Archive for the ‘Reformed Blogging’ Category

Charitable Reading

February 16, 2016

No one can force you to read people charitably, giving them the benefit of the doubt when they are ambiguous or make statements that sound heterodox. Indeed, even if you want to read charitably, you may not find it easy, particularly if you are a person prone to perpetual suspicion. It may be a habit you have to cultivate by careful practice of extending grace to those you read, especially when you don’t feel they deserve it.

If you choose to exercise charity, you can still note red flags – statements that raise some suspicion or doubt about the charitable assumptions you are giving the author. Reading people charitably is not the same thing as automatically accepting everything they say as correct, or being blind to their potential faults.

Charitable reading should lead to a response of speaking the truth in love. In other words, charitable reading can lead to charitable responses. Those responses can be critical responses, but they need not be caustic responses.

Christian duty demands charitable reading and responses, particularly when it comes to the brethren, and most of all when it comes to elders. This duty, however, has to be fulfilled in the heart, a place where no church discipline can fully penetrate.

When you are trying to read charitably and you come to a head-scratching comment from the author, ask yourself: how could that be understood in an orthodox way? am I missing some context that would make that statement legitimate? Avoid rushing to judgment, but instead exercise circumspection.

Don’t be afraid to ask the author what he meant, if you can. This should be done in an honest and forthright way of trying to identify the author’s intent. The goal is not to trap the author, but simply to discern what he actually meant by what he said. The goal is not harass or accuse the author, but instead to flesh out the meaning, identify the context, and perhaps define the nuance that the author may have been intending.

With dead or famous authors, this won’t always be possible. You may have to investigate for yourself what this person said in the context and on other occasions about the same subject.

When you see a red flag, and you are considering whether this red flag is more than just a red flag, consider the gravity of the fault implied. If the conclusion would be simply that the person is an inexact speaker or has a minor error in doctrine, that’s one thing. If the conclusion is that the speaker is a lost person, or a deliberate wolf in sheep’s clothing, that’s a more serious situation.

The more serious the situation, the more it behooves us to make sure we are correct before leveling a charge. While “innocent until proven guilty” may only be mandatory when you’re on a jury, it’s a handy reference for us to use in life. Moreover, while for minor things we may simply express a conclusion when we’re persuaded it is correct, it would be wise for us to use a higher standard when a more serious charge is being made.

Does charity demand that we always use “beyond a reasonable doubt”? That’s not my contention. Rather I’m suggesting that we should use discernment in the use of our tongue. James warns us of the dangers of the uncontrolled use of our tongues. We need to tame that monster, and it’s no easy task.

Proverbs 10:19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

Ecclesiastes 5:2-7
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.


The Real Turretin on: Covenant of Works – Reward for Obedience

August 27, 2008

Joshua Lim at Reformed Blogging has provided an interesting quotation from the real Turretin on the Reward of Life that would have been given to Adam for his obedience for as long as he continued in obedience (link).


Dabney on J.A. Alexander

August 23, 2008

Joshua Lim at Reformed Blogging has provided an interesting quotation from Dabney about Hodge (link). It’s worth noting that the idiom Dabney employs is a bit outdated and might seem confusing to modern readers. “Man of the closet” means someone who studies a lot, which we might today refer to as a person who lives in an ivory tower.

UPDATE: It turns out that it is not Hodge, but J.A. Alexander that was being discussed. Joshua has removed the post, so I’ll just post the relevant description, below:

“I was much struck with the fact that one who was so mach a man of the closet as he should have so much practical knowledge of society and human nature. During the day I remarked that there seemed to be a great difficulty in combining practical knowledge of men and affairs with thorough scholarship in our young men because the study which secured the latter necessarily shut them out of the publicity chich taught the former. He very quietly replied that there was a way by which the recluse in his study might acquire a correct knowledge of nature; by the study of his Bible and his own heart. I have no doubt that this remark gave the key to his own character as concerned this trait of it. There was a remarkable absence of egotism and dogmatism for one who must have been conscious of powers and acquirements and who had been so much complimented and applanded. This unhappily for me, happily for him, was my last interview for the good man was taken away from the evil to come.” The Life of Joseph Addison Alexander By Henry Carrington Alexander, pp. 798-99.

Arminianism and Natural Birth

August 20, 2008

Joshua Lim at Reformed Blogging has an interesting post on Arminianism and Natural Birth (link) (Mitch has pointed out that there is something wrong with the link. The post can be found via the following link, about 3/4 of the way down the page – backup link). He states fairly succinctly this particular problem that is posed for Arminianism. More could be said, of course, but the main point is articulated, and worth reading.

Archibald Alexander on the Study of Theology

August 17, 2008

Joshua Lim at Reformed Blogging has provided some useful thoughts of Archibald Alexander on the study of theology. (link)



The Real Turretin on: Perseverance and the Law

August 13, 2008

Josh Lim at Reformed Blogging, has posted a nice selection from the real Francis Turretin on the relationship between Perseverance of the Saints and the Law. (link) As you can imagine, Turretin insists that certainty of salvation does not give us license to sin freely.


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