Respondeo

Reflections on interpretation and education

Convocation Poem

I was asked to publish the poem that I read at the Canadian Reformed Seminary’s  convocation on September 8.  I’ve posted it below.

“Congratulations!

Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

Your off and away!

 

You have brains in your head

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

Any direction proffs choose.

 

You’ve selected a way

To the senior’s room.

For 3 years you’ll stay

Till your brain starts to zoom.

 

And when things start to happen,

Don’t worry, don’t stew.

Just go right along.

You’ll start happening too.

 

Dr. Smith.

 

What’s this? It’s alephs and dalets,

Ugaritic towns and Aramaic sounds.

Who’s this? It’s Hebrew’s great valet,

Smith is in town, serving up rounds

 

Of yiqtols and tiqtols with hithpalels to spare.

 

Oh what wonderful acumen!

The wryest of jokesters!

Exegesis like bitumen.

Wit dry like a toaster.

 

Your heart is a patter, your feet are a pitter.

You’ve entered the ancient world of natty nazirites and nasty Nephilim.

John Smith is your leader, navigating letters

To archeology, geography: we can master these elephants.

 

Segue

 

But your adventures in Israel have not ended.

A new professor has this way wended.

His favourite word is delight (Doesn’t that rhyme with N.T Wright?).

Time to pull up your socks and let new worlds take flight.

 

Dr. Visscher

 

Verily, Visscher,  the president of our tour bus.

With vigour he will demonstrate that Wright is wrong not right,

That textus receptus should be textus rejectus.

He waxes and wanes, filled right to the brim

 

With Romans and with Paul; with Josephus and Cephas; he has it all.

 

Speaking with vigour

He joins class dispute

Showing his valour,

Wisdom of repute.

 

Get off your Facebook, your twitter, your Pinterest

Off to the realms of Sabbath rest in Hebrews and righteousness in Paul.

Ponder Roman coins, Pharisees peak your interest,

Seek new understanding of Jesus’ words, wisdom, and call.

 

Segue

 

But you want to reflect on these old truths a little longer.

Welcome to Domus Dogmaticus, each room is a world of its own.

Standing on sola sciptura our house becomes stronger.

The rooms strengthened by age-old wisdom, come dwell in these fortified bones.

 

Dr. Van Vliet

 

Brother Jason is our guide, mapping dogma far and wide

He is the daring doctor, diagnosing Schleiermacher’s bad liver

And Barth’s fractured breastbone; a constructor on the side

He shores up failing arches with adverbial attributes. If ever

 

You wonder about the extra Calvinisticum or the principium unicum, then ask this magistrum.

 

Cobwebs swept away.

Mysteries de-mystified.

Come for a day.

Your brain will be amplified.

 

They’ll say you are enlightened, now truly woke.

Now that you’ve wandered these halls of ancient oak.

Berkhof, Bavinck, Velema, your new guides soak

You in knowledge, which new mysteries provokes.

 

Segue

 

Your head is swirling with all the knowledge you’ve learned.

Your heart is swelling because of the status you’ve earned.

You’re a bit premature; another proff has turned

To take his way down; No, class is not yet adjourned.

 

Dr. Van Raalte

 

Its time to go deep into story of the church.

It’s ethics, It’s polity, flagrant heretics and deep schisms

Van Raalte discourses on these from his perch

Dividing and distinguishing all the historical isms.

 

Halacious historians who hystericize about scholasticism are his specialty for

 

Terrible Ted will not brook

These illogical conclusions

From ill-educated books

So deeply steeped in delusions.

 

You’ve wandered into these halls; now sit in thrall

As canonical law and men of Geneva wildly dance

In the history of this terrestrial ball.

Now you’re part of that history; its time to find your dance stance.

 

Segue

 

But before you’ve joined the music of the spheres

And your course in the journey of life is plotted,

Sit down once again; another proff steers

Into this room. Now praxis will be unknotted.

 

Dr. de Visser.

 

From a country far off and truly exotic

De Visser comes bringing the elixir of wisdom

To counsel and preaching.  His teaching hypnotic

Gives insight for mission and bright vision for kingdom.

 

Homiletics, Poimenics, Catechetics, from rhetorical strategies to careful aesthetics,

 

This doctor quietly discerns

Each question that burns

In the reason of each student

For answers prudent.

 

Concerns about pastoral care and the high affairs

Of the church. His teaching has the ready anecdote

To illustrate the foolish choice and the hidden flair

Of discernment; learning to reach the right antidote.

 

Finale

 

Now you’ve sat in this high hall of learning for three years.

You’ve tasted the white honey mead of knowledge

And learned the steps of wisdom before your call appears.

It’s time to leave that room, yes leave your college.

 

Finis

God has Hidden the Glory of His Creation Work from the Wise

Luke records these words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 10:21, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to infants.  Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure.”

Christ applies this to the message of the gospel that the seventy have brought to Israel.  The wise rejected the gospel.  The simple believed it.  But even among those simple persons who hear the gospel and believe, Christ’s words ring true.  The simple, those who approach with a child-like faith have an easier time understanding the basic truths of scripture than the wise.

There are thousands of simple Christians who over the last two thousand years have opened their Bibles to Genesis 1 and have gloried over the work that God did there in that passage. Unless their leaders had taught them differently they had no reason to question the glory that is revealed in that passage.  Right there, in the very first words of scripture, God proclaimed the mighty works that he had done. The simplest fool had access to the knowledge of these great works. We rejoice and praise God that he has given this faith to these infants.

But God hides this truth from the wise.  Even the wisest Christians such as Augustine had a hard time simply accepting the propositions that Genesis 1 proclaims.  Today, wise men such as N.T. Wright, Robert Godfrey, and Kevin Vanhoozer have the same difficulty.  This is amazing since it is hidden in plain sight, in a very simple record.  The words God gives are easily accessible.   They are hard to understand relative to our ability to qualify and quantify what God is actually doing. It’s hard to understand what God is doing scientifically.  They are not hard to understand in the sense that Genesis 1 is full of clear propositions that refer to specific works of God.

This is truly amazing. God gives simple Christians a better understanding of Genesis 1 than the wisest Christians of our age.

The 5th Act: Part 2

I have argued for improvisation in the age of the church. This is an improvisation that is according to the rules. The natural follow-up is further explanation of what those rules are.

Of course the simple answer to that question is that the rules are the commandments of Jesus.  Jesus says, “if you love me you will obey my commandments.”  As Christians, we believe that the entire Bible is the word of Jesus.  Therefore any command we find there is a command of Jesus.  These words of Jesus should cause us to search the scriptures for instruction and wisdom on how to live before God.

For example, Jesus commands us to pray, and he gives us an example how to pray the Lord’s Prayer.  We have to pray for mercy, for God’s providence, for one another.  We have to pray on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice.  However we have the ability to make choices what to pray for and how much to pray (Paul does command us to pray unceasingly, but this still does not tell us how many times we actually need to get on our knees per day. Rather, this command looks for a constantly prayerful attitude; an attitude that is ready to pray at any moment).  This is part of the Spirit’s guidance in our lives.  He leads us to pray for particular people and for particular situations.   This is not controversial.

The real controversy is when theologians begin to undermine what at one time seemed to be clear instruction from God.  I would argue that the problem here is not their theory or understanding of improvisation.  They may be using that truth to support their choices, but in truth bad hermeneutics are the basis for their particular improvisations.  Their bad hermeneutic is based on a desire to push against the rules that God has given for improvisation.

This bad hermeneutic doesn’t begin by undermining the authority of scripture as such.  It begins by undermining the clarity of scripture.  Think of the snake in Genesis saying 3, “Did God really say?”  Ultimately, it goes on to undermine the authority of scripture.

Let’s think for a moment of two examples: one of positive improvisation, one of negative improvisation.  Changing attitudes on the issue of slavery is one of positive improvisation.  As people began to understand who man is in light of who God is and ultimately how he has revealed himself in Christ, they began to realize that the institution of  slavery was highly flawed.

For example, in the book of Galatians Paul tells us that the Old Testament institutions were slave-like, while Christ brings a new freedom to both Jew and Gentile through the Spirit.  Later, in the book of Philemon, Paul tells Philemon that in Christ his slave is his brother.  This type of teaching is not merely spiritual, but applies to social life as well.  Eventually, as a society, we were ready to get rid of the institution of slavery.  It may have been permitted before, even permitted in the scriptures, but people began to fully realize how flawed it was.  Slavery could not be compatible with the kingdom of God.

An example of negative improvisation is the extension of the office of pastor to women as well as men. There is a surprising clarity on this in 1st Timothy and 1st Corinthians.  Yet, these passages troubled men, who thought they understood what had happened to mankind in Christ.  Their explanation of these passages began to break down the former clarity of these passages.  By making them unclear they were able to make room for their understanding of women in office.   Society was learning to bring full functional equality between men and women.  The problem; they undermine God’s teaching on women.  By muddying God’s teaching they make God’s teaching less authoritative and the interpreter more authoritative.

The question comes down to, how do you improvise.  N. T. Wright, however well he explains improvisation, is an example of bad improvisation.  Good theologians accomplish good improvisation through a desire to submit themselves to Christ.

Christ warns those who wish to improvise, by calling them to pay attention to his commandments.  In Matthew 5:19-20, Christ says, ” Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever practices and teaches thes commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Now Christ’s work will fulfill these commandments, but that should make us no less eager to apply these commandments to ourselves through the cross of Christ. We do this by growing in our understanding of what Christ’s atonement accomplished.

 

The 5th Act.

The call to improvisation is among N.T. Wright’s many controversial beliefs.  In the Old Testament, God laid out all the rules for his people. In general, men and women were closer culturally and historically to the instructions that God had given.  Now that the Scripture is finished God calls on the church to improvise.  It’s not that there is no improvisation in the Old Testament, but those who come after Christ have a unique relationship with the Spirit in bringing the reconciliation of all things through Christ, You can see him defend these beliefs here, here, and here. My introduction is a very simple summary of his belief.

False improvisation

Unfortunately, Wright’s own understanding of improvisation seems to lead him to embrace new understandings of Genesis and the role of the church.   We can see how the logic goes.  New understandings have come to light in science, in society, and in the scholarship of scripture and the church needs to improvise in response to that.   Wright deserves respect because he attempts the Sisyphean task of defending it all exegetically. He gives a rather radical re-interpretation of the New Testament on the role of women and joining with many others in re-interpreting Genesis 1.  (His work on re-interpreting the role of women has an unbelievable degree of subtlety.  It’s hard to get away from the idea that he is twisting himself in circles in order to demonstrate his own enlightenment.)

(It may be that the problem here is not so much Wright’s understanding of improvisation but his hermeneutic of scripture. In Wright’s description of improvisation, he is on very solid ground.  This quickly becomes quicksand when combined with liberal hermeneutics.)

Improvisation according to the rules.

Even if Wright’s improvising leads him to undermine the clarity of scripture on certain topics, I believe that his understanding of improvisation is laudable.  The problem is that he is not following his own rules.  He is not listening when Scripture is clear on the rules.

To demonstrate Wright’s point, I’d like to point out the following passages.  All of these passages show how the coming of the Holy Spirit should give us confidence in using our God-given wisdom to apply scripture.  God gives his church discernment.

In 1 John 2: 20, John says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.”  God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us in our decisions.  He is the one who gives us the ability to apply the scripture to our lives; to improvise from the scripture that he has given us.

The new status that we have in Christ confirms our call to improvise. Having proclaimed the salvation Christ gave, Paul also tells us what happened after we are brought into his kingdom in Ephesians 2:6. “He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus.”  In Christ, we are ruling in heaven.  Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 6: 2: “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world.” In 1 Corinthians Paul is calling the Corinthians to grow in the wisdom of Christ.  The need to seek discernment in judging evildoers in their congregation.  They need to learn how to make decisions for the church of Christ in Corinth.  Paul wants them to grow in maturity.  They will judge the world.  They need to practice that judgment now.

There is an “already, but not yet” here.  In Christ, we already reign, but we do not experience of the fullness of this reign.  God calls us to suffer first.  1 Timothy 2:12, “If we endure, we will reign with him.”

Finally, we have James 3: 13-18.  There James speaks of wisdom from below and wisdom from above.  We have the Wisdom from above.  It is accessible to us.  With it we can discern what is “pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy.”

We have an assumption in the New Testament of a new degree of wisdom given to the saints. This gift is through the Holy Spirit, in order to apply the scripture that God has given to contemporary problems. Naturally, this should be carefully done. Further, it should be done with a desire for obedience to every breath of God. Contradicting historic teachings on Creation and gender roles does not give evidence of that type of desire.

Theses on Natural Law and its Recovery

In this post, I want to give some initial thoughts on natural law itself and the recent recovery of natural law.

  1. Reading many contemporary proponents of natural law, I am impressed by their ability to interact with 16th and 17th century sources.  They are particularly impressive in their understanding of the protestant scholastics and their forebears. They give a robust defense of natural law as something biblical. Further, they prove that natural has the stamp of the best of Christian tradition.  Unfortunately, I don’t see a willingness to critically interact with classical natural law theory of the 16th and 17th century.  It may be that the proponents of the 16th and 17th century got natural law right.  Even if they did, there should be room to talk about natural law with greater specificity than those in the past.  Natural law can be a highly ambiguous term.
  2.  (a) One of the most egregious examples of an inability to interact with natural law critically is the lack of interaction with the Van Tillian critique of natural law.  I realize that the Van Tillian critique is guilty of a dependence on bad historiagraphy.  Van Til relied on a poor reading of Thomas Aquinas, as well, as a poor historical understanding of the development of natural law.  Even so they were dealing with a contemporary form of natural law that had twisted what the Protestant scholastics taught.  Contemporaries of Van Til would use their theories of natural law to undermine the faith.   (b) This lack of interaction is combined with a lack of understanding: Van Til was dealing with men who were using natural law to defend things like old earth creationism and liberalism in the churches in general.  I say this, not to exonerate Van Til and Rushdoony, but to give context to what he was fighting.
  3. This thesis is more of a pet peeve of mine.  If natural law is a reality then unbelievers also have access to God’s truth in their interactions with God’s world.  This means Christians can learn from unbelievers, who had many things wrong about God.  My thesis is this: contemporary unbelievers should be just as helpful in finding truth, perhaps even more so, as past unbelievers.
  4. Now we come to the critique of classical natural law theory.  I want to argue that natural law is an aspect of God’s relationship to his creation, not a particular something in itself.  In my reading so far I have not seen a clear recognition of this in the scholastics.  If this is not clearly laid out natural law can slowly be separated from God and gain an authority of its own.  It can begin to compete with the Scriptures as a source of authority.  If we immediately define as an aspect of God’s relationship, this becomes impossible.
  5. Against the Protestant Scholastics, I want to argue that natural law is mutable. If the cosmos changes, natural law changes.  This is a change in creation relative to God that changes the configuration of natural law.  One example would be the necessity of sacrifice after Adam fell into sin.   This was because the human race changed in relation to God.
  6. Behind all this is a certain theory of the universe.  We can think of the universe in terms of a puzzle or legos. A world made on the analogy of legos contains a number of possibilities for design.  A box of legos has the potential for several different shapes.  The natural law legos can be kept in the same configuration even if the rest of the legos are re-configurated.  If creation is more like a puzzle, then each piece is contingent on the other pieces.  If a part of the puzzle is re-configurated then the whole puzzle is reconfigurated.  Natural law is the aspect of “rightly fitting together” according to the maker’s design.   Like the legos, the puzzle pieces have reality in themselves. Unlike the legos they are contingent on one another for the completeness of the puzzle.  I argue that the universe is a puzzle. (I wonder if this is behind Van Til’s argument that unbelievers cannot have capital-T truth.  Van Til thinks of truth radically contingent on knowing Christ as the centre and expllanation of the universe.  The problem with this is that you can still know part of the puzzle as something that is truly part of the puzzle.  You just don’t have the key to the puzzle; Jesus Christ.  It is a hermeneutical problem, not an epistomological problem.)
  7. My boldest thesis: I would suggest that the term “created order” replace the term “natural law.”  I believe that the understanding of the term “natural law” can quickly turn to a semi-autonomous force. In reality, “natural law” is radically contingent on the creator.  The term “created order” emphasizes that contingency.

Man as Actor; Man as Recipient

In order to create a full-orbed political theory, libertarians must broaden their understanding of man’s role. Politics is the practice of human cooperation.  This definition strays from other definitions. These tend to emphasize politics’ role in granting certain groups rights to coercion in society. Libertarianism, if understood as the non-aggression principle based upon a theory property rights, is particularly seeking to understand the principles that define coercion in human society.  Libertarianism seeks to improve man’s freedom from unnecessary coercion. This is certainly part of the study of politics, but not exclusively so.   The study of the role of coercion in society is part of a larger body of political theory.  Libertarians must recognize that truth.

The Free Actor

Libertarianism tends to view man as a free actor.  This is legitimate, but he also has other roles. When libertarians recognize this, it gives their theory a greater breadth than it otherwise would have. Though still a theory of coercion, libertarianism is set within larger cultural, religious and political realities.  Without suddenly limiting man to only two roles, I want to argue a full-orbed political theory will treat man as both actor and as recipient.

Without suddenly limiting man to only two roles, I want to argue that a full-orbed political theory will treat man as both actor and as recipient.

However, we must continue to emphasize the role of man as a free actor.  Christians may believe that man is spiritually bound, but politically we should all want free human action in our society.  When God creates the world, he gives man freedom to develop the garden and the wilderness however he wants.  He has freedom to eat of any tree of the garden, except for the one that God puts off limits.  Even after the fall, man is free to choose where to live, to farm, and to have children.  This means that, as much as possible, mankind should be free from coercion by other men. All libertarians, whether thick or thin, paleo or left, Christian or atheist, agree on this, at least on the surface.  After all, libertarianism is a theory of coercion, not a full-orbed political theory.

All libertarians, whether thick or thin, paleo or left, Christian or atheist, agree on this, at least on the surface.  After all, libertarianism is a theory of coercion, not a full-orbed political theory.

The Recipient

But a full-orbed political theory will account for man’s being as well. Man’s being is something received.  In a large part, this underlines the whole point of this blog.  In my posts, I want to underline the importance of our response to our gifts.  Man receives a being, a culture, and a history.  His response to these gifts will determine his political life.  Man has gratitude in the fabric of his nature (because that nature is a gift).

When we understand man as a recipient, as well as, as an actor, there is a role for thanksgiving.  When we fail to show our gratitude, we do violence to the past. We have a society that lives in ingratitude.

This gratitude includes gratitude toward God our parents, and our leaders.  God has given us our bodies, which contain his own image. Gratitude for that gift will result in using our bodies in a way which pleases God.   Our parents, as secondary causes, have also given us our bodies, besides raising us (imperfect though that raising may be).  Gratitude for that gift will result in honor.  Our civil leaders (imperfectly) have given us a degree of peace and justice.  Gratitude for that gift will result in a certain degree of honor as well. Of course, two of these (parents and civil leaders) three always give imperfect gifts.  Sometimes it may be said that they gave no gift at all. Instead, they oppressed and consumed their charges.  Yet some degree of gratitude is generally necessary.  Toward God, gratitude is always necessary.

Without an understanding of gratitude, libertarianism will be unsuccessful. A libertarian’s implicit or explicit understanding of gratitude will not damage his status as a libertarian.  However, his understanding of gratitude will destroy his chances of living peacefully when he is able to live in a libertarian society.  He will commit violence: not the type that is immediately punishable by law, but the type that is ultimately destructive to whatever relationships he has.

 

 

Rules for Progress

Note: I defend progress in this piece.  However, I thoroughly reject the beliefs of most of those who understand themselves as progressives.  I do not believe that their beliefs are progressive.  In general, they are regressive, not progressive.  I would argue that I present here a true progressivism, based on God’s word, not on man’s understanding of progress.

Progress is necessary.  God wants the church to grow in the understanding of his righteousness and his holiness. However, this truth is easily twisted.  Churches use it in order to excuse themselves for contradicting what is clear in the word of God.  We see this in those who argue for women in office and those who argue that homosexual relationships are a legitimate expression of human love. We need guidelines in order to differentiate between what is progressive and what is retrogressive. I offer a few below.

  1. Inscripturation: There is no real progress without a deep understanding of the scriptures. The first rule of progress is: study and contemplate the scriptures. God does not contradict himself, for he speaks with authority and truth.  We cannot progress without the scriptures. God and his word are the source of all truth as well as a deeper understanding of that truth.
  2. Tradition: If we cannot ignore the scriptures, we cannot ignore the tradition of scriptural interpretation.  Argument after argument has been given concerning various passages.  Our bit of “progress” may repeat the mistakes of the past.  It may repeat the heresies of the past. In order to move forward, we must have a deep understanding and appreciation of the past. For those who want to progress this can be hard to do.  Anti-progressive forces tend to love tradition to a fault.  The tendency, then, is to ignore tradition. This does not excuse anyone from this guideline, however. To ignore it is not only dangerous yourself but to those around you.
  3. Humility:  Humility is all important.  The one who wants to teach must learn.  Sit at the feet of those around you who have been given knowledge. You need humility in order learn from the Scriptures and from tradition.  Ultimately you need humility before God.  When you have humility before God you will have humility before the teachers he has raised up in your life.  Jesus asks that you become as a little child.  Only little children have the continual ability to learn.
  4. Patience:  You have your argument ready.  You have studied and contemplated the scriptures and you have immersed yourself in tradition.  Now you must be patient.  People aren’t ready to change at a moment’s notice.  Further, you might be wrong.  Better men than you of me have been wrong before.  Remember the words of the Psalmist.  “Wait on the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

 

Finding Wisdom 2

There are a number of characters in Proverbs.  The righteous are those who actively seek out wisdom.  They are humble.  Further, they seek God’s wisdom, not their own.  The wicked are those who actively seek out folly.  They are proud.  They are full of selfish ambition  However there is a rather interesting 3rd character.  He is also seeking folly, but he is not actively seeking folly.  In a sense he finds folly, because he has never sought wisdom.  He is the sluggard.  Wisdom, in Proverbs is the ability to discern between two choices.  Both the wicked and the righteous go out and make those choices.  They choose between wisdom and folly.  The sluggard chooses to stay home.

We find the sluggard in Proverbs 6: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Observe her ways and become wise.”   The ant doesn’t have somebody telling her what to do.  She acts on her own intiative.  She goes out and finds a job, so that she may learn her trade.  The sluggard needs to get up out of his bed and learn from the ant.  The author of the proverbs wants to encourage his readers in godly ambition.

Another example comes from Proverbs 26 starting at verse 13.  The sluggard cries out, “There is a lion in the streets.” The sluggard makes excuses for himself. He can’t risk anything.  Again, we need godly ambition.  We can’t be afraid of risks when we go out into the world.  We have to be wise and prudent in our actions, but if we live in fear of what might happen, we will never find the prize.   The reward will be gone.

Christians then have no excuse for sitting around and waiting.  There is no excuse for endless leisure time.  We’re called to go out and find wisdom.  If we do not, we will lose wisdom. We become the fool, fearing imaginary lions.  Ultimately, we lose the Wisdom of God; Jesus Christ. We are all called to that search for wisdom in so far as God has given us the ability to do so.

Wisdom, in our passages, is the practical ability to build, to make business choices, to choose a marriage partner; ultimately anything that involves human action. But within Proverbs all wisdom ultimately points to the Wisdom of God, the Wisdom that God reveals in Jesus Christ and the Wisdom by which God made the world.  As we said in an earlier post, he is the one who holds the universe together. We can distinguish between practical wisdom and the Wisdom of God in Proverbs, but they cannot truly be seperated.  If we do not seek wisdom, we ultimately lose the Wisdom of God; Jesus Christ. We are all called to that search for wisdom in so far as God has given us the ability to do so.

So one of the messages of proverbs is, “get up, get out and find wisdom.”  Search then.  Seek out the wisdom of the universe.  Learn how to fix a car.  Learn how to make a chair.  Ultimately, search for the Wisdom; Christ.  That is a life-long search a life-long longing for those who have found him.

How many senses?

A quick thought:

Even though I would defend multiple levels of meaning of scripture, I want to be careful.  There is a strong insight in the argument that there is only one sense in scripture.  The basic truth behind this insight is that Scripture cannot mean something that is contradictory to its plain or literal sense. Even though we can discern different levels of meaning this does not mean that meaning of scripture is not one. Scripture has one unified message and that is the salvation we all find in Christ.

Finding Wisdom 1

One of the themes of the book of Proverbs is the hiddenness of wisdom.  In some sense, she is easy to find.  In another sense, it takes time and money to find her.

The important thing to remember is the beginning of wisdom.  In order to find wisdom, you need the right starting point.  That starting point is the fear of the Lord.  Solomon tells us that repeatedly, but particularly at the beginning of the book.  He already tells in the first chapter the seventh verse that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.

When you fear the Lord in a sense you already have wisdom, but that is only the beginning. She is out in the marketplace calling in chapter 1 of Proverbe, but approaching her seat is only the beginning.

There is a wisdom to learn within the wisdom that is given.  We have the creation of God.  We have the Word of God.  Both are places where Solomon goes to find wisdom.  In Chapter 8 of Proverbs, Solomon speaks of how God built the foundation of the world with wisdom.  Throughout the book of Proverbs Solomon will talk about lessons he learns from the animals (i.e. go to the ant, you sluggard). One also learns wisdom by remembering the law of their father and mother.  God provides authorities on this earth to give us wisdom.

The ultimate wisdom is “to trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).”   Wisdom begins with the Lord and ends with the Lord. But the goal is not thoughtless submission.  That is clear from all the different things that Solomon calls us to consider.  The goal is deep reflection, deep understanding of the goodness that the Lord has given.

Proverbs is a challenge to listen.  It is a challenge to learn and reflect on the commandments that the Lord has given us; to apply that word so that we may discern between good and evil. Ultimately it is a challenge to search out wisdom, to move from wisdom to greater wisdom.   (It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out (Proverbs 25:2).

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