June 8th, 2013
Today’s reading in Turretin was on the necessity of God’s Word. It is such an un-sexy topic in a world of theology that spends time talking about all sorts of God things, but that often ignores essential things. These essential things are not being ignored because they have been taken for granted, but because they have been forgotten.
No real change in our lives is going to come without concentrated study of God’s Word. No real change in education is going to come without significant, communal, and continual study of God’s Word. No real and lasting political change is going to come to our country without consistent, believing study of God’s Word. Without this the poor will go hungry. Without this our children will be raised in danger and darkness. We must renew a commitment to practice and enjoy the sacraments, but without the Word the sacraments quickly grow opaque, sentimental, and misguided.
Turretin also is immanently practical for classical and Christians study today. He again in this section (2.1) relates creation, providence, and the word. The first two are true, but the Word has to lead the others (not be led by them). Reversing this can lead to tragic and comic situations. Imagine that you come home one day and find the cupboards full of wonderful food. The scientist might view this fact of creation and proclaim that someone in the house is a farmer. Your wife’s words, however, bring clarity: “I just got back from shopping and got a really good deal.”
Also, Turretin points (over and over) to God’s goodness. He points this out. When God makes us hungry (i.e., when He gives us an appetite), He also gives us food. He has made the heart of man to hunger for truth and for immortality. He has provided a pathway and a sacrifice. Give us this day our daily bread.
Finally, there is one point that might have improved Turretin’s discussion. He does not say much about how God’s Trinitarian nature plays into His communication with us. God talks, because He has been talking. Allah would never talk. He has been alone forever. God in the Holy Trinity has never been alone. Thus, He speaks because He has been speaking.
April 21st, 2013
Today in Turretin’s Institutes I read over a discussion of how reason is to be used in making judgment about theology. The historical example that was at the forefront of the discussion was the debate between the Lutherans and the Calvinists over what happened to Christ’s physical body after He ascended. The Lutherans claimed that Christ’s physical body took on divine attributes and is now ubiquitous (everywhere). This is how Lutherans explain that Christ’s physical body is present in communion. The Reformed argued that this is contradictory because if Christ’s physical body were everywhere, then (like other physical bodies) we would see it and feel it. The Lutheran response to the Reformed objection was: reason can not make judgments about theology.
Turretin (in 1.1.10) does a wonderful job of explaining how the Bible requires us to use reason when making judgments about theological propositions. This does NOT mean that reason leaves its ministerial role. It is NOT there to question the scriptures or the faith. It is NOT there to make judgments about what the Bible says. It IS there to make judgments about what someone says about the Scriptures. In paragraph IV, he points out that the Bible calls on us to use judgment, the design of the Scriptures presupposes that we will use reason in this way, and the example the Bereans and the Corinthians (he could have added the commands giving to the Galatians) praises the use of reason and judgments. The Bereans had to sit down with the Old Testament, hear the gospel preached, and make a judgment about the consistency of the Old Testament and the gospel.
He points this out too: if we do not use judgment in this way how will the church be protected from the myriad of heresies that will come. In his discussion, we see the outlines of the distinction between the Reformed and other branches of the church in the use of reason. This is the establishment of what we could call the distinctive Protestant principle. If this is not how reason is to be used, then the only other choices is the fall back on something like the Catholic approach to Luther at Worms: “Believe this because we say so!”
April 15th, 2013
Here is a beautiful description of the relationship between faith and reason in the life of a believer from Turretin 188.8.131.52:
He does not therefore mean to take away reason entirely because grace does not destroy, but perfects nature. He only wishes it to serve and be a handmaid to faith and as such to obey, not to govern its mistress; that it mapy be in subjection and not entirely discarded, that it may be not the foundation, but the defender of faith and embrace, contend for and adorn the faith already established.
April 13th, 2013
Had a wonderful time reading about faith and reason this morning in Turretin (1.1.8). He carefully thinks through how reason is useful in the field of theology. He makes a very careful distinction between the use of reason as an instrument and as a foundation.
Historically, he is mainly arguing with the Socinians. These folks are forerunners of modern day liberals because they make reason the foundational principle of what can or should be believed. If something is taught in the Bible, but does not make rational sense, then it is to be rejected or relegated to myth or metaphor. Turretin rejects this saying that folks like this have missed the true relationship between reason and theology and therefore are mislead concerning how it is to be used by the Christian (and especially by the theologian). He describes this relationship beautifully:
A ministerial and organic relationship is quite different from a principle and despotic. Reason holds the former relation to theology, but not the later.
Thus, reason can be used to help people see through errors in their thinking (for our reason is either broken and blinded by the Fall or is renewed but imperfect by grace) and as a useful tool to help people see the truth (it ministers them toward it). It does not and must not be allowed to have despotic rule over theology. God is not bounded by reason and the world that He has given to us must be viewed through the lens of His revelation. Reason should be used to support this revealed faith.
Where does this type of teaching make an impact today? It does give us an approach to the study of origins. Believers are often tempted to compromise with the unbelieving Naturalists and dismantling the content of Genesis 1 and 2. If you do this, the question is why do you do it? I think that well meaning folks do this because they actually want to deal with the data (light seems to have been traveling for a long time and carbon dating seems to make it look like the world is very old). My concern is that they have at this point misunderstood the relationship between reason and faith rejecting things that are clearly revealed because reason has become the principle by which things are affirmed or denied in the faith. Most just want to do this with origin issues, but if the despotic relationship of reason over faith is established then it should also be applied (with disastrous results) to things like sun standing still in the sky, the Virgin birth, the wine at the wedding feast at Cana, and the resurrection. If here, why not there?
Turretin provides a better way by giving reason a ministerial instead of a despotic role. As a minister, reason supports the things of faith, but when it finds scientific or deductive data that seems to conflict with faith it first seeks to find a way to question whether we have misunderstood the data (our reason being blind or hazy though renewed). It might leave believers in an awkward situation at points: not being able to explain data without non-scientific (or super-scientific) assertions (e.g., the light that comes from stars far away that seems to have been traveling in this direction for millions and millions of years might have travelled faster in the beginning, or it might have been created in route because God wanted us to see the stars). These assertions are not scientific. They make us blush when we are dealing with the local unbelieving hard data scientist (who happens to believe that life arose from inorganic matter which is a belief that would be called magic if it were in a Harry Potter book). These assertions strike and the underlying uniformity assumptions of science. They will not win you friends at the local community college biology department, but they will leave in tact the ministerial relationship of reason to faith. One can also believe that the days of Genesis might be meant to be longer periods than 24 hours period, but they should be convinced of this from the Scriptures or that this can leave us with a consistent picture of what God is telling us in His word. It can not or should not be believed because reason has taken the despotic relationship holding judgment over the Scriptures and the doctrine derived from them. Thus, we should not chuck the story of Genesis 1 and 2 because reason points more toward the evolutionary story so we slice and dice our Bible to make it fit with the data we think we understand. We MUST not believe this in order to win friends at the local unbelieving university because if we hold to our guns, they are not going to like us for long or as Jakob Dylan says, “Cheap lovers make expensive wives.”
Today is the birthday of Thomas Jefferson who practiced the despotic relationship of reason to faith. Yesterday was the day on which Galileo’s trial by the Inquisition began. Christians have erred in both directions. Today, they are tempted much more in the Jeffersonian direction. What an apt time to run into this question in Turretin!
April 13th, 2013
As I wade into Turretin, I am impressed by two things. I always thought that Turretin was in the main systematizing the Reformed Faith (and he certainly is!). I am surprised, however, that the form and the structure make it seem much more like an answer to Thomas’ Summa. The scholastic form (of which this is one of the last examples–no one in the reformed tradition today would write like this) is not mimicking, but is built on Thomas’ form and structure in the Summa.
Also, he caught me off guard yesterday by answering this question: “Is theology more of a theoretical or practical science?” Make your guesses…..
He answers that it is more practical than theoretical. He is taking issue with Thomas here who claimed that it was mixed but more theoretical. Thomas was taking issue with the Platonic Medievals who saw theology as all theoretical mainly because they wanted it to be the highest science an they looked at theoretical things as being higher than practical things. Turretin is also taking aim at the roots of what will become theological liberalism and shockingly (although clearly in light of Turretin) broad evangelicalism both of which explicitly or implicitly maintain that it is all about me (my reason as judge or the movement of my heart as judge).
Turretin also presupposes that his readers will have a classical education. He talks about logic in ways that expect that it is understood.
April 7th, 2013
Here is a little part of Turretin’s Topic 1, Questions 5, Part X on What is the object of theology that made an impact on me this morning:
Theology treats sin not as belonging to God, but as holding certain relationship to Him (either that of opposite or contrary or as coming under His providence and justice); just as medicine treats of diseases and their remedies although its principle subject is man as curable.
April 6th, 2013
Here is a link to Peter Wood’s recent interview with Dr. Peter Wood on his book A Bee in the Mouth. Dr. Wood is a friend of Veritas Academy and stopped by a few years ago to talk with our teachers about the process of writing:
Peter Wood’s interview
April 6th, 2013
Reading in Turretin today on Natural Theology (i.e., what God makes clear to us just by the view that he gives us of nature…and how responsible this viewing makes us).
I found something really interesting. Turretin takes issue (or sort of takes issue) with Zwingli’s assertion that we will find pagans in heaven–pagans in heaven. Here is story. Turretin asserts (biblically and correctly) that Christ is the only way of salvation and that the natural world, however much it shows us God’s glory and power, can not show us the gospel…which is, again, the only way of salvation. Zwingli, however, says the following in his work called “A Short and Brief Exposition of the Christian Faith” (Ch. 10):
Here you will see the the Adams, the redeemed and the redeemer, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Phineas, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and the Virgin Mother of God of whom he prophesied,David, Hezekiah, Josiah, the Baptist, Peter, Paul; here too, Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos and Scipios; here Louis the Pious, and your predecessors, the Louis, Philips, Pepins, and all your ancestors who have gone hcnce in faith. In short there has not been a good man and will not be a holy heart or faithful soul from the beginning of the world to the end thereof that you will not see in heaven with God.
The highlighted people are people that (as far as we know) never heard the gospel. Turretin says that Zwingli is stretching the Scriptures at this point, although he notes that Zwingli’s view is NOT that these virtuous pagans can earn their way to heaven with their good works, but that God can mysteriously work faith in those who have not heard the gospel. In this, Zwingli agrees with Dante who famously put Rhippheus the Trojan and the Roman Emperor Trajan in heaven. I think that Turretin is right on the theological point that Christ’s sacrifice is the only way of salvation (of course, I do not think Zwingli or Dante would put up much of a fight there).
One has to wonder, however, whether Turretin’s guarding of this important point is no too knowing. God can and may show grace where he will and if he wants to raise a Roman Emperor from the dead so that a bishop can convert him then so be it (btw, I do not think that this legend is true in fact I am just saying that limiting God’s ability to work in whatever way He sees fit). God can save people in whatever way he wants. Note, also, that at least for Dante there are but two of these odd cases. That would be two out of millions and millions. If I am pleasantly surprised to find Cato in heaven, I will just wonder even more at God’s grace.
April 6th, 2013
Recently, this article was recommended to me. It deals with a question that I hear from parents often: “Why do you all of this stuff with students?” The stuff is all of the classical content in a rigorous joyful education at Veritas Academy. People want practical benefits for their children: a job and a career.
Parents should want more, of course. I definitely want more. Our kids should study classical material because it tells them about their identity.
If, however, those things still don’t move you, then this article is for you. It is about how and why students with a classical education are much more attractive in the job market than students who receive a “practical” education. (I put “practical” in quotes because as it turns out a “practical” education turns out not to be all that practical.) Here is the article:
Practical v. Classical Education: Which Do You Need to Get Hired?
April 6th, 2013
Recently, I received a question from Sarah Bryan, a college student at Grove City who did an internship for Veritas last year asking:
I am writing to you to inquire about the origins of the “classical” aspect of the Classical Christian Education movement. I am writing a paper and doing some research into the origins of the Trivium and their application in the Middle Ages. I wonder if you know why the term “classical” was chosen when, (from what I’ve heard, which may be incorrect) it’s more of a medieval model of education. Also, do you know any more specifically which periods of medieval history the ACCS and other classical educators would point to as the model? Perhaps the cathedral schools or the reforms of Alcuin and Charlemagne. I suppose my real question pertains to the current Classical model of education and to what roots those educators are returning.
Here is my answer:
This is a brilliant question and I am encouraged by your asking it. Good work. I will answer in three ways: the technical, the actual, and the practical:
- Technically, I think that the title is legitimate. The reason is that the method of teaching the Liberal Arts—which is really what modern classical education is a return to—stretches back into classical antiquity. Thus, the method and the practice finds its origin in classical times. Andrew Kern and Gene Veith have written about this. There is an old lecture from Kern at the ACCS Conference that you can probably get on this from WordMP3.com.
- Actually, I think that you are right. It would be more descriptive to call what we are doing Medieval Classical Christian Education. The time period that we really look back to is Medieval. This is important for two reasons: first, we need to see a time period when the method was being used in a Christian context; second, it is important to remember that the method (which in antiquity was made to produced a mature, perfect, and well rounded man for a free society) was altered in ways subtle and substantial. The end goal of Christian maturity is to be like Christ. The end goal for the Greeks was to be fitted to a form that did not really have a human incarnate antecedent (or had only imperfect ones). This alters everything in the system and makes it better. You are very right, however, that the Cathedral schools and the reforms of Charlemagne are some of the places that are very influential (and very unstudied at this point).
- Practically, classical is a better word than Medieval in a marketing sense. This is the fault of the Renaissance in the main. I think that we need to continue reforming the word “Medieval” and helping people to see if for what it really was: one of the greatest times of the flowering of civilization and beauty in history. Trying to do this teaching on your marketing brochure is doom. We call it classical.
Great question. Hope this helps.