A report live-blogged by Andy Naselli
Tonight begins the 2009 Kantzer Lectures in Revealed Theology by Dr. Stephen Williams. Williams is professor of systematic theology at Union Theological College in Belfast, Ireland. The title of the six-part series is “The Election of Grace: A Riddle without Resolution?” The first lecture in the series addresses “the different ways of understanding God that surface in debates about election.”
This is also available via live stream.
- Psalm 130 instructs the heart. Psalm 131 instructs the mind.
The Intractable Nature of the Dispute
- Is election a riddle without resolution? Only he is a theologian who can turn a solution into a riddle!
- Election continues to divine the evangelical community in particular, especially via the Calvinist-Arminian debate. See for example a recent perspectives book debating five views on election.
- How far should anyone expect to get with contributing their perspective on election? We are faced with divergent ways of reading Scripture by evangelicals with different views of election (all of whom think Scripture “clearly” teaches their view).
- The cauldron has been no hotter than it has been for centuries. Strong language on soteriology is not new. And there is no evidence of global theological warming in the twentieth century.
Divergent Views of God
- It would be helpful to examine hermeneutical differences, but it would be even more interesting to examine different ways in which God portrays himself.
- Universalism (which Williams rejects) achieves a more coherent of the coexistence of the divine attributes than the alternative positions of Calvinism, Arminianism, and open theism.
- With reference to providence, God relates to good and evil in very different ways. Humans have unleashed evil upon the world and God has produced the good.
How Shall We Proceed?
- Scripture is the authority and exegesis the guide, but we won’t be able to deal with any texts in depth.
- Lectures 3 and 4 will focus on the Old and New Testaments. The OT lecture will argue that election is responsibility rather than privilege. The NT lecture will argue that election is contrasted not with reprobation but with a call that is refused.
- Someone who will be perched on Williams’s shoulder throughout these lectures and will be featured in lecture 5 is Charles Simeon. The three aims of preaching for Simeon were to humble the sinner, exalt the Savior, and exalt holiness. “Beware of systematizers.” In other words, be Bible-Christians and not just system-Christians. According to Simeon, the preacher has no responsibility to reconcile truths that Scripture does not. His responsibility is to rightly apply both sets of biblical truth. Further, existential reconciliation is possible. “Without agreeing with [everything by] Simeon, I’m taking some of my cues from him.”
- Lecture 6 will ask where this all takes us today.
- Methodologically, the place to learn about God’s love and power is Jesus himself. Karl Barth was massively christocentric, so lecture 2 is devoted to him.