Quote of the Day: Inerrancy v. Inspiration (Joel Stephen Williams)

From the conclusion of the matter:

Positive statements about the usefulness of the Scriptures in instructing mankind for salvation affirm more about the Bible than a negative statement that it is without error. The Bible is not the ultimate end. Instead, it is a witness to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. As John the Baptist pointed toward Christ, the Bible is a witness pointing toward God. A witness is not identical with that to which it attests. The Bible stands under the authority of God. By calling the Bible a witness, the emphasis is placed on God as the end, with the Bible as the means to that end. The Bible is revelatory as it points toward the will and nature of God. God is infallible and the word of God that we learn from the Bible will thus be infallible, but the two should not be confused. The Bible is our final court of appeal in this world, since it is the written document which records God’s historical revelation of his will to man, especially in Jesus Christ, but the Bible’s authority derives from God. In this context the truth claims of the Bible should be examined and accepted.

Inerrancy, Inspiration, and Dictation.

William Law on the effects of a church decree

Benjamin Hoadly by Sarah Hoadly

This guy is being laughed at by Zwingli. Just imagine that scene. Benjamin Hoadly by Sarah Hoadly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Basically, and help me if this sounds familiar, the Bishop of Bangor said that there is no biblical support for church government/authority of the church. William Law did not take kindly to this rank heresy and proceeded to literarily flay the bishop alive.

Again; I presume it may very justly be said, that the Christian Revelation hath some Effect towards the Salvation of Mankind; but then it hath not this Effect always and in all Cases, it is only effectual upon certain Conditions. Now if Excommunication can have no Effect, because it is not effectual when it is wrongfully pronounced, then the Christian Revelation can have no Effect towards saving those who embrace it as they should, because it has no such Effect on those who embrace it otherwise. The Reason of the Thing is the same in both Cases, and anyone may as justly set forth the Vanity and Insignificancy of the Christian Revelation, because it does not save all its Professors, as your Lordship exposes the Weakness and Vanity of spiritual Censures, because they do not absolutely, and in all Cases, throw People out of God’s Favour.1

  1. William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 1, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 160–161.

William Law on the Authority of the Church – almost sacramental… #UMC

St Peter in Penitence

St Peter in Penitence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m almost convinced that William Law is one of the greatest unsung theological heroes of the past 500 years. Here, he is urging something… using something else…

Remember, he is Anglican. Also, This entire 9 vol set is available on Logos.

I hope, my Lord, it may be allowed, that the Sacraments are Real Means of Grace: But it is certain they are only conditionally so, if those that partake of them are endowed with suitable Dispositions of Piety and Virtue. Glorious Means of Grace of the Sacraments, which is only obtained by such pious Dispositions; and then it is owing to the Dispositions, and not the Sacraments. Now, my Lord, if there can be such a thing as instituted Real Means of Grace, which are only conditionally applied, I cannot see, why there may not be an instituted Real Authority in the Church, which is only to be conditionally obeyed.

Your Lordship has written a great many Elaborate Pages to prove the English Government Limited; and that no Obedience is due to it, but whilst it preserves our Fundamentals; and, I suppose, the People are to judge for themselves, whether these are safe, or not. Glorious Authority of the English Government, which is to be obeyed no longer than the People think it their Interest to obey it!

Will your Lordship say, There is no Authority in the English Government, because only a conditional Obedience is due to it, whilst we think it supports our Fundamentals? Why then must the Church-Authority be reckoned nothing at all, because only a Rational Conditional Obedience is to be paid, whilst we think it not contrary to Scripture? Is a Limited, Conditional Government in the State, such a Wise, Excellent, and Glorious Constitution? And is the same Authority in the Church, such Absurdity, Nonsense, and nothing at all, as to any actual Power?

If there be such a thing as Obedience upon Rational Motives, there must be such a thing as Authority that is not absolute, or that does not require a Blind, Implicit Obedience. Indeed, Rational Creatures can obey no other Authority; they must have Reasons for what they do. And yet because the Church claims only this Rational Obedience, your Lordship explodes such Authority as none at all.

Yet it must be granted, that no other Obedience was due to the Prophets, or our Saviour and his Apostles: They were only to be obeyed by those who Thought their Doctrines worthy of God. So that if the Church has no Authority, because we must first consult the Scriptures before we obey it; neither our Saviour, nor his Apostles, had any Authority, because the Jews were first to consult their Scriptures, and the Heathens their Reason, before they obeyed them. And yet this is all that is said against Church-Authority; That because they are to judge of the Lawfulness of its Injunctions, therefore they owe it no Obedience: Which false Conclusion I hope is enough exposed.

If we think it unlawful to do anything that the Church requires of us, we must not obey its Authority. So, if we think it unlawful to submit to any Temporal Government, we are not to comply. But, I hope, it will not follow, that the Government has no Authority, because some think it unlawful to comply with it. If we are so unhappy as to judge wrong in any Matter of Duty, we must nevertheless act according to our Judgments; and the Guilt of Disobedience either in Church or State, is more or less, according as our Error is more or less voluntary, and occasioned by our own Mismanagement.

I believe I have shown, First, That all your Lordship’s Arguments against Church-Authority, conclude with the same Force against all Degrees of Authority: Secondly, That though Church-Authority be not Absolute in a certain Sense; yet if our Saviour and his Apostles had any Authority, the Church may have a Real Authority: For neither he, nor his Apostles, had such an Absolute Authority, as excludes all Consideration and Examination: Which is your Notion of Absolute Authority.1

  1. William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 1, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 14–16.

the #rosary as symbol

Irish penal rosary

Irish penal rosary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The monotony of these repetitions clothes the poor old woman with physical peace and recollection; and her soul, already directed on high, almost mechanically, by her habitual gesture of drawing out the rosary, immediately opens out with increasing serenity on unlimited perspectives, felt rather than analysed, which converge on God.… What does it matter, then, if the humble orante does not concern herself with living over again the exact meaning of the formula she is repeating?… often she does better, she allows her soul to rise freely into a true contemplation, well worn and obscure, uncomplicated, unsystematized, alternating with a return of attention to the words she is muttering, but building up in the long run on the mechanical basis they afford a higher, purified, personal prayer.1

  1. J. Maréchal, Studies in the Psychology of the Mystics, Eng. trans., p. 158.

Hans Urs von Balthasar on the #Rosary and Life of Mary

Quadtych with scenes from the life of Christ a...

Quadtych with scenes from the life of Christ and Mary – Resurrection of Christ and Nativity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary’s life must be regarded as the prototype of what the ars Dei can fashion from a human material which puts up no resistance to him. It is feminine life which, in any case more than masculine life, awaits being shaped by the man, the bridegroom, Christ, and God. It is a virginal life which desires no other formative principle but God and the fruit which God gives it to bear, to give birth to, to nourish and to rear. It is at the same time a maternal and a bridal life whose power of surrender reaches from the physical to the highest spiritual level. In all this it is simply a life that lets God dispose of it as he will. From that life Christ chiselled the form he needed: unsparingly he took it, used it and squandered it to the limit, and then, with the greatest consideration, he honoured it and glorified it. The situations of this life are inimitable, unforgettable, both unique and universally valid, universally significant. The three cycles of the Rosary offer these situations to the anamnesis of the Church and of Christians, in strictest unity of form with the life of Christ. And, in fact, Mary’s life possesses no detached form of its own; it is the most intimate possible accompaniment of the Christ-form; it stands in the shadow and in the light of Christ’s form alone. But Mary’s form is not simply outshone by the form of Christ; rather, precisely because Christ exploits Mary, precisely because she bears the Cross with him, her form is inundated in a light radiating from him.1

That, my friends, should be enough to anger just about every one of you.

  1. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics I: Seeing the Form (trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; San Francisco; New York: Ignatius Press; Crossroads Publications, 2009), 548.

Universalism* in Sodom and Gomorrah?

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a paint...

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a painting by John Martin (painter), died 1854, thus 100 years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do not like the term “universalism” for several reasons.

  • It smacks of (Reverse) Calvinism
  • It smacks of white privilege
  • It doesn’t do justice to the wrath of God, judgment, and sin

However, I can’t think of a better term right now. So, universalism* it is.

In reading the notes in The Jewish Study Bible, I caught several statements (drawn from Jewish Tradition) that helped to highlight the text.

  • In Genesis 18.24, forgiveness and preservation for the several cities lead by the Twins is not found in the act of the sinners, but in the righteousness of the innocent.
  • This hope from God is found in Jeremiah 5.1 as well.

We can look at 1 Corinthians 7.14 in the same manner.

So, if a small measure of righteousness can ward off the wrath of God and save a city, what then can the wholly righteous act of the death of Christ do if in the Church the Body of Christ and the Spirit remains?

St. John of the Cross on the valueless #Rosary

Men take care that their rosaries are of a certain workmanship rather than another, of a certain colour or material, and with particular ornaments. One rosary does not contribute more than another towards the hearing of our prayers: he is heard who tells his beads in the simplicity and integrity of his heart, not thinking of anything but how he may please God the most; and not valuing one rosary more than another, except only for the indulgences attached to it.

Saint John of the Cross, Benedict Zimmermann, and David Lewis, The Ascent of Mount Carmel (London: Thomas Baker, 1906), 348.

Austin Farrer on the #Rosary

how to pray the rosaryIf I had been asked two dozen years ago for an example of what Christ forbade when he said ’Use not vain repetitions,’ I should very likely have referred to the fingering of beads. But now if I wished to name a special sort of private devotion most likely to be of general profit, prayer on the beads is what I should name. Since my previous opinion was based on ignorance and my present opinion is based on experience, I am not ashamed of changing my mind. – Austin Farrer, Lord, I Believe, 1958. p. 80

 

Orthodoxy for those living without creeds

Disciples of christ logoI grew up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
If you’re not familiar with this group, the organization began in the late 1790’s in what could described as the first “non-denominational” movement. Many settlers were coming to America back in that time with beliefs and creeds they have learned in the “old world”. What happened in Europe in the 1600’s when the Church of England sought to break free from the grip of the church in Rome would extrapolate to this new country called America. People came here with the idea that the church or denomination or organization they had grown up in, of course, taught them the right things to believe. The eventuality of those beliefs would cause many a folk to argue or fight with their neighbor over the right things to believe. The Disciples organization began with the idea that creeds were divisive and man-made. All we needed was the bible.

Having grown up in this system of thought, it has been an incredibly long journey, it seems, in finding what it is that we truly are to believe. Later in life, after having pulled myself out of church for about 3 years after high school, I found myself following my best friend out to the church he grew up in, the Church of the Nazarene. Boy, you talk about culture shock! Where the Disciples lacked structure and cohesiveness the Nazarenes made for in explanation and quantity. I had never heard much of anything in the way of doctrine. Even though our church was right next door to an ELCA congregation, I really had no idea there were other churches out there and there were different explanations about things. I knew the name, “Jesus”. I remember he was referred to as the “Son of God”, whatever that meant. I finally had my moment of epiphany in June of 1992 when Jesus made sense and i understood who He was and why he was so important to our lives. On top of that, I jumped head first into a Nazarene system of thought that explained everything and anything you could want to know. This had it’s good and bad sides. I didn’t know anything. I was hungry to learn and I ate up everything they gave me. In retrospect, the bad side of that was, I had nothing with which to gauge the information coming at me. I hadn’t ever learned anything concerning creeds and heresy and doctrine. So, was i actually getting the truth or was I getting a biased answer based upon someone else’s opinion about other churches and denominations?

Orthodox. Orthodoxy. What is it? From my standpoint, I really want to know what it is.
If you feel the ideals and standards set forth from a Nicene creed are “the way” to look at things, then can you explain why you feel that way? Can you tell me in a heartfelt explanation or does your explanation come out in robotic fashion, simple because someone else told you to believe it that way?

I tend to have one of those mindsets that I want to do the right things and believe the right things. Human beings tend to get that way sometimes. Maybe you’re that way about football or your sports. Maybe the world of politics drives you crazy because people don’t do or say the right things. For me, its the world of religion. I want to understand what exactly we are supposed to believe and why we should believe it.

This student is listening. What can you teach me about what we are to believe?

(You are free to break the internet now.)

Willimon – “We cannot be accused of bibliolatry, inerrancy, literalism, or fundamentalism”

Yesterday, a question was posed in one of the UMC FB forums about inerrancy. Granted, this question was posed by a rather young, confused non-Methodist, but it sparked conversation. One of the people in the conversation brought up Bishop Willimon to his defense. Willimon is not an inerrantist.

As John Wesley began his search for a relationship with God, he began in Scripture. He said that he studied the Bible because it was “the one, the only standard of truth and the only model of pure religion” [Works, Jackson, 2:367). Toward the end of his life he could continue to claim, “My ground is the Bible. … I follow it in all things great and small” (ibid., 3:251), In speaking of a fourfold test for belief, it is clear that Wesley set Scripture above tradition, reason, and experience in terms of ultimate authority. (The quadrilateral is not equilateral.) United Methodists can therefore be said to have a “high” view of scripture. However, we cannot be accused of bibliolatry, inerrancy, literalism, or fundamentalism. Wesley could boast that he was “a man of one book.” However, he did not mean this in a naive, uninformed way. He also meant that he not only believed but attempted to live by this one book.

The quad tries to maintain this view, although many have made all of the sides equal while misunderstanding such things as “experience.” In my view, Scripture is the authority of the Church (much like the Constitution is for the United States), but Tradition, Reason and Experience are there to help us read and apply Scripture (much like case law — although Tradition produced Scripture (and legal issues produced the Constitution).

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