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Tuesday
Aug242010

A Pastor's Heart

One of the greatest gifts to subsequent generations is the personal accounts of individuals, made by their own hand.  While published books and official documents provide rich information to see history, other sources of a more personal nature truly reveal the hearts of people.  As regards history, I am always more interested in the people than I am the events, although those are intriguing as well.

Samuel Davies, of Hanover, Virginia was called away from his congregation to become President of the College of New Jersey.  He was not initially in favour of this, because he loved his congregation.  Eventually, however, he agreed to go, seeing the need for dedicating effort to institutions which could train upcoming leaders.  This is an excerpt from his farewell sermon, delivered on July 1, 1759:

Farewell, ye saints of the living God, ye 'few names even in Hanover, that have not defiled your garments.'  Ye shall fare well indeed.  That God, whose the earth is, and the fulness thereof, is your God and has undertaken your welfare.  That God will be your God for ever and he will be your guide even until death.  He will guide you by his counsel through the intricacies of life, an then receive you into glory.  Survey the sacred treasure of the divine promises laid up for you in the Bible, and stand lost in delightful wonder at your own riches.  Behold the immense inheritance which the blood of Christ has purchased for you ... It doth not yet appear what you shall be.  I have known you broken-hearted penitents; honest, laborious, weeping seekers of Jesus, and conscientious, though imperfect observers of his will:  I have known you poor mortal creatures, sometimes trembling, sometimes rejoicing, sometimes nobly indifferent at the prospect of death.  But I hope yet to know you under a high character; glorious Immortals, perfect in holiness, vigorous and bright and full of devotion, 'as the rapt seraphs adore and burn' and qualitified to bear a part in the more sublime and divine worship of the heavenly temple.  There I hope to find some humble seat among you, and spend a blessed eternity in the divine intimacy of immortal frienship, without interruption or the fear of parting.  Therefore adieu; but not forever.  Adieu for a few years, or months, or days, till death collets us to our common home, in our Father's house above.  You have been the joy of my life, under all the discouragements and fatigues of my ministry; and to your prayers I owe the comfort and success I have had among you.

I thought that was a beautiful farewell.  It was not only encouraging the people to stand fast in what they had learned, but it revealed his love for them.  It kind of reminded me of the way Paul spoke in his letters.

Monday
Aug232010

Deeds, not creeds

That is a phrase I've heard bandied about in Christian circles.  My own home church, while maybe not stating exactly that, would be loath to say it embraces a creed, but rather it would say, "Our Creed is the Bible."  The only evidence that it actually knows about creeds is the fact that occasionally, our associate pastor, who hails from Northern Ireland originally, has mentioned in his sermons the first question of the Westminster Catechism, "What is the chief end of man?"

That is about the extent of creed discussion at my church.  Other creeds, such as the Apostles' Creed and the  Nicene Creed are seen as part of the history of the Church, but I think if I was to mention that I am reading the Westminster Confession of Faith, I might get some looks from friends.  After all, isn't it a presbyterian document?

The first section of the Confession deals with Scripture, and in I.7 of the confession, this is stated:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all:  yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

G.I. Williamson in his book The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, points out that creeds are only as good as the extent which they reflect Scripture. The Baltimore Catechism, a Roman Catholic document, reflects their belief that the Church is the one that determines what is divine truth.  The Reformed tradition, on the other hand, puts it another way:

The Reformed faith views the matter precisely in reverse, holding that Scripture alone expresses divine truth with perfect clarity, and so regarding the Scriptures alone as finally authoritative.  The interpretation of the Church (as in its creeds) must always, therefore, be regarded as less than a perfectly clear expression of divine truth, and as necessarily subordinate to Scripture.  The authority of creeds is determined by Scripture, not determinative of Scripture.  They have authority only if, and to the extent that, they truly are faithful to Scripture.

This confession recognizes its own limitations.  I wonder if those who are squeamish about creeds have read one.

Sunday
Aug222010

What hubby said ... 

Last night, hubby came to me and said he thinks we should go to Chicago in April.

I asked him what, specifically, was in Chicago that he made that comment.

It was this.

Well, I will try to be a submissive wife.

Friday
Aug202010

God, Language and Scripture

I picked up the book, God, Language and Scripture by Moises Silva, and started reading it this week.  I don't know where I heard about it, but somewhere out there in bloggy land, someone had mentioned this book in conjunction with D.A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies, which I also have. 

God, language and scripture are three of my favourite things to think about.  When I was in my last year of university, I needed an elective, and I took an introductory course in linguistics.  That was one of those, "I wish I had done this earlier" kind of situations, because I really enjoyed it.  This book, by Moises Silva looks at the Bible in light of general linguistics.

In the opening section, Silva points out that in the opening of Scripture, we find the phrase, "God said."  Silva says that being made in the image of God involves speech:  "We are made in the image of a God who speaks."  One question that Silva briefly ponders (quoting Noam Chomsky, an author I remember well from when I took a course in development psychology, and when I took linguistics) how thought and language are related.  Is thought possible without language?  It's an interesting thought to ponder.

Silva goes on to discuss the effects of sin on language, beginning of course with a reference to the Tower of Babel.  His perspective is interesting though, because he reminds the reader that the account is the backdrop to the account of Abraham, and that some scholars have made the observation that the confusion of languages was redemptive in nature, because had the people been allowed to go ahead full steam, they would have continued in sin.  I thought that was rather interesting.

Another effect of sin on speech is the presence of evil speech.  Both the Old and New Testaments are full of injunctions against evil speech, and it has more to do with the inability to understand another person's language:

The confusion resulting from the destruction of Babel implies more than our inability to understand languages foreign to us.  That inability, no doubt, has often led to serious quarrels among nations and ethnic groups.  But the multiplicity of languages throughout the world is perhaps only the reflection of a more fundamental discordant streak in humanity.  After all, nations that speak the same language have hardly been invulnerable to the horrors of war!  Without minimizing the role played by substantive differences of opinion among people, one must wonder how often we delude ourselves into thinking that our disputes have vital significance when in fact we have only failed to communicate clearly.

I think that last sentence can be applied very heartily to disputes between family members.

Wednesday
Aug182010

Warfield Wednesday

On the foreknowledge of Jesus:

Not only were there no surprises in the life for Jesus and no compulsions; there were not even 'influences,' as we speak of 'influences' in a merely human career. The mark of this life, as the Evanglists depict it, is its calm and quiet superiority to all circumstances and condition, and to all the varied forces which sway other lives; its prime characteristics are voluntaries and independence.  Neither His mother, nor His brethren, nor His disciples, nor the people He came to serve, nor His enemies bent upon His destruction, nor Satan himself with his temptations, could move Him one step from His chosen path.  When men seemed to prevail over Him they were but working His will; the great 'No one has taken my life away from me; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again' (Jn. x. 18), is but the enunciation for the supreme act, of the principle that governs all His movements.  His own chosen pathway ever lay fully displayed before His feet; on it His feet fell quietly, but they found the way always unblocked.  What He did, He came to do; and He carried out His programme with uwavering purpose and indefectible certitude.

I guess one cannot really agree with Warfield unless he believes in the equality which exists between Jesus and the Father.  So much of what we understand about Christ really hinges on this equality.  Perhaps that is why so much time was spent early in the Church articulating that relationship.