Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Privation of Good and The Neverending Story

Yesterday in my theology class, my professor expressed his disagreement with Augustine's conception of the nature of evil. Augustine essentially argued three things:
  1. God created all things, so that nothing exists that God did not create.
  2. God created all things to be Good.
  3. Therefore, from (1) and (2), evil cannot be a creation of God, and therefore evil cannot exist in the way that Good exists. Therefore, evil is not the presence of something in its own right, but the lack of the Good that God originally instilled in his creation.
When we examined this argument in a class I took in my undergraduate years, I found it very persuasive. My professor, however, argued that it would be silly to say that evil doesn't exist since the Bible affirms evil as a terrible reality. He likened Augustine's thought with the Christian Scientist understanding of sickness, where they say that, in reality, there is no such thing as sickness, so that we are all healthy--we simply have to believe in the reality of our health through faith. With respect, I don't think that's what Augustine was getting at.

It seems unfair to say that Augustine was denying that evil exists (rightly understood) in the world, since he spends an entire book, his Confessions, talking about how he and the rest of humanity are sinful wretches. So, he wasn't saying that there is no such thing as evil in the world, but he is merely saying that what we call evil is actually a condition where some Good that should be there is not.

This is vastly different from the Christian Scientist understanding of sickness, because, to extend the metaphor, Augustine wouldn't deny that people are "sick" spiritually. This is important, because many liberals today argue that everyone in the world is, in reality, saved (so that no damnation "exists"), and that we merely need to accept the reality of the salvation that we already have. Augustine, in stark contrast, would say that we have a very real problem, but the problem is not the existence of "sickness"--our problem is the lack of "health." That doesn't mean that we don't need to be "cured," but it does mean that we are trying not so much to get rid of our "sickness" as we are trying to re-establish our "health," even if getting rid of the "sickness" is a necessary first step in restoring the "health."

Augustine was trying to avoid the dualism that asserts that both Good and evil have existed from all eternity, a dualism where believers are encouraged to support the "good" god against the "evil" god. C. S. Lewis rightly points out in Mere Christianity (and other places) that, if such a theology were correct, there would be no real reason for us to see good as having primacy or superiority over evil, since both sides have equal claims on our lives. Evil cannot exist in the same way that Good exists, since that puts evil on equal footing with Good. Thus, Lewis talked about evil as "twisted" (i.e., corrupted) Good, and I think that he is closely following Augustine on this subject.

So, as I pondered this issue, I thought of a great illustration from the movie The Neverending Story. In the movie, the conflict is that a world called Fantasia is slowly being consumed by something called the "Nothing." I recall the book saying something to the effect of "If you looked at the Nothing, you felt as if you had gone blind." This wasn't blackness or space, since both of those are something--the Nothing was nothing at all, and that was the problem in the story.

In one sense, the Nothing was a very real problem (i.e., it "existed") because it was destroying all of Fantasia; however, in another sense, the problem with the Nothing was that it didn't exist, and that it was causing more things not to exist. Accordingly, in Augustine's thought, evil is a very real problem (i.e., it "exists") that has destroyed everything, to some extent, that God created to be Good; however, in another sense, the problem with evil is that it doesn't exist (since God only made Good things to exist), and it is causing more of the Good in the world not to exist.

In The Neverending Story, the solution could never have been simply to get rid of the Nothing--or, at least, this would never have been a satisfactory solution since too much had already been destroyed. Instead, the solution could only come about through a restoration of the Good. In our world, God could never have saved us simply by getting rid of evil as though removing our evil would leave us with Good--our incompleteness demanded that salvation could only come through New Creation, where God would recreate humanity and all the rest of creation to be perfectly Good. Put another way, it was never enough for Jesus simply to die on the cross as a punishment for our evil--the resurrection to new life was necessary in order to restore to us the Good we had lost at the Fall.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Philosophy of LOST

For those of you who watch LOST, you might be interested in the article published in today's USA Today about how the series uses the names of philosophers from history as their characters. (Thanks to Grant for finding this and telling me about it.)

Unfortunately, I thought that the article was terribly misguided, so I wrote a rather long comment in response. My contention (one that I have had from Season One) is that LOST uses the names of philosophers by giving them to characters who represent the exact opposite of the philosophy espoused by their historical counterpart. I imagine that when we one day meet a character who says and does the same things as their namesake, we should either distrust that person as a fraud, or we should be tipped off that this particular character is the most important in the entire series. Right now, I am wondering if that messianic character would be Desmond.

You can read the article and my comment (at the bottom) here. Note especially my argument about LOST's use of John Calvin in an early portion of my comment.

Edit 8:54 p.m., 3/28/07: One of the experts that the article cited (whom I contradicted) wrote back and kindly clobbered me. Oh, and I was completely wrong about John Calvin. I guess I've just learned over the years to enjoy the taste of my foot in my mouth. :)

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Florence's Angry Skies

Florence's Angry Skies
Originally uploaded by ahansen54.

Monday, March 26, 2007

New Pictures

Originally uploaded by ahansen54.
I'm starting to get some pictures from Bethany's and my "Eurotrip" SpringBreakEscape 2007 in Europe!!! uploaded on Flickr.
(Better Gray?)

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Coffee and Cigarettes, Approximately

Bethany's train left for the Frankfurt airport at 3:15 AM this morning. (What all did we see and do in Europe? You'll just have to wait for that post.) I took a bit too long helping her get her bags on the train and was suddenly a captive passenger of ICE 5 headed toward Frankfurt. After explaining the situation to an understanding train conductor, who seemed to enjoy the opportunity to practice his English, I got off at the next stop around 4:45 and waited for the next train back to Göttingen.

During the wait I bought the latest copy of The Economist and holed up in an American-style diner reading it while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. (I still don't drink coffee.) I haven't read The Economist since a brief period of addiction while leasing apartments last summer, when each week I'd eagerly await buying up the glossy-paged British periodical at Barnes and Noble and reading the articles between my apartment showings. As I was paging through the magazine, I was thinking how it is sort of my pack of cigarettes, my guilty pleasure that I treat myself to now and then. What's so great about it? Despite it's weight toward economic analyses of topics (accompanied by a strong free-trade bias), each issue has articles on a host of political, social, and (of course) economic issues, all areas in which my understanding is admittedly very weak. All of the articles are anonymously written by the editorial staff and each article presents an opinion in addition to presenting its analysis. It therefore doesn't fain a completely objective approach like most journalism, which is biased but pretends to not to be, and which has an opinion on the given subject but pretends not to. The Economist's articles are thorough, well-written, straight-forward, and often a little witty - like a thinking-man's Newsweek.

I've never been one for newspapers, feeling that most journalism lacks analysis and historical perspective that really allows people to understand the issues, but I also realize that there's a large void in my knowledge of what's going on in the contemporary world. Since I don't think I could ever commit the time to reading a daily newspaper, I hope that The Economist might help fill that void a bit.

Yes, I am a nerd.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spring Break!

I just had a dream that someone hacked into this blog and posted something to the effect of, "I'm appalled that Jacob hasn't written anything since Monday, especially since he has told us that he really wants to keep this thing updated. I'm not sure we can trust him any more." If the Lord has skilled any of you in dream interpretations--for do not interpretations belong to God?--I would be interested in what that means. Personally, I think that it had something to do with the 4-Alarm Spicy Chicken Sandwich that I had from Wendy's at 10:00 last night.

In other news, I am currently back in Nebraska for my Spring Break. I had an incredible flying experience on Delta through Cincinnati (both completely on time; good in-flight snacks; no layover to speak of; my luggage got in), and my parents and brother picked me up in Omaha to drive me back to Hastings. Yesterday was a long day (two tests and a paper due), so I am excited for a little R&R.

Although I have a 700-page book on the Reformation that I need to read in order to write a paper that is due next Thursday, I'm really wanting to read two books for fun. The one I haven't started yet is called Virtue and the Voice of God: Toward Theology as Wisdom, by Daniel Treier. I've continued to ponder the concept of wisdom in the Bible, and this looked like a great book to provide fodder for my thinking.

The second book is Progressive Dispensationalism by Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock. I'm reading this for two reasons: (1) I don't have a very good idea of how Progressive Dispensationalism differs from the type of Dispensationalism that I know (I read Charles Ryrie's Dispensationalism Today, now called Dispensationalism, when I was trying to decide between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology); and (2) Beeson will be hosting Darrell Bock in April for our Biblical Studies Lectures, and I want to read something by him in order to get more out of the conference. I read about 130 of the 300 pages on the plane last night, and I was actually very pleased with how "progressive" Dispensationalism is becoming. I'll write more about it later.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Weekend Update

Well, I did get to go see Nebraska play Alabama, but I use the word "play" there loosely. Nebraska got dominated, losing 8-0, marking Nebraska's first shutout in 201 games. I did have a good time, though, especially because I got to meet a handful of people from Nebraska who were down at the game for all sorts of different reasons. Also, there's just nothing like seeing my team down where I live. It's as though they made a special trip just for me!

Before you despair of our team's ability to play baseball, I should mention that Nebraska ended up winning the games on Saturday and Sunday, so Nebraska was the victor in the series 2-1. I listened to both on the (internet) radio, and they sounded like great games. I wished that I could have gone to one of those instead!


This weekend, I downloaded the computer-game classic of my childhood, "Oregon Trail," and I spent a significant amount of time playing it. I had forgotten how much that game rules. If you want to relive your own second grade, you can download the game here. (I'm not sure if this will work on Macs or not.) Ignore the "Install" file; if you just open "Oregon.exe" you will be able to play immediately.

I had forgotten how frustrating it was to get to the end of the trail, float down the river, almost get to the landing spot, but then lose virtually everything by crashing your wagon on the rocks. Stupid rivers.

In other news, Alabama is heading into its Spring. Being from Nebraska it's really strange to see trees blossom in early March, but I'm definitely enjoying the 70 degree weather. I can't really say that I missed having snow, though.

(Yes, I am trying to rub this in to those of you still in Nebraska.)

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Destination Tuscaloosa

This evening, the Nebraska Cornhusker baseball team will travel today to Tuscaloosa, AL to play the Alabama Crimson Tide, and I'm going to be there. I talked some seminary friends into making the hour-long drive from Birmingham to see the game--some are Alabama fans, and some are just along for the ride.

One of the Alabama fans I'm going down with passed me this little poem, and I wanted to print it here in order to give you a taste of life down here in Alabama:

If you wanna know the password for where
     the streets are paved of gold
It ain't but one little phrase and that's
     "Roll tide, roll."
I could be in for a long drive.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Jonathan Edwards: A Life

I just completed George Marsden's Jonathan Edwards: A Life. I'm not sure how to begin summarizing such a comprehensive work of incredible breadth and depth, so instead I'll just provide a few historiographical thoughts. In describing his goal for the book, he writes
As a biographer attempting to understand Edwards first as an eighteenth-century figure, I have been working most directly as a cultural historian. Yet I have been doing this always with an eye on the theological question, taking his thought seriously as part of the larger Christian tradition.
I think Marsden succeeds marvelously at this, balancing cultural with intellectual and theological history, understanding Edwards not simply as the result of historical forces of the times, nor as a disembodied theological mind working apart from the influence of the times and culture, but rather as an (albeit exceptional) eighteenth-century clergyman, writer, husband, and father whose theological framework greatly shaped his life and work. By viewing him in this way, he finds an extraordinary, but also humanly-flawed, Jonathan Edwards.

In addition to being inspired and overwhelmed by the amount of research, thinking, and writing involved in crafting this 600-page work, as an aspiring historian I also found insight in Marsden's perspective on the value of biography for Christians:
If one has, as I do, theological mentors from across the ages, then it is valuable to realize that their insights on spiritual matters come framed by their particular personal and cultural circumstances. My belief is that one of the uses of being an historian, particularly if one is part of a community of faith, is to help persons of such communities better understand what they and their community might appropriate from the great mentors of the past and what is extraneous and employ historical consciousness for developing more discriminating assessements of the wisdom of the past...We need to use history for the guidance it offers, learning from the great figures of the past - both in their brilliance and their shortcomings. Otherwise we are stuck with only the wisdom of the present.

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What We Have Been Given

For my theology class, I just finished reading C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. I know that I had already read the book twice, but I may also have read it a third time before this reading. Reading it again, though, showed me just how much Lewis has influenced my thinking on a number of topics. I have believed certain things for such a long time that I came to believe that my own theology was largely the result of my own thinking and Bible study, as though I have been a pioneer in Christian thought.

Rereading this book, though, shattered those thoughts: much of what I thought was mine was really something I picked up from Lewis. I imagine that if I were able to survey, in a moment, all that I have ever read or heard over the course of my life, I would realize that I have had very few original thoughts at all (if any). What a humbling thought!

So, I have been reflecting more on this verse: "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" (1 Cor. 4:7b). Ideally, my learning, and then (from what I learn) my teaching and my writing, should all happen because of a desire to build up the church in Christ. I should confess, though, that I am a sinner, and much of what I do in the way of studying theology and of relating it to others comes as a result of a desire to be "important" in the Christian world.

So, to the extent that what I have written or said comes from an arrogance that exalts me rather than Jesus, I truly apologize. This would, by definition, be a public sin, so I want to apologize publicly. I suppose this will probably be something I struggle against all my life, but, by the grace of God, I will one day be free from all this pride, content to gaze into the face of Jesus and discerning to realize that looking at myself instead would be foolishness. Praise God for that!

Also, I have been gaining a fresh appreciation for all the people from whom I learned Christianity during the course of my life. I remember talking about Jesus with my Grandpa as we went on long walks together. I remember learning wonderful Bible stories at my small, Mennonite church in Julesburg, Colorado from Sunday School teachers who were committed to telling us children about Jesus. I appreciate the fact that I have heard at least one sermon a week for virtually all my life. What a staggering thought, to realize that what I now know about Jesus is the fruit of so many people, who knew what they knew from so many people, and on and on! What do we have that we have not received?

Perhaps it would be helpful for those of us called to teaching to have constantly in mind our own mortality. For example, my Grandpa who taught me so much is right now losing much of his mental capacity. This is terribly difficult for me to watch, but it also reminds me that I must take advantage of the time I have to pass along what he and others have passed along to me, all the time concerned about seeing the next generation come to a knowledge of the Savior. I will one day die, even if Grandpa goes a bit sooner, and then both I and he will be forgotten in this world. But, Jesus will never be forgotten, and so, if my reputation and my name are tied up in him, why should this bother me?

Let us thank God for what we have been given.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Urbanist Testimonial

Thanks to my lovely Bethany for finding this one:

Confessions of an Empty-Nester

While agreeing that urbanism (or rather "New Urbanism") would help develop a better sense of community, I should also add that, based on my experience in the very urban environment of Göttingen, friendly community doesn't automatically follow from the surroundings. The people you meet on the streets or in the grocery store of Göttingen are still more reserved and less outgoing than the average person in Lincoln. A more urban environment might help some of the problems, but it's not in itself the end-all solution to lack of community.*

*Though some of the problem could be my reserved personality. :)

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Opening a new can of worms...

Lindsey wrote me an e-mail, saying, "I'd like to see some sort of blog discussion about paedocommunion [i.e., infant communion]." We here at Of Bald Men and Bears aim to please our readership, so here we go!

If you are unfamiliar with the issue, allow me to give a brief explanation. Baptists, of course, say that baptism should be withheld from any who cannot make a profession of faith. Then, they withhold communion from any who are unbaptized, so only believers are partaking of the Lord's Supper. This is especially important because Paul writes, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27).

For Presbyterians, however, the waters of this issue are a bit muddier since we baptize on the grounds of covenant membership, not professed belief. So, just as infant Hebrew boys were circumcised, we baptize the infants of Christians. Circumcision and baptism make up one set of the covenant signs (sacraments) that God has given to his people as an assurance of his covenant promises.

But here's where the problem comes in: the other set of covenant signs that God gave his people are the Passover feast and the Lord's Supper. There is no particular indication that very young children were excluded from Passover, and the only requirement seems to be that the boys/men were circumcised (Ex. 12:48). So, many Presbyterians argue that baptized children should be allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper as soon as they are capable.

Other Presbyterians, however, point back to 1 Cor. 11:27 to note that small children are incapable of preparing themselves for communion; therefore, it is highly likely that they might partake in an unworthy manner, and therefore would be eating and drinking judgment on themselves (1 Cor. 11:29). The Westminster Confession of Faith, and therefore the Presbyterian Church in America, take this stance.

As for me, I've given some measure of thought to this issue, but I don't know that I have a strong opinion either way. So, for the time being, I'm content to submit myself to the authority of the Westminster Confession and accept their interpretation as the proper administration of the Lord's Supper.

That said, I have heard one good argument that might push me in the other direction: I don't know where I heard this, but someone somewhere made a point that Paul, in 1 Cor. 11, is writing about unworthy partaking of the Lord's Supper rather than unworthy partakers. So, he is writing against those who would stuff themselves on the bread and get drunk on the wine, even while some go without. He is not, technically speaking, writing about people with unrepentant sinfulness in their lives.

So, there are two important questions to ask: (1) Does what Paul says extend in its significance to exclude people with sin who come unrepentantly to the Table? and (2) If so, to what degree must covenant children be able to consciously repent before being admitted to the Table?

And, with that, let's open the floor to discussion.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Holy Perplexity

2 Cor 4:7-8 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;"
I've never thought about this part of the passage before. It seems to say that it's normal, indeed necessary, for Christians to be confused by what we believe, to struggle to understand it. This doesn't lead us to "despair" or to give up, but to trust God and keep searching. If we pretend to have everything figured out, we actually diminish "the surpassing power that belongs to God and not to us."

I'm not sure if this perplexity extends to doubts about the truth of Christianity, but I think it conceivably does (Mk 9:24). Sometimes Christians will say to non-Christians that they're 100% convinced of the truth of Christianity, beyond any shade of doubt, and that if the non-Christian would simply put his faith in Christ, he would be too. I think this does a disservice to God because (a) I think they're usually lying (b) if the person becomes a Christian but still struggles with doubt, he worries that he's not really a Christian (c) as this verse says, it doesn't acknowledge our human weakness, and therefore steals some of God's glory.

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Bald Bears: The Real Deal

Out of curiosity, I did a Google search of "bald bears" (our URL), and this news article was the first result that came up: "Bears going bald, look like 'large rats.'"

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

On Worship

It just struck me (spurred by my reading of Leithart's Against Christianity) that this whole business of each person doing as they "feel led" in worship (standing, sitting, clapping, dancing, kneeling) is quite individualistic. Instead of viewing corporate worship as corporate, in that we worship as one body, we view it as corporate, in that we are many individuals Christians worshiping in the same place. Granted, there has to be some room for freedom within the worship (e.g. we can't all sing the exact same pitch), but I think our tendency (in line with the rest of western thought) is to put the individual before the whole.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Jesus Is Wisdom

I asked a few days ago whether we could consider Jesus' parables and sayings as the New Testament equivalent of wisdom literature, and, if so, in what ways we should understand what Jesus says to be different from the books of the Old Testament that we commonly label "Wisdom Literature."

First, I want to defend the idea that Jesus frequently teaches in a style and function that we can (and should) define as "wisdom." I will use the definition that Proverbs gives of wisdom literature to get us going: "Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles" (Prov. 1:5-6). Solomon here gives us a pretty wide stylistic definition for wisdom literature, but the essential thing, I think, is that wisdom literature is advice on how to live wisely--that is, how to live skillfully (the basic meaning of the Hebrew word chokmah).

Solomon defines such skillful living in the very next verse: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov. 1:7). I would also point out that the style of wisdom literature in Proverbs does not exactly match what we see in the book of Job, which functions in a more speculative manner. In other words, we don't really get advice on living from Job, but it causes us to think about the way in which God has wisely ordained the world to work. So, in summary, "wisdom literature" is very broad indeed, but it deals with either (1) instructional wisdom for skillful living, or (2) speculative wisdom that tackles life's big questions.

Because of all of this, I don't think that there should be any problem with labeling much of what Jesus says as wisdom. His parables often act as riddles, and his "kingdom ethic" clearly gives us advice about skillful living (e.g., those who exalt themselves do not live skillfully and will be humbled, but those who humble themselves do live skillfully and will be exalted, etc...). I think that we can easily call what Jesus does (in some places, at least) as his own "wisdom," different from other genres of law, narrative, poetry, and epistle, and so I would be interested if anyone has any further objections to why we couldn't differentiate the genres this way.

But let's get back to the original question: what is the essential difference between what Jesus teaches and what we find in the Old Testament Wisdom Literature? In my mind, the essential difference is that the Old Testament writers taught the wisdom that they had sought out and learned; Jesus, on the other hand, is himself the definition of the wisdom that he taught (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30).

I have really been wrestling since Wednesday with what that might mean, and I would like to suggest the following explanation. Let's say that a group of people wanted to measure everything they did by a standard of whether I, Jacob Gerber, would do it. (God forbid that anyone ever makes this kind of WWJD bracelets!) So, they would try to match exactly my courage as well as my fear, my love as well as my conceitedness, etc... How would they go about determining that exact balance? Certainly, they would have to look at me and at my life.

But let's ask another question: How do I know how to live according to Jacob-ness? Is it an external, objective quality that I have simply mastered, or do I simply live according to Jacob naturally? In other words, am I simply the best at being Jacob, or do I define what it is to be Jacob? I think the answer is clearly the latter.

In the same way, when we say that Christ is our wisdom, we are not simply saying that Christ is the wisest of all that have ever lived, as though wisdom is a quality outside of him that he happened to master. Rather, he defines what it is to be wise. So, it is somewhat misleading to say that Jesus teaches wisdom if we think along the lines of the way in which Solomon and the other wisdom writers of the Old Testament taught wisdom. Rather, we are almost saying that Jesus teaches himself, and, in a sense, Solomon and the gang were trying to teach the personality of Jesus (even if they didn't really know who he would be) in what they wrote.

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he told the crowds, "The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here" (Luke 11:31).

So, when we study wisdom literature (in the Old Testament or in what Jesus teaches), we are trying to learn and imitate his personality. We are trying to become like Jesus, because to become like Jesus is to become wise. And here is why seeking wisdom is important: this sort of wisdom transcends our ideas of personal holiness, because wisdom is a much broader category than morality, although it certainly encompasses it. Generally, when we think of morality, we reduce everything either to terms of niceness or of boldness for the truth. Wisdom, however, shows us not only when to encourage children with perfect tenderness to come to us and when to drive people out of temples with whips, but also when we should ask our antagonists pointed questions and when we should stand silent in the face of our accusers.

Therefore be wise, just as your Savior in heaven is wise.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Letter to the Editor

This past year that I have been in seminary in Alabama, I have still tried to keep up with the Daily Nebraskan, the school newspaper from my undergraduate institution, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. On Wednesday, they ran an editorial asserting that the Bible should be read as literature and nothing more. I wrote a letter to the editor in response, and they printed it today. You can read my letter here.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Finished Product

I mentioned awhile ago that I was writing a paper to contrast baptism and the Lord's Supper in Baptist and Presbyterian thought. I just finished the paper, although, as I began writing it, I realized that I only had enough space to focus on baptism. Here is one of the better sections:
This definition [i.e., baptism as a sign and a seal of the covenant of grace] obviously limits Presbyterian sacramental theology from the Catholic notion that baptism works of itself (ex opere operato), but it also moves beyond even the more substantive levels of Baptist theology. Notice here a fine, but important, distinction between the theology of Presbyterians and that of Baptists: Baptists understand baptism to be symbolic—a kind of pronouncement of something already accomplished in the life of the baptized. Presbyterians, on the other hand, believe that baptism points the candidate to what God promises to accomplish through faith, which is the reality behind the sign. For Presbyterians, “the efficacy of baptism is prospective,”1 but for Baptists, the efficacy of baptism is retrospective. This aspect of Presbyterian theology is behind the Westminster Confession of Faith statement that “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered,”2 and it plays a significant role in justifying the practice of infant baptism.
The paper is nothing earth-shattering, but I did spend a lot of time on it. So, if you would like a copy, let me know through e-mail or a comment, and I will be more than happy to send it to you.
1-William B. Evans, “'Really Exhibited and His Appointed Time': Baptism and the New Reformed Sacramentalism,” in The Presbyterion 31:2 (Fall 2005): 88, my emphasis.
2-WCF, 28.6
Because of the brilliant suggestion my good friend made, I have posted the paper on Google Docs. There are some minor formatting issues, but the text is now available to any who wish to see it. Just remember my disclaimer: it's nothing earth-shattering.

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