The pursuing God, summary (Part 3)

This is the last of three posts about Joshua Ryan Butler’s The pursuing God: A reckless, irrational, obsessed love that’s dying to bring us home (Nashville: W Publishing, 2016). It summarises Part Three, ‘Rising up from the waters: Resurrection.’
The TrinityThe Trinity is a communion of love (Chs 25–27).[1] The Spirit moves through the universe, sustaining everything. The Son unites divinity and humanity, reconciling heaven and earth and is King of earth. The Father is in a sense defined by that title, as without a Son he would not be Father. But God is ultimately beyond description, filling the universe through the Son and the Spirit. The three are not in competition. The main theme of Jesus’ longest recorded prayer (in John 17) is that the Father and the Son seek to glorify each other and the Spirit brings glory to both (John 8:54; 14:13; 16:14).[2] Butler translates the early church’s term perichor─ôsis as ‘mutual indwelling’, make up of peri ‘around’ and chorein ‘make room for’, as …

The pursuing God, review and summary (Part 1)

This is the first of three posts about Joshua Ryan Butler’s The pursuing God: A reckless, irrational, obsessed love that’s dying to bring us home (Nashville: W Publishing, 2016). It consists of a brief review, followed by a summary of Part One.

The opening words of this book get straight to the point: ‘This is not a book about our pursuit of God; it’s about God’s pursuit of us.’ It’s quite a remarkable book. It is aimed (or so it seems) at a popular American audience, but it certainly does not have the superficiality of some popular Christian literature. Its subject matter is the basics of evangelical Christian theology, and Butler tackles certain folk simplifications of that theology, explaining what Christians traditionally believe and why. He does this with stories and illustrations rather than dry theological exposition, outlining the fundamentals of belief in some detail and with passion. He has a way with words, and he communicates theology in the language of 21st-century reader…

The pursuing God, summary (Part 2)

This is the second of three posts about Joshua Ryan Butler’s The pursuing God: A reckless, irrational, obsessed love that’s dying to bring us home (Nashville: W Publishing, 2016). It summarises Part Two, subtitled ‘Crucifixion’. Butler seeks to communicate something of what happened on the cross. The cross is the climax of God's pursuit (Ch 13). Traditionally, Christians have described it as Jesus receiving the punishment due to us, but this is sometimes referred to today as 'divine child abuse'. God is all-loving, goes the response, so he would never have taken his anger out on his son. For Butler this is a caricature of what happened on the cross because the child abuse metaphor sees Jesus as a victim. Not so: he was a willing agent (John 10:18)[1] who knew in advance what would happen (Mark 8:31, 9:12, Luke 9:22).[2],[3] Butler writes, ‘The cross is not happening to Jesus; Jesus is happening to the cross.’ He is motivated by love (Galatians 2:20b).[4] It is an act of se…

On the logic of penal substitution

Packer, J. I., 1974. What did the cross achieve? The logic of penal substitution. Tyndale Bulletin 25:3-45.

The text of J.I. Packer’s 1973 Tyndale Biblical Theology Lecture (reference above, accessible here) is an exposition of his view of the atonement. It is a remarkable piece of writing by an extraordinarily widely read author, historically well informed, closely argued, written with conviction, and dealing with timeless truths that haven't changed since 1973. English usage, however, has changed in forty odd years, and Packer's diction is strange to the modern ear.

The published version is 43 pages long, and the notes below are perhaps a little less than a fifth of this length. Could I have summarised the text in fewer words? Maybe, but too much would have been lost. Packer’s argument is at times so dense that I often quote him verbatim. To do otherwise would be an injustice to him in a matter at the very centre of Christian faith.

(The headings below are mostly Packer'…

Science and Christianity are complementary

Alister McGrath, 2016. Enriching our vision of reality: Theology and the natural sciences in dialogue. London: SPCK.

McGrath’s intention in this book is to demonstrate a different relationship between Christianity and science from the one presupposed by the ‘Science vs Religion’ standoff. Christian belief and science are complementary, and, as his title says, together enrich our vision of reality. At the end of the book, McGrath says he has written it because he believes that the people best qualified to carry forward this enriched vision of the world are scientists who have a Christian faith. But it is not enough for individuals to enjoy this enriched vision. It is important to demonstrate that science and faith can be held together by practising scientists, in order to counter the myth that science and faith are at war.

There are more similarities, McGrath holds, between the methods of science and Christian theology than is commonly supposed. An important similarity is that they b…