Archive for the ‘Lesslie Newbigin’ Tag

The Authority of Jesus, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Calling of Matthew, by Vittore Capaccio

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Startle us, O God, with thy truth, and open our minds to thy Spirit,

that this day we may receive thee humbly and find hope fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Numbers 14:11-24

Acts 4:1-12

Matthew 9:9-17

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Jesus kept some disreputable company.  He dined openly with people such as prostitutes and tax collectors, collaborators who enriched themselves as they collected taxes for the Roman Empire.  The response of the Pharisees in Matthew 9:10-14 was similar to that one might imagine respectable Christians upon witnessing a suspect religious leader doing the  same.  Do we not those who lie down with dogs rise with fleas?

Authority was one of the causes of conflict between Jesus then early Christian leaders on one hand and established religious leaders on the other hand.  Where did Jesus and his Apostles acquire their credentials?

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), a great missionary, had a negative opinion of much of Christian apologetics.  He objected to portraying the Gospel as being true because it agreed with an outside standard.  The only proper authority for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, Newbigin wrote, is Jesus.  To argue for the truth (reliability, literally) of the Gospel based on an outside authority is to depict that authority as being more authoritative than the Gospel, Newbigin insisted.

Absence of faith arises not only in the stubborn hearts of people who have witnessed mighty, dramatic deeds, but also in the minds of the conventionally devout, those piously upholding their received traditions and wisdom.  Absence of faith also arises in the minds of those attached to their power and prestige.

Read the stories again, O reader.  Then ask yourself,

Which of these characters am I like?

Then take the result to Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELIT MARTYRS OF COMPIÈGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

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Posted July 17, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 4, Matthew 9, Numbers 14

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God, the Genuine Article   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Interprets Dreams in Prison, by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 40 or Isaiah 44:108

Psalm 21

1 Corinthians 9:1-16

Matthew 12:38-50

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The most succinct summary of the readings from the Hebrew Bible I can muster is that God is the genuine article.  God, who is reliable, mighty, and merciful, is worthy of all praise.  The context in Genesis 40 is the interpretation of dreams of the Pharaoh.  The setting in Isaiah 44 is the prediction of restoration after the Babylonian Exile.  In Psalm 21 a Jewish monarch praises God.

Matthew 12:38-50 has much occurring theologically in it.  The element that attracts my attention today is spiritually fictive kinship (verses 46-50).  This concept comforts many of my fellow Christians, those rejected their relatives.  Matthew 12:38-50 fits neatly with Matthew 10:34-39, among other passages.

It was a kinship in short supply in the Corinthian church and between that congregation and St. Paul the Apostle.  He apparently felt the need to defend himself and his traveling companions against allegations, some of which he might have anticipated.

Personalities and perceptions can be troublesome.  Perceptions can be false yet tenacious.  One might be deeply entrenched in a false religion or mindset that objective reality contradicts.  To quote John Adams,

Facts are stubborn things.

Yet objectively false conclusions are frequently more stubborn.  This is why fact-based arguments fail much of the time.  It would be different if one were debating the great English linguist and moralist Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), but how many of us are in his league?

Then there is truth we cannot prove via Enlightenment Modernism.  This is a major problem with much of Christian apologetics, for work in that field has a flawed methodology.  And, as the great Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998) taught, Jesus of Nazareth is the sole basis of the truth of the Gospel, and to appeal to any outside standard to prove the truth of the Gospel is to make that outside standard more important than the Gospel.

No, God, is the genuine article.  Some truth one must accept on faith, or not at all.  Enlightenment Modernism and the scientific method are valid in many projects; we should embrace them as far as they can take us.  Yet when they run out, there is God, the genuine article.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS AND EDUCATORS OF THE DEAF

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMADEUS OF CLERMONT, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND HIS SON, SAINT AMADEUS OF LAUSANNE, FRENCH-SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC BARBERI, ROMAN CATHOLIC APOSTLE TO ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VAN HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/devotion-for-proper-18-year-a-humes/

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Epistemology and Certainty   Leave a comment

parallel-lines

Above:  Parallel Lines

Image in the Public Domain

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How do we know what we know?  We can be certain of some propositions, but how so?

I have liked to say that, for me, human depravity is not a matter of faith but of objective reality confirmed by observation, history, and journalism.  The underlying assumption of that statement is that perceiving objective reality does not require faith of any variety.  Lesslie Newbigin‘s argument against that assumption has occupied my thoughts today.

St. Clement of Alexandria, the Pioneer of Christian Scholarship, argued against those Christians who thought that they did not need pagan knowledge, specifically, Greek philosophy–especially Platonism.  He replied by saying that Greek philosophy paved the way for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  A millennium later, in the 1200s, Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas argued for the compatibility of faith and reason–specifically, the philosophy of Aristotle, with some elements of Platonism.  These three saints, all of them great intellectuals, assumed that faith and reason were separate.  In the twentieth century, however, English Presbyterian Lesslie Newbigin, picking up on St. Augustine of Hippo, argued that all certainty hinges on faith, and that the sole basis of proper Christian confidence and certainty is Jesus Christ.

Let us consider, O reader, the example of Euclidian geometry.  It relies upon certain assumptions, upon which other assumptions depend.  This does not mean, of course, that Euclidian geometry is inaccurate.  The only question is one of how we perceive it.

Newbigin objected to St. Clement of Alexandria’s claim that Greek philosophy functioned as a prologue to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  To say that the truth of the Gospel depends upon anything else, Newbigin argued, is to make that thing more important than the Gospel.  He found examples of this in Roman Catholicism, conservative Presbyterianism, and much of Christian apologetics.  Newbigin also objected to the claim that faith and reason are separate.  He wrote that all certainty is a matter of faith, for we all assume that x, y, and z are accurate and that the world operates in a certain way.

The categories in my head come mostly from Thomism and the Enlightenment.  In Thomism I, an intellectual, find affirmation of the inclusion of true knowledge, regardless of its origin, as compatible with Christian faith.  From the Enlightenment  and the Scientific Revolution preceding it I receive modernism (as opposed to postmodernism) as a way of knowing much via evidence and observation.  As pastors and priests have taught me, there are two kinds of knowledge–that which we can know via observation and hard evidence and that which we can know only via faith.  But what if this assumption is wrong?  What if we know only by faith and the issue is by which kind thereof?  What if all certainty is a matter of faith?

If so, I can change my mind.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HILEY BATHHURST, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF PETRUS NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND COMPOSER; AND GEORG NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

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Foolishness or Wisdom?   1 comment

Above:  Victory of the Resurrection

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1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (The Jerusalem Bible):

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.  The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save.  As scripture says:

I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned.  Where are the philosophers now?  Where are the scribes?

Where are any of our thinkers today?  Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom?  It was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach.  And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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The late Lesslie Newbigin, a Scottish Presbyterian minister and missionary, later a bishop in the Church of South India, and, at the end of his life, a minister in The United Reformed Church (in Great Britain), disapproved of Christian apologetics which attempted to make Christianity seem reasonable to conventional standards.  For Newbigin, the basis of proper Christian confidence is the person of Jesus himself, not any external, culturally accepted wisdom or an allegedly infallible book.  Newbigin, hardly a Fundamentalist, wrote a small volume entitled Proper Confidence:  Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (Eerdmans, 1995).    In it he quoted this day’s passage from 1 Corinthians.  And he concluded the book with this paragraph:

The confidence proper to a Christian is not the confidence of one who claims possession of demonstrable and indubitable knowledge.  It is the confidence of one who had heard and answered the call that comes from God through whom and for whom all things were made:  ”Follow me.”–page 105

I have read and reread Proper Confidence carefully.  Many of Newbigin’s points make sense to me, but I struggle with others.  I am, to a great extent, a product of the Enlightenment–most a positive time, I remain convinced.  I do like freedom of press, conscience, and religion–all Enlightenment ideals.  I appreciate Newbigin’s critique of Fundamentalism and repudiation of biblical literalism.  Yet his critique of Cartesian Rationalism hits too close to home for me.  Nevertheless, I keep the book and consult it from time to time.  And my opinion of it has changed since the first time I read it.

All that said, I agree with Newbigin’s core argument, which he took from Paul:  God defies human wisdom.  I call myself a Christian.  So, if I am intellectually honest and not hypocritical, I must follow Jesus, whose crucifixion is a historical fact but whose resurrection defies reason.  Yet that resurrection is essential to the truth of Christianity; without the resurrection, we have a dead Jesus.

So, for those of “us who are being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18, New Revised Standard Version), or, as The Jerusalem Bible renders the same text, “those of us who are on the way [to salvation]“–the message of the cross is that of God’s saving power.  We stand in the presence of God, to whom our standards of wisdom and truth are irrelevant.  No wonder so many find Jesus baffling, even scandalous!  Yet God is what God is, has done what God has done, does what God does, and will do what God will do.  May we seek and succeed in following God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 11, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/week-of-proper-16-friday-year-2/

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Posted October 11, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 1

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