Tuesday, 18 October 2005

Ignorance is bliss?

I remember the first time I heard of 'New Covenant' and 'Old Covenant': in 1st year, in an something my CUSW had given me to think about. I seem to remember querying his use of the terms: assuming that since I had been well taught and read a lot, and had never heard of these terms, others wouldn't understand them either. Back then, 4 long long years ago, I hadn't met the field of Biblical Theology under that name, with its emphases. I hadn't met anyone who could give a reason for not being sabbatarian which gave serious thought to Scripture (so I could only assume it was an untaught theological laziness). I hadn't, for that matter, met anyone who was serious enough about Scripture to be 'reformed' and was also 'credobaptist' - or not discussed with any at least. I remember showing my wishful ignorance in trying to tell a friend that I didn't think Baptists were wrong; but that I was a paedobaptist. I assumed without knowledge of any possible alternative that the mosaic covenant was one of grace, a further, national, spelling out of the Abrahamic.

Ignorance was bliss.

Now I hear a teacher I respect saying that the reason why the Reformation fathers, puritains et al were sabbatarian is because they over-emphasised the continuity of the covenants: that which I assumed for 18 years. Who are we to fly in the face of generations of wise Christians with our 'Biblical Theology'? But who are we to assume they were right? So I'm expected to find nothing disputable about
"The Old Testament is not our Testament. We should assume... that none of its stipulations are binding on us unless they are renewed in the new covenant."
while the whole of the reformers and since them to our day (not considering the antinomians etc.) thought otherwise. Which is overemphasised (continuity, discontinuity) and which is right? Which is to be assumed at the expense of the other?

Now I'm in a culture which assumes that an Evangelical Protestant - even any Protestant - is a Baptist: that is part of Protestantism, in contrast with RC-ism, and a contrast that has been made in my hearing at least 3 times since I arrived a month ago. There is no recognition of a possible reformed paedobaptism. In a meeting the question was asked, 'Who here has been baptised?', and following our show of hands it was clear that according to him, I should not have raised my hand, as he implied that paedobaptism was not baptism. That was at a GBU meeting: ie interdenominational.

Now I'm in a culture (and have been, in England) which assumes that to be sabbatarian is to be legalistic; assumes that it's obvious that the 4th commandment is not for us.

In each of these I'm not making a point about the controversial doctrine, indicating or defending where I may currently stand!

In fact I feel like I standing in a swamp of a battlefield: but in fact, not a battle field in which neither side is engaging the other, but both are firing dismissals of the other into no-man's land: so that although neither is thinking to 'attack' the other as such, by way of not engaging they create a mire inbetween (in which I'm standing trying to work out which is right) torn and muddied with the bombardment of assumptions, filled with the debris of hermeneutical systems over which to stumble, and smokefilled with texts shot from the guns of theological systems without recognition of the target, making it impossible to proceed or to see clearly. Occasionally an off-target presupposition hits me as it flies from one side to another, and when I turn up at the field hospital with a wound they express surprise that I was in no-man's land and not in their trenches firing. How can I know what's right when so many theologians, with the languages and years of study cannot agree? How can I be fully convinced in my own mind? So I'm sinking in an uncertainty inbetween, while the assumptions and dismissals of each inadvertently wound me.


étrangère said...

Possibly a little melodramatic at the end, but describing how it feels when it gets to me!

Anonymous said...

Alas, in teaching you truth we seem to have neglected to familiarise you with heresy! :(


Steve LW said...

I know exactly how you feel étrangère. The solution I came to? Live to please God, not man. It's still hard walking through this jam, but I know who I'm walking towards now.

étrangère said...

Thanks Steve. That's helpful. Hard to do, but helpful: easily forgotten.