Bradley G. Green

Nullus Intellectus Sine Cruce


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Melanchthon on the Languages and the Gospel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brad Green   
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 09:34

In his Ratio discendi (1522) Melanchthon makes the case for the importance of studying the languages.  He writes:

"You must know that languages and literature are from heaven.  When in former times the Gospel had to be spread over the whole world, the apostles received the gift of tongues.  The same obtains today: the Gospel is reborn and, simultaneously, the study of languages is restored and with its help we learn the Gospel. . . .  Eloquence was once dead.  Now that God has restored it to life, we must guard the divine gift in every way" (Rummel, 145).

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 September 2015 09:35 )
Melanchthon on the Humanities and Theology PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brad Green   
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 09:25

In Erika Rummel's The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance and Reformation, we read this from Melanchthon, who is discussing the nature of education, and the role of humane studies:

"If the humanities have not been taught, what kind of theologians will we create?"  Melanchton then says: "but I know how much to attribute to the humanities, lest anyone think I am detracting anything from the Holy Spirit here" (Rummel, 144).

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 September 2015 09:29 )
Calvin on the Eschatological Trajectory of Creation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brad Green   
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 08:46

In his short piece, Simon Kennedy discovers a helpful quote from Calvin on the nature of creation, and its eschatological trajectory.

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Luther and Languages PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brad Green   
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 21:51

One more reason to like Luther:

Luther recommends that a good library contain: "Holy Scripture in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, and in whatever other languages it may be available.  Then there should be the best and oldest commentaries, if I could find them, in Greek, Hebrew and Latin.  Then books that aid us in acquiring the languages."

(quoted in Erika Rummel, The Humanist-Scholastic Debate, 115).

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The Religious War Against the South PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brad Green   
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 20:56

It is striking to witness the current war on the South and its symbols.  Those of us with some sort of connection to the South, or some sort of sympathy with the South might be forgiven for asking (either aloud or to ourselves) if in fact perhaps Reconstruction never really ended.

Jennifer Steinhauer has written a piece for the New York Times, "Historical Symbols in the Midst of a 'Purge Moment'" (September 1, 2015).  The piece surveys some of the recent developments--mainly the current trend whereby there is great pressure to remove this or that symbol of the South (she touches on more than the South, by the way).  Thus, there is pressure around the nation to "purge" symbols of John C. Calhoun, Robert E. Lee, and others from display.  There are a lot of reasons to oppose such moves, but that is not really not my interest here.  Rather, my interest is the intriguing title of her essay, and what it reveals.

Steinhauer's piece uses an important word: purge. Our English word "purge" comes from Latin.  The Latin verb "purgo, purgare, purgavi, purgatum" means: "to cleanse, clean; to clear, clear away, remove; to clear of a charge; to excuse, justify; to refute; to purify ritually; to purge (the body)" (John Traupman's Latin Dictionary).

Given the nuances and possible connotations of the Latin word, it is understandable that in the history of the West the word "purge" has been used often in an explicitly religious or theological sense.  And I suspect what we are witnessing in our day is a certain kind of religious crusade to cleanse our culture of certain symbols.  That is: our current cultural elites are engaging in their own type of ritual purification.

Conservatives err by not grasping this.  I suspect it is important to grasp that all culture is in one way or another religion externalized (see Henry Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture or Abraham Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism).  One of liberalism's great moves has been to advance a certain vision of cultural reality while hiding the fact that this vision of reality is theological and religious at its core.  It has been, from a strategic standpoint, utterly brilliant.

We only think that the religious wars stopped in the 1600s.  They never really stopped.  The current war on the South and its symbols is simply a particularly interesting version of religious warfare.  And occasionally even the New York Times gets this right by calling the current effort by its true name, a purging.


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 September 2015 08:35 )
Don Carson on Compatibilism PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brad Green   
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 13:58

Don Carson's How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil is a good book.  Here is chapter 11, "The Mystery of Providence".

Download this file (Carson on Compatibilism.pdf)Don Carson on Compatibilism[ ]6349 Kb

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 September 2015 19:54 )
Bavinck on Christianity and Culture PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brad Green   
Monday, 31 August 2015 06:51

Bavinck can write:

'A priest in the Lord’s temple, the believer is therefore king of the whole earth. Because he is a Christian, he is a man in the full and truest sense.'

Bavinck goes on:

'The Christian is the true man, on every front and in every domain. Christianity is not opposed to nature, but to sin. Christ came, not to destroy the works of the Father, but only those of the devil.'

And back to Bavinck on Nature and Grace.  Jan Veenhof, summarizing Bavinck, can write:

'Bavinck’s thesis that reformation through grace is more than mere repristination is no denial of his foundational principle that grace restores nature.'

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 November 2015 20:41 )
Bavinck on Nature and Grace PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brad Green   
Sunday, 30 August 2015 22:59


For a number of reasons, I have been ruminating upon how a Protestant is to think about the relationship between Nature and Grace.  A part of this comes from reading the extremely stimulating work of Leonardo Chirico, particularly his 2003 book, Evangelical Theological Perspectives on post-Vatical II Roman Catholicism.  It is a wonderful book.  Central to De Chirico's thesis is that there are two key axioms which are at the heart of the systemic nature of Roman Catholicism.  There is (1) Rome's understanding of the Nature/Grace relationship, and (2) Rome's understanding of the Church as the continuing Incarnation of the Son.

My interest here is on the relationship between nature and grace.  In reading De Lubac a number of years ago (his Augustinianism and Modern Theology), I learned that Roman Catholicism had their own very long and very intense debate on nature and grace, on the exact way to understand the nature of grace in the garden, and so on.

Herman Bavinck was quite happy to affirm that in some sense grace "perfects nature".  In an article by Jan Veenhof (translated by Al Wolters), Veenhof discuss the issue of nature of grace in Bavinck.  While Bavinck (like Thomas Aquinas) can speak at one level of how grace "perfects nature", Bavinck could nonetheless argue that Rome and Protestantism (at least in its Reformed iteration) sees the nature/grace dynamic or relationship in quite different ways.

According to Wolters (in his Translator's Introduction): "Central to the religious vision underlying the cosmonomic philosophy is Bavinck’s insight that grace restores nature, i.e., that creation is not abol- ished but integrally renewed by salvation in Christ" (p. 11).

Again, although Bavinck can uses Thomistic language of grace perfecting nature, he also sees a fundamental divide between Rome and Protestantism on this issue.

Veenhof writes (at times quoting Bavinck):

'With “this imposing Roman Catholic system the Reformation came into collision at virtually every point.” The sixteenth-century Reformation was not only a reformation of the church but also an “entirely different and new conception of Christianity itself”: The Reformers, going back to the New Testament, replaced the dualistic world and life view of Catholicism, and its quantitative opposition between the natural and the supernatural, “with a truly theistic world-view and a qualitative opposition”' (p. 15)

It might be fair to say Bavinck (and Protestantism more generally?), in contradistinction from Rome, views creation differently in two complementary ways. Creation is both (1) more fundamentally good and graced from the very beginning (the "divide" between nature and grace is less stringent), but (2) after the fall nature is more marred and corrupted by sin than is generally understood in traditional Roman Catholicism.  As Veenhof writes: "Because of the way in which the Reformation established the relation of nature and grace, the cosmos of course immediately gains significantly in importance" (p. 15)

Bavinck himself can write:

"It does not mean an annihilation, but a restoration of God’s sin-disrupted work of creation. Revelation is an act of reformation; in re-creation the creation, with all its forms and norms, is restored; in the gospel, the law; in grace, justice; in Christ, the cosmos is restored" (p. 18).

If Rome wants to elevate nature, the Reformed Protestant wants to repair nature: reparatio not simply elevatio.

But notice this emphas on repairing and not simply elevating does not entail a "lower" understanding of creation, but really sees creation in a "higher" sense--creation was radically and thoroughly good because created.  It has not lost all trace of goodness with the entrance of sin in the world.  But due to sin, nature has a great need: repair, not simply elevation.

As Veenhof writes (again quoting Bavinck):

'The Holy Spirit, who acts in continuity with God’s directives in natural life, “seeks by His grace to restore the whole of natural life, to liberate it from sin and to hallow it to God”' (p. 18).

Finally, summarizing Bavinck:

'Grace militates against sin in the natural, but it does not militate against the natural itself; on the contrary, it restores the natural and brings it to its normal development, i.e. the development intended by God' (p. 19).

For Evangelical Protestants to know how to relate to our Catholic friends means we must both understand what Rome is saying, as well as understand what our own tradition has said over the years.  Bavinck is a helpful older guide to read on the way.


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 November 2015 20:43 )
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