Here are the preceding posts in this series: I, Can adults be saved? ; II, Word or the Church? ; III, The unattractive body, IV, Miraculous, ordinary, conversational experience ; V, The arrogance of the infant (a) ; VI, The arrogance of the infant (b) ; VII, The “Church-speak” that we need ; VIII, Judge your mother, o child (the tragic necessity of the Reformation) ; IX, Divine revelation and infallible human opinion [!?]
Another conversation with Roman Catholic apologists has given birth to a new entry in this series. I’m not sure if that conversation is over or not, as my last posting is still pending approval after 5 days… (its hard to not want to try and interpret that!)
When it comes to trusting God (not loving Him!), children are tops. How so? Click here if you’d like to have a clue to where I am going with this post…
Psalm 146:3 says “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” As Christians there is no doubt that we are to put our full trust in God. He alone is to be the Object in which we hope.
When we are brought to faith and sustained in that same faith, He is the One to whom we look. Him and no other! It is by His Holy Spirit that He calls us, enlightens us, and sanctifies us through His word and sacraments – His “means of grace”. When we hear His word preached we recognize its truth – and the power that it has to transform not only us – but the world. It is even, as some say, “self-authenticating” (and it doesn’t matter if Mormons, for example, say the same about their false message). In addition, those mature in the faith readily recognize this message vis a vis imposter messages – even if an “angel of light” performs the greatest of miracles to support the errors they bring, these faithful stalwarts will not be moved! (see Deuteronomy 13! –they are only interested in the “many infallible proofs” [Acts 1:3, see also Acts 2:22,32-36, 13:34 ; I John 1 ; and I Cor. 15] Jesus did that fulfilled OT prophecies about Him and further bolstered the OT-confirming message He brought)
So we put our emphasis here – on the Word God alone brings and uses! We put all our eggs in this basket. Period! This is the faith we know and proclaim, and it is good, right and salutary to talk this way – these are, we believe “God’s talking points” (aside: to see some Evangelicals beautifully emphasizing and explaining some other doctrines Luther brought to the fore, see Jono Linebaugh and Billy Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, discussing Law and Gospel here)
That said… there is something else to be said, even if it is by no means to be made an emphasis in our formal theology. That thing is that there is no denying that the Church *is* the means of the means of grace! (note this interesting fact to: we are happy to accept the prophecy made about the “second Hus” as regards Luther even as, when it comes to the matter of determining Church teaching, we hold tenaciously to Luther’s words vs. ”enthusiasm” in the Smalcald Articles). We cannot eliminate people from the equation, even if they, as the messengers, are often happy to quietly step aside and get no credit! They are, as one RC apologist puts it “Formal Proximate Objects of Faith”.* There might seem to be the rare exception of course – like Paul being directly encountered by the living Christ – but note that even here he was sent to Ananias for additional instruction and baptism (note as regards visions God still seems to do this today)
And it has always been so. Many of us are “cradle Christians”, blessed with the gift of faith early on in our baptisms, nurtured with good words from our earliest days. We were fed these Spirit-and-life words that transform and reform (see I Thes. 2:13: “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers”). And of course many of our parents found themselves under the care of reliable men who were appointed to pass on that message – that tradition – from runner to runner.
So who am I really trusting then? This is how I would put it: I trust God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, through the words spoken by the Church, which is in line with the Church of the past (particularly “Apostolic Fathers”), which is in line with the Apostolic Deposit in the Scriptures, which is in line with the Old Testament prophets. And it’s not necessary that I doubt any of these things at all – it is good, right, and salutary to rest in this trust – this trust that is confirmed in me every time I explore the past (whether by the evidence of books of the primary and secondary sort or just living flesh and blood persons I speak with “in the know”) – not necessarily out of any skepticism (anyone else see the problem with the statement “trust but verify”?), but rather out of simple curiosity and a desire to better know the heritage that belongs to me and those who surround me.
For there is a heritage. A “flesh and blood” heritage that is not only the flesh and blood of God offered at the altar. Yes, I also mean the “flesh and blood” of reliable eyewitnesses who were the means of the means of grace! The trustworthy men who were unavoidably part and parcel of this whole saving action of God (even if He *can* bring persons to faith through those true words that are spoken by a lying non-Christian if He so desires). It is not that “doubting” Thomas had no evidence for faith. His fellow disciples who brought the testimony of the resurrection were part and parcel of that evidence – that evidence that is in turn inextricably bound up with the powerful Word the Holy Spirit speaks. On the other hand, saying that the disciples “add to the message” would also not be accurate.
In the book of Acts especially, God, in the power of His Holy Spirit, proclaimed the resurrection as proof to all men through reliable and trustworthy eyewitnesses – and both the fact and the meaning of this event are objectively “good news” and truth for all persons – whether they are accepted as this or not. Indeed, the disciples had this knowledge – perhaps something akin to what certain philosophers (of the analytic type) call “justified/warranted true belief” – what they said said is true knowledge whether one uses historical methodologies to verify it or not! Just because a person may not have inquired further, learning more about these eyewitnesses, their mission, and their claims does not make what they said anything less than reliable knowledge that God means for all persons to have via His reliable messengers!
The same holds for today – just because a person may not spend serious time listening to and speaking with those who have carried that testimony into the future does not make it anything less then reliable knowledge that God means for all persons to have via His reliable messengers!
I am speaking about the succession of the Apostolic message, carried forward primarily, although not exclusively, by the continuing Apostolic ministry.
Part (b) coming tomorrow
*-Just one example: Exodus 15:31 says, “And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”