Grammatical Gunpowder

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Romans 11:33

Whenever I hear or see something in the Bible that goes against what I have been taught or goes against my preconceived notions I try to study it out. But I have found there are many things in the Bible that I have not been able to explain or explain away. Spurgeon said of one “doctor”; “I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it.”

In my lifetime I too have heard my fair share of “grammatical gunpowder”. I have heard men read a text and say “now that’s not what that really means”. I’ve noticed these kinds of shenanigans are particularly useful to prophecy “experts” and those who hate anything to do with the words “election” or “predestination”

Some people boast in the fact that they do not use commentaries or read the old writers but not me. Whenever I find something novel or hear some new {to me} idea I look to Christians from the past to get their views on the subject. I think it was Tozer who said something like “If it’s new it’s probably not true”. He was probably more right than wrong about that. One of the things I have always appreciated about Matthew Henry’s commentary is that when commenting on a difficult passage he will sometimes give two or three differing opinions from men he admired. I think he was admitting there are some things in the scriptures that are “past finding out”. But from my fundamentalist Baptist background everything must be explained or explained away. To admit you do not understand something may get you kicked out of the “club”…or maybe just kicked and clubbed.

Here are a few quotes from Spurgeon that I have found helpful. Some of these quotations can be found in the book Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism by Iain H. Murray, a book I have read more than once and highly recommend.

Brother Shawn

“My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God. I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent? But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture.”

“I thank God for a thousand things I cannot understand. When I cannot get to know the reason why, I say to myself, “Why should I know the reason why? Who am I, and what am I, that I should demand explanations of my God?” I am a most unreasonable being when I am most reasonable, and when my judgment is most accurate I dare not trust it. I had rather trust my God. I am a poor silly child at my very best: my Father must know better than I.”

From the sermon Salvation by Knowing the Truth by C. H. Spurgeon

“There are some who can map out unfulfilled prophecy with great distinctness, but I confess my inability to do so. They get a shilling box of mathematical instruments. They stick down one leg of the compasses and describe a circle here and a circle there—and they draw two or three lines—and there it is! Can you not see it, as plain as a pikestaff? I am sick of diagrams! I have seen enough of them to make another volume of Euclid. My impression is that very little is to be learned from the major part of these interpretations or speculations. I do not think that anybody can map out the future so as to be absolutely sure of anything definite except certain great clearly-stated facts.” from the sermon, Christ Work No Failure 

“Men who are morbidly anxious to possess a self-consistent creed, a creed which will put together and form a square like a Chinese puzzle,–are very apt to narrow their souls. Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation. Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonises them all”  from the Volume An All-Round Ministry

“That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions,that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.” from A Defense of Calvinism

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One Response to Grammatical Gunpowder

  1. Pingback: Are you Afraid of the Bible? | The Christian Excavator

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