Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dean Burgon's Fiery War on Modernist Science-so-called should be our model

John William Burgon has so far figured in my blogs only on the subject of the Bible versions as an inspiring and passionate scholar and writer against the revisionist Bible put out by a cadre of modernist Anglican churchmen in the 19th century. But now I've been introduced to another of his writings through David Cloud's wonderful history of the Bible versions controversy, For Love of the Bible, in which he discusses Burgon and quotes at length from Burgon's book in response to a modernist tract of his day, which puts Science-so-called above God's word. Oh how I love Dean Burgon. The more I read of his writings the more I love the man whose mind produced them. He is, as David Cloud calls him, indeed a "warrior," a warrior for truth over lies, in this case the truth over the lies of modernism, the lies of Science-so-called. I found his book online at CCEL but I'll probably mostly be quoting from David Cloud's book.

[Sometimes I think I won't be much interested in seeing ANYONE I know from this life in heaven, not family or friends -- oh a few exceptions do come to mind (and of course we'll all be perfected and love each other completely) -- but there are plenty of people I know only through their books or books about them that I could follow around for eternity, and Burgon is one of them. If of course one can have eyes for anyone besides the Lord]

The fire with which Burgon writes offends some, though it's a quality I've always particularly enjoyed in his writings, and here he defends this style:

When a few words have been added concerning the manner in which I have executed my task, this Preface shall be brought to a close. ... A man feels strongly and warmly; writes fast and freely; is determined to be clearly understood: IS WEARY OF THE DIGNIFIED CONVENTIONALITIES UNDER WHICH SCEPTICISM LOVES TO CONCEAL ITSELF WHEN IT COMES ABROAD. ... Some respectable persons, I doubt not, will think my treatment of them harsh and uncharitable. ... If I may declare my mind freely, PUNCTILIOUS COURTESY IN DEALING WITH SUCH OPINIONS, BECOMES A SPECIES OF TREASON AGAINST HIM AFTER WHOSE NAME WE ARE CALLED, and whom we profess to serve. Seven men may combine to handle the things of God, it seems, in the most outrageous manner; while themselves are to be the objects of consideration, tenderness, respect! I cannot see their title to any consideration at all. (pp. xxiii, xxiv).[Cloud 131-2][all caps are Cloud's, large type and bolding are mine]
Right. THAT is the spirit in which we SHOULD respond in defense of the word of God against those who attack it, not against nonChristians who don't know any better, but certainly against those who call themselves Christians (or who at least know what Christianity teaches) and yet support modernist attacks on the Bible.

These days if you dare to call a heretic a heretic you may be denounced as harsh and unloving by the heretics who call themselves Christians, and the heretic will even be supported by people you know to be Christians, very weak Christians, who think Christian love is a flabby thing that amounts to always being nice to everybody. No, Burgon is right. We are NOT to be nice to people who claim to be Christian but attack God's word and allow dangerous lies to go unchallenged. Yet, even when one attacks only the lies and not the person today's shrinking "Christians" may find that too "harsh." No wonder the church is so weak.

He goes on:

This is no literary misunderstanding, or I could have been amicable enough ... No other than an attempt to destroy Man's dearest hopes, is this infamous book: no other than an insult, the grossest imaginable, offered to the Majesty of Heaven; an attack, the more foul because it is so insidious, against the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ. IN SUCH A CAUSE I WILL NOT SO FAR GIVE IN TO THE SMOOTH FASHION OF A SUPPLE AND INDIFFERENT AGE, AS TO PAY THESE SEVEN WRITERS A SINGLE COMPLIMENT WHICH THEY WILL CARE TO ACCEPT (Preface, pp. xxvi, xxvii). [Cloud, 132][all caps are Cloud's, bolding is mine]
And then he goes on to defend the Book of Genesis -- THE BOOK OF GENESIS, THE VERY FIRST VERSES OF GENESIS -- against the claims of "Science." Oh happy day, he makes me weep for joy at his bold defense of truth, at the same time weep in mourning over the lies that have taken over our formerly Christian civilization ever since Darwin.

The arguments he is answering are the same arguments we are called upon to answer now -- the insertion of thousands, millions of years into the Creation Week for instance.

I want to post this now as I need a break, although I may want to come back later and add more as he gets into the meat of the argument.

But here I want to quote his own motto at the beginning of his book because it is so apt and so true to his character:


{That's from Jeremiah somewhere]. How I wish there were more true Christians now with his spirit. How I wish he had won the war, for the sake of the Church which is now laboring under a miserable load of modernist garbage, in the form of the modernist Bibles at least, and under a spell of some kind of mealy-mouthed nicey-niceness too. But he didn't win -- except I know he won the praise of our Lord and will enjoy it for eternity and that makes me happy.

He didn't win. The idiots won. The unbelieving modernists won. They took over the Anglican church for one thing. They are behind all the modern Bibles for another.

Later. As I've come back to this after my break, reading along in the Preface at CCEL, I just want to report again how happy Burgon makes me. And his writing has almost the same effect as Scripture itself on me, obviously because he is so utterly devoted to God's word -- the peace that passes understanding comes over me at times as I read him, just as it does as I read Scripture, undoing knots in my muscles, even putting me in a state of worship.

But also sometimes I burst into laughter at his ability to capture the sheer evil stupidities of his opponents, as here:
There is a certain form of fallacy of statement in which this Gentleman’s writings abound, which calls aloud for notice and signal reprobation. He has a marvellous aptitude, (one would fain hope through some intellectual infirmity,) of connecting together in the same sentence two or three clauses; one or two of which shall be true as Heaven, while the other XXIXis false as Hell. The reply to such a sentence is impossible, without many words,—far more than Mr. Jowett’s sentences commonly deserve.—Sometimes he strings together several heads of thought; of which enumeration the kindest thing which can be said is that it betrays an utter want of intellectual perspective. To unravel even a part of this tangled web so as to expose its argumentative worthlessness, soon fills a page. . . . . But there is another kind of fallacy which the same gentleman wields with immense effect, and in the use of which he is a great master; which, because it was absolutely impossible to handle it fitly in the proper place, shall be briefly adverted to, here. I proceed to describe it not without indignation; for I am profoundly struck by the intellectual perversity, not to say the moral obliquity, which has so entirely made this vile instrument its own.

The fallacy then is of this nature. When Professor Jowett would put forth something especially deserving of reprehension,—some sentiment or opinion which he either knows, or ought to know, that the whole Church will resent with unqualified abhorrence,—he assumes a plaintive manner, and puts himself into an interesting attitude; sometimes even folds his hands, as if in prayer. He then begins by (1) throwing out a remark of real beauty, and so conciliating for himself an indulgent hearing; or (2) he goes off on some Moral question, and so defeats attention; or (3) he delivers himself of some undeniable truth, and so disarms censure; or (4) he says something of an entirely equivocal kind, and so leaves his reader at fault. Candour, of course, gives him the benefit of the doubt. XXXIt is not till the sentence is well advanced, or till it is examined by the fatal light of its context, that one is shewn what the ambiguous writer really was intending. A cloven foot appears at last; but it is instantly withdrawn, with a shuffle; and you experience a scowl or a sneer, as the case may be, for your extreme unkindness in inquiring whether it was not a cloven foot you saw? . . . . Meanwhile, the learned Professor has gone off in alia omnia, with a look of earnestness which challenges respect, and a vagueness of diction which at once discourages pursuit and defeats inquiry. The fish invariably ends by disappearing in a cloud of his own ink.
What a satisfying description of the methods of such sanctimonious liars. The devil certainly does know how to guide his captives into such mind-twisting exercises.

This is almost at the end of his Preface. The end goes:
It shall suffice to have said thus much. These pages must now be suffered to go forth; not without a hearty aspiration that a blessing may attend them from Him sine Quo nihil est validum, nilil sanctum; and that what was intended for the strength and help of those who want helping and strengthening, (I am thinking particularly of what has been offered on the subject of Inspiration,) may not prove misleading or perplexing to any.

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