Sunday, September 28, 2008

What I've learned in the past week, Vol 1


I'll try and warn those of you less interested in the business-side of what I'm doing slightly before I talk about it.

1) So, apparently, according to tradition, the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) were written by Moses. This opinion had not formed a central part of my thinking, so I was not much dismayed when I discovered that modern biblical scholarship posits no fewer than four (and possibly more) different sources for the text we now have. I'll offer my little piece of proof - compare the creation narratives in Gen. 1 and Gen 2 - the sharp contrast between THE LORD who speaks creation into existence, and the God who plants a garden and sews clothing for his creations. This hasn't created a particular theological problem for me - it's been pretty darned interesting, though.

2) What can we know about God? And how? Can we see Him in creation? If we can see Him in creation, how does that fit into our issue of true knowledge of God coming from scripture? In essence, I'm going to have to side with Calvin on this.

For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly. Calvin, John; Institutes of the Christian Religion

I find this image most powerful if I imagine not a book, but a light that is invisible outside of the use of this lens. Put the glasses on, and you see the light everywhere you look - at the world around you, or graven on your own heart. But the Scriptures reveal the light - they are not the light. Or, if you're of a certain age, do you remember using a sheet of red plastic to find the hidden text in an old hint book? Get a filter of the right color (Scripture) and you can see God's hidden text all over the place. But, again, the text is visible through the filter - it is not the same thing as the filter. That one breaks down a bit more - one of the brightest sources of knowledge of God is in Scripture, but the base point that I want to underline here, the heresy I feel especially called to speak against, is that Scripture is not God. God is found in Scripture and in the world of our own experience, both internal and external, through Scripture, but God is not the Scriptures. Equate the two, and you have set up an idol in the form of a book. 'Ware.

Next week, the trinity and the later Pentateuch!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

News In Excess

So, apparently people want to know what's going on in my life. I dunno, they're loving, and support you in your endeavour, and they want to know how things are shaking. This is what I hear.

For those of you of this persuasion, I am situated in 401A Hodge Hall (there is no B. I have two thirds of a suite to myself), but my physical address (as best I can locate it) is

SBN 598
Princeton Theological Seminary
Princeton, NJ 08542

Stuff sent to that address should get to me. If I find a better address, I shall correct it.

Classes have, thus far, been precisely what I expected. This is pretty high-level theological thinking, even in the intro courses, just the sort of chewy questions that really get me up in the morning. Professors range from brilliant/poor lecturers to just overall fabulous - one of them is part of an old Zaire mission family, and if this makes its way to Jonathan Cameron, you may feel free to ask Elsie McKee what a poor student I am.

I am managing to take good care of myself - the food here is pretty good, I am sleeping a sufficient amount, and there are numerous opportunities for exercise, including a swimming pool, a decent gym, weight room, and miles and miles of nice walks. The old Princeton battlefield is especially lovely at night.

Very little has caught me totally by surprise. There's a wonderful breadth of experience here, mothers and fathers side by side with newlyweds and recent graduates, different kinds of colleges, different theological backgrounds - we've all got something to say to each other.

So, now, if you're looking back over this archive, you'll find that it used to be a LOT more about what was going on in my head. That piece will still remain, I hope, but look here also for some more concrete life stuff as well.

At some point, in the near future, my take on the epistemology of theology.

Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and support. The knowledge that there is a community standing behind me gives me strength at odd times.

I'm headed out to lunch - peace be with you all.

Matthew "Gospel" Johnstone