Archiv für Mai 2010

Call me a mad dog.

…from John Wesleys „The Question, „What Is an Arminian?“ Answered by a Lover of Free Grace“:

1. To say, „This man is an Arminian,“ has the same effect on many hearers, as to say, „This is a mad dog.“ It puts them into a fright at once: They run away from him with all speed and diligence; and will hardly stop, unless it be to throw a stone at the dreadful and mischievous animal.

2. The more unintelligible the word is, the better it answers the purpose. Those on whom it is fixed know not what to do: Not understanding what it means, they cannot tell what defence to make, or how to clear themselves from the charge. And it is not easy to remove the prejudice which others have imbibed, who know no more of it, than that it is „something very bad,“ if not „all that is bad!“

3. To clear the meaning, therefore, of this ambiguous term, may be of use to many: To those who so freely pin this name upon others, that they may not say what they do not understand; to those that hear them, that they may be no longer abused by men saying they know not what; and to those upon whom the name is fixed, that they may know how to answer for themselves.

(…)

11. Away, then, with all ambiguity! Away with all expressions which only puzzle the cause! Let honest men speak out, and not play with hard words which they do not understand. And how can any man know what Arminius held, who has never read one page of his writings? Let no man bawl against Arminians, till he knows what the term means; and then he will know that Arminians and Calvinists are just upon a level. And Arminians have as much right to be angry at Calvinists, as Calvinists have to be angry at Arminians. John Calvin was a pious, learned, sensible man; and so was James Harmens. Many Calvinists are pious, learned, sensible men; and so are many Arminians. Only the former hold absolute predestination; the latter, conditional.

12. One word more: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? — a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity. Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it? And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach? Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do? perhaps encouraged therein by his own example!

See the whole thing here.

Tozer on God’s Sovereignty

„Here is my view: God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, „What doest thou?“ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.“ (The Knowledge of the Holy)

Literalism and apocalypticism

A (typical) quote from N. T. Wright that I forgot to publish:

„Yesterday’s literal statement may become today’s metaphor; tomorrow things may reverse again. Nobody takes all the Bible literally, and nobody takes it all metaphorically, whatever they may say; we are none of us as wooden as our slogans suggest. In order to interpret any passage, particularly any passage of apocalyptic, the way of wisdom is to go through it one step at a time, deciding what is literal and what is metaphorical on the way. When Daniel says “I saw four beasts come up out of the sea” (Daniel 7.2), the “beasts” and the “sea” are metaphorical (the “beasts” are human empires, and the “sea” is the source of evil), but “four” is literal. When he says that “the little horn was making war on the holy ones and prevailed against them” (7.21), the “little horn” is metaphorical (referring to an actual human ruler), but the “war” is literal. And so on. This, of course, requires caution in serious Bible study, something that is not always much in evidence.

Though I dislike technical terms in general, I find it helpful to use the word “apocalypticism” to denote the worldview in which certain people come to believe that their group is set apart from the rest of humanity, that it is righteous and all others are sinners, and, more particularly, that an event will soon occur which will sort things out once and for all. The sun and the moon will be darkened, literally not metaphorically; the Lord will descend from heaven and snatch the saints up in the air, literally not metaphorically; the Mount of Olives will be split in two, and rivers of fresh water will flow down to the Dead Sea, literally not metaphorically. And of course if you believe this sort of thing about yourself and your group, certain social practices follow: a tight drawing of boundaries within the group, a rigid exclusion of those outside, a carelessness or even downright rejection of most of the concerns of ongoing society, a focus on particular styles of worship and holiness. As history both ancient and modern will show, such groups are often internally fissiparous, fragmenting into smaller groups that then reserve for one another their bitterest anathemas.

My point is this: the duality between heaven and earth is very different from the dualisms of sectarian religion. The mindset that tends towards apocalypticism normally thinks of the heavenly realm, or the spiritual realm, or simply the non-physical realm, as always good, and the  earthly, material, physical world as always bad. Hence the readiness to imagine the present physical world being blown apart in some great Armageddon, and the sublime confidence that “we” – whichever group that might be – will be rescued from the ruin in a “heavenly” salvation that has left earth far behind.“

Sweet Quote from Oden’s ‚Rebirth of Orthodoxy‘

„Only under the old illusions of secularism could the false premises of the death of God and the decline of the faithful seem credible. If we step away from these illusions, it is easy to see that the demise of Western religion is the least likely premise in the Jewish and Christian understanding of history. Those who willingly enslave themselves to passing idolatries should not be surprised when the gods of modern times are shown to have feet of clay. When idols die, the idolaters understandably mourn and rage. Meanwhile, the grace-enabled community freely celebrates its exodus through and beyond the waters of modernity. This community glories in the intricate providences of history. Each dying historical formation is giving birth to new forms and refreshing occasions for living responsively in relation to grace.“

The Wesleys and Ecumenical Spirit

Quote about the ecumenical spirit of the Wesleys:

„The Wesleys were able to hold together a „Protestant“ understanding of salvation (justification by grace through faith) and a „Roman Catholic“ vision of the Christian life that is oriented more toward holy living or perfection in love (sanctification). While the Protestant traditions have always tended to emphasize faith as the means to salvation, the Catholic heritage has stressed love as the goal of life in Christ. The Wesleys wanted to hold this means and this end together. To become a loving person, you must put your trust in Christ (faith is the means to love’s end). But faith in Christ is not the goal; to become loving, as Christ is loving, is the purpose of your discipleship (love is the end toward which you move from faith’s foundation). Some have claimed that this vision of the Christian life is what makes the Wesleyan tradition unique in the history of the church.

Along these same lines, Albert Outler, one of the greatest students of John Wesley, once described him as an „evangelical-chatholic“. While pessimistic about humanity in its brokenness (Protestant evangelicalism), Wesley was supremely optimistic about the potency of God’s grace (Roman Catholicism). What holds these two perspectives together is the Wesleyan conception of God’s grace as relationship. Always initiated from God’s side, the process of salvation is reconceived as a relational process, the purpose of which is healing and the restoration of wholeness in our lives. Not only did Wesley bridge the gap between evangelical and Catholic; he also opened up the possibility of dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox tradition, which views salvation essentially as the restoration of God’s image in our lives and communities.“ (Paul Wesley Chilcote; Recapturing the vision of the Wesleys)