DISCLAIMER: The Aquila Report is a news and information resource. We welcome commentary from readers; for more information visit our Letters to the Editor link. All our content, including commentary and opinion, is intended to be information for our readers and does not necessarily indicate an endorsement by The Aquila Report or its governing board. In order to provide this website free of charge to our readers, Aquila Report uses a combination of donations, advertisements and affiliate marketing links to pay its operating costs.
You Might also like
By T.M. Suffield — 5 months ago
Written by T.M. Suffield |
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
It’s always worth noticing that the command to make disciples is not just make lots of new Christians, but also therefore to grow all those Christians up into maturity. Maturity might include sometimes not associating with certain people for your own sake—immaturity definitely should.
When reading through 2 Timothy with some folk a few weeks back, I got a number of questions about some of Paul’s instructions that seemed very strange to my fellow readers.
There are a number of people that Paul seems to not want Timothy to associate with. He lists some individuals but then at the start of chapter 3 describes a long list of character traits before saying ‘avoid such people’ in verse 5.
The question as people framed it was ‘why should we not associate with them, surely we want them to hear the gospel?’
I answered the question briefly, for the sake of time, explaining that you might go in thinking you’re going to pull other people out but actually you will be pulled in. For our own sakes we should be careful who we eat with (1 Corinthians 10).
I could have gone on to describe that in our day the most winning ‘strategy’ for the gospel is institutional subcultures… but I didn’t and I don’t want to write that post today either.
I’d like to draw out two threads that the questions revealed in people’s thinking, that I suspect are quite common.
Who are these people?
The assumption is that these people need to be preached the gospel, because they’re sinners. That’s a reasonable inference. What I think we miss is that, most likely, these people—these lovers of self and of money, proud, arrogant, disobedient to parents, abusive… he goes on at length—are within the church.
How do we know that? Context helps, Paul is instructing Timothy on how to deal with false teachers and quarrelling within the church. Beyond that though, the passage directly tells us: one of the dispositions listed is ‘having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.’
To have the appearance of godliness, you need to be within the visible church.
Now, you might want to say that these apparent sinners within the church need to be called to repentance in the gospel. You’re right that they do. It’s fascinating then that Paul’s advice to Timothy is to avoid them.
By Tom Hervey — 4 months ago
In a recent issue on Reformed scholasticism there is an article arguing that John Owen was a scholastic by Christopher Cleveland. That article consists in the main of the author’s analysis of how Owen used scholastic methods in his own work, but also mentions how he used concepts taken from the thought of Aquinas. Hence we read that “Owen demonstrates several of the characteristics of the scholastic approach in his writings” and that “the Thomistic distinction between God’s simple intelligence and knowledge of vision . . . found in Thomas’ Summa Theologica[,] is used by Owen in Display of Arminianism.”
The online magazine Credo, about whose notions I have written before, when it is not declaring the alleged glories of Platonism (comp. Col. 2:8), allowing Lutheran interim pastors to imply Anglo-Romanists are Reformed, or publishing materials by members of Romanist religious orders (participation in which we regard as sinful, Westminster Confession XXII.7), has been straining to re-popularize scholasticism, and has especially been commending the thought of Thomas Aquinas.
In a recent issue on Reformed scholasticism there is an article arguing that John Owen was a scholastic by Christopher Cleveland. That article consists in the main of the author’s analysis of how Owen used scholastic methods in his own work, but also mentions how he used concepts taken from the thought of Aquinas. Hence we read that “Owen demonstrates several of the characteristics of the scholastic approach in his writings” and that “the Thomistic distinction between God’s simple intelligence and knowledge of vision . . . found in Thomas’ Summa Theologica[,] is used by Owen in Display of Arminianism.” As concerns the latter statement this analysis may be correct; I am not sufficiently well read in Owen or Aquinas (two notably difficult authors) to say. But the method seems wanting, and fairness commends allowing Owen to speak for himself. Following are a series of mentions of Aquinas and the scholastics in some of Owen’s works so that you may judge, dear reader, whether Owen would concur with his description as a scholastic. All works cited are hyperlinked and are available through the Post Reformation Digital Library, a wonderful resource whose executive board is moderated by a sometime Credo contributor, David Sytsma. In some cases I have regularized capitalization and spelling somewhat for readability.
Before proceeding, note that what we now call the scholastics were referred to as ‘schoolmen’ or ‘school doctors’ in Owen’s day, and that instead of scholasticism he speaks of ‘the schools.’ Owen did refer to Aquinas with appreciation in some occasions at least. In A Vindication of the Animadversions on Fiat Lux he spoke of “Thomas of Aquine, who without question is the best and most sober of all your school doctors.” Given what follows I am not sure that is quite as much a compliment as it first seems, however. Then too, Vindication is a polemic work written against a Romanist author: telling his correspondent that Aquinas is one of “your school doctors” seems to be saying he belongs in the camp of the papists, not the Reformation.
That is borne out elsewhere, as in his work Of Schisme Owen refers to “Thomas Aquinas and such vassals of the Papacy,” and says of him and others of like opinion on schism that “we are not concerned in them; what the Lord speaks of it, that we judge concerning it.” Note carefully Owen’s rejection of Aquinas’ opinion as false and as contradicted by the Lord’s revelation in scripture. In that same work Owen says that Aquinas regarded schism as damning sin: “Schism, as it is declared by S. Austin and S. Thomas of Aquin, being so great and damnable a sin.” That makes it a bit of an oddity that so many Protestants are falling all over themselves to lay claim to Aquinas, since his published works condemn us as lost schismatics laying under the threat of damnation for our ‘sin’ in refusing to submit to Rome.
Elsewhere in the work, discussing the enormous differences of opinion that exist within the Roman communion, Owen quotes the great Roman controversialist Bellarmine’s opinion that one of Aquinas’ teachings was “idolatricall” (fun phrase), namely “that of Thomas about the worship of the cross with latria.” On that same subject Owen says in Vindication that “Thomas contendeth that the cross is to be worshipped with latria, p. 3. q. 25. a. 4. which is a word that he and you suppose to express religious worship of the highest sort.” And again, that “the most prevalent opinion of your doctors is that of Thomas and his followers, that images are to be adored with the same kind of worship wherewith that which they represent is to be worshipped.”
(This is why I have elsewhere opposed the Aquinas craze on the grounds that it is not appropriate for God’s people to be so zealous about someone who commends idolatry, which is what is entailed in worshiping the cross.)
Owen’s opinion of the scholastics in general does not seem to be very positive. In one of the works that Credo’s article quotes, A Display of Arminianism, we find Owen discussing the question of whether before the Incarnation men living “according to the dictates of right reason, might be saved without faith in Christ,” a matter he says “hath also since, (as what hath not) been drawn into dispute among the wrangling Schoolmen: and yet, which is rarely seen, their verdict in this particular, almost unanimously passeth for the truth,” a statement he immediately follows with a quote from Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae (2. 2 ae. q. 2. a. 7. c.) as evidence. Perhaps my understanding of seventeenth century English is errant, but that reads to me as though Owen is saying ‘even the schoolmen, who argue about everything, seldom agree amongst themselves, and are seldom entirely right, concur that this idea is false.’ (And that that was Owen’s position as well is abundantly confirmed by his subsequent statement that asserting men can be saved apart from faith in Christ is “a wicked Pelagian Socinian heresy.”) It is noteworthy, however, that the several other mentions of the ‘schoolemen’ in that work are not so dismissive, some citing them approvingly.
Elsewhere Owen speaks of the principle reformers as being superior to the scholastics in defending trinitarian doctrine. Discussing his Romanist opponent’s arguments in Animadversions on Fiat Lux, he says that “from them [anti-trinitarian heretics like Servetus] a return is made again, to Luther, Brenz, Calvin, Zwingli, who are said to nibble at Arianism, and shoot secrets darts at the Trinity.” He rebuts this by saying that “all impartial men must needs confess, that they have asserted and proved the doctrine of it, far more solidly then all the schoolmen in the world were able to do.”
Yet such statements are rather weak in comparison to the extended condemnations of the scholastics that appear in Animadversions and Vindication of Animadversions. In the first he speaks of his papist opponent’s “gallant commendation of the ingenuity, charity, candor, and sublime science of the school-men.” Owen’s response to this “gallant commendation” is strong:
I confess, they have deserved good words at his hands: These are the men, who out of a mixture of philosophy, traditions, and scripture, all corrupted and perverted, have hammered that faith, which was afterwards confirmed under so many anathemas at Trent. So that upon the matter, he is beholden to them for his religion; which I find he loves, and hath therefore reason to be thankful to its contrivers. For my part, I am as far from envying them their commendation, as I have reason to be, which I am sure is far enough. But yet before we admit this testimony, hand over head; I could wish he would take a course to stop the mouths of some of his own church, and those no small ones neither, who have declared them to the world, to be a pack of egregious sophisters, neither good philosophers, nor any divines at all; men who seem not to have had the least reverence of God, nor much regard to the truth in any of their disputations, but were wholly influenced by a vain reputation of subtility, desire of conquest, of leading and denominating parties, and that in a barbarous science, barbarously expressed, until they had driven all learning and divinity almost out of the world. But I will not contend about these fathers of contention: let every man esteem of them as he seems good.
A similar passage in Vindication is equally strong and expounds this theme:
I confess the language of your schoolmen is so corrupt and barbarous, many of the things they sweat about, so vain, curious, unprofitable, their way of handling things, and expressing the notions of their minds, so perplexed, dark, obscure, and oftentimes unintelligible, divers of their assertions and suppositions so horrid and monstrous; the whole system of their pretended divinity, so alien and foreign unto the mystery of the Gospel that I know no great reason that any man hath much to delight in them. These things have made them the sport and scorn of the learnedest men that ever lived in the communion of your own church.
And further, after some obscure Latin and ancient allusions:
They are not like to do mischief to any, unless they are resolved aforehand to give up their faith in the things of God to the authority of this or that philosopher, and forego all solid rational consideration of things, to betake themselves to sophistical canting, and the winding up of subtility into plain non-sense; which oftentimes befalls the best of them; Whence Melchior Canus one of yourselves says of some of your learned disputes, Puderet me dicere non intelligere, si ipsi intelligerent qui tractarunt. ‘I should be ashamed to say I did not understand them, but that they understood not themselves.’ Others may be entangled by them, who if they cannot untie your knots, they may break your webs, especially when they find the conclusions, as oftentimes they are, directly contrary to scripture, right reason, and natural sense itself.
And following more allusions:
But whatever I said of them, or your church, is perfectly consistent with itself, and the truth. I grant that before the schoolmen set forth in the world, many unsound opinions were broached in, and many superstitious practices admitted into your church: and a great pretense raised unto a superintendency over other churches, which were parts of that mass out of which your popery is formed. But before the schoolmen took it in hand, it was rudis indigesta (que) moles, ‘a heap, not a house.’ As Rabbi Juda Hakkadosh gathered the passant traditions of his own time among the Jews, into a body or system, which is called the Mishnae or duplicate of their law, wherein he composed a new religion for them, sufficiently distant from that which was professed by their fore-fathers; so have your schoolmen done also. Out of the passant traditions of the days wherein they lived, blended with sophistical corrupted notions of their own, countenanced and gilded with the sayings of some ancient writers of the church, for the most part wrested or misunderstood, they have hammered out that system of philosophical traditional divinity, which is now enstamped with the authority of the Tridentine Council, being as far distant from the divinity of the New Testament, as the farrago of traditions collected by Rabbi Juda, and improved in the Talmuds, is from that of the old.
Lastly, he says in Vindication:
Some learn their divinity out of the late, and modern schools, both in the Reformed and Papal Church; in both which a science is proposed under that name, consisting in a farrago of credible propositions, asserted in terms suited unto that philosophy that is variously predominant in them. What a kind of theology this hath produced in the Papacy, Agricola, Erasmus, Vives, Jansenius, with innumerable other learned men of your own, have sufficiently declared. And that it hath any better success in the Reformed churches, many things which I shall not now instance in, give me cause to doubt.
The folks at Credo will say that such vehement anti-scholastic rhetoric is directed against later scholastics like Gabriel Biel, not Aquinas or other “sounder scholastics.” The above make that seem doubtful, however, especially that last quote, and they draw into question whether Owen would concur with his classification as a Reformed scholastic of Thomistic inclinations. Let the reader judge for himself.
Tom Hervey is a member of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church, Five Forks (Simpsonville), SC. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not of necessity reflect those of his church or its leadership or other members. He welcomes comments at the email address provided with his name. He is also author of Reflections on the Word: Essays in Protestant Scriptural Contemplation, available through Amazon.
By Jacob Toman — 3 months ago
Typology in the Biblical canon ALMOST always points to a (i) need for fulfillment, (ii) lack of fulfillment from God in the historical moment, (iii) One who will come and provide “yes and amen” (2 Cor 1:20) to all the needs, and lacks in prior shadows. Unlike an analogy or illustration (which always breaks down) – biblical typology, when rightly understood, is a mine of precious treasures to be delved into and kept close to the heart. If the typology begins to break down at a certain point, we need to be careful and watchful lest we tread into heretical waters tempting apostasy.
Question: Is Elijah (and also therefore accompanying disciple Elisha) a type or foreshadowing of Christ?
“It seems that in some ways Elijah was a type of Christ. In 1 Kings 17, he multiplied food and raised from the dead the son of a widow. Jesus feeds the five thousand and raises the son of a widow in Luke 7, which to me seems to be too specific to not be a coincidence. And then they both ascend to heaven, rather than die. Are there any other parallels, or possibly scripture that talks about this relationship more explicitly than Hebrews teaching on the types and shadows? And then do you have any resources that teach on the topic of Elijah being a type of Christ?”
When we are engaging with a passage that we think there may be typological foreshadowing (or typological fulfillment) there are a couple of helpful frameworks to keep in mind:
1. The Object Casting the “Shadow”
Typology inherently involves identifying potential patterns or connections between multiple biblical passages. There are many differences between typology and other aspects of interpretation and biblical fulfillment (such as biblical prophecy, eschatology, inerrancy, and Christology). One distinctive typology is rooted in the distinct authorial intent of the inspired Biblical writer to draw a line between one person, place, or thing (like an event) and another person, place, or thing. In this way, one of the most helpful illustrations of biblical typology is that of casting a “shadow”. In order for something biblical to be typological of something else, it must have a prior referent (the darkness that is the shadow). Conversely, the thing typified must also have something coming after (object casting the shadow). We need to identify when doing typology both the shadow, and the thing potentially casting the shadow.
2. Looking for Clues
When we are asking questions of typology we’ve got to ascertain a level of biblical overlap expressed in the potential typological passage (using the historical-grammatical method, looking for words, references, illustrations, allusions, or explicit typological connections). Oftentimes the clues that are left will be genre-specific. The major and minor prophets often speak typologically about many things through heavenly comparisons. The historical books give narratives that can be sequenced or parsed to similar or near exact replication in future related typological passages. Phrases or words are repeated and used in a wide variety of genres including wisdom literature that are then picked up by NT authors in typological application or fashion (such as the New Covenant, Christ, or a host of other objects). We need to break apart (identify) the various clues that are leading us to consider a passage as typological.
3. Finding Fulfillment
Once we have identified the shadow and thing causing the shadow (#1) and considered the various clues leading us towards a typological possibility (#2), we’ve then got to consider the consequences in the potential fulfillment or inter-related relationship between the biblical passages (truths) typified. There are gross heresies that have spread about (paedocommunion being one of them, baptismal regeneration, and Nestorianism to name a few) due to their failure to recognize this third aspect of typology. If our typology leads to a fulfillment that is contrary to the rest of the scripture, we need to quickly be willing to admit our own faults, failures, and lack of understanding, and go back to the drawing board. Typology in the Biblical canon ALMOST always points to a (i) need for fulfillment, (ii) lack of fulfillment from God in the historical moment, (iii) One who will come and provide “yes and amen” (2 Cor 1:20) to all the needs, and lacks in prior shadows.