In I, Q1, A6, Aquinas addresses the question of whether sacred doctrine is wisdom–utrum sit sapientia. Thomas affirms, but my interest is less in that as in the statements he makes regarding first principles:
Disagreements are no more unnegotiable natural forces than deliveries of the mistaken conscience are. They are openings for those who share a common faith to explore and resolve important tensions within the context of communion.
This kind of proposal is, of course, easy to mishear. It can be taken to mean that parties to disagreements must be less than wholly convinced of their position, ready to make room for possible accommodation. When really serious issues are at stake and talk of a status stantis aut cadentis ecclesiae begins to rumble like thunder, urging the search for resolution can seem like an invitation to capitulate, to concede essential points before beginning. It can seem as though Scripture is deemed to be inconclusive and ambiguous, so that either side is free to concede the possible right of the other’s interpretation. It can seem as though what is needed is an indefinite irresolution about everything important, in which there is no need for, and no possibility of, a decisive closure. But that is all a trick of the light. None of this is implied in the search for agreement. The only thing I concede in committing myself to such a process is that if I could discuss the matter through with an opponent sincerely committed to the church’s authorities, Scripture chief among them, the Holy Spirit would open up perspectives that are not immediately apparent, and that patient and scrupulous pursuit of these could lead at least to giving the problem a different shape—a shape I presume will be compatible with, though not precisely identical to, the views I now hold, but which may also be compatible with some of the views my opponent now holds, even if I cannot yet see how. I do not have to think I may be mistaken about the cardinal points of which I am convinced. The only thing I have to think … is that there are things still to be learned by one who is determined to be taught by Scripture how to read the age in which we live.
– Oliver O’Donovan, A Conversation Waiting to Begin, 32–33. Thanks to a friend for pointing out this quote to me.
Or as Jordan Peterson has put it, more succinctly:
Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.
These also are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the Lord spake with Moses in mount Sinai. 2 And these are the names of the sons of Aaron; Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 3 These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest’s office. 4 And Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord, when they offered strange fire before the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the sight of Aaron their father.
Rabbi Fohrman asks a number of questions that draw attention to some peculiarities of the text, such as:
It’s been a long time, but I am going to try to blog again with some level of regularity. I purged some posts from long ago that I don’t like anymore, updated the name and design, and have been thinking through how I want to use this space. For now the plan is to post about whatever I want, however I want, and see what happens.
And so it is hard to be good: for surely hard it is in each instance to find the mean, just as to find the mean point or centre of a circle is not what any man can do, but only he who knows how: just so to be angry, to give money, and be expensive, is what any man can do, and easy: but to do these to the right person, in due proportion, at the right time, with a right object, and in the right manner, this is not as before what any man can do, nor is it easy; and for this cause goodness is rare, and praiseworthy, and noble.
In a previous post, I explained how I came to change my mind on infant baptism. That post was semi-autobiographical, attempting not so much to persuade others as to indicate some of my own thought-processes. I originally intended it just for friends and family members who may have heard that I became Presbyterian and wondered what that was all about. Unforeseen to me, it ended up having a much wider audience than I had originally envisioned. To date it is my most read blog post. No other posts even come close.
In it, I promised a future post in which I would “more directly explain my views on infant baptism, address some related issues, and share a fuller, annotated bibliography of resources I found helpful.” This is that post. Again, this is not my Treatise on Infant Baptism. I am not going to say everything that can be said. I wouldn’t even say that I am writing this with the primary intent of persuading others or making a full-fledged case. My goals are more modest. This will primarily be informative, aimed at helping interested readers understand how I view infant baptism, what I think it does, and what further resources may be consulted on this matter. Continue reading On Baptizing Babies
During seminary I became convinced of infant baptism. This might come as a surprise to some folks, since I have been somewhat discreet on social media about this development. This is mainly because I was still a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an active member at a Baptist church as I wrestled with this issue, and I did not want to appear divisive. But as of last October my wife and I joined a Presbyterian church here in Louisville, last December I graduated from Southern, and this May I came under care of the Ohio River Valley Presbytery in the PCA and began a one-year pastoral internship. So it now seems appropriate to write about this topic.
This post is a semi-autobiographical account of how I came to change my mind on this issue. Initially, the need for a post like this was impressed on me after a couple different people I know, upon hearing that Ivy and I have become Presbyterian, wondered if we had gone liberal. This is understandable, since the PCUSA is the largest Presbyterian denomination in America. But the notion that I have drifted leftward is mistaken. After graduating seminary, I am even more, not less, convinced of issues like the inerrancy of Scripture, male-only eldership, and the sinfulness of homosexuality. I am currently a candidate for ministry in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which is a theologically and morally conservative Presbyterian denomination. Nothing on that front has changed.
More generally though, I wanted to write this post so that family and friends can have a better idea of what exactly has changed in my views and how that change came about. Continue reading On Becoming Presbyterian
George Whitefield is a well-known figure who has been assessed from a number of different vantage points. Recent scholarship assesses the supposed impact he had upon commerce, the development of the “religious celebrity” persona, and in fostering conditions that would lead to the American Revolution. Thomas Kidd comes at Whitefield from another angle in his George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father: while not discounting the arguments of other approaches wholesale, he thinks that these “do not really focus on Whitefield’s primary significance or the way he viewed himself.” Kidd argues that “George Whitefield was the key figure in the first generation of Anglo-American evangelical Christianity,” and his biography seeks to place him “fully in the dynamic, fractious milieu of the early evangelical movement.” Eschewing both naive hagiography and cynical contempt, Kidd presents a balanced view of Whitefield both in his strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. Continue reading George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father
Few theological questions today gender such impassioned debate as the question, “For whom did Christ die?” Just about every Christian has a view on this issue, and likely holds to it quite strongly. The question itself can be understood in different ways. On the broad scale, the question can be read against the backdrop of universalist readings of the atonement versus more exclusivist readings of the atonement. The universalist understanding posits that Christ’s death is universal in application: the sins of all men are already forgiven through the cross. All that is left is for unbelievers to simply recognize that they are already forgiven and justified. The exclusivist understanding, typical among evangelicals, holds that Christ’s death is limited in application: it is applied only to believers.
More narrowly, within evangelicalism a different sort of debate with regard to the extent of the atonement occurs. This debate takes the shape of general atonement versus limited atonement, and it runs down a dividing line between Calvinist and Arminian views of soteriology. While both sides agree that the atonement is limited in its application to believers, they disagree on whether God effectually intends to save the elect alone through Christ’s atonement. Arminians deny this, while Calvinists affirm it. This debate has spawned a number of books, both scholarly and not-so-scholarly, and is a source of no small contention for the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination in the U.S., which allows for both Arminian and Calvinist viewpoints in their membership. Continue reading The Extent of the Atonement and the Extent of Reformed Orthodoxy