As this seems destined to become quite a series, I think that your last post, Susan, raises too many issues to answer in one post. In addition, not all of my direct questions were answered, meaning that I am still at a loss understanding the position for which you debate.
To start, I am going to review my questions and make sure that I have a grip on your responses. What is the problem? Incredibly, we identify the problem in similar terms, but we seem to have a different understanding of the history of the American church. I will spend some time in this area. The question concerning phonemes and pictographs deserves a linguistic response, and that I will give. The question that might have been the second most important asked regarding continuing revelation was unanswered. If your experience differs from mine, how do we know whose revelation is correct? And then that favorite buzzword comes up, “relationship.” You have stated yourself that people do not know God. How then can they have a relationship with One Whom they do not know? Finally, it seems that exegesis will be a necessary part of the discussion. My position has been articulated in the many, many posts linked to the right. But rather than just pointing and saying read this, let’s try a couple of passages out for size and see what happens. I’m willing to go in that direction for now.
The problem. Historically, what was the main issue behind the Protestant Reformation? The issue can be boiled down to one of authority. If there can be more than one pope at a time, (there were actually three at one time in the 15th century,) and the pope is infallible, then how do we believe this situation as mere humans? The answer was the Wycliffe run to the authority of scripture. Scripture is fixed. It is an immutable authority. While interpretation may vary, interpretation is a product of man. Scripture is the inspired Word of God, perhaps better termed the expired or breathed Word of God. The reason that Reformed get so bent out of shape about continuing revelation is that it smacks of popery, and we have already had enough martyrs for that cause.
You raise the question that if the Pentecostal Movement is the culprit, then why haven’t the mainline denominations given into the Pentecostal reformative process of the last century? OK, here’s your answer: of course they have. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the theology of the mainline denominations has been there, and in fact, they were there before the Evangelicals got there. The mainline denominations are to some small degree coming back towards some semblance of orthodoxy. They have seen the logical end point of that path in horror and are warning the Evangelicals against their current course. Let’s look at this in terms of the US historical experience before we tackle the theology. Leaving the philosophical effects of the First and Second Great Awakenings aside for a moment, let’s look at two of the main movers and shakers of the modern American church: John Wesley and Charles Finney.
John Wesley was an Anglican who had his Moravian boating experience and then rejected Calvinism. Simplistic, yes, I know. But bear with me. He became enamored of the Arminian theology that was infecting the Church of England. His application of this theology in a society that was individualistic and self reliant to a fault, 18th century America, led to a practice that fit more with the Arminian theology than the liturgy of the Church of England. Then, along comes Charles Finney, a thorough going Pelagian, who talks of excitements and a bench of expectation or some such nonsense. It was the forerunner of the altar call. Here is one of several articles I can provide on the irony of Charles Finney as a Christian leader. The problem when you take all of the teeth out of the Law and all of the Grace out of the Gospel is that what you have left is a religion of individualism. God helps those who help themselves, and a nation that actually believes that statement is Biblical. When we all can have our own private revelation that is different from scripture, outside of scripture, where is the authority? We have moved from a flawed pope to a total lack of authority. Failure to see the Evangelical movement, the Pentecostal movement, the Wesleyan movement as effected by Finney is naïve. Regarding the protestant liberals, those mainline denominations we were talking about, those are the very churches to whom Dorothy Sayers was referring. They are not following the Pentecostal movement. They were there first. We can talk about Mechan next, if you like. That link is actually posted to the right.
Linguistics. One of the languages that I have studied is Sanskrit. It is perhaps second in line of all Indo-European languages going back in its roots 5000 years. While the Asian languages developed in a decidedly pictographic direction, the Indo-Iranian languages, e.g. Persian, evolved differently. Sanskrit, still, is typologically unique in its absolutely phonetic alphabet. The symbols all represent discrete sounds that have been unchanged in over 4000 years. The reason is that the words represent ideas. Sanskrit was involved in the holy writings of the Hindu and therefore the hope was to pass these writings down untainted through time. By holding the phonetic quality tightly unchanged, the meanings of the words were similarly unchanged. This extreme is not represented across the rest of the Indo-European languages, but it does serve to point out that language developed more phonetically in the West. This is not to divorce all pictographic aspects from Western language, but it is to call into question any over reliance in that sort of system in Western language. Take the Egyptians as an example. We assumed for decades that the “pictographs” on the temples and pyramids were of the Eastern language type. The Rosetta Stone made clear that even the pictures of the Egyptians were used phonetically. While there will be some overlap in our study of languages, it should not be assumed that any significant meaning can be gleaned from a pictographic interpretation of Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian, Greek or Latin.
Experience. This is the most troubling of all the issues that we raised. If my experience is different than all ten people in the room, who am I to say that my experience is the authentic experience? There is no remaining authority upon which to make that judgment. This is the logical extension of continuing revelation in the way in which it is practiced today. No adequate discussion of that topic is ever forthcoming. The authority of scripture is diminished by this practice. As I said before, Luther’s writings are not a part of the Canon, not even for Lutherans. Until there is a clear understanding of the Holiness of God and the authority of scripture, this conversation will continue to be apples and prairie dogs.
Relationship. You ask if I testify to an active relationship with Christ? No, I don’t. My experience with Christ is not relevant to anyone else. The problem is that people do not know who God is. The Holiness of God and His absolute Holiness is not understood. The complete sinfulness of all sin is meaningless. The depth of our despair is unknown. We are a vast sea of death before the feet of God. Christ accomplished changing that situation. As he says in John’s gospel, “It is finished.” This is news, good news, in fact. My relationship with Him is not relevant to that news. I proclaim the Good News of Christ Crucified (meaning that as a shorthand for Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension.) The Holy Spirit is responsible for the individual responses of people. My telling of my response has little more than passing fancy to that rare interested person. The news is the thing. The news is the Word that saves. It’s all about the News. So, no, I don’t spend 2 seconds on my relationship with Christ in a discussion with others. I just want to talk about Christ.
Exegesis. Since you mentioned Psalms, I wanted to do one of those first, but I’m short on time this week. So, with some indulgence, perhaps we can consider Isaiah 59. We can try Psalm 36 or 140 or something else perhaps in the future. And we can do Acts 2 if you like. You mentioned Peter’s Pentecost sermon in your first post. We’ll do that passage as well. That will be more than plenty for a couple of posts each. I’ll work on those for you soon.
– Ogre –
With Troll watching closely….