Archive for February, 2011

Catechism for Adults

I was reading an article that is a sort of self-contained discussion with a Baptistic view of Church Membership (HERE) that Rick recommended from John Frame and Vern Poythress’ site. It is a very good article on how to deal with professions of faith within the Church. Something Rick told me about, on a seemingly unrelated subject (Augustine, was it?), was that the Church, in that time (Augustine, was it?) was having a debate about whether instruction on the meaning of Baptism should occur before or after the Catechumen is actually Baptized. I think it is a legitimate question to ponder on, and Poythress actually addresses the move in the early Church to catechize (in general) adult believers before they are baptized. Here is the quote:

Hence, baptism in the name of Jesus functions in the New Testament to mark the beginning of the Christian life.3 Baptism was not merely for those with mature, tested faith, but for those starting the Christian walk. Therefore, in Acts adult converts were baptized when they professed faith. Later in church history, baptism was delayed until after people had gone through catechetical training. But I believe this practice represents a deviation rather than an improvement. Most catechetical training belongs after baptism. Baptism is at the beginning, because it signifies the inception of union with Christ (Rom 6:1-4). Following baptism one enters on a whole lifetime of discipleship, including catechism or doctrinal training that brings us into deeper knowledge of the gospel and the Christian faith.

I think that Poythress is right on the issue of Baptism as an initiatory and pre-catechetical sacrament, but should the believer be instructed as to the meaning of Baptism itself before or after he is baptized?

I think that the meaning of Baptism should be generally explained to the recipient (all of this for adult believers, in case you were wondering…) before their baptism, but I can’t defend pædo-baptism in principle as strongly if I demand that Baptism is preceded (by adults) by doctrinal training, even if the subject is Baptism itself. I am thus torn. And, conceding that weakness, I am in no way saying that the practice of baptizing babies would be in any real danger, as the covenant relation of parents to their seed in the Bible would still stand as the strongest evidence for the orthopraxy of infant baptism.

Any thoughts? Credo-baptists are welcome to comment on the issue (or the article as a whole!) if you are pleased to do so.

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Striving with God

See my last post for this quote’s context.

Everyone shall be remembered, but each was great in proportion to the greatness of that with which he strove. For he who strove with the world became great by overcoming the world, and he who strove with himself became great by overcoming himself, but he who strove with God became greater than all. So there was strife in the world, man against man, one against a thousand, but he who strove with God was greater than all. So there was strife upon earth: there was one who overcame all by his power, and there was one who overcame God by his impotence. -Kierkegaard

The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh. (Genesis 32:22-32 ESV)

Is this striving touching an essential part of what faith is? What are your thoughts on the connection between striving with God and a justifying faith?

Kierkegaard Quote

Inspired by the post here, I am going to have to read Fear and Trembling by Kierkegaard again.

Here is a sample of what you get from Kierkegaard, near the beginning of the book:

No, not one shall be forgotten who was great in the world. But each was great in his own way, and each in proportion to the greatness of that which he loved. For he who loved himself became great by himself, and he who loved other men became great by his selfless devotion, but he who loved God became greater than all. Everyone shall be remembered, but each became great in proportion to his expectation. One became great by expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal, but he who expected the impossible became greater than all. Everyone shall be remembered, but each was great in proportion to the greatness of that with which he strove. For he who strove with the world became great by overcoming the world, and he who strove with himself became great by overcoming himself, but he who strove with God became greater than all. So there was strife in the world, man against man, one against a thousand, but he who strove with God was greater than all. So there was strife upon earth: there was one who overcame all by his power, and there was one who overcame God by his impotence. There was one who relied upon himself and gained all, there was one who secure in his strength sacrificed all, but he who believed God was greater than all. There was one who was great by reason of his power, and one who was great by reason of his wisdom, and one who was great by reason of his hope, and one who was great by reason of his love; but Abraham was greater than all, great by reason of his power whose strength is impotence, great by reason of his wisdom whose secret is foolishness, great by reason of his hope whose form is madness, great by reason of the love which is hatred of oneself.

Technology!

Here’s the trailer for Tim Challies’s new book The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion:

I hope to get a lot out of this book, especially since I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the role of technology in our lives. I’ve been pondering this subject for three reasons, all of which are related to proper management of time:

  1. This is my busiest semester ever, since I’m taking my usual 18+unit load of classes plus studying for the MCAT, which I take on April 29 (prayers would certainly be appreciated on that front…). With less time available, I’ve had to reconsider the commitments I had made to devote time to technology. For example, I was spending way too much time on Google Reader, so I’ve created a sub-folder of high priority feeds that I will check regularly, leaving the bulk of them unread.
  2. I really like reading, and Dr. Fred Sanders offered some great advice about reading in an interview here. He made a comment about being intentional about what you read and pre-deciding the level of commitment you want to put into reading any one thing, pointing out the dangers of online reading barraging us with a constant stream of material which we meander across without reflecting much on whether we’re reading things worth reading. (Incidentally, he mentioned he’s reading John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Word of God; John Frame is generally one of my favorite theologians, and Dr. Sanders is my favorite systematic theologian cartoonist, so I’d love to hear what he thinks about Frame’s book. Here’s hoping he posts a review over at The Scriptorium!)
  3. This blog requires a level of commitment, too. Will and I knew we wanted to blog, daily if possible, but coming up with something to post isn’t always easy, and posting something just to meet a quota seems like the wrong motivation. On the other hand, coming up with quality posts takes time. There must be a balance somewhere, but that place is difficult to find.

[Note: those using a feed reader may have to click through to see the video.]

A Letter from Scott Fitzgerald to Grieving Friends

F. Scott Fitzgerald (the author of The Great Gatsby) wrote a letter that is quoted in a book I am reading for my Comparative Japanese Literature class. The book I got this letter from is called An Echo of Heaven by Oe Kenzaburo. It is interesting and different and disturbing. The letter was written by Fitzgerald to old friends living in Southern France who had just lost both of their children, one after the other. Here is the letter (originally in English by Fitzgerald, translated in Japanese by Oe, and retranslated back into English by Margaret Mitsutani. It may actually be the original letter’s text properly researched and reproduced instead of a multilayered translation scheme):

Dearest Gerald and Sarah,
The telegraph came today and the whole afternoon was so sad with thoughts of you and the past and the happy times we had once. Another link binding you to life is broke and with such insensate cruelty that it is hard to say which of the two blows was conceived with more malice. I can see the silence in which you hover now after this seven years of struggle and it would take words like Lincoln’s in his letter to the mother who had lost four sons in the war to write you anything fitting at the moment. The sympathy you will get will be what you have had from each other already and for a long, long time you will be inconsolable.
But I can see another generation growing up around Honoria and an eventual peace somewhere, an occasional port of call as we all sail deathward. Fate can’t have any more arrows in its quiver for you that will wound like these. Who was it said that it was astounding how the deepest griefs can change in time to a sort of joy? The golden bowl is broken indeed but it was golden; nothing can ever take those boys away from you now.  Scott

There is a lot of wisdom in what he says here for those seeking to console in unbelievably difficult situations. And those of us that know the One Who came back from death and reversed the deathward path we all tread with Him, should be even more greatly comforted and comforting in times mourning.

The Least Made Greatest

“All of these reasonings having been gone through, the Philosopher says in the first chapter of On the Heavens ‘the superior glory of its nature is proportionate to its distance from this world of ours.’ For this purpose might also be adduced what the Apostle says in Ephesians concerning Christ: ‘that ascended above all heavens, that he might fill all things’ (Eph. 4.10).” -Epistle to Can Grande della Scalla, 27

It is interestingly medieval (expectedly interesting) that Dante would use Ephesian 4:10 with Aristotle to get a point about Heaven across. It is the distance from earth that makes places superior in Aristotle’s (and thus Dante’s) eyes, and this is somehow part of the meaning of St. Paul in the Ephesians 4:10 quote provided in the letter. The context of the Scriptural citation is:

“Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)”
(Ephesians 4:8-10 ESV)

This seems to assume that St. Paul is working with the same sort of cosmological theory, where the earth is the “lower regions”. So when Christ ascends to Heaven after the Resurrection and sends the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, filling the Church, as the “fullness of Him who fills all in all”. I think it is fair to say that I didn’t quite understand the meaning of the “that he might fill all things” being connected to “ascending far above all the heavens”, but this letter clarified a certain cosmological presupposition I had previously been missing. The farther away from the earth, the more superior in glory and in God’s presence. But, as Christ ascends, he fill all things all the more, because God already fills all things by His Spirit, and Jesus gave His Spirit in its fullness.

What Dante is missing, is that this action of Christ’s humiliation in Incarnation (descending to the lower regions) is actually a full restoration of what was already a reality (God filling all things). The earth used to be the least superior because of distance from God, but then God came to the lower regions in Christ, and exalted it (the quote St. Paul utilizes is Psalm 68:18, which is about God ascending Mt. Zion (The Israel of God’s dwelling place with God) and establishing it above all other mountains). This makes it so that all things are given to His Body, the Church (the host of captives), and gifts (the Spirit’s fullness at Pentecost poured out on “all flesh”) This is fascinating because what was formerly unclean (many things under the Mosaic administration) have been made clean, just like earth itself is made superior because of the Church. Dante’s cosmology is helpful for understanding St. Paul, and St. Paul is helpful for pointing out that the cosmos’s “least” (earth) has been made “greatest” in Christ, contra Dante’s picture of Paradiso he describes in this letter.

My question is how Dante’s cosmology deals with the bane of Hellenistic philosophy which is the Bodily Resurrection at the Second Coming (or even the implications of the Resurrection of Christ at His first coming!). You certainly can’t work with Aristotelian categories when the whole Greek dualistic system is turned on its head by a glorified (called “spiritual” in 1 Corinthians 15) physical bodily reversal of entropy.

This is posted at the blog for my Dante class as well.

Britain and The Art of Reading

They’re too good. I have to post them.

HT: 22 Words here and here.