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Reflections on philosophy, theology and just observations on life.

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The first epistle of H. N. A crying-voyce of the holye spirit of loue. Translated out of Base-almayne into English. (1574)
Christopher Vitell Hendrik Niclaes
The Works of James Arminius, Volume 1
James Arminius
Politics, Law, and Morality: Essays by V.S. Soloviev
Vladimir Wozniuk, Vladimir S. Soloviev
Meditations on the Soul: Selected Letters
Marsilio Ficino
The Complete Poetry and Prose
David V. Erdman, William Blake, Harold Bloom
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (8 Volumes in 4)
Paul Edwards
Cambridge Platonist Spirituality
Charles Taliaferro
Wellsprings of Faith: The Imitation of Christ; The Dark Night of the Soul; The Interior Castle
Juan de la Cruz, Teresa of Ávila, Thomas à Kempis
Paul and the Stoics
Troels Engberg-Pedersen
Locke: Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
Peter Laslett, John Locke

Commentary on the Augsburg Confession

Commentary on the Augsburg Confession - Caspar Schwenkfeld This was a great book that really illustrates where Schwenckfeld and Lutherans differed on very important issues. I identify with Schwenckfeld in much of his theology, but there are a few things I don't agree with. His focus on the necessity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, I very strongly support; his Donatist tendencies I do take issue with. Schwenckfeld seemed to hold that either a Christan has the Spirit and is infallibly righteous, or fallibly righteous and doesn't have the Spirit at all and is thus not a Christian; or worse, a false Christian. This is a very simplistic view of Christian regeneration in my opinion and is really a false dichotomy. Regeneration is often a process with many ups and downs until Spiritual maturity is attained. Schwenckfeld doesn't really give proper attention to the reality that Christians may mature at different rates; and that more perfect righteousness is often attained in stages rather than all at once with the conversion experience. This is the biggest problem I have with Schwenckfeld. I largely agree with everything else in here. On that issue I would have to side with Lutherans who had a better appreciation for human, including Christian, fallibility.

Stephen bar Sudaili, the Syrian mystic, and the book of Hierotheos

Stephen bar Sudaili, the Syrian mystic, and the book of Hierotheos - Arthur L. Frothingham Interesting book on this little known Syrian mystic who seems to have had some connection to the author of the Dionysian corpus. His theology seems to be a mixture of Neo-Platonism and Origenism, but may owe something to earlier strains of Syrian gnosticism. It is fairly clear why he was considered a heretic. His pantheistic views are plain and his universal salvationist ideology is certainly more ridiculous than the patristic writers that came before him who supported the same doctrine. Subsequent Christian mystics did echo some similar concepts -usually without the pantheism of course.
Some of the ideas are interesting if one can successfully displace them from the pantheistic context and find a new application. They do seem to resemble ideas present in scripture, albeit twisted beyond almost all recognition. I wanted to read this simply because I collect various types of Christian works -including even heretical ones. The relationship that Bar Sudaili has with orthodox (e.g. Isaac of Nineveh and Pseudo-Dionysius) and semi-orthodox/semi-gnostic (e.g. Tatian and Bardesan) Syrian writers is an intriguing question. I don't subscribe to pantheism at all, but I can see some things here that would have appealed to more orthodox mystical theologians. Ironically, I am reading a work by Ruusbroec and he echoes very similar ideas (maybe not surprisingly he was accused of heresy by Jean Gerson and for very similar things).
The whole book of Hierotheos is not here translated unfortunately. It is more of an abridgement and summary. Still, there is enough here to learn what Bar Sudaili taught. Hierotheos appears to have been a creative fiction -which is not at all unheard of in mystical tradition. There has been pantheistic tendencies within Christian mystical literature for quite some time. In many cases the more acceptable form of panentheism has been the norm. Orthodox (meaning traditional) Christianity has rightly taken a negative position on both however.

Trinity and Creation: A Selection of Works of Hugh, Richard and Adam of St Victor

Trinity and Creation: A Selection of Works of Hugh, Richard and Adam of St Victor - Boyd Taylor Coolman, Grover A. Zinn, Hugh Feiss, Boyd Taylor Coolman and Dale M. Coulter This was very good collection of writings from the Victorine theologians. Hugh and Richard are both great writers and their contribution to theology shouldn't be understated. Richard contributed much to the development of Trinitarian thought. Trinitarian theology is what I am studying right now and Richard's work on the Trinity was the main reason for me reading this book. He does build on the Trinitarian thought of Augustine but he makes some unique contributions. In some ways, I think he tackled the subject better than Augustine. Love is very important to Richard's discussion of the Trinity and that alone makes him a a worthwhile theologian to read.

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ - Jacob Boehme All in all a good work. The book retains it's Christian theme and affords some sound spiritual insight. In many of his books, Christianity gets lost in the mix of theosophical speculation. This book and The Way To Christ are a lot more focused and are much more lucid in thought.

Divine Love and Wisdom

Divine Love and Wisdom - Emanuel Swedenborg, Gregory R. Johnson, Jonathan S. Rose, George F. Dole I had read Swedenborg's Heaven And Hell some time ago and thought it was a decent book, albeit somewhat delusory. This one I probably liked better, but it wasn't free of the same problems. There are some pretty profound ideas though. I especially liked Swedenborg's spiritual analogies (he calls them correspondences) between light/heat and wisdom/love respectively. He later on (specifically in section 9 -probably the best part of the book), makes a further analogy between love and wisdom and the heart and lungs. I must say that analogy sparked my interest and I thought it a profound notion. Some of the book suffers from contradiction, vain imaginings and theology that has more in common with Kabbalah than Christianity.
As with the Christian mystic Jacob Boehme, I have some amount of ambivalence towards Swedenborg. He can be profound, but also deluded. I do believe it is worth reading him because there is some gold among the dross. But I would really only recommend writers like this to Christians that are more mature and not easily given over to vain speculation.

The Trinity

The Trinity - Augustine of Hippo, Edmund Hill, John E. Rotelle I had read Augustine's City Of God a few years ago and I was impressed with it, although I didn't agree with all of Augustine's points. When I do agree, it is a rather strong agreement. The Trinity (aka De Trinitate) was similar in that when I do agree with Augustine, it is a strong agreement; where I disagreed, it was more a matter of not going with the extremes of his position. For instance, while Augustine is trying to give honor to all three members of the Trinity, his trinitarian theology does suffer from some inconsistencies; or at least some nagging remaining questions that are not properly addressed. He believes that the Son is indeed called God's Wisdom in scripture, but he also maintains that all members of the Trinity are wise because of the shared substance. He holds this position with all of the divine attributes. The most nagging question is whether this substance is to be identified with the Holy Spirit, and if it is, how He can be called the Substance while the Father and Son are not. If the substance is one of the other members, the same question remains. If the substance is different than all three, than Augustine is really introducing a fourth hypostasis and thus abrogating the Trinity. My feeling is that his weakness is an overly zealous method of dividing the Trinity in order to honor each member separately. I think he is looking at Them as if They were numerically separate, rather than numerically One and parabolically Three. At least that is the way I see it.
As it stands, I like his approach to the Old Testament. His assertion that the Old Testament did not reveal the Son in the same way the New Testament did I am in complete agreement with. Many of the earlier Fathers believed that the instances of the angel of the Lord in the OT were all of the Son in visible manifestation. I have had issues with that view. So did Augustine and he shows the problems with it and duly rejects that interpretation. The other thing I really liked in this book was Augustine's approach to salvation and the devil's role in humanity's bondage. There are some things in this approach that are too often missed nowadays in theology.
Overall a good read. I probably won't be reading any more of Augustine in the near future. The book was dragging by the end, but I was glad to have finally finished it. He's a noteworthy Church Father and well worth getting acquainted with. His influence on subsequent theology cannot be undervalued. Without Augustine, I am not sure if there would have been an Aquinas, Luther or Calvin.

Peter Sterry: Platonist and Puritan 1613 1672

Peter Sterry: Platonist and Puritan 1613 1672 - Vivian de Sola Pinto I like Peter Sterry quite a bit. His thought is both mystical and fairly dense in complexity. I came across him while studying the Cambridge Platonists. They were a group of instructors affiliated with Cambridge college during the period of the English commonwealth. Most of them were called latitudinarians because they supported less restrictions on matters of faith and conscience. They were often strongly Protestant in theology but also Platonist and Neoplatonist in philosophy. Their ideas are interesting, but so far I have been the most impressed with Sterry. His discourse is more than cursorily poetic. His mystical tendencies are very hard to separate from his theological and philosophical tendencies, although some compilers have attempted to do just that. This compilation is more honest than the McMahon treatment in that regard. Sterry really made it clear to me that not all Puritans were cut from the same cloth. The introduction includes a great biography of Sterry and a breakdown of his theology. This is really a great introduction to the man and his thought, but his works need to be read as a whole, not just as brief extracts. This really only provides a glimpse into his brilliance.

De Trinitate: On the Trinity

De Trinitate: On the Trinity - St. Hilary of Poitiers, Paul A. Böer Sr. I've been working on going through all of the relevant church writings regarding the Trinity. Hilary was an obvious resource. I am currently reading Augustine's work on the Trinity as well. I was never really in doubt that my understanding of the Trinity was orthodox, but I still wanted to know how the Fathers explained it. Their views are well worth reading. The doctrine of the Trinity goes back to the earliest traditions in the church. It did get modified as time went on though. Many of the Antenicene Fathers held to an unequal economic Trinity; meaning, the Son was less than the Father and the Holy Spirit was less than the Son. I thought this could be correct, until I read Gregory of Nyssa; after that, I was convinced of the rightness of the co-equal Trinity. The doctrine of the co-equal Trinity has been the orthodox view since the time of the Nicene Fathers. I do agree that it is the correct view.

Freedom, Faith, and Dogma: Essays by V.S. Soloviev on Christianity and Judaism

Freedom, Faith, and Dogma: Essays by V.S. Soloviev on Christianity and Judaism - Vladimir Wozniuk Along with Kierkegaard, Soloviev is one of my favorite Christian philosophers. This book is a collection of essays that follow the themes of the title. Some of the ideas were later disavowed by Soloviev; namely, utopianism and a church unity realizable within history. There's some things in here that are close to being almost dispensationalist -a system I find abhorrent for many reason that I won't go into in this review. Soloviev appears to believe that Judaism itself is a part of God's plan; this idea puts him in line with dispensationalism unfortunately. I do agree with Soloviev that God has a plan for the Jewish people, but my conviction is that that plan is for them to accept Jesus Christ, not that He is going to bless them with a thousand year utopia and grant them faith by sight like dispensationalists believe -which is completely contradictory in fact. His essays on fraudulent Christianity were some of the better ones in the book.
I am glad I bought and read this book. It's a good addition to the books I already own and have read by him.

Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom

Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom - Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling This is the second book I've read by Schelling and the premise is a perennial favorite among philosophers. This book borrows quite a bit from Leibniz and Boehme, and to some degree, starts where they left off -not that it recapitulates every viewpoint of those writers; Schelling does have his own views and his approach is often unique. Whether he solved all of the problems regarding the notion of freewill is open to debate, but he does present some excellent points. One almost has to be acquainted with Boehme and Leibniz to be able to follow his train of thought though. Boehme's notion of the ungrund plays such a significant role, that from what I can tell, Schelling's work centers on it to a large degree. I've read both Leibniz and Boehme and thought their ideas were interesting, while also not always agreeing with them wholly. It is hard to deny the latter's profound influence on the Romantics and the Idealists. His influence is ubiquitous.
This book is often held as being Schelling's best. The book is very good, but I actually liked his Philosophy of Mythology more. The ideas in it were a little more unique and thought-provoking in my opinion.

Eight Writings On Christian Beliefs

Eight Writings On Christian Beliefs - Caspar Schwenckfeld I really like Caspar Schwenckfeld. He is one of my favorite reformers. I was turned on to him by reading extracts in Protestant and Radical Reformation readers. He is hardly remembered today by most Protestant Christians, but he was a major figure within the German reformation. Luther disliked him because Schwenckfeld didn't agree with his theology in all points. He was a major supporter of Luther in the beginning, but as Luther became more scholastic and rigid in his views of scripture and more vehement in his my way or the highway attitude, Schwenckfeld went his own way and influenced others in doing so.
Caspar Schwenckfeld Von Ossig was a German nobleman and a lay theologian. He had no degrees of theology, nor was he a trained pastor (which speaks to me personally). His major inspiration came from a revelation he had had and he was obedient to what he thought God wanted him to do based on that revelation. He is often classed among the spiritual reformers (aka spiritualists, but not to be confused with modern necromantic spiritism), such as Hans Denck and Sebastian Franck. I am also quite fond of Denck, but not so much Franck. The spiritual reformers believed in the primacy of the Holy Spirit over biblicalism. They did not disparage the Bible, and often quoted from it, but they believed that one needed to be guided by the Holy Spirit to read the Bible correctly. They attributed all theological division and church strife to the fact that people were not reliant on the Holy Spirit and His direction. In some ways, Schwenckfeld and Denck were precursors to the English Seekers and Quakers, but they were more orthodox in their use of the Bible and in it's interpretation.
Schwenckfeld is remembered by many scholars for his odd doctrine of Christ's heavenly flesh, which was based on his reading of John 6:51. He is an example of Monophysitism in the reformation -which is a subject too involved to be able to get into in this review. His reading of John 6 also influenced his spiritualizing of the communion, whereas Luther believed that the bread actually represented Christ's flesh in consubstantiation as opposed to the Catholic notion of transubstantiation. Schwenckfeld believed that the bread was Christ spiritually, not physically. His view influenced Zwingli and the Anabaptists.
It is rather fascinating to study the debates going on during the reformation period. Often, they will be centered on one group using John primarily and another using the synoptics. Without a doubt Schwenckfeld and Denck were more Johannine than synoptic. It should also be noted that both believed in freewill, whereas Luther and Calvin believed in the total bondage of the will. Luther and Calvin were also heavily dependent on Augustine for most of their theology; Denck and Schwenckfeld may have been familiar with Augustine and may have even liked him, but they also had a strong Eastern (as opposed to Latin) Alexandrian and Cappadocian influence. It should also be mentioned that they were heavily influenced by German Christian mystics like Johannes Tauler. They were way more irenic than Calvin and Luther were as well; those major reformers were often bombastic and rigid in their reformation ideals. Denck and Schwenckfeld (and later Weigel and Boehme) did not believe that anyone could (or should) be forced to accept something that had to be revealed spiritually. They were really ahead of their time in that respect. And that is certainly one of the points I am most impressed by in regards to this branch of reformation thinking.
It is hard to find books by Denck and Schwenckfeld today. I pretty much purchased what was available for both. This book I had to purchase through the Schwenckfelder church library in order to get a copy. I also had to create a profile for it here on goodreads because the book is not widely available. Reformers like Denck and Schwenckfeld need to be better appreciated than they are today. When I first became a Christian, I was strongly Lutheran in disposition, which is odd because I had not read him at that point. Interestingly though, I am descended from Swedish Lutherans; so that may explain it to a degree. As I got older, I became more influenced by the ideas of the radical reformers, which include the Anabaptists and the Spiritualists. I don't agree with everything that they taught, but they really balance some of the things I dislike about Luther and Calvin.

In conclusion, I highly recommend both Schwenckfeld and Denck. This book can be purchased from the Schwenckfelder church library (one has to order by phone, but the number is available on their website) and Denck's selected writings can be purchased from amazon or Barnes & Noble. Both of these reformers have had a profound impact on my growth as a Christian (and as a Protestant) and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Hymns and Fragments

Hymns and Fragments - Friedrich Hölderlin Holderlin was one among a group of German Romantic poets that were on the periphery of German Idealism. Along with Novalis and Schiller, his work utilizes Idealist concepts in an overtly aesthetic framework. Like many German Romantic poets and philosophers, he is often ignored by the sottish tendency to over indulge in the less memorable and often pointless philosophers of the late 19th and 20th century. This book is a collection of some of his later poetry. His output came to an end after losing his mind. He is often cited as an influence of Nietzsche. This is hardly a worthy addendum to his life and work, however. Nietzsche wished he could have been Holderlin in truth. Nietzsche was able to emulate his madness, but not his aesthetic beauty. He emulated his language, but not his profundity. Sadly, Nietzsche took the high bar that was set by poets and philosophers like Holderlin and lowered it significantly. Egoism is utterly at odds with Holderlin and the Idealists in general. Even though Holderlin did go mad, just as Nietzsche did, Holderlin lost his wits before he lost his mind, whereas Nietzsche lost his mind before he lost his wits. In other words, Holderlin was aware when his illness was approaching and stopped his output before madness crept in; Nietzsche was unaware of his madness when it was already apparent -way before he showed a fondness for horses. I say all of that because the attempt to lump Holderlin in with Nietzsche, as is often done, does him an incredible disservice and misrepresents him terribly. He should be known for something more than an influence of Nietzsche's.
Holderlin's poetry owes a lot to the Greek classic and epic poets. He attempted to use the Greek poetic syntax in the German language. German and Greek share certain commonalities of structure and nuance that allowed Holderlin to do this successfully. In English translation some of this is lost, but he wrote largely in free verse so no rhyming scheme is lost in translation. Not everyone will be able to appreciate his poetry. He is actually unique among the Romantic poets; his structures are often complex and betray a theme not always readily apparent. There is some verse in here that is quite profound and would be utterly lost on the average Nietzschean I would wager.
I have just started to read Holderlin's prose works, which are incredibly important for Idealism; even though they often do not get the credit they deserve. He marks the point between Fichte and Hegel in the tradition of Idealism. Novalis has some place there as well, but his writings are often of a more mystical variety than an Idealist one. I am more familiar with Novalis' prose works and I have not read his poetry, so I don't know if stylistically the two poets are similar. Holderlin does share some basic Romantic tendencies with Blake and Coleridge and I would definitely recommend him to people who like those poets.”

This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity

This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity - Louis A. Ruprecht Jr. This book is so incredibly poor that it is a sad testament to the incompetence of the publishing world and the gullibility of a certain segment of the book buying public. Since I had taken the time to debate about this book (when I hadn't read much of it), I thought it only fair that I read it in total and dispute it thoroughly. This I intend to do with this review. It will be a bit long but it will be shorter than that over-long piece of propaganda. Reading the book was a trial but it was light enough reading that I was able to do it quickly.
Louis A Ruprecht with this book finds himself in the growing list of pseudo-scholars. What is pseudo-scholarship? Pseudo-scholarship is a form of propaganda totally uninterested in studying texts in and for themselves (as true scholarship does); it rather seeks to proselytize by cherry picking genuine scholarly theories and choice pieces of texts; while, ignoring all other texts that don't fit in the rhetorical scheme, or are contradictory to the purpose at hand. Some more or less genuine scholars may indulge in pseudo-scholarship from time to time; notable examples include Crossan, Pagels, Meyer, Ehrman etc. Generally they try to limit how far they venture into that maze of inflated self opinion and pseudo-religion. Most of the time the worst pseudo-scholars, such as Robert Eisenman, get very little support in scholarly circles for their theories. I don't know how much support Ruprecht gets but he is thoroughly in Eisenman territory. His writing is almost entirely based on rhetoric and the most ridiculous errors of logic that I have come across for some time. When he isn't telling blatant falsehoods, he vituperates and makes unsubstantiated claims. Before getting too far into quoting him and exposing his errors, a little background to New Testament scholarship is in order.
It is usually held by scholars that the sayings gospel Q and Mark are the oldest canonical gospels. John is thought to be the last. Matthew, Mark and Luke are called synoptics because they share much material. Matthew and Luke appear to share Mark's narrative and a common sayings source. Scholars refer to this theorized source as Q. Please note, and this is important, the preceding is a THEORY, not a fact. Is it logical to base a theory on unsubstantiated theory and then more theories on those, and more on those ad nauseum? No. Only people that are incredibly poor researchers do this and I will tell you why. If the foundational theory is proven wrong, all dependent theories are also wrong. Common sense, right? Apparently not to pseudo-scholars like Ruprecht. His sorry work of propaganda falls apart if his basis in the theory of Mark's earliness is proven wrong. Is there any proof that it is right? Not really. Matthew and Luke contain a narrative like Mark, but it isn't certain that it is Mark. Differences abound; notably Mark 4:26-29 is a parable not found in Luke or Matthew. Other differences occur that are usually down to variant words and letters, but do not amount to dramatic differences in meaning. These differences make it far from certain that Matthew and Luke used Mark. Is there manuscript evidence for the earliness of Mark? Nope. Would you like to know what the earliest New Testament manuscript is? John. That's right, it's John. That manuscript is numbered P52 and has been dated to around 125 AD (library.duke.edu). That means that John is significantly older than that. Almost certainly from the first century, since it is necessary that it was in circulation for some time to have even been preserved as a manuscript in Egypt. The earliest manuscript for Mark is at least 100 years later. That's a fact. So much for manuscript evidence. What about evidence from tradition? What did the early church say? The church fathers all agree that John's gospel is to be attributed to the disciple John. Papias and Polycarp were acquainted with John personally and heard him teach and carried down traditions about him. Irenaeus knew both Papias and Polycarp and gives witness to the authenticity of John's gospel; as do Clement, Tertullian, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Eusebius etc. They held that John was the last gospel written, but along with Matthew, was the only one written by hearers of Jesus. Matthew was said to have wrote a sayings gospel according to Papias; most likely what scholars call Q. Ruprecht wisely ignores church tradition because it holds that Mark never heard Jesus but John did. Ruprecht never discusses church tradition because, like all pseudo-scholars, he cherry picks information. What about internal evidence? Scholars from the 19th century held that Mark was early because it appears to be the simplest gospel with an undeveloped Christology, and was apparently the narrative source for Matthew and Luke. Of course, this isn't proof of anything. It's just a speculative theory. There are no manuscripts or traditions to support that theory. After the discovery of the dead sea scrolls most of that early New Testament scholarship needed to be rethought but it tenaciously held to outmoded ideas. The Qumran scrolls such as The Two Ways, The Community Rule and The Wicked and The Holy contain a very interesting tradition. They hold to a very rigid dualism between truth and falsehood; light and darkness; good and evil; death and life etc. The Didache is a very early Christian document; held by many scholars to be older than most of the New Testament, except for Paul's epistles. The Didache has that same dualism; so does the Epistle of Barnabas and the gospel of John. As well as Jewish Christian literature like the Ebionite Clementina. No other gospel shares that same dualism the way John does. According to tradition, John was an early follower of John the Baptist (John 1:35). John the Baptist was quite near the Qumran community. It is fairly evident that a continuity of Jewish tradition is found in John's gospel. Aside from it's kinship with Essenic Judaism and early Christian texts, John's gospel shows the most familiarity with the topography of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the temple. John had to have known what the temple and it's porticos looked like before it's destruction. Until relatively recently no one knew the porticos in John's gospel really existed. John knew it because he saw them. So much for the supposed facts of the earliness of Mark's gospel and the lateness of John's. Let's tackle Ruprecht.
Very early on Ruprecht let's his propagandistic colors show. He refuses to call John a gospel and wants to call it an evangel (page xii). Never mind that the words mean exactly the same thing, namely, good news. He does consider gnostic works gospels though (pg. 69). Contradictions like that doesn't prevent Ruprecht from his train wreck of asinine deductions and conclusions. He says there's no knowing what the term Christian and Christianity originally meant (pg. 4), but that doesn't stop him from saying that John corrupted it; whatever it is or was. He charges orthodox Christianity with heresy hunting (pg. 5), even though in the entire book he can't say what orthodoxy is. He claims Mark came first (pg. 99), but he also, laughably, claims that heresy came first (pg. 152). If Mark is heresy what is orthodoxy? If heresy is deviation from orthodoxy, which is what heresy means, what was orthodoxy before Mark? He doesn't say. He does claim John isn't orthodox though (pg. 69). All of this is anachronistic nonsense of course. Ruprecht engages in that a lot. Here's one of his more amusing nonsensical tautologies from page 7: "he [Mark] literally invented a new literary genre, the Christian gospel. And it was the invention of that genre that helped turn Christianity into a religion that was dependent on Jewish and Greek literary models but independent of Judaism and Hellenism." He says repeatedly that Mark based his gospel on Greek tragedy and yet paradoxically still believes it is the most authentically Jewish account. So his most early Jewish witness is really a Greek or Roman witness. We've already discussed John's clear Jewish propensities. Ruprecht says that John brought fear and not pity into Christianity (pg. 7-8) and later contradicts this and says that Mark brought fear and a new Christian compassion (pg. 95); in reality, Mark's Jesus castigates them for being afraid (Mark 4:35-41). Indulging in the logical fallacy equivocation is not below Ruprecht. He repeatedly says that Mark is the more compassionate gospel because it has pathos or suffering in it (pg. 23). Of course, pathos and compassion are in no way synonymous. Compassion is love. John's gospel uses the Greek equivalents of love over 40 times. Mark uses those words less than 10 times. Mark does use the word pathos while John does not. Explanation is in order. Time for another discursion in order to discuss the intent of these two gospel writers.
Mark's Jesus is painfully human indeed but Mark also recognizes His divinity. Mark has Him sleeping while a violent storm breaks out and all the apostles are afraid (4:35-41). Jesus rebukes the waves and they are silent. How many normal human beings can do that? John doesn't include this part of Mark and Ruprecht doesn't explain why he leaves out a portion of Mark that so utterly reinforces his take on Jesus. Mark uses the word Son Of Man the most and wants to focus on Jesus' humanity primarily but isn't unaware of His divinity as we've shown. Mark's depiction of the disciples is that they do not understand Jesus. Jesus also speaks in parables that are often ambiguous to them. Mark's Jesus is human literally and parabolically divine. John's Jesus is parabolically human and literally divine. The figurative undercurrent in Mark is made literal in John and the literal is made figurative. In the very beginning of John's gospel he presents the divine Logos and that is what he focuses on. John uses the divine "I am" statements more than the other gospel writers, even though they all use them to a degree. John makes plain the meaning of the parables in the synoptics. In order to reveal he must also conceal. He knows Jesus is a human being (John 1:14) but he wants to declare Jesus' divinity or His Spiritual nature openly; that entails obscuring the humanity. This is in line with the ideal of kenosis. Clement of Alexandria and Origen said that John's gospel was the Spiritual gospel. Indeed, in John the word spirit is used 17 times -all in the divine sense. Mark uses the word spirit 6 times in the divine sense and 11 in the demonic sense. John wanted to bring out the Spiritual undercurrent that is hinted at in the synoptics but wasn't made as plain there. He does this successfully and admirably. People like Ruprecht are carnal in thought, dead in spirit, rhetorical in speech and blind and deaf to truth. Christianity has always struggled to reconcile Jesus' divinity with His humanity. A balancing had to be maintained. Ruprecht offers nothing new. He struggles with the dichotomy because he is dead spiritually. It's that simple. All gospels agree on the basics of what the orthodox Christian church has taught, e.g. Christ's divinity and humanity; His death and resurrection; His teaching; His works of compassion etc. The textual variants are really pretty minor and have no effect on tradition. They only serve to allow the carnal minded to cast lots for Jesus' clothes. But as Isaiah said they will be ever hearing but never understanding.
Ruprecht claims that Mark's gospel ends in tragedy and the resurrection didn't happen (pg. 8, 25, 33, 75). This is patently false. Even in the uncontested portions of Mark the resurrection was predicted and happened (Mark 8:31-32; 14:8, 17-21; 16:6). Ruprecht doesn't mind a little lying in order to misrepresent Mark and bolster his case. He says that in Mark's gospel, Jesus doesn't want anyone to know He is the Messiah (pg. 8, 33), even though Jesus tells the Pharisees just this (14:61-62). Ruprecht consistently says that it was only the Romans (pg. 9, 19) who arrested Jesus and beat Him even though Mark says that the Jewish temple authorities did both (Mark 15:55, 65). Ruprecht's imaginary Markan Jesus basically tells some ambiguous parables and somehow gets crucified for it and doesn't resurrect even though He says that he would. Ruprecht is simply a Post-Modern Arian. He misrepresents John as holding that no Christian would ever suffer or shed a tear (pg. 11); this is quite false (John 15:18-16:2). He claims that the church refuses to see the suffering around it (pg. 12), even though the church has been almost solely responsible for hospitals, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other charities historically. Ruprecht consistently charges John with subverting Mark's gospel. What's his evidence? Jesus didn't pray in Gethsemane. That's it. That's his only evidence in the whole book. With that he slanders John again and again. As I've said before John knew Jesus was a human being with human emotion; he said that He was troubled in soul, but John wanted His divinity to overshadow His humanity in that instance. He wasn't attempting to subvert Mark, John said plainly that Jesus was troubled but He wanted to emphasize the Spiritual resolve of the Logos and His mission in order to give a balanced view of His complex nature; a nature that the other gospels didn't present as plainly as John wanted to.
Quite ridiculously Ruprecht claims Luke makes allusions to Homer and Greek tragedy (pg 43). On page 61 he claims that Mark gives no conclusion to Jesus' prayer even though Mark's prayer ends exactly the same way Matthew and Luke's does, with Jesus submitting to God's will. Any differences are purely semantic. Ruprecht simply lies and pretends Marks prayer doesn't end the same way. He slights John for having Jesus predict His own death (pg. 71) even though Mark does the same (8:31-32). He says that John isn't interested in showing how Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecies (pg. 71). This is another blatant falsehood. John does cites prophecy regularly regularly (e.g. 19:24, 28). Ruprecht lies when he can't obfuscate. He criticizes John for having Jesus say that Christians would be kicked out of synagogues (pg. 72) and once again Mark says the same (Mark 13:9). He claims John inspired prideful martyrdom (pg. 75), even though Christian tradition attributes that to the synoptics (e.g. Matthew 10:32-33). He claims some early Christians rejected John's gospel (pg. 76) and he provides not one shred of proof. Ruprecht takes long and pointless discursions in order to talk about Greek tragedy and Nietzsche. He could not prove the ridiculous idea that Mark was modeled on Greek tragedy. He says that John holds that people are too dumb to understand Jesus (pg. 105), when in actuality, and ironically, John holds them to be too blind, but in the case of Ruprecht I might agree. He claims that John doesn't believe Jesus is human (pg. 108) and this is of course easily proven false (John 1:14). He thinks pathos is the only genuine human emotion and ignores how many times John uses the word love. He repeatedly says that John is anti-jewish but on page 11 claims that the word Jews in John 4:22 is to be translated Judeans rather than Jews. He is hoping that the average reader won't know that Judaioi can be translated as either and he only translates it the way he does in order to bolster his weak theory. Ruprecht claims only John presents Jesus as the paschal lamb (pg. 117) when in fact all gospels do. He says that John loves no one but Jesus even though in John's gospel Jesus commands love of neighbor (13:35). He says that early Christianity had no coherent message (pg. 142); of course the Acts of the Apostles and the early church fathers give the lie to that supposition. He makes much of early church dissension and can only provide the example of disagreement on when to hold Easter celebration (149-150). He puts words into Luther's mouth (pg. 174). Ruprecht claims that Protestants don't know church history (pg. 155), but later says they do (pg. 179). He claims Luther was completely dependent on John when in fact in his disputes with the Anabaptists over the nature of the eucharist he sided with the synoptics over the Anabaptists' appeal to John. He makes a big deal about John not including a prayer that no disciple could have heard as they were all sleeping when it happened, but he passes over in silence the fact that John also doesn't include the communion part of the last supper. He doesn't discuss Q. Ruprecht ignores Paul's letters in large part, even though they are all held to be earlier than Mark. He claims that the resurrection really didn't happen because he believes Mark didn't include it. I have already shown that that is a lie; and on top of this, Paul's letters attest to the tradition of Jesus' resurrection that it was a part of the earliest traditions about Jesus; Paul's uncontested epistles are agreed to be older than Mark by scholars. Ruprecht says that the Nicene creed was based on heresy, not orthodoxy (pg. 151), even though it can be proven that all of the early church fathers believed in the traditions behind the creed, even before it was codified. His bibliography is abysmal and full of other examples of pseudo-scholarship.
To sum up. Louis Ruprecht is a propagandist and rhetorician. He wants to recreate Christianity the way he thinks it should be. In order to do this, he doesn't mind lying, misrepresenting, misconstruing, belittling, libeling, equivocating, double-speaking, cherry picking and using numerous other low tactics in his attack on orthodox Christianity and Johannine tradition. He isn't a scholar quite simply. I find it incredibly sad that people can be taken in by books like this. They are really not worth the paper they are printed on.

George Fox: A Christian Mystic

George Fox: A Christian Mystic - George Fox, Hugh McGregor Ross I'm not actually big on the Quakers as a whole, but I think George Fox was sincere in his faith and probably had a genuine revelation and conversion experience. That being said, Quakerism had a tendency to go in the direction of what I would call "spiritual nihilism." I define "spiritual nihilism" as any ideology that puts all spiritual matters purely in the realm of subjective experience. In other words, everything that one experiences that is of a purely subjective nature (i.e. personal and unverifiable), and that could be construed as "revelation", is given the stamp of approval no matter how fanciful, delusional and stupid it truly is. This kind of pop spirituality is very common today with the notion of the "relativity of truth" and common among the "spiritual, not religious" class of people. In Fox's day it had not yet reached the kind of ridiculous extremes that we see in the modern world, but Quakerism does have some of this in seed form at least, while still being Christian for the most part at that point in time. Faith is indeed a personal thing, but the idea that all notions that pop into one's head qualify as genuine God inspired revelation is a recipe for gullible delusion at best and mental psychosis at worst. The asylums are full of people that talk to saints and believe that they are chosen for this, that and the other. St. Paul exhorted Christians to test the spirits and all revelations. Quakerism is an example of what happens when discernment takes a backseat to fantasy and objective truth is diminished. I say all of the above because the editor of this selection is an example of the kind of "spirituality" that Quakerism was to a degree the harbinger of. His opinions and introductions I could have done without.
George Fox was not to blame for all of the things that later became of the Quakers. HIs heart was in the right place and his was a mostly understandable reaction to the kind of statute based scholastic legalism that plagued England in the mid 17th century. The pendulum always swings the opposite way. Christian experience has always needed to balance subjective experience with objective checks and balances using the bible, other believers, learned common sense etc.
This book, as the title suggests, collects portions of Fox's writings that are of a more mystical variety, but even these, surprisingly enough, are fairly sober and not wholly unorthodox ideas. They do show the kind of rich inner experience of George Fox's faith and it comes across as genuine. Fox's writings I give 5 stars because they are all sincere and Christian for the most part. I also give 5 stars to the choice of texts the editor selected. I give 2 stars for his introductions that give plenty of evidence of the kind of purely subjective spirituality that holds that truth is subject to belief, rather than belief is subject to truth. We have way too much of the former in the world today. And that form of spirituality is simply nihilism in fancy dress.

Spiritual Warfare and Six Other Spiritual Writings

Spiritual Warfare and Six Other Spiritual Writings - Pierre Jean Olivi I came across Peter Of John Olivi while rereading my Encyclopedia Of Apocalypticism series. He was interesting in that he was both an apocalyptist and a mystic. He was among the so-called Spiritual/Minorite Franciscans that were not only stringently dedicated to Franciscan poverty, but also often followers of Joachim of Fiore -an influential medieval apocalyptic writer. The Conventual Franciscans were a bit more lax on the poverty rules of St. Francis and that made them more acceptable to the Papacy. People like Olivi, Ockham, Jacopone Da Todi etc, found themselves on the outs with the Papacy; not only with their insistence on poverty but also their apocalyptic theological tendencies.
Olivi is an interesting writer. He has mystical sensibilities that are quite undeniable. His apocalyptic side comes out here and there as well. This is quite an interesting little book from the writings of a Franciscan that is an early example of how not all pre-Reformation Catholic Christians were dutiful followers of the Papacy. Well worth reading.

The interest of reason in religion with the import use of scripture-metaphors, and the nature of the union betwixt Christ; believers: with reflections ... the knowledg of Jesus Christ, (1675)

The interest of reason in religion with the import use of scripture-metaphors, and the nature of the union betwixt Christ; believers: with reflections ... the knowledg of Jesus Christ, (1675) - Robert Ferguson Robert Ferguson was a 17th century English Non-conformist. He was later tried as a plotter against the crown.
He is an example of an erudite Protestant semi-Puritan theologian. A good part of this book is a refutation of another work by an author named Sherlock that indicated semi-Socinian tendencies. The Socinians were basically 17th century Protestant Arians; as Jehovah's Witnesses are the more modern version of the same. Arians basically deny the deity of Jesus Christ. This erroneous teaching has popped up time and again throughout the history of the church. It was refuted extensively and thoroughly by the Nicene fathers. Errors like this have a tendency to get revamped for some reason and metastasize into new cults that compete with traditional Christianity.
Anyway, a good portion of the book deals with methods of reading scripture and basic rules for using particular methods. His discussion of plain sense versus metaphorical is quite interesting and is treated exhaustively. His discussion of the church and what it constitutes is quite good as well; albeit from an absolutely Protestant perspective. One thing caught my attention particularly and that was his distinguishing between the idea of pardon and justification; he never really discusses his thoughts on this distinction in regards to salvation unfortunately. His discussion of what relationship Christ has with the church and individual Christians was interesting, although not entirely consistent, nor entirely clear. He spends some pages condemning the idea of Christian "oneness of essence" with God/Christ which he attributes to certain mystics (without ever quoting what they actually said) and then later states that we have "essential unity" with Christ. The phrases are really practically identical in meaning and he never states what he believes the differences are between the two. In vain I waited for him to clarify the difference but he never did; and in fact seems to hold the same doctrine he condemned at least grammatically. I think his real mistake was not understanding how the church fathers and the mystical writers talked about divine union. They described it as the soul being like metal that is heated; the metal doesn't lose it's distinct nature, it gains fire/heat which permeates the whole substance. His misunderstanding of what mystical theologians meant may have contributed to his reproachful attitude; as well as contributing to his own inability to fully comprehend his own position on the church's unity with Christ. The book is quite long and it would be impossible to give it a thorough treatment in this review.
The book on the whole was a good read and I didn't have to take an extended break from it, even though it was over 600 pages. Most of his points I agreed with and don't feel like anything was discussed shoddily. My only real bone of contention I addressed above. I give it an excellent review.