I found this in J. W. McGarveyâ€™s compiled writings volume titled Biblical Criticism. As McGarvey was a considered scholar in both the Hebrew and Greek, I thought it might be useful to note his remarks concerning the use of plural pronouns in the Hebrew language. The response was posted to a radical question concerning disputing the authorship of Moses for the Penteteuch; however, the answer is interesting on other levels as well.
Catechism is one of those mysterious sounding religious words that no one would know what in the world it meant without somebody telling them. It sure sounds special though.
It is of course a Latin word; but unlike the words mentioned in my previous post, it is not found in the scriptures. Rather it describes a methodology that provides answers to religious questions generally without appealing directly to the Word of God. That would be what my father used to call “lazy religion” – where you really don’t care enough to get into the real deal, or just don’t want to be bothered.
My dictionary defines a catechism as, “an elementary book containing a summary of the principles of the Christian religion, especially as maintained by a particular church, in the form of questions and answers.”
Somebody, a long time ago, asked what you might need the quick version for if you already had the full treatment? And then someone else asked how do you know the information is correct, if the full explanation is not applied or appealed to? Good questions both. Without getting into the obvious where’s and why’s and falling headlong down into the rabbit hole they create; it might be useful to note that it appears to me that there is no real need for a catechism – you invent the need along with the questions and answers. But I’m probably eaten up with bias.
Let’s look into one of the black holes present in one of the best known of catechisms. I’ll note the Westminster Confession first as it is the foundation for a particular question in what is called the Larger Catechism of the Presbyterian Church.
The Westminster Confession states this in part, as found in chapter three, paragraph one: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass…”
The Larger Catechism, for question twelve, with its answer, asks: “What are the decrees of God? Answer: God’s decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.”
If I understand those pronouncements; then anything God does (and by reading this, it doesn’t matter if it is good or bad), has been preset and ordained by him. I should think that ought to settle a lot of things.
If someone does good, then they were set upon that path by the very hand of God. If they go bad after appearing for some time to be good, they were really destined to be bad anyway and were never really good to begin with. They eventually end up where God has decided they should be just as he planned. So good is good; and bad is bad; and never shall the twain meet (mostly). If you were meant by God to be his servant, like Jonah or Paul, you couldn’t run fast enough to get away if you somehow thought differently even for just a moment. If you are predestined to do evil by God you will in time find your way to do so, and you will not find the door to heaven, no matter what. If not predestined to evil, then you can’t help but eventually find your way over to the side with the light.
That should all make perfectly good sense based on the confession. Now journey with me over to the dark side, won’t you?
If someone tells lies habitually, God has ordained that he should be a liar. And following with what has been given; it is the will of God then that he is a liar and that he continues to be one to death do us part. Furthermore, not only is it God’s ordained will that he should be a liar, it is unchangeably ordained that he is the pathetic liar he in time turned out to be. He simply cannot stop or turn, and will not stop. If someone is an unrepentant thief, it has been unchangeably ordained by God. A grifter cannot forego his cheating ways, and so on. The same must be said of all murderers or of any other evil pursuit. God is therefore behind it all, and we, if evil and not of the elect, are basically unredeemable.
Cain followed Adam, and as some teach, and unbeknownst to him, as he was woefully weighed down with his father Adam’s total heredity depravity, and being pretty close to the action, so to speak, committed murder because he, poor Cain, was unchangeably ordained to do so and couldn’t help but to fulfill to his set and preconceived defiled direction. He was poured right into the mold without spilling a drop. Were we bold enough, we might suggest (to paraphrase the late comic Flip Wilson) that God made him do it.
So, now that I have your attention, why then did God curse Killer Cain, if he was just out and about doing what he had been unchangeably ordained to do? Didn’t he do a fine job of being predestined, of following out his pre-formed natural selection? He did his worst and it must actually have been his best, as he had no choice in the matter anyway; that is according to the catechism and confession we have just read.
Well, it seems that the second portion of the Confession in chapter three-one offers a caveat for God, a get-God-out-of-trouble-free card, placed there sometime after these things were found to have painted the providers of this religious exclusionary clause into the proverbial corner I have just detailed.
In the best of legalese, the disclaimer reads: “…yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” What?
It seems other perhaps unidentified, malleable and mutable things may be at work too. Other multiple pedestrian events may intervene and alter the otherwise unalterable and unchangeable will of God.
Somehow God, though he preconceived and ordains all things, cannot force us groundlings into sin they say. And these wise religious men offer up the second explanation as God’s escape clause. So much for total hereditary depravity, as it now seems that only non sin imputing events and deeds are actually unchangeably ordained by God. If sin results somewhere, it must have come through other avenues, and the trump is played to spare God from being accused of doing evil when he has told us he knows only good. Thereby God, though he ordains all things and unchangeably so, doesn’t get charged with being tremendously inconsistent and forcing people into sin. The pre-picked good guys will still get to go to join the heavenly choir, and the typecast bad guys will unfailingly be sent spiraling down through the gates of Hell, even though it all is not-quite-so completely unchangeably ordained as it at first seemed.
Whew! I was starting to get worried and not just a little confused. You might have noticed that nowhere in any of this is there any appeal made as to what God might actually have had to say on this matter. The rest of the confession and catechisms offers up similarly contrary and stifling stuff.
Therefore, as I understand things, this catechism contains a serious case of double talk. Aren’t we warned somewhere about double talkers?
Does no one bother to read and study the Word of God?