Monday, May 14, 2012

For Those Pondering a Call to Ministry Full-time...

Many years ago E.Y. Mullins, a Christian author, wrote a tract entitled What Constitutes A Call to the Ministry.  There are not a large variety of options for those out there discerning their calls to ministry.  Today Lifeway provides a booklet on the call to ministry, and there is a new book called The Call by Ed Etheridge.  So it's worth looking into other options:  Mullin's work is brief, but here is a short outline of his opinion for our consideration. It may help to remember that this is the same Mullins who was president of Southern Seminary, a large US seminary, (SBTS) in the past.
The elements which enter into a divine call may be stated as follows:
1.) An abiding conviction of duty or desire to enter the ministry and serve God in this way. I say it should be a conviction or desire. By conviction I mean a sense of duty.... I have used the qualifying word abiding because the sense of duty should be permanent. They cannot escape....In some cases it is not so much a sense of duty as a desire. This also is permanent.
2.) Of course, personal fitness in body and mind and spirit is necessary. A man must be a regenerate man, he must have a reasonable degree of health, and he must have aptness to teach or capacity for aquiring aptness ot teach, or else he will not be a success in ministry. Usually God shows a man these latter qualities by using him in Christian work, in the Sunday School or young people's organizations, or otherwise. Then, too, the opinions of the brethren usually coincide and agree in the opinion that God is calling the young man into the ministry. Thus there is an inward call and an outward one. The two harmonize. The above elements which enter into it contain only the essentials. There are many variations in the experiences of men who are called into the ministry. God has manifold ways of making his will clear. No two men have exactly the same experience. Where there is perplexity or doubt, earnest prayer, consultation with friends and reading the Scriptures will usually in time develop into clearness the divine call, or show that it is not a call to the ministry.

Thinking critically about this, how might it apply to you if you're exploring this topic?
Would you add/change anything?

This is from the only copy (read: rare archives) I know of stating President Mullin's view on this in a tract. It may be of interest to you to know that the mentioned Lifeway materials on the subject today are remarkably similar in conclusions and main points. However they tend to be larger booklets rather than tracts, complete with places to interact with questions on one's call to full-time ministry.  Maybe if you're searching the web on this topic, this can help a bit.

US Church Historical Guesses Turned Fact - Part I

Franklin Wilson, D.D. wrote through the American Baptist Publication Society a booklet on Baptist principles.  The name of this work, drum role...: The Final Triumph of Baptist Principles.  It may seem silly to us to hear that kind of title in a jaded not only church culture, but American culture, but given when he wrote it, in the US church life, it was predictive almost.  The size of Baptists went from practically nothing on to become a huge set of denominations today (there lots of kinds of Baptists, unlike Catholics who are in one under the Pope/Cardinals, for instance). 
So what did he say?  Dr. Wilson guessed (quiet well) how principles of Baptists should lead to their churches' growth and success over a long-period of time.  Again, keep in mind this booklet was written in 1890!  Keep in mind this has --not-- been the case for many or most denominations.
He begins with an example of the massive growth (then) amoung Swedes getting saved/switching polity to the Baptist church in Sweden. This in spite of persecution by Lutherans and the growth taking place in the 1850's-1890's.
The first reason for Baptist triumph is that they "appeal to the Bible, and the Bible only, as their rule of faith and practice. Obedience to the inspired Lawgiver is one of their cardinal principles."
From what I can understand, the second principles is this: "the concessions of Pedobaptist scholars, historians, and divines of nearly every sect and nation in Christendom who, though seperated by oceans, continents, and generations from each other, and defending infant sprinkling on various grounds, have been compelled as honest men to confess that it is not found in the Holy Scriptures."
Then he moves into consideration of history and argument building as something that is situated on the Bible for making it a good argument. Then comes the "inference that such a cause, with all other inspired truth, will eventually triumph. We confess that the obstacles seem so overwhelming that, from a merely human point of view, the conversion of the world to the pure gospel is the most Quixotic of all enterprises. It has to encounter the native depravity of the human heart...." Etcetera.

So then we see that the Baptist case will triumph so long as it is faithful to the inspired Bible. I am in agreement with Franklin Wilson in as much as I have had a chance to read here. The reason Baptists have not triumphed is that they have abandoned the Bible for 80+ years in the SBC (in the US anyways) until recently. However one could imagine that biblical fidelity will prove profitable because God blesses His Word. Indeed, Baptist scholar Thomas Nettles sometimes mentions the same conclusion that Franklin Wilson here comes to in this booklet. I don't know if he agrees with him in everything, but Dr. Nettles does at least in that conclusion line up with Wilson, D.D.

How do you see it? Any brave Presbyterians or Catholics out there who disagree?

How Do You Know What You Know? (another installment)

Benedict de Spinoza - a writer of the past whom many look to for this answer (not necessarily me, but I'm keen to know about him, given a lot of people do look to him (one example, many modern Jews you meet and have coffee with about religion).

Fyi:  local readers, this is a personal interest of mine on the side.  This is not something I expect everyone to know about, lol :)

Benedict of Spinoza, born in 1632, was part of a Jewish community in Amsterdam. He studied Latin and Cartesian philosophy, Torah, Jewish heritage, and the Talmud. Spinoza was adament that chance is a myth and there is no "such thing as a brute, unexplainable fact," (52-53, The Blackwell Guide to Modern Philosophers). There are several levels of knowledge, the first being what you are told by report or teacher and you know by remembering. The second being a certain kind of knowledge, knowing something is true, by proportions and certainty demonstrated. The third is why something must be true, by inferring effects from a complete knowledge of causes, (53, Blackwell).
Spinoza held that deductive (certain, aka 100%) proof is beyond human intellectual powers, (53).
In other words, probability arguments are the only ones to go on intellectually (this is not my view, I'm just relaying his view). He seemed to find that these second types of arguments were adequate for knowledge since one could have sufficient knowledge of an attribute, rather than all attributes.
Spinoza held that God's infinite intellect can offer a complete description of the universe in a deductive sense. He posited, however, an infinite mind could comprehend God's existence.
God is also the one substance of the universe himself in Spinoza's thought.
Knowing is accomplished by "following" the "proper order" (50-1) rather than by doubting and then refuting doubt piecemeal (51). Knowledge of causes gives rise to what we know. Starting points are "adequate" ideas about something and then building upon them. Doubts and not knowing will be non-existent if the proper order of building knowledge is followed. Any knowledge of a thing apart from knowledge of a thing's cause is "incomplete and partial," (51).
Adequacy def'd: "an idea which...has all the properties, or intrinsic denominations of a true idea" apart from any other object and considered in itself. It must be self-sufficient. Every idea is identical with its object. God's infinite intellect can comprehend true, adequate, complete knowledge of a thing because it knows that things causes.

It seems that Spinoza holds that we can't know all things, only God can, but we can know parts of all knowledge, with out limited intellect. Our reason can infer notions, but it cannot be complete, true, adequate in all things. The ultimate knowledge is a complete understanding of all things, to answer the question "why?"

Is there a division in Spinoza between saying that there are no brute facts, but then saying we can know a thing in itself? Can we know anything and really not know everything in his scheme? Is it possible to not be God but know anything certainly, fully adequately, to be true. Are we destined to be without deductive certainity?

Can we know absolute truth with Spinoza (it would appear not....)? Any philosophers want to help us out? It seems to me that he has a contradiction in advocating his view and then saying we can't know something deductively. Why follow his "proper order?" Does it certainly lead to true truth? Are common notions of probability adequate for certain theological/philosophical questions? Does intuition really give us total knowledge of "why?" Isn't this a bit Platonic? Much more could be asked. What do you think? Can Baptists learn anything from a Spinoza, or is he a waste of time?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Christian Roots Not Enough ... May 2012

For the sake of political edge with his base, the President decided to endorse and support homosexual marriage.  Several articles pasted here cover his change from in 2008 saying marriage was a union between only a man and a woman, and even a sacred institution for him personally before God, to now saying it is just a set of rights between two people.;_ylt=A2KJ3CVFyqtPym4AhnjQtDMD

News agencies tended to believe (on their own part) that President Obama would switch from a God-driven or oriented view of marriage over to a relativistic view of marriage at some point.  Would it really happen though?  Now it seems the transformation is complete.  One thing that is obvious from this:  President Obama no longer is guided by his past principles from a church background.  He'll do what seems right to a certain portion of his voter out of peer pressure, even if a portion of the voter base disagree.  Proof of this may be his conversation with Jeremiah Wright, where he told his former pastor, the Rev. that his problem was he preached the truth and it would hurt his campaign if Wright did this.  See this article, from the New York Post:

The church can no longer endorse a moral principle turned upside down when the Bible is so clear on the matter.  It's not like Romney is a saint in handling Bible principles.  For instance, he's been a Mormon Bishop, which is a religion teaching things utterly contrary to worked-out Christian doctrine from the Church's (universal) earliest days in the 1st century as well as the Jewish heritage this comes from where it had been worked out as well.  There are other things that could equally be said regarding Romney's teachings.  This post is in no way an attempt to prop up Romney.  However, it is a cultural statement that our President is working to advocate the views that God says are signs a nation is under judgment -- rather than blessing (Romans chapter one).  In other words, he will re-narrate any teaching of truth, to try to make something off limits to seek after from the Bible's view, palatable to society at large. 

This issue will divide many by its nature in relation to God and the world, in a way that Jesus predicts / mentions a household is divided by beliefs about Him.  To help the church survive as we live in perilous times, we must avoid voting for things on issues that will come back to haunt us if we let them by:  the immoral teachings on aborting young children for the sake of a person's monetary gain or interest in raising children, and homosexual marriage being supported, and a lack of support for a Defense of Marriage Act in praxis.