Perichoresis 16.4

Perichoresis 16.4 (2018)


The Nature of Theology and the Extent of the Atonement

Stephen R. Holmes


This article considers the post-Reformation debates over the extent of the Atonement. It traces the origins of these debates from the articles of the Arminian Remonstrance of 1610 through the declarations of the supporters of the Synod of Dort in 1618-19. The debate is then considered in relation to an English Baptist context, and specifically the exegetical dispute over the meaning of the word ‘all’ in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 and Romans 3:23-4. Three options are examined and the various difficulties in arbitrating between these various interpretations. Recognising these difficulties, the article goes on to explore the relationship between scriptural exegesis and theology with reference to the formulation of the ecumenical doctrine of the Trinity in the fourth century. It argues that while theology should always attempt to be consistent with the exegetical data on occasion it proves inconclusive, as in the case of the debate over the extent of the atonement. In such cases the role of theology becomes one of mediation as it seeks a way of reading the texts of Scripture that allows them to be heard without contradicting each other. Again, this is illustrated from the fourth century and the Christology of Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa. Returning to the question of atonement with this understanding of the task of theology the article seeks to propose a way to reconcile the biblical texts which speak of the atonement as both universal and limited. PDF

Baptists, Fifth Monarchists, and the Reign of King Jesus

Ian Birch


This article outlines the rise of the Fifth Monarchists, a religiously inspired and politically motivated movement which came to prominence in the 1650s and believed the execution of Charles I cleared the way for King Jesus to return and reign with the saints from the throne of England. The imminent establishment of the Kingdom of Christ on earth was of great interest to Baptists, some of whom were initially drawn to the Fifth Monarchy cause because Fifth Monarchy theology provided a political route to a reformed society in England. While Baptists in the 1650s greatly desired to advance the cause of King Jesus the increasingly revolutionary methods employed by the Fifth Monarchists were at odds with their understanding of the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom, thus exposing diffe

rences in their respective eschatologies. Finally, observing the ambitious zeal of the Fifth Monarchist programme Baptists disavowed the anarchic revolutionary approach and distanced themselves from the movement. This breach, regarded as apostasy by the Fifth Monarchists, came at a fortunate time for the Baptist cause before the revolution was stamped out and the leaders arrested. The rise and fall of the Fifth Monarchists, however, helped Baptists to clarify the nature and methods of their approach to establishing the kingdom of Christ among the saints on earth, and is therefore worthy of consideration for those wishing to understand the beginning of the Baptists in England and the nature of apocalyptic during the interregnum. PDF

The Balfour Declaration: Scottish Presbyterian Eschatology and British Policy Towards Palestine

Alasdair Black


This article considers the theological influences on the Balfour Declaration which was made on the 2 November 1917 and for the first time gave British governmental support to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It explores the principal personalities and political workings behind the Declaration before going on to argue the statement cannot be entirely divested from the religious sympathies of those involved, especially Lord Balfour. Thereafter, the paper explores the rise of Christian Restorationism in the context of Scottish Presbyterianism, charting how the influence of Jonathan Edwards shaped the thought of Thomas Chalmers on the role of the Jews in salvation history which in turn influenced the premillennialism of Edward Irving and his Judeo-centric eschatology. The paper then considers the way this eschatology became the basis of John Darby’s premillennial dispensationalism and how in an American context this theology began to shape the thinking of Christian evangelicals and through the work of William Blackstone provide the basis of popular and political support for Zionism. However, it also argues the political expressions of premillennial dispensationalism only occurred in America because the Chicago evangelist Dwight L. Moody was exposed to the evolving thinking of Scottish Presbyterians regarding Jewish restoration. This thinking had emerged from a Church of Scotland ‘Mission of Inquiry’ to Palestine in 1839 and been advanced by Alexander Keith, Horatius Bonar and David Brown. Finally, the paper explores how this Scottish Presbyterian heritage influenced the rise of Zionism and Balfour and his political judgements. PDF

The Spirit as Transcendent Lord

Ian Stackhouse


This essay was delivered as the third and last paper at Spurgeon’s Annual Theological Conference in the summer of 2015. The theme of the Conference was the nature of the trinitarian God, neatly divided a sequence of papers on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In this essay on the person of the Holy Spirit, Stackhouse challenges some of the assumptions we make when we speak of the Spirit as the God who is near. By placing charismatic experience alongside the biblical revelation, he argues for an understanding of the person of the Spirit as no less transcendent as the Father and the Son, and actively engaged not simply in the phenomena of signs and wonders but in drawing the believer into the very life of the trinity. As the essay develops, Stackhouse seeks to draw out the implications of this approach to pneumatology for our notions of identity, holiness, prayer and Christian community. He argues for a much stronger connection in charismatic/Pentecostal experience between Christ and the Spirit; and in so doing, he warns against some of the more popular, and somewhat ironic, emphases on power, method and function. As with the first paper of the day by Dr Nigel Wright, Stackhouse draws upon the work of Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. Like Wright, he regards Buber’s I-Thou construct of religious experience as critical for the future of contemporary revivalism. PDF

’The Struggle for Spiritual Values’: Scottish Baptists and the Second World War

Brian Talbot


The Secord World War was a conflict which many British people feared might happen, but they strongly supported the efforts of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to seek a peaceful resolution of tensions with Germany over disputes in Continental Europe. Baptists in Scotland shared these concerns of their fellow citizens, but equally supported the declaration of war in 1939 after the German invasion of Poland. They saw the conflict as a struggle for spiritual values and were as concerned about winning the peace that followed as well as the war. During the years 1939 to 1945 they recommitted themselves to sharing the Christian message with their fellow citizens and engaged in varied forms of evangelism and extended times of prayer for the nation. The success of their Armed Forces Chaplains in World War One ensured that Scottish Baptist padres had greater opportunities for service a generation later. Scottish Baptists had seen closer ties established with other churches in their country under the auspices of the Scottish Churches Council. This co-operation in the context of planning for helping refugees and engaging in reconstruction at the conclusion of the war led to proposals for a World Council of Churches. Scottish Baptists were more cautious about this extension of ecumenical relationships. In line with other Scottish Churches they recognised a weakening of Christian commitment in the wider nation, but were committed to the challenge of proclaiming their faith at this time. They had both high hopes and expectations for the post-war years in Scotland. PDF

Religious Responses to Environmental Crises in the Orange Free State Republic, C. 1896-C. 1898

Phia Steyn


The purpose of this article is to explore the religious responses within the Orange Free State republic to the environmental crises in the period c. 1896 to c. 1898. During this time the state was subjected to severe drought, flooding, and the outbreak of various diseases. The article examines the way in which these afflictions where interpreted by the Christian and wider community in terms of God’s wrath for unrepented sins. The persistence of synchronistic elements of folk religion was seen to have brought plagues like those found in Exodus which were visited upon the Pharaoh and his kingdom. This interruptive frame work led to calls for national repentance, but also a resistance to scientific and medical resolutions to the crises. It also reinforced racial divisions. Black Africans were perceived as the carriers of the disease so their movement was prohibited. The article goes on to show how the effect of this biblical frame of reference protected the concept of God as the ever-present active God in every aspect of life against the scientific rationalism of the age, while at the same time ironically hindering the work of mission and the life of the church. PDF