Exegete of the Eternal

In yet another excellent sermon published in ‘Descending on Humanity and Intervening in History’ (ed. Jason Goroncy), P. T. Forsyth skillfully exposes, by force of logic, the poverty of ignorance in understanding Christian things in general, and specifically in this section of the sermon, Creeds in particular.  He calls these contemporary interpreters of Christian things people of “narrow mind” and “narrow soul”.

By contrast, the Christian teacher, the “preacher-scholar” is an “exegete of the eternal” and that includes history, culture and so on, but especially the scriptures and the creeds.  So many people, many of them Christians, are so quick to dismiss things they don’t understand, that (quoting Ernest Renan) he writes, “We begin examining before we have appropriated enough to fit us to examine.  Very few people have acquired the right to disbelieve in Christianity.”

People dismiss great historic institutions like the creeds out of ignorance and even novelty for things that are new (as is supposed).  But, argues Forsyth, “Our creeds are at once old and new.  It is not abolition the need but reinterpretation.  Many people don’t bother to understand, arguing instead for such deceptively slippery concepts as the “simple directness” of plain speaking, as though it were the only “mode of spiritual expression.”  He writes, “Plainness of speech is not worth the price if it costs squatness of thought and baldness of vision.”

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