the kingdom of God, etc.

Thanks to all who participated on my last post on the kingdom of God. Lots to chew on there. I hope to continue the discussion in a future post.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear back about my thesis. All of the parts are in (chaps. 1-3, intro and conclusion), just waiting for feedback — and filling out PhD applications. 1 is in already, 2 more are due at the end of the month.

Two things for today (a very enjoyable Saturday):

First, my friend Mark has set up a new blog (so long and good riddance, MSN Spaces!). You can find it here.

Secondly, a couple of quotes re: Biblical interpretation that I recently uncovered:

So anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbour, has not yet succeeded in understanding them. Anyone who derives from them an idea which is useful for supporting this love but fails to say what the writer demonstrably meant in the passage has not made a fatal error, and is certainly not a liar…

Augustine, On Christian Teaching 1.36.40


For the salutary and sanctifying intelligence of the Oracles of God, the following is indispensable: We must come within the understanding distance…Humility of mind, or what is in effect the same, contempt for all earth-born pre-eminence, prepares the mind for the reception of this light; or, what is virtually the same, opens the ears to hear the voice of God…He, then, that would interpret the Oracles of God to the salvation of his soul, must approach this volume with the humility and docility of a child, and meditate upon it day and night.

Alexander Campbell, The Christian System (1839)


6 responses to “the kingdom of God, etc.

  1. You know, your Campbell quotes sound good but I can’t help but think that has lead to the idea in churches of Christ that if one’s interpretation differs from another’s that the other person isn’t being humble.

  2. You’re right, Ken. We’ve misread Campbell in many ways (when we’ve bothered to read him at all). I’ve always liked this bit of the CS. It indicates to me that, for Campbell, it was never just about a cold and strictly rational approach to Scripture, but that there was a certain ‘mysticism’ to the interpretation of scripture [see William Paulsell’s Disciples at Prayer for that same idea].

  3. “You’re right, Ken. We’ve misread Campbell in many ways ”

    I don’t know if that’s a misread of Campbell. I surmise that Campbell thought that anyone who didn’t submit themselves to the plain meaning of Scripture was prideful or lacked the proper humility.

  4. If you are correct (which, I grant you may be; any textual evidence?), then the whole progressive CofC project of rehabilitating the “unity” Campbell over the “restoration” Campbell is a total wash?

  5. Chris,

    Your quotation from Campbell leaves out some additional material that will help in understanding:

    The understanding distance:

    “Now we may with propriety say, that as it respects God, there is an understanding distance. All beyond that distance can not understand God; all within it can easily understand him in all matters of piety and morality. God himself is the center of that circle, and humility is its circumference.”

    According to Campbell, one can only be in the understanding distance if one is within the circle of humility. In fact, for those with the proper humility one “can easily understand him in all matters of piety and morality”.

    Also left out from what you quoted:

    “Amidst the din of all the arguments of the flesh, the world, and Satan, a person is so deaf that he can not hear the still, small voice of God’s philanthropy. But receding from pride, covetousness, and false ambition–from the love of the world–and in coming within that circle, the circumference of which is unfeigned humility, and the center of which is God himself–the voice of God is distinctly heard and clearly understood. All within this circle are [166] taught by God–all without it are under the influence of the wicked one. “God resisteth the proud, but he giveth grace to the humble.”

  6. So, it seems, humility + Baconian hermeneutic = Truth.

    But, of course, most early 19th century evangelical Protestants relied upon the Baconian framework, which makes it all the more ironic that they couldn’t reach agreement.

    Having said all that, I’m still tempted to think that Campbell in 1839 (post-Lunenburg Letter) was becoming, if not already, a more inclusive and tolerant leader of his movement. Note that, in the Christian System, his trademark sarcasm has diminished considerably. This reflects, I think, a transition from Campbell the abrasive editor to Campbell the established leader of one of the largest religious groups on the frontier.

    I guess there’s just no consistent way to view the man.

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