What We Believe

Here is an episode that has occurred countless times in three decades of marital bliss. I will recall a story in our past and punctuate it with some colorful detail. This will prompt the missus to exclaim, “How do you remember? I had completely forgotten all of that!” Which in turn inflames pride in my faculties of recollection.

A recent encounter with an old friend in ministry put me in a strange reversal of roles. The two of us were reminiscing over some adult beverages. We broached an episode that took place over two decades ago, when the two of us shared the experience of being victims in a minor miscarriage of justice by our presbytery. My friend proceeded to rewind the tape with the precision of a near-photographic memory. I was stunned at what he remembered—the wound was as raw as though it happened yesterday. It struck me how much better off I was, unable to let this fester.

As I steadily near the expiration of my warranty (see Ps. 90:10), what impresses is less the evidence of the fragility of the body (though there is plenty of that), than the fallibility of memory. Old men forget, as Shakespeare’s Henry V put it plainly. It is not so much that I am losing my memory. Instead, I have come to appreciate how selective and idiosyncratic it is. I have even come to reinterpret the words of my wife. She may not have been paying me a compliment after all, but perhaps more of a gentle chastisement. “Why do you remember that?” is what she really intends to ask. “Why devote your obviously limited mental resources to preserving that useless set of details? And how do you still forget what day of the week is recyclable pickup?”

There are dangers of forgetting, to be sure. We know the fate of those who forget the past in Santana’s famous warning. There is a short distance between forgetting and denial. Let us be glad the OPC has invested in cultivating its corporate memory and hope that our denominational archives will preserve the historical record for this vital end.

But are we at risk in placing too much importance on memory? Is it wise to shame forgetfulness as if it is some moral failure? I don’t mean to make light of the challenge of Alzheimer’s for patients and caregivers. We rightly treasure our memories. But memory is never pure or innocent. It is fragile and superficial and as sin-stained as the rest of our faculties. It can manipulate the past in the interests of self. And if there even is such a thing as a photographic memory, is that a blessing or a curse? My minister friend seemed to wallow in a prison of self-absorption.

If I have moved on from such unpleasant memories, how much more have I forgotten my own offenses? This too is the grace of God, who, in Isaac Watts’s colorful take on David’s penitential psalm, will “blot their memory” from his book.

Of course, Scripture constantly calls us to remember. But when, for example, our Lord instructs us to partake of his supper “in remembrance of me,” he is not asking for feats of mental strength. Rather, we eat and drink in the confidence that our God remembers. And we are not to doubt that his covenant promises are forever.

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Contact the Editor: Gregory Edward Reynolds

Editorial address: Dr. Gregory Edward Reynolds,
827 Chestnut St.
Manchester, NH 03104-2522
Telephone: 603-668-3069

Electronic mail: reynolds.1@opc.org

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Ordained Servant: May 2016

Fishers of Men

Also in this issue

Exposing the Darkness: A Call for Presuppositional Elenctics, Part 1

Christ-Shaped Philosophy: Toward a Union of Spirit, Wisdom, and Word

How Vosian Is Van Til? A Review Article

Reflections on Biblical Counseling: A Review Article

I Will Lift My Eyes unto the Hills by Walter Kaiser Jr.


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