There is a habit here, a Reformed Baptist habit, of teaching their way through a book. Not a book of the Bible—though that occurs as well—but an old Puritan work . . . or Pink or Lloyd-Jones (really funny when you pronounce Lloyd-Jones in Spanish: yoid-honihs). I’ve seen it done in a lame way, and I’ve seen it really succeed. I had a pastor who was really good at preaching topically using as a basis a book written in the 17th Century. He would even use the old titles and then explain the words very effectively. I have no doubt it can be done well because I’ve seen it done well, and no doubt one of the side effects is that the congregation is more likely to take on such works on their own.
It is a common practice in our Wednesday Bible study or in Sunday school here in Gracia y Amor, since we have two congregations and keep them coordinated, to appoint a book as a guideline on which the teacher bases himself. It can result in really bad, derivative teaching, but it doesn’t have to. It is sometimes like having an official commentary—though consultation is optional on that. They used Pink on Elijah and Brian Edwards on the Ten Commandments. Now we are embarking on a study guided by Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, only we got a translation of an abbreviated version—which they were very disappointed to find out.
I get to introduce it and the occasion offers me an opportunity to be a little more historical. I want to talk about what a Puritan is, where they come from and how they’re related to Baptists. It isn’t in the book, but there is latitude on that (we have a guy who’s idea of this is to give us all the information in the designated chapter no matter what; it is sometimes difficult).
It brings to mind again something I have been thinking about and realizing about myself: that I’m not a great hand at Systematic Theology. My approach is usually exegetical, but I’m not so good at coordinating larger swathes. My mind doesn’t take to Systematic Theology very easily. It is important and it will come, and is a weakness I need to address, but I have other inclinations, can live with the ambiguities being pretty happily focused on a little portion; so much so that I even have the fault of sometimes failing to look ahead of my weekly pericope.
And with it all, it has dawned on me that my advanced training in historiography seems to have molded me somewhat, and I even seem to have acquired something of that habit of mind. Consistency has never been very high with me, and it probably has a lot to do with my ability to move from the background I had to that of a Reformed Baptist. I don’t really have much of an idea on the Covenant of Grace, but then, I could never have shown you before why I believed in the Rapture. I don’t mean these are unimportant conclusions, but they’re not where I start out. I don’t even seem to have gotten there yet.
And I wonder how much of it is due to the acquired humanism that in my progress through the fundamentalist system of education I managed to accrue—however stunted. Especially the end of it. Do you know that I’ve been reading the standard commentary (modern) on the 1689 LBCoF—I’ve never yet made much of a study of Symbolic Theology, but perhaps it is more historical than not: it seems my kind of thing—and finding the commentary most congenial?*
I think that is an odd triumph because formerly I wasn’t so keen on it, but I came over with the determination to find common cause, to fit in unless it was impossible, to be willing to be persuaded. And it is strange how that works, and how it has seemed to work. To the point where now I am asking myself, how is that possible?
Do you know who’s responsible for most of this? Many, no doubt, but you can, if you’d like, probably blame the great Satan. I think nobody encouraged the humanist temperament in me like he did. Weiss has clarified it remarkably, but without the preliminary Satan I would no doubt have ended on the Evangelical side of things and with a whole lot of crippling, mediocre ideas (at least more than I presently have). He was my pre-C.S. Lewis, the cock that crowed when the sun of Lewis was arising in my consciousness with all the fresh winds from the past, and learning and the curiosity of investigation. I probably never learned it much to his satisfaction, the method of scholarship. But maybe I can say that I’ve fallen asleep and begun drifting into a kind of metaphysical dream.
At least I’d like to think so.
*It is worth noting that I never had any great triumph in reading Dispensational stuff—contrasting with the commentary now, though the LBCoF isn’t exactly Dispensational. That’s not to say I was dissatisfied with it because I think I had found a variety I could live with, but it was not a matter of much conviction with me. Do you know it isn’t a great deal with them here? It is even as Ben points out, this also is unravelling, becoming less charged and perhaps more malleable.