Friday, August 25, 2006

Readings in History

I've been reading various works in history for seminars and colloquium, and so I thought I'd share some of it with you.

Jonathan Edwards: A Life is George Marsden's biographical work on Jonathan Edwards. His thesis is that Edwards was a "conservative revolutionary." Edwards was conservative in that he sought to uphold the old heirarchical structures of clerical authority, patriarchy, and even slavery. But, he was a revolutionary in that his strong theology of conversion moved religious authority to the experience of the individual, making an individual's experience of grace what determines his status in God's kingdom. The way of salvation through a conversion experience is required for for clergy and parishoners, men and women, and slaveholders and slaves, which meant that the lower classes could question the conversion of the upper classes. Practically speaking, though it's a minor point in the biography, Edward's sermons on justification by faith alone are what God used to spark the fire of awakening. Edwards preached the law and the gospel, emphasizing the grace of God in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation. May the Lord grant us such an awakening today!

Eighteenth-Century Philosophy by Lewis White Beck traces the intellectual developments of the 1700's. Ironically, this century was consumed with rationalism and confidence in human reason because of the unifying thoughts of Newton and Locke, but it also produced the great thinkers that ultimately set the stage for post-modernism and undermined all confidence in reason, including Hume and Kant. What happened? Newton and Locke were theists who presupposed the existence of a personal designer, who causes all things to function in an orderly way. Hume and Kant, while not denying God's existence, rejected God's existence as a necessary precondition of intelligibility; therefore, skepticism developed. The Bible teaches us that all wisdom and knowledge is found in Jesus Christ. That is, Jesus Christ reveals truth to us and expects us to understand it, showing us that God created our minds in such a way that they are capable of understanding the world around us.

Basil's work On the Holy Spirit was critical in combating the "binitarian" error advanced by Eustathios, who was at one time Basil's theological mentor. Basil, one of the Cappadocian fathers, a bishop of the same region, sought to correct the oversight in the original Nicene creed in 325, which neglected to affirm the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. Basil believed that "the greatest proof that the Spirit is one with the Father and the Son is that He is said to have the same relationship to God as the spirit within us has to us: 'For what person knows a man's thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comperhends the thoughts of God except the Spirt of God.' He also argues that both Christ and the Spirit do what only God can do, according to the Scriptures; therefore, if those acts are a proof of Christ's divinity, then they are also a proof of the Spirit's divinity. Basil stresses the fact that the way we come to know Christ, the Word, is "in" the Holy Spirit. He taught that we draw near to the Spirit by holiness and purification from sin, but also taught that the Holy Spirit is the one who calls us and draws us to Himself. May the Lord draw us to Himself by the Spirit through faithful holiness.


  1. Thanks Tom! Wishing I were with you in that Haykin class. Thanks for sending the syllabi

  2. Marsden was the 2005 Recipient of the Grawemeyer Award, an award given to one work of literature relating to religion each year, by LPTS. Did you see him when he came for the lecture?