Thursday, 24 May 2007

Quote of the day: hard belief

Martin Downes has finished his interview with Carl Trueman. In part 2, Carl comments on the desire to be a teacher vs. the desire to teach, and on the helpfulness of Presbyterian governance. He also speaks most pointedly of how our evangelical culture can present a false view of belief:
Belief in the truth is always difficult – doctrinally and morally. We believe not because we find it easy or straightforward but because we are commanded so to do. Yet evangelical culture often fails to acknowledge the level of struggle involved in being orthodox and thus creates unrealistic expectations for the Christian life.

Berkouwer says of Herman Bavinck (perhaps the outstanding Reformed theologian of the last two-hundred years) that the people who most angered him were those who believed exactly what he did himself, but who failed to see the problems and difficulties, the sheer struggle, involved in so doing. I carried a copy of that anecdote in my wallet for many years as I worked in university departments where my faith was constantly under challenge from friends and colleagues as a reminder that the intellectual struggles I felt were precisely to be expected in the normal Christian life; but that I had to continue to believe not because it was easy or pain-free but because of God’s revealed command so to do.

The pastoral significance of this is that too often we fail to present orthodoxy as such a struggle, giving people unrealistic expectations and the false alternatives of believing easily or believing nothing at all. That is a cruel dilemma to place before people, and one that must in practice ultimately favour the `believe nothing’ option for as soon as a struggle arises, the believer has nowhere to go.
. In part 3, Trueman treats us to a sentence on the emerging phenomenon which made me chuckle & remember that he is, after all, a seminar professor:
...the pop-appropriation of some of the sillier excesses of postmodernism by numerous writers seem to be little more than the old liberalism redivivus: God is silenced, his demands on human beings are rendered equivocal, theology becomes the solipsistic musings of human beings, albeit refracted through communitarian views of language as opposed to the Kantian categories of the individual self-consciousness of the old-style liberalism.
Quite. More clearly, he holds forth on the dangers (and blessings) of evangelical fellowship and confessionalism, and remarks on indifference: "At the ecclesiastical level, I would rather do business with a convinced Arminian or Baptist who knows that the Bible’s teaching on the pertinent issues are important, than with someone who thinks it is all a bit unclear and not that vital anyway." I agree with what he says on this question in the interview.


The Clokester said...

Good summary. Although worryingly, I find myself more convinced of Prebsbo gov as I go on, which surely cant be good for a quasi brethren chap! DO you know much abouth the Reformed Presbyterian Church(an irish denom?)

Anonymous said...

Good interview. I am just getting into Bavinck (Vol 1 Proglegomena). Well worth the time. Perhaps we need a new photo (you must have finished Athanasius by now?) reading the Herman?

étrangère said...

Ah Sean, on the contrary - it can only be good! Quasi brethren indeed. I do know the RPs, good folk. They can't stand for our (EP) singing other than the-words-of-scripture-translated-from-Hebrew-into-English-and-squished-into-British-type-metre-and-tune (aka a metrical Psalter ;-) - I love it, but with a basis like that it's hard to maintain a stance against Biblically sound hymnody!), and there's some difference on covenanting government-wise which I don't quite understand, but we love each other :) And work together in the gospel & all that.

Hm, taking photos of oneself is always more timeconsuming than it's worth, Adrian. Especially when there are books to be read. :)