable to see just how faithful the scribes were in copying the scriptures, and also assuring to know that Critical Text theory is a useful field and it’s not all in vain. We do text criticism because we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and by comparing the various manuscripts we can gain more knowledge about what the original autographs looked like.

In Ecclesiology we looked at the importance of Creeds and Confessions of faith, and how they have been used by the Church to summarize the Word of God. They steer the church away from works righteousness and legalism by emphasizing the fact that deeds are an important part of our thankfulness. Our Reformed confessions summarize and compare scripture and put it in logical form. Of course there are times when people use creeds erroneously, for instance often logic is applied back onto scripture – that’s a mistake as it forces one to read scripture in light of the confession instead of vice versa.

In Ministry and Mission (Practical Theology/Diaconiology) we had a brief explanation of what to expect in the course. Basically we’ll be looking at the work that occurs within the church, especially the office bearers. Essentially all the things that are studied in the other courses, ecclesiology, exegesis, etc., are applied here.

The other courses were uneventful, at least according to my notes 🙂 I’m still working on my speech for the public speaking workshop. Haven’t made much progress but I’m confident it will come together. I also settled on the topic for my research paper and am going to be working on the introduction this weekend already. Start early finish early right?

As for my schedule, a friend of mine asked what my days are like so I figured I’d post that here too: Basically each morning is spent in class and then in the afternoons I study. I’m memorizing a Lord’s Day every day and got the Nicene Creed down pat. I spend a fair bit of time preparing for my language courses. With all that I still do have some free time – most is spent studying while doing something else. I’ll also be joining a Young People’s Bible study with my church. We’ll be studying Growing in the Gospel by Jason Van Vliet. It’s a great book and there’s a free preview available here: http://www.canadianreformedseminary.ca/news-and-events/Growing-in-the-Gospel.html

The End of Week One

Well, the first week of school has come to a close. What did I learn so far? Well, I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn! In the next three months I’ll be enrolled in seven classes. Two of these classes meet for two hours a week, namely Ecumenical Creeds and Intro to Ministry and Mission. Intro to Theology, NT Textual Criticism, and OT Textual Criticism are all one hour a week. The Final two courses, OT Hebrew and NT Greek, meet for 3 hours a week.

The bulk of the work will come from our Hebrew and Greek language classes, as expected. By the end of the semester we should know all the vocabulary used more than fifty times in the scriptures. So far the language classes have focused on seeing exactly how much knowledge the different students have, and working towards getting us all on equal footing. In Hebrew we’ve started by reviewing the basic grammar rules. Because I’ve studied Hebrew for three years I seem to be doing quite well. In Greek we worked on translating a passage in 1 John. The whole class seems to be having difficulty right now, as our vocabulary and grammar is a bit rusty. Some students have never read Greek out loud while others, like me, have done ample amounts.

Our textual criticism and Intro to Theology classes seem to be quite heavy on the readings with minimal assignments. Which is great except that the final exams are worth 60-80% of the course grade… Let the note taking begin 🙂

In Ecumenical Creeds we’ll be studying the importance and history of Christian Creeds, as well as their function in the church.  As far as assignments go, this course has quite a few. First up is memorizing the Apostles’ Creed (done) and the Nicene Creed (working on it), we also have to know the outline of the Athanasian Creed and its main points. In early November we will be tested on our knowledge of the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 1-31 (I’ve learned up to 11 so far). Final we have to write a 4000 word research paper addressing an aspect or article of a creed. I think I will look at the history of the descendit, (He descended into Hell), but I’m not totally sure right now.

We also have a Sermon Session which meets for a two hour block on Wednesdays. Freshman don’t prepare any sermons in the first semester thankfully, so it is basically an opportunity to think critically about the structure and delivery of a sermon. To help with this we have a public speaking workshop once a semester. In two or three weeks I’ll by taking the opportunity to tell about an event that happened to me in the past. I’ve already started working on that assignment and have decided to right about a minor car accident I was in a few years ago.

Our first Intro to Ministry and Mission class will be on Monday. I suspect that it will have a similar structure to the Ecumenical Creeds course. Overall it’s been a very exciting week. I’ve really enjoyed the reading assignments and am looking forward to the weeks to come.

In my Reading I came across a nice quote by John Calvin that I thought was relevant

“Let us show ourselves to be such disciples as our Lord wishes to have – poor, empty, and void of self wisdom; eager to learn but knowing nothing, and even wishing to know nothing but what He has taught[.]” – John Calvin, Psychopannychia

Depending on God

(I can’t remember where exactly I found this prayer)

O Jesus Christ, Thou Son of the Blessed, Lamb of God, Which takest away the sins of the world : In Thy all-sufficient merits alone we trust for the remission of our sins. Through the Blood of Thy Cross we hope for peace with God, for strength against the powers of darkness, for safety, and help, and salvation ; the communion of Thy Holy Spirit here, and everlasting bliss with Thee hereafter. In Thy unfathomable grace, and the unsearchable depths of Thy love, is our trust. In Thy Name standeth our help. Have mercy on all broken hearts, and heal them ; all struggling with temptation, and rescue them ; all fainting in despair, and raise them up. Have mercy on all that groan beneath their sins ; on all that fall away from Thee ; on all that waver in their faith, and stablish, strengthen, settle them. O Blessed Jesus, Who didst shed Thy Blood for our souls to save them, shed Thy Holy Spirit upon all, and heal them. Have mercy on all in misery, or peril, or pain. Preserve them, Thou Who didst on earth so mercifully relieve and succour the distressed. Thou God of all help and comfort, take us to Thy tender care, and save and succour both our bodies and our souls. Thou that didst redeem us all, keep us for ever Thine, we pray Thee, for Thine infinite mercy’s sake ; and keep us in the love of God, until we come with all the multitude of Thy redeemed saints to those eternal mansions which Thou hast prepared in the kingdom of Thy Father. Bring us in Thine own good time to share Thy glory, and to praise Thee, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, One God for evermore. Amen.

New Beginnings

I’m about to begin, if the Lord is willing, four years of graduate level education as I study at a Theological College. I’ve moved across the country and away from almost all my friends and family. It’s certainly a daunting time for me and also quite stressful. I definitely don’t feel prepared to pick up my Hebrew and Greek, or memorize the Heidelberg Catechism. I thought I would be one of the older people in my class but it turns out that at 25 I might be the youngest (there’s one student I haven’t met yet). The other students are married, some have one or two children, and are in a different place in life. Even though they’ve also moved and had to leave friends behind, they also took a support group with them. I’m somewhat envious of their situation.

There’s also a bit of excitement as I look forward to digging deep into God’s word. Each day at school the focus will now be on how to better understand, interpret, and apply God’s word to my own life and the lives of others. What a prospect!

Tonight is convocation, I’ve been asked to help usher and seat people. It’s a good opportunity for me to meet new people, something which I would rather not do but at the same time want and need to do. Then we have our new student orientation day on Monday, followed by a BBQ. Finally on Tuesday regular classes begin. So it will be an exciting, daunting, and whirlwind of a weekend! And as I’m about to begin a new journey I’ve been reflecting on Psalm 121, a psalm traditional used by travelers on their way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.

 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

NIV

 

You are Worthy

‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created and have their being.’

I confess Father that I am unworthy of the grace you have shown me, for I have sinned against you once more this day. I cling only to the sacrifice of Christ and the pouring out of his blood. Wash me clean of my sins, purge me with hyssop that I would be clean. Enable me by your Spirit to live a life of thankfulness to you. As a child loves his earthly father, so help me to love you my Heavenly Father.

Luther on Self Righteousness

“Whenever we, on the ground of our righteousness, wisdom, or power, are haughty or angry with those who are unrighteous, foolish, or less powerful than we . . . —and this is the greatest perversion—righteousness works against righteousness, wisdom against wisdom, power against power. For you are powerful, not that you may make the weak weaker by oppression, but that you may make them powerful by raising them up and defending them. You are wise, not in order to laugh at the foolish and thereby make them more foolish, but that you may undertake to teach them as you yourself would wish to be taught. You are righteous that you may vindicate and pardon the unrighteous, not that you may only condemn, disparage, judge, and punish. For this is Christ’s example for us, as he says, ‘For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:17). He further says in Luke 9:55-56, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.'” Martin Luther