Saturday, January 26, 2019

Regarding doctrine, I reserve the right to make fallacious arguments

Appeal to authority? Confirmation bias? Who can say? We probably cannot completely isolate ourselves from such influences. To wit, here is the dirty laundry of my advanced theological research methods:
Oh noes! Doctrine A is puzzling. Brother X says theologian Y affirms doctrine A, while I am inclined to deny it as heresy. Hmm. How to solve this conundrum? It's easy! 
Next step:

Possible outcomes:

1) RC affirms doctrine A, in which case my first thought is: “Yikes! How did I get that so wrong?”

2)  RC denies doctrine A, in which case I declare victory and pop open a Yoo-hoo chocolate soda.

Okay, first: I‘m not sure if that is an appeal to authority or conformation bias or both. But I know it is fallacious. And second: truthfully, I’m not quite that bad, but I am almost that bad. Both outcomes will lead to further study, which is good—but my first inclination in any doctrinal debate is to see what RC says about it.

I have been doing that so much recently that I nearly forgot that I have a go-to Reformation era theologian, the properly dour looking Francis (Fran├žois) Turretin (1623-1687). I most recently referred to him in this post on the Old Testament Canon, aka Jesus’ bible.

I have been struggling with the question of Sabbath activities. You may be one of the four people (three, if I don’t count myself; two if I don’t count the missus) who read this recent post.

So... regarding activities that he considers exceptions to the prohibition on working on the Sabbath, Turretin writes:
XXV. Here, nevertheless, are excepted: (1) those works which directly regard the worship and glory of God (Mt. 12:5; Jn. 5:8, 9), for in this case those works which are in their nature servile pass into the nature of sacred works—nor are they so much our works as God’s; (2) works of charity and of mercy which are reckoned among the duties of piety (Mt 12:10,12; Jn. 5:9; 9:14; Lk. 13:15); (3) the works of common honesty, because as always, so on this day above others, we ought to carry ourselves and to act honesty and decorously; (4) works of necessity, which are neither feigned nor designedly produced, but imposed upon us by providence (Lk. 14:5); not only absolute and simple, that may be called necessary only (which we can in no way be in want of), but modified and relative so that those things may be reckoned necessary not only which are required absolutely for the existence or support of life, but also those which conduce to our living [better?] Hence some great advantage and emolument 1 accrues to us or our neighbor if they are done or some great disadvantage and loss if they are omitted. “The sabbath” (as Christ testifies in Mk. 2:27) “was made for man and not man for the sabbath.”  
XXVI. Therefore, we do not think that in this cessation believers are bound to judaical precision which some (more scrupulous than is just) maintain was not revoked, so that it is lawful neither to kindle a fire, nor to cook food, nor to take up arms against an enemy, nor to prosecute a journey begun by land or sea, nor to refresh themselves with innocent relaxation of the mind and body, provided they are done out of the hours appointed for divine worship, nor to have any diversion, however slight, to any things belonging to the advantages or emoluments of this life. For although this opinion bears on its face a beautiful appearance of piety (and undoubtedly with good intention is proposed by pious men to procure the better sanctification of this day, usually so basely profaned), mil it labor under grievous disadvantages; nor can it be retained without in this way bringing back into the church and imposing anew upon the shoulders of Christians an unbearable yoke, repugnant to Christian liberty and the gentleness of Christ and opposed to the sweetness of the covenant of grace by agitating and tormenting the consciences of men through infinite scruples and inextricable difficulties (nearly driving to desperation). 

Yes! I love it! What FT sez! Game over, man! "Judaical precision" is my new tag line.

I am not really sure if Turretin was always my absolute favorite Reformation era theologian and bff, or it only seems like that now. Confirmation bias is an insidious thing.

1Because of my limited, sixth-grade vocabulary, I had to look up emolument: (noun), a salary, fee, or profit from employment or office.

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