Monthly Archives: July 2007
Strange ain’t it? Life.
Here I sit on a bed in the Buckminster in Boston. It’s my three year wedding anniversary and my wife is sitting in our apartment in Toronto. I’m starving, but am addicted to watching Feist videos on YouTube (like this). I should eat. But Feist is the hippest thing right now.
My mind is full of thoughts of the end of the world. Violence and millennialism. Mission and a thousand years.
I just watched Deniro in Casino when I should have been eating. When it was done, I should have ate. But then I watched Wayne in Sands. I looked for a pub and think I’ll just wander. It’s light outside, so I’ll meander a bit. Home awaits…but not ’til Friday.
The anonymous letters in which we have been assailed we look upon as the
weapons of cowards; we cannot write or speak without being known, and do not
wish to do so; we believe the whole system of anonymous writing to be meanness
itself when directed against public men who are mentioned by name. Put off your
cloak sir, when your adversary wears none, or you will be scouted as one of the
assassin’s breed. [C.H. Spurgeon, “Ourselves and the Annexationists” in Sword and Trowel (July 1867)]
What follows is an evaluation of the second theme, particularly in relation to Christology. When arguing against false teachers, Ignatius often provides an apologetic for the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ. A number of Christological statements appear in what could be considered rough creedal form and are found in Ephesians 7.2; 18.2; Magnesians 11; Trallians 9.1-2 and Smyrnaeans 1.1-2. This essay will first evaluate assertions about Christ’s humanity and then his deity. This evaluation will based on the creedal forms and relevant statements found elsewhere in the letters.
In the early church an erroneous teaching developed regarding the humanity of Christ called Docetism. Believing the material world to be evil, Docetists taught that Christ did not assume a physical body nor did he really suffer on the cross. Though he seemed to possess a human form he was only a spirit. Their name is derived from the Greek dokein meaning “to appear” because Christ was human and suffered in appearance not in reality.
In regard to His historicity, Ignatius told the Magnesians to “be fully convinced of the birth and the suffering and the resurrection” of Jesus (Magn. 11). Into each of the five creedal statements Ignatius injects historical figures grounding the life of Christ in space and time. Four characters are mentioned: Mary (Eph. 7.2; 18.2; Trall. 9.1), King David (Eph. 18.2; Trall. 9.1; Smyrn. 1.1), Pontius Pilate (Magn. 11; Trall. 9.1; Smyrn. 1.2) and Herod the Tetrarch (Smyrn. 1.2). David is mentioned in reference to Christ who was his descendant; Mary is the mother of Jesus; and both Pontius Pilate and Herod were rulers at the time of Jesus’ death. This attention to detail regarding history is important because it allows the readers and hearers of the letters to think of Christ in relation to concrete people and events. These were not fables or legends. From this it is readily apparent that Ignatius believed Jesus to be a real person who lived in a particular place at a specific point in history.
Alongside Christ’s historical reality, Ignatius also places an emphasis on His physical being. The “one physician” was “both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in humanity…” (Eph. 7.2). He was not a Docetic phantasm; rather He existed in real flesh and blood. Jesus experienced all of the regular limitations of a human being. For instance, He was conceived (Eph. 18.2); he was born (Eph. 7.2; 18.2; Magn.11.1; Trall. 9.1; Smyrn. 1.1); he “both ate and drank” (Trall. 9.1); he was baptized (Eph. 18.2; Smyrn. 1.1); he suffered persecution (Trall. 9.1); he was nailed to a cross (Trall. 9.1; Smyrn. 1.2); he died (Magn.11; Trall. 9.1); and he was resurrected (Magn.11; Trall. 9.2).
In his letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ignatius disparaged the idea that Jesus “suffered in appearance only.” Jesus “suffered for our sakes…and he truly suffered just as he truly raised himself” (Smyrn. 2). Jesus was “in the flesh even after the resurrection” and appeared in order for His disciples to touch His raised body (3.1). Luke 24:39, “when he came to Peter and those with him” is offered as proof of this (3.2). Ignatius, quotes Jesus as saying, “‘Take hold of me; handle me and see that I am not a disembodied demon.’ And immediately they touched him and believed…” As in the statement of Trallians 9.1-2, Ignatius again affirms that Jesus ate and drank with the disciples “like one who is composed of flesh…” (3.3).
To show that his belief in the real humanity of Jesus was seriously held, Ignatius points to his eventual martyrdom as proof. “For if these things were done by our Lord in appearance only, then I am in chains in appearance only. Why, moreover, have I surrendered myself to death, to fire, to sword, to beasts?” (4.2. Cf. Trall. 10). The physical suffering and death of the “perfect man” as well as His physical resurrection were such fundamental truths for Ignatius that he was willing to lay his life down for them. He did not want the recipients of his letters to think that such teaching was optional for the Christian.
While Ignatius emphasised the humanity of Jesus, he did not do so to the neglect of His deity. To the Ephesians Ignatius could say that He was “God in man” (Eph. 7.2) He was “our God, Jesus the Christ” (Eph. 18.2). In the opening of his letter to the Romans Ignatius twice refers to Him as “our God” (Rom. 1). To the Magnesians he said that Jesus Christ “came forth from one Father and remained with the One and returned to the One” (Magn. 7.2). What follows outlines the deity of Christ according to Ignatius, looking at the divine affirmations found in the creedal statements. In particular, Jesus who is timeless and invisible and is the second member of the Godhead will be noted.
A beautiful testimony to the deity of Christ can be found in the creedal statement of Ephesians 7.2, where Ignatius declares,
There is one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in
man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering
and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord.
In Smyrnaeans 1.1 Ignatius wants the church to be “totally convinced with regard to our Lord that he is truly of the family of David with respect to human descent, Son of God with respect to divine will and power, truly born of a virgin…” Again, the human and divine origin of Christ is affirmed, as well as the virgin birth. Specifically Ignatius points to Jesus as the “Son of God” and is so because of “divine will and power.” This also comes just after Ignatius has said, “I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who made you so wise…”
In his letter to Polycarp, Ignatius encourages his fellow bishop in the faith. He provides the bishop of Smyrna with a number of practical suggestions (Pol. 1.2-5.2) laced with doctrinal affirmations. One such affirmation has to do with the divinity of Jesus. Ignatius tells Polycarp in 3.2 to “Understand the times. Wait expectantly for him who is above time: the Eternal, the Invisible, who for our sake became visible; the Intangible, the Unsuffering, who for our sake suffered, who for our sake endured in every way.” In this one statement a number of important points about Jesus’ life are laid out, including the incarnation, crucifixion and second coming. But there is one affirmation pointing clearly to the divinity of Jesus: He exists outside of time. He can do so because He is eternal, invisible and intangible. Of course, Ignatius has argued firmly for the real humanity of Christ in other letters, so in this statement it is Christ’s divine nature that is being referred to. His humanity is also seen in the affirmation of His becoming “visible” in the incarnation. Therefore, in this one term, “above time” Ignatius paints a clear picture of the divinity of Jesus.
A final thing to note about Ignatius’ letters concerning the divinity of Christ is the place he provides Jesus in the Trinity. Though it appears only briefly in the letters, the Trinity is clearly formulated (Magn. 13.1; Eph. 18.2). In Magnesians 13.1 those addressed are told to “be eager” to be “firmly grounded in the precepts of the Lord…in the Son and the Father and in the Spirit.” The Son is clearly Jesus Christ as earlier in the letter Ignatius writes “there is one God who revealed himself through Jesus Christ his Son, who is his Word which came forth from silence…” (Magn. 8.2. Cf. Eph. 4.2; Trall. 3.1). In Ephesians 20.2 Jesus is called the “Son of man and Son of God.”
Another Trinitarian statement is found in Ephesians 18.2. Here Ignatius says, “For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is affirmed as God, yet is also spoken of as being conceived by God’s plan. There is a distinction in the two uses of the word “God.” One use is in reference to Jesus and the other is in reference to the one planning His conception. Mentioned alongside God and Jesus the Christ is the Holy Spirit. In Magnesians 13.1 Ignatius speaks of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in 7.2 states that the Son came from the Father. With this in mind it is therefore plausible that the God who planned Jesus’ conception is none other than the Father. Be that as it may, what is clear is that Jesus is referred to as God in what appears to be a Trinitarian statement.
By placing Him alongside the Father and the Spirit in both letters Ignatius recognises Jesus as the Son, the second person of the Triune Godhead.
From Ignatius’ letters it is clear that he has a high Christology. Jesus Christ is both God and man. Ignatius emphasises both the humanity and divinity of Jesus in a number of creedal statements found in the letters as well as his letter to Polycarp. Jesus had a physical body and experienced everything that a regular human would, even after His resurrection. Yet while being fully human, Jesus is also fully divine. He is the eternal God who is the second member of the Godhead. The tension between Christ’s two natures is held in appropriate balance, with both being mentioned clearly and in the same relationship. There is no apology nor is there any attempting to reconcile the two.
The very excellent website The Discerning Reader recently conducted an interview with Doug Wilson over his recent book Letter from a Christian Citizen (see DR’s review). Some of the folk at my church in Essex are reading the book and enjoying it. It is a response to an atheist Sam Harris who wrote a book called Letter to a Christian Nation (see DR’s review).
Clint has posted some thoughts on an article he read by D.A. Carson on recent events in the penal-substitutionary atonement debate. As always, Clint’s thoughts are helpful.
This is just a quick update about recent days:
1) Our very best friends in the world moved away from Toronto a week ago today. It was terribly devestating, and admittedly, I was a wreck. What a horrible thing to have to live in Toronto without Justin and Elisha Galotti.
2) Thursday we went and saw The White Stripes at the Molson Ampitheatre. It was an outstanding concert – very entertaining and fun. They are brilliant performers. You definitely need to get into these guys and then see them live. Right Debbie???
3) Saw the move Sideways a couple of weeks ago. It was terrible. I don’t recommend it, unless you want to listen to a moron go on about his sexual exploits and see naked overweight people. Don’t let the potential for cool with their wine tasting tempt you. The movie could’ve been good, but it wasn’t.
4) My good friend John Bell has a killer sermon here. Check it out: Jesus in the Garden. We had a great time last night with John at Hemingways in Yorkville.
5) We spent Canada Day at our friend Melissa’s out in Cottam – bonfire and fireworks. It was great to reconnect with Codex Markianus (aka. Mark). I enjoy talking Cuba and communism with him.
6) It was great hanging out with Pastor Valade and Keith for coffee for four hours on Monday morning. These are two of the godliest men I know and it was privelege to talk turkey with them.
By Henry Hazlitt
Frédéric Bastiat was born at Bayonne, France, on June 29, 1801. His father was a wholesale merchant, but Frédéric was orphaned at the age of nine and was brought up by his grandfather and his aunt.
He seems to have had a good, though not an extraordinary education, which included languages, music, and literature. He began the study of political economy at nineteen and read principally Adam Smith and Jean-Baptiste Say.
Bastiat’s early life, however, was not primarily that of a scholar. At the age of seventeen he went to work in his uncle’s counting-house and spent about six years there. Then he inherited his grandfather’s farm at Mugron and became a farmer. He was locally active politically, becoming a juge de paix in 1831 and a member of the conseil genéral of the Landes in 1832.
Bastiat lived in a revolutionary period. He was fourteen when Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and exiled to St. Helena. He lived through the Revolution of 1830. But what first inspired his pamphleteering activity was his interest in the work of Cobden and the English Anti-Corn-Law League against protection. In 1844 he rose to immediate prominence with the publication of his article on “The Influence of French and English Tariffs on the Future of the Two Peoples” in the Journal des économistes.
Then began the outpouring of a brilliant series of articles, pamphlets, and books that did not cease till his premature death in 1850. There came first of all the first series of Sophismes économiques, then the various essays and the second series of Sophismes, and finally, in the last year of his life, the Harmonies économiques.
But the list of Bastiat’s writings in this short span of six years does not begin to measure his activities. He was one of the chief organizers of the first French Free Trade Association at Bordeaux; he became secretary of a similar organization formed in Paris; he collected funds, edited a weekly journal, addressed meetings, gave lecture courses — in brief, he poured out his limited energies unsparingly in all directions. He contracted a lung infection. He could breathe and nourish himself only with difficulty. Finally, too late, his ill-health forced him to Italy, and he died at Rome, at the age of forty-nine, on Christmas Eve, 1850.
It is ironic that the work which Bastiat considered his masterpiece, the Harmonies économiques that cost him so much to write, did far more to hurt his posthumous reputation than to help it. It has even become a fashion for some economists to write about Bastiat patronizingly or derisively. This fashion reaches a high point in an almost contemptuous one-page notice of Bastiat in the late Joseph A. Schumpeter’s History of Economic Analysis. “It is simply the case,” writes the latter, “of the bather who enjoys himself in the shallows and then goes beyond his depth and drowns…. I do not hold that Bastiat was a bad theorist. I hold that he was no theorist.”
It is not my purpose here to discuss the theories of the Economic Harmonies. That is done very competently by Dean Russell in the introduction to the new translation of the Harmonies published simultaneously with this new translation of the Sophisms. But there is a germ of truth in Schumpeter’s comment, and we can acknowledge this candidly and still see the much greater truth about Bastiat that Schumpeter missed. It is true that Bastiat, even in the Sophisms, made no great original contribution to abstract economic theory. His analysis of errors rested in the main on the theory he had acquired from Smith, Say, and Ricardo. The shortcomings of this theory often made his exposures of fallacies less cogent and convincing than they otherwise might have been. The discerning reader of the Sophisms will notice, for example, that Bastiat never shook off the classic cost-of-production theory of value, or even the labor theory of value, though his total argument is often inconsistent with these theories. But, then, no other economist of Bastiat’s time (with the exception of the neglected German, von Thünen) had yet discovered marginal or subjective value theory. That was not to be expounded until some twenty years after Bastiat’s death.
Schumpeter’s judgment of Bastiat is not only ungenerous but unintelligent, and for the same reason that it is unintelligent to deride an apple tree for not bearing bananas. Bastiat was not primarily an original economic theorist. What he was, beyond all other men, was an economic pamphleteer, the greatest exposer of economic fallacies, the most powerful champion of free trade on the European Continent. Even Schumpeter (almost in a slip of the pen) concedes that if Bastiat had not written the Economic Harmonies, “his name might have gone down to posterity as the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.” What the “might have” is doing here I do not know. It has so gone down.
And this is no mean achievement, nothing to be treated patronizingly. Economics is pre-eminently a practical science. It does no good for its fundamental principles to be discovered unless they are applied, and they will not be applied unless they are widely understood. In spite of the hundreds of economists who have pointed out the advantages of free markets and free trade, the persistence of protectionist illusions has kept protectionist and price-fixing policies alive and flourishing even today in most countries of the world. But anyone who has ever read and understood Bastiat must be immune to the protectionist disease, or the illusions of the Welfare State, except in a very attenuated form. Bastiat killed protectionism and socialism with ridicule.
His chief method of argument was the method of exaggeration. He was the master of the reductio ad absurdum. Someone suggests that the proposed new railroad from Paris to Madrid should have a break at Bordeaux. The argument is that if goods and passengers are forced to stop at that city, it will be profitable for boatmen, porters, hotelkeepers and others there. Good, says Bastiat. But then why not break it also at Angouléme, Poitiers, Tours, Orleans, and, in fact, at all intermediate points? The more breaks there are, the greater the amount paid for storage, porters, extra cartage. We could have a railroad consisting of nothing but such gaps — a negative railroad!
Are there various other proposals to discourage efficiency, in order to create more jobs? Good, says Bastiat. Let’s petition the king to forbid people from using their right hands, or maybe even have them chopped off. Then it will require more than twice as many people, and twice as many jobs, to get the same work done (assuming consumption is the same).
But Bastiat’s supreme jest was the petition of the candlemakers and their allied industries for protection against the unfair competition of the sun. The Chamber of Deputies is asked to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, outside shutters, inside shutters, and all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures by which the light of the sun can enter houses. The blessings that will result from this, in an increased business for the candlemakers and their associates, are then all solemnly itemized, and the argument conducted according to the recognized principles of all protectionist arguments.
The petition of the candlemakers is devastating. It is a flash of pure genius, a reductio ad absurdum that can never be exceeded, sufficient in itself to assure Bastiat immortal fame among economists.
But Bastiat had more than scintillating wit and felicity of expression. His logic, too, was powerful. Once he had grasped and explained a principle, he could put the argument in so many lights and forms as to leave no one an excuse for missing or evading it. Again and again he shows the fallacies that grow out of exclusive concern with the problems of individual producers. He keeps pointing out that consumption is the end of all economic activity, and production merely the means, and that the sacrifice of the consumer’s interest to that of the producer is “the sacrifice of the end to the means.”
If at least some of us see some of these truths more clearly today, we owe a large part of our clear-sightedness to Frédéric Bastiat. He was one of the earliest economists to attack the fallacies not only of protection but of socialism. He was answering socialist fallacies, in fact, long before most of his contemporaries or successors thought them even worthy of attention. I have not said much here about his refutations of socialist arguments, because these refutations occur rather in the Essays and in the Harmonies than in the Sophisms; but they constitute a very important part of his contribution.
Bastiat is accused of being a propagandist and a pleader, and he was. It was unfortunate that for so long he stood alone, while other “orthodox” economists refrained from criticizing socialism or defending capitalism for fear of losing their reputations for “scientific impartiality,” and so left the field entirely to the socialist and communist agitators who were less timorous in this respect.
We could use more Bastiats today. We have, in fact, desperate need of them. But we have, thank Heaven, Bastiat himself, in a new translation; and the reader of these pages will not only still find them, as Cobden did, “as amusing as a novel,” but astonishingly modern, for the sophisms he answers are still making their appearance, in the same form and almost in the same words, in nearly every issue of today’s newspapers.