Polanus on interpreting Scripture

‘The interpretation of H. Scripture is the exposition (explicatio) of its true sense and use, arranged in clear words (verbis perspicuis instituta), to the glory of God and the edification of the church.’ Even in my inelegant translation, that’s not a bad opening gambit. The (long…) section ends with a paragraph ‘on the use of H. Scripture for consolation’: ‘…therefore however grave the evil, so great and certain is the good set against it, that it is an effective remedy for sorrow. A most beautiful example (exemplum pulcherrinendum) is Isa. 41:26 ff. …’ The words are from Amandus Polanus’s Syntagma Theologiae Christianae; it was never going to be a big seller, even in theological terms. The...

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Emergent Puritan…

…sounds like it ought to be a blog title. There is considerable grass-roots interest in the Puritans amongst a certain slice of current Christianity. This is, of course, a good thing–any interest in church history is a good thing, and the Puritans represented a practical and doctrinally serious model of living the faith that deserves and repays reflection. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in some attempts to renew popular and scholarly interest in the Puritans, and applaud some others. However… I observe that most of those interested in the Puritans fall into the ‘golden age’ trap. Ignoring all that was wrong with the movement (and there was plenty), and even all the diversity in the movement (and there was even more),...

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Great theologians (2)

How about this, from Erasmus of Rotterdam? ‘To me he is truly a theologian who teaches not by skill with intricate syllogisms but by a disposition of mind, by the very expression and eyes … ‘In his kind of philosophy, located as it is more truly in the disposition of the mind than in syllogisms, life means more than debate, inspiration is preferable to erudition, transformation is a more important matter than intellectual comprehension. ‘Only a very few can be learned, but all can be Christian, all can be devout, and – I shall boldly add – all can be theologians.’ (HT The...

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‘Infallibility’?

I am preparing a lecture on differing Evangelical views of Scripture, particularly in trans-Atlantic perspective, which I will post up here when it is done. I stumble over the word ‘infallible’: in normal English usage, it means ‘will not fail’, and so demands a qualifier (‘will not fail’ to do what?); thus confessing the Bible to be infallible without any indication as to its purpose is precisely meaningless in logical terms. The standard claim, which I can trace back no further than Packer’s God has Spoken, although it then crops up in the Chicago Statement, the Westminster Handbook, and various other reference works, seems to be that ‘infallibility’ means ‘the quality of neither deceiving nor being...

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Being with pastors

Over the past month I have traveled more than I should have, probably; there was a day when, feeling rather overwhelmed by life, I looked for a reason, and realised that I was about to sleep in my sixth different bed in six nights… The traveling included some great times, though. I spent three days at continuing education events for pastors, one with the Free Church of Scotland, and two with the Scottish Baptists. Days like these remind me of several things: my own vocation; the purpose of theology; and the goodness of God. I am called and vowed to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. It may be, at present it looks likely, that for the remainder of my life my salary will be paid by institutions of higher education, but vocation is not about employment; the...

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