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LIGHT FROM THE TRINITY
LEADING TO LOVE FOR
HIS GLORIOUS WORD
THE WORD PAST ALL CONFESSIONS
THAT RULES ALL, SHOWS TO ALL
AND COMES FROM HIM WHO ALONE KNOWS ALL:
THE BLESSED BIBLE, WORD OF TRUTH
CONFESSIONS COME AND GO, BUT THE WORD OF GOD GOES ON FOREVER
ITS LIGHT SUCH THAT THE LAW OF THE LORD IS PERFECT
REJOICING THE HEART,
WITHOUT COMPROMISE, QUALIFICATION, ADDITIVE OR MANIPULATION
in II Corinthians 4, John 17:17, Psalm 119, 12, Matthew 5:17-20,
I Corinthians 2:9-13, I Peter 1: 10-13,24-25,
II Peter 1:18-21, Isaiah 59:21, 34:16
A Preliminary Approach to Some Elements found in the
Proposed Confession of the World Reformed Fellowship (PCWRF)
DEFENSIVE POSTURE, NEEDLESS OMISSIONS
AND FREEDOM IN THE TRUTH
The word of God is like the cannon; many mark the explosions. Some take photographs, others seek to describe the scene. But the power and the aim is of the Lord only.
The Bible itself so surpasses all confessions of men, that they are as servants in a great house, allowed to bring the bathwater to a bedroom, as compared with the owner and the house itself.
Take for example the Proposed Confession of the World Reformed Fellowship. How well composed, how crisp and correct it is at times, moderating here and there, not proceeding too far elsewhere, and with what an interesting coverage of topics it proceeds. However, like the Westminster Confession, which is staggeringly deficient in the matter of dealing with the love of God towards those who will in fact be lost, a fault scarcely remedied in the current Proposed Confession, it has its problems that need resolution.
Misconceptions on predestination frequently make some too emphatic against it, as if it were not a thing glorious but intrinsically controversial - as it is only when taken out of biblical context, and clothed in the garments of philosophy without relevance to the Bible; and so they make some too flimsy presentation in their attestation, or some approach too pervasively hostile, or too limited, or too limiting. The excellent testimony of some non-Calvinists to this aspect, that might tend to remedy Calvinism's deficiencies, are indeed often marred by foolish non-sequiturs of their own, just as areas of Calvin in this connection are no better in this respect*1.
Accordingly, the treatment of issues here, is if not perfunctory, too limited.
EACH element should receive careful, clear statement in the Confession, positive and negative, lest some be offended by one-sided lapses, perhaps brought on by a lack of realisation of the glory in these things, so that such selectivity is imagined to be a good defensive posture to ignore vital elements of the Bible. To be sure, these omissions may be characterised as pre-systematic, so that it is part of the way God is and views things, the divine perspective which is being omitted, rather than parts of the system which has proceeded not only from this, but from all that He is.
Again, in the PCWRF (VII:7) there is in reference to cultural conditions, the grammatical-historical, archeological and so forth, conditions at a given time, when scriptures were being written. Now the statement should be clearer. On the basis given, it could be imagined that what had to be done was to examine all these things, and using them as conditions, endeavour to understand the text. The frequent references found in various literatures to this sort of thing becomes almost a pseudo-comprehensive pep-talk on translation.
In fact, it needs clarifying that the meaning of any passage in the Bible is 1) first to be found in the meanings of the words used 2) in their syntax 3) in their overall context in the thrust of the passage 4) in the overall context of the thrust of the book 4) in the exposure as revelation of what desired to say, He being THE TRUTH, and One who has told us the truth.
This is to be the paramount criterion, since the Holy Spirit, through whom these scriptures have come, is the very SPIRIT OF TRUTH. There is no greater truth available, then in Him who secures and speaks it, and Christ in whom it embodied as the word of God.
The place of contemporary culture for any scriptural composition is never dominant, only used, and words and phrases and ideas must be so viewed, that one is constantly on standby to surpass cultural conditions in terms of the basic meaning of the text, lest their become a denuded, eroded resultant, the word of God as seen in a culture-bath, distorting, or reducing the precision, the aptitude, of what is spoken. To be sure, there are references to places and names, plays on words and so on, and without doubt local knowledge of culture can help; but never determine. Beyond ALL conditions, there is the God who has crafted them in judgment or blessing or both over time. He USES these things, but they do not use Him AT ALL. Starkly over any cultural exhibit must always be the reality that the word of God written is TRUE ALTOGETHER.
In PCWRF VII:8, we find a word which is true enough as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Thus, we find:
Allegorical, spiritual and figurative interpretations have no authority unless they are specifically approved by the text itself.
Certainly, NOTHING is to be taught but what may be logically, textually, in small and large, established from the Bible direct, or by good and necessary inference, as the Westminster Confession rightly adjures. But this is true of anything which hams up holiness with deadness of vision, like the disciples in the bread case noted, in this presentation, or at least deadens insight to the point of the deplorable. Allegorical, spiritual and figurative interpretations, as well as those disdaining, deploring or ignoring these as if some one type of proposition had the pre-eminence, are equally without authority, unless specifically approved by the text itself (and that is both the immediate, the book text, and the entire biblical text, for God has not spoken in order to be overlooked or ignored in any place).
Once this parity is established, the immense harm often done by giving preference to one type of approach may be undone, and hence, in this parity, more light shed. Sometimes, rather than face, like those disciples, what OUGHT to be obvious, this is not only ignored but dumped in illusory argumentation, with no better 'reason' than preference for one type of thing.
God is very spiritual; and so are very often, the meanings of His dicta!
Thus in method and understanding, it is better to say that the chief criterion of the understanding of the Bible is the Spirit who wrote the passages, in terms of the Word from whom they come, and that while many cultural and social areas of relevance can indeed, even with archeological tools to help, contribute to touches and motifs, they can never constitute the ground or the shaping force of the Bible, which is the mind of God. He for His part never tones down something so that in any respect it is not the truth, nor does He so accommodate the smallness of what after all is made in His image, that having chosen to speak of some topic, He minces His words, or finds no way of expressing Himself IN TRUTH.
IMPORTED LIBERTIES IN INTERPRETATION BECAUSE OF MISPLACED FEARS,
OR IMAGINARY LIMITATIONS ON THE LORD BECAUSE OF EMULOUSNESS
Such declinations merely make for a new liberty in 'interpreting' the word of God, namely, that one base it on the erudition of the contributions from culture. It is never so: it is based on the omniscience of God, the adequacy of His language to say whatever He wants, His restraint in keeping some further information back till we see Him face to face, and the aptitude of what however He does not so keep back. Further, the things He keeps back are not contrary to what He has revealed, but merely their culmination.
This caution is necessary to avoid that sleight of mind of which reformed as well as Romanist scholars are capable of finding in slippery seduction, by which an underlying philosophy or idea, not based on the Bible, shapes what is seen, through the cultural and psychological or archeological status quo AS envisaged.
Just as God uses man, so He uses culture: never amiss, never under control of anything, always with the divine initiative which deploys what He will, how He will, in accord with the fact that it is impossible for Him to lie, to to lie in contrariety to the truth in any phase, facet, realm or for any reason whatsoever. He is not almost the truth, nor is His word; THY WORD IS TRUTH (John 17:17).
Secondly, the texts given for the viewpoint that certain things CANNOT be fully expressed in human language, by human logic and so on (I:3), while no doubt pleasing to the Kantian, who carries it much further while at it, is an assumption not in the least warranted by the texts cited from Psalm 50 and Isaiah 55. God can do WHATEVER HE PLEASES, with language or logic or any other thing; and indeed the LOGOS translation includes REASON and man is in the image of God. Such views do not follow from the citations. Thus while God's thoughts are indeed not as our thoughts (He knows IT ALL, and we do not, He has the POWER to know it right, and we do not in ourselves have this), He has CHOSEN through the Spirit who searches all things, even the DEEP things of God to show them.
Thus while, says Paul in I
Corinthians 2, eye has not seen ... the things prepared, YET God has revealed
them to us, with even the deep things covered in the expression by the power of
His Holy Spirit, who not only produces and deploys the substance but the LOGOI,
the expression for the purpose.
There is no logic by which what is not by nature at our level, CANNOT be brought to it, the less so when GOD is in view for whom nothing will be called impossible. He may deem it EXPEDIENT not to tell some things at such a time, but to indicate that even for HIM there are limits to what is possible is neither wise nor warranted. The error here is in the same arena as the other, and these two jointly leave open for vacillation and temporising and worse, the word of God by these truncations of truth. MORE may be expressed, to be sure; what HAS BEEN expressed is not to be so characterised either as to possibility or as to what is mere association, in culture, having any determinative effect, as if to lessen the accuracy, the aptitude, the adequacy for the purpose (never less than the truth from a Man who told you the truth).
There is therefore needed both a clearer and a more scriptural approach to these aspects of the Bible, and the sovereignty in it of the One who faces no conditions which mar, mangle, tangle, qualify, make of limited value, whatever He chooses to reveal. It is not only true in some limited sense, subject to some categorical conditions, but true in the absolute sense, though more may be revealed, nothing will contradict this, spoken by the God of all truth in the very Spirit of Truth.
No liberties can be taken, as if culture or language were not utterly under divine control ALWAYS to keep, in the Bible, to what is bound beyond relatives and comparatives, as if these were determinants, bound by God Himself whose originative power uses but never confuses, directs but is never directed by what He humbles Himself to take in hand.
Again, one finds the view that the New Testament tells us that the Person who spoke in the Old Testament was the Father (I:5):
In Old Testament God speaks as one person, whom the New Testament equates with the Father of Jesus Christ, although the term ‘Father’ was not normally used to speak about God in Israel (Jn. 5:18).
This is an example of the trend to over-generalise, and not adequately to heed particular matters at all times, with precision. At times, this can be serious. Here it is still significant. Thus the John 5:18 passage does not at all show that the New Testament equates the person who speaks in the Old Testament as God to be the Father. THIS part of the New Testament shows that the term 'Father' could readily be used in their language, to refer to this same God and this same person. That it would do so exhaustively is not even hinted at. It is sufficient that it shows this is one line of reasoning, one type of usage, that the term 'Father' relative to things spiritual and in particular, deity, readily evokes the concept of God, and indeed, warrants it.
God has many names: each is a signatory presentation, like 'I am' (Exodus and John 8:58). No one name automatically limits another, because it is recognisable. ALL have authority when signified, specified and so used.
In fact, in Hebrews 2:12, we find what is clearly the Son of Man, Christ, the Messiah, whichever term, THIS One being exhibited as the speaker from Psalm 22:22, and again 22:23. Moreover, He appears to be speaking in no uncertain terms in Isaiah 50, and in Psalm 40, to name but two others. Further, in Hebrews 10:5-7, we find that the One cited from the Old Testament, is He who "came into the world." Indeed, it goes on further to characterise this divine speaker of the Old Testament in Hebrews 10:9, when He says from the Old Testament record, "Behold I have come to do Your will." Incontestably, this is not the Father who speaks there.
are these textual evidences, and they drive one to intense and most
rewarding study. Every part of the Bible always is to be reverenced because God
chose to say it, IS the truth and KNOWS precisely what He is saying, and has it
said. Loss can readily intrude when the least departure from the total
presentation of the Bible on any points is omitted, as in the case of the love
of God. One omission can be like a clue missing from a crime scene, or a
traffic accident, or a statement of support from a friend. It is necessary to be
aware both in breadth and in depth of all the elements of inter-personal
communication; and God, He has put them on the surface, or for research,
as He chose, knowing the need and the result, both!
Accordingly, we find in Proverbs 25:2, these words: "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter."
Thus the very work of searching can orient the heart and stir the mind, stimulate the understanding and prepare thought and spirit both.
Thirdly, the words on the Millenium are, it must be acknowledged, such a simple confession of utter failure to take this word of God AS IT IS, rather than as philosophy suggests it must mean, being taken in hand by logical and linguistic difficulties ... When the millenium has Satan deprived of his power, in prison, at the opposite end of the scale of impact and arrogance, and when on the other hand the events within what might be called the Church Age, or better, the Age of the New Testament Church, is exhibited as containing within itself the very criterion and height of Satanic power, to put one as an exemplification, illustration or even constitutent of the other is very much like making infinity equal to zero because of the limits of the language and culture of the mathematicians.
This has nothing to do with literal or allegorical, grammatical or cultural ideas. These, if allowed sovereignty can enable endless useless and futile disputes, built on what is denied by God in the first place, and so becomes a means of interpretation which in fact is providing additional raw material, and so becomes a traditionalistic or confessional complement to the Bible, one of the things the Lord hates most (Mark 7:7ff.).
Rather the question here is whether drably misconstrued or blind-eyed understanding on this or that basis, of what is categorically conveyed in substance, is allowed to make a veritable mockery of what is clearly stated. If opposites can say the same thing, there is no more need to consider the presentation: its means of discrimination prohibit understanding.
To be sure, certain spiritual meanings may attach by ironies or in terms of certain spiritual insights (as when the disciples thought Christ's reference to bread on one occasion had meal-time matters in view, when it was a doctrinal issue of which He was speaking, choosing an element of subtlety to challenge their minds and make an impact, it seems. This too is not to the point. It is not only a question of gathering nuances or failing to do so; it is rather one of taking the various characteristics which, with whatever literal or metaphorical meaning may be attached, in their overall thrust and mutual collusion, as a whole, and to give an answer to questions implicit or explicit.
Thus Satan being bound must AT LEAST mean that the acme of power he had shown in challenging on this earth the very power of God, is now reduced to a categorically negative condition, in which the very nature of his drastic and destructive dynamic is negated. You can make prison mean what you will, and the consignment to being bound within it, into some other attribute, but to do this is not to accomplish anything but a peremptory initiative in illicit feats of allegorical prodigies. Indeed, to have him in a bottomless pit during the Church Age seems a comedy of presumption. Where to stand ? from what to gain a foothold! In fact, the portent is judgment, stripped power, changed conditions, utter overthrow of active rebellion as far as the most active devil was concerned. THIS is the prelude to the biblical millenium; and it is because of this, in no small measure, that it IS the millenium, and not the Church Age of perfervid atrocities, bumptious and arrogant impositions and utter wickedness of this proud spirit.
That is to come, and has by no means come. To the contrary, as Christ went, He made it clear that the PRINCE, the leader of this world was coming, in whom He had no part. That prince assuredly had no part for that coming Age in any bottomless pit. That, it was a judgment then to come, and yet to come as in Revelation 19.
If then the power of darkness was coming, by which many would be killed by others, thinking in their deception that they were doing God a service (John 16:2), it was not a time of brilliant light for this world, which though it moves toward judgment as in Matthew 24:12, is not there yet.
If then the prince of this world was, at Christ's departure, the one coming, it was not so that we need not be aware of his wiles, but rather so that in the days of his assault on heaven, on the power of Christ on earth (he was not very bound in the matters of Matthew 4, or Acts 13), on the kingdoms of this world, we would be aware of the ravagement of peace and its causes in the world about us. Moreover, though he would be vaunting himself (as in II Thessalonians 2), yet his time of daunting would be coming, yes with the antichrist (I John 2:18). Then, resurrection past, then would be his utter humiliation, because prison for an evil power demotes the dynamic to the very opposite of liberty.
It is one thing to bring up erudite arguments about what is the precise nature of the millenium, and for various scripturally warranted points to be considered, refined where slightly astray and so on; but it is quite another to make the heart of conflict with the devil into the heart of imprisonment of the same party. The consequences of such misconceptions are serious indeed; and while ideas about these things, however unwarranted, may help some to be aggressive in Christian extension work. truth is never wisely sacrificed, whether at Calvary or elsewhere. Knowledge of the actualities of the contrary on the other hand, the biblical depiction, help to make Christians the more ready for meeting the battles of their own day, and less disappointed when payments, in the spirit of that of the Cross, though of course with no redemptive significance in their case, are made in blood or allied means.
Nothing can ever excuse or give grounds for ignoring the plain sense of a text, of a contrast in the Bible, of categorical claims and characterisations.
Moreover, a Confession, if it to have any normative and scriptural place, is not to sum up positions and their size statistically, as in some measure, the Proposed Confession does in this field. That savours of traditionalism and its dynamics. What is needed is a clear statement, encouraged productive development, but assisting sound bases to be in the light. For example, if it had said:
On the topic of the understanding of the millenium, there has been much variability, but some things stand clear. Firstly, there is no question about its presence, as it is directly stated in Revelation. Correlative scriptures are numerous. This phase of history is to show that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14 cf. Isaiah 11:9), that on the earth His rule will be comprehensive and glorious, and that His wisdom will be vindicated as evil is thrust down where it belongs, in contrast to what has been characteristic of whole epochs,
there might have been a stimulating commencement.
FELICITY WHERE IT IS BOUND,
YET DOES NOT REMOVE NEGATIVE IMPACT WHERE IT IS FOUND,
AND EVEN THE BEST
DOES NOT EXCUSE THE WORST:
NOR SHOULD WHAT HAS WISDOM,
BE IGNORED WHEN IT IS ALREADY PRESENT
On the other hand, there are some statements in the Proposed Confession which are very apt indeed, and the whole has very much to commend it (cf. III:1, and 4, and in VII:5). These is often a very pleasant sense of sober survey, though this can lead to statistical rather than spiritual declaration (VIII:5). Despite these good things, however, while it keeps to the types of perils here noted, one could never adopt it. Purging is needed, as so often in any proposed document where the unction of the Holy Spirit is not giving as in the Bible itself, with infallible truth as a specific warrant. Lesser gifts than those of the apostles may indeed have to consult with each other, and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. ONLY the Bible can rule, and no 'understanding' or 'insight' can undergird or sanction what is to be understood. Ministries are for helps, as is statedly the Confession, but never for their own 'teaching of the Church.'
ONLY the Bible has this place, with its immeasurable authority, the Lord Himself its warrant and to Him is all power given in heaven and on earth; indeed by His Spirit it is He who maintains them (I John 2:27). Men may mutually minister, but only God can act, and acting in terms of His own word, He keeps a sovereignty over the Church. Thus, He told the disciples that AS He had come by the sending of His Father, SO they were sent. In both cases, the commands are ultimate (John 12:48-50); and in His there is the uttermost authority with it, since it was the Spirit of Christ who moved to bring His word as Peter indicates (II Peter 1:19ff.). An obedient Church has authority i proportion; and a rebellious one, though ever so large, can be corrected by one.
The one may be an already existent document.
That is why the Declaratory Statement of the PC of Australia is so excellent, stressing basics, allowing liberties, adding considerations absent in the Confession, and guarding against unwarranted licence, as it does specifically in the area of the love of God and predestination, being corrective of certain misconceptions which, understandable as they are, yet readily contradict whole streams of biblical statements. Thus some, in defence of divine sovereignty, which is absolute and entire, make philosophical defences about it, as if to assist it, which needs no such assistance, being in fact a glorious thing (cf. The Glow of Predestinative Power Ch. 8).
Even ex officio determinatives, not precisely proven from the Bible, or failing to measure up to all of it, explicitly or implicitly lodged in a Confession, are going too far. It is ONLY a help, and must ALWAYS be provisional, so that the thrust is always to safeguard the Bible, never to safeguard the Confession. It is an excellent opera glass; but not the final tissue of truth, or an operative container. If it is transgressed, there is warrant for careful checking, but not for assumption that the one so acting is 'wrong' at the outset. He rather raises questions for which he should then give assessable answer. In this, the ONLY certainty is what is written. What is necessarily implied is always subject to logical scrutiny, not merely in theory, but in practice. Thus comes a healthy church, not weighed down with the greatness of its way.
Thus from the Trinity comes the Word who is even at death in the format of man, faithful to life, undeformable in spirit, right, true and this to the uttermost, just as is the word in its written expression (Matthew 5:17-20 cf. The Whole Counsel of God with its prelude). There proceeds also the Spirit, which moves from all these things to man with searching understanding and moulding force so that not only can the Bible be CALLED truth, but treated with the respect that absolute truth, that is the word of God, demands. Again the Father is He whose Word it is and from Him, through Christ the Word, comes the Spirit who is so sent, so that in this threefold work is there the seven times refined reality of the word of God (Psalm 12:6).
INTERPERSONAL AND INTELLIGENT COMMUNICATION
WHICH REQUIRES SPIRITUAL ALERTNESS
It is not only a matter of grammar, and archeology and culture and history, those all these can be useful filters, and the language aspect is certainly crucial, for it is WHAT God is saying. But in interpreting it, we must take account of WHO God IS! He is a Spirit. There is in a given piece of writing, the linguistic side itself, the mechanics, the choice of words, style, syntax, but in the semantics of the whole there is not some exclusion of the spirit and the atmosphere and the impetus, impact and personal characteristics and ways of the writer, but rather a synthesis of WHAT he is saying, WHO He is, His ways with words and thoughts and expressions, his own PERSONAL being. Thus it is perfectly possible to be at the point of UNDERSTANDING what is intended, as if without tears (Mark 7:16).
That is, there is a stultification of mind and perception which can come from preoccupation with the secular, the mundane, the ordinary, as if you did not KNOW the spiritual and spirited side of the One with whom you have to deal.
Worse: it is possible to be "slow of heart", that is, sluggish in perception, pre-occupation with the simplistic, the cultural norms and not spiritually alert to the very different tones, overtones and intimations which inter-personal communication often includes, as between friends who, being used to one another, are quick to 'catch on' to the intent and purpose, each of the other. When the Friend is God, then there are all the indications of ALL of the Bible of the sort of thing He often does, the sort of intimation He may make of its coming and the sort of omission He may deliberately make in order to test, the more deeply to impact or the more intimately relate. (Cf. Song of Solomon, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 11 and Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed ... Ch. 7).
Thus in Luke 24:25, the Lord speaks to His non-receptive disciples in this mode: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken." Now no one would be likely to call them all a pack of hypocrites, for the rebuke though solemn is more in the line of disappointment and restoration than condemnation.
Nevertheless, a sharp rebuke it is. They have in certain MAJOR MATTERS missed the WHOLE POINT! Those matters were so deep that they concerned the sufferings and following glory of the two-phase input from God in the matter of salvation and rule. They tended to compose them together, or not see them in their starkness of singularity, it seems; but whatever the precise components back of their failure, a failure of no ordinary kind was here, concerning the whole import of a major section of the word of God.
Nor was it as if to say, Well, it is hard to communicate these things, human logic has its bounds, cultural background may not be intuited or known, and you did your very level best. On the contrary, the omission, the failure was fundamental. One teacher once told a class that certain errors, if committed, could be so fundamental in an exam, that any such as this could simply fail a student forthwith!
So far from EXTENUATION, this word of Christ to His disciples was the opposite. It REMOVED excuse from their failure; it made it such that to them He attributed foolishness, and to their very hearts He spoke, "slow of heart". They lacked class, competence and spiritual acuteness! Oh well, you may say, if the soon-to-be apostles were, in this, slow on the uptake, need I worry!
That is to miss the point. God is equitable. WHOEVER is not receptive at ALL levels of what is being taught, who does NOT USE LOGIC adequately and fearlessly, who does NOT go beyond whatever traditionalistic ideas may be rampant in a given culture (such as our own, or in sub-cultures in the ecclesiastical world), and whoever tries to limit the Holy One of Israel, or acts so as to do this, by slavishly keeping to certain pre-ordained aspects of interpretation may like the disciples, be wholly lacking in a given area. The APT will LEARN as the apostles were willing to do, and this makes the next difference.
It is one thing to be cautious of allegory; it is another to be slow on the uptake.
Again, it is one thing to be slavish to culture, which being secular has its own blindnesses; or even to yield to those spin-offs, those sedative and seductive outcomes of secular thought which those educated in its palaces can so readily imbibe. Then, with a mixture of dulness of heart (for the hearts that teach are normally dead in these palaces and thematic places, the way among the great being as Paul announces in I Corinthians 1, not often found in the kingdom), and perhaps ambition or fear, they may be trained, induced, confused into polluting purity with feeble heart. The contrary is to take things on all fronts with impartiality and totality, as they come and to be moved without prejudice in precise constraint from the evidence of all kinds.
This is one thing.
The other relates, but negatively, to being spiritually awake in inter-personal communion with God as Daniel was (and you do not have to be a scripture writer to be awake), and to learn from illumination that shows you (for the Lord DOES teach - John 16), what ought to have been plain in the first place.
What is the nature of this second negative, failure, loss ? Deadness, slowness, slovenliness indeed, slackness, almost an obsessive-compulsive approach to certain texts, passages, principles and understandings, truncated truth, is all too common a danger. If the soon-to-be apostles could be guilty of it in major matters, who are we to laugh at the very idea of our own failures in similar situations.
Now of course, it may be said that we have the Holy Spirit who is acting with the liberty of the New, priest-free (or if you will, all-inclusive priesthood) situation, where that distinction is not there. Hence we all have this marvellous aptitude of spirit and perception of mind. On the contrary, a mere passing acquaintance with Revelation's first few chapters shows that various diseases can so intimidate or pollute a visible church, that to avoid them involves a certain singularity. Individuals indeed, as was the case even between apostles, when Paul had to rebuke Peter (Galatians 2:11-16), can be defeated at a point and even misled in a chain of events in the wrong direction.
The flesh ever has a love to thwart the spirit, whether with scholars or others. Thus fear or misplaced discretion or even a peace-seeking idea which subordinates truth to convenience: these things can operate at any level of supposed eminence in the Church.
Again, consider the expostulation of Jesus concerning the lack of comprehension AT THE RELEVANT LEVEL OF DISCOURSE, of what HE, God on earth as man, was saying, as found in Matthew 16:11.
"And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
"Then Jesus said to them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
"And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. When Jesus perceived this, He said to them,
'O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves,
because you have brought no bread?
"Do ye not yet understand, nor remember the five loaves of the five thousand,
and how many baskets you took up?
Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand,
and how many baskets you took up?
'How is it that ye do not understand that I spoke it it to you, not concerning bread,
that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?'
"Then they understood how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."
Consider the bounds of this discourse. Firstly, they had to consider the SORT of subject for which Christ would give serious exhortation. Next, there was the consideration of the power and providence of His provisions, when for any reason spiritual things were in mind, not earthly, as in the feeding of the 5000. Thirdly, there was and is in Christ (who does not change, being spiritually definitive of God as in Hebrews 1, in whatever form the expression may occur) a certain trend to concentrate on what is most important, to teach through practical realities the spiritual core of things. Is He going to ask them to 'beware' of some type of bread making apparatus, idea, tradition or approach, to the point of which leaven the Pharisees used for their bread, and is this the likely scene of His thoughts for them ?
Is one to be WARY of the products allegorising from the lips of Him who rebuked the needless preoccupations of these same Pharisees with such scorn, and if not venom, since truth is never poisonous, then blazing indignation, as in Matthew 23 ? or is imagery to be suspected in face of the obvious ?
Of course not! They had missed the point and they were not attuned as they should be. Now if He had not given the entire attack as in Matthew 23 at that stage, yet there were not lacking intimations of His approach to such things (Matthew 16:10ff., Luke 11:16ff.). Such things tended to be thematic.
In this case, the fault was described in terms of their being 'of little faith'. This was a faith deficiency occurring through their unwise preoccupation with cultural norms, historical minutiae, which were merely the form and clothing of His intent, of His meaning.
It is VERY possible to be guilty of this, in the opposite of allegorical flightiness*2, that is, a converse pre-occupation with the mundane, as if spirits were made of concrete, imagination were in a doldrums and spiritual intelligence had been disowned. Thus to concentrate on the avoidance of such reasonings as those above, or to make it appear that reasoning is not present in such modes of interpretation as a generalisation, is quite false. BOTH ERRORS are perhaps equally likely to occur, and certainly quite likely to do this: the flighty and the slow of heart, can rush in, on the one side, and the faith-defective can rush off, on the other. The mule and the rabbit have both a good representation in spiritual affairs, in these areas. SLOW can be not only from disposition or temperament, moreover, but THROUGH lack of faith. That is what the Bible teaches.
Thus failure to perceive can be characterised by Christ in terms BOTH of slowness of heart and little faith (as in Matthew 16, and Luke 24). Indeed, in the former case, the term 'foolish' even appears. The teacher may correctly see these faults, and indeed The Teacher would clearly have preferred both more speed of perception and less slowness of heart, on the one hand, and more faith that SEES THE POINT on the other. It is not that the evidence is lacking, but the spirit is tired, or dull, or focussed on fighting some viewpoint, or keeping to some tradition, or even intent on itself, and as in social life, not even realising that something not in mind, has actually happened, while also giving abundant evidence of itself, to which the straying spirit is dead.
It is best, it is here urged, to take the Bible in ALL its intimations and aspects, with a TOTAL preference given to spiritual realities as is the norm or occasion in the Bible, and hints, clues, these should be followed, just as negatives should be considered, as in the above case, as the meaning in some cases is extracted. To be sure, such things can come through spiritual perception, by the direct and personal power of the Lord (Ephesians 1:17-19); but this is not to say that the word of God is a site for mere subjectivity and unarguability, as if it were a mere base for man.
It IS to say that examples as above showing that what OUGHT to come in a straightforward manner, may well be squashed, squelched, as if it were mud in the socks, cleansed away, because it is too SPIRITUAL. Expression is a total phenomenon, not merely through this or that channel; and it could not be agreed more, that WHATEVER channel it uses, this must be more than a possibility: it must clearly be indicated, in accord with Proverbs 8:8.
Being selective, however, about what may be indicated and how, becomes a matter of sovereignty, not of God but of man. It is to be deplored.
Further great-sounding NAMES may be mentioned, if a particular understanding is shown from the Bible, concerning any passage, monuments to tradition, precisely as with the Pharisees, as if this is relevant. To be sure, a great theologian may give excellent emphases and awaken many to much; but as so often seen in this site, he may also make enormous mistakes. I Corinthians 3 shows the need to avoid such avid hero-worship (cf. Predestination and Freewill Section 2), for there is only ONE hero with that status (Matthew 23:8-10), Jesus Christ.
Thus, to be a Calvinist or a Lutheran or a Wesleyan is IMPOSSIBLE biblically. Even if the name is used as a useful tag, it is still forbidden. You COULD say, I agree with some of the major points of Calvin and so forth, but NOT with the sepulchral intimation of authority which this may breed. You COULD say that Calvin, Luther and so on did a profound work for the Church! This is merely to acknowledge service and not to make the danger of cultural idols, prescriptive or even conscriptive cults out of them, as in the case of the bronze serpent, which used indeed by God, then became a means of constriction, misconstruction through misuse, even a matter of taking the eyes off the Lord, whose every way is HIS OWN.
This is NOT the way of the Bible to handle such things.
How wonderful it is, what a light and perfection in the ways of God for man, that there is one name which is so far above every other than no other name among mankind or angels, is even comparable! Its authority is transfixing, a rebuke to being meddlesome or slack, and an encouragement to zeal with knowledge, gained by open-minded receptivity to all that God says in His word, and thankfulness for all the spiritual understanding He gives by His Spirit. It is as if blood were to come not in miserly fashion, but in proper force and fulness to all the tissues of the body.
The Trinity, how beautiful is the work, not dependent on one Person only (though with God that is surely sufficient), but in dealing prudently with mankind it is lovely: for the Father sends the Son, who is attested long before, departure date included*3, whose work is cardinally and personally invested before the very face of men, whose Spirit is then send from the Father by the triumphant Son, so that in all, the testimony is transparent, but ineffable, confirmed in consequence, affirmed in all might. It is triune.
*1 See, for example, on the matter of Calvinism, often misunderstood indeed, and that in both directions, the simplistically adulatory and the blindly condemnatory. His work is no criterion, nor is it permitted to become so (I Corinthians 3). It contains treasures and strange, needless bogs, both. Hero worship should limit itself to Jesus Christ. HE IS!
Predestination and Freewill Part 2 ,
To Know God ... Ch. 1, *2,
Repent or Perish Ch. 1, *1 ,
The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, esp. pp. 124ff.,
Cascade of Truth, Torrent of Mercy Ch. 9,
The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 1,
Aspects of the Glory of the God of All Grace Ch. 6;
The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 3 (and regeneration, the love of God, Calvinism, Wesley and the nether options, with special attention to John 3), with with Great Execrations ... Greater Grace Chs. 7, and 9, and The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4;
Celestial Harmony for the Terrestial Host Ch. 2 (and Calvin's word on Romans!),
Outrageous Outages ... Ch. 9;
Three Anzas, One Answer Ch. 6;
Christ's Ineffable Peace ... Ch. 2 (extensive, covers decretum horribile);
Christ Ineffable ... I EPILOGUE*
Light of Dawn Ch. 1,
Trust God, Mate! Forget about 'Fate'... Ch. 6,
Serenity, Not Serendipity ... Chs. 5, 14
Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2 ,
The Face of God ... Ch. 9 End-note 1,
Marvels of Predestination ... Ch. 6, Supplement 2,
Anguish, Ecstasy and the Mastery of the Messiah Chs. 8, 9;
Glory, Vainglory and Goodness Ch. 7.
In one of those confabulations which it is hard to believe, but of which the human mind seems all too capable, in its various displacements of will and insight, many wholly in agreement with the proposed approach to interpretation found in this Proposed Confession, appear willing to make a wholesale allegorising of such a central emblem of the work of God with so testable a history so tellingly placed with such a divine emphasis on the verifiability of God's action on this land and place and nation as found in Ezekiel 36-37, as Israel itself.
It is not that 'Israel' cannot be used to signify the faithful, just as Zion may be used in figure, but the correct approach is one of prudence, precision and care (cf. SMR Appendix A). It is not for us to have 'theologies' which in inept generalisations sweep all the flowers under the carpet and then walk on it, and admire its colours.
It is for us to examine with precise and investigative zeal, as a surgeon a skin cancer, an astronomer his plates, as a lover the face of his beloved, and to find each variant feature, what elements, aspects and times, functions or dispositions may be there. The last thing is to generalise without due attention to individual differences.
In fact, one could call it differential divulgement, or textual individuation, or any other name so long as one knew what one is talking about. EACH text in the Old Testament dealing with the future of Israel has to be considered in the light of the context, with NO assumptions about allegorising or other, so that the FULL impact of each is released - as with light from a globe, cast into the darkness of a room with the curtains drawn - and full justice is done. If then the Israel term is enshrined in historical considerations, directly or indirectly, which require the perspective of a nation which came from outside God and then came in and then went out, then there is only one such in the whole of this wide world, which relates to the name 'Israel'. Forcing a conception which may on occasion be used, like 'Zion' for something somewhat broader, is to put out the fire of zeal with the water of desire.
On the other hand, allowing what is absolutely blocked by explicit principles (cf. Hebrews 8, Isaiah 65:13-15, 30:30:8ff.) onto a coming Israel is no better. On this, see The Open Door, the Closed Mind and the Call of Christ, Ch. 8, where the twin errors of replacement and defacement theologies are exposed, and this with no small comfort to all who seek an overview that omits nothing the Bible requires, and hence satisfies the heart, which God Himself made.
What is often found in amillenialism or its virtual substitutes through conceptual distortion, as in what is deemed a relevant norm in the Proposed Confession, is as far off as what is often found in dispensationalism. With unerring passion, each party zooms past the post without apparent consideration to what post it is. It is post-haste (cf. BAY OF RETRACTABLE ISLANDS, MISSION FOR THE MAINLAND, From Evanescent Extremes Back to the Book of the Lord 'Bay RI').
As with Calvinism and its correctives (cf. BAYRI 1), it is sad that so much good on both sides is kept apart for many by what appears a theological partisanship if not pugnacity in the millenial arena (BAYRI 7). In the BAY RI work, this proclivity is shown in MANY realms, with ways of achieving a moderation where the Bible itself has the mastery, and not divergent dynamics which often seem to have an engine of their own.
For more on the BAYRI 1 issues, see also *1 above.
For more on the BAYRI 7 area, see also
The Wit and Wisdom of the Word of God ... Ch. 2,
The Holocaust of Morality ... Ch. 4,
Sparkling Life ... Ch. 10,
News 124 (overview of relevant -isms);
Little Things Chs. 9, 10,
Outrageous Outages ... Ch. 11 (preliminary),
The Biblical Workman Ch. 1, p. 20 (moderation has many marvels),
SMR Appendix A, pp. 502ff., 750Bff., 727ff., 732Bff.,
LIGHT 6 (at Problems of Changing),
News 45, Part 2 (limits of fidelity on licence to change);
A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 17, 18 (disentangling furs),
SMR Chs. 8- 9 expository reference, );
Little Things Ch. 1;
Galloping Events Ch. 8 esp. *1
See Christ the Citadel ... Ch. 2, for example.