Aaron Denlinger on John Calvin on Theological Trespassing. I don’t know that the term “trespassing” is helpful – it carries with it the image of someone sitting on his front porch with a shotgun – but the concept is useful.
It’s no sin to ask questions about things which scripture doesn’t clearly answer. But the answer should take the form of, “Maybe X, maybe Y, maybe Z, but scripture doesn’t say.” That’s basically what Paul does in Romans 9:22. It’s helpful to dip your toe in a couple of theological maybes. It expands the imagination and reminds us that God has his reasons, which are perfectly good, whatever they are. But moving from “maybe” to “clearly” generally results in us saying something foolish and insulting about God. My mom always says that all heresy involves taking what is clear in scripture to its obvious conclusion. I have no idea who she’s quoting.
I think I can see why this guy never uses the term “Calvinism.” He has successfully proved that if you take in the life experiences of everyone who ever lived from 1550 onward, the term has essentially no meaning. I think my eyes glazed over when he demonstrated that neo-Calvinism must refer specifically to only people who agree with Abraham Kuyper. And there’s a reason why we can’t use the term Kuyperian?
John Calvin would have supported the Occupy Wall Street movement says Setri Nyomi, the General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
My guess is that Nyomi spent more time reading theology than biography.
I’m crossing my fingers and making another attempt at reading Calvin’s Institutes, this time the Henry Beveridge translation, which seems to actually be easier to read than the Ford Lewis Battles translation. I’m not sure if this is because Beveridge was a better translator than Battles, or if the publishers at Henderickson (whose edition I’m using) decided to provide the extra service of inserting more periods. Either way, the sentences are easier to read, because they’re shorter.
I come, however, across this passage on translating from the Preface of the original translation by Thomas Norton:
For I dared not presume to warrant myself to have his meaning without his words. And they that know what it is to translate well and faithfully, especially in matters of religion, do know that not only the grammatical construction of words suffices, but the very building and order to observe all advantages of vehemence or grace, by placing or accent of words, makes much to the true setting forth of a writer’s mind.
In the end, I rested upon this determination, to follow the words so near as the phrase of the English tongue would suffer me. …
Norton has been talking about how terse Calvin’s Latin original is. Calvin packed a lot of meaning into the original, and Norton found that the goal of putting out the same meaning in English required either a lot more words or a book that was a lot harder to read. His solution was to hue close to a word-for-word translation.
But what catches me is is phrase that “those that know what it is to translate well and faithfully” know that following the precise word order is important. Apparently the folks who prefer to translate in paraphrase know no such thing. Recent translation research proves otherwise.
I continue to be perplexed by the subtleties of the will of God. That’s probably a bad sentence to start on, but the other openers I thought of really weren’t much better.
I’ve just finished reading, at a friend’s request, a book on finding the will of God, and why you shouldn’t. It’s literally titled Finding the Will of God: a Pagan Notion? by Bruce Waltke. But it’s not nearly so bad as it sounds. He’s mostly against something he calls Christian divination – that practice of fumbling about looking for cryptological Providential hints God might have hidden concerning any major decisions – which admittedly sounds more like perusing the horoscopes than any faithful pursuit of God’s plan for your life. He also seems to be against asking God to communicate directly to you about your plans (a point on which I differ), mostly I think because he believes God does that relatively infrequently, and only on His own schedule.
The odd thing has been that, as Waltke pounds out his method of Biblically and theologically ciphering the will of God, he keeps undermining himself. And I don’t mean that he makes arguments I don’t like to support positions I don’t care for. I mean that, in the process of making a point with which I expect to agree, he makes frequent use of non sequitur and choppy reasoning. So by the time he gets to the finale of a point where I expected to agree with him 100%, he’s so bungled it that I end up suspicious of myself for intending to agree with him. It’s made it really difficult to finish the book. But finish I did, all the while dreaming of writing my own book, which says all the things he said, only… better, and in the right order.
Then I turn to the last chapter, an afterward, and everything changes. Continue reading “Big Frothy Mess”
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a mystic. But I’ve discovered that word makes some people, particularly non-charismatic evangelicals, nervous, so let me explain. By “mystic” I mean a person whose devotional life is characterized by intensely affecting spiritual experiences. These experiences may be in the realm of simple theological insight, or they may take more literary forms. At times they may cross over into the realm of prophecy; that is, dreams, visions, words, and phrases laden with theological context.
From a natural perspective, mysticism can come from two sources. It can be personal, or social: On the social spectrum, mysticism can be presented as something to aspire to. Some Christian traditions – the Pentecostals, the Orthodox, some revivalist traditions – present mysticism in such a way that it seems to be the only way to have a properly Christian devotional life. At the other extreme, some traditions, particularly the Reformed and Protestants as a whole, seem to perceive mysticism at best as something useless, at worst as something suspiciously unchristian, smacking of Papism, adding to scripture, even beckoning the demonic. On the personal spectrum, a person could be naturally predisposed to have certain kinds of experiences, or they could find themselves completely unable to do so, or they could be somewhere in between. (Please note that, for the sake of simplicity, I’m lumping what a person thinks about these things in with the social scale.)
The difficulty, of course, comes when a person’s natural predisposition doesn’t align very well with the tradition they find themselves in. Continue reading “Mystic”