A Braver Palace Than Before -- By: William Edgar

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 76:2 (Fall 2014)
Article: A Braver Palace Than Before
Author: William Edgar

A Braver Palace Than Before

William Edgar

William Edgar is Professor of Apologetics and holds the John Boyer Chair of Evangelism and Culture at Westminster Theological Seminary. This article is a revised version of the address he delivered at his installation on February 19, 2014.

I. Introduction

Friedrich Nietzsche once queried:

When on a Sunday morning we hear the bells ringing we ask ourselves: is it possible! this is going on because of a Jew crucified 2000 years ago who said he was the son of God. The proof of such an assertion is lacking. . . . A god who begets children on a mortal woman; a sage who calls upon us no longer to work, no longer to sit in judgment, but to heed the signs of the imminent end of the world; a justice which accepts an innocent man as a substitute sacrifice . . . prayers for miraculous intervention. . . . Can one believe that things of this sort are still believed in?1

Well, yes, Fred, one can, not including the caricatures. And there are far, far more of these strange believers than there were in your own day. And they gather in places way beyond those European churches atop of which the bells rang to gather God’s people. Proof, far from lacking, abounds, proof for the person and work of Christ, and proof that God has been able to overcome all of the obstacles, to wrestle with his people down through the ages, to give great success to the enterprise that is at the heart of his interest: missions.

One could look at the history of missions from the apostolic times to the present and be amazed at both the unity and the diversity of methods and contexts. To quote J. H. Bavinck, who spent so many years in Indonesia bringing the gospel to a people Westminster loves well: “The history of missions does not move smoothly and with a uniform rate of speed. It is subject to quick starts and stops, to shocks and obstacles. Its progress is at times arrested completely or seriously checked, and then again it proceeds with a sudden advance. God has set his mark upon its entire history.”2

The obstacles vary, as do the opportunities. But the gospel of Jesus Christ remains the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom 1:17). Thus, in an important sense we never are far from the original call to “go and make disciples of all the nations.” Richard Bauckham helpfully reminds us:

So the church’s mission is not a steadily cumulative process in which we move ever further away from the biblical narratives. We are ...

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