May 18, 2011

From Tom the Dancing bug, here

April 08, 2011

well, here's something I wrote once when engaged with someone in a serious discussion.

Since God, by definition at it were, cannot be acheived by our natural capacities beyond the degree to which he has already gifted himself to us in mere creation, elevation must be a kind of gift upon a gift. If full communion with God could be achieved by our merely natural capacities with which we were gifted by nature, we would be equal with God, not creatures.

But this gift upon gift is something for which we nonetheless have a natural desire, because having already been created in God's image and with God gifting himself to us, given that there is "room" for us to be more godlike even as creatures, there is a difference between what we presently are, even at creation, and what we could possible become.

That difference or distance is the foundation of human freedom and desire but what we desire is not something that we can either achieve on our own efforts or demand by right even in an unfallen state. How can we achieve what is intended as gift?

We can only receive it as a gift and the mode by which gifts are received is trust working itself out in love, since faith and love are self-effacing, but in losing themselves in the Other, allow us to become more truly ourselves.

The language of "earning" grossly obscures all this, though there can be better and worse ways to put 'earning' language (metaphorically, or by way of illustration, for instance).

Think of Jesus words to the pharisess competing for the bests seats at the dinner party. maybe, in 'natural justice' Adam would deserve the head seat for his obedience. Under natural justice, he should stroll in an take the chief seat, knowing he has earned it.

But Jesus says that the more excellent way is to eschew the chief seat offered by natural justice, and wait for it to be granted as a gift. That kind of faith in the host is a demonstration of something beyond natural justice.

The error made by some, (such as Bill Baldwin) is to overstate the case in such a way that man has the ability to boast of his achievement.

Baldwin writes
Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever (WSC 1). WLC 1 expands '... fully to enjoy him forever.' But if the covenant of works is gracious, then God could theoretically create a man and give him no ability to fulfill his purpose. This would be capricious and unjust. If I said that God created porcupines to fly, it would rightly be pointed out that porcupines have no ability to fly and any reasonable definition of their purpose must take that into account. Assuming porcupines have not forfeited their right to fly, then flying cannot be their created purpose. The abilities of the porcupine determine the way in which it glorifies God. So if man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, he must as originally constituted have had the means to fulfill his purpose. The logical implications of WSC 1 contradict the statement of WCF 7.1.
Baldwin is not just denying graciousness in the CoW, he's denying condescension.

If God were to give man by nature the ability to attain God by his own efforts, God would not be God and the creator-creature distinction would be denied. The only "ability" or "capacity" man needs to be created with to enjoy God fully is the ability to receive a gift, because God is all in all, and can't be attained by nature by definition.

God made Adam with the ability to reproduce with his wife. But he would be "unable" until he had a wife. But that didn't make a wife something Adam obtained by his efforts, or something he has a legal claim against God to demand.

March 08, 2011

A very interesting book by Peter Slade, entitled Open Friendship in a Closed Society: Mission Mississippi and a Theology of Friendship discusses the role of segregation in the fundamentalist-modernist controversey and particularly the formation of the PCA. There definitely is a pro-segregation thread in the formation of the PCA which was reprehensible, and hopefully will continue to be addressed.

Anthony Bradley first pointed me to this book by summarizing it and asking "Why did nobody tell me this when I joined the PCA". Its a good question, and much of the story should be told. Here in the north, in a PCA church that only became PCA by the RPCES being joined and received I may have some excuse for this not being a live issue, but it should be.

There was one item in Bradley's summary that stood out to me. It was
(10) The role of Westminster Seminary's J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius Van Til in the segregationist churches.
While I was ignorant of some of the items mentioned in Bradley's summary, they didn't especially suprise me. This one did, since I'd never heard or read anything of Machen or Van Til being associated with racism or segregation ("skinist" [sic] attempts to pull him in as a originator of segregationist Rushdooney's thought notwithstanding).

I didn't have the book, but the amazon preview told me every mention of Van Til in the book. I was underwhelmed by the evidence that Van Til had a "role" in the segregationist churches. I will now reporduce in detail Slade's claims
Although MAchen's conflicts too place in the Northern Church, Southern Presbyterians watched developments with keen interest. Machen's denunciations of the PCUSA for departing from traditional doctrines lent ammunition to those opposed to union with the Nothern Presbyerians. Machen and Westminster Seminary found strong support in Mississippi. During the 1930s, both Machen and Van Til, Westminster Seminary's professor of apologetics, spoke at Synod of Mississippi youth conferences[179]. J. B. Hutton, the minister at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson and editor of Mississippi Visitor, publicly backed the Northern Conservatives. With his encouragement, churches in the Central Mississippi Prebytery called Westminster Seminary graduates to fill their pulpits. The fundamentalism of Westminster Seminary gave energy and resources to conservative Southern Prebyterians at a time when progressives within their denomination were attacking their traditional defense against social change, the spirituality of the church. [181]
fn 179, p 219.
R. Milton Winter, "Division & Reunion in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.: a Mississippi Retrospective," Journal of Presbyterian History 78 (Spring 2000): 76. [pdf link] Van Til went on to provide the intellectual backbone behind conseravtive Presbyterians' rejection of Karl Barth's neo-orthodoxy linking him to the social activism of the liberals that so disturbed Southern Prebyterians. "Barth replaces the Christ of Luther and Calvin," Van Til wrote, "with a Christ patterned after modern activist thought." Cornelius Van Til and Karl Barth [?], Christianity and Barthianism (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1962), vii.

fn 181, p 220
Van Til was a proponent of Dutch Calvinist Abraham Kuyper's doctrine of "sphere sovereignty." This seperation of the social order into separate spheres fitted neatly with, and added complexity to, the Southern Presbyterian doctrine of the spirituality of the church.
That's it. Every reference to Van Til in the book.

Is this enough to say Van Til had a surprising and disturbing role in segregationist churches? I'm only suprised because I find Van Til's Kuyperianism to be the opposite of the doctrine of the spirituality of the church.

There is always the blind spot. I'm sure (or I would hope) nowadays, if someone who was a non-racist rock-ribbed conservative was asked to address a pro-segregation church on issues of conservative theology, he would decline, or use the talk as an occasion to address the festering issue. And I'd be very disappointed if he did not. While I in some measure respect a Larry Pratt who will speak to anyone, anywhere on his particular issue (gun rights, in his case) I think I have to admit it does a bit of damage to his issue when the point is brought up by his enemies.

I suppose it is my privilege not to be deeply concerned how Van Til's actions may have given succor to something I consider a social evil that doesn't oppress me personally. And in that sense I should be aware of the blind spot. There are so many other issues on the list Bradley raises that I'm not sure associating Van Til's name with the issue is helpful, especially when the evidence is so thin.

I agree with Bradley and Randy Nabors that all of this needs to be more widely known.

It is tragic that those who DID hold to the virgin birth, the historical resurrection of Christ, and other defining doctrines of Christianity found themselves uniting around those things while putting segregation in a blind spot, and it is tragic that those who rejected those doctrines or their significance were more in tune with addressing such a social evil (though their way of addressing it in many respects left and leaves a great deal to be desired: paying reparations to Angela Davis does not rank high, I think on the cup-of-cold water scale.)

* The R Milton Winter article is on the web, and the portion cited by Slade does not make it clear that what Machen and Van Til sought was "creating popular support for Machen during his trial by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A."

February 15, 2011

Giving some thought to the cultural mandate for a future talk. I wish I had more time to read some of the bigger more recent tomes (Carson, VanDrunen, Crouch, etc) out there trying to make sense of the church and Christians's duty cultural engagement.

So I'm doing some web surfing. At Ref 21, D A Carson is interviewed about his recent book, and I recall that remarked on this interview before
But many of those who speak easily and fluently of redeeming the culture soon focus all their energy shaping fiscal and political policies and the like, and merely assume the gospel. A gospel that is merely assumed, that does no more than perk away in the background while the focus of our attention is on the "redemption" of the culture in which we find ourselves, is lost within a generation or two.
I wondered who these people are.

But my question now is, "what gospel is assumed?" It strikes me that the recent push for an imperative-free gospel that doesn't make any sense to talk about 'living it' or 'obeying it' may lead to the kind of gospel that is much more succeptable to being assumed.

If, as in the "radical two kingdoms" view being fiercely (?) argued recently, the scriptures are to give us the redemptive historical information that leads us to understand the gospel in church, on Sunday, and have nothing more to instruct the church and Christians about righteousness the other six days (that being left to natural law), it would seem I can go out and 'redeem culture' for six days all I want and not have to think too hard* about how Christ's gospel example should inform my efforts in the world of culture. I can just assume that I'm good with the Gospel, because I know I got it right back in church on Sunday.

[*] While I'm not ready to put forward a full thesis I have on the growing vocality and attraction of R2K in recent years, I'll say I think that one motivation is R2K makes the pastor's job much simpler. He isn't a "Minister of the [whole] Word", he's just a Minister of the Gospel. He can tell you about redemptive history and how the OT is all about Jesus, but can't tell you how the OT is instructing you in righteousness. Stellman raises the dilemma (and Horton echoed this in his own historical prolog of his youthful political development) of how hard it is to choose between all the competing calls for justice and equity emanating in Christian circles
What one church member may call “positive change” could be deemed tragic in the mind of another. In the Seattle area where I minister, positively changing the community may take the form of shutting down the Gap because of its oppressive business practices that harm the third world’s poor. My guess is that it’s not this kind of positive change that DeYoung has in mind. The two-kingdom position actually protects the churchgoer from having the minister’s cultural values tyrannically forced upon him.
It also protects the minister from having to think hard about what the just course of action is in a particular situation, and maybe suffering a bit of opprobrium from a churchgoer with a hardened conscience.

February 10, 2011

The sin of taking God's side

Struck last night by Job 13:7-10, where Job replies to his friends that in arguing for God's side, they are lying by telling him stuff he knows all too well
Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf?
    Will you speak deceitfully for him?
Will you show him partiality?
    Will you argue the case for God?
Would it turn out well if he examined you?
    Could you deceive him as you might deceive a mortal?
He would surely call you to account
    if you secretly showed partiality.
That seems astounding to me, and a good warning to anyone doing apologetics that they be careful in arguing for God, that they don't show partiality to God in the argument. The friends say things (initially) that sound right, but are misapplied. Job several times says, I know the things you tell me. But he is not satisfied. He wants there to be an accounting between himself and God, but is not satisfied with God's lawyers who falsely mediate the 'side' of God.

Also interesting is this comes after Zophar's perfectly Gerstnerian answer to Job, that Job is getting less than his sins deserve. How often we answer the problem of evil glibly by telling the world that nobody is good and that we are alive at all is mere grace over what we justly deserve. That may be true, but it can be said 'in partiality', and become a lie.

February 09, 2011

Anthony Bradley asks: Are evangelicals too Republican?

Its a good question.

I'd need a good reason to really think that the majority of evangelicals could vote conscientiously Democratic without engaging some of the moral and ethical issues I was trained in in Presbyterianism, that forms my presbyterian identity, that seem antithetical to principles that animate the Democratic Party, particularly as it is expressive of Progressivism, from which it seems inseparable.

1. The death penalty is biblical and just: John Murray, Principles of Conduct

2. It is not acceptable for Christian workers to engage in strikes. "Slaves, be subject to your masters". If slaves couldn't revolt in Christian ethics, how much less employees. This calls the pro-labor focus of the Democratic party into sharp contention. There may be arguments that would persuade me otherwise, but nobody is making them.

3. a) Legal abortion is a moral horror, and b) those whose consciences don't think this is a moral horror worth legal opposition betray their ill-formed moral consciences. The Democratic Party is not opposed in principle to the slaughter of innocent human life. That should count for something in determining which party one is a member of or votes for.

4. Christians should "put no confidence in princes". The Democratic party seems bent on expanding the scope of government to address society in a totalizing way. Republicans do this too (Bush's compasionate conservatism)

5. Related to 4 is the manifest failure of public education, and Democrat complicity in its failures. Those who support the status quo in education are powerful within the Democratic party. Those who want choice and freedom within education, and understand the humanistic basis for modern public education are not, in general found there.

6. A few others. LGTBBQ rights is one. Willingness to embrace remedies for past discrimination that do not keep with the biblical principle of equal justice under law (not showing partiality in law, even to "the poor man in his dispute")

That raises the issue of third party politics. Christians should certainly be more critical of unchristian Republican tendencies and policies (such as aspects of prosecution of the Iraq war), and may pursue third parties. Difficulties in so doing are 1) mockery for third party involvement as a concern with excessive ideological purity 2) third parties are ineffective in being elected.

If the majority of the issues I mention above were either

a) shown to be definitively unchristian.

b) conceivably and effectively held by some faction of Democrats

it would seem more reasonable to me that being a whole hearted (pro-life, of course) Democrat is a viable option for evangelical Christians who think the Bible should inform their politics in the least.

But these things do not obtain (yet), so Bradley's question, while good for reflection on the way evangelicals can be too uncritical of Repuiblican non-conservative policies, don't do anything in terms of explaining why evangelical Christians might equally be Democrats but for a demographic fluke of origins. There are principial matters at stake. These principial matters, yes, form an ideological grouping and lead to lack of penetration in cultural groupings that are hostile to such principles. But more, then needs to be said about the principles than bemoaning the way in which the ideology is so pervasive and limiting. In many cases, it is unavoidable.

Job 12:17-20
He leads counselors away stripped,
and judges he makes fools.
He looses the bonds of kings
and binds a waistcloth on their hips.
He leads priests away stripped
and overthrows the mighty.
He deprives of speech those who are trusted
and takes away the discernment of the elders.

Jeremiah 18:18
Then they said, "Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words."

January 31, 2011

Obey the gospel

Thomas Manton:

There is not only direction given to us to obey the gospel but a charge and obligation is laid upon us. The gospel is sometimes called 'The counsel of God' (Luke vii 30 'They rejected the counsel of God against themselves.') Sometimes the law of God is called his counsel as it is the result of his wisdom and his law as it is the effect of his legislative will. He would not only direct and instruct the creature by his counsel but oblige him by his authority; "Exhortation or advice serveth to direct or excite one that is free but a decree and law implieth a necessity to obey." So Jerome: "Counsel and precept differ. Precept saith, not only we shall do well to do so but we must do so. Counsel respects friends, a precept subjects. There is a coactive power in laws; God hath not left the creatures to comply with his directions if they please; no, there is a strict charge laid upon them; they must do it at their peril. Laws have a binding force, from the authority of their lawgiver. God giveth us counsel as a friend but commandeth us as a sovereign. Therefore we read much of the 'Obedience of faith' Rom xvi 26 'The gospel was manifested to all nations for the obedience of faith' and Rom i 5 'We have received apostleship for the obedience of faith' among all nations: so Acts vi 7 'And a great company of priests were obedient to the faith' and 2 Cor x 5 'Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ;' and 1 Pet i 22 'Having purified your hearts in obeying the truth through the spirit;' and Acts v 32, 'The Holy Ghost which is given to them that obey' All this is said to show it is not arbitrary or indifferent but we are bound by the authority of this new law.

And so is my blog. Lots of issues trying to get a new hosting setup, but I think I'm ok now.

Antinomianism is much in discussion in the past week, but that's been simmering for a while. I want to go through some of the current discussion in a few posts, and see where the current discussion is, and what is being missed.

Patrick Ramsey summarizes the anti-antinomian key to the WCF's system.

Jason Hood started things off with a bang calling out Tullian Tchividjian for ignoring sanctification as something that requires effort.

Lots of responses, and some rapprochement (but not, I think, from Scott Clark).

Paul's Passing Thoughts has been on the antinomian beat for a while. I think this Paul needs to be a bit more careful, but he is on to something, especially w.r.t. Piper and some others.

My mom pointed to a church once that had this quote
A Christian says: "though I have often failed to obey the law, the deeper problem is why I was ever trying to obey it! Even my effort to obey it is just a way of seeking to be my own savior
I thought this sounded suspiciously overguarded, but I was disappointed to later learn this was from Tim Keller himself.

We need to 'repent' of our good works? Really? I thought God was pleased with me and them.

enough for now though.

November 22, 2010

I have a new domain since blogger stopped using ftp, and am testing this out.

April 01, 2010

Another review of The Law is not of Faith. Shorter, and more irenic, than the Kerux article. Pull quote
Related to the concerns above, TLNF fails to address what version of the covenant of works Sinai replicates. Such a question is not without reason since from the late sixteenth century many Reformed theologians differed on the precise nature of the covenant of works. One only has to compare the British theologians on this issue, particularly the views of Francis Roberts, John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, Patrick Gillespie, and John Ball, to prove that there existed several perspectives on the covenant of works. Did Adam possess the Holy Spirit as most Reformed theologians maintained? Was Adam's faith natural or supernatural? What about Adam's potential reward? Was it heaven or life in Eden? What about Meredith Kline's own unique contributions to this doctrine (e.g., the role of merit)? Did God assist Adam in his obedience, as Burgess argued? It seems to me that the question over the precise nature of the covenant of works needs to be addressed in some detail before one can understand and formulate the so-called republication idea for the simple reason that it makes all the difference in the world if one understands the covenant of works to be based on strict justice apart from grace.
Those are some good questions about the Covenant of Works.

March 26, 2010

Greg Gilbert has a new book out, called What is the Gospel. Looks good. I haven't read it all but I did some keyword searches for my own bugaboos. It is browsable online.

Anyway, Gilbert rightly emphasizes the glories of the consummated kingdom. But he wants to stress that its "establishment" or "consummation" can't happen by human beings. (p. 92-93).
I'm always a little amazed when I see people talk about all these promises ---[of the consummated kingdom]---and then they look up from these promises and say "Okay, let's go make that happen!"

Despite all our best---and genuinely good---efforts to make the world a better place, the kingdom promised in the bible will only come about when King Jesus himself returns to make it happen.

[knowing this is good because] First it protects us from wrong an ultimately deceiving optimism about what we will be able to accomplish in this fallen world. Christians will certainly be able to bring about some changes in society. It's happened before in history, and I have no doubt that it is happening in places even now and will happen again in the future.

The biblical story line forces us to recognize that until Christ returns, our social and cultural victories will always be tenuous, never permanent. Christians will never bring about the Kingdom of God. Only God himself will do that. The heavenly Jerusalem comes down from heaven. It is not built from the ground up. [emphasis his]
Ok, fair enough. I wonder though how many people he encounters who want to make "resurrected life in heaven" happen now. But note for now the centrality of geographic location for his argument. Because he goes on shortly thereafter to tell us about what the life of a citizen of the kingdom is (pp. 96-98).
Until Christ returns, we his people continue to live in this sinful age, and our King calls us to live a life worthy of the kingdom to which he called us, to "shine like stars" in a crooked and depraved generation. (Phil. 2.15)

The bible tells us that in this age, the life of the kingdom is worked out primarily in the church. Did you ever think about that? The church is where God's kingdom is made visible in this age. Look at Ephesians 3:10-11
[God's] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The church is the arena in which God has chosen, above all, to showcase his wisdom and the glory of the gospel. As many have put it before, the church is the outpost of God's kingdom in the world. It is not correct to say that the church is the kingdom of God. As we have seen, there's much more to the kingdom than that. But it is right to say that the church is where we see the kingdom of God manifested in this age.

Do you want to see what the kingdom of God looks like, at least before it's made perfect? Do you want to see the life of the kingdom lives out in this age? Look at the church. That's where God's wisdom is displayed, where people who were formerly alienated are reconciled and united because of Jesus, and where God's Holy Spirit is at work remaking and rebuilding human lives. Its where God's people learn to love one another, to bear one another's burdens and sorrows, to weep together and rejoice together, and to hold one another accountable.
I note that he reminds us that we presently “shine like stars”. Ephesians of course says we are “seated in heavenly places”, and perhaps that is how it is that now the wisdom of God is made known to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. Not from the earth! But because we as citizens are regarded as up there too.

Both of those texts place us, human beings, somehow “up there” in heaven. So I’m not sure that saying "the kingdom comes down from heaven, therefore, we can’t expect the citizens of the kingdom to actually be doing any of the work to bring it to bear on earth" works. Since the bible says we’re not, properly speaking, working from the earth anymore.

Gilbert admits this of the 'human efforts', imperfect even, of the people of God loving each other, sharing their joys, etc. But would he have to also say that all those efforts and victories in the church are "tenuous" and "impermanent"? I suppose he could. But then when the citizens of the kingdom also, say, oppose slavery or abortion through a manifold number of efforts, is that not ALSO a showing of the wisdom of god to the rulers in the heavenlies?

Gilbert is originally surprised that anyone would look at the promises of the consummated kingdom and say "lets make that happen". But he is then saying that if you want to go look at the kingdom that includes humans reconciled to each other, you can look at the church. I don't see those two things as so far apart.

I thought this comment was interesting
To the world, Christians are threatening, and it has always been that ways. In the days of the early Church, the declaration 'Jesus is lord' was a seditious and blasphemous rejection of the emperor's authority and they killed Christians for saying it. Today the declaration 'Jesus is lord' is an intolerant and bigoted rejection of pluralism, and the world reviles us for it
It almost seems like Gilbert agrees with the seditious nature of the declaration in the early church. Is he arguing likewise for the "intolerant and bigoted" perception of the claim as accurate as well?

March 24, 2010

From Lillback's The Binding of God, p 105
men will make errors in their attempts to judge if someone is elect or not. But God’s word or law is absolutely reliable. If the law declares that God’s people belong to him, one must receive it as the truth, until the law shows that they do not belong to him as in the case of an adult unbeliever from a Christian family

February 09, 2010

Robert Letham writes in The Westminster Assembly (pp. 225-226)
In Protestant scholasticism, long entrenched by the time of Westminster, condescensio was used for God's accommodation of himself to human ways of knowing in order to reveal himself. This was closely related to gratia Dei (the grace of God), the goodness and undeserved favor of God toward man, and to grattia communis (common grace), his nonsaving, universal grace, by which, in his goodness, he lavishes favor on all creation in the blessings of physical sustenance and moral influence for the good [cites Muller's Dictionary]. These are the clearest senses of the terms for the Assembly, for they saw grace as fully compatible with law, not offsetting or limiting it, as in the late medieval notions of congruent and condign grace [sic?].
Did he mean 'merit' in that last bit?

January 28, 2010

Turretin says of the Mosaic covenant
The law is not administered without the gospel, nor is the gospel without the law. So that it is as it were a legal-gospel and an evangelical-law; a gospel full of obedience and a law full of faith
And ten thousands of Lutheran's head's asploded.

January 25, 2010

I was glad to note Dr Ryken taking Romans 8:4 in the sense of Spirit-led sanctification.

Previously I had only heard of an Alliance pastor taking it in the sense of justification
so that the [righteous] requirement of the law might be fulfilled in US. Fulfilled in Full. God did not indulgently decide to require less than the law righteously required. Jesus Christ through his active and passive obedience completely fulfilled all the laws requirements. Who are we? We are those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Verse 15 we are those who are not given a spirit of Slavery....
That exegesis seems strained.

It makes the reference to "requirement" of the law 1) into "requirements", 2) into something that is only true by imputation. But imputation language is almost never indicated by "In". The law is fulfilled IN us by imputation? How is that supposed to work?

It also moves from Paul noting the fulfillment of the law's "righteous requirements" to nothing other than an identification of those who receive that imputed righteousness.

But I don't think that's how Romans 8:4 works,. The requirement of the law is fulfilled IN us, as we live out our lives, insofar as the Spirit leads the Christian in a righteous walk. Paul introduces the rest of Romans 8, all about the Spirit's guidance, how now WE can please God.

If we're going to start talking about an "alien righteousness" but one that is "in" us, I'm not sure what language means anymore.

Fortunately Ryken demonstrated a more excellent way.

January 19, 2010

"One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - harmonizations and unified readings of Genesis 1 and 2 and angelic divine courts and truth claims that only come from harmonized readings, and objective transcultural truth and inerrancy and an unquestionably divine Jesus to tell us about it. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this claim that its totally ok to claim to be Daniel and 'predict' the future when you're not and aren't is true. Well, it strikes me that that Daniel is a pretty poor prophet. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a storybook which licks your real book hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the storybook. I'm on inerrancy's side even if there are errors. I'm going to live as like a signer of the CSBI as I can even if the CBSI isn't coherent or if it based on outmoded views of truth. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and sitting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for inerrancy. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the Bible's as dull a book as you say."

January 12, 2010

I had put a draft of this quote on blogger, but never published it (not sure why).

Now, reading the Kerux review, I see more about Owen's perspective here. As John Owen did not agree with the Reformed and Calvinian consensus on the nature of the Mosaic covenant as an administration of the covenant of grace, it stands to reason that he would not think it communicated grace very well.

On the "poverty of types" from his Hebrews commentary
Such was the poverty of the types that no one of them could so much as shadow out or represent all that advantage which we really enjoy and therefore they were multiplied and the work distributed amongst them which they were to represent. This made them a yoke and that grievous and burdensome. The way of teaching in them and by them was hard and obscure as well as their observation was difficult. It was a hard thing for them to learn the love grace and mind of God by them God revealed himself in them by many parts and pieces according as they were capable to receive impression from and make representation of divine wisdom, goodness, and grace; whence our apostle says that the law had but a shadow and not the image itself of things. It had some scattered shades which the great limner had laid the foundation of symmetry in but so as to be discernible only unto his own infinite wisdom. A perfect image wherein all the parts should exactly answer unto one another and so plainly represent the thing intended, that it had not. Now it was a work beyond their wisdom, out of the scattered pieces and parts of revelation, especially being implated upon carnal things, to gather up the whole of the grace and good-will of God
Owen seems overly hard on how "difficult" it would be to se the grace of God in the OT. But so would argue a Horton or a T. David Gordon.

Still reading the Kerux review of The Law is not of Faith

It seems pretty clear to me that the Kerux review guys are getting the "system of doctrine" of the WCF right. It also seems to me that, with the way the Marrow controversy fell out, that the WCF doesn't contain enough to guard against all forms of legalism.

I'm sympathetic in one respect to the Fesko/Estelle/Gordon/Kline guys. I think Romans makes it rather clear that Torah ends up putting Israel back in a Adamic situation, and she falls just as hard. But if they're right, then the WCF is REALLY wrong to say, for instance, that the prelude to the decalogue is all about the substance of the covenant of Grace.

Maybe what the Confession is doing is showing how the elect should be 'hearing' the law in such a way that they understand it rightly from a New Covenant perspective. Kinda like how everyone is now noticing that the New Testament writers are taking stuff from the OT and radically reinterpreting it in the light of Christ, the WCF is doing the same. While it may have seemed like a subservient covenant in its historical context now we need to go back and look at it again. And Paul is saying that Israel missed the point at the time.

I also think that FV and Klineanism may be two reactions to the same data.

Kline looks at Moses and the WCF and says "look how much analogy there is between the Mosaic and Adamic situations. We really need to be careful and distinguish them both more sharply from the Covenant of Grace"

FV looks at the same, and says "well, I want to be faithful to the fact that the WCF sees the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of grace too. I'll deal with the similarity by emphasizing some of the *gracious* continuity between the Adamic and Mosaic covenant." All that stuff at the start of the Kerux article about anti-pelagianism applies in the Adamic situation too. "What do you have that you did not already receive". Or James Jordan noting that actually, Adam has a 'lack' in dealing with the serpent. He needs to pray, like Augustine "give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt".

In either case, the WCF is up for some revision, it would seem.

December 13, 2009

I guess controversy is occasionally good because sometimes better theology comes out of it. Peter Leithart asked that his views on covenant theology and baptism be examined by his presbytery, and while not agreeing in the whole, they found him to be within the bounds of the Westminster Confessional standards. But some thought that unacceptable and complained to a the few men delegated to be on the Standing Judicial Commission, who made decision that the presbytery erred in finding him acceptable.

Leithart has published some responses to the SJC's decision, one of which is this one on Baptismal Efficacy. Before getting into the details that interest me, I'll note that Peter seems to be complaining that the SJC only looked at his basic writings, and ignored clarifications and other statements that he made to the exonerating presbytery. Those procedural matters are interesting and as an uninitiated person look like they should be somewhat determinative.

The most interesting bit to me is Leithart's referenes to circumcision and the overall argument of Romans. I'm already uncomfortable with what I have long cosidered a "stolen base" in Reformed polemics about baptismal efficay, which usually goes like this
1. Paul says we are united to Christ by Baptism.

2. This can't mean that real water baptism united people to Christ.

3. Because Paul said that external circumcision was worthless.
I never am comfortable with this because I don't think we have enough evidence, and instead have counter evidence, that Paul would have ever regarded his Christian Baptism as he said he regaded his ethnic Jewish heritage, Pharisaism, or circumcision.

Circumcision may be worthless to Paul, but it begs the question to assume that established Paul's general thoughts on sacramental actions. It may, but more needs to be argued.

Leithart instead first points to actually how surprisingly (because of our rhetoric?) and highly Paul values circumcision within Romans itself.
For Paul, however, this does not mean that fleshly circumcision is meaningless or useless, or that those who received fleshly circumcision received nothing. As Paul’s argument continues into chapter 3, he asks “What advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?” (v. 1). Clearly, he is speaking of what he has just described as Jews and circumcision according to flesh; the advantage of those who are circumcised by the Spirit is obvious. Given Paul’s distinction between fleshly and Spiritual circumcision, we might expect him to answer his question with “Fleshly circumcision gives no advantage.” That is not what Paul says, however. “Great in every respect” (v. 2). Here, he lists only one of the great advantages of fleshly Israel – “they were entrusted with the oracles of God” (v. 2).
This is important data, as it shows Paul describing advantages (benefits? blessings?) that come from even an external rite. By mere application of a rite, the recipient is entrusted with the written scriptures.

That might seem like small potatoes, but for Paul it is the first (or chief) thing on his mind. The other things come rather later in the text though, in Romans 9
When Paul picks up the argument later in Romans, however, he expands on the advantage of fleshly Israel: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (9:3-5).

Fleshly Israel – the “visible church” of the Old Testament – received great blessings. They were the son(s) of Yahweh, had the glory of Yahweh dwelling in their midst, received the covenants and promises, had a law that was the envy of the nations, was privileged with the temple service and the great heritage of the patriarchs. Above all, they were the people of Jesus, the Christ, the king of all things. When God blessed forever became flesh, He became Jewish flesh. These are blessings enjoyed by the “manifest” or “external” Jew, and they are considerable.
So this set my gears a working. Unlike the WCF which restricts "adoption" to be a benefit 'only enjoyed by the justified' (the SJC is keen to point out), Paul can speak more broadly of adoption as applying to those even outside of Christ, but given such an advantage by the merely 'fleshly' 'external' rite of circumcision. Shouldn't baptism be even more advantageous, by eminence?

John Murray (rightly, I think) says that this kind of adoption should be distinguished from 'that spoken of as the apex of New Testament privilege' and distinguished it by noting it was (Galatians 4) under tutelary governance.

But still, its a clear example of one term used equivocally, but analogically to the other meaning, which is just the thing that faces such sharp opposition.

What I find particularly illuminating is how allowing such analogical thinking, and noting that 'fleshly Israel', far from being worthlessness, is regarded in Romans 11 as possessing great gifts and even a 'calling'.

I've long found it confusing that reformed teaching on election doesn't have a simpler answer for what is going on in Romans 11: 28-32. Election is supposed to be a doctrine that comforts: those God has chosen, elected, are elected in his sovereign love for them, and they are not able to fall away. Paul practically argues the same way about unbelieving Israel, which seems to go on generation after generation with nothing more than the remnant ever being saved.

Having heard today two excellent sermons on Romans 8, emphasizing the security we have because of God being for us I wonder almost how God isn't "for" everyone in some sense. If unbelieving Israel, can by circumcision, "for the father's sake" be beloved with respect to election we have to "allow" election two senses (or better, three, since shouldn't certainly the sense of the visible church's 'belovedness' be even greater?).

But there has to be a general overall view of election that both senses fit in analogically. Paul doesn't make a specific claim about the way election works for unbelieving Israel, he just appeals principally to a fact that obtains in Christian election as well "The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable".

It seems to me the same Paul that is encouraged that if God is for us, who can be against us, holds the same hope for unbelieving Jews: since God is somehow for them, even in their unbelief, outside of Christ, who could be against them, and how could they not reach God's intended terminus within Christ?

De script shun




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