Pwn3d by a Puritan.
Okay, as some may know, I’m about to enter the final teaching week of my first class at FSM (note: it’s “Attributes of God” with Stuart Greaves). For this class, there was only one required text: “The Existence and Attributes of God” by Stephen Charnock. Now, as you can tell by the title of the book, it is most appropriate for the class I am taking. However, when I saw that that was going to be the required text, I had to ask… who the heck is Stephen Charnock?
Well, wikipedia is gloriously devoid of a tresure trove of information about the gentleman. He was born in London in the 1600’s (17th century for you crazy history people like me), and converted while attending Emmanuel College at Oxford. He preached in London, he was a chaplain to the Governor of Ireland at one point, and towards the end of his life became a co-pastor at Crosby Hall Puritan Presbyterian church.
Admittedly, the book is not an easy read. First there is the obvious language barrier between the way people talked and wrote in the 1600’s and the way we interpret and digest information today. Secondly, there is a paradigm barrier between the Puritanical thought of the 1600’s and Charismania of the modern prop. Charnock is extremely thorough (most people describe his writing style as that of an outline), and is extremely logical… however, the kitbashing of extreme logic with a topic that is beyond human comprehension (ie, GOD) can sometimes lead to a mess. Statements such as “If God ceases to desire to be Himself, He cannot be Himself” just tend to leave the mind muddled and begging for a safety rope.
However, this doesn’t negate the “ouch” of the truth to be found in the book either. The prime example of this is the second chapter… Charnock’s “Discourse on Practical Atheism”. If the title doesn’t tell you that you are in for it, fasten your seatbelt and get ready for a ride. Some quotes from the book…
“Practical Atheism is natural to man in his depraved state, and very frequent in the lives and hearts of men…”
“The fool has said in his HEART that there is no God, not necessarily with his mouth…”
“Men may have atheistical hearts without atheistical heads…”
“Incosideration of God, or misrepresentation of his nature are as agreeable to corrupt nature, as the disowning the being of a God is contrary to common reason.”
This little samplng should show that Charnock doesn’t pull punches. I will tell you now that after reading the “Practical Atheism” chapter (which states that all men have some atheism in their psyche), I was ready to get saved. Charnock does have some “interesting” theology (ie, the prophets didn’t actually see God in their theophanies but a projection of God that they could understand because God has no form as a spirit), but the majority of the book is stunningly deep and will wreck your apple cart. I think God has a finger on my chest, and it hurts. As I keep reading, I keep thinking, “you may remove the cattle prod from my chest at any time…)