An Open Notebook

Typology and Creation

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‘Modernity has not been kind…”Gerald R. McDermott writes in the paper titled, ‘Typology and Creation.’

MODERNITY HAS NOT BEEN KIND to what we know as the world. What had been for millennia a source of wonder, an infinitely complex mystery with unsearchable beauties and tantalizing harmonies, was gradually reduced to, first, a predictable machine and, later, a cold universe originating in randomness and now hostile to personhood and love.

In this essay, McDermott makes an impassioned case through the work of John Henry Newman and Jonathan Edwards that typology is a valid enterprise, even though many accuse the science of invalidity, types being behind ‘every bush and tree.’

Yet, advocates of the enterprise, have pointed to the Bible to defend themselves, as represented by a summary of Edwards here. How do we know we are interpreting types correctly?

…Edwards said the guardrails on orthodox typology are twofold. First, it must stay within the orthodox story of redemption, which is rooted in historical events. They compose the great antitype. The story is a huge story with a near infinite number of types, but it is a different story from the myriads of heretical stories and the myriads of human speculations that are not heretical but merely imaginary.

… Second, typological interpretation takes practice learning to read this story, just as it takes practice to learn any language.

Then, he quotes Edwards at length:

Types are a certain sort of language, as it were, in which God is wont to speak to us. And there is, as it were, a certain idiom in that language which is to be learnt the same that the idiom of any language is, viz. by good acquaintance with the language, either by being naturally trained up in it, learning it by education (but that is not the way in which corrupt mankind learned divine language), or by much use and acquaintance together with a good taste or judgment, by comparing one thing with another and having our senses as it were exercised to discern it (which is the way that adult persons must come to speak any language, and in its true idiom, that is not their native tongue).

Great care should be used, and we should endeavor to be well and thoroughly acquainted, or we shall never understand [or] have a right notion of the idiom of the language. If we go to interpret divine types without this, we shall be just like one that pretends to speak any language that hadn’t thoroughly learnt it. We shall use many barbarous expressions that fail entirely of the proper beauty of the language, that are very harsh in the ears of those that are well versed in the language. God hadn’t expressly explained all the types of Scriptures, but has done so much as is sufficient to teach us the language.

In summary, typology is learned like a language, by the patterns in the Bible itself; and, must stay within the orthodox story of redemption.

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