Things I Have Learned

Who are the strong and who are the weak in the faith? The strong are the more mature, it seems to me. I had a friend once tell me the strong had better understanding. Perhaps, but it is not knowledge alone. Knowledge puffeth up but charity edifies. And it is the insight of love that gets past the superficial. I think the hangup of the one who is weak in the faith is in dealing with appearances and phaenomena and not getting to the inside of things. Why is it that in two out of three major passages on the theme of Christian liberty Paul mentions that God’s commands are summed up in loving? Why does he come to that unifying point on the inside of all the particular manifestations? It is an understanding, a more fundamental understanding, but one achieved not by a fragmentary knowing about, but by knowing the heart of the matter.

I am going to mention that on Sunday, and if anybody afterward is intrigued, I am going to recommend they read Plato.

* * *
I’ve been preaching from Romans 12 forward. Never thought I’d do something like that, but I was so tired of doing long book studies after Luke and Genesis that I could not contemplate anything else. So I’m in paraenesis and the struggle there is to make it interesting. I still can’t even figure out how to make an outline for my sermons without killing them dead. Which is why I prefer narrative, because the emotional climax is so easy to find, work toward, and be the place where the applications are made, before you wind up the story. I’m enjoying Daniel.

* * *
Daniel, now, was picked to make me get into eschatology. I suppose I really never was much of a dispensationalist to begin with. Hard to be, when it has no positive associations for one. I was established in progressive dispensationalism by witnessing one Burgraff attack it. I knew I wanted to be whatever he was not, but I didn’t realize at the time that I could be a covenant theologian (the rigidities I have shed over time—I didn’t even realize I didn’t have to be a fundamentalist then). One of my worst dispensationalist teachers was always complimented for being consistent. Where is the appeal in that? I was always embarrassed for him that the best thing these people could say was that he was consistent. He was a nice chap too and was rather fond of above average buffets—several of which he treated us to more than once.

Speaking of that, the hermenutical differences between dispensationalists and the people of God (that’s a joke, for those with too literal a hermeneutic) are set forth in a book by Peter Masters called Not Like Any Other Book. He’s not the clearest, most scholarly, or even the most precise; in fact, he’s sometimes aggravating, but he does understand the difference between how Calvin interpreted, how Spurgeon interpreted and how the dispensationalist interprets the Bible. He’s not into single meaning, not into abandoning allegory, not into limiting parables. He’s not into irresponsible hermeneutics either . . . much. I love him, mostly.

Not the first author I usually turn to, and certainly not an evangelical celebrity author, but we have a book dealer here who’s friends with Masters’ daughter and gets fresh translations sent direct; which is why I have ended up reading two of his books, neither of which I have found all that great but both of which have been useful for conversations, for starting a bit of thinking. The bookseller here is going to write the daughter and ask her to please tell her dad to be a bit more precise and careful in the future. We’ll see how that goes.

* * *
You know, I wonder about that. I wonder about the value of the chap who gets a bit of thinking started. He doesn’t get it right, he doesn’t even do that great a job, but he puts his finger on the issue or at least eliminates possibilities unintentionally so that somebody after him comes up and reaps the benefits of seeing at last what the problem is. It is part of the historical process of things, it seems to me.

It happens to you all the time when you know how to teach and you’re listening to somebody else do it. With the benefit of that person’s study you can sometimes move ahead of the guy as you listen to him speak on a subject. I don’t doubt it happens when I teach to other people. At least I hope so, sometimes it is my only consolation.


3 thoughts on “Things I Have Learned

  1. Joel, the term “strong in the faith” doesn’t appear to be a biblical term. There is such a term as “weak in the faith”, Rm 14.1, but not “strong in the faith.” When I read 1 Cor 8ff. especially, I don’t think “the strong” are especially mature saints. Paul is rebuking their arrogance and trying to get them to change.

    I think both strong and weak in Biblical usage represents spiritually immature people manifesting their immaturity in different ways.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. Well, thank for commenting. I don’t think you’re right though. I doubt he’s using strong and weak in separate senses. I don’t think what you’re suggesting can at all fit with 15:1.

  3. You’re right about 15.1. I guess I am thinking more about 1 Cor 8ff. Actually, I think the two passages are quite distinct, not talking about the same thing at all. Many people confuse the two passages because of similar terms.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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