Archive for the 'Church History' Category

Erasmus, Tyndale, and Pre-Modernism

I found this quote interesting in John Piper’s biographical speech on William Tyndale, titled, Always Singing One Note. While exploring the contrast between Erasmus and Tyndale, Piper made an astute observation about some ‘emergent’ churches and postmodern writers. Here is the quote (the section in italics is Piper quoting from David Daniell’s book about Tyndale):

“Listen to this remarkable assessment from Daniell, and see if you do not hear a description of certain emergent church writers and New Perspective champions:

Not only is there no fully realized Christ or Devil in Erasmus’s book . . . : there is a touch of irony about it all, with a feeling of the writer cultivating a faintly superior ambiguity: as if to be dogmatic, for example about the full theology of the work of Christ, was to be rather distasteful, below the best, elite, humanist heights. . . . By contrast Tyndale . . . is ferociously single-minded; the matter in hand, the immediate access of the soul to God without intermediary, is far too important for hints of faintly ironic superiority. . . . Tyndale is as four-square as a carpenter’s tool. But in Erasmus’s account of the origins of his book there is a touch of the sort of layering of ironies found in the games with personae.

It is ironic and sad that today supposedly avant-garde Christian writers can strike this cool, evasive, imprecise, artistic, superficially reformist pose [like Erasmus] and call it “post-modern” and capture a generation of unwitting, historically naïve, emergent people who don’t know they are being duped by the same old verbal tactics used by the elitist humanist writers in past generations… It’s not post-modern. It’s pre-modern—because it is perpetual.”

Yah, what he said… ๐Ÿ™‚

Omnibenevolence and the Flying Spider

I ran across the word ‘omnibenevolence’ while reading Jonathan Edwards, A Guided Tour to His Life and Thought by Stephen J. Nichols. I tried to look it up in my everyday dictionary, the M-W Collegiate 11th Ed. Finding nothing, I dusted off the trusty giant Webster’s Third, again to no avail. Then, I went online. I was not surprised that Wikipedia sports a five-paragraph article about the word (you can find that here), but I would not recommend the contributor’s point of view (e.g. a supposed biblical contradiction). Googling the term nets 15,100 results with a broad spectrum of ideas, many relating to debates in Theodicy (the branch of theology that deals with the question: how can God be good [just] while evil exists?).

After giving up on the internet, I set Libronix search engines to work combing through my electronic library; again, nothing (though a search for the word ‘benevolence’ and its variants scored 1715 hits, including 12 occurrences in Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections).

Though rare, the meaning of the word is plain. ‘Omni’ comes straight from the Latin and means ‘all, everything, universal’. ‘Benevolence’ (which comes to us [via M.E.] from the Latin benovolentia) essentially means ‘kindly disposition towards an object; good will’. Hence, the statement ‘God is omnibenevolent’ means that God is completely good and has perfect (uncorrupted) good will towards us. Of course, this is a biblical notion and an axiom of conservative Christian theology: God is perfectly good.

So what did Jonathan Edwards write that prompted Stephen Nichols to brandish this seminary-type gem of a word? Nichols was commenting on Edwards’ observations of the flying spider. When Jonathan Edwards was 19 years old, he conducted research on this famed spider to understand how a wingless arachnid could fly. He even wrote a scientific essay about it. The spider fascinated young Edwards so much that he wrote:

There are some things that I have happily seen of the wondrous and curious works of the spider. Although everything pertaining to this insect is admirable, yet there are some phenomena relating to them more particularly wonderful.

Edwards looked at the spider and saw the spider’s incredible, wise, and omnibenevolent Creator. He viewed creation (and God’s care of creation) as a benevolent gift of God, and in the intricacies of creation, he believed that one could clearly see the hand of God. He shared this idea with Paul, who wrote:

… his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (Romans 1:20 ESV)

I should look around and take in the details of creation more often; and think twice before mushing little creatures. To find out how the spider flies, you can order the above-mentioned book or The Works of Jonathan Edwards and read the essay. ๐Ÿ™‚

Origen, and Mongolian Horses

I posted this just for fun. This is a Mongol felt burn. Since Mongolia is only 6 hrs south from here, I thought it could pass as relevant. Mongolians like horse milk more than milk from cows. Did you know that? ๐Ÿ™‚

Today, we met and studied Acts and pr together. The fellowship encouraged us all. After lunch, we planned the next Coffee Club evening. Our theme will be friendship, and we expect a ton of people to come. After that meeting, Maya went visiting (to invite a girl to the Coffee Club) which left me a few hours of quiet study time while the children napped.

I am studying Ch history and worked through some of Origenโ€™s sermons. All the bad things that folks write about poor old Origen are not completely warranted, at least in my opinion. Yes, he employed the silly allegorical method; however, he does not deserve to be credited as its inventor: the supposed Father of Allegory. In reality, allegory was the fad in those days, especially among the Alexandrians. Origen, in his genius, merely carried the bad practice to a new level of perfection and perhaps popularized it.

Most forget that he also contributed something to homiletics that most of us would say is quite helpful: expositional structure. Before Origen, (excluding the first generation ch) the sermon was a random discourse about general truths and moral inferences from the Word. He brought order to the house and structured a sermon around a biblical text with an interpretation (and his straight interpretations were usually good). That method influenced homiletics long after the allegorical treatment lost its popularity; and it remains widely practiced today.

Check back tomorrow for a post about my family (just in case the history lesson frightened you away).