2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Bible 101, Sola Panel

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Here’s a question as old as Christianity: if God has freely and completely forgiven me through the death and resurrection of Jesus—if it is all by grace and not by works—then what possible incentive is there for me to lead a new life of godliness? Why not just keep sinning, since God’s grace and forgiveness will cover it in the end? (more…)

Psalm 51:1-2

Bible 101

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

How aware of your sin are you? I find it’s often easy to minimize or brush under the carpet. Especially if it’s something others don’t know about, it can be easy to hide that aspect of my life, to pretend it doesn’t exist. But over time I start fooling myself, too, and I start to think that that part of my life isn’t so significant. (more…)

Christmas Poetry

Life, Sola Panel

Thanks to the CASE team (CASE = Centre for Apologetic Scholarship & Education) at New College, I’ve enjoyed receiving their quarterly journal for the past few years. Each one has a theme, and they’ve had some real winners in the last two years, including on: (more…)

Two editorial jobs at Matthias Media in 2012

As the year draws to a close, a big thanks to our many readers, subscribers, and commenters. It’s been a year of changes at The Briefing, and we’re hugely grateful for all the encouragement and interaction and support we’ve received. Keep it coming in 2012! (more…)

Knox/Robinson for today (extended)


This is the original, longer version of the edited article that appeared in print.

1. Dealing with a theological legacy

There are three common mistakes when dealing with the legacy of previous generations, whether it is in the area of theology or any other endeavour. The first is uncritical acceptance, where all that was said or done by the great ones who have gone before us is treated as so true and perfect that none of it can be questioned. Some confessional theology can be like that. I remember listening to a series of addresses on baptism in which the constant refrain was “the Reformed faith teaches…” Now I’m happy to identify myself as standing within the Reformed tradition of theology, but after about the fifth address (there were twelve!) you couldn’t help but wonder whether this system was so set in stone that it would be impossible to question it on the basis of the Bible. I had the impression that to do so would be considered a betrayal of Calvin, or Turretin, or Hodge or Warfield and what they have bequeathed to us. And yet each one of those men would have rushed to protest that their own teaching needed to be tested by the one true standard of doctrine, the teaching of the Scriptures. Now if you think that is just typical of the conservative edge of the Reformed tradition, I’ve heard people do similar things with the theology of Karl Barth. Barth’s theology sometimes seems to be made of Teflon—no criticism is allowed to stick. But Barth himself famously spoke of how the angels laughed at those who spend more time thinking about what Barth said than about what God has said. That’s the first mistake to make when considering the legacy of the great ones who have gone before us. (more…)

Knox/Robinson for today


Dealing with our history, and charting a course that avoids blanket repudiation and blind acceptance, requires careful thought. Mark Thompson shares with us the legacy for today of Donald Robinson and Broughton Knox with regard to the church. (more…)

The reason for the season?

Everyday Ministry, Thought, Sola Panel

If you insist to a friend that the ‘real meaning of Christmas’ is the birth of Jesus Christ, there are two kinds of response you’re likely to get. (more…)

Reading through the Bible in a year (or two)

Life, Sola Panel

flickr: jjreade

I’m doing something I haven’t attempted since I was at university, many years ago. I’m reading through the Bible in a year. Make that two years: after twelve months, I’m half way through my Bible reading plan.

There’s something exciting about reading the Bible in big gulps. I feel well-fed, like I’ve been at the richest of banquets all year long. I’ve discovered long-forgotten treasures, and I’ve seen familiar verses shine with unexpected colours in their setting. I’ve been reminded how, verse after verse, chapter after chapter, the Bible tells the same story. I can’t wait to turn the pages and watch the history of salvation unfold.


Did the baby Jesus cry?


In the middle of the classic Christmas hymn ‘Away in a Manger’, there is this one line that doesn’t quite ring true. The second stanza tells us, “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes / But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”. Did baby Jesus really not cry? The hymn author was likely thinking that Jesus did not cry because he was perfect and divine. But does a crying baby Jesus detract from his divinity? I think not, but a non-crying baby Jesus detracts from his humanity. (more…)

What is church for?

Pastoral Ministry, Thought

We Christians are very interested in church, and we have vested interests in church. So the question of what is church—and what is it for—is important to us. But is it the right question? (more…)

Finding a “quiet time” in a mother’s life that’s far from quiet

Life, Sola Panel

flickr: bluebirdsandteapots

I used to find it pretty easy to find a quiet time to pray and read the Bible, back in the days when I had two children. This seemed a little unfair. Other mums told me, “It’s so hard to pray and read the Bible! Every time I try, my kids climb all over me! My baby cries! My son wants me! They won’t keep quiet long enough for me to pray!” But quiet times were still “quiet” for me.


Trellis & Vine Talk 5 — disciple-making: a mental virus


In this episode: ‘Disciple-making’—who, how, church membership, learning, the basic activity of Christian ministry, gifts, and making a start (MP3).

Audio MP3


Exploding Fenella Souter’s Myths of Christmas

Review, Thought, Sola Panel

Last Saturday, the ‘Good Weekend’ magazine published by the Sydney Morning Herald (and the Melbourne Age?), ran an article by Fenella Souter entitled “Truth, Lies and Santa Claus: Exploding the Myths of Christmas” (not available online). (more…)

Gunning for God


Unless you’ve been hiding in a cocoon for the past ten years, you can’t have failed to notice the New Atheists and their public challenge to religion and Christianity in particular. Men like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris (to name perhaps the three most famous examples) have proclaimed from whatever atheistic minaret they could find their call that the very idea of God is a delusion, that the God of the Bible is not great, and that ‘faith’ should be at an end. (more…)