Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In Praise of Warfield

I’ve read a fair amount of criticism of B. B. Warfield over the last couple of months so I’ve collected some of the nice things people have said about him too:

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said:

His mind was so clear and his literary style so chaste and lucid that it is a real joy to read his works and one derives pleasure and profit at the same time.


J. Gresham Machen said:

When I returned from Germany in 1906, I entered, as instructor in the New Testament department, into the teaching staff of Princeton Theological Seminary....Warfield was Professor of Systematic Theology (or "Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology," as the chair was then more sonorously and vigorously called). And what a wonderful man he was! His learning was prodigious. No adequate notion of its breadth can be obtained even from his voluminous collected works. Consult him on the most out-of-the-way subjects, and you would find him with the "literature" of each subject at his tongue's end and able to give you just the guidance of which you had need. Now and then, in wonderfully generous fashion, he would go out of his way to give a word of encouragement to a younger man. The old Princeton was an environment in which a man felt encouraged to do his very best.


Warfield’s student F. T. McGill wrote:

Dr. Warfield possessed the most perfect combination of faculties of mind and heart that I have ever known in any person … the most Christ-like man I have ever known.

http://www.evangelical-times.org/Articles/Nov01/nov01a11.htm - quoted by Thomas G. Reid Jr in Warfield Commemoration Issue, 1921-1971, Banner of Truth, 89 (Feb. 1971) p.18.

John De Witt (1842-1923), Professor of Church History at the Seminary, who had known three other notable systematic theologians of the time (Charles Hodge; W. G. T. Shedd, 1820-1894; and Henry B. Smith, 1815-1877) was ‘not only certain that Warfield knew a great deal more than any one of them, but … disposed to think that he knew more than all three of them put together’.

R. W. Cousar, Benjamin Warfield: His Christology and Soteriology, PhD thesis, Edinburgh University, 1954, p.7.

Thomas G. Reid Jr called him: “the last of the great Princeton systematic theologians.”

Henry Krabbendam said:

Warfield, undoubtedly the most distinguished representative of the Old Princeton position on Scripture, never grew weary in his extensive writings on the subject to defend the plenary, verbal inspiration, and therefore the inerrency, of the Bible. His repeated and thorough preoccupation with the inspiration of Scripture has not only placed a stamp on American Reformed and Presbyterian thought but has even gained him the accolade of being the greatest contributor ever to this theme.

‘B. B. Warfield Versus G. C. Berkouwer on Scripture’ (pp413-446) in Geisler, Norman L. (ed) Inerrancy (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1979) p413, citing God’s Inerrant Word, ed. J. W. Montgomery, (Minneapolis, Bethany Fellowship, 1974, p115

Dr Casper Wister Hodge Jr (Warfield’s successor in the chair of Systematic Theology at Princeton Seminary) said in 1921:

We think today of Archibald Alexander, that man of God, the first professor in this seminary; of Charles Hodge, whose Systematic Theology today remains as probably the greatest exposition of the Reformed theology in the English language; of Archibald Alexander Hodge, a man of rare popular gifts and an unusual metaphysical ability; and last but not least, excelling them all in erudition, of Dr. Warfield…. At the time of his death he was, I think, without an equal as a theologian in the English-speaking world. With Drs. Kuyper and Bavinck of the Netherlands he made up a great trio of outstanding exponents of the Reformed faith.

Dr George L. Robinson said:

Dr Warfield was the best teacher I ever had either in America or Germany. I took notes under him assiduously; and the notes I took I have used more than those of all other professors together. He taught us with rare clarity and persuasiveness. He combined quizzing and lecturing in the most marvellous way. He kept a man on his feet from twenty to thirty minutes, interrogating him and in Socratic style informing him.

Quoted in Warfield, B. B., Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 1, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970), p.viii, ix

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Christian Navel

They have a striking way of putting things and great spelling these Puritans:

God hath tyed us to the Scriptures onely: so that as the child in the womb liveth upon nourishment conveighed by the Navel cleaving to it, so doth the Church live onely upon Christ by the Navel of the Scripture, through which all nourishment is conveyed.

A. Burgess, “Spiritual Refining, etc.” London, 1652, p132 quoted in Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge, The Westminster Assembly and Its Work (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 2000) The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Volume VI (New York, Oxford University Press, 1932), p208

Saturday, September 16, 2006

James Oakley's blog

I'm very excited to see that the clever Revd James Oakley (a former Oak Hill student) has been blogging since April:


A quick glance reveals there's good stuff on a number Bible passages and fascinating looking post on bringing together some of Platt's insights into how we read Old Testament stories and Frame's perspectives.

On his website at:


are links to some of his sermons and essays, which I'm sure are excellent.

The Sacrificial Meal

In a typical Reformed way, Doug Wilson wants to emphasise that the Supper is a meal God offers us not a sacrifice we offer to Him. It is a blessing that flows from the sacrifice of Christ, distinct from it but not separate from it. Some Old Testament sacrifical meals or sacrifices where the stuff offered is eaten presumably provide a pretty close parallel for this, especially perhaps when we recall the (hightened?) priesthood of all believers under the new covenant. In response to the Supper we God our sacrifice of thanks and praise, having eaten with gratitude.

Here's the text of Wilson's post stolen from Blog and Mablog at:


The Lord’s Supper is a sacrificial meal, which is not the same thing as a sacrifice. The Lord Jesus offered Himself on the cross two thousand years ago, and when He ascended into heaven some weeks afterward, at that time He presented His sacrifice in the heavenly places, in the ultimate Holy of Holies. His sacrifice was a once for all atonement. But in the Bible, sacrifices have blessings that flow from them—which are distinct from the sacrifice, but not separable from it.

Because this is a sacrificial meal, it has to be understood as something God is giving to us. If we do not understand it this way, then we will of necessity turn it into something that we are rendering to God. Of course, the Roman church thinks of this table as an altar, and the bread and wine and a sacrifice proper. But most of the modern evangelical world thinks of it in the same way. The offering of man to God in this case is a testimony, or a dedication, or a confession, or something offered up to Him. The thing they share in common is the view that man is somehow a priest in this, and offers a sacrifice of some sort to God.

But this is a sacrificial meal, not a sacrifice, and this means that the initiative is the other way. God feeds us, God nourishes us, God welcomes us, God sheds His love abroad in our hearts. We do not offer this meal; He offers this meal.

Our response to this may be described as a sacrifice—but it is a sacrifice of response, specifically the response of praise and thanksgiving. This keeps the order as it ought to be. The Table is God’s gift to humanity as He makes us into His new humanity, built up into Jesus Christ, the perfect man. At this Table, we submit to His grace, and are most thankful.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Jesus the Proper Jonah

Its obvious really, when you think about it, but it took Tom Wright in Matthew for Everyone on Matthew 8:23-27 (pp88-91) to get me to consider Jesus as the True / Proper / Faithful Prophet-Greater-Than Jonah, from the calming of the storm incident (c.f. Mt 12:38-41).

The prophet is asleep in the boat while the sailors are terrified by a storm, so they wake up the prophet and it all gets sorted out. Unfaithful Jonah has to be thrown overboard. Faithful Jesus just tells the wind and the waves to behave themselves. The prophet brings a message of judgement and forgiveness.

A few points on the Sabbath

I was trying to post this on Daniel Newman's blog but couldn't get the comments thingy to work for some reason, so I thought I'd give up and put it here instead. I'm afraid I've not read every word of the discussion at Christ and Covenant and some of this is plagarised from Garry but for what its worth:

I certainly imagine Abraham celebrating the Sabbath. Presumably God told Adam about it as they chatted in the Garden.

Exodus 16 implies the Sabbath is already known.

Maybe the WCF will help us out on the switch to Sunday:

VII. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him:[34] which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week,[35] which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's Day,[36] and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.[37]

VIII. This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their wordly employments and recreations,[38] but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.[39]

Those in striking distance of Oak Hill may be interested in James Packman’s BA Short Dissertation: An Evaluation of the Arguments Used in Mainstream Puritanism that the Change of Day from the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day was Theologically Warranted and Biblically Demanded (2004).

Could we not take Col 2:16 and similar NT references to be to the Jewish Sabbath (Sat.), as Owen does?

Owen warns against a novel rejection of the consensus of the Church on the Christian Sabbath: “persons truly fearing the Lord ought to be very careful and jealous over their understanding, before they embrace an opinion and practice which will shut them out from all visible communion with the generality of the saints of God in this world.” (Works, Volume 18; (?) 33; 434)

On Hebrews 4:

The verb used for rest is katapauo. The noun is also used, katapausis.

But then in verse 9 the writer, when he says that a rest remains, uses a new word which he does not use elsewhere, sabbatismos. Interestingly, Aland in the brief dictionary gives this as 'a Sabbath day's rest'. It is a term coined from the verb sabbatizo in the LXX, and the Aland translation rightly picks up on how it is used in the LXX.

Gramcord gives 4 uses:

Ex 16:30, for rest on the seventh day

Lev 23:32 for day of atonement as a sabbath day.

26:34, 35 sabbath rest/years for land.

Hence each OT use indicates an actual observance of a period of rest by people/land.

Lane says that the only non-Christian use is in Plutarch and refers to Sabbath observance, as do the 4 patristic uses.

So, the argument runs, there is here a pointed use of a term distinct from the term used for eschatological rest in the chapter, a term describing actual periods of resting while on this earth. The use of apoleipo for 'remains' may also be interesting - in the NT it seems to mean something remaining where it has been. Hence the Sabbath rest remains as it has been, implying a continuation of a previously existing thing. If that thing is earthly observance, then...

Dr Williams has some recommended reading on this (which I've not looked at):

Jonathan Edwards, Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath

On the eschatological argument (that our rest is wholly future in Christ) see Richard Gaffin, 'Westminster and the Sabbath' in The WC into the 21st C ed. Lingon Duncan III (Mentor, 2003) and on Heb 4, 'A Sabbath Still Awaits the People of God' in Pressing Towards the Mark ed., Dennison & Gamble (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986)

The Christ of the Word & The Word of Christ

Warfield said:

“It [the Westminster Confession of Faith] states, in a word, moderately and justly, the same doctrine of the necessity of Scripture which Edmund Calamy, one of its framers, states somewhat immoderately in the words: “There are two great Gifts that God hath given to his people: The Word Christ and the Word of Christ. Both are unspeakably great; but the first will do us no good without the second.” (The Godly Man’s Ark, 7th edition, 1672, p55f) Yet even Calamy was not a bibliolater,” but means just what Paul does in Romans x.14.” (p564)

Warfield anticipates that his Westminster doctrine of Scripture will produce a charge of bibliolatry but says: “Such a reverence for God’s Word as God’s Word is no doubt an act of worship; but whom shall we worship if not the God of the Bible?” (p570)

Warfield, B. B., Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 2, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Warfield's Autograph Hunting

B. B. Warfield welcomed the Westcott and Hort (i.e. an ecclectic version) edition of the Greek New Testament as a real improvement and was extraordinarily enthusiastic about what might be hoped for from Lower or Textual Criticism. He said:

“The inerrant autographs were a fact once; they may possibly be a fact again, when textual criticism has said its last word on the Bible text. In proportion as they approach in the processes of textual criticism, do we have an even better and better Bible than the one we have now.” (Selected Shorter Writings, p557)

He was also confident that the text available in his day was highly accurate:

“We already have practically the autographic text in the New Testament in nine hundred and ninety-nine words out of every thousand;” (p558)

PhD notes

My notes on the Lord's Supper and Scripture have now passed the 80 000 word mark, which is the Middlesex University word limit for a PhD.

Its a shame that an original and significant contribution to scholarship is needed - though some of my notes have a waxky enough flavour not to be thought too derivative, I guess.

I expect the examiners'll want an argument too, rather than a scrapbook - or a blog.

If only PhDs were a bit more like Cert Min (in a way) or Christians in the Modern World (in another way).

Right, back to Warfield...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Never Heard of Her

Despite Douglas Jones' enthusiasm for Flannery O'Connor I must admit that I've never heard of her. Is he right to be this keen and should I be ordering all her stuff?

Flannery O'Connor is easily the most important and talented and self-consciously Christian short story author of the twentieth century. Nobody else is close. I've seen her stories revolutionize people's lives, and yet most Christians have never even heard her name. Sure, many Christian academics and writers sing her praises, especially of late. But we should all know her stories inside and out; they should be easy allusions in conversation; they should be common parables in our teens' mouths. And we need to master her style and absorb her insights before the next generation can build upon her gifts.


Person or Book? Christ or Bible?

Although it’s a very wrong-headed way of thinking, it sometimes seems to be supposed that we must choose between a Christianity that is focused on a person or a book, Christ or the Bible.

Tim Ward describes the way in which the orthodox Evangelical doctrine of Scripture might sometimes be seen to represent an implicit challenge to the supremacy of Jesus Christ, the subject-matter of Scripture, who is actually present in its reading and proclamation. Ultimately it might be thought, one cannot serve two masters; one must choose between Christ and Scripture, between Christology and the doctrine of Scripture as the content of God’s speech.

John Barton puts it simply:

‘Christians are not those who believe in the Bible, but those who believe in Christ.’

People of the Book? The Authority of the Bible in Christianity (London, SPCK, 1988), p83

Ward, Timothy, Word and Supplement: Speech Acts, Biblical Texts, and the Sufficiency of Scripture (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002) p289

This is a false dilemma. Jesus rules his people by his word. The Bible is God speaking. God's people believe the speaking God and trust in the real Jesus who is the Christ of history and of Scripture.

Warfield seems to have anticipated the sort of criticism Barton seems to be making and which Ward is describing. Warfield’s response is convincing:

Christianity is often called a book-religion. It would be more exact to say that it is a religion which has a book. Its foundations are laid by apostles and prophets, upon which its courses are built up in the sanctified lives of men; but Jesus Christ alone is the chief corner-stone. He is its only basis; he, its only head; and he alone has authority in his Church. But he has chosen to found his Church not directly by his own hands, speaking the word of God, say for instance, in thunder-tones from heaven; but through the instrumentality of a body of apostles, chosen and trained by himself, endowed with gifts and graces from the Holy Ghost, and sent forth into the world as his authoritative agents for proclaiming a gospel which he placed within their lips and which is none the less his authoritative word, that it is through them that he speaks.

Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 2, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973) p537

Table Seating Plans

Stand Up, Sit Down

According to Warfield in ‘The Posture of Recipients at the Lord’s Supper: A Footnote to the History of Reformed Usages’ in Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 2, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973) pp351-369):

Our Lord administered the Supper to recumbent recipients. In antiquity the elements were usually received standing, the typical posture for prayer and praise. Remarkably, the Leeuwaarden church in Frisia receive elements walking, to suggest readiness for service! It is usual for the Reformed to receive the Supper seated, and this is most appropriate since it is fundamentally a feast or meal. Kneeling is customary amongst Romanists, many German Protestants, the Church of England and Bohemians (!). It is not wrong in itself and might be a sign of humility but is in danger of suggesting idolatrous adoration of the created elements.

Keep Moving

The Anglican practice of going up to the railed off altar / table is a Laudian innovation. Anglican used to receive the Supper in the pews as many non-conformists now do.

Ideally the whole congregation would sit at the table, but this is often not convenient when there are large numbers of communicants or an awkward space.

The Lord’s Table, Not The Lord’s Cupboard

Gillespie said that “the nature of a feast requireth that the guests be set at table, and that all the guests be set about it, for the use of a table is not for some, but for all the guests, else no table is necessary but a cupboard.” (Sub-committee of Westminster Assembly on Directory of Public Worship, Miscellany Questions, XVIII; Works II, p956)

The debate on communicating at the table at the Assembly took three weeks.

Exaggerating the Gift of Tongues

Writing in 1915, B. B. Warfield said:

… the Bible is accessible today to three-quarters of the human race in its own mother speech. It is only natural that, in the presence of this stupendous fact of the transfusion of the Bible into the languages of the earth, men should think of the miracle of Pentecost and see that miracle projecting itself through the ages…. The miracle has been accomplished, and now it is but a slight exaggeration to say that every man may hear the mighty things of God in his own language in which he was born.

Warfield, B. B., Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 1, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970), pp6f

Warfield on The Sacrificial Feast

Reformed Evangelicals are clear that the Lord's Supper is not a propitiatory sacrifice, but many of the best writers are willing to use language of sacrifice to speak of the Supper.

Here is B. B. Warfield on the fundamental significance of the Lord's Supper as a perpetual sacrificial Passover feast (with a new symbol of Christ, the True Passover Lamb). He's more nuanced than we might expect and gives a positive account of the meal, rather than merely anti-Papist polemic:

All who partake of this bread and wine, the appointed symbols of his body and blood, therefore, are symbolically partaking of the victim offered on the altar of the cross, and are by this act professing themselves offerers of the sacrifice and seeking to become benificiaries of it. This is the fundamental significance of the Lord’s Supper. Whenever the Lord’s Supper is spread before us we are invited to take our place at the sacrificial feast, the substance of which is the flesh and blood of the victim which has been sacrificed once for all at Calvary; and as we eat of these in their symbols, we are – certainly not repeating his sacrifice, nor yet prolonging it – but continuing that solemn festival upon it instituted by Christ, by which we testify our “participation in the altar” and claim our part in the benefits bought by the offering immolated on it. The sacrificial feast is not the sacrifice, in the sense of the thing offered, that is eaten in it: and therefore it is presuppositive of the sacrifice in the sense of the act of offering and implies that this offering has already been performed. The Lord’s Supper as a sacrificial feast is accordingly not the sacrifice, that is, the act of offering up Christ’s body and blood: it is however, the sacrifice, that is the body and blood of Christ that were offered, which is eaten in it: and therefore it is presuppositive of the sacrifice as an act of offering and implies that this act has already been performed once for all.

'The Fundamental Significance of the Lord’s Supper' in Warfield, B. B., Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 1, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970), p336f

Useful Theological Studies Sites

There seems to be lots of useful bibliographical information and links as well as some hosted articles at these sites by Robert Bardshaw:





Our wedding snaps

I've put 6 photos from our wedding (for which many thanks to Hutch) at:


Rowan's Repentance?

I’d not noticed for days that Archbishop Rowan Williams may have repented of some of his previous statements on homosexuality.

Reproduced below is some of Virtue Online's discussion of what’s happened, which can be followed up here:


A Telegraph article by Jonathan Wynne-Jone on 27th August available at


seems to have picked up comments Rowan made to a Dutch journalist. A strange way to announce your repentance, perhaps. Reform have welcomed it and the gay lobby are in a tizzy.

Williams has told homosexuals that they need to change their behavior if they are to be welcomed into the church. The church, he said, must be a welcoming community but is not an inclusive one.

Rowan Williams has distanced himself from his one-time liberal support of gay relationships and stressed that the tradition and teaching of the Church has in no way been altered by the Anglican Communion's consecration of its first openly homosexual bishop.

"I don't believe inclusion is a value in itself. Welcome is. We don't say 'Come in and we ask no questions'. I do believe conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions," he said.

At the same time he tried to distance himself from a controversial essay, ‘The Body’s Grace’, he wrote 20 years ago, in which he defended same-sex love. "That was when I was a professor, to stimulate debate," he claimed. "It did not generate much support and a lot of criticism - quite fairly on a number of points."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Noble Army of Martyrs

According to The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity run by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary:

70 million Christians have been martyred since Christ, over half of these in the 20th century alone.

Revd Ray Porter drew our attention today to all sorts of statistics available at:


How To Write Better Fiction

The Revd Dr Peter Leithart argues at:


that if Protestants are to write good fiction, they need a better understanding of the sacraments. It’s a little while since I hastily read the article, but the gist is that modern evangelicals tend to have a Zwinglian approach to the sacraments, seeing them as mere (empty) symbols, pointing to something rather unrelated to themselves. In contrast, a richly sacramental view of the world allows for the idea that actual things in the creation (or in stories) can be truly themselves but also have a real significance beyond themselves. Evangelical authors are thus prone to fall into flat literalism or unreal allegory rather than seeing the meaning in, with, under and beyond things in the world (or in the stories they write).

So, to write better fiction, get a better grasp of the sacraments, signs and the things signified.

Somewhat related, no doubt, is stuff about affirming creation and incarnation, and not separating the sacred and the secular, or the physical and the spiritual, nature and grace.

We might also think that great fiction requires at least a quasi-sacramental view of the power of words: we have to allow for words to have real meaning beyond themselves, to have genuine significance and to effectually work on the reader so that he is moved and changed by what he reads.

Bible Reading Principles - in big words

When we come to the Bible we pray for a virtuous hermeneutical spiral (not a vicious circle) in which our theological frameworks are brought to texts of Scripture and repeatedly refined by them. We cannot avoid bringing our presuppositions, but God knew that when he wrote this book for us and his Spirit is our teacher.

A hermeneutic of suspicion is required when we come to the Bible, but we are to be self-suspicious, not sceptical or closed to God or his Word but seeking to be transformed.

Something of what N. T. Wright calls broadly an epistemology of critical realism and narrowly a ‘hermeneutic of love’ is required.

Each satge of the process [of reading] becomes a conversation, in which misunderstanding is likely, perhaps even inevitable, but in which, through patient listening, real understanding (and real access to external reality) is actually possible and attainable.

(The New Testament and the People of God, London, SPCK, 1992, p64, indebted to Ben F. Meyer on ‘critical realism’.)

Our Canonical reading and use of the whole Bible must be multi-perspectival. As Ward says:

In sum, a principle of ‘canonically limited polyphony’ is proposed, which would establish three necessary conditions, collectively forming a sufficient condition, for the ‘naming’ of the God of revelation. [1] God must be named polyphonically. To name him in only one way would be to view and know his reality in only one dimension. [2] And God must be named by a limited polyphony. To name him in limitless ways is not to name him at all. [3] And to seek to delimit the polyphony by any other criterion than by the canon of Scripture is to risk naming a God after our own image…. Since no one can ever grasp the full polyphonic self-revelation of God at one time, no one can ever succeed in fully nailing God down. (Only idols are susceptible to nailing down; they even require it, sometimes (see Isa. 41:7).

(Word and Supplement: Speech Acts, Biblical Texts, and the Sufficiency of Scripture, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, p296)

Trust that’s perspicuous!

The 'Literal Sense' of Prawns - in Context

We Bible-believers often want to appeal to something like the ‘plain’, ‘natural’ or ‘literal’ meaning of the text of Scripture, but without making naive or simplistic claims to some kind of neutral presuppositionless reading.

There seem to be lots of helpful things in Tim Ward’s sometimes hard to understand book, Word and Supplement: Speech Acts, Biblical Texts, and the Sufficiency of Scripture (OUP, 2002).

He’s careful on this point. A (Warfieldian) orthodox Protestant confession of the sufficiency of Scripture with Christ as the centre of the canon:

is not intended as an argument for a ‘flattening’ literalistic interpretation of Scripture, particularly of those parts of the Old Testament which, in the course of progressive revelation, do not have a ‘literal’ authority over believers today. ‘Literal’, though, is here in scarce-quotes because… the Old Testament itself refers to what for it is an [partly?] unnamed coming reality. For Christian believers, obedience to the ‘literal’ sense of e.g. Old Testament food laws in the context of the canon would therefore mean adherence to Christ’s warning that it is not what goes into us that makes us unclean but what comes out of us (Mark 7:15). Literal sense, which is always contextually defined, is therefore to be distinguished from literalistic sense, which is not. See Vanhoozer’s comment that ‘the literal sense – the sense of the literary act – may, at times, be indeterminate or open-ended’ (Is There A Meaning In This Text? p313). Nor is it to deny the necessity of recognizing tropes in Scripture; as has long been acknowledged, the ‘literal sense’ of a text can be metaphorical, if that is its intended meaning. (p292)

I guess too that all this would be part of a scholarly defence of interpretative maximalism?

The term “scarce-quotes” is new to me, by the way, and I think I might make more use of them. Along with lots of carefully chosen “m-” and “n-” “dashes”- which Miss Bell informs us was originally a printing term - based on “m” being twice the width of an “n”.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Research Breakthrough

I had the unusual happy experience this morning of typing out a quotation that I'm pretty sure might actually make it into the final cut of the Dissasertation I hand in.

In a book which looks pretty problematic, Kern Robert Trethbath suggests that some of the problems with B B Warfield's doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible would be alleviated if he thought of the Bible as a sacrament. I'm not terribly convinced by what Trethbath says here but I think it could be helpful to speak of the Bible as sacramental.

“Warfield presents an equivocal doctrine of inspiration. His account cannot determine whether inspiration is finally a mediate or immediate activity, yet he believes that a decision must be made between the two alternatives. He is unwilling to accept a doctrine of Scripture in which genuine human participation is allowed, both because such a doctrine does not explain the divine effects that the Bible exercises upon and within the church and because the (salvific) necessity of the Bible does not allow the patient to provide the remedy. But Warfield equally cannot accept a doctrine of Scripture which requires the immediate activity of God, because such a doctrine entails some form of mechanical dictation theory and the consequent utter passivity of the human instrument…. Warfield is caught between what were for him two empirical poles: the inerrancy and authority of the Bible on the one hand and the results of anthropological and psychological observations on the other…. he was unable finally to decide between them because he never considered the possibility of divine activity working through nondivine, and therefore fallible, means. That is, he did not consider the Bible itself as a sacrament, a genuine creaturely product which is at the same time genuinely able to convey the divine initiative.”

Trembath, Kern Robert, Evangelical Theories of Biblical Inspiration: A Review and Proposal (New York, Oxford University Press, 1987) p24

Saturday, September 09, 2006

How To Get More Google Hits

Last night I had the benefit of Barney Jones’ 30 second teach-in on Search Engine Optimisation (which seems to be all to do with how to get more hits for your website using words and links, rather than too much computer geek stiff). I understand that Lavatank could be the answer to all our search engine optimisation needs. Barney seemed to think that this link would be for the good of the web-world: SEO. The fun section lets you adjust a little on-screen lavalamp for speed and colour if you fancy that!

Autograph Hunting & The Quest for The Holy Grail

On and off for the last couple of years I’ve been trying to ponder possible connections between the Lord’s Supper and the Scriptures, with varying degrees of plausibility.

I wonder if there might be some mileage in thinking about our attitudes to the original inspired autographs of Scripture and the original elements in the Lord’s Supper, or perhaps even The Holy Grail.

Some of Warfield’s detractors criticise his doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture as useless or merely theoretical because it speaks only of the original (now lost) autographs as inerrant, and not the subsequent versions and translations on which we depend. Yet evangelicals in the Warfield tradition have usually thought of translations as valid, while still seeking to get as close to the original text as possible. Similarly, we would not usually make too much fuss about the original elements used by Our Lord, not bothering trying to get exactly the same type of leavened or unleavened bread, or wine and so on, as Jesus first used. A fixation with the lost autographs might be compared with the quests for the lost Grail.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Enjoy stuff!

I couldn't resist stealing this from Peter Leithart:

... there is deep wisdom in Robert Farrar Capon's comment that it is good and wholesome to delight in things because God delights in things—otherwise, He wouldn't have made so many of them.
Quoted in 'Why Evangelicals Can't Write' in Credenda Agenda Volume 18, Issue 2 at http://www.credenda.org/issues/18-2liturgia.php

D.v., I shall shortly put this into practice at the luch table.