Yes, I misspelled that on purpose. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably live near me.
Today’s Grand Rapids Press contained an article on the difficulty of walleye to thrive in the Muskegon River. I’m sure there is more to it than this, but the article describes how every spring the Michigan Department of Natural Resources descends on the Muskegon River to collect “millions of walleye eggs” to distribute to “dozens of lakes and rivers across Michigan’s Lower Peninusla.”
This year the DNR was accompanied by scientists who are trying to discover “one of the most vexing ecological mysteries in the Muskegon River: Why can’t walleye successfully reproduce in one of Michigan’s healthiest rivers? ‘There are a number of potential causes, such as invasive species and water temperatures,’ [a researcher] said. ‘We hope to figure out exactly what’s happening.’”
I’m no expert, but might the “invasive species” not be that DNR guy with the buckets of walleye eggs? Every spring they take millions of eggs from the Muskegon River, and they really can’t figure out why the walleye aren’t making it?
Herman Bavinck includes this important footnote in his Reformed Dogmatics, 3:491-92. It comes from Max Müller in a speech he gave at the turn of the twentieth century.
“I may say that for 40 years, as at the University of Oxford I carried out my duties as professor of Sanskrit, I devoted as much time to the study of the holy books of the East as any other human being in the world. And I venture to tell this gathering what I have found to be the basic note, the one single chord, of all these holy books—be it the Veda of the Brahmans, the Purana of Siwa and Vishnu, the Qur’an of the Muslims, the Sendavesta of the Parsis, etc.—the one basic note or chord that runs through all of them is salvation by works. They all teach that salvation must be bought and that your own works and merits must be the purchase price.”
“Our own Bible, our sacred book from the East, is from start to finish a protest against this doctrine. True, good works are also required in this holy book from the East, and that even more emphatically than in any other holy book from the East, but the works referred to are the outflow of a grateful heart. They are only the thank offerings, only the fruits of our faith. They are never the ransom of the true disciples of Christ. Let us not close our eyes to whatever is noble and true and pleasing in those holy books. But let us teach Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims that there is but one book from the East that can be their comfort in that solemn hour when they must pass, entirely alone, into the invisible world. It is that holy book which contains the message—a message which is surely true and worthy of full acceptance, and concerns all humans, men, women, and children—that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
I just spent my morning reading a splendid summary of the contemporary debates surrounding Scripture, and I like it so much that I’m going to use it as a textbook for my class on prolegomena. The book is Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: the Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age, by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt (Crossway).
Nichols and Brandt explain the modern and postmodern controversies surrounding biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation. Each issue receives two chapters: one which introduces us to the history of the debate in winsome and readable prose, and another which presents selections from the most important primary sources on the topic. Even though I was already familiar with most of the material in this book (the chapter on inerrancy is a fine complement to chapter 11 in Don’t Stop Believing), it was helpful to me to have it all in one very accessible place. It will be even more valuable to my students or anyone who is encountering these issues for the first time.
I especially like the tone of this book. While clearly in the conservative camp (yeah!), Nichols and Brandt treat opposing views with respect. They appropriately appreciate and critique both modernity and postmodernity, both modern fundamentalism and postmodern postliberalism, and leave us with a postmodern conservatism which, in the spirit of Kevin Vanhoozer, seems exactly right.
I don’t want to blog through this book (I wish bloggers wouldn’t do this, and so spoil the joy and need of reading the book for ourselves), but I will tell you that if you want to understand how evangelicalism got where it is and where we might be headed, then in the name of Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, you need to read this book.
In Joe Stowell’s excellent talk on Monday, he distinguished between the Greek terms for good, agathos and kalos. He said that agathos meant something like moral purity and kalos meant acts of service. He illustrated the difference by saying that if you pass by a pornographic shop on the street, that is agathos good works, and if you give $5 to a panhandler, that is kalos goodness.
When I wrote to thank him for his speech, I jokingly asked whether giving $5 to a panhandler is really a kalos deed, or have you just bought that fellow a drink? Joe responded back in kind, saying that Jesus healed a blind man without wondering whether he would use his newfound sight to stare at women.
Joe meant it as a joke, but it got me thinking. I have never considered what it would have been like to be tempted in the very area that I was healed by Jesus. Would a former blind man think twice before using his redeemed sight to sin? If it was me, I think I would.
Then it struck me that I am that blind man. We read Augustine in class this morning, and he said that our vitiated nature has been restored by Christ. Just as it would be unthinkably inappropriate for a healed blind man to use his restored sight to lust, so it is wrong for us to use any of our redeemed members for sin. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:19-20, “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”