The Plowman

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Screwtape Letter #6

“My dear Wormwood,”

(Editor’s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)

tribulation: great trouble or suffering
fortitude: courage in the presence of tribulation
hypothetical: something not necessarily true or real
periodicals: a magazine or newspaper published weekly or monthly
vindictive: having or showing a strong unreasoning desire for revenge
milksops: someone laking courage or decisiveness
benevolence: showing kindness or helping someone in need
circumference: the edge of or distance around something, usually a circle
pernicious: having a harmful effect in a gradual or subtle way
concentric: two or more circles, of different sizes with all sharing the same center

We turn again to issues of faith, fear, and doubt in letter 6 of The Screwtape Letters,which were begun in letter 5. We conclude the letter on the subject of loving one’s neighbors and enemies.

The use of the word cross in the first part of this letter employs a device known as allusion, in which a well-known literary or historical event, person, or object is used to draw comparisons or contrasts to something in the story. In this letter, Screwtape uses cross to refer to those things that make our lives uncomfortable, or worry us. In history, the cross was that instrument on which the Romans put Jesus to death. It was the electric chair, or the gallows of his day. Notice in Mark 8:34-36 that even before He was crucified on a cross, Jesus referred to his disciples taking up their crosses.
And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? (Mark 8:34-37, ESV)
Note the different ways the word cross can be used, in Jesus’ execution, in Jesus’ teaching, in our common use every day. In this last usage we should be careful not to trivialize its meaning.
Fear of the present is no sin, but to fear the multitude of possible happenings off in the future is. Screwtape points out the fact that Wormwood needs to work on the patients forgetting the fact that all of his fears cannot possibly happen, since they are incompatible. Remember from last week’s lesson the verse emphasizing God’s concern for the well being of His children.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6, ESV)
Screwtape wraps up his letter to his nephew by giving him good advice concerning hatred. Hatred for the Germans, whom the British were presently at war with, was no real big deal, since they were mostly far away. Screwtape advises Wormwood to direct the patient’s malice toward those near to him, and his benevolence toward those who are far away. This brings to mind how Jesus responded to the lawyer in Luke 10:29, who asked “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ reply within the story of the good Samaritan basically was anybody whom you happen to come across is your neighbor, whether he be a family member, a close friend, or a dreaded foe.

“Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape”


January 6, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment

Defining Terms: Orthodoxy

If this first week of 2007 is any indicator of what is in store for the coming year of the SBC blog world, then it is going to be a thriller, somewhat akin to last Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl.

It all began with Marty Duren breaking his Blog Fast this last Saturday morning, with a post entitled The Great Divide. In this lengthy post (with an even greater volume of comments), Marty divides those in the SBC into two categories, which he calls reformers and tories.
This general division is formulated on the heels of the statement that
“it seems that everyone in the convention at the moment falls under one of two philosophical umbrellas”. I read this post to my wife as she drove us to church Sunday morning, which is something I often do, since we have about a 20-minute drive from home to church. The post was interesting, well written, and, I believe, by creating and defining terms, helped to shed light on the current problem facing the SBC. The basic thrust of the post was nothing new, however. Those on the dissenting side still want a large tent, and those on the Conservative Resurgence side want a small tent.

This post prompted a couple of posts in response, one by Ben Cole on January 2nd where he gives a peaceable biography of Dr. Malcolm Yarnell (who plays a large part in the comments section of The Great Divide) entitled Malcolm in the Middle…. The other post, by Nathan Finn was entitled Is the SBC a Two-Party System? in which he argues that Duren’s terms don’t fit everyone in the SBC, and shows a bias against the one group and favors the other group. No real comment on this, just to let you know some of the related posts that I found. I am sure there were more. The next day, on January 3rd, Marty posted a follow-up entitled The Great Divide Exemplified, which draws from comments from his first Great-Divide post.

What I found interesting in all of this was the comments in these two posts by Druen, especially the comments by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, and those comments that his comments prompted. Dr Yarnell is the Associate Dean for Theological Studies, Director of the Center for
Theological Research, and Director for the Oxford Study Program,
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology” at Southwestern seminary. Originally I had not read the comments of Marty’s first post, we had arrived at church before I got to that, and my browser wasn’t tabbed up with the comments anyway, and then later it had just slipped my mind. It wasn’t until yesterday (the 4th) that, reading a post by Art Rogers entitled Oligarchy that I realized that I was missing the “big show”. In the comments of Marty’s two posts all of the big-name dissenters were there: Alan Cross, Art Rogers, Wade Burleson, Ben Cole, both Littletons, and many more besides. Dr. Yarnell was in the middle of it all, seemingly not ruffled at all. All of this is really not why I started this post. That was all just intro to what I really wanted to say.

In his defense of a small-tent, narrow-parameters for cooperation, Dr. Yarnell used the term orthodoxy in comment #71 of The Great Divide, and it appeared from the context, and the ensuing discussion, that he applied the term incorrectly. I believe it would have been helpful in revealing the true nature of the tory position as just plain wrong if someone would have challenged him as to his usage and application of the word soon after he used it. Ben Cole did challenge him on the use of the term the next day in comments (#84) in the second Duren post, but I believe too much water had flowed under the bridge by that time to do much good. Cole hit it right on the head, though. Here is his comment: You and I both know that the “orthodox faith” is a fence, not a fence post. Orthodoxy allows for a variety of interpretations of sacred scripture within a well defined perimeter outside of which the gospel is not preserved.

Orthodoxy Defined
My electronic version of The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition, defines orthodoxy as: “authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice.” and the word’s origin comes from the Greek: orthos ‘straight or right’ + doxa ‘opinion.’ It is this broad, general definition that I believe that Dr. Yarnell was using, so that orthodoxy, as he was using it, meant right thinking on all of theology, concerning all matters of all degrees of importance. Historically in the Church, orthodoxy has not been used in this broad manner. Orthodoxy historically came out of the great theological controversies of the first few centuries. The great councils of Chalcedon, Nicea, and others were conviened as a result of these controversies, and the great historical creeds were the products of these councils. The purpose of these creeds, as Ben Cole put it, were intended to put up a fence to mark the boundaries between the Christian faith, and that which was sub-christian, non-christian. Those historic creeds contain the items that make up orthodoxy. To be sure there are critical doctrines missing from those creeds, doctrines that were not threatened by aberrant views and teaching. The nature of the atonement, or the doctrine of hell, for example don’t find their way into those creeds, but the principle still applies. The creeds are almost synonymous with orthodoxy. You don’t find secondary or tertiary items in those creeds. The creeds were intended to define what true Christianity was.

I believe Dr. Yarnell’s broader use of the word orthodoxy is not accidental, but intentional. This is very telling of the two camps, the reformers and tories. The latter group views that fence as the Great Wall of China, keeping any and all out, even those with the slightest of differences. They view all who are even slightly different as invaders, wanting to take over. The former sees that fence as a garden fence, intended to keep the dogs out, but not family, friends, and neighbors. It is just here where the trouble lies in this great SBC strife. We would do well to realize that these two groups often do not work with the same definitions of terms.

January 6, 2007 Posted by | Defining Terms | 2 Comments

A rainy night at work

This shot was taken last Friday evening at work. I don’t believe I have ever taken a night shot in the rain before. I like the way the lights reflect on the pavement. The driver is a guy we all call “Sparky”. He’s a good Penticostal brother.Creeping Phlox

This shot was taken today. Imagine that, something blooming on the first week in January. Nope, this is not coastal Georgia, it’s Oklahoma, “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.”

I hope you enjoy the photos. Be sure to check out all of the other fine pics at the Friday Photo Group.
Have a great weekend, and I hope to meet with you, and all of the saints on the Lord’s Day in His presence.

January 5, 2007 Posted by | Friday Photos | Leave a comment