Van Til reminds us that our life as creatures is full of mystery, both regarding God and the world he has created. I found this article a small reminder that it’s OK to say “I don’t know.”
Here is an excerpt. I’m not sure whether the scientist quoted is being intentionally ironic or is blinded by his own arrogance.
Peter G. Wolynes, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, thinks he essentially solved the glass problem two decades ago based on ideas of what glass would look like if cooled infinitely slowly. “I think we have a very good constructive theory of that these days,” Dr. Wolynes said. “Many people tell me this is very contentious. I disagree violently with them.”
Little mysteries, like our fundamental ignorance concerning the nature of glass, are a reminder that our world is designed by an incomprehensible God. We can confidently proclaim “I don’t know” because he alone understands all things perfectly, and that perfect knowledge grounds and secures our imperfect knowledge. So here is a quote from Van Til:
It is exceedingly dangerous to confuse the orthodox concept of the incomprehensibility of God with the ultimate mysteriousness of the universe as held by modern thought. Modern thought in general, and modern logic in particular, holds . . . that God is, at most, an aspect of Reality as a whole. Hence, God is himself surrounded by darkness or mystery, just as man is surrounded by darkness or mystery. In other words, modern thought believes in an ultimate irrationalism, while Christianity believes in an ultimate rationality. It is difficult to think of two types of thought that are more radically opposed to one another. It is the most fundamental antithesis conceivable in the field of knowledge. . . . The very foundation of all Christian theology is removed if the concept of the ultimate rationality of God be given up.(Introduction to Systematic Theology: Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1995, p. 13).
My work in Hebrews (and the General epistles) has lead to frequent side-tracks into the nature and necessity of perseverance in the Christian life. Here are a couple of quotes from an excellent article by Thomas Schreiner.
No genuine believer will ever apostatize. Nonetheless, the warning passages in the Scriptures are addressed to believers, and they are threatened with eternal destruction (not loss of rewards) if they commit apostasy.
We must pay heed to the warnings in order to be saved on the day of the Lord.
The label “Poison!” on a bottle seizes our attention and awakens us to the peril which awaits us if we swallow its contents. Thereby we take special care when handling such a container and do not put it in the same cupboard with soft drinks. The warnings in the scriptures are also intended to arouse us from lethargy and propel us onward in the pathway of faith. They provoke a healthy fear (Heb 4:1!), so that we are not casual and relaxed about entering the heavenly rest. Of course, this fear is not the same thing as the paralyzing fear which suppresses all activity (1 Jn 4:18). It is the same kind of fear which causes us to put on our seat belts when we drive and which causes us to place railings where a fall would be deadly. Fear in these instances does not paralyze us but actually contributes to our confidence when driving or climbing. Similarly, hearing and obeying the warnings in scriptures does not sap us of confidence and assurance. It is the pathway for full assurance in the faith.
Some protest that this is works righteousness, but such an objection fails to see that such perseverance is the fruit of faith and grounded in God’s sustaining and electing grace. Yes, works are necessary to be saved. No, this is not works righteousness, for the works are hardly meritorious. The grace of God is so powerful that it not only grants us salvation apart from our merits, but also transforms us. Christians are not only declared righteous but also experience observable and significant change in their lives.
Several of Schreiner’s books are currently on sale at the Westminster Book Store.
Reading Greek will never be fun or effective without a basic knowledge of the vocabulary in the NT. Many specialists in linguistics have reflected extensively on the best model for selective vocabulary learning (also see here and here.
My own opinion, not based on any scientific evidence, is that once you have memorized all the words that occur 20 times or more, it’s time to be more selective. Remember: reading Greek is the best way to learn Greek, so the sooner you get into the NT the better. This is not to say that memorizing words that occur 10-19 times is unimportant, only that it is lower on the priority list.
So how can you be more selective? First, get the UBS’s Reader’s Greek NT and start reading. Read fast, read broad, read out loud, and don’t look up every word. Just read.
Second, pick a book you are interested in and read with focus. Check out Zhubert.com. In addition to providing an easy-to-use Greek NT system, that have some tools for memorizing specific words in specific books. Let’s say you’ve memorized everything in the NT that occurs 20 times or more and that you want to spend some time in the Epistle of James (hypothetically). Select James in Zhubert.com, select words occurring 20 times or less, and start a more focused vocabulary study. Such a focus will let you take those all important detours in syntax analysis and exegesis.
The point: you need a balance of both the broad and the narrow. Effective Greek reading requires both a range of reading, but also more focused attention on particular authors. The former helps you pick up the general features of a language, while the latter allows you to experience its depth and richness, not to mention the particular stylistic tendencies of different authors in the NT.
Continuing with the theme of my previous post–that the best way to learn Greek is to read Greek–let me recommend UBS’s Greek New Testament: Reader’s Edition.
The most difficult aspect of keeping up with Greek is limited time, especially if you are a busy pastor or student juggling multiple projects. A Reader’s Greek NT helps tremendously in this regard, as it will define words that occur infrequently in footnotes, keeping you in the text and not out and about searching through other books. Zondervan published one of these years back, but their version utilizes an awkward font, has hard to read footnotes, and most importantly does not make use of the of the “standard” UBS text (it uses a modified version, the basis of their NIV translation). The UBS edition makes up for all these deficiencies and additionally includes more words (occurrences up to 22 times or less, if I remember correctly), provides a comprehensive dictionary in the back (which you should never admit to using, since I’m sure you already know all the words that occur 22 times or more), and even parses out words that misbehave (a prize to the first person that provides the parsing and lexical form of ἐνέγκας).
All in all, I have found it incredibly helpful. They are available at the Westminster Bookstore, which offers great deals on shipping.
Next up in the summer Greek series: how to write ἐνέγκας in such a way that it does not look like evne,gkaj to half of your audience.
One question I get a lot is “how do I keep up with my Greek?” At the risk of over-simplification, my answer is… wait for it… read Greek!
Lee Irons has a variety of resources on his site to make such reading less intimidating for the beginner to intermediate Greekling. To get started, check out his introduction to his reading program. You will also want to download his more detailed Greek Reading Calendar. Most importantly, pick up a copy of his Greek Syntax Notes, which he promises to distribute in installments throughout the year.
Also, I highly recommend Young’s Intermediate NT Greek, which is concise. comprehensive, linguistically-aware, and easy to use. All together, it is an excellent reference that should be on everyone’s bookshelf, and will be enormously helpful in those tough-to-read sections.
Finally, I am making some of my beginner Form and Function guides available here. They are still a work in progress, and only cover the basics of Greek syntax, but they can serve as a good resource for reminding you of what you already know. These are highly indebted to Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek, Machen/McCartney’s NT Greek for Beginners and Young’s aforementioned Greek grammar (many of the terms of several of the guides have been directly lifted from the last two of these, since they are both used in my Greek class).
- Rules for Verb Forms
- Form and Function Guide
- Moods Function Guide
- Adjective Function Cheat Sheet
- Use of Autos Cheat Sheet
Stay tuned! I plan on posting a variety of Greek resources in the near future, including a guide to typing in Greek and an introduction to diagramming with Bibleworks. So if you haven’t subscribed to the site, do so!