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Tuesday
Jan192010

The Irish Articles

In my reading of Crawford Gribben's The Irish Puritans, I read about a confession of which I was unfamiliar, The Irish Articles.

These articles were the work of James Ussher who was the dominant Irish Puritan of his day.  They were written as somewhat of a reaction against the English Thirty-nine Articles, which the Irish Protestants saw as somewhat insufficient:

For decades previously, dissatisfcation with the doctrinal basis of the Church of England had been a standard feature of Puritan complaints.  The English confession of faith - the Thirty-nine Articles - had been passed by the English convocation in 1562 and had been confirmed as the faith of the English church by Parliament in 1571.  It was a good confession, as far as it went.  The gospel was clearly presented.  Scripture was given a high place (Article 6).  Nevertheless, the Puritans felt, rightly or wrongly, that the articles were often deliberately ambiguous, and history seems to have confirmed their judgment.  The wording of the articles has frequently allowed conflicting groups to appeal for support to their often rather vague statements.

To answer these claims of ambiguity, other articles, The Lambeth Articles were drawn up, but were never adopted, and the King (James I at the time) in 1604 refused to make them an official statement of  Anglican theology.  In Ireland, prior to the Thirty-nine Articles, the doctrinal foundations of Protestantism were even more unclear.   Gribben says:

Their more basic contents allowed the accommodation of a wider range of theological opinions of the Irish church - which ranged from Puritans who had been excluded from the English and Scottish churches to neo-Catholic conservatives who still used the Latin Prayer Book.  A growing awareness that these articles simply were not good enough, and a recognition of their failure state clearly the issues separating the Irish Protestants from the Roman Catholics, led to the negotiation of a new doctrinal basis when the convocation of the Irish church met in 1615.

Doctrine is important.  Sometimes, we don't see that, but as is obvious from the situation of this early Irish church, it was very crucial that the doctrinal points dividing Anglican, Puritan, and Catholic views be clearly stated.  It was essential in determining what kind of faith would be promulgated by Irish Protestant Church.

Ussher was seen as a Puritan.  His influence in the articles is clearly seen, as Gribben points out, in the fact that the Irish articles boldly declare that the Pope was a "man of sin, foretold in the holy Scriptures whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and abolish with the brightness of his coming" (article 80).   Gribben states:  "Ussher's life of study was grounded upon his enduring hostility to the false claims of Roman Catholicism."   The articles were the work of one who wanted to clearly define exactly what a Christian Protestant was.  It is unavoidable, I think, that documents such as confessions and creeds will come across as a reaction against something.  Is that not why many of them were drawn up?  To answer false teaching?  These articles were no different.

I find all of this quite interesting, because many of the problems that Ireland has seen in her history have revolved around religious questions.  Ireland saw Catholic forces, English forces, and Irish forces all compete against one another.  Just because one was Irish did not make him a Catholic; and just because one was Protestant, it did not make him English.  It was quite a complicated situation. 

Gribben ends this chapter with an ominous comment:

This was the glory of Ussher's reformed church.  Emphatically Puritan, rigorously scholastic, but charitable to weaker consciences, nothing was to stand in the way of its evangelization of Ireland - nothing, that it, but the interference of English Protestants.

Monday
Jan182010

Logic and the person in the pew

I'm reading a chapter called "The Situational Perspective - Logic as a Tool of Theology," in John Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.  While this doesn't teach logic per se, it does examine why logical thought and theology are not contradictory. As a hermeutical tool, logic is invaluable.  Frame says this:

So in theology, logical deductions set forth the meaning of Scripture.  "Stealing is wrong; embezzling is stealing; therefore embezzling is wrong.  That is kind of a "moral syllogism" common to ethical reasoning.

When it is used rightly, logical deduction adds nothing to Scripture.  It merely sets forth what is there.

Logic, then, is not above Scripture, but it simply provides the tools to explain Scripture.

I don't claim to know logic very well.  I am reading about Aristotle in another book, and I am working my way through this book, and while I probably don't understand everything perfectly, I'm learning a lot about how to think just from reading this book.  I'm also finding out how difficult it is to "summarize" logic.  When I try to summarize what I've learned, I can't do it in a concise manner.  Frame uses lots of analogies; I am a person who needs analogies.  Analogies don't lend themselves well to summarizing.  Frame is quite good at it, because I am able to understand what he is saying for the most part, and I do not have a mind that finds it easy to think in a logical manner.

Something Frame says really that really piqued my interest, and I found myself nodding:

Most people in the pews have not studied logic, and they will not be able to subject their pastors' sermons to formal logical scrutiny.  Yet all rational people, I think, have what we earlier called a "sense" of implication and consistency.  They may not recognize in every case when they are being given an invalid argument or an inconsistent position.  But when logical fallacies are prominent in a sermon, many in the congregation will feel uneasy about it.  They will not find it adquately persuasive.  Even if they cannot pin down what the problem is, they will sense that a problem exists.  Thus, for their sake, and indeed for the sake of truth itself - God's noncontradictory truth - we must make much greater efforts than are now common among theologians to be logical.

I must admit to having sat in sermons (not my pastor, actually) and thought, "Something is not right about this."   I know others have had similar experiences.  Are we looking for things to be logical, though, when we sit down to a sermon?  Sometimes, I think we sit down expecting to be made to feel something.  I think the feeling needs to come after the premises have been adequately expressed, and that takes a logical train of thought.

Sunday
Jan172010

Heart Aflame - January 17th

Reflecting on Psalm 9:

He has established his throne for judgment.  As often as nothing but destruction presents itself to our view, to whatever side we may turn, let us remember to lift up our eyes to the heavenly throne, whence God beholds all that is done here below.  In the world our affairs may have been brought to such an extremity, that there is no longer hope in regard to them; but the shield with which we ought to repel all the temptations by which we are assailed is this, that God, nevertheless, sits Judge in heaven.  Yea, when he seems to take no notice of us, and does not immediately remedy the evils which we suffer, it becomes us to realise by faith his secret providence.  The Psalmist says, in the first place, God sits forever, by which he means, that however high the violence of men may be carried, and although their fury may burst forth without measure, they can never drag God from his seat.  He farther means by this expression, that it is impossible for God to abdicate the office and authority of judge.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed.  God delays his aid, and to outward appearance forsakes his faithful ones, in order at length to succour them at a more covenient season, according to the greatness of their necessity and affliction.  From this is follows, that he by no means ceases from the exercise of his office, although he suffer the good and the innocent to be reduced to extreme poverty, and although he exercise them with weeping and lamentations; for by doing this he lights up a lamp to enable them to see his judgments the more clearly.

A stronghold in times of trouble.  From this we are taught the duty of giving his provience time to make itself at length manifest in the seasons of need.  And if protection by the power of God, and the experience of his fatherly favour, is the greatest blessing which we can receive, let us not feel so uneasy at being accounted poor and miserable before the world, but let this consolatory consideration assuage our grief, that God is not far from us, seeing our afflictions call upon him to come to our aid.

Saturday
Jan162010

Random thoughts on leaving a legacy

Today, I was able to attend a seminar that was offered for the youth workers at our church.  The aim was basically encouragement and team building, and a time away to look at where we are in our year, etc.

The theme of the day was "Leaving a Legacy."

I must admit that when I hear that phrase, I always feel a little self-conscious.  I don't know why, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it is hard to contemplate my own legacy.  I have always thought that our legacy is something others see in us.  I know I will leave a legacy.  We cannot avoid it.  The question is will it be a good one or a bad one? 

"Legacy" is a rather lofty sounding word, too.  Do I dare assume I will leave something behind that is worth remembering?  In and of myself, no, I won't.  I know my family will remember me.  I hope they remember me with positive things, but of course, there will be some bad things they will remember, too.  Perhaps I'm not very ambitious, but when I think of "legacy," I think that my goal is that I am not remembered as a stumbling block.

Ultimately, it is God's legacy we want to leave behind; we want to live our lives so that God is glorified, not necessarily that we are remembered.  We may be remembered, but our desire should be that people can see beyond us and see the goodness of God.

We were encouraged to think ahead to what kind of legacy we want to leave.  I just couldn't think of it in that way.  What I did think of was that if I live each and every day in a way that is pleasing to God, will that not contribute to a good legacy?  We were also encouraged to be "intentional" in our thoughts of a legacy.  I don't know how I feel about that word, "intentional."   Is it an actual word?  It's used a lot. My intent is to live my life in a way that is pleasing to God.  I must be pro-active in that intention by doing things that will foster my growth in godliness.

I could not help but wonder if the men and women who have left great legacies ever thought that is what they would do.  Perhaps the word "legacy" is just too daunting for me to contemplate.  I just don't want to be a bad example.

All in all, it was a good thing to ponder; to be careful and circumspect about how we conduct ourselves.   A legacy is built through consistency; that is my ultimate goal, to be consistent.

Friday
Jan152010

Write well, even in in the "digital" age

I liked this piece from The Gospel Coalition, where Mike Pohlman quotes words from William Zinsser, of On Writing Well fame.  He addresses the topic of writing in the "digital age."