September 30th, 2006
It is very easy to assume that if someone does not agree with us it must be because they do not understand what we have to say. Now that is certainly an option; many times people do misunderstand. But I doubt that we would be content to have that criticism applied to ourselves. Both credo and paedo baptists feel to some degree that the other side doesn’t get it. Yet, whichever side of that debate we may be on, we probably would not accept that we don’t understand the other side.
And so it is helpful to distinguish between understanding and appreciating. I may have a grasp of the essential details of an argument, and yet it fails to have weight with me: I do not appreciate it. I remember reading in one of Bernard Shaw’s prefaces one of the most clear statements of the Gospel that I had encountered up to the time; it would have been silly for me to lay a charge of misunderstanding. The problem was not intellectual, on his part; although he grasped, he did not like it, he did not appreciate.
Now, when you add to that the fact that there are areas where we might be wrong, it becomes clear that disagreement is not always due to ignorance or stupidity on the part of the other guy. I am aware that we don’t feel wrong; but we didn’t feel wrong several years ago, either, and yet look how that turned out.
So in controversy, the problem is not always with them.
Yet that statement also needs to be balanced. Rejecting some things does show ignorance, stupidity, or moral turpitude. If someone does not believe that Jesus is the Christ, then that really is their problem. And of course, to some degree, all error is the result of sin and the damage that sin has wrought on our noetic faculties. But here we would do well to distinguish, between what must necessarily be a failing on the part of the adversary, and what may be a failing on our part (or what is a less significant difference). Failure to do so not only puts us in company with Calovius and leaves us in danger of a tu quoque: it is also a violation of the Golden Rule. There is no doubt that in controversy, at least on certain points, we would like the other side to listen carefully and entertain the possibility that we might be right; but then would Jesus’ words not obligate us to treat them likewise?
September 29th, 2006
September 29th, 2006
The observation of Bernard well deserves to be remembered: The name of Jesus is not only light but food also, yea, oil, without which all the food of the soul is dry; salt, without which as a condiment whatever is set before us is insipid; in fine, honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, joy in the heart, and, at the same time, medicine; every discourse where this name is not heard is absurd. Calvin’s Institutes II.16.1
September 29th, 2006
On the internal/external covenant membership distinction: De Doctrina Christiana, book 3, ch. 32
THE SECOND RULE OF TICHONIUS
The second rule is about the twofold division of the body of the Lord; but this indeed is not a suitable name, for that is really no part of the body of Christ which will not be with Him in eternity. We ought, therefore, to say that the rule is about the true and the mixed body of the Lord, or the true and the counterfeit, or some such name; because, not to speak of eternity, hypocrites cannot even now be said to be in Him, although they seem to be in His Church. And hence this rule might be designated thus: Concerning the mixed Church. Now this rule requires the reader to be on his guard when Scripture, although it has now come to address or speak of a different set of persons, seems to be addressing or speaking of the same persons as before, just as if both sets constituted one body in consequence of their being for the time united in a common participation of the sacraments.
September 28th, 2006
If you haven’t yet, you should read this article.
A good quote from it:
It is not so much that Christ fulfills what the temple means; rather Christ is the meaning for which the temple existed.
September 27th, 2006
September 27th, 2006
Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p.308 (Hendrickson:1993)
As the Hebrew was not generally understood, the Methurgeman, or Interpreter, stood by the side of the reader (comp. 1 Cor. 14:27,28), and translated into the Aramaean verse by verse, and in the section from the Prophets, or Haphtarah, after every three verses (Megill. 24a). But the Methurgeman was not allowed to read his translation, lest it might popularly be regarded as authoritative. This may help to us in some measure to understand the popular mode of Old Testament quotations in the New Testament. So long as the substance of a text was given correctly, the Methurgeman might paraphrase for better popular understanding. Again, it is but natural to suppose, that the Methurgeman would prepare himself for his work by such materials as he would find to hand, among which, of course, the translation of the Septuagint would hold a prominent place. This may in part account alike for the employment of the Septuagint, and for its Targumic modifications, in the New Testament quotations.
September 26th, 2006
Robert Webber’s book, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, is a book of testimonies: chiefly Webber’s own, but backed up by subsidiary testimonies from various other people, purporting to explain why some evangelicals have become Anglicans.
The criticisms that Webber makes are powerful and cogent to churches that are non-Reformed. No doubt they could also apply to some nominally Reformed churches: but the plea for a God-centred worship and a proper sacramental conception (from which he departs by allowing too many sacraments) is one that should not only be echoed by the Reformed, but actually experienced among them. His rejection of system because God is a maverick who will not be contained could indicate two things: one, that his system was inadequate; two, that his system was adequate and incorrectly apprehended. If a system is based on divine truth God will not be boxed up in it, for two reasons. In the first place, because it has made an accurate transcription of at least the edges of His ways; secondly, because it will have explicitly allowed for the freedom of God. His identification and affirmation of the different kinds of spirituality (conversion, dos and don’ts, believing the right thing, ethical and experience) is helpful:there are different emphases in spirituality, and we need a full-orbed spirituality. I believe he is wrong, however, in his analysis of a spirituality of experience, and also in his location of that spirituality as the one which comprehends all others. As Lloyd-Jones remarked long since, if Christianity is only an experience then we have no answer at all to the cults. This infringes already on the presuppositional objections to Webber’s position, of which there are three.
Most importantly, experience is made the grand arbiter. There is nothing to describe how we are to understand or interpret our experiences. He does not like a proof-texting Christianity, yet he is comforted because the early church viewed things the way he does. Now what is this but to proof-text the early church? Proof-texting is objectionable when it is done badly, or when it reduces the Bible to a polemical textbook. Without a certain degree of proof-texting, however, not only do we have no doctrine or standards, we have no method with which to understand our experience. This reveals itself in his emphasis on how the Episcopal church works for him and some others, but is by no means the only thing that works.
This leads into the next consideration, which is the centrality of human need, human wants, and human feelings in his whole approach. He was dissatisfied with this or that. Well: dissatisfaction is no doubt unpleasant; but a malcontent can be dissatisfied with what is perfectly wholesome. I do not accuse Webber of being a malcontent: but dissatisfaction by itself is not an indication of the sufficiency or insufficiency of any given thing. The dissatisfaction must again be evaluated. Furthermore, arguing for a God-centred worship from a man-centred dissatisfaction may indeed be the right approach: but it can only be shown to be the right approach on the basis of Scripture. Without the teaching of Scripture of our having been created to worship God, we would laugh our dissatisfaction with not being God-centred as another manifestation of man-centredness. What is more focussed on my preferences than acting as my dissatisfaction dictates?
Finally, given its approach, the book is of course very weak. It would not, perhaps, be effectively refuted by a work in a similar vein describing a person’s pilgrimage from Canterbury to Winona Lake –but it could offer little to counter such a pilgrimage.
September 23rd, 2006
The previous episodes (1,2,3) don’t have a lot to do with this post: but the first one does give the full title of this worthwhile book.
There are some deeply interesting comments on the relation of intolerance to freedom and peace. It seems that we have largely forgotten that tolerance may be the enemy of liberty: and organizational tolerance can promote conflict.
Hart summarizes Machen’s views about this on pp.113,114
Machen also pointed out that liberal pleas for broadness were actually quite narrow. Narrowmindedness, he explained, did not consist in an individual’s devotion to or rejection of certain ideas. Instead, a narrow person rejected another’s convictions “without first endeavoring to understand them.” This was exactly what liberals had done, according to Machen. They blithely called for peace and harmony without ever considering the significant differences that divided liberals and conservatives. Liberals thought doctrine unimportant and so could coexist with conservatives in the denomination. Conservatives, in contrast, believed doctrine was of utmost importance and so could not come to terms with liberals. The two parties could not be more different. Liberals were not necessarily narrow for rejecting traditional dogma, but it was “very narrow and very absurd” to suppose that conservatives and liberals were essentially united in their aims. Such a position was akin to Protestants telling Catholics that both groups could unite for common religious purposes because the mass and church membership “are of course matters of secondary importance.” Liberal Protestant proposals for unity did not involve compromise but rather a “complete relinquishment” of everything that conservatives held dear. Machen received support on this point from Walter Lippmann, who said that the liberal plea for tolerance and goodwill was tantamount to telling conservatives to “smile and commit suicide.”
The solution that Machen advocated followed directly from his understanding of the church. A separation of the two parties was the “crying need of the hour.” Nothing engendered strife so much as a “forced unity within the same organization” of those who disagreed fundamentally in aim. The denomination had to reaffirm the “absolute exclusiveness of the Christian religion.” Then it would no longer be attractive to prospective ministers and established clergy of liberal convictions. But Machen also warned that if liberals gained control of the church, conservatives would be forced to withdraw. By the end of the 1920s, however, a conservative withdrawal looked far more likely than a liberal exodus.
September 22nd, 2006
Sirach 27:4-7 & 28:8-12
“When a sieve is shaken, the refuse remains; so a man’s filth remains in his thoughts. The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of a man is in his reasoning. The fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man’s mind. Do not praise a man before you hear him reason, for this is the test of men.”
“Refrain from strife, and you will lessen sins; for a man given to anger will kindle strife, and a sinful man will disturb friends and inject enmity among those who are at peace. In proportion to the fuel for the fire, so will be the burning, and in proportion to the obstinacy of strife will be the burning; in proportion to the strength of the man will be his anger, and in proportion to his wealth he will heighten his wrath. A hasty quarrel kindles fire, and urgent strife sheds blood. If you blow on a spark, it will glow; if you spit on it, it will be put out; and both come out of your mouth.”
Which serves as a reminder that the Apocrypha are not evil. The problem is not that they are singularly bad books; the problem is that they are illegitimately elevated to the level of Scripture. That does not mean they are not very good to read.