Orthodox Presbyterian Lady

At one point in our church life the missus and I were part of a missional work whose name we might have a hand in choosing. To avoid the common and somewhat tired names such as Redeemer or Calvary, I wanted to invoke the name of saints and was thinking especially of a set of Presbyterians with the name John — Muether, Machen, Witherspoon, Knox, and Calvin. To claim their names, I wanted to use Sts. Johns Church, a name that reflected a debt to these Presbyterians and that also acknowledged the Protestant conviction of the sainthood of all believers.

Needless to say, Sts. Johns was an epic fail.

A recent sermon on 2 (two?) John reminded me of this old idea. The epistle begins with this odd construction:

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever

Our pastor plausibly argued that this was not an individual communication between the apostle John and a certain woman in the early church. Instead, “lady” was a word synonymous with a congregation or set of congregations in a city. (I also perked up that John referred to himself as an elder — “hey, that’s my office!”)

The last two verses of the epistle also make sense of this rendering of “lady”:

12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

13 The children of your elect sister greet you.

If John were simply writing to one person, then this would be an odd communication to reach the status of canonical writing. And if it were also about one lady, then John was apparently writing to a set of sisters akin to Jane and Cassandra Austen.

So if lady does refer to a church, then it’s time (#metoo) that we put the word to ecclesiastical use.

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15 thoughts on “Orthodox Presbyterian Lady

  1. Dr. Hart redeems the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for me with his wry and highly intelligent, thought-provoking as well as provocative sense of humor and commentary. I have a great deal of admiration for J. Gresham Machen: I just have not witnessed or experienced his legacy in the young graduates I have had the misfortune to encounter from Westminster.

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  2. So perhaps you can name your missional work, “Our Lady”. then if you want real church cred you could go with the Latin construction and call your work Notre Dame Presbyterian Church. The fighting (northern) Irish indeed!

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  3. Hi sdb,

    I apologize for my late response. I had written out a pretty lengthy one, but I did it while online connected to the site and lost it all when I had to jump up to take care of something in the kitchen. I think I’ve finally learned that it’s better to cut and paste than lose everything that I worked on.

    Back to our conversation…
    I don’t have the time to respond point by point to what you’ve said, but it looks like you are basically saying that you either don’t believe it’s important to study metaphysics or that you don’t believe that metaphysics is important to understand nature. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you and so I will let you tell me what you mean. From what I understand Philosophy of Being is like a handmade to theology and a science. I guess I’m asking if you believe only empirical science can give us truth about reality. So before I ask you how it is that we know that God exists and how people who were without special revelation could understand that living things have souls and that man has a soul different than other creatures?
    BTW, I have only read Poetics, Rhetoric, and some of Metaphysics. And yes I believe that the church gathered up whatever was true that any philosopher discovered. So I’m not defending Aristotle as a man but rather acknowledging that Greek philosophers were discovering truths about reality from nature, nature that God made. I disagree that we can’t derive moral precepts from nature. Isn’t the Golden Rule a moral precept from nature?

    I may not be able to get back to you for some time so I invite anyone else who would like to add their thought to please do so!

    God bless you!
    Susan

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  4. [quote]Dr. Hart says: “If John were simply writing to one person, then this would be an odd communication to reach the status of canonical writing.”[/quote]
    I have been of the inclination that he was writing to one person under the assumption that his letter would be at least somewhat circulated and therefore by extension, others were being indirectly addressed as well. Not a hill i would die on though.

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  5. Here is a nice overview of what I understand to be metaphysics. The key quote near the end of the article is,

    A test-case for this very schematic and abstract refutation of all refutations of metaphysics is the very sophisticated and subtle critique of metaphysics (it purports to apply only to the kind of metaphysics exemplified by the seventeenth-century rationalists and current analytical metaphysics) presented in van Fraassen 2002. It is a defensible position that van Fraassen’s case against metaphysics depends essentially on certain theses that, although they are not themselves metaphysical theses, are nevertheless open to many of the criticisms he brings against metaphysical theses.

    Obviously if you define metaphysics too broadly, then any critique of it become self refuting. But defining metaphysics as everything that isn’t empirical isn’t a very interesting category.

    “I guess I’m asking if you believe only empirical science can give us truth about reality.”
    No. I’m not a logical positivist.

    “So before I ask you how it is that we know that God exists and how people who were without special revelation could understand that living things have souls and that man has a soul different than other creatures?”
    I do not believe that we learn everything we know. I believe that some knowledge is intrinsic to us on account of bearing the Imago Dei. This includes knowing right from wrong, that God exists, and other minds exist. We don’t need metaphysics to get that, but that does not entail that one must believe that we therefore derive that information empirically.

    “I disagree that we can’t derive moral precepts from nature. Isn’t the Golden Rule a moral precept from nature?”
    How does one arrive at the Golden Rule from nature? Perhaps you can outline the case? I would say that we have evolved that precept (a precept not generally observed in nature) as a survival strategy. In other words, it is instinctual, or part of our nature to believe that. Another way to put it is that God made us thus and it is part of being an image bearer.

    What metaphysics has not done is discover something new. In other words, I cannot think of any examples of something humanity didn’t know about nature that we discovered as a consequence of metaphysics. Perhaps you can provide an example. The existence of other minds, the golden rule, existence of the soul, etc… are things we knew pre-Aristotle.

    The existence of germs, the origin of the elements, the origin of species, the size of the Universe, how and why things move, how babies are formed, the nature of the cell, etc… are things we learned by throwing off the shackles of metaphysics.

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  6. Hey, without the young and restless Reformed your book sales would only be 20% of the books you have sold. You like to bite the hand that feeds you!

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  7. So Presbyterians had their “Oxford Movement” moment in the 19th century. This is something to be proud of? I would never have guessed that you are a romantic at heart.

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