"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

WoW: Bridges and Ancient Landmarks (Prov. 22:28)

Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set. (Proverbs 22:28 ESV)

Basic Meaning

On Monday I wrote on Job 24:2 in harmony with a post from Dan Phillips. Job 24:2 is similar to Proverbs 22:28 and Proverbs 23:10-11. All three make reference to the ancient land divisions and the markers that were set in place to protect them. The historical focus of the texts is on honest dealings, similar to the commands not to use false weights. One could increase the size of one's property by moving the ancient boundry markers. By doing so one became a thief, taking from his neighbor what belonged to his neighbor. Bridges notes, in his comments on Proverbs 22:28:
Every one has an undoubted right to his own. He must therefore have the means of knowing and securing his right. Even the heathens admitted the sacredness of the landmark. . . . Its removal therefore was forbidden, as a selfish and unjust invasion of property, included in the curses of Ebal, and noted, in subsequent ages, as the forefront of national provocation. (p. 421)
The Wider Application

But is this the only application we can make from these passages? If you read the post from Monday you know that I think not. Neither does Bridges:
All sound expositors warn us, from this Proverb, to reverence long-tried and well-established principles, and not rashly to innovate upon them. Some scorn the ancient landmarks as relics of bye-gone days of darkness. Impatient of restraint, they want a wider range of wandering, to indulge either their own prurient appetite for novelties, or the morbid cravings of others for this unwholesome excitement. (2 Tim. 3:7; 4:3-4) Endless divisions and dissensions have been the fruit of this deadly evil. The right of individual judgment oversteps its legitimate bounds; and in its licentious exercise "every man" feels justified to "do" and think "that which is right in his own eyes." (Judges 21:25) (p. 422)
In addition to Dan's post about how the term evangelical has been rendered useless by stretching its definition, there is a lot of discussion about ancient landmarks (without using this terminology) and whether or not they have been moved. Frank Turk has raised the issue of the TNIV translation both on his own blog and over at TeamPyro, making one wonder whether the ancient landmarks of male and female have been moved. Meanwhile, Pastor JD Hatfield has been discussing new innovations in evangelism that have moved some ancient landmarks about what it means to call people to repentance.

Rolling Stones

We live in an age when ancient, or at least old and established, landmarks are being moved. We are not the first generation to have faced these kinds of changes. Of his own day, Bridges writes:
Turning to our beloved and venerated Church; the last age witnessed a rude, but by divine mercy an unsuccessful, effort, to root up her landmarks. We have seen a subtle and invidious attempt to remove them from the place, where our well-instructed fathers have set them, and fix them nearer Rome; leaving but a narrow boundary of division between Christ and Antichrist. This is indeed the rooting up of the foundations of the grace of God, which ought, if need be, to "be resisted unto blood." (Heb. 12:4) The Lord make us "valiant for the truth," and consistent witnesses of its power! (p. 422)
Leading up to our day, many efforts have been more successful. So much so that we now have the ECT document and questions about whether or not the Reformation is over. So there are those who have successfully "remove[d] them from the place . . . and fix[ed] them nearer Rome." The landmark of what it means to be a Protestant has been moved.

Anyone who is tuned into recent discussions within the SBC knows that many in the SBC are accusing Calvinists of trying to remove the ancient landmarks of the SBC. Historically, however, Reformed theology is the theology of the Baptists. The landmark of Baptist theology has been moved.

In addition, the landmark of what it means to be a Christian has been moved by liberalism; the landmark of what it means to be a fundementalist was moved by a legalistic fundementalism more concerned with clothes and hair than the fundementals of the faith; and the list goes on.

Who's Moving What?

Now, we are accused of moving the landmarks. Bridges addressed charges from Roman Catholicism that it was the Reformers that moved the landmarks:
Rome, on the other hand, charges us with removing the ancient landmark of unwritten Tradition, which our fathers have set. We ask--What right had they to set it up? We do reverence to no unwritten traditions upon the footing of "the law and the testimony." (Isa. 8:20) We rebut the charge of Antichrist, and contend, upon the broad ground of historic testimony, that she has removed the ancient landmarks, and substituted her own in their place; that Protestantism (in principle, though not in name) is the old religion, and Popery a comparative novelty. We have not removed the ancient landmarks by bringing men back to the true doctrine, because this, being delivered by God, is the ancient doctrine, and the landmarks have been subsequently removed by the subtilty of the devil, and idolatry put in the place of the true worship. (p. 422)
Whatever the landmark, let us be faithful in seeing that the ancient boundaries are restored and preserved so that all that belongs to the children of God may be held by the children of God. The Lord make us "valiant for the truth," and consistent witnesses of its power! Amen.

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