AWAKENING TO A SCIENTIFIC METHOD TAKEN FROM THE BIBLE

     We are suffering from the paralysis of analysis.”  So declared a leading Southern Baptist pastor in 1963.  What he meant was that our whole approach is based upon a present method of science which is analytical.  However, analysis is not all there is to science or the scientific method. While writing a thesis for the Master of Arts in American Social and Intellectual History, I came to realize what that minister was saying.  My thesis involved a two apparently contradictory ideas, namely, the hypothesis which was regarded as true and the null hypothesis which, in this case, was also true.

Fast forward to 2006.  I encountered a science educator who was in charge of science education for a county school system and who was working on her Ph.D. in that field at the state university.  I happened to say to her that there was a flaw in our present day scientific method.  She looked at me as if I were someone who should not be saying such things (after all I was a dumb preacher and what do they do know besides faith?).  I proceeded to inform the lady how I run into the problem in 1970-71, when I was writing my thesis.  In all the years since, I have been writing and thinking about this issue.

Slowly I began to explore the possibilities.  One of my professors at Liberty had demonstrated the fact there was a one shot case that followed the present methodology of science.  Hypothesis, experiment, null hypothesis (proven false), and the conclusion that the hypothesis was true followed by a resulting practical action.  Study Daniel chapter one, in the case of Daniel and the King’s food.

As I worked my way through the process, I came to the realization that the Bible presented another method also, one that was also synthetical, that is, a method able to consider two apparently contradictory but true realities at the same time and how that brings one into a more accurate perception of what is taking place in life.  I would use a number of terms to describe the method that developed from my struggles with the issues involved.  One is scriptural or biblical, since that is the source from which began to lay hold of the problem.  Second, This involves the intellectual aspect, that is, the use of the mind to formulate ideas that reflect situations as they truly exist.  Third, there is the hypothetical reflection, the interpretation which needs to be examined.  Next, we have the experimental, the testing of the ideas, and this involves the synthetical, the apparently contradictory ideas.  Basically, we are dealing with something that fits this digital age in which we live.  This leads, in turn, to the asymmetrical nature of ideas, and the practical application of it where and when appropriate.  More could be said, but for now we will wait on reflections of those who might be attracted to method of science which is much more appropriate for dealing with the problems that we face in a world that is changing at a speed beyond any thing experienced previously.

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AWAKENING TO THE BIBLICAL REALITY OF A NEW SCIENTIFIC METHOD

     “Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word?”  That remarkable question by the Rev. John Robinson, the pastor of the Pilgrims, reminds us that there are depths to Scripture which we have yet to plumb.  I can remember when I was working on the problem of how Sandy Creek Baptists could have “Eldresses”, that I begin to become aware of the fact that in our study of the issues of biblical interpretation we lacked a method that was truly synthetical, that is one that could take in a two-sided truth, one that could enable students to be able to give full faith and credit to the profound two-sidedness of Holy Writ.

     In any case, there were texts in the Old and New Testament which actually presented men and women as equals, and the difficulties have to do with how we handle negative comments one way or the other.  For example, the comment in I Cors. 14 concerning women not being permitted to speak is in the context of a man speaking in tongues without an interpreter, and the same language is used.  Obviously, this does suggest that the negative precept has a limited application.  Even more suggestive is the fact that “Eldresses” is used a number of time in I Tim. 5, and if the man is an elder then it should follow that the women are eldresses.

     I once argued with a fellow who was very committed to the idea that women were not permitted to have any leadership role in the church or, practically, any where else except the home.  I said, “If I can provide you with an example of a woman being named in a leadership role in the Bible, what will you do?”  He responded, “I will eat my words.”  Then I showed him Micah 6:4, “I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”  He had to admit that the text did present a woman in a leadership role, but he would not eat his words.  I guess the serving was not savory enough.

     I use the case concerning women not to cause controversy, but to awaken interest in how the Bible has a depth  that our present methods of study and understanding cannot plumb.  Due to our lack of adequate intellectual methodology, we are subject to theological manipulation.  An excellent illustration of such efforts can be found in church history.  Prior to the Reformation, the Waldensians charged Rome with being the Antichrist.  After all, they were acting like such, persecuting and putting to death those who did not submit to Rome’s rule.  The Protestants took the same approach, and then an Archbishop wrote a work on the issue, focusing on the idea that one person would be the Antichrist.  Today, we have many who look for a person who is the Antichrist, while institutions manifest the spirit of that nature. 

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AWAKENING TO PREDESTINATION

It was during the first year of seminary (1972) that I stumbled across a book by Dr. John Eusden, his translation of William Ames’ The Marrow of Divinity, the first textbook in theology used at Harvard University in the 1600s. I had been wrestling with that truth for over a decade, a doctrine set forth in the Bible, a teaching blinding in its brightness. Dr. Eusden stated in his Introduction: “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage,….” In short, I read it as: Predestination is an invitation to salvation or even more concisely, Predestination is invitation. I went looking for examples of it and the doctrines of grace being used in this manner. Our Lord set forth the truths many places in the Bible. Specifically, He made such use of these teachings in Mt.15:21-28 in an evangelistic manner. There in a present method of therapy, the therapeutic paradox (or reverse psychology as it is popularly known), He engaged a woman of Canaan in such a way that it led to His identifying her faith as “great,” a term that He applied also to a Roman Centurion. And, it must be added, one that He never applied to His disciples. Is it any wonder that this doctrine lies at the heart of the Reformation, the First Great Awakening, the launching of the Great Century of Missions, and the Second Great Awakening. Surely, this truth is coming back, and we will experience the Third Great Awakening, the one that reaches the whole earth and every soul on it in one generation and continue for a thousand generations, reaching unimaginable numbers of planets to which mankind will spread in the next 20,000-900,000 years, depending on how one measures a generation. This is not written with the finality of a know-it-all, but with the hope and the faith that there are passages in the word of God which are deeper than hitherto suspected, so deep, in fact, that the greatest minds have never plumbed their depths.

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AWAKENING TO THE INTELLECTUALISM OF THE BIBLE

     After doing six years of research in church history, garnering some 3000 5×8 notecards (about 6000 pages of writing, since they were writing on both sides), I entered Morehead State University in Kentucky in order to work on a Masters in American Social and Intellectual History.  Just prior to that time, I had begun to list doctrines that were two-sided or composed of two apparently contradictory ideas.  Some call such truths paradoxes, while others call them antinomies.  I eventually developed the term crisnalogical, short for dissonant and Christ, showing how He unites the seemingly mutually exclusive ideas in one synthetical (two ideas together instead of synthetic which implies the artificial) truth.  What all of this meant for the nature and effect of biblical teachings as they relate to beliefs and behaviors, I would come to understand with the passing of time and the development of perspectives for such ideas, like viewing a mountain at a distance.

During my studies for that degree, the thought begin to intrude upon me: If the Bible is inspired by omniscience, then it follows that it ought to reflect the wisdom that is commensurate with that fact.  I would spend several years during the seventies writing papers on various doctrines that were two-sided, apparently contradictory and yet, evidently, complementary.  I would discover with the help of thinking from scholars in other fields that the two parts of two-sided truth, like two poles (negative and positive) of a dielectric), were designed to create a field in the mind or a tension which enabled a believer to be balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic.  Papers reflectiving such realities would be written during my studies for the Master of Divinity and the Doctor of Ministry and, later, a Master of Arts in eclectic psychotherapy.

There comes that, Ah Ha!” moment, that time when one begins to see how the new understanding can be applied.  This would begin as a small thought and grow with the passing of time, grow into a passion for the enlightenment and enlargement of the truths set forth in God’s word, along with the wherewithal to recognize the use and effect of these truths during various periods in Christian history.  More will, hopefully, be said later, but the point here is to whet the appetite for a better insight and consequent behavior with new powers for working out old problems as well as dealing with new ones.

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Awakening A Thousand Generations

“Have you ever thought  about that fact that at any one time every last soul on the earth could be the elect of God?”  One of the roots of this blog can be followed back to that question put to me, circa 1967-68, by a person who I consider to have been the wisest man I ever met. 

     There are other sources.  For example, Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt which  moved William Carey, Andrew Fuller, and others to launch what the noted historian, Kenneth Scott Laturette, called the Great Century of Missions or the modern missionary movement as it is generally known. The most important, indeed, the true source is our text, I Chronicles 16:15 which states:

Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand  generations.

       Let us look at that text from a temporal and chronological perspective.  Consider the length of a generation.  Today, we think in terms of 20 years which would mean from the text that we have about 20,000 years.  If we have longer generations as is implied in the idea of the man dying at a hundred being a youth and the average man living as long as Methuselah (900+) years, then we have nine hundred thousand years.

        Couple that with the idea of man going to the stars and settling a million billion planets, and the inhabitants of the same being likewise truly converted (after all, John Owen in his Death of Death in The Death of Christ suggested that the Atoning sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for any number of inhabitants of other worlds), one can see how the cheer of Rev.7:9 can both provoke laughter and at the same time be utterly truthful.

        The theology of this site is what is called Calvinism, but I prefer the term Sovereign Grace as it is more biblical.  Some of the doctrines that John Calvin advocated were promulgated before he was ever born.  Indeed, there were people put to death for believing in election and predestination as well as anti-sacramentarianism.  The Bible speaks of “the many” for whom Christ died.  While that does not mean every one without exception, it does bespeak a multitude that no one can number.

       Contrary to popular belief, the people who launched the modern missionary movement were believers in Sovereign Grace.   They held to the five truths presented in the acrostic, TULIP (Total Depravity/Inability, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement/Particular Redemption, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints) as well as Predestination and Reprobation,

      As we hope to show each of these truths is an invitation to trust God for salvation and for everything and in everything that comes our way in life.  It is surely the truth that such biblical theology provides the knowledge that every person’s life has meaning and purpose to it.

     We do not exist for ourselves; we exist to serve the glory of God.  And serve it we will, either the glory of His grace or the glory of His justice, the justice of one who will have been found doing the worst of sinners the most good. As John Gill declared something to this  effect, “When we know the truth, no one in his right mind will condemn God for sending people to Hell.”  The same scholar also stated that God decreed to damn no man but for sin, nor did He decree to damn any but for sin.

The question stated in the opening of this blog, in conjunction with Jonah 3 and 4, demolished my eschatology, opening the way to see that God’s plans and methods were so much greater than I had ever imagined.  I could not see His way due to my view of Last Things, but, when I did, it opened up a vast vista of possibilities for the Gospel, possibilities even greater than every last soul on earth.

      What about believers in Christ whose theology does not agree with that of this blog?  The answer is to be found in Edwards Humble Attempt which appealed to believers in all denominations to unite in prayer for such expansion of the Gospel.  We might not be able to jot every i and cross every t the same way, but we can point people to the one who unites all true believers, regardless of the limitations of their belief systems.

If every soul on earth and on a million billion planets are the elect of God, then it behooves us to labor for their conversion with the expectation that our efforts will be attended with the blessings of Heaven.  What a future lies before us, despite the designs of some who plan otherwise.  Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

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