Wit and Wisdom from John Hannah Revisited (3)


What happens when you combine one of the best minds the Christian church has ever known (Jonathan Edwards) with one of the most quotable professors I’ve ever encountered? A cascade of wit and wisdom like what you’ll find below.

Quotes from Wednesday’s Class

Theological controversies: If you don’t define terms agreeably before a controversy, you’ll just talk past each other.

Being biblical: Being biblical is not having a verse for what you believe; it’s having the weight of Scripture undergirding what you believe. Being biblical includes proportionality.

Christianity’s major error: What is the major error of Christianity through the centuries? Confusing what is cause with what is effect. You have to get these two straight or else you will drift into moralism.

Natural revelation: God has revealed himself in the volume of a wordless book — natural revelation. It can tell us that God exists, that he is powerful, and that he is discriminatory, but not much beyond that. But in hatred for natural revelation is man’s just condemnation.

Free will: The problem with sinners is not our faculty of choice but the absence of object. People have the ability to choose, but they do not have God as an object to choose. Preaching about God and Christ is talking to people about an idea that they do not know or have. And if the Spirit of God opens their heart, they will choose. The problem is not inability; it’s lack of object.

The human void: People across cultures have a notion of good which is outside of them but which they want. So they take a long vacation or buy a condominium. How do we account for this desire for good? People are trying to create heaven. God created Adam and Eve to live in the garden, but they rebelled and were thrown out. As their descendants, you and I live with the residual sense of a lost paradise. We have this vague idea, but no one has colored it except for in black and white. The gospel fills it in.

Depravity: No one seeks after God on his terms. They seek after God on their own terms, and therefore they are not seeking God at all.

Biographies: Don’t read about people to imitate them, but to extract from them what is universal and helpful for you.

Education and character: Be yourself. Get over your education. It wasn’t that significant. Be thankful for your education — it kick-started you. But it didn’t answer your great questions, because we didn’t know what your questions were. And neither did you at the time. So our education should focus on the development of intellectual apparatus and especially character. If you have character, you’ll be OK, even if you don’t have the answer. If all you do is know and don’t feel, you won’t be qualified for the ministry.

Sin and failure: The ungodly man will excuse it and hide it. The godly man will confess it. I want to build a faculty of men who know their sin and who confess it. They’re strong. I want to build an elder board of these men.

Error and teachers: Error doesn’t wait for teachers. Error is the unceasing grumblings of a sinful heart. Teachers just give us footnotes.

Student question: Edwards was a very emotional person, right? Answer: Yes, and so should you be! Listen, this is not a job. If my neighbor’s house is on fire I’m not just going to saunter over and recommend that maybe he should check the roof but if he doesn’t feel like it, that’s OK, too. I’m going to plead. If you preach a sermon, that’s a day’s work. You better go home and get some rest. Unless you’ve delivered it dispassionately. In that case, you can just go home and watch TV when you’re done. The way I present something is a commentary on its value. And people can read you like a book. Good ideas wrapped in integrity and passion make leaders. We have made massive advances in science and technology. But one thing remains the same: the death rate. It is still 100%. This is not a job. I’m not looking for a career. I’m looking to give my life away for the King. I don’t care about the size of the church. I think that the biggest hobgoblin of evangelical failure is the false god of success. We don’t know what that is. What is success in the Bible? Someone with a cup of water. A widow with two pence alongside of people who give thousands. Most of us have never learned to give because we always protect our backside when we do it. But God loves abandonment, because abandonment is trust.

Cards: For a long time I never signed cards to my wife. She’d say, “Why didn’t you sign it?” I’d say, “Because if I sign it, we can’t re-use it!  Those things are expensive!”

OT and NT: What is enfolded in the Old Testament is unfolded in the New Testament.

True friendship: A friend is someone who knows you intimately and doesn’t believe two things about you: (1) the best things you say; (2) the worst things you say.

Love: Love is just a fancy word for commitment. I don’t ask young couples if they love each other. They have no idea what that means. I ask them if once they really know each other, they’ll stay committed.

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