Volume 11, Issue 1: Meander
From Omniscience to AV
Dr. Norman Geisler has given us an important book on a movement among many evangelical theologians away from the classical doctrine of God. The doctine of God is, of course, necessarily at the center of the Christian faith. This book is entitled reating God in the Image of Man? and is valuable mostly for its willingness to take the subject on. With pointed insights and arguments against the new "openness of God" theology, or "neotheism," as Dr. Geisler calls it, he provides a lot of valuable background information on the controversy, and a catalog of responses. Neotheism is the view that God does not know the future; obviously, once the position is clearly identified, it is not difficult to answer. Geisler's book is a good help with regard to defining the issues.
At the same time, the book is unfortunately marred by Geisler's total dependence upon Hellenistic philosophy, terminology, and thought categories. This is particularly unfortunate because this is exactly the charge that many of the new "openness of God" folks want to level—that is, that classical theism is nothing but souped-up Platonism. Those familiar with philosophy will not make this mistake, but having to look past these appearances can be distracting.
The Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm is really worth getting, and deserves a meditative read. For the thoughtful Protestant, the prayers to Mary and St. Paul (of all people) are an unfortunate thumb in the eye, but they will still reward thoughtful consideration. Too often, classical Protestants reject such practices as idolatry pure and simple, when they are actually idolatry tangled and complex.
Throughout his prayers, Anselm always maintains necessary and nuanced distinctions between the creature and the Creator. It would be difficult to charge Anselm with idolatry in what he says. The danger lies in what he assumes. In order to pray to a departed saint, a supposition must be made that the prayer will be heard, and this means a supposition of functional omniscience. I know that God has heard of me (at least unless I have bought into the openness of God thing; see above), but how do I know that John the Baptist has heard of me, and hears my prayers?
Protestants are indebted to Anselm for his careful articulation of the theology of a substitutionary atonement. So how could he do that, and still pray to Mary? An illustration from the current state of the government schools might help. The top ten percent of students in the government schools are competitive with anyone anywhere in the world. It doesn't matter how bad the school is; these are kids who teach themselves to read off cereal boxes. The problem is with the other ninety percent. In the same way, in an idolatrous culture, a certain number of individuals, like Anselm, can and do remember the necessary distinctions between Creator and creature-and they do. But the rank and file who imitate them do not manage this. This does not justify any such practice; it merely explains why the practice doesn't destroy some people. And this is why the medieval argument for images, for example, as the "books" of the unlearned was so wrong. The unlearned were the last people who could learn anything this way.
If you want to read an indictment of American academia, as if you needed one, then I recommend Plagiarism and the Culture War. In it, Theodore Pappas documents the wholesale plagiarism committed by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his doctoral work, not to mention the varied and wondrous contortions of the academic establishment as they sought to studiously ignore this indisputable fact. Of course, this particular instance is not the sum and substance of modern academic corruption, but it does provide a wonderful example of how it all works. If you are in any doubt about how advanced our public corruption is, just write a letter to your local paper on how MLK was a plagiarist, and see what happens. Suddenly, mirabile dictu, people like you who believe that a man should be judged by the content of his character and not by the color of his skin will be branded . . . racists. George Orwell, call your office.
For pastors, a wonderful new book is Spirit Empowered Preaching by Arturo Azurdia. Given the nature of the subject, this is not a paint-by-numbers kit, and does not try to be. The Bible has a great deal to say on the subject, at least for those who want to preach with authority—and not as the scribes. John Armstrong says it all in the Foreword. "Art Azurdia will convince you . . . to get power as well as material." It is published by Mentor in Great Britain, and I am not sure if there is a distributor stateside.
If you want to promote the singing of psalms in your congregation, then a lot of good material is available from Crown and Covenant. Call (412) 241-0436 and ask for a catalog from them. Psalters, CDs, tapes with the four-part harmonies highlighted, they got it all. And speaking of great CD's, try to obtain elsewhere Alexander Scourby's reading of the AV. That man knows how to read. And speaking of the Authorized Version, get Ted Letis' A New Hearing for the Authorized Version—a booklet length intro to a crucial subject.