Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Hammer of God

Following on from my comments on Liberal theology in the last post, I wanted to share the following episode from the late Bishop Bo Giertz's novel, The Hammer of God, in which the crusty, conservative old rector of Ravelunda, Pr Bengtsson, leads Pr Torvik back to an orthodox, or as he puts it, 'religious' view of the Bible.

I cannot recommend this novel highly enough; those who have read it know why!

Click on the post title to access a study guide to the novel by Pr John Pless.

One last thought before the quote: is it not time that we had a fresh translation of this novel? At the very least, Augsburg Books could have thoroughly revised Nelson's old translation and removed the grammatical errors in it before publishing the so-called 'revised edition' in 2005. That they did not do so is testimony to their carelessness in regard to this classic novel to which they hold the English-language rights.

...Torvik sat lost in his thoughts. He began to feel at last that he had gotten under the shell of the question that faced him and to the kernel of it. After all, it had to do with the Word. Could he accept the Word as Christianity's self-evident foundation?

In the conversation that followed, in which Britta also put in an occasional word, his objections to certain doctrines were honestly presented, but he was at a loss to defend them against the Scriptural convictions and insights of the rector. Only one objection remained.
"But must we not, nevertheless, hold to a historical view of the Bible?" he asked.
"What is that?"
Torvik was amazed at the question.
The old pastor answered it himself.
"There is room for anything and everything in that phrase. It can be pure rationalism, which considers everything in the Bible to be relative, uncertain, and extensible, so that the final result is that you need not agree at any point unless you wish to do so. The authority of the Bible is in that case rejected, and man himself, his reason, his conscience, his modern scientific spirit, and everything else that is blind and straying, has become the guiding star of religion. It can of course, include some other things that are much finer and better, this historical view of the Bible. But as far as salvation is concerned, I do not think that it matters whether one has a historical or unhistorical view of the Bible. Everything depends on whether we have a religious view of the Bible.

Now it was Torvik's turn to ask, "And what does that mean?"

"That is faith in the Bible as the voice of God, so that if you read it to hear what God would say to you, you actually hear God speak. For my part, I have the simple belief that the Bible is exactly as God wanted it to be. That does not mean, perhaps, that every detail is set forth systematically for science, as in an academic treatise. But it means that every little detail has been given such form that a human being who seeks salvation will be helped to find the truth."


Anonymous said...

Interesting choice of a word---hammer!!

What have hammers got to do with the Gospel of Love?

Or the call to love The Divine with all of ones heart, mind and strength--and then on that basis love thy neighbour as thyself (because my neighbour IS me).

Recognizing that in Truth and Reality there is NO difference to be found any-where.

But what if the very essence of True Spiritual Life is ecstatic participation in boundless feeling?

acroamaticus said...

The original title of the novel in Swedish is 'Stengrunden', which means stony ground, i.e. the stony ground of the human heart, which is why God needs a hammer, you see.

I thoroughly recommend this little book to you, dear anonymous.