“No sane man would deny that the Parthenon was built of marble, even if here and there a speck of sandstone should be detected in it structure. Not less unreasonable is it to deny the inspiration of such a book as the Bible because one sacred writer says that on a given occasion twenty-four thousand, and another says that twenty three-thousand, men were slain. Surely a Christian may be allowed to tread such objections under his feet.
Admitting that the Scriptures do contain, in a few instances, discrepancies which with out present means of knowledge, we are unable satisfactorily to explain, they furnish no rational ground for denying their infallibility. “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 5:35). This is the whole doctrine of plenary inspiration, taught by the lips of Christ himself. The universe teems with evidences of design, so manifold, so diverse, so wonderful, as to overwhelm the mind with the conviction that it has had an intelligent author. Yet here and there isolated cases of monstrosity appear. It is irrational, because we cannot account for such cases, to deny that the universe is the product of intelligence. So the Christian need not renounce his faith in the plenary inspiration of the Bible, although there may be some things about it in its present state which he cannot account for.

Charles Hodge Systematic Theology Vol.1 VI.2.I (p.170)

“No sane man wo…

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Difference between Knowing and Understanding.

It is important, however, to bear in mind the difference between knowing and understanding, or comprehending. A child knows what the words “God is a spirit” mean. No created being can comprehend the Almight unto perfection. We must know the plan of salvation; but no one can comprehend its mysteries. This distinction is recognized in every department. Men know unspeakably more than they understand. We know that plants grow; that the will controls our voluntary muscles; that Jesus Christ is God and man in two distinct natures, and one person forever; but here as everywhere we are surrounded by the incomprehensible. We can rationally believe that a things is, without knowing how or why it is. It is enough for the true dignity of man as a rational creature, that he is not called upon by his Creator to believe without knowledge, to receive as true propositions which convey no meaning to the mind. This would be not only irrational, but impossible.

Charles Hodge Systematic Theology. Vol 1, III.5.A (p.50)

B. Reason must judge of the Credibility of a Revelation.

.. A thing may be strange, unaccountable, unintelligible, and yet perfectly credible. What is strange or unaccountable to one mind, may be perfectly familiar and plain to another. For the most limited intellect or experience to make itself the standard of the possible and true, would be as absurd as a man’s making his visible horizon the limit of space. Unless a man is willing to believe the incomprehensible, he can believe nothing, and must dwell forever in outer darkness. The most sceptical form of modern philosophy, which reduces faith and knowledge to a minimum, teaches that the incomprehensible is all we know, namely, that force is, and that it is persistent. It is most unreasonable, therefore, to urge as an objection to Christianity that it demands faith in the incomprehensible.

Ibid., Vol.1 III.5.B (p.50)

Hodge on Reason: Its Role, Its Limits

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Looks Promising

The Oxford Companion to Beer sounds promising. But this reviewer may show a bit more than optimism when he welcomes the likes of "Chibuku shake-shake" into the canons of beer:

The OCB is like a pub with enough taps to satisfy every variety of drinker. Plenty here is for beer nerds—I don’t know what acidulated malt is, and I don’t much care—but far more isn’t, spanning serious history (“Bacchus,” “Free Mash-Tun Act (1880)”), amusing arcana (“beer weeks,” “last orders”) and profiles of brewers past and present: from the global monster “InBev” to San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company, widely credited with starting the American microbrew movement. You may know something about German beer, but did you know about a Malawian sorghum beer known as chibuku shake-shake? Well, thank me when you’re having a cold one in Lilongwe.

No sir, I will not be thanking you. Nor will anyone else when they slurp that slag called ‘brew’ whether cold or warm, as the Malawians like it. That sort of frothy fermented leftover from the millet drink ‘Thobwa’ is certainly worth noting. But let’s be honest, its as enjoyable and functional as Colt 45, i.e. it works every time. After all, anything that comes in a swollen milk carton just ain’t worth bothering with.
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Calvin’s Modest Method

I have been reading Calvin this semester and have been quite enjoying it. One of the most wonderful things is his insistence on contentment with God’s self-revelation. Calvin is a champion of having a humble epistemology, a modest theological method. In speaking of the Trinity he says:

“Here, indeed, if anywhere in the secret mysteries of Scripture we ought to play the philosopher soberly and with great moderation; let us use great caution that neither our thoughts nor our speech go beyond the limits to which the Word of God itself extends. For how can the human mind measure off the measureless essence of God according to its own little measure … Indeed, how can the mind by its own leading come to search out God’s essence when it cannot even get to is own? Let us then willingly leave to God the knowledge of himself. For, as Hilary says, he is the one fit to witness of himself, and is not known except through himself. But we shall be ‘leaving it to him’ if we conceive him to be as he reveals himself to us, without inquiring about him elsewhere than from his Word.” (1.13.21)

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Defining Poverty

It occurred to me today: how do you define poverty? Each suggested answer only brought up more questions. Here are a few examples:

You are poor if you budget is small. — This could be true, and yet you still would have more money left in your pocket at the end of the month than others (see below), or your budget is free of any burdensome payments (car, loan, mortgage, rent, etc.) Conceivably someone who owns their house, their car, and lives by themselves could live on a very small budget. This would result in a great amount of free money in their pocket.

You are poor if you have a small amount of money left in your pocket/bank at the end of your budget cycle. — This could be true, though of someone who has very large expenses and a very large income. Again, it is likely that the person with a large income also includes in their expenses things to their benefit: savings, or debt payments.

You are poor if your expenses are largely tied up in loan payments, and other non-productive uses. — While this characterizes the person who makes a lot of money and yet has massive amounts of debt, it does not take into account the person who, has large debt but is privileged by the education that loan made available. Another way to say it; is historical wealth or benefit factored into considerations on poverty? Ability to get a good paying job is certainly a corollary here.

You are poor if you have no privileges which give you the upper hand. — This is something that often misses most discussions of poverty among those who do have privileges (steady family, parents involved in and encouraging education, good schools, financial help for school, etc.) Yet even this does not take into account the ability to excel in a trade or entrepreneurial skills. You can make good money with privilege starting you on the right track. Capitalism at its best allows this (without comment on Capitalism at its worst).

Which one does the job? I’m really not sure. One thing is clear, once you start qualifying for more than one of these you can count yourself in the crew of the poor.

I am thinking about poverty, partly because I wonder how poor we are. I also think about poverty because I wonder if our scruples are misguided; how we define poverty will help us to decide who really needs help.

CSTS Inaugural Conference

A friend of mine (Aaron White) and I have put together a new student group on Covenant Seminary’s campus, Covenant Seminary Theological Society. It sounds more elite than it is; we are looking to promote rigorous Christian scholarship and godliness among students at Covenant. To this end we will be putting on a conference in late January where students will be presenting papers along with professors. Below is our call for papers:

You’ve been working on it for weeks, for the three days leading up to the due date you got a total of 4 hours of sleep, you are now dreaming in greek; all for that grade and the satisfaction of doing a good job. Its worth it, but how often do you get to share what you learned? How often do you get thoughtful feedback from other students or professors consisting of more than one or two lines? Now is your chance!
We are the Covenant Seminary Theological Society, and we are looking for students to present their very own papers for our inaugural conference this January. If you would like to present, you will need to submit a full version of your paper by October 21st to Aaron White or Daniel Robbins (dfrobbins). This will allow us time to select our presenters. Unless you feel inspired, you should feel free to submit papers from previous classes. Note: We would prefer these papers to be thesis papers (ie. not annotated translations, or verse-by-verse commentaries). Student Papers can be on any topic in OT, NT, Systematics, Ethics, Christian backgrounds, etc.

We are very excited about this conference as it will provide a forum for students to test out their theses, and presentation skills, as well as encourage them in scholarship and godly fellowship in the course of it all. Please pray for us as we get all the details together, and for the students who will be presenting (and submitting papers in the coming weeks).

Repentance and Justification

Justification reminds us that saying ‘sorry’ earns us nothing. We ought to be sorry and fess up for our actions regardless of the consequences; this is simply our right duty. Saying ‘sorry’ is embracing the consequences as what we justly deserve. Never mind for just a moment that we will never come to the Lord except by His gracious calling. If we see our sins aright, when we come back to the Lord we ought to expect nothing but judgment for our actions and unbelief.

What is surprising is that we when come to the Lord he also wipes our sins away. This is the overabundant outpouring of his grace. Justification is a landslide of grace on top of his gracious welcoming us back in the first place. We have nothing to pay, but are now treated as if we were faithful like Jesus our whole lives. ‘Sorry’ earns us nothing; Jesus righteous life, death and resurrection have accomplished everything.

Candidates and Theology

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In the 2008 elections, I bothered everyone who was stuck with me by constantly saying that I wished I had a document explaining Obama’s political philosophy as a whole, not to mention any system of thought that binds his thinking together. I always felt like I was given well polished snippets which did nothing to reveal the undergirding system of thought.

It turns out I am not alone. Please read this article by David Mills, at First Things. Here is a lovely clipping:

The country does not need religous politicians to collaborate in removing religious doctrine from the public square. We need politicians who lay out their theology and explain how it both binds and directs them, and that theology includes finer points generally considered politically irrelevant. And we need this from secular politicians, who also have a theology, or if they prefer a philosophy, as much as from religious ones.

Not that we will get such disclosures. Religious candidates are happy to argue fiercely about cutting taxes or regulating banks or increasing social spending, but not about anything they can segregate out as religious" or theological." The closest conservatives come is to speak of family values" or traditional values," while avoiding answering the question of what justifies those values and why they should bind anyone else. The closest liberals come is to invoke compassion and concern for the poor without explaining how this justifies their policies.

Bianchi Built!

After 3 years I have finally completed my new bike. I picked up a Bianchi frame with Dedeccai steel frame and some carbon chain stays in the winter of 2008. Well, my wonderful Dad picked it up for me in winter 2008 driving through a foot of snow to get it; I was in Malawi, sweating. I repo-ed the frame from my Dad when we returned in 2009 and moved to St. Louis. Eager to build it up, I quickly bought a wheelset, a lovely Reynolds Ouzo fork, a handlebar, a stem and a headset. But, after school hit, as well as the realization that the old components from my Cannondale were not going to function well on a new frame (since they barely function on my old one), the project languished and halted.

It wasn’t until this last spring (2011), that I found a groupset for a reasonable price: Dura-Ace 7800, pristine condition, $450, 11-pieces including new chain, new brake pads, new housing. After a grueling Spring semester, and a wonderful trip to Zimbabwe to teach, I returned home invigorated to build. Today I finished my third ever bike build; and its the best yet.

Can’t wait to ride it, though I may need to upgrade my security.


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Zimbabwe – Summary

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We had a wonderful time visiting the Theological College of Zimbabwe, and the fellow Presbyterian churches in Bulawayo. Bethany has done a great job giving some color to the stories of our time there at her blog Still in St. Louis. Please visit there to get a glimpse of our daily life there and the ministry and relationships she had.

In an effort to keep things brief, here is an executive summary. Over the five and a half weeks we were there, I was able to:
– Teach on Romans 12-16
– Teach on Philippians 2
– Teach on Amos 5-6
– Teach two lectures with KJ Drake on Covenant Theology
– Teach on Episcopalian Polity
– Teach one chapter of Greek Grammar
– Lead one session of an advanced Greek reading course, looking at Romans 8
– Tutor 2 Greek students a handful of times
– Preach twice; once in the TCZ chapel and once in City Presbyterian

I feel quite blessed not only to have been able to go and visit the school, but also to have been able to participate and teach as many sections as I did. It was quite encouraging teaching. I had a great time doing it, and realized how much more I need to learn to teach well (pedagogy is difficult).

There were 3 guys and 1 girl from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and 2 of us from Covenant (myself and KJ Drake). The guys from Gordon-Conwell were all there without their wives and children. All the guys stayed on campus and ate PB & J and Ramen noodles. I had the sweetest gig of all; I got to teach and research all day long, and then come home to a wonderful meal and my wonderful family. I got to spend time with my wife and kids every night of the week (a bit rare in our home during the semester while working at the restaurant!)

We are praying for wisdom in how we spend the next two or more years here in STL. We would love to go back to Zim, and especially TCZ. It would be great if they could use us as well. It was quite exciting to meet the Presbyterian ministers there, and very encouraging to here their hearts for the church and vision to see the Lord continue his work among them and among the city. It would be a life well spent partnering with the church there and serving along side these wonderful brothers.

If we were to go and work with the church there, an M.Div would be sufficient. But if I wanted to teach, I would need to get a Th.M or an equivalent research Masters. This is not because I haven’t studied enough to teach at a Bachelor’s level, nor is it a requirement of the college. Rather, it would be a good degree to have to bring some higher credentials to the table for the college’s sake. They want to eventually offer an MA in theological/biblical studies. but in order to do that it seems they need a certain number of faculty with Ph.D’s or Th.M’s. At this point, a Th.M (or an S.T.M. at Concordia Seminary) seems like the best option. It, ideally, would only take a year to complete after finishing my M.Div. It would allow me to teach at a higher level, and wouldn’t take the next 5 or more years to complete (like a Ph.D would; if I could be accepted to a program).

So, please pray for us. Pray for our wisdom in deciding how to go about the next few years in terms of study, but also in terms of continuing relationships with those in Zim. It would be lovely if the Lord had a place for us in Zim at the end of our studies. At the end of the day, though, we don’t want to go anywhere if the Lord isn’t there as well.

Thank you to all of you who were praying for us, and especially to all of you who prayed for us and gave us the money we needed to get there! It was amazing to see all of the support come together so quickly; that in and of itself is a testimony to the Lord’s kindness and our continued partnership.

DFR
dfrobbins.wordpress.com