Monday, January 30, 2012

The Rhetoric of Preaching in Elizabethan England

More from Herr, The Elizabethan Sermon, this time noting some rhetorical expectations of the Elizabethan audience.

In Elizabeth's day the distinction between a sermon and a lecture was not what it is today; if a spoken discourse is didactic and upon dogmatic theology we are likely to term it a sermon and if it is upon scientific or other secular matter we call it a lecture, whereas the Elizabethans termed a theological discourse a lecture or a sermon depending only upon whether it was read from a finished composition or preached from memory with the aid of notes only. This distinction was rigidly preserved in the titles when the sermons and lectures went to press. A further distinctive term was reserved for a theological dissertation which was neither preached nor read before an audience; this was called a treatise. When a man came to preach a sermon, therefore, he endeavored to use only notes and to have those notes as brief as possible. To preach without even the notes was the aspiration. The fullness or brevity of the notes from which the sermon was to be delivered was a matter of choice for the preacher. Very few of those notes have been published, naturally enough, but we may presume that they varied in length as greatly as do men's memories. Bishop Andrewes' notes were full to the point of indicating the nature of every sentence, while Hooker used none at all. (35)

The Elizabethan clergy were allowed more time to present their sermons than most churches grant their clergy today, for while we are content with even a quarter-hour sermon, then both the congregation and the preacher felt that one hour was meet and right for sermon length. Lest any contention arise about the matter, we find that the congregation did not disdain to provide an hour-glass nor the clergy to turn over as they mounted the pulpit steps. (34-5)

Gestures were expected to accompany a good strong sermon. So usual were they, as a matter of fact, that there is very little mention of them in contemporary discussions of sermons, except to note anything so unusual as the lack of them. Hooker, for example, stood in his pulpit motionless, not even moving his eyes, and this idiosyncrasy was considered remarkable enough to appear in every account of the great preacher. Since Elizabethan sermon audiences preferred everything else in its most sensational form, it is not taking too much for granted to suppose that they liked their pulpits well pounded. (35)

Problems for Preachers in Elizabethan England

A few amusing excerpts from The Elizabethan Sermon by Alan Fager Herr. How would you like to have been a preacher during this tumultuous time?

The sermons at Paul's Cross, and perhaps at a few other pulpits, were frequently made more amusing for the audience by the exhibition of people doing penance. At the Cross there was a regular platform, level with the pulpit, built for the penitents to stand upon and receive the jeers of the audience and the gibes of village wits. Sometimes the penitents simply stood up throughout the sermon and were considered amply punished. While Dean Nowell preached on February 10, 1560, a man thus stood up for committing bigamy. More spectacular was the man who stood wrapped in a sheet during the sermon of November 6, 1561, for charging Vernon, the Rector of St. Martin's, with incontinency, and on the 23rd of the same month another man was more deeply humiliated by being forced to kneel and beg Vernon's pardon for circulating a rumor that Vernon had been "taken with a wench." (24)

Before the preacher even mounted the pulpit steps the problem of vestments or habit had to be considered. So high was the feeling on this controversial point that no matter what the preacher wore of left unworn, somebody would find fault. . . .On April 7, 1566, the parish of St. Mary Magdalen in Milk Street asked the bishop to appoint a minister to celebrate Holy Communion for them. The minister came and wore a surplice, as he was instructed to do by the bishop. The sight of this surplice so enraged a member of the congregation that, after the minister had come down from the altar to read the epistle and gospel of the day, he sent his servant up behind the minister's back to seize and run off with the chalice of wine and the paten of bread! Holy Communion was that day precipitously discontinued. (32-3).

One minister felt that he should remark upon this [the lack of reverence among the audience] from the pulpit. "Further, Gods house is abused by them which bring hither hawks and dogs, which is faulted in our Church-homilie, and whereby peoples minds are diverted from their devotions." This same preacher protests against persons in the congregation lying down to rest in the church, tearing clothes off brides, laughing when marriage banns are read, or talking business, and against those who come to church to show off their new clothes and "seem to march as if they would exactly measure out the earth by their mincing, or else leade some pompous train upon the stage." (33)

At Paul's Cross the preacher had one or more companions in the pulpit with him; we might almost call them "seconds" when we consider the preacher's need of protection if he displeased too large a portion of the audience. Despite the presence of guards to keep the peace, daggers might be thrown, as happened early in the reign of Mary when Gilbert Bourne preached a sermon wherein he defended Bishop Bonner. Bourne's companion in the pulpit rose and caught the dagger in his sleeve. There was also the possibility that the pulpit might be stormed if the customary coughing and heckling seemed too mild a rebuke to an unpopular preacher. A type of protest against the sermon that was far more acceptable to the preacher took the form of writing objections on paper and throwing them into the pulpit. This was not considered a breach of the peace and so was allowed." (34-5)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Proclamation of the truth is uncomfortable. . .

because it exposes our false views and protected sins.

Thus the function of prophecy addressed to the churches is to expose the uncomfortable truth, just as the two witnesses torment the inhabitants of the earth by bringing home to them their sin (I1:I0).

Richard Bauckham. The Theology of the Book of Revelation (New Testament Theology) (Kindle Locations 1536-1538). Kindle Edition.

The role of prophecy as the witness of Jesus to the churches is thus entirely parallel to the witness of the churches, bearing the witness ofJesus, to the world. Judgment at the parousia threatens the churches (2:16; 3:3; cf. 16:15) no less than the world. Prophecy warns of that judgment with salvific intent, just as does the churches' witness to the world. And so there is no reason to suppose that the significant dictum, `I reprove and discipline those whom I love' (3:19), applies only to Christ's reproof of the churches, and not also to his churches' witness to the world.

Richard Bauckham. The Theology of the Book of Revelation (New Testament Theology) (Kindle Locations 1546-1549). Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Logic and the Nature of God

I recently read a blog entry by Doug Wilson wherein he retracts his "nominalism, but" metaphysic for a "realism, but" metaphysic. I posted a message of agreement and extension of Wilson's main point, which is that our view of God's nature must acknowledge certain logical laws as part and parcel with His Being.

A couple of commenters, and really one in particular, was uneasy about the idea of logic being an attribute of God. He thought it brought God's nature under a standard it ought not to be placed under. At times he seemed leery because he considered logic an aspect of man's mind, but not of God's and at other times he considered logic to be an attribute of creation, but not of God's nature.

Such views on logic are unfortunate, more so for the fact that they are offered frequently in circles of Christianity where a rational faith is upheld as a Biblical ideal. Few, if any, Christians have heartburn over using logic to understand God's revelation, and those Christians who uphold the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture often adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith's assertion that we understand the Word of God by what it expresses and by "good and necessary inference." This quoted phrase is an acknowledgment of the Biblical warrant for logic, which Gordon Clark defines as "the science of necessary inference" (Logic 1). The study and use of logic proceeds upon the basis of certain laws of logic, namely; the law of identity (an object is the same as itself), the law of contradiction (One cannot say that a thing both is and is not in the same respect and at the same time), and the law of the excluded middle (for any proposition, either the proposition is true, or its negation is true).

It is easy to derive from Scripture these laws of logic (also known as the laws of thought). The very name of God asserts the law of identity, the statement that God does not lie implies the law of contradiction, and statements that indicate God is God and there is no other exhibit the principle of the excluded middle.

Moreover, the people who decry logic are confused about what is a truth. Truth is an evaluation of propositions. Propositions are the meanings of declarative sentences. Knowledge is the possession, or correct evaluation of truth. Given these basic acknowledgments, one wonder why it would be offensive to claim that God's thought exhibits logic because logic is the way God's thought is structured. We don't get in a tizzy over the claim that God has a mind, simply because we can also recognize minds in human creatures. Nor do we think that God's mind is a derivation of human minds. Why then should we think logic is something of man's mind that we project upon God's mind? Rather Scripture reveals that logic is the structure by which God expresses His thoughts, and since He has made us to commune with Him, our minds are also structured by logic.

Far from obliterating the Creator/creature distinction, or holding God accountable to a standard above Him, the laws of logic are the guide for our understanding of the truths we must know in order to love God rightly. Note that saying logic is the guide for knowing God rightly is not the same as saying that logic is the source of truth. God has to reveal to our minds the propositions we must believe, but we could not understand the relationship between the propositions God reveals to us without the laws of logic that govern these relations.

In short, logic isn't bad, though it is often used poorly by men. Logic itself isn't man-made, though certain views about logic are man-made. The Bible exhibits the laws of thought, and it expresses itself in logical forms (Clark gives examples of several logical argument forms appearing in Scripture; see p. 119 of Logic). Without logic we could not know anything, certainly not God in whom we live and move and have our being and for whom our minds were created for communion by means of truth.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Meaning of the Millennium

This [the depictions of the defeat of the beast and victory of Christ] shows that the theological point of the millennium is solely to demonstrate the triumph of the martyrs: that those whom the beast put to death are those who will truly live - eschatologically, and that those who contested his right to rule and suffered for it are those who will in the end rule as universally as he - and for much longer: a thousand years! Finally, to demonstrate that their triumph in Christ's kingdom is not one which evil can again reverse, that it is God's last word for good against evil, the devil is given a last chance to deceive the nations again (20:7-8). But it is no re-run of the rule of the beast. The citadel of the saints proves impregnable (20:9).

Richard Bauckham. The Theology of the Book of Revelation (New Testament Theology) (Kindle Locations 1355-1359). Kindle Edition.

The millennium becomes incomprehensible once we take the image literally. But there is no more need to take it literally than to suppose that the sequences of judgments (the seal-openings, the trumpets, the bowls) are literal predictions. John no doubt expected there to be judgments, but his descriptions of them are imaginative schemes designed to depict the meaning of the judgments. John expected the martyrs to be vindicated, but the millennium depicts the meaning, rather than predicting the manner of their vindication.

Richard Bauckham. The Theology of the Book of Revelation (New Testament Theology) (Kindle Locations 1366-1368). Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The 144,000 - An army of truth-testifying, victorious martyrs

Chapter 7:4-14 uses the same device as was used in 5:5-6: that of contrasting what John hears (7:4) and what he sees (7:9). The 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel (7:4-8) contrast with the innumerable multitude from all nations (7:9), but the two images depict the same reality. They are parallel to the two contrasting images of Christ in 5:5-6: the 144,000 Israelites are the followers of the Davidic Messiah, the Lion ofJudah (note that the tribe ofJudah is listed first), while the innumerable multitude are the people of the slaughtered Lamb, ransomed from all the nations (5:9). Just as the expectation of the Davidic Messiah was reinterpreted by means of the scriptural image of the Passover lamb, so the purely nationalistic image of his followers is reinterpreted by an image drawn from the scriptural promises to the patriarchs. According to these, the descendants of the patriarchs would be innumerable (Gen. 13:16; 15:5; 32:12). Thus, not because Christians in the late first century were actually innumerable, but because of John's faith in the fulfilment of all the promises of God through Christ, the church is depicted as an innumerable company drawn from all nations. 

However, there is a further contrast between the 144,000 Israelites and the innumerable multitude which makes the parallel with 5:5-6 exact. The 144,ooo are an army. This is implicit in the fact that 7:4-8 is a census of the tribes of Israel. In the Old Testament a census was always a reckoning of the military strength of the nation, in which only males of military age were counted. The twelve equal contingents from the twelve tribes are the army of all Israel, reunited in the last days according to the traditional eschatological hope, mustered under the leadership of the Lion of Judah to defeat the Gentile oppressors of Israel. But the multitude who celebrate their victory in heaven, ascribing it to God and the Lamb (7:9-10), `have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb' (7:14) . This means that they are martyrs, who have triumphed by participating, through their own deaths, in the sacrificial death of the Lamb. Admittedly, most commentators have understood 7:14 to refer to the Lamb's redemption of Christians from sin, but we have already seen that the reference to the blood of the Lamb in 12:11 must refer to martyrdom. Since 7:14 refers to an action of which the followers of the Lamb are subjects, it is parallel to 12:11, whereas in references to the redemption of Christians by Christ's blood, they are the objects of his action 1:5; 5:9) 

Thus, just as 5:5-6 depicts Jesus Christ as the Messiah who has won a victory, but has done so by sacrificial death, not by military might, so 7:4-14 depicts his followers as the people of the Messiah who share in his victory, but do so similarly, by sacrificial death rather than by military violence. This interpretation is confirmed by 14:1-5, in which the 144,000 reappear. Chapters 12-14 portray the combatants in the messianic war. In chapters 12-13 the dragon, the beast and the second beast have been depicted successfully prosecuting war against the people of God (12:17; 13:7). But in 14:1 the Lamb and his army stand to oppose them on Mount Zion, the place of the messianic king's triumph over the hostile nations (Ps. 2:6). The much misunderstood reference to the virginity of the 144,000 (14:4a) belongs to the image of an army. The followers of Christ are symbolized as an army of adult males who, following the ancient requirement of ritual purity for those who fight in holy war (Deut. 23:9-14; 1 Sam. 21:5; 2 Sam. 11:9-13; 1 QM 7:3-6), must avoid the cultic defilement incurred through sexual intercourse. This ritual purity belongs to the image of an army: its literal equivalent in John's ideal of the church is not sexual asceticism, but moral purity. But, just like the combination of the militaristic and sacrificial imagery for Christ in 5:5-6, so the image of an army changes to that of sacrifice in 14:4b-5, and with it the image of the ritual purity of the Lord's army changes to that of the perfection required in a sacrificial offering. The word which the NRSV translates `blameless' (amomoi) is cultic terminology for the physical perfection required in an animal acceptable for sacrifice (Exod. 29:38; Lev. 1:3; 3:1) . 

The cultic image is then translated into its literal equivalent: `in their mouth no lie was found' (14:5). This relates to the theme of truth and falsehood, which is so important in Revelation, and evokes the third of the motifs which dominate Revelation's account of the work of Christ: that of faithful witness to the truth. But in using the words, `in their mouth no lie was found', John is also echoing significant Old Testament texts: Zephaniah 3:13, which says of the eschatological people of God that `a deceitful tongue shall not be found in their mouths', and Isaiah 53:9, which says of the Suffering Servant, who was `led like a lamb to the slaughter' (53:7), that `no lie was found in his mouth'. John exploits (in the manner of Jewish exegesis) the coincidence between these texts. The followers of the Lamb resemble the one they `follow wherever he goes' (14:4). This following means imitating both his truthfulness, as `the faithful witness', and the sacrificial death to which this led. Thus the victory of the Lamb's army is the victory of truthful witness maintained as far as sacrificial death. As in 12:1 I, the three images of messianic warfare, paschal sacrifice and faithful witness come together and mutually interpret one another.

Richard Bauckham. The Theology of the Book of Revelation (New Testament Theology) (Kindle Locations 959-991). Kindle Edition.

The Witness of Jesus

Jesus' work of witness is continued by his followers, who are not only called his witnesses (17:6; cf. 2:13) but are also said to hold `the witness of Jesus' (12:17; 19:10), which is the same as their own witness (6:9; 12:11). `The witness of Jesus' means not `witness to Jesus', but the witness Jesus himself bore and which his faithful followers continue to bear. It is primarily Jesus' and his followers' witness to the true God and his righteousness, which exposes the falsehood of idolatry and the evil of those who worship the beast.

Richard Bauckham. The Theology of the Book of Revelation (New Testament Theology) (Kindle Locations 909-912). Kindle Edition.