A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter you know I have a weekly segment called Thursday Theology. I like to introduce people to important Christian thinkers; thus, I post thoughtful quotes there (and here) from various scholars. A theologian I appreciate and quote often is Peter Toon. Dr. Toon’s book Our Triune God: A Biblical Portrayal of the Trinity is the best contemporary book on the doctrine of the Trinity I have ever read.This book motivated me to want to help other Christians appreciate the critical importance of the Trinity.

Here’s a biographical sketch of Toon along with four of his quotes on theology that I’ve used in my social media Thursday Theology segment. I also react to his points with the hope that you’ll find his insights helpful.

Who Is Peter Toon?

Peter Toon (1939–2009) was an evangelical Anglican priest and theologian. He earned his doctorate from Oxford University and was an expert in historical theology. Toon lectured at more than 50 Christian institutions worldwide. He was an able defender of historic Christianity and promoted a traditional or theologically conservative form of Anglicanism. Toon was especially well known for his promotion of the classic text, the Book of Common Prayer.

1. On the Incarnation

“First, the fact that Mary was a virgin points to the fact that the conception of Jesus was wholly the result of the divine initiative, the work of the Holy Spirit; he had no human father. Secondly, the fact that he had no earthly father means that his existence in space and time causes us to look into no time (eternity) and no space (infinity) for the truth concerning him; that is, to his eternal origin in the life of the Holy Trinity.”2

The identity of Jesus Christ transcends his human birth in Bethlehem. He was the eternal Father’s eternal Son. As the second person of the Trinity, the Son took a human nature through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary and became a man—thus the God-man. Jesus of Nazareth, as he was called, was ontologically a single person with both a divine and a human nature. The incarnation thus means that God has come in human flesh.

2. On Jesus’s Relationship to the Father

“Certainly there was no precedent in his religious and devotional heritage for calling the God of Jewish monotheism Abba. However, the wiser and better way is to see in Jesus’ adoption of this startling form of address indications of not only his true identity, but also the true identity of Yahweh-Elohim.”3

Here Toon comments on Jesus calling the Father “Abba.” Before his passion on the cross Jesus prayed: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). The term Abba means “Father.” Some have thought it was a childlike term of endearment (“Daddy”), but it more likely conveys the privileged (equal) position of an adult son. No Jew had previously spoken of Israel’s Lord God (Yahweh-Elohim) as if he were an equal. In Hebrew culture the adult son would be the heir and would stand on equal ground with the father. So Toon notes that Jesus unabashedly speaks to the Father as if they are ontological equals.

3. On Jesus’s Crucifixion

“Jesus of Nazareth was put to death on a cross outside the city walls of ancient Jerusalem. Crucifixion was a Roman form of execution used chiefly for slaves. It was a degrading way to die and was never used for Roman citizens. Cicero, the great defender of classical culture and civilization, regarded this form of execution as barbaric.”4

Toon explains that the Son of God left his lofty divine quarters in heaven to not only don human flesh but also—in his atoning sacrifice—to take the most undesirable position in Roman society: that of a slave. Jesus’s death on the cross was personally degrading and was considered morally barbaric by the culturally refined Romans. In case there is any doubt, God had indeed come into the world to suffer for the sins of human beings.

4. On the Challenge of Liberal Theology

“To make matters worse the [liberal] theologians, to whom Christians look as ‘servants of Christ and his Church’ appear to lead the way in destroying Christianity instead of defending ‘the faith which once and for all God has given to his people’ (Jude 3).”5

As a conservative theologian-apologist, Toon battled the encroaching liberal theology found in quarters of the Anglican church. Liberal theology denies such cardinal Christian doctrines as the Trinity, Christ’s deity, and his substitutionary atonement. Toon notes the great irony that instead of building up and defending the faith, liberal priests in the church were working to destroy historic Christianity. Sound doctrine and its robust defense matter just as much today as in the past.

Peter Toon was an articulate spokesperson for orthodox Anglican theology and spiritual practice. Representing a Reformed version of Anglicanism, he was a prolific author of more than 30 books. We can all learn a great deal from his theological insights.

Reflections: Your Turn

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Endnotes
  1. For my introduction to Toon’s book, see “Take Up and Read: Our Triune God.”
  2. Peter Toon, The Anglican Way: Evangelical and Catholic (New York: Morehouse – Barlow, 1983), 6.
  3. Peter Toon, Our Triune God: A Biblical Portrayal of the Trinity (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1996), 154.
  4. Toon, The Anglican Way, 6.
  5. Peter Toon, Jesus Christ Is Lord (London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1978), 4.

 

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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