Thursday, January 28, 2010

Holy Means Whole According to Stephen Charnock

Stephen Charnock (1628 - 1680), Puritan divine, was an Engllish Puritan and Presbyterian clergyman. He is most renowned for a book that was likely published after his death. It is titled: The Existence and Attributes of God. Apparently it was originally a series of sermons.

In this book that I mentioned, he has a very profound pair of quotes that I think are rather significant. They read:

“Power is God’s hand or arm, omniscience His eye mercy His bowels, eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty.”

“His name, which signifies all His attributes in conjunction is `holy.’”

The most significant of the two is the second, because it may be an important part of the foundation for later thinkers, like Charles Spurgeon, who loved the Puritans, for being convinced that holiness is wholeness. God's name and God's holiness were seen by Spurgeon as being parallel to each other in particular biblical texts and that is one of his reasons for believing that holiness was holiness. It was because it was "all of his attributes in conjunction." That was understood to be the basic idea of a name in Hebrew thought.

Having understood this idea of a conjunction of attributes the following quote about Stephen Charnock himself may prove interesting. To understand his character as a whole, the following quote may best summarize it.

It reads:

But that which gave the finish to Charnock's intellectual character, was not the predominance of any one quality so much as the harmonious and nicely balanced union of all. Acute perception, sound judgment, masculine sense, brilliant imagination, habits of reflection, and a complete mastery over the succession of his thoughts, were all combined in that comely order and that due proportion which go to constitute a well-regulated mind. There was, in his case, none of that disproportionate development of any one particular faculty, which, in some cases, serves, like an overpowering glare, to dim, if not almost to quench the splendour of the rest. The various faculties of his soul, to make use of a figure, rather shone forth like so many glittering stars, from the calm and clear firmament of his mind, each supplying its allotted tribute of light, and contributing to the serene and solemn lustre of the whole. As has been said of another, so may it be said of him—"If it be rare to meet with an individual whose mental faculties are thus admirably balanced, in whom no tyrant faculty usurps dominion over the rest, or erects a despotism on the ruins of the intellectual republic; still more rare is it to meet with such a mind in union with the far higher qualities of religious and moral excellence."

Charnock's concept of a person's name and the idea of holiness being connected with both beauty and a combination of all of God's attributes seem to have played out in his life. They also seem to have been, from my reading elsewhere, part of the foundation for holiness means wholeness, because of the idea of a combination of attributes. This idea is more than a mere folk theory. Even among some scholars today, it is recognized as having this significance in the world of Hebraic thought. When we approach another culture, we must remember that their thoughts may not be our thoughts. So understanding Hebrew culture regarding names is important.

In Christ,