Enlightenment Goddess

Baker again, telling me something I didn’t know, the part about the older/est profession of the goddess.

Poster children for the early beginnings of secularization theory might include Diderot, who rejoices at the though of “strangling the last priest with the guts of the last king,” the French revolutionaries who enthroned a young woman (actually a prostitute) as the goddess of Reason in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and Comte, who envisioned the death of traditional religion to be replaced by a new order based on reverence toward the powers of human rationality.

Morphing Sacred/Secular

Before secular meant something done without reference to God, it simply meant something done in the world. Hunter Baker in The End of Secularism notes

The priests with parish duties were known a secular clergy. . .  The idea of “secular” clergy going about their work administering the sacraments, giving aid to the poor, and yes, even collecting tithes, burial fees and other church revenues without reference to God is ludicrous. In the world we are discussing, secular simply referred to activities conducted in the world as opposed to those directed toward a purely supernatural plane. State and ecclesiastical authorities wrestled, but they wrestled within the context of Christian right and wrong.

It might be better stated that secular clergy worked outside of a strictly liturgical setting since all of life consists in Christ, the creational Word spoken. But secularism developed from this earlier understanding.

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), former Dutch prime minister and Calvinist exemplar, would later imply that the Roman church created secularism by wrongly dividing life into consecrated and profane sectors.

This is exactly the project of Reformed two kingdoms types. They want realms of life and society that are free of Christian dominion, not that such a schizophrenic position can be consistently defined or maintained. Ironically, these folks often insist, to the exclusion of all others, that they are guardians of the reformed confessions when in reality they are towing a Roman Catholic line of sacred/secular. Not the earlier view of a divided sacred/secular clergy serving in two places, but the later view that embraces a false neutrality where a secular realm of “common grace” somehow enables us not to name to giver of that grace at all.

New Words

In his fascinating new book on hermeneutics, Deep Exegesis, Peter Leithart pushes back on those who would limit the interpretation of words to their immediate context.

Or, we may ask, what if a word begins to keep new company? We all know that bad company corrupts good morals, and words that keep company with new companions are likely to be changed in the process. Many uses of language–the most interesting ones–are strictly inappropriate.  … They are surprising because they they do not conform to normal expectations. Why say anything if we just say what everyone expects? Who says that we cannot use worlds metaphorically?

Few besides Austen would have conceived “apparatus of happiness,” and we should all be grateful that she was perfectly willing to violate every modern notion of meaning.

The biblical writers unfold a story that builds on what has gone on in the past, and because they are truly building, we see new things in the upper stories. New words take on new meanings, and old words take on more meaning as antitypes reveal the fullness of types.

This whole way of reading the Bible stands against the curator approach to texts whether they be biblical or confessional. If Jesus is maturing his church, shouldn’t we expect to gain a richer understanding of justification by faith with every century if not half millennium that goes by? To some, any development is  not maturation but retardation. It’s as if you can’t build on the foundation but have to veer off. Coming off the liberalism of the last two centuries, this is understandable. But certainly a frozen conservatism creates boredom and encourages if not spawns liberalism. Liberalism really does build and interpret the Bible without regard for the foundation, which is not what the writers of the New Testament did (infallibly) or the church doctors have done (fallibly) throughout the centuries as the Spirit has led them.

Take a History

Eugene Peterson on pastors as historians, from Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work.

Pastors are historians, not moralists. they learn their craft at the feet of the great theological historians of Sinai and from their direct descendants, the four Gospel writers, not by collecting aphorisms in the fields of the Roman Stoics. If pastors only carry moral sayings in their pockets and go through the parish sticking them, like gummed labels, on the victims of the week, there will be no good pastoral work; they must learn how to be gospel storytellers. After the manner of the storyteller of Ruth, they must become skilled in making a story of out of the details of a particular trouble, using the plot design and vocabulary that the have assimilated from, say, the Deuteronomist. The storytelling pastor differs from the moralizing pastor in the same way that a responsible physician differs from a clerk in a drugstore. When an ill person goes to a physician, the physician “takes a history” before offering a diagnosis and writing a prescription. The presumption is that everything that a person has experienced is relevant to the illness and must be taken into account if there is to be a healing. The clerk in the drugstore simply sells a patent medicine off the shelf–one thing for headaches, another for heartburn, another for indigestion–without regard for the particular details of a person’s pain. Biblical pastoral work “takes a history” and with that raw material creates a story of salvation, like the Ruth story fashioned out of famine, widowhood, barley harvest, levirite law, God’s steadfast love, providence and peace, the town of Bethlehem and the land of of Moab.

Referendum 71 & Public Schools

Some think the passage of Senate Bill 5688 will do little more than cost Washington tax payers $30 million a year. Joseph Backholm, Director of the Family Policy Institute of WA, addresses the impact it will make in the public schools. Maybe this is the impetus families need to get their kids out of the schools. Still, I don’t wish this upon anyone’s kids. You can read more talking about points about Referendum 71 here and more editorials by Backholm here.

Now that Referendum 71 is going to be on the ballot, it is likely that you will have a conversation about it between now and November.

Moreover, if you oppose the effort to create equivalency between marriage and homosexual relationships you will face some variation of the following question, “how does it affect you in any way if two gay people who love each other have legal benefits?” Continue reading

More than Matter

Stephen Meyer going at it hammer and tongs:

Many scientists have found it difficult to relinquish an exclusive reliance upon the more traditional scientific categories of matter an energy. As George Williams (himself an evolutionary biologist) notes, “Evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains: that of information and that of matter. . . . The gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it’s not the message.” Continue reading

The Mirror of Christ

The doctrine of election is a notorious stumbling block for Christians. In his sermon on Ephesians 1:4-6, Calvin sets the discussion up where it ought to be had–on Jesus.

I speak here after the manner of men, for we know that God uses neither paper nor parchment on which to write our names, and I have told you already that, to speak properly, the register in which we are enrolled is our Lord Jesus Christ. …

You see then that the faith which we have in our Lord Jesus Christ is enough to assure us of our election, and therefore, what more do we ask? I told you that Jesus Christ is the mirror in which God beholds us when he wishes to find us acceptable to himself. Likewise, on our side, he is the mirror on which we must caSt our eyes and look, when we desire to come to the knowledge of our election.

The person doubting his salvation does so because he constantly looks at himself. We’re told that God finds cause for his love and election only in his own good will and pleasure, and not in us. If we’re to make our calling and election sure, therefore, we have to look where God does. Just as he sees his children in the mirror of Christ, so he chose them through him. If we look where he does, we find what he gives: Jesus. And there is assurance.

Pants on Fire

You may not call the President a liar like that one bold chap who did. Click on that banned word to see the recent story on banned words.

I suggest that instead, when his majesty-who-may-not-be-named-a-non-truth-teller does, you know, lie, then the person in room who can still tell the difference between true and false simply yell out “Pants On Fire.” Or just “fire.” It might become a new F word, who knows. I also see that “sexual misconduct” is on the banned and naughty word list. At least this is a weak and tepid phrase. No one listens to me, but I think, delivered in high pitches, “philanderer” would do wonders.

Possessing Gates

After Abraham offered his son Isaac as God had commanded (and then prevented), the angel of Yahweh says this:

“By myself I have sworn, declares the Yahweh, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”  Genesis 22:16-18

We are all children of Abraham, imitators of him who put his faith in God. And of course God is the greater Abraham who offered his only begotten son Jesus who died as the true lamb of God. All Christians know we are sons of Abraham and that God, foreseeing that God would justify the gentiles, preached the gospel to Abraham saying in him all the nations of the world would be blessed (Gal. 3:8). So the promises made to Abraham, the ones he believed, went beyond the land of Canaan, to other lands where all the unwashed goyim used to live.

So far so good. All spiritual promises, right? Now look back at Genesis 22:17. The promise include the children of Abraham possessing the gates of their enemies. It’s impossible to confine this promise to Palestine or gnosticize it away to gates of people’s hearts. Gates are places of authority and power–the capital buildings in our terms–and in Jesus’ kingdom power and authority is exercised through service and sacrifice.

We know that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal and we are not to do any possessing by worldly means; Malchus gets to keep his ear. But this is not the same thing as saying the church will not demonstrably advance and the nations be discipled. Unless a seed goes into the ground and dies it will not bear much fruit, and the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. But as the seeds goes in, a big tree really does grow up. Right now, that tree is estimated to be well over a billion large, a redwood of Trinitarian Christians worshiping Christ all over the world (though increasing in the southern hemisphere and the east with white Christians being an oxymoron in 30 years if things continue as they have been and Philip Jenkins is to be trusted, but I digress).

Believing the promises given to Abraham should be at the heart of any eschatalogical understanding. Lose the millennialisms and focus on the promises and the power of the atonement. Efforts to divorce such promises from the growth of the gospel throughout history only produces evangelical schizophrenia, knowing that all authority has been given to Jesus, but therefore going to give it a sure-to-fail try at discipling the nations.