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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What's Going on in "Blogland"

Alvin Kimel has written an excellent article over at Pontifications (A Catholic blog site) about Matthew McMahon comments regarding N.T. Wright which appeared on the Puritain Board back in December.

While I have enjoyed some of the articles on McMahon's web site titled A Puritan's Mind, when I actually read McMahon's comments about Wright on the Puritain Board I was stunned that he could so easily, quickly, and unashamedly conclude that Wright was a heresiarch (an 'arch heretic', in other words, the worst kind of heretic). While I can see why McMahon might disagree with Wright's conclusions, to call Wright a heresiarch seems a bit extreme and perhaps hasty and uncharitable. Moreover, if you go and read his comments, it is certainly not McMahon's job to determine whether Wright will burn in hell.

Kimel provides some very telling quotes from some of Wright's works regarding Wright's views on Justification and goes on to describe other things about Wright's works, McMahon's declaration about Wright, etc. Go read it for yourself, the article is well written and informative.

Also, Alastair over at Adversaria has added his two cents to the dialogue - albeit I think what he said was at least worth a dime :-) - and brought a few other points to the surface.

While I do consider myself a staunch Reformer (hence my series on John Calvin), I can't help but agree with Alastair when he declares, "But when did the Reformation confessions or the views of Luther and Calvin achieve irreformable status?" I too often see Reformed thinkers (both scholars and laity) treat Luther and Calvin as if their words are infallible and anyone who disagrees with them is anathema. Brothers and sisters, this simply should not be.

Anyway, just to give you some food for thought, or perhaps make you throw up (whichever the case may be) I wanted to post these articles here so you could see them in case you haven't already.


Blogger Chris Tilling said...

TB wrote: a bit extreme and perhaps hasty and uncharitable

You don't think you might be overstating things here?!!

5:51 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...


LOL. Yeah, I may be being hasty and perhaps uncharitable myself, huh?

On a more serious note, have you read any of Wright's works? And if so, what did you think?

8:37 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Oh I've read Wright!

For a long time I've pondered the question of the 'New Perspective' - and I'll continue the series on it I started long ago soonish. And Wright has been most helpful in this regard, and thoroughly stimulating - though he hasn't yet convinced me entirely.

I like his stuff very much. It has not only been an inspiration for me, but I find him clear and accessible.

When someone comes along with a fresh hermeneutic, like Bultmann did with reference to demythologisation and existentialism, Davies with rabbinic Judaism, a re-reading of the texts can be breathtaking and exciting. Wright's narrative approach of 'exile' and return theme does the same, and with a hermeneutic far less anachronistic than most.

9:47 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Well, you are ahead of me. I have just now begun to collect works on the "New Perspective" and research the issue.

I actually have four or five of Wright's works (his three part series which ends with the Resurrection text, and two on Paul) and have only read one of them so far "What Paul Really Said" so I cannot actually formulate a well informed opinion on Wright's work/theology on that issue. That is one of my projects for this year though, to explore this "New Perspective" issue.

I look forward to your posts about it though.

btw, when I was in seminary I had the opportunity to meet Wright and talk to him for some time. He presented a paper at a local church on his views of the resurrection which I thoroughly enjoyed. I know his views on that issue are quite orthodox and sound.

11:05 AM, January 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought:

I agree that the comments made about Wright at Puritan's Mind are over the top, and I do not think anyone can call someone a heretic apart from a specific reference to the creedal orthodox tradition.

However, is it really uncharitable to call someone a heretic, or even a heresiarch? Or is it just wrong to do so?

Or, another option, is it acceptable to call someone a heretic if you are correct, but uncharitable if you are wrong?

Just an odd question that I had while I was reading your post.

-Dave Piske

8:00 PM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...


Good questions, but let me ask you this first.

My question to you would be, who has the authority to call anyone a heretic?

Because if this decision is left up to individuals, then anyone at any time could be considered a heretic for any reason.

So how would you respond to the question "who has the authority to call anyone a heretic?" and your answer will at least be the starting point for discussing your questions.

I look foward to your answer.

8:59 PM, January 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you missed the point of my question. By referencing the creedal orthodox (Catholic) tradition, I have already identified the source of authority for determining heresy. You know where I stand on this; I practically wrote an epistle about it! :)

That is not my question. I am not asking whether he is right to make the claim he is making (about Wright being a heresiarch). So let me be more specific about my question: is your claim (that his remarks about Wright are uncharitable) based on the bare fact of the claim, or on some other condition? If some condition, then what is it?

-David, again.

12:39 AM, January 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I see how you can say McMahon's claim is uncharitable if you mean that it is arrogant (which is opposed to charity).

If that is what you meant, I withdraw my question. However, even so, I think that McMahon's primary offense is presumption against the authority of the Church in her creedal definition.

I only initially raised the issue because I wish to retain the right to identify heresy (according to the proper authority, of course) without having to defend against the charge of being uncharitable. (God knows that we face enough of that already.) Having granted the point above, I assume that your point was only that presumptuous claims of heresy are uncharitable.

Mea culpa.

-Dave Piske

12:57 AM, January 14, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

I think McMahon's claim is uncharitable in that it claims ultimate authority (which would, in a sense make it wrong as well).

So in one sense McMahan's claim is arrogant (in that he is usurping the authority of the Church).

I think we can retain the "right" to claim error in a person's thinking. He are certainly told to discern and judge certain doctrines to determine whether they are false or not. And someone can be wrong without being a heretic.

However, when it comes to heresy, it seems that we have only those claims made by councils of the past to fall back on.

But, this can get me into trouble since heretical claims were made at Trent which I do not agree to, so what am I suppose to do in that case?

I do not think sola fide is heretical as Trent seemed to think. If Trent, however, is correct, then the RCC must think that John Chrysostom is a heretic since he taught salvation by faith alone, and I do not think the RCC is ready to call Chrysostom a heretic (but this may perhap be me digressing).

So, David, by me asking "My question to you would be, who has the authority to call anyone a heretic?"

I think I am getting to the heart of why I think McMahon's claims of Wright being a heresiarch are uncharitable. Call the claims wrong if you like, but I still tink he is uncharitable - see Eph. 4:1-7 due to the divisive nature of the claims (which have never been made against's Wright's teaching in the past) and due to the arrogance and usurping authority.

When you declare:
"I only initially raised the issue because I wish to retain the right to identify heresy (according to the proper authority, of course) without having to defend against the charge of being uncharitable."

You are assuming that if you use the "proper authority" then you can make a claim and be charitable. This is the very thing I am getting at. . . what/who is the proper authority?

9:23 AM, January 14, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

"He are clearly told" . . . should be "We are clearly told" typo on my part.

9:25 AM, January 14, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

I keep thinking about your questions, David, they are very good questions. Perhaps I should post something about the issue of heresy in a question format and get some other reader's opinions. . . what do you think about me doing that?

9:58 AM, January 14, 2006  
Blogger Alastair said...

If you want to get acquainted with Wright, I strongly recommend that you start with the various audio on the N.T. Wright page. You might also consider investing in a copy of his Romans in a Week lectures.

I found Wright's commentary on Romans to be the real clincher for me. It was when I read that commentary through that it all began to fit together.

5:21 PM, January 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think such a 'survey' of your readers about heresy would reveal quite a bit of difference between all of us.

I, for one, would as yet have trouble with giving full weight of authority to Trent for defining heresy, for example.

I think you should do it.

-David Piske

8:02 PM, January 14, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Thank you for the sources, Alastair. That will at least help light a fire under me to begin my research.

8:57 AM, January 15, 2006  

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