Thursday, July 31, 2014

Forward to The Story of Mankind

The following is the forward to Hendrik van Loon's book, The Story of Mankind (which I wrote about here):
When I was twelve or thirteen years old, an uncle of mind who gave me my love for books and pictures promised to take me upon a memorable expedition. I was to go with him to the top of the tower of Old Saint Lawrence in Rotterdam.
And so, one fine day, a sexton with a key as large as that of Saint Peter opened a mysterious door. "Ring the bell," he said, "when you come back and want to get out," and with a great grinding of rusty old hinges he separated us from the noise of the busy street and locked us into a world of new and strange experiences.
For the first time in my life I was confronted by the phenomenon of audible silence. When we had climbed the first flight of stairs, I added another discovery to my limited knowledge of natural phenomena—that of tangible darkness. A match showed us where the upward road continued. We went to the next floor and then to the next and the next until I had lost count and then there came still another floor, and suddenly we had plenty of light. This floor was on an even height with the roof of the church, and it was used as a storeroom. Covered with many inches of dust, there lay the abandoned symbols of a venerable faith which had been discarded by the good people of the city many years ago. That which had meant life and death to our ancestors was here reduced to junk and rubbish. The industrious rat had built his next among the carved images and the ever watchful spider had opened up shop between the outspread arms of a kindly saint.
The next floor showed us from where we had derived our light. Enormous open windows with heavy iron bars made the high and barren room the roosting place of hundreds of pigeons. The wind blew through the iron bars and the air was filled with a weird and pleasing music. It was the noise of the town below us, but a noise which had been purified and cleansed by the distance. The rumbling of heavy carts and the clinking of horses' hoofs, the winding of cranes and pulleys, the hissing sound of the patient steam which had been set to do the work of man in a thousand different ways—they had all been blended into a softly rustling whisper which provided a beautiful background for the trembling cooing of the pigeons.
Here the stairs came to an end and the ladders began. And after the first ladder (a slippery old thing which made one feel his way with a cautious foot) there was a new and even greater wonder, the town-clock. I saw the heart of time. I could hear the heavy pulsebeats of the rapid seconds—one—two—three—up to sixty. Then a sudden quivering noise when all the wheels seemed to stop and another minute had been chopped off eternity. Without pause it began again—one—two—three—until at last after a warning rumble and the scraping of many wheels a thunderous voice, high above us, told the world that it was the hour of noon.
On the next floor were the bells. The nice little bells and their terrible sisters. In the centre the big bell, which made me turn stiff with fright when I heard it in the middle of the night telling a story of fire or flood. In solitary grandeur it seemed to reflect upon those six hundred years during which it had shared the joys and the sorrows of the good people of Rotterdam. Around it, neatly arranged like the blue jars in an old-fashioned apothecary shop, hung the little fellows, who twice each week played a merry tune for the benefit of the country-folk who had come to market to buy and sell and hear what the big world had been doing. But in a corner—all alone and shunned by the others—a big black bell, silent and stern, the bell of death.
Then darkness once more and other ladders, steeper and even more dangerous than those we had climbed before, and suddenly the fresh air of the wide heavens. We had reached the highest gallery. Above us the sky. Below us the city—a little toy-town, where busy ants were hastily crawling hither and thither, each one intent upon his or her particular business, and beyond the jumble of stones, the wide greenness of the open country.
It was my first glimpse of the big world.
Since then, whenever I have had the opportunity, I have gone to the top of the tower and enjoyed myself. It was hard work, but it repaid in full the mere physical exertion of climbing a few stairs.
Besides, I knew what my reward would be. I would see the land and the sky, and I would listen to the stories of my kind friend the watchman, who lived in a small shack, built in a sheltered corner of the gallery. He looked after the clock and was a father to the bells, and he warned of fires, but he enjoyed many free hours and then he smoked a a pipe and thought his own peaceful thoughts. He had gone to school almost fifty years before and had rarely read a book, but he had lived on the top of his tower for so many years that he had absorbed the wisdom of that wide world which surrounded him on all sides.
History he knew well, for it was a living thing with him. "There," he would say, pointing to a ben of the river, "there, my boy, do you see those trees? That is where the Prince of Orange cut the dikes to drown the land and save Leyden." Or he would tell me the tale of the old Meuse, until the broad river ceased to be a convenient harbor and became a wonderful highroad, carrying the ships of De Ruyter and Tromp upon that famous last voyage, when they gave their lives that the sea might be free to all.
Then there were the little villages, clustering around the protecting church which once, many years ago, had been the home of their Patron Saints. In the distance we could see the leaning tower of Delft. Within sight of its high arches, William the Silent had been murdered and there Grotius had learned to construe his first Latin sentences. And still further away, the long low body of the church of Gouda, the early home of the man whose wit had proved mightier than the armies of many an emperor, the charity-boy whom the world came to know as Erasmus.
Finally the silver line of the endless sea and as a contrast, immediately below us, the patchwork of roofs and chimneys and houses and gardens and hospitals and schools and railways, which we called our home. But the tower showed us the old home in a new light. The confused commotion of the streets and the market-place, of the factories and the workshop, became the well-ordered expression of human energy and purpose. Best of all, the wide view of the glorious past, which surrounded us on all sides, gave us new courage to face the problems of the future when we had gone back to our daily tasks.
History is the mighty Tower of Experience, which Time has built amidst the endless fields of bygone ages. It is no easy task to reach the top of this ancient structure and get the benefit of the full view. There is no elevator, but young feet are strong and it can be done.
Here I give you the key that will open the door.
When you return, you too will understand the reason for my enthusiasm.
Remember that Loon wrote this nearly 600-page history book for children.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

C.S. Lewis, Baylor, and higher education

Several Baylor scholars have weighed in on the significance of C.S. Lewis and his contributions to Christian thought. Some of those scholars are David Jeffrey, Ralph Wood, Alan Jacobs, and C. Stephen Evans. It was also nice to see Ian Gravagne's comments from a STEM perspective.

Here's just a snippet from Jacobs's comments:
I believe the deep, rich resources of the broad tradition of Christianity—East and West, for 2,000 years—do not foreclose intellectual possibilities, but enable intellectual possibilities. I came to Baylor because I think people here believe that, too. This is a place where the leaders are, I think, saying to me and to others, "If you want to take advantage of the richness of that tradition in order to pursue serious intellectual inquiry and take major intellectual risks, then let's go for it."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Seeming folly in The Fellowship of the Ring

Despair and folly have often been paired together, and sometimes folly is labeled presumption. Both despair and presumption frustrate hope: despair by lack, and presumption by surplus. Anemic hope leads to sloth and indolence, and gluttonous hope leads to reckless pride and intemperance.

Avoiding both extremes requires motion. Josef Pieper has written about the virtue of hope in terms of status viatoris and status comprehensoris. The latter refers to a state of having comprehended, having arrived. Etymologically, the English word comprehend derives from "grasping." (Prendre means "to take" in French.) Those in this state believe that they have arrived, either because of despair or presumption. If despairing, they believe that continuing the journey is futile. If presumptuous, they believe that continuing the journey is unnecessary. Pieper's point is that Christians must keep moving forward; status viatoris means being in the state a wayfarer, being on the move.

At the Council of Elrond, the chief counselor of Elrond's household, Erestor (Fellowship 289), turns the meandering conversation back to the issue of destroying the One Ring, but he is not hopeful: "What strength have we for the finding of the Fire in which it was made? That is the path of despair. Of folly I would say, if the long wisdom of Elrond did not forbid me" (322).

Gandalf responds to Erestor by seeming to choose folly over despair:
"Despair or folly?" said Gandalf. "It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! . . . Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning." (322-23)
Note that Gandalf says, "it may appear [as folly] to those who cling to false hope." It is not folly, but it looks like it.

And so the Company, or Fellowship, goes on the road—they go on a quest. Quests are naturally exciting, but perhaps Tolkien is connecting the quest motif with his theme of hope: hope requires forward movement (status viatoris). (W.H. Auden called The Lord of the Rings the best fiction in the genre of Heroic Quest that he had read in years.)

It is possible, although it may be a stretch, that Gandalf's seemingly harsh command before he falls with the Balrog in Khazad-dûm—"Fly, you fools!" (393)—is a reminder both to continue moving (do not despair) and to continue their mission as seeming fools (walk straight towards the Enemy).

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A brief Tolkien biography

This biography is taken from one of the CDs cases that comprise the BBC dramatized version of The Lord of the Rings:
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontien, capital of the Orange Free State in South Africa. His English father, Arthur Tolkien, was employed as manager of the local branch of the Bank of Africa.
When he was three years old, Ronald (as he was known to his family) and his younger brother, Hilary, were brought back to England by their mother, Mabel Tolkien. Before they could return to South Africa, their father died of rheumatic fever. Mrs. Tolkien and the boys remained in England, living for a while in a cottage at Sarehole Mill, near Birmingham, then moving to suburban Moseley in 1896. The same year, Mabel Tolkien experienced a conversion to the Catholic faith; this event had a lasting effect on Ronald, and Catholicism became a motivating force in his life and writings. As a child, Ronald Tolkien spent considerable time inventing imaginary languages, a hobby which lead eventually to the creation of an imaginary world where such tongues might be spoken.
He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham, and from 1911-1915 at Exeter College, Oxford, where he read English Language and Literature and acquired an extensive knowledge of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English. These subjects were to become important not only to his later academic writings and translations, but also to the shaping of his own fictional mythologies.
In 1916, he married Edith Bratt, and went to serve in the Great War as a Second Lieutenant with the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers. Towards the end of the year he was sent home from the Somme suffering from trench fever, and during his convalescence began writing his Book of Lost Tales, a collection of stories about his imaginary world that was eventually to be known as The Silmarillion.
After the war, he worked briefly on the Oxford English Dictionary. Then, having spent a year as Professor of English Language at Leeds University, he returned to Oxford in 1925 as Professor of Anglo-Saxon.
The Tolkiens had three sons and a daughter, and it was to his children that Ronald first told the story of Mr. Bilbo Baggins, an unadventurous hobbit who finds himself having the most surprising adventures. Because the story was a favorite, he began to write it down around 1930. The publishing house of George Allen and Unwin heard about the story and encouraged Tolkien to complete the book. He did so, and it was published in 1937 as The Hobbit or There and Back Again. It was a huge success and the publishers requested a sequel. Tolkien had already offered them The Silmarillion (though it was far from completed), but they were looking for another book "about the hobbit." Then, in December 1937, Tolkien wrote to them: "I have written the first chapter of a new story about Hobbits—'A long expected party.' A merry Christmas."
Thus began the long, erratic process of creating The Lord of the Rings. For the next twelve years, the work moved slowly towards completion; frequently put aside, once or twice almost abandoned. But encouraged by his publishers, his family and his close friend C.S. Lewis, Tolkien worked away, writing, re-writing, extending and embellishing the story. As the work developed, it took surprising turns, threw up new and unprecedented conflicts and introduced the simple, vulnerable hobbits into a world of great heroes and mighty powers. It was the very world whose early history Tolkien had been recording in The Silmarillion. Few writers have undertaken the task of creating a new world with such thoroughness: Middle-earth—the world of The Lord of the Rings—has a geography, language, literature, history, mythology, flora, and fauna that is unique and unparalleled. The Lord of the Rings was completed in 1949, but publication was further delayed while Tolkien tried to find a publisher who would agree to publish both The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. When this proved impossible, Tolkien allowed Allen and Unwin to publish The Lord of the Rings on its own. The book was divided into three separately titled volumes (somewhat to Tolkien's annoyance, since the work was not intended to be a trilogy). The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers were published in 1954, and The Return of the King in 1955. [C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia were also published in the 1950s.]
The book received a mixed critical reception: C.S. Lewis described them as being "like lightning from a clear sky," while the American critic Edmund Wilson called them "long-winded balderdash," but they soon found an admiring readership. With the publication in America, in 1965, of an unauthorized paperback edition, the Tolkien cult began in earnest, proclaiming its admiration by every means from theses to graffiti. In 1971 Tolkien's wife died, and the following year he received the CBE and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University. [The CBE is a British honor just shy of knighthood.]
Tolkien died on September 2, 1973, at age 81.
Perhaps the best insight into his personal philosophy is to be found in his short story Leaf by Niggle in which an artist spends his life engaged on a painting of a tree which he constantly reworks and retouches. When summoned to take a final journey, he leaves the picture incomplete, and with the passing years the work of a lifetime is neglected and destroyed—save for a small scrap of canvas bearing a single leaf. At the end of his journey, however, the artist comes to a land where his tree, now complete, forms part of a creation more perfect than the artist had ever envisaged. The Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien, was finally and posthumously published in 1977.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Story of Mankind and William Jennings Bryan

The first book ever to win the Newbery Award was Hendrik van Loon's The Story of Mankind (published in 1921; won award in 1922; online version here). It is an almost-600-page history book for children.

Yeah. I know. I bet kids today still eat it up.

At first I picked it up out of curiosity, but it's also amusing to see it next to a recent winner, such as the 96-page 2008 winner, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (to which I gave five stars on Goodreads).

One particular detail makes American history spring to life. In a chapter titled "The Age of Science," Loon defends Darwin as a courageous and persecuted geologist. Loon writes, "Darwin, who dared to question the story of creation of man, as revealed in the Bible, was denounced from every pulpit as an enemy of the human race. Even to-day, the persecution of those who venture into the unknown realm of science has not entirely come to an end. And while I am writing this Mr. Bryan is addressing a vast multitude on the 'Menace of Darwinism,' warning his hearers against the errors of the great English naturalist" (429).

The Scopes Trial occurred four years later. Five days after the trial ended, Bryan died, and five years after that, Bryan College opened.

Loon tips his hand even further several pages later: "I was born and educated in an atmosphere of the old-fashioned liberalism which had followed the discoveries of Darwin and the other pioneers of the nineteenth century. As a child, I happened to spend most of my waking hours with an uncle who was a great collector of the books written by Montaigne, the great French essayist of the sixteenth century" (450).

His reference to Montaigne is fitting, because he continues to explain why he (Loon) is the way he is because of his upbringing. His being born in Rotterdam and his exposure to Erasmus contributed to his tolerance; if he had been born in a "pleasant middle western city," he might have appreciated Bach's music more; if he had been born in Italy, he might have appreciated art more. Montaigne is one of the first major writers to write about cultural relativity (see his essay "Of Cannibals").

Loon admits his bias: "I state these few facts deliberately that you may know the personal bias of the man who wrote this history and may understand his point-of-view. The bibliography at the end of this book, which represents all sorts of opinions and views, will allow you to compare my ideas with those of other people. And in this way, you will be able to reach your own final conclusions with a greater degree of fairness than would otherwise be possible" (451).

Of course, bibliographies are biased too. But the gesture is nice.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Length of college statements of faith

Marvin Olasky wonders about the usefulness (or uselessness) of college statements of faith, but here I'm more interested in a seemingly minor detail: the length of these statements. Here are the 12 colleges that Olasky mentions, with links to their doctrinal statements:
What I found so interesting is that of all of these colleges, BJU is probably thought of as one of the most restrictive, and the assumption might be that its statement of faith would be pages upon pages. But it's not. It's simply the university creed, sleek and trim like other creeds such as the Apostles' or the Nicene. Weighing in at fewer than 100 words, it's ironic that in a way it could be considered the most latitudinarian of all of the 12 represented in Olasky's list. Granted, the BJU site has a bulleted list of other positions on specific issues, but the main statement of faith is the shortest of any other institution on the list by far.

Other recent posts about BJU:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Glory of God

From the Reformation Study Bible note to Ezekiel 1:28:
God's goal is His glory, but this needs careful explanation, for it is easily misunderstood. It points to a purpose, not of divine egoism, but of divine love. Certainly, God asks to be praised for His praiseworthiness and exalted for His greatness and goodness; He asks to be appreciated for what He is. But the glory that is His goal is a two-sided, two-stage relationship: on the one side He reveals His glory in acts of free generosity, and on the other, His people respond with adoration, giving Him glory with thanksgiving for what they have seen and received. Human beings were made for this reciprocal fellowship of love, and Christ's redemption makes it possible for those who had fallen. Human nature is fulfilled through seeing God's glory and returning praise to Him, just as God has pleasure in revealing His goodness to those who receive it (Zeph. 3:14-17).
"Glory" in the Old Testament is associated with value, riches, splendor, and dignity. When Moses asked to see God's glory, God proclaimed to Moses His name; that is, He revealed to Moses something of His nature, character, and power (Ex. 33:18-34:7; theological note "'This Is My Name': God's Self-disclosure" at Ex. 3:15). Accompanying the proclamation was an awe-inspiring physical manifestation, a bright cloud like a burning fire (Ex. 24:17). This glory of God's presence is often called the "Shekinah" or the "Shekinah glory." It appeared at significant moments as a sign of God's active presence (Ex. 33:22; 34:5; cf. 16:10; 24:17; 40:34; Lev. 9:23-24; 1 Kin. 8:10-11; Ezek. 1:28; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4; 11:22-23; Matt. 17:5; Luke 2:9; cf. Acts 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7). New Testament writers proclaim that the glory of God is now revealed in Jesus Christ (John 1:14-18; 2 Cor. 4:3-6; Heb. 1:1-3).
God is glorified in the acts of salvation, because they exhibit His incomparable condescension, His inexhaustible love, and His limitless power. "Salvation is of the LORD" (Jon. 2:9), and those He saves have contributed nothing to their salvation except their need (Is. 42:8; 48:11). The praise for salvation belongs to no one except God. This is why Reformation theology was so insistent on the principle, "Glory to God alone" (soli Deo gloria), and why we need to maintain that principle with equal zeal today.

Friday, July 11, 2014

"This Is My Name": God's Self-disclosure

From the Reformation Study Bible note to Exodus 3:15:
In the modern world, a person's name can be merely an identifying label; it does not reveal anything about the person. Biblical names, however, have their background in the widespread tradition that the personal name gives significant information about the one who bears it. The Old Testament constantly celebrates God's making His name known to Israel, and the psalms again and again direct praise to God's name (Ps. 8:1; 113:1-3; 145:1, 2; 148:5, 13). "Name" here means God Himself as He has revealed Himself by word and deed. At the heart of this self-revelation is the name by which He authorized Israel to invoke him—commonly rendered "the LORD" (for the Hebrew Yahweh, as modern scholars pronounce it; or "Jehovah," as it is sometimes written).
God declared this name to Moses when He spoke to him out of the bush that burned steadily without being burned up. God first identified Himself as the God who had committed Himself in covenant to the patriarchs (Gen. 17:1-14); then, when Moses asked Him what he could tell the people who asked what God's name was (the ancients assumed that prayer would only be heard if its addressee was named correctly), God answered first "I AM WHO I AM," then shortened it to "I AM." The name "Yahweh" ("the LORD") sounds like "I am" in Hebrew, and God finally called Himself "the LORD God of your fathers" (Ex. 3:15, 16). The name in all its forms proclaims His eternal, self-sustaining, self-determing, sovereign reality—the supernatural mode of existence that the sign of the burning bush had signified (Ex. 3:2). The bush that was not consumed was God's illustration of His own inexhaustible life. In designating "Yahweh" as "My name forever" (Ex. 3:15), God indicated that His people should always think of Him as the living, reigning, powerful King that the burning bush showed Him to be.
Later Moses asked to see God's "glory." In reply, God proclaimed "the name": "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty" (Ex. 34:6, 7). At the burning bush, God had addressed the question of the manner of His existence. Here, He answered the question, How can we describe His actions? This foundational announcement of His moral character is often echoed in later passages of Scripture (Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2). These revelations are all part of His "name," His disclosure of His nature, for which He is to be revered and glorified forever.
In the New Testament, the words and acts of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, are a full revelation of the mind, character, and purposes of God the Father (John 14:9-11; cf. 1:18). "Hallowed by Your name" in the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9) expresses the desire that God will be revered and praised as the splendor of His entire self-disclosure deserves.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

BJU Town Hall

About two months ago I posted information about the top issues in the search for the new BJU president. So I feel a little bit like a troll: partly because here I am again, posting something related . . . and partly because I've been living under the bridge on campus, as trolls are wont to do.

On July 7, 2014, President Pettit invited alumni to a town hall. Because watching the whole thing takes an hour, and because some of you are too lazy to watch it all—or because you might have some lame excuse, like, having a job or something—I've made list of the topics, with approximate times that these topics begin in the meeting, if you want to skip around. I left a few questions off because either the question or the answer didn't seem significant.

1. G.R.A.C.E. (5:06): President Pettit basically said to listen to whatever Dirt Seeking Graduates of BJU say. Yeah, and then he and Marshall Franklin clinked beer bottles and showed the crowd their new tattoos. Seriously, though, the latest date for the report to come from G.R.A.C.E. is August 31.

2. Accreditation (9:03): BJU has national accreditation through TRACS. This status was reaffirmed in 2011, and that will last for ten years. BJU's lack of regional accreditation was a minor issue in my application to graduate school at Baylor University in 2012, but I did get in. Pettit gave lots of great statistics about the success of graduates, including the fact that 100% of BJU students applying for medical school were accepted this past year. My wife had no problem getting into MUSC in 2007.

3. Enrollment (13:04): Pettit knows that he is the university's primary recruiter. He said that 30% of BJU's students come from South Carolina, and 17% come from 10 churches (not necessarily in South Carolina).

4. Student mindset (18:26): Sometimes there seems to be a disconnect between students, their churches, and expectations on campus. For faculty, staff, and administrators at BJU to really "get" students, they need to be both credible and caring. Pettit expects fewer than 2,900 students (both undergraduate and graduate) this fall.

5. Jones family (24:05): The Jones family will remain active in the life of the school.

6. Music (25:56): Pettit is in agreement with the university's policy, although he admitted to being more of a "centrist" among Fundamentalists. To prove his point, he mentioned the title of a Johnny Cash song.

7. Campus safety (28:53): Pettit fielded a question springing from concerns over shootings on other university campuses.

8. Position on the KJV (31:38): Pettit expecteth not the university's policy on the KJV to change, yea, for the foreseeable future. Forsooth.

9. Tax exemption status (33:56): This is a board decision.

10. Disaffected alumni (34:30): As powerful as anti-BJU alumni feel when they band together and post things on the Interwebs, the fact remains that roughly 40% of all BJU alumni pay association dues, whereas the average for most universities is about 16%.

11. Northland's changes (37:52): Pettit was very hesitant to say anything negative about a place that he loves, but he was "uncomfortable with the changes" that occurred at NIU. It was interesting to hear him describe the two schools, which have previously been described by some as sister schools regarding convictions and student base, as being "completely different places"—"two different worlds."

12. Church restrictions for faculty/staff (40:40): The desire is for like-mindedness on campus, and 80-85% of students come from Independent Fundamental Baptist churches. The Pettit family plans to join a church in town eventually. Pettit has been wining and dining pastors in town, making some people very uncomfortable. #BecauseWine

13. Ministerial class (44:49): Ministry is good.

14. Intercollegiate sports (46:02): I think "Sic 'em, bears" was the main thrust of this part. Maybe "Sic 'em, bruins." I can't really remember. Pettit played collegiate soccer for the Citadel for four years and was in charge of Citadel intramural sports as a senior.

15. Rules (48:27): Obey 'em.

16. Dress code (49:25): Besides now requiring the men to wear panty hose until after chapel, nothing new on this front.

17. Short- and long-term goals (51:14): Pettit's two primary responsibilities are to serve the board and to keep the school on mission. However, Pettit is not willing to take "because we've always done things that way" as an answer to his "Why?" questions.

18. Quality of chapel speakers (54:30): Pettit questioned the assumption behind the challenge that some chapel speakers are not great biblical exegetes. Part of the invitation for chapel speakers has to do with their years of service and ability to speak about Christian living. Pettit does say that "there is no virtue in bad preaching."

19. Discipleship program (55:53): There will be a new program for discipleship groups (formerly known as prayer groups). The theme for the fall is "Walking in the Spirit" from Galatians 5.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Reading the Bible typologically

Presbyterians have a habit of looking for Christ in the Old Testament. Among the more popular manifestations of this habit are Tim Keller's comments about the focus of the Bible (hint: It's not all about you) and Sally Lloyd-Jones's The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (in which she acknowledges that Keller's "teaching informs every story and from whom [she has] liberally borrowed," p. 7).

This action of looking seems obvious to some, based on their upbringing (isn't that what you're supposed to do?), but to others it seems forced. The suspicion of those in the second group seems related to the suspicion of systematic theology (e.g., if you have a system, it's tempting to force everything into that system, even if it doesn't quite seem to fit).

Michael Horton in a Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Modern Reformation concedes that some preachers go too far in their typological discoveries: "[W]e should beware of trying to find Jesus under every rock" (54).

However, the main thrust of his short article is that typological readings of the Old Testament are not clever new tricks for preachers. The writers of the New Testament themselves do it, thereby providing a precedent to follow. The following are the main data points that Horton uses to prove his case. This is all quite systematic, obviously.

1 Cor. 10:4: Christ is the Rock in the wilderness (Ex. 17:6).
2 Cor. 4:6: Christ is the light that shines into the darkness (Gen. 1:3-4).
Rom. 5:14: Christ is the second Adam (Gen. 3). Paul is explicit that the original Adam was a type.
Matt. 24:37-38: Christ's coming in judgment was typified by the flood (Gen. 6-8).
John 6:32-33: Christ is manna from Heaven (Ex. 16:14-16).
Heb. 5:5-10; 6:29; 7:1-17: Christ is Melchizedek, the priest-king (Gen. 14:18-20 and elsewhere).
Matt. 2:15: Christ is Israel, called out of Egypt (Exodus; Hos. 11:1).
John 3:14: Christ is the bronze serpent lifted up in the wilderness (Num. 21:8).
Acts 3:22 (and elsewhere): Christ is a better Moses.
Matt. 12:38-42 (and elsewhere): Christ is a better Jonah.

Horton says, "[T]he entire sacrificial system—encompassing the sacrificial animals, the high priest, and the temple—is typology on a grand scale. Right down to the accessories worn by the priests, and the furniture in the sanctuary, it was all an earthly copy of the heavenly reality. The old covenant is therefore called a 'shadow' of the 'reality,' which is Christ (Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 10:1), a 'copy' of the heavenly reality (Heb. 8:4; 9:23), a 'parable' (Heb. 9:9; 11:19), and an antitype or pattern (Heb. 9:24; 1 Pet. 3:21)."

One passage that Horton does not mention is perhaps the key passage, and it is the one that Keller focuses on in the link above. In Luke 24:27, Christ tells travelers on the road to Emmaus that Moses and the Prophets were writing about Him.

For more on this subject, a worthy book to consider is Michael P.V. Barrett's Beginning with Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament.