But I do not think we can stop there either. We are now getting to the point at which different beliefs about the universe lead to different behavior. And it would seem, at first sight, very sensible to stop before we got there, and just carry on with those parts of morality that all sensible people agree about. But can we? Remember that religion involves a series of statements about facts, which must be either true or false. If they are true, one set of conclusions will follow about the the right sailing of the human fleet: if they are false, quite a different set. For example, let us go back to the man who says that a thing cannot be wrong unless it hurts some other human being. He quite understands that he must not damage the other ships in the convoy, but he honestly thinks that what he does to his own ship is simply his own business. But does it not make a great deal of difference whether his ship is his own property or not? Does it not make a great difference whether I am, so to speak, the landlord of my own mind and body, or only a tenant, responsible to the real landlord? If somebody else made me, for his own purposes, then I shall have a lot of duties which I should not have if I simply belonged to myself.
Mere Christianity, 72f.
What is the good of telling the ships how to steer so as to avoid collisions if, in fact, they are such crazy old tubs that they cannot be steered at all? What is the good of drawing up, on paper, rules for social behaviour, if we know that, in fact, our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and self-conceit are going to prevent us from keeping them? I do not mean for a moment that we ought not think, and think hard, about improvements in our social and economic system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be mere moonshine unless we realise that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft or bullying that go on under the present system: but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society. That is why we must go on to think of the second thing: of morality inside the individual.
Mere Christianity, 72.
You may have noticed that modern people are nearly always thinking about the first thing [fair play and harmony between individuals] and forgetting the other two [internal correction and the purpose of human life]. When people say in the newspapers that we are striving for Christian moral standards, they usually mean that we are striving for kindness and fair play between nations, and classes, and individuals; that is, they are thinking only of the first thing. When a man says about something he wants to do, “It can’t be wrong because it doesn’t do anyone else any harm,” he is thinking only of the first thing. He is thinking it does not matter what the ship is like inside provided that he does not run into the next ship. And it is quite natural, when we start thinking about morality, to begin with the first thing, with social relations. For one thing, the results of bad morals in that sphere are so obvious and press on us every day: war and poverty and graft and lies and shoddy work. And also, as long as you stick to the first thing, there is very little disagreement about morality. Almost all people at all times have agreed (in theory) that human beings ought to be honest and kind and helpful to one another. But though it is natural to begin with all that, if our thinking about morality stops there, we might just as well not have thought at all. Unless we go on to the second thing—the tidying up inside each human being—we are only deceiving ourselves.
Mere Christianity, 71f.
Morality, then, seems to be concerned with three things. Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with what might be called tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual. Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants it to play.
Mere Christianity, 71.
Exodus 28 provides details about the garments worn by those called to serve as priests. At the beginning and ending of the chapter (Exod. 28:2, 40), God says the garments are for glory and beauty. This highlights the importance of the priestly service.
Much of the description in this chapter simply emphasizes the glory and beauty of the garments. Some of the details, however, seem to carry special significance.
Like the chapters describing the tabernacle, this chapter also emphasizes the presence of God. Several times the priest is said to enter “before Yahweh” [לִפְנֵי־יְהוָה] (Exod. 28:12, 29, 30, 35, 38). Aaron and his sons are called out of Israel to mediate between God and the nation.
The first piece of priestly clothing described in depth is the ephod (Ex. 28:6-13). Stuart notes the fabric from which the ephod was to be made matched the colors used within the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. He also notes the misuse of an ephod by Gideon. He surmises from these two facts that the ephod was a symbol of God’s presence among his people.
Exodus 28:9-12 speaks of stones with the names of the sons of Israel engraved on them. The priests bears the stones as memorials [זִכָּרֹן] before the Lord.
Thus the high priest is a mediator between God and the people. The ephod symbolizes God’s presence among the people as he moves among them wearing the gold, blue, purple, and scarlet yarns—the colors of God’s dwelling place. The stones on the shoulders of the ephod represent the people being brought into the presence of God. by the priest.
The next article of clothing, the breast-piece (Exod. 28:15-30), also emphasizes God’s presence (לִפְנֵי־יְהוָה occurs 3x in Ex. 28:29-30). The breast-piece also uses stones inscribed with the names of the sons of Israel to bring them before the Lord as a remembrance [זִכָּרֹן] (Exod. 28:29).
The breast-piece further indicates God’s presence with his people because it was used or God to render decisions [מִשְׁפָּט] from God for his people (Exod. 28:15, 30).
Exodus 28:31-35 deals with the priest’s robe. It is not clear if there is significance to the blue, the pomegranate, or the collar aside from the fact that the garments were to be made for glory and beauty. The section climaxes, however, with the need for bells on his robe as Aaron enters the holy place before the Lord so that he does not die. The words “holy place” [הַקֹּדֶשׁ] “before Yahweh” [לִפְנֵי־יְהוָה] and “not die” [וְלא יָמוּת] are key words. When someone comes before the Lord, he enters a holy place because God is holy. But for the gracious provision of God, those who enter are liable to die.
Holiness is a theme that runs throughout the chapter. God identifies the garments of the priest as “holy garments” (Exod. 28:2). The are a necessary part of his consecration to the priesthood [לְקַדְּשׁוֹ] (Exod. 28:3, 41). These are the garments necessary for Aaron to enter the Holy Place (Exod. 28:29, 35, 43).
The emphasis on holiness climaxes in Exodus 28:36-38 which deal with the plate that goes on the front of the high priest’s turban. it reads “Holiness to the Lord” [קדשׁ ליהוה]. Holiness is a key word in this section. Because of the plate Aaron could bear the iniquity of the holy things [הקדשׁים] which the sons of Israel consecrated [יקדושׁו] as holy gifts [מתנת קדשׁיהם]. Aaron does this when he comes before the Lord [לפני יהוה]. The idea seems to be that the plate declared the high priest holy and therefore worthy of bearing the iniquity of the consecrated holy gifts, thus making these offerings acceptable to God.
Verses 39-43 wrap up the instructions about clothing for the priests. Once again, as at the beginning the clothing is said to be for glory and for beauty [לכבוד ולתפארת]. The passage also notes that they should be anointed [משׁח] as part the consecration [לְקַדְּשׁוֹ] for their office.
The passage closes by describing undergarments. It may seem odd to end this list of regulations with undergarments, but if the priests’ nakedness was exposed to God’s holy things, they would die. This likely has connections back to the shame Adam and Eve had over their nakedness after they sinned and the need for clothing. It also highlights the danger in unholy man coming into the presence of God.
In the Fall mankind was thrust from God’s presence. The Tabernacle regulations and these instructions for the priest’s garments show that God’s gracious restoration of his presence to his people is no light matter. Because of his holiness and their uncleanness, the penalty for sin—death—was an ever-present threat.
The preterist interpretation of the Olivet discourse rests heavily on Matthew 24:34. Mathison says,
The key to understanding the entire discourse is found in verse 34, in which Jesus tells His disciples, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Jesus declares that his prophecy will be fulfilled before the generation to whim He is speaking passes away. In other words, the events of which he speaks in this passage will be fulfilled by A.D. 70, one generation from the date He made the pronouncement.”
Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope, 111.
There are a number of hard passages for the preterist within the discourse (see Mathison 112-15 for his explanation of them), but Matthew 24:34 is the most difficult for the non-preterist. Bavinck’s explanation of Matthew 24:34 makes good sense:
The words “this generation” (ἡ γενεα αὑτη, hē genea hautē) cannot be understood to mean the Jewish people, but undoubtedly refer to the generation then living. On the other hand, it is clear that the words ‘all these things’ (παντα τυατα, panta tauta) do not include the parousia itself but only refer to the signs that precede and announce it. For after predicting the destruction of Jerusalem and the signs and his return and even the gathering of his elect by the angles, and therefore actually ending his eschatological discourse, Jesus proceeds in verse 32 to offer a practical application. Here he states that just as in the case of the fig tree the sprouting of the leaves announces the summer, so ‘all these things’ are signs that the end is near or that the Messiah is at the door. Here the expression panta tauta clearly refers to the signs of the coming parousia, not to the parousia itself, for else it would make no sense to say that when ‘these things’ occur, the end is ‘near.’ In verse 34 the words ‘all these things’ (panta tauta) have the same meaning. Jesus therefore does not say that his parousia will still occur within the time of the generation then living. What he says is that the signs and portents of it, as they would be visible in the destruction of Jerusalem and concomitant events, would begin to occur in the time of the generation then living.
Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4:687.
The October issue of First Things also includes a thoughtful reflection by R. R. Reno on Kerouac’s book On the Road.
These are the paragraphs from the article that I found most thought-provoking:
The Beats were quintessential bohemians who felt the plain-Jane expectations of middle-class American life as an infecting, constraining force. Wife, career, mortgage, children, savings accounts, and quiet suburban streets: These were realities overlaid by the deadening expectations of conventional morality. Escape was essential, and, although Kerouac and the other Beats lacked Rousseau’s clarity about the constant impulse of human nature to accept and submit to social authority, they intuitively recognized the need for dramatic acts and symbols of transgression.
. . . . . . . . . .
In 1957, the New York Times review hailed the novel’s publication as “a historic occasion.” The review trumpeted that On the Road offers “the clearest and most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat,’ and whose principle avatar he is.” Of course, as David Brooks so cleverly observed in Bobos in Paradise, we’re all weekend beatniks now. The counterculture of transgression that dominates On the Road has thoroughly colonized our middle-class world.
Transgression and marginality have become the new normalcy. The bohemian rejection of social convention was first theorized as a normal stage of psychological development (“adolescent rebellion”), and more recently it has been made into both commercial fashions and academic dogma. Aging rock musicians go on tours and play their songs of youthful lust and rebellion to graying Baby Boomers . . . . College professors theorize transgression as an act of political freedom. It’s easy to see that Kerouac’s road that leads from the Beat fantasies of primal innocence to our own day, where white boys from the suburbs dress like drug dealers, girls like prostitutes, and millionaires like dock workers. Crotch-grabbing rap singers play the role of well-paid Dean Moriartys.
. . . . . . . . . . .
It is as if we very much want to believe in Dean, but, like Sal at the end of On the Road, we know we cannot rely on him to give us guidance. We want to believe the promises of bohemian life—to live according to our own innermost selves—but we are surrounded by the sadness of disappointed hope. The transgressive heroism of our imagination now looks as tawdry as daytime television. Bohemianism becomes banal and disappointing as it becomes dominant. We suffer the failures of the countercultural project even as we surround ourselves with its music, its rhetorical postures, and its fashions.
These paragraphs raise this question: If the current culture’s music, postures, and fashions reflect a “banal” and “tawdry” culture of transgression seeking to escape from conventional (and oftentimes Biblical) morality, then should not the church reject this culture’s music, postures, and fashions? Should not the church be culturally distinct in ways that point the surrounding society beyond its own cultural failures toward the culture of shalom that Christ will establish at his return?
Recently a segment of evangelicals has been pushing for the abandonment of sola Scriptura in favor of a theological approach that relies on both Scripture and Church Tradition.
D.H. Williams is a key figure moving some evangelicals this direction. Here’s a quote that captures some of his concerns and hints toward his proposed solution:
Despite the recent attempts of a few evangelical writers to inculcate a theory of sola scriptura as the real intent of the early church, there was no question in believers’ minds that Scripture could or should function in the life of the believer apart from the church’s Tradition. Were it to do so, there was scarce assurance that an orthodox Christian faith would be the result. While many parts of Scripture were inherently perspicuous and able to be understood with little outside assistance, post-apostolic Christians would have anathematized the principle set forth in Buswell’s systematic theology, ‘The rule is then give the Bible an opportunity, in you own mind, to interpret itself,’ as setting the stage for heretical aberrations.
D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 98
The October 2008 issue of First Things contains an article which reveals the difficulty of using tradition rather than Scripture as the touchstone of orthodoxy. Richard John Neuhaus’ article, “What Really Happened at Vatican II” evaluates two books about Vatican II that present different visions of the council.
Included in the article is this section which focused on a quote from Benedict XVI about the council:
The question is one of hermeneutics, says the pope. There are, he suggests, two quite different ways of understanding the council: ‘On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ of renewal in the continuity of the one subject, the Church that the Lord has given us. She is a subject that increases in time and develops, yet always remains the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.”
This of course raises the question: If the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church struggles over the interpretation of a church council, how can it solve the problem of rightly interpreting Scripture. Or to put it another way, how does an authoritative interpretation of Scripture help when people can’t agree on the interpretation of the interpretation.