Archives for August 2012

enlightened on the enlightenment

I’m reading a series of books on the history of Britain. I picked them up at the British Museum in London last May. A very enjoyable read – usually accompanying my morning oatmeal! Currently I am in A Brief History of Britain, 1660-1851: The Making of the Nation, by William Gibson. This is volume three in the series; each volume has a separate author.

Came across this quote on the Enlightenment today… made me sit up and take notice!

The Enlightenment is one of those historical ideas that can easily give the impression of inevitability, methodically working towards some pre-determined event or goal. Folk practices and ancient customs, it suggests, irresistibly gave way to science and the laws of nature. This feeling of inevitability is partly because of the way in which historians approach it. The Enlightenment in Britain, and in Europe, was not a single monolithic phenomenon. It was a collection of processes and movements, some of which coincided, some of which were connected; others were disconnected and occurred haphazardly. These events and movements were as contingent and prone to reversal and failure as any other parts of history. The word ‘Enlightenment’ adds to the inevitability as it implies an emergence from darkness, and suggests a shedding of the light of reason on ignorance and superstition. In fact ‘Enlightenment’ was not used by people at the time and was only used much later to summarize all sorts of processes and trends in this period which were quite disparate. So we should restrain the tendency to see the Enlightenment as a victory of science over superstition.

The idea of the Enlightenment as a period of reason is challenged by much of the emotionalism of the period. The evangelical revival, the understanding of the human mind and the growing sense of individualism are examples of the way in which the Enlightenment was also preoccupied with emotions and feelings. How people felt, as opposed to how they thought, forms an important part of the Enlightenment. So while much of this chapter refers to ‘reason’, we should not discount the impact of emotions. (pp. 92-93)

I thought this was a remarkable observation, especially coming as it appears from a secular writer. Gibson is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford Brookes University. He is also Director of the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History. So perhaps he is not as secular as I thought. In any case, he makes a very interesting observation.


Everything in religion depends on the nature of the start

“Everything in religion depends on the nature of the start. You may start ‘out of faith’, from an utter abandonment to God, and an entire dependence on Him, and in this case a righteousness is possible which you will recognize as ‘righteousness of God’, God’s own gift and work in you; or you may start ‘out of works’, which really means in independence of God, and try to work out, without coming under obligation to God, a righteousness of your own, for which you may claim His approval, and in this case, like the Jews, all your efforts will be baffled. Your starting point is unreal, impossible; it is not truly ‘out of works’, but only ‘as out of works’; it is an idea of your own, not a truth on which life can be carried out, that you are in any sense independent of God. Such an idea, however, rooted in the mind, may effectually pervert and wreck the soul, by making the Divine way of attaining righteousness and life offensive to it; and this is what happened to the Jews.”

James Denney, “St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 668. Phrases like this, ‘in italics’ represent my translation from the Greek.


getting what matters most

I have great confidence in this next generation. They get what matters most.

So says Matt Olson, president of Northland International University, here: “Confidence in the Next Generation”. Matt is infused with this confidence after spending a Sunday at Grace Bible Church of Philadelphia, PA. From the way he writes, it sounds like several Northland grads are involved in the ministry of this church and a NIU staffer will continue to be on the staff of Northland while moving to Philadelphia and becoming part of this church.

Matt describes the church this way:

My soul was refreshed and encouraged as I saw a variety of things taking place at Grace. At Grace they focus on Christ in all that they do. This was evidenced by their worship, expository preaching, and deliberateness of their service. This is a church that is multi-ethnic, has a heart for the city, thriving with young people, and getting ready to launch a church plant in the next 9-12 months into another part of the city. They get what matters most.

One would expect a Christian college president to be pleased with graduates who are busy serving the Lord. No surprise there! But there is something surprising for a fundamentalist who formerly included Northland International University among his recommended colleges and universities.

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