Thursday, May 22, 2008

Take it or leave it

[Victor Reppert] My claim is that it is sometimes reasonable and faithful as a Christian to take your belief in divine goodness over your belief in biblical inerrancy. Steve said someone who says this has no clue what it means to be a Christian. My response is if that's the charge you want to make, then you have to make it against Wesley and Lewis as well as myself.

You see, what Steve keeps forgetting is that he made a charge that goes well beyond the charge of committing an error. Steve had said that in making the move I make I go so far wrong as to not even know what it means to be a Christian. In other words, to not be a Christian. If someone doesn't know what it is to be a Christian, then that person can't possibly be one, just as if I have no idea what it means to be a Democrat, then I can't be a Democrat.

I am asking Steve to accept the logical conclusions of his statements or to withdraw them.

1.I distinguish between psychology and logicality. Because a Christian is still a sinner, a Christian will be inconsistent in some of his beliefs or behaviors. That is logically inconsistent with Christian theology and ethics, but up to a point, it’s consistent with being a Christian in a fallen world.

Professing believers range along a continuum, from folks like, say, George Whitefield or Billy Graham at one end to John Spong and Harry Emerson Fosdick at the other. It’s easy to make value judgments at either extreme, although our value judgments are necessarily provisional and fallible. Then there are borderline cases which are more problematic.

In my personal opinion, C. S. Lewis, as well as John and Charles Wesley, give abundant evidence of having been regenerate, and I can easily account for their theological deficiencies.

2.However, as I’ve said before, Christianity is a revealed religion, not a Turkish bazaar. I’m not going to change the rules just to make Reppert feel more at home. Indeed, since I didn’t make the rules, I’m in no position to change them. I’m not the landlord. God is.

God doesn’t revolve around Victor Reppert. Christianity is about historical realities and timeless realities. Reality doesn’t expand or contract to accommodate what Victor Reppert is prepared to believe. And if he thinks that Biblical Christianity is out of sync with reality, then he went through the wrong door.

3.It’s faithless rather than faithful to call yourself a Christian while holding a lower view of Scripture than Jesus Christ. As one theologian summarized the view of Christ:

“Jesus Christ himself provides a most arresting example in this respect. At the very threshold of his public ministry, our Lord, in his dramatic victory over Satan’s threefold onslaught, rested his whole defense on the authority of three passages of Scripture. He quoted the Old Testament in support of his teaching to the crowds; he quoted it in his discussions with antagonistic Jews; he quoted it in answer to questions both captious and sincere; he quoted it in instructing the disciples who would have readily accepted his teaching on his own authority; he referred to it in his prayers, when alone in the presence of the Father; he quoted it on the cross, when his sufferings could easily have drawn his attention elsewhere; he quoted it in his resurrection glory, when any limitation, real or alleged, of the days of his flesh was clearly superseded. Whatever may be the differences between the pictures of Jesus drawn by the four Gospels, they certainly agree in their representation of our Lord’s attitude toward the Old Testament: one of constant use and of unquestioning endorsement of its authority.”

If you’re going to be a Christian, you need to identify your beliefs with the beliefs of your Lord. Bring your beliefs in line with his. That’s what it means to be a follower.

4.Finally, not all errors are innocuous errors. Some errors are incipient errors. Insidious errors. Symptomatic of a deep-seated rebellion. Of a heart that never surrendered to God. Sometimes this remains latent. At other times, circumstances may drive it to the surface.

I’m reminded of something Warfield once observed:

“The underlying motive seems to be, as Mr. Knox would say, to make Christianity easy ‘for Jones to swallow’. It is not of the ascertainment of the pure truth that Dr. Sanday seems to be thinking at the bottom of his mind, but of the placating of ‘the modern mind’ and the adjustment of Christianity to its ingrained point of view. He seems to value his suggestions looking to the substitution of an unmiraculous Christianity for the supernatural Christianity hitherto believed in by men, because by them Christianity would be made more acceptable to ‘the modern mind.’ He tells us with charming naïveté:

‘What they would mean is that the greatest of all stumbling blocks to the modern mind is removed, and that the beautiful regularity that we see around us now has been, and will be, the law of the Divine action from the beginning to the end of time. There has been just this one little submerged rock in our navigation of the universe. If we look at it from a cosmical standpoint, how infinitesimal does it seem! And yet that one little rock has been the cause of many a shipwreck of faith. If it is really taken out of the way, the whole expanse of the ocean of thought will be open and free.’

But what if that ‘one little submerged rock’ is just Christianity?…When Dr. Sanday read that amazing paper on Miracles at the Church Congress at Middlesbrough (in 1912) in which he preadumbrated all that he has since said, there were those on the platform with him who, had he only been willing to hearken to them, could have corrected his deflected pointed of view.”

My point is not to equate Reppert’s position with Sanday’s. Indeed, Reppert wrote a fine critique of Hume.

Yet, at a deeper level, they share the same basic outlook. Reppert simply locates the submerged rock in different parts of Scripture than Sanday does. Reppert believes as much of Scripture as he can squeeze into the close quarters of his modern mind. He’ll shave off or saw off whatever doesn’t fit within the rigid dimensions of his cultural conditioning.

But divine revelation is a unit. Either God has spoken or he hasn’t. Take it or leave it.

No comments:

Post a Comment