Category Archives: Science

Memoir of the Rev. John Brown, part 8

John Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible (1859)

Presbyterian Polymath

The pastor of a large congregation has but little time to spare from the duties of his office, compared with one engaged with a less numerous charge. In this respect Mr. Brown found himself in his proper element at Haddington. There, without trenching on the duties of his office, he could devote a very considerable portion of his time to study; and this privilege he improved to the best advantage.

In the summer months his constant rule was to rise between four and five, and during the winter by six. From these early hours, till eight in the evening, excepting the time allotted to bodily refreshment, family worship, or when called away on the duties of office, he continued to prosecute his studies with unremitting application. To a mind so ardent in the acquisition of knowledge, with a judgment so clear, a retentive memory, and exertions so intense, it was by no means surprising that he became greatly superior to most men engaged in discharging the same sacred duties.

In acquiring the knowledge of languages, ancient or modern, he possessed a facility altogether his own. Without an instructor, unless for one month to start him in the Latin, as formerly mentioned, he soon got so far acquainted with that language as to relish its beauties; and, left to his own resources, though frequently but indifferently provided with the proper books, he soon became critically acquainted with the Greek, and especially the Hebrew. Of the living languages, he could read and translate the Arabic, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic, the French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and German.

With him natural history, civil law, natural and moral philosophy, were particular objects of research; but divinity, and the history of human affairs, sacred or civil, were his favourite studies; and his success in these departments of knowledge are visible in his various works.Among the writers on divinity with whom he was versant, we find that Turretine, Pietet, Mastrecht, and Owen, with Boston, Erskine, and Hervey, were the chief; which shows that he accounted sound divinity and accurate sentiment a far better recommendation of his author, than the flowing fancy, the brilliant style, or the harmonious period.

Though stimulated by a sense of duty, and strongly excited by inclination, to the study of divinity, such was his anxiety to become a universal scholar, that he made himself acquainted with the whole round of the sciences. In his reading, especially important works, he was in the habit of compendizing his author as he went along. In this way he abridged the whole of Blackstone’s Commentaries, the ancient Universal History, and a number of other important works. This, however, is a method concerning which the learned hold different opinions. To lay aside the book, and abridge entirely from memory, and that in the writer’s own language, without regarding the style of the author, will make the substance of the work more his own; which, with other reasons that might be named, seems to render it the more eligible method.

Memoir of the Reverend John Brown of Haddington

Christian Knowledge | East of Eden

Jonathan Edwards Tee by ReformationShirts.com (click image to see more)

The following episode of the Reformed Forum’s new podcast, East of Eden, was tailor-made for the readers of this blog! East of Eden is a podcast devoted to discussing all things Jonathan Edwards. Not the recent politician with good hair and a bad reputation, but the eighteenth century preacher of the First Great Awakening who became known as the theologian of revival. In this week’s episode, the co-hosts interview a guest to be named below as they discuss Edwards’ sermon on “The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth.” One comment made by Nick Batzig sums up nicely both the sermon and the theme of this blog: “You can have truth in the mind without godliness in the heart, but you can’t have godliness in the heart without truth in the mind.”

Later, I will update this post with a transcript of the context of the preceding quote. In the meantime, listen to the entire episode, “Christian Knowledge,” to be challenged to inform your godliness with a thorough understanding of the truth which accords with godliness (Titus 1:1).

An Example of Scholarly Restraint?

Maybe you’ve seen the news about the Coptic fragment which contains writing which has Jesus referring to “My wife…” It was amusing to see how many people at work today had to ask me, “Hey, Chitty! Did Jesus have a wife?” My answer was that during his first coming, he came to purchase a people whom Scripture calls “The Bride of Christ,” and when he returns, he and his Bride will enjoy the marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9). So, no, he didn’t marry an
individual during his earthly ministry 2,000 years ago because he is saving himself for his Bride, the church.

There was one curious thing about this fragment making news today: what major Christian holiday is coming up? It’s not Christmas or Easter. Monday did mark Rosh Hashanah for the Jews, but stories like this don’t usually coincide with Jewish holidays.

The timing may be evidence that this fragment is genuine. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think the apparent assertion of the fragment reflects the truth of the matter. But a serious scholar presented it to a conference of peers, submitting it for peer review, besides the fact that it is not being publicized in conjunction with any major Christian holiday.

Here’s what Michael Heiser, who blogs at PaleoBabble, has to say about it:

Now, to be clear, this discovery isn’t PaleoBabble — at least not yet. Karen King is a good scholar. She teaches on the history of early Christianity (which would include Gnostic sects) at Harvard. I don’t believe for a minute she’s faking anything.

read more

UPDATE: Although it is true that this “Jesus’ Wife” papyrus was not heralded in the sensationalistic way which is usually case with the stories breaking the week of Christmas and Easter, questions are being raised about the propriety of the anonymous owner’s intentions in allowing Harvard scholar Karen King to introduce it to the world as she has. After all, according to the NYT article, Dr. King is interested in giving other scholars a chance to “upend (her) conclusions.” Yahoo News informs us of the discussion in progress

Won’t We Leave Behind the Litmus Test of Wooden Literalism?

Nothing tickles me like Hank Hanegraaff’s affinity for alliteration! You remember Hank–he’s the host of The Bible Answer Man (BAM) radio show. I like Hank because he believes that “Truth Matters,” even if he disagrees with the doctrines of grace and is an evidentialist apologist. Some of my more hard core Reformed brethren may think that because of these two issues alone, I shouldn’t waste any more time listening to his show.

Despite occasional disagreements, there are many strengths to BAM and the Christian Research Institute that keep me coming back for more. Hank isn’t politically (or is that “religiously”?) correct–back in 1999, he suffered the slings and arrows of the Evangelical community who were capitalizing on what Hank in his inimitable way called “sensationalism and selling” as they geared up for Y2K for denying it was a danger; much more recently, he broke many hearts by refusing to bow to the golden idol of dispensational premillennialism expounding what he calls “Exegetical Eschatology.

Well, now he’s cast his lot against the populist view again–this time the issue is the Genesis creation days. I found Hank’s remarks from his introduction to the Friday Bible Answer Man broadcast especially helpful in encouraging us to remember that not everything is a fundamental over which Bible believing Christians must divide. How to interpret Genesis chapter one is one such, in Hank’s words, “in house debate which Christians can debate vigorously without dividing over.”

A couple of comments and then right to our callers. I’ve been getting a lot of questions at the CRI, through social media, through the Bible Answer Man broadcast and otherwise regarding the Genesis creation days. Are they literal? Are they long? Or, are they literary? Of course, there are three dominant schools of thought within Evangelical Christianity regarding the Genesis days of creation.

First, the popular 24 hour view that posits that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 sequential literal days. Therefore a majority of young earth creationists view the earth to be approximately 6,000 years old and consider all death, including animal death, to be a direct function of Adam’s Fall.

Furthermore, there’s a day-age perspective. That perspective posits that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 long sequential day-ages which total billions of years. So, in contrast to the 24 hour perspective, the day-age perspective posits that “nature, red in tooth and claw” is the result of God’s very good creation prior to Adam’s Fall to a life perpetuated by sin and terminated by death.

And then there’s a very noteworthy framework perspective, which holds the seven days of creation are non-literal, non-sequential but nonetheless historical. In concert with the day-age perspective, they view animal death as consistent with the goodness of God’s creation and believe that the age question is settled by natural revelation, in other words, by reading God’s Book of Nature, as opposed to settling it by reading special revelation, in other words, the Bible.

All three perspectives hold to essential Christian doctrine, thus they commonly debate non-essential differences without dividing over them. And I want to park on that for just a second. There are essentials, and as Christians we stand shoulder to shoulder with respect to essential Christian doctrine. The problem is, I think, that a divisiveness has crept into the Body of Christ whereby this age issue has become an acid test for orthodoxy. Therein lies, I think, a substantial problem.

Better that we adhere to the maxim: “In essentials unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” And then learn—“Iron sharpens iron.”I’ve learned a great deal by reading the presuppositions of the framework hypothesis. I’ve learned a great deal by reading the literature of old earth creationists; I’ve learned a great deal, in fact, my own conversion was radically affected by, the literature of young earth creationism.

Now I have disagreements with old earth creationism, because of the concordism that is apparent there, where you try to take science–modern cosmology, as an example–and fit it into the biblical text such that “he stretches out the heavens” becomes a pretext for Big Bang cosmology. I may agree with Big Bang cosmology, but I certainly don’t think the texts that are used as pretexts should be used in that sense.

I think the same thing is going on by a lot of the texts used by young earth creationism. But at the end of the day this is still an issue that involves debate, not division, so let’s not make it an acid test for orthodoxy, and divide unnecessarily, when, no matter how much time modern cosmologies posit for the age of the earth, or the universe, we don’t have enough time to form a simple protein molecule by random processes much less a living cell. So the real enemy is the evolutionary paradigm which is not only not tenable in an age of scientific enlightenment, but flies in the face of common sense—nothing cannot produce everything. The only logical thing we can say in an age of scientific enlightenment, is “In the beginning God”—an uncaused First Cause is the reason we have the effect of a universe finely tuned for human life.

WHI on the Effects of eDistraction

This week’s episode of the White Horse Inn radio show featured an interview with Grove City College Media Ecology professor T. David Gordon. Gordon is the author of two books that are of special interest to this blogger and will be hopefully to his readers also. The books are Why Johnny Can’t Preach (2009) and Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns (2010).

Why Johnny Can’t Preach is “an analysis of shifts in dominant media forms and their effects on the sensibilities of the culture as a whole. Many of those shifts have profound, and unfortunate, effects on preaching.” About Gordon’s newer book, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, the publisher’s website has this to say:

Changes in music have affected the way we think, the way we worship—even the way we are able to worship. We are steeped in a culture of pop music that makes other genres seem strangely foreign and unhelpful. Worship has become a conflict area, rather than a source of unity.

T. David Gordon looks at these changes in worship and not only examines the problems, but also provides solutions. They are solutions of great importance to us all—because how we sing affects how we live. Dr. Gordon not only shows the problems, he also provides solutions – it’s important, because how we sing affects how we live.

The White Horse Inn blog has also posted additional resources on the current phenomenon of media distraction and its effect on our minds, as Christians or otherwise, let alone culture at large (see blogpost here).

Boundless Creation of an Infinite God

Dr. Phil Ryken, pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and one of the team of bloggers at Reformation21.org, wrote an interesting post on how now matter how micro we go, there seems to continue to be something smaller to investigate, just as how matter how macro we go, there seems to be more universe out there yet to discover.

Like the song says, I “don’t know much about . . .” science, but this was an interesting read that will lead you to contemplate not only just how complex and infinite the universe is, but also just how infinite the Creator of the universe is. You can read Dr. Ryken’s thoughts here. By the way, he’s preaching a great series on Ecclesiastes. I recommend that you follow it at his SermonAudio.com page.

“The heavens declare the glory of God. . . .” (Psalm 19:1a)

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