Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Morbid Condition of Society - Gaussen

Thus it is that, in giving a higher character to all branches of study, theology has often ennobled that of a whole people.

But, on the contrary, when theology and the people have become indifferent to each other, and drowsy flocks have lived only for this world, then theology herself has given evident proofs of sloth, frivolity, ignorance, or perhaps of a love of novelties; seeking a profane popularity at any cost; affecting to have made discoveries that are only whispered to the ear, that are taught in academies, and never mentioned in the churches; keeping her gates shut amid the people, and at the same time throwing out to them from the windows doubts and impieties with the view of ascertaining the present measure of their indifference; until at last she breaks out into open scandal, in attacking doctrines, or in denying the integrity or the inspiration of certain books, or in giving audacious denials to the facts which they relate.

Let a man beware of believing that the whole people do not before long feel the consequences of so enormous a mischief. They will suffer from it even in their temporal interests, and their national existence will be compromised. In degrading their religion, you proportionally lower their moral character; you leave them without a soul. All things take their measure, in the nation, according to the elevation that is given to Heaven among the people. If their Heaven be low, everything is affected by it, even on the Earth. All there becomes before long more confined and more creeping; the future becomes narrowed; patriotism becomes materialized; generous traditions drop out of notice; the moral sense loses its tone; material well-being engrosses all regard; and all conservative principles, one after another, disappear.

[Louis Gaussen, God-Breathed: The Divine Inspiration of the Bible. (The Trinity Foundation, 2001), 34. Good book for those stale business flights to and fro Texas, hint hint.]

God’s Word and His Decretive Will - Gaussen

Suppose now that we both take up one of Paul's epistles. While one of us will attribute such or such a sentence, the meaning of which he fails to seize, or which shocks his carnal sense, to the writer’s Jewish prejudices, to the most common intentions, to circumstances altogether human; the other will set himself; with profound respect, to scan the thoughts of the Holy Spirit: He will believe these perfect even before he has caught their meaning, and will put any apparent insignificance or obscurity to the account of his own dullness or ignorance alone.

Thus, while in the Bible of the one all has its object, its place, its beauty, and its use, as in a tree, branches and leaves, vessels and fibers, epidermis and bark even, have all theirs; the Bible of the other is a tree of which some of the leaves and branches, some of the fibers and the bark, have not been made by God.

But there is much more than this in the difference between us; for not only, according to your reply, we shall have two Bibles, but no one can know what your Bible really is.

It is human and fallible, say you, only in certain measure; but who shall define that measure? If it be true that man, in putting his baneful impress upon it, have left the stains of humanity there, who shall determine the depth of that impression, and the number of those stains? You have told me that it has its human part; but what are the limits of that part, and who is to fix them for me? Why, no one. These everyone must determine for himself, at the bidding of his own judgment; in other words, this fallible portion of the Scriptures will be enlarged in the inverse ratio of our being illuminated by God's light, and a man will deprive himself of communications from above in the very proportion that he has need of them; in like manner as we see idolaters make to themselves divinities that are more or less impure, in proportion as they themselves are more or less alienated from the living and holy God! Thus, then, everyone will curtail the inspired Scriptures in different proportions, and making for himself an infallible rule of that Bible, so corrected by himself, will say to it: "Guide me henceforth, for you are my rule!" like those makers of graven images of whom Isaiah speaks, who make to themselves a god, and say to it, "Deliver me, for you are my god" (Isaiah 44:17).

But this is not all; what follows is of graver import still. According to your reply, it is not the Bible only that is changed – it is you. . . [26-27]

When a man tells us that if, in such or such a passage, the style be that of Moses or of Luke, of Ezekiel or of John, then it cannot be that of God – it were well that he would let us know what is God's style. One would call attention, forsooth, to the accent of the Holy Spirit – would show us how to recognize him by the peculiar cast of his phraseology, by the tone of his voice; and would tell us wherein, in the language of the Hebrews or in that of the Greeks, his supreme individuality reveals itself!

It should not be forgotten that the sovereign action of God, in the different fields in which it is displayed, never excludes the employment of second causes. On the contrary, it is in the concatenation of their mutual bearings that he loves to make his mighty wisdom shine forth. In the field of creation he gives us plants by the combined employment of all the elements – heat, moisture, electricity, the atmosphere, light, the mechanical attraction of the capillary vessels, and the manifold operations of the organs of vegetation. In the field of providence, he accomplishes the development of his vastest plans by means of the unexpected concurrence of a thousand million human wills, alternately intelligent and yielding, or ignorant and rebellious. "Herod and Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel" (influenced by so many diverse passions), "were gathered together," he tells us, only "to do whatsoever his hand and counsel had determined before to be done" (Acts 4:27-28). Thus, too, in the field of prophecy does he bring his predictions to their accomplishment. He prepares, for example, long beforehand, a warlike prince in the mountains of Persia, and another in those of Media; the former of these he had indicated by name two hundred years before; he unites them at the point named with ten other nations against the empire of the Chaldeans; he enables them to surmount a thousand obstacles; and makes them at least enter the great Babylon at the moment when the seventy years, so long marked out for the captivity of the Jewish people, had come to a close. In the field of his miracles, even, he is pleased still to make use of second causes. There he had only to say, "Let the thing be," and it would have its being; but he desired, by employing inferior agents, even in that case to let us know that it is he that gives power to the feeblest of them. To divide the Red Sea, he not only uses the rod of Moses to be stretched out over the deep – he sends from the east a mighty wind, which blows all night, and makes the waters go back. To cure the man that was born blind, he makes clay and anoints his eyelids. In the field of redemption, instead of converting a soul by an immediate act of his will, he presents motives to it, makes it read the Gospel, he sends preachers to it, and thus it is that, while it is he who "gives us to will and to do according to his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13), he "begets us by his own will, by the Word of truth" (James 1:18). Well, then, why should it not be thus in the field of inspiration (theopneustia)? Wherefore, when he sends forth his Word, should he not cause it to enter the understanding, the heart, and the life of his servants, as he puts it upon their lips? Wherefore should he not associate their personality with what they reveal to us? Wherefore should not their sentiments, their history, their experiences, form part of their inspiration (theopneustia)? [53-55] . . .

. . . Such is the fact of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures; nearly to this extent, that in causing his books to be written by inspired men, the Holy Spirit has almost always, more or less, employed the instrumentality of their understanding, their will, their memory, and all the powers of their personality, as we shall before long have occasion to repeat. And it is thus that God, who desired to make known to his elect in a book that was to last forever the spiritual principles of divine philosophy, has caused its pages to be written in the course of a period of sixteen hundred years, by priests, by kings, by warriors, by shepherds, by publicans, by fishermen, by scribes, by tentmakers, associating their affections and their faculties therewith, more or less, according as he deemed fit. Such, then, is God's book. [44] 

[Louis Gaussen, God-Breathed: The Divine Inspiration of the Bible. (The Trinity Foundation, 2001), 26-27, 53-55, 44.]