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Knowledge Puffs Up



Apparently the Sandemanians followed Robert Sandeman in asserting that saving faith involved mere assent to doctrinal facts.  Apparently they were soundly refuted by Andrew Fuller.  Apparently we needed to know this at a gathering of thousands of Christians today in London.  Three sentences on the subject were dropped into a short talk on how we should view the Scriptures.  These apparently important names then disappeared from the scene as quickly as they had appeared.  Only to be replaced by other names and theologies most people had never heard of.  And these were similarly disposed of with an assured riposte that must have sounded satisfyingly stinging if only anyone had known what the issues were.

Was this an accurate account of the Sandemanian controversy?  I have no idea.  Neither, I hazard to guess did the four thousand other Christians present there.  What makes me dubious of the speaker's sweeping assessments is the fact that one of the many names he dropped and then dismissed was Barth.  His three sentences on Barthian approaches to Scripture were so unrecognizable I wondered whether he had mis-typed the name into Wikipedia.

But really, dear reader, I don't care to defend Barthians and I certainly don't care to defend Sandemanians.  I don't care to raise their names at all.  Unless of course the conference was on historical or systematic theology.  But it wasn't.  It was a men's convention.  For men.  Dudes.  Guys.  The great majority were Christian but the thing's supposed to be open to non-Christians, seekers, etc.  So here's the question.  Why on earth drop names like this?

Think about the tone!  What kind of dismissive, know-it-all spirit do we convey when we raise and then dismiss whole movements in a paragraph.

What does it convey about where we think the real issues in the spiritual life lie.  Apparently they lie in debates which ordinary folk know nothing of but which clever clogs (who've been to seminary don't you know) can convey to you. 

Why do we want people to know that we know these names and controversies?

In the same letter where Paul berates the Corinthian spirit of saying 'we know...' (1 Cor 8) he tells us what he knows.  He was determined to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified.  (1 Cor 2:1-5)

If we're wanting to convey other kinds of knowledge the question must always be raised - why?



12 thoughts on “Knowledge Puffs Up

  1. John H

    I didn't particularly enjoy Richard Coekin's talk, for much the reasons you describe - though I hadn't been able to put them into words in quite that way. His swipe at "our liberal archbishop" was equally grating.

    What I dislike about the London Men's Convention: that "know-it-all, dismiss everyone else" attitude; and the tendency towards a rather irreverent, "Top Gear" spirituality. Because we're men. Dudes. Guys. So we have to be all gruff-voiced and joshing and talking loudly about football, etc.

    What I like about the London Men's Convention: when someone like Tim Keller shows up and speaks like Dr Keller did yesterday. His opening comment - about how he supposed he ought to make some smart-alec comment about contemporary culture, but wasn't going to - has to be seen as a rebuke to the event, I think.

  2. glenscriv

    Hi John,
    Welcome to comments - I've enjoyed your blog for a while now. And I couldn't agree more. God save us from 'Top Gear spirituality'. All those bald gags about Keller made me cringe.

    There was also an interesting moment when Keller was talking about subjective experience and said with a raised eyebrow '...of course we don't want to be Sandemanians'. He couldn't suppress a laugh. I think I know what he was laughing at.


  3. Bobby Grow

    I suppose insofar as people like Barth and Sandeman contribute to the engagement of 'knowing' Christ crucified; then it is relevant to mention what they have to say (or don't have to say). Certainly if what motivates people to "drop names" is to magnify their encyclopedic grasp of things; then there is a problem. Since the only name worth dropping at all, is Jesus'; but of course even His name can be used in vein.

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  5. glenscriv

    Yes Bobby, I can imagine all sorts of helpful ways to bring in the Sandemanian controversy and really explain what issues were at stake, what Scriptures were important and how the truth of Christ crucified spoke into that debate. This was nothing like that - it was a few minutes of rapid fire name dropping to people who never had heard or never would hear of them again.

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  7. gorge

    puffer fish r slow cute animals
    they are poisiones in there ovaries ,livers , muscles,and skin. they eat squid and clams .

    doing reaport on them how does the minnie description of a puffer fish sound?

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