God and the Nations (Creative pastoral care & counseling)
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The presentation of Jesus Christ under the ancestral category in African Christianity 'might only serve to further an existing practice by providing some sort of validation for an existing culturally relevant but non-Biblical practice' Igba Dualism and syncretism can only cease in African Christianity by the exaltation of Jesus Christ over the world of spiritual powers, as Salala noted. Salala stated that:. Unless Christ is elevated in the person's cosmology as he is in heaven, dualism persists, syncretism is advanced, and Jesus is reduced to being simply an additional helpful source of power, perhaps equal in power with traditional spirits and personalities.
Further, many African theologians such as Bediako ; Nyamiti mention Adam in their biblical discussions without saying much about the major difficulties of African Christians in understanding their real solidarity with Adam. This silence in African scholarship could imply that African Christians do not struggle to understand their corporate sinful solidarity with Adam, the forefather of all humankind.
That is, African Christians understand that 'every member of the human race is descended from the biblical Adam', which is a 'standard doctrine in Islamic, Jewish and Christian thought' Livingstone However, even though one could argue that African Christians do not consider the importance of their complete identification with the biblical Adam, because they are not much preoccupied with sin as the root of their existential challenges, it does not seem that we have any basis for that reasoning. Bediako noted that Africans are much more concerned with the need for a saviour from a realm beyond who fully identifies with them and saves them from their insecurities.
Given this, if African Christians do not find significant difficulties in understanding Adam's identification with them, then an Adamic Christology that views Christ as our New Adam is the next and necessary step in enhancing African Christians' understanding of Christ's complete solidarity with them to the extent that they can solely rely on him in the midst of their African contextual sufferings that require healing.
That is, instead of African Christians' continual reliance on their traditional African familial mediums in addressing their contextual sufferings that require healing, they can be empowered through practical knowledge to fully rely on Christ's ability to address their spiritual insecurities and sufferings as their New Adam, with whom they are united by faith. African Christians' identification with Christ in Adamic Christology therefore provides a practical theological imagination that engages the African context. It provides a reflection framework that would result in creative healing.
It becomes a relevant language and communication fides quaerens verbum that would result in action and transformation healing and coping. Towards a responsive ministry anchored in Adamic Christology. Christ's identification with humanity and its implications for pastoral healing. Even though salvation in our New Adam encompasses all aspects of life i. In his book Ascension and Ecclesia , Farrow , 43 summarises this existing continuity and discontinuity. Farrow argues for the existence of two histories in scripture, namely, world history and covenant history.
In the wider argument of his book, Farrow contends that through Jesus' ascension, world history and covenant history are now separate in our view, although world history is still ultimately determined by covenant history. Concerning covenant history, Torrance showed himself to be in line with Farrow by his contention that the ascension of Christ 'is the ultimate end of creation and redemption revealed in the covenant of grace and fulfilled in Jesus Christ'.
In other words, covenant history has 'already reached its goal' in Christ's ascension, and yet it is now out of our sight in heaven, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father Farrow However, world history continues in this present era of Christianity, and believers are to continue to live in this world history without conforming to its observable sinful patterns Farrow This brings us to the existential tension that even though believers are part of the covenant history in their hypostatic union with Christ through faith; Col.
However, in their continual existence within this world history, Christians are supposed to 'live in the power of the resurrection as those who are united to the risen Jesus Christ', and they 'must not be schematised to the form of the secular world but must be transformed through the renewal' of their 'mind in Christ' Torrance In other words, in this ongoing history of the world, Christians are to live as the already renewed people of God, waiting for the second coming of Christ in order to bring his final restoration of all creation Torrance That is, within the nature and extent of Christ's salvation, Christians are living in an interim period in which Christ's salvation in all aspects of life is partially realised Heb.
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It is so since they are waiting for the complete acknowledgment of his reign by all creation at his second coming to make all things entirely new. Louw refers to this as 'eschatological thinking' that should be possessed by pneumatological beings Christians. Torrance summarises the aforementioned existing tension in this way:. The ascension also means that this time of the new creation in Christ is hidden from us, and, as it were, held back from us until in the mercy of God Jesus Christ comes again to judge and renew all creation.
Nevertheless, it remains valid that in the risen Christ our human nature in its creaturely and temporal existence is redeemed and renewed and established through being taken up in its affirmed reality into the life of God. However, because the ascension of Christ confronts us with a superficial discontinuity and continuity of God's complete solidarity with believers in their suffering in this Christian interim period, we resolve the discontinuity issue by arguing for Christ's sending of the Holy Spirit Ac.
The New Testament and the early church:. Torrance With the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit within Christians' lives, the ascension of Christ does not mean that God in Christ is distant from African Christians' suffering. That is, even though Christ is currently residing in heaven, the presence of the Holy Spirit affirms that God is not distant from African Christians' various contextual sufferings that require healing. This understanding avoids a separation between what God has done for us in Christ's historical redemptive work and where Christians are now at the moment, namely, in the now-but-not-yet era of Christianity Horton However, in arguing for the presence of God in believers' suffering through the Holy Spirit, we do not regard the ascension of Christ Ac.
This is because we maintain that the ascension of Christ is the entering of the uninterrupted hypostatic union between God and humanity into the eternal place of God in heaven Torrance Once the aforesaid theology of Christ's ascension is clarified in our Adamic Christology, we unswervingly contend for God's continuous solidarity with Christians in their suffering through the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit.
That is:. It is through the Spirit that things infinitely disconnected - disconnected by the 'distance' of the ascension - are nevertheless infinitely closely related. Through the Spirit, Christ is nearer to us than we are to ourselves, and we who live and dwell on earth are yet made to sit with Christ in heavenly places, partaking of the divine nature in him. That is, after the ascension of Christ, God continuously positions himself within African believers' existential and contextual life suffering, in which he addresses their needs according to his will.
This is why Luke and John emphasise that the man Jesus Christ our New Adam , the very God himself, is the one who gives the Spirit to those who are so deeply related to him as brothers Heb. In John, it is the resurrected man Jesus who breathes his spirit into his disciples Jn.
The truth is that when Christians have Jesus by faith, they have full assurance and full security that they have the Holy Spirit. This is counter to certain neo-Pentecostal claims that the gift and possession of the Holy Spirit is to be doubted without further experiences.
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Given this, in moments of suffering, it is both empowering and comforting for African Christians to know that:. We are not left on our own as far as our relationship with God is concerned; neither are we left on our own to 'slug it out in the trenches', as it were, with regard to the Christian life. Life in the present is empowered by the God who dwells among us and in us. As the personal presence of God, the Spirit is not merely some 'force' or 'influence'.
The living God is a God of power and by his Spirit the power of the living God is present with and for us. The Spirit also empowers for endurance in the midst of adversity Col. Fee In other words, God's dynamic presence through the Holy Spirit within the lives of believers is the fulcrum of Christians' confidence in their moments of suffering. The Holy Spirit is the very God, who truly identifies with Christians in their suffering and intercedes for them in the midst of their weaknesses and groaning Rm.
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The intercessory role of the Spirit renders a great assurance for believers, which makes them confident in their prayers to God in the midst of their many and different kinds of sufferings and groaning s in which they cannot express themselves in words to God , since the Spirit of God intercedes on their behalf in accordance to God's will Rm. In this regard, African Christians are to be reminded that the role of the Spirit in prayer is to transform their groaning in accordance with God's will, and assuredly the prayers of the Spirit on behalf of believers are always answered by God, since the Spirit is God, who knows the will of God in all situations Moo ; Schreiner ; Wright Given this, Romans brings the assurance that the Holy Spirit will enable Christians to subdue their challenges.
Calvin puts it this way:. Even though we are in every respect weak, and various infirmities threaten our fall, there is yet sufficient protection in God's Spirit to preserve us from falling, and to keep us from being overwhelmed by any mass of evil.
This is why Paul guaranteed Christians cf. In Philippians , Paul's inventiveness is to place the superiority of the Spirit's action in believers' maturity into Christ-likeness, since God is the one who empowers Christians to undertake the life of obedience and righteous living in the midst of their existential and contextual life challenges of suffering that require a Christ redemptive response. Owen's observation in light of Philippians 2 is apt here:.
The Holy Ghost works in us and upon us, as we are fit to be wrought in and upon, that is, so as to preserve our own liberty and free obedience. He works upon our understandings, wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us or without us, so that his assistance is an encouragement as to the facilitating of the work, and no occasion of neglect as to the work itself. The responsibility and response of believers in suffering: A paradigm. As the partakers of God's holiness in Christ, believers are obligated to live lives that are shaped by our New Adam Jesus Christ as the ultimate model Ellington In the believers' pilgrimage of maturing into the likeness of Christ , they are to pursue holiness Heb.
The Christ-like model enables Christians not to 'grow weary or lose heart' in their multifaceted difficult times Ellington ; O'Brien It is important to note that the Jewish Christians were to pursue their sanctified lives in Christ regardless of their undeserved adversities, which included imprisonment Heb. Nevertheless, in the midst of their undeserved sufferings, the author of Hebrews exhorted them to view their circumstances from God's perspective, since their suffering was not in vain.
The co-heirs of the eschatological kingdom of God are expected to enter the path of Christ's suffering in order to partake in his future glory Rm. Jesus himself validated suffering as part of Christian life when he guaranteed his disciples that they were going to encounter troubles in their Christian pilgrimage Jn. In this way, suffering is part of Christian life. However, in challenging circumstances believers are responsible for enduring and focusing on Christ, the New Adam, who truly identified with them in the incarnation and undertook their disgraces Heb.
This is why Torrance , author's own emphasis argues that the great palingenesia is:. Thus the covenant will of God for fellowship with man was translated into eternal actuality.
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Sometimes God nurtures believers' moral purity through their excruciating moments, in a way that preserves them in order to fulfil an intended purpose in their lives Rm. Here, patience and hope in the gospel promises are the encouraged believers' response under their sufferings and groaning Rm. This is because Christians must 'reflect in their life together, attitudes and behaviours that are consistent with their new relationship with God in Christ' O'Brien In other words, African Christians are practically exhorted to resemble the functional character of patience, hope and perseverance in their lives by placing their central focus on Christ and the gospel promises, irrespective of their multifaceted sufferings.
This is because the God who truly identifies with us as our New Adam and saved us from sin and all its consequences 14 does not take our suffering away instantly, whether it is physical or emotional pain. The God who truly identifies with us in our suffering helps us to endure the various sufferings so that we can learn to trust him more. In this way, it is appropriate to argue that God uses suffering in the lives of believers to progress their holiness in Christ Atkinson ; Olagunju Therefore, in the context of suffering, African Christians should hold on to the New Adam Jesus Christ , who is the ultimate fulfilment of God's unchanging gospel promises 2 Cor.
To put it differently, African Christians have to hold onto Christ even when they are in hard times. This is possible by remembering the gospel promises promissiotherapy , knowing that God will never change his mind; he will deliver us. However, even if God can chose according to will not to deliver us from our suffering at this interim era of Christianity, we are certain that through faith in Jesus Christ our salvation is eternally secured. This is in agreement with Atkinson's affirmation that:.
There can be a pain which heals, a suffering which is sharing in the suffering of Christ. Our New Adam, Jesus Christ, is the very God himself, who has overpowered the world for us through his redemptive acts Jn. This salvation should be understood in view of the eschaton. In affirming the above-mentioned scenario, we are bringing forth the idea of suffering as formative or shaping Christian maturity in Christ.
In avowing this, we concur with Olagunju that the Bible does not view God as the initiator of suffering; instead, the God who truly identifies with us in Christ uses 'those experiences as instruments of discipline, tests and as a means of growth' Rm. Thus, the Bible confirms that Christians' growth to maturity encompasses their acceptance of the actuality that 'suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope, and the power of God being revealed in our weakness' Rm.
However, in the context of African Christians' suffering and trials Ja. This corresponds well with the Apostle Paul's 2 Cor. Hence, African Christians are responsible for fixing their eyes on the invisible, eternal gospel promises and emulating the behaviour and character of Christ in their sufferings. This is because our New Adam, Jesus Christ, is the very God himself who truly identifies himself with African Christians and lived an obedient life to the Father. In this way, Jesus Christ:.
He who was God in the flesh was able to manifest the kind of holiness of character in his attitudes, behaviours and interpersonal relationships that provided a concrete example of the moral image of God that he wanted to see restored in fallen man. Jesus became a demonstration of holiness with a human face, and by so doing became a model of life and character for everyone desiring to be remade in the image of the Holy One of the universe.
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Coppedge Christ as suffering servant metaphor - empowerment for believers in suffering. The metaphor of Christ the New Adam as a suffering servant who truly identifies with Christians in their various contextual suffering is both healing and empowering for believers. This arises from the actuality that Jesus Christ was truly God-man in nature.
In this respect, the incarnation 'constitutes the one actual source and the one controlling centre of the Christian doctrine of God, for he who became man in Jesus Christ in order to be our Saviour is identical in Being and Act with God the Father' Torrance God's identification with all humankind in and through the New Adam in the incarnation is both vertical and horisontal in nature. The vertical nature of the incarnation implies the downward movement of the eternal, infinite and transcendent God in time, space and into the condition of human beings.
The horisontal nature implies God's identification with all humanity in and through our New Adam in his incarnational mystery Jn.