Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bavinck on Truth and Catholicity

"Scripture is not designed so that we should parrot it but that as free children of God we should think his thoughts after him. But then all so-called presuppositionlessness and objectivity are impossible. So much study and reflection on the subject is bound up with it that no person can possibly do it alone. That takes centuries. To that end the church has been appointed and given the promise of the Spirit's guidance into all truth. Whoever isolates himself from the church, i.e., from Christianity as a whole, from the history of dogma in its entirety, loses the truth of the Christian faith. That person becomes a branch that is torn from the tree and shrivels, an organ that is separated from the body and therefore doomed to die.... For just as the Son of God become truly human, so also God's thoughts, incorporated in Scripture, become flesh and blood in the human consciousness. Dogmatics is and ought to be divine thought totally entered into and absorbed in our human consciousness, freely and independently expressed in our language, in its essence the fruit of centuries, in its form contemporary." [1]

"It is not apart from the existing churches but through them that Christ prepares for himself a holy, catholic church. Nor is it apart from the different ecclesiastical dogmas but through them that the unity of the knowledge of God is prepared and realized. In the same way the dogmatician will best be able to work fruitfully for the purification and development of the religious life and the confession of his church.... This significance of the church for theology and dogmatics is grounded in the link that Christ himself forged between the two." [2]

[1] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, (John Bolt [ed.] & John Vriend [trans.]), (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 83.
[2] Ibid., 84.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wisdom: Carnal and Spiritual Compared

Thy body is weak, spare it, and weary it not; it cannot abide toil, labour, and weariness; spare thyself then. Your body is God's as well as your spirit; spare it not for glorifying God (1 Cor. 6:20). 'In weariness and painfulness' (2 Cor. 11:27). 'He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength' (Isa. 40:29). This thou hast experienced.
Labour to get neat and fine expressions; for these do very much commend a preaching to the learned; and without these they think nothing of it. Christ sent thee to 'preach the gospel not with wisdom of words' (1 Cor. 1:17). Go not to them with 'excellency of speech, or of wisdom' (1 Cor. 2:1). Let not thy speech and preaching be with 'the enticing words of man's wisdom' (verse 4).
Endeavour to be somewhat smooth in preaching, and calm; and do not go out upon the particular sins of the land, or of the persons to whom thou peachest. 'Cry aloud, and spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet: shew my people their sins' (Isa. 58:1). 'Open rebuke is better than secret love' (Prov. 27:5). 'Study to shew thyself approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth' (2 Tim. 2:15).
If thou wilt not do so, they will be irritated against thee, and may create thee trouble; and what a foolish thing would it be for thee to speak boldly to such a generation as this, whose very looks are terrible! 'He that rebuketh a man, afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue' (Prov. 28:23). I have experience of this. 'Fear them not, neither be afraid at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. I have made thy face strong against their faces' (Ezek. 3:8,9). Experience confirms this.
It is a dangerous way to speak freely, and condescend on particulars; there may be more hazard in it than thou art aware of. 'He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely' (Prov. 10:9). 'Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved' (28:18).
Thou wilt be looked on as a fool, as a monster of men; thou wilt be called a railer, and so lose thy reputation and credit, and thou hadst need to preserve that. Men will hate and abhor thee; and why shouldst thou expose thyself to these things? 'Thou must become a fool, that thou mayest be wise' (1 Cor. 3:18). 'We are made a spectacle to the world' (1 Cor. 4:9,10). 'The servant is not greater than his lord,' (John 15:20, compared with 10:20), 'He hath a devil, and is mad, why hear ye him?' If thou wilt be Christ's disciple, 'thou must deny thyself' (Matt. 16:24). 'If the world hate you, ye know it hated me before it hated you,' (John 15:18) says our Lord.
Great people especially will be offended at you, if you speak not fair to them and court and caress them. And if you be looked down upon by great people, who are wise and mighty, what will you think of your preaching? 'Accept no man's person, neither give flattering titles to man: for, in so doing, thy Maker will soon take thee away' (Job 32:21,22). 'Few of the rulers believe on Christ' (John 7:48). 'Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called' (1 Cor. 1:26). 'Speak thou God's word to kings, and be not ashamed' (Ps. 119;46).
Our people are new come out from under Prelacy, and they would not desire to have sins told particularly, and especially old sores to be ripped up. They cannot abide that doctrine. Other doctrine would take better with them. Hold off such things; for it may well do them ill. It will do them no good. 'Thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, for they are most rebellious' (Ezek. 2:7). 'Give them warning from me. If thou do it not they shall die in their sins, but their blood will I require at thy hand' (3:17,18). 'What the Lord saith to thee, that do thou speak' (1 Kings 22:14).
If you will preach such things, yet prudence requires that you speak of them warily. Though conscience says you must, yet speak them somewhat covertly, that you may not offend them sore, and especially with respect to them that are but coming in yet, and do not fill them with prejudices at first; you may get occasion afterwards. 'Cry aloud and spare not' (Isa. 58:1). 'Cursed be he that doth the work of the Lord deceitfully' (Jer. 48:10). 'Handle not the word of the Lord deceitfully.' Peter, at the first, told the Jews that were but coming in to hear, 'Him (Christ) ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucifed and slain' (Acts 2:23). 'Work while it is called today; the night cometh wherein thou canst not work' (John 9:4).
Be but fair especially to them that have the stroke in parishes, till you be settled in a parish to get stipend. If you will not do so, you may look for toiling up and down then; for parishes will scare at you, and will not call you, and how will you live? And so such a way of preaching will be to your loss, whereas otherwise it might be better with you. 'To have respect of persons is not good; for, for a piece of bread that man will transgress' (Prov. 28:21). 'The will of the Lord be done' (Acts 21:14). 'God hath determined your time, before appointed, and the bounds of your habitation' (Acts 17:26). 'And his counsel shall stand, oppose it who will' (Isa. 46:10). 'It is God that sets the solitary in families' (Ps. 68:6). 'If thou be faithful, thou shalt abound with blessings; but if thou makest haste to be rich, thou shalt not be innocent'

Thomas Boston, The Art of Manfishing, A Puritan's View of Evangelism (Scotland, GB: Christian Focus, 1998), 64—68.

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