Theology: May 2006 Archives

A couple months ago, something I was reading referred in a footnote to an extended note by Joyce Baldwin in her Zechariah commentary on jealousy. Baldwin's discussion was excellent, as her work usually is, but one thing stood out. I'll quote the two relevant paragraphs and then comment further. Some of the formatting on her Hebrew transliterations isn't exact, but I've tried to do the best I could with the tools at my disposal.

The Hebrew word qin'a is translated in RSV by 'jealousy', 'zeal', and 'fury'. Its root is probably connected with an Arabic word meaning to become intensely red (or black) with dye, and so by derivation it draws attention to the colour produced in the face by deep emotion. The Greek zeloo, 'to be jealous', derived from zeo, 'to boil', also expresses deep feeling. From it the English words 'zeal' and 'jealousy' are both derived, so indicating that the emotion can be directed to good or bad ends. When it is self-regarding it results in intense hatred, but when it is concerned for others it becomes a power capable of accomplishing the most noble deeds.

It is significant that God is first spoken of as 'jealous' at the giving of the covenant code (Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Dt 5:9), when the special relationship was established between the Lord and His people, Israel. Because they are His, they can belong to no-one else, hence the prohibition of idolatry and the sanctions against it in the third commandment; but these are followed by assurances of 'steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments' (Ex 20:6). God's jealousy is a measure of the intensity of His love towards those with whom He has entered in covenant. So great is His love that He cannot be indifferent if they spurn Him by disobedience or sheet carelessness. [Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, pp.101-102]

I can't count the number of times I've heard that Pascal quote about there being a God-shaped vacuum in our hearts. A friend once asked me where Pascal said it, and I said I didn't know. I'd never really spent any time reading Pascal. He assured that it was somewhere in the Pensees, but he wanted to know exactly where. I couldn't really help him. The problem is that no one could help him. Pascal never said any such thing. Douglas Groothuis provides a quote that does say something in the remote ballpark:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. [Pascal, Pensees #425]

Whenever anyone gives you a quote without providing a reference, assume the quote has been misattributed. If the reference includes a book but nothing more specific, always assume the quote has been misattributed before spreading on what might be completely false. People who can't cite page numbers (or section locations for older works) probably shouldn't be trusted. It's likely that, as in this case, the reality is much better than the legend. What Pascal really said is much more eloquent than what the urban legend says he said.

Clement Ng left the following comment, and I wanted to leave a space for people with more knowledge of the subject than I have to respond:

Jeremy, I've been following a "Sola Scriptura" debate at Bill Vallicella's blog (http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1147482685.shtml and earlier posts at http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1133799445.shtml). Edward Feser of Right Reason and some commentator by the name of Spur are duking it out. I'm looking for the work of any evangelical and Protestant epistemologists who have written defenses of Sola Scriptura. I didn't study philosophy of religion and theology at grad school, so my knowledge of any literature in this area is thin.

Most of the defenses of Sola Scriptura I come accross are authored by theologians and lay apologists, usually of the Reformed variety (like http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/SurprisedbyWhat.html). Some of this stuff is good, some of it is not. The reinnaisance in Roman Catholic apologetics over the last twenty years has ushered in a wave of former evangelicals swimming accross the Tiber (or converting to Orthodoxy) and unless evangelical theologians and philosophers mount better defenses of key doctrines on their side (sola scriptura, sola fide, invisible unity, non-hierarchical authority,
informal apostolicity, Reformed/Zwinglian views of the sacraments) the wave will continue to grow.

I'm not anti-Catholic (I presently attend an Anglo-Catholic parish) mind you. I just find it dissapointing that evangelicals aren't keeping in shape when it comes to inter-Christian apologetics. I tell you, whenever I visit Pontifications (http://catholica.pontifications.net) I find some top-rate Catholic or Orthodox apologist wiping the floor with some under-prepared Baptist or Reformed type. If evangelicals have a hard time defending Sola Scriptura, non-hiearchical authority, and other distinctives (and I think they do), then perhaps they need to brush up on their analytical and exegetical skills. Anyway, I'm interested in hearing your literature recommendations.

This isn't an area I've spent a lot of time on, but there is the Carnival of the Reformation on this theme. I highlighted the posts I thought were best here. I did respond to several standard arguments against Sola Scriptura here. I also have to say that I love this infinite regress argument in one Spur comment on one of those Maverick Philosopher posts:

If the statements of revelation are not self-interpreting, then what about the statements of the authoritative interpreter of revelation? The teachings of the Pope, or the teaching Magisterium, are no more self-interpreting than those of the Biblical writers. Do we then need another Pope to interpret the words of the first one?

Anyone who can provide more help should feel free to leave a comment.

Some comments on books

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There are many good books to read, and my pastor manages to read them way faster than I can keep up with his recommendations, so someone I know says that buying the books my pastor recommends is a good retirement investment. Anyway, this is just a quick post to give a couple of these recommendations, and then mention a couple of other things that I'm reading and hope to write reviews of soon.

One that my pastor recommends that I'm ordering right now is Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ (this is the third volume in a series). Another one that I read a while back that he recommended and I really enjoyed (which I should write a review of, if I didn't already) is John Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

Two that I'm currently reading or starting on for the Discerning Reader (formerly Diet of Bookworms) are Mark Dever's The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept, and John Frame's upcoming Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. While I haven't started the Frame book, I'm enjoying the Dever book. It's a lot more like something you might be interested in sitting down and reading than a survey like Hendriksen's Survey of the Bible, which is more suitable for intense study or a class. Of course, that has its disadvantages, as well -- stuff tends to stick with you better if you study it in great detail like you would if you follow through the Hendriksen book, while the Dever book is based on sermons and includes a lot less detail.

Anyway, I'll write reviews on these when I finish them. I just wanted to mention them, and see if others have any comments on them.

In my last post, I argued that complementarians are not subordinationists in the sense of the heresy of subordinationism. There's one related charge that I wanted to save for its own post. One prominent egalitarian who makes this argument is Rebecca Merrill Groothuis. This gets us more into the human gender roles issue than the previous post, which focused mostly on the Trinitarian issues. [Update: I believe I linked to the wrong essay. I think it's this one. I'll leave the other one in, because it's a signficant discussion by her on the general issue, but this is the one I quote from below.]

Groothuis' argument concedes that there's a difference between being and function. She says that something can be functionally subordinate temporarily and not be subordinate in being. What she doesn't allow is that something can be functionally subordinate for its entire existence without thereby being subordinate in being. She thus distinguishes between functional subordination and female subordination, saying that functional subordination would be fine if that were really what complementarians held, but she thinks the complementarian view, which she calls female subordination, goes beyond functional subordination while claiming to be just functional subordination.

In female subordination, the criterion for who is subordinate to whom has nothing to do with expediency or the abilities of individuals to perform particular functions. Rather, it is determined entirely on the basis of an innate, unchangeable aspect of a woman's being, namely, her female sexuality. Her inferior status follows solely from her essential nature as a woman. Regardless of how traditionalists try to explain the situation, the idea that women are equal in their being, yet unequal by virtue of their being, simply makes no sense. If you cannot help but be what you are, and if inferiority in function follows necessarily and exclusively from what you are, then you are inferior in your essential being.

Two Three blogs I read have been dealing with issues related to complementarianism and egalitarianism about gender roles. Jollyblogger has four posts: Oppression of Women???, More on the Oppression of Women, Women's Roles in the Church and the Gospel, and Bruce Ware on the Women Issue. Ilona has a number of posts at Intellectuelle as well, A Woman's Place, A Woman's Place,continued, Do We Change Or Do They Change?, A Woman's Place, In The Church, Are We Serious About This?, and The Trinity: How Important Is That Idea To You? It seemed a good time to bring out a post I've been sitting on for a while (though most of that material will be appearing in subsequent posts, since this one deals with one crucial preliminary issue). Update: This is what I get for getting behind on Rebecca Writes. She's got Functional Subordination Discussion and Functional Subordination Again. I need to read these when I'm more coherent. Perhaps I'll say something about them in or before my next post, which is already pretty much written but may need to be adjusted.

The Jollyblogger and Rebecca Writes posts above reflect a complementarian position. Ilona's posts seem to me to seeking some middle ground between complementarianism and egalitarianism, sometimes endorsing complementarian theses and sometimes endorsing egalitarian claims. Complementarians hold that divinely assigned differences in gender roles reflect differences in roles among the members of the Trinity. Ilona's last post in the list above presents an argument that egalitarians often give against complementarianism. Egalitarians see no such role differences in scripture for human men and women (which I have to say Ilona disagrees with, judging by her first few posts) and then accuse complementarians of reflecting the heresy of subordinationism in order to generate the parallel (which Ilona does seem to me to be endorsing). Subordinationism is the view that the three persons of the Trinity are not equal. I think this charge either (1) is completely out of step with the history of Trinitarian thought, or (2) simply misunderstands complementarianism.

Jollyblogger responds to some fairly common but ultimately unconvincing arguments for absolute egalitarianism (as opposed to complementarianism) about men and women.

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