Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You Want Bread and Wine With That Eschatology?

In chapter 2 of his Recovering the Reformed Confession, R. Scott Clark sets his sights on what he call the “Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty” (hereafter QIRC). Clark writes:

QIRC is the pursuit to know God in ways he has not revealed himself and to achieve epistemic and moral certainty on questions where such certainty is neither possible nor desirable.
Clark lists three examples of the QIRC that rear their heads in Reformed churches today: six-day, 24-hour creationism, theonomy, and covenant moralism as exemplified in movements such as the Federal Vision. In each of these cases there is an epistemological tension—whether between Scripture and science, the civil and the spiritual, or justification and sanctification—that the Reformed believer simply cannot endure. Hence his quest.

Instead of turning to the Reformed confession, however, many Reformed folk have turned to a kind of rationalism in an attempt to find certainty by elevating a particular interpretation, application, or use of Scripture above the Reformed faith itself. These folk then use their interpretation of Scripture as a mark of orthodoxy and/or sort of prophylaxis against enemies foreign and domestic, real and perceived.
For my own part, I can’t help but wonder why anyone who can’t abide a little tension now and then would ever bother to become Reformed. It is rather ironic that we are often chided by our evangelical friends for wanting our theology airtight and pristine, only to be yelled at ten minutes later for our unwillingness to open the Bible and declare with certainty how long it took God to make the earth or whether Jesus hates Barack Obama as much as James Dobson does.

The Reformed often receive the same tsk tsk-ing from our Catholic friends. Our ecclesiology is anything but tidy (heck, half the time we wouldn’t even have one if there weren’t an evil and corrupt Roman edifice to throw eggs at). But notwithstanding the Reformed refusal to make epistemological certitude the summum bonum of our existence, let it never be said that we walk by sight or lose too much sleep over not knowing everything.

All that thinking gives us a headache anyway, so just let us enjoy our eschatology semi-realized with an appetizer of bread and wine to tide us over until the real meal arrives.