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Archive for June, 2008

For those who might be interested (and I’m not sure that it is all that many), I am doing a survey of Reformed Orthodoxy’s implementation of future justification(s) over at my own blog. So far I have Diodati and Pictet, both ministers associated with Geneva, posted. I’ll be adding selections from John Preston, James Ussher, Gataker-Gouge-and Downame’s Annotations, Edward Polhill, and perhaps Turretin and Witsius.

Essentially these authors fall into two positions.

The first asserts that there are two distinct types of justification: one justification of the sinner as sinner, in which he receives Christ by faith alone, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to him, thus justifying him before God, and the other as the “justification of the righteous man” in which he is justified by works, though judged by a gracious standard, that of the evangelical law.

The second position asserts that the apostle James’ use of “works” is a synonym for “working faith,” and that working faith displays the truth of one’s faith. Thus all types of justification are one and the same: by a working faith.

These positions are an attempt to harmonize Paul and James, as well as explain how we will be judged on the last day. Their existence is important for current controversies, but also, perhaps more importantly,  for opening up ecumenical dialog between traditions that too often misunderstand one another on a fundamental point of religion.

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While thinking about Tim’s latest post, the belligerent angel on my left shoulder gave me a few ideas. Obviously the best case for theological discussion is for both sides to enter into conversation with the possibility of being wrong, and thus with something of an open mind and a kind tongue. This is ideal. I think it was Wolterstorff who said that it is only a discussion if you accept the possibility of being changed.

However, if this is too much to ask, the goal of catholicity can also be accomplished by challenging the other party to actually do his homework, read carefully, and get it right. This will actually work with some TRs because they pride themselves on being the “real deal.” So, simply show them all of the guys whom they profess allegiance to saying crazy stuff that doesn’t fit the paradigm.

Then challenge them to figure out why the guy said what he did. What questions was he seeking to answer? What paradigm was he working in? Who were his sources?

That’s really how you understand a thinker. If you find more than one or two weirds that don’t fit the model, then you need to change the model. This isn’t hip and trendy catholicity talk here. This is just basic academic advice.

Thankfully, we have a strong history with diverse thinkers upon which we can rely.

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Pop-Protestantism

Does anyone else here ever try to deal with popular Protestantism? By that term I mean the broad, somewhat informal coalition of Baptists, Presbyterians, and some Lutherans who think such things as that (1) the Reformation is reducible to “the Five Solas,” (2) Calvinism is reducible to “the Five Points,” (3) the Gospel is reducible to a scientific explanation of the mechanics of faith and works in justification, and (4) the purpose of being Reformed is to defend all these reductionized things and to rail continuously against all the “compromise” outside the camp.

I confess to being like a moth drawn to a flame in terms of popular Protestantism, and particularly toward trying to bring some clarity into their very muddled understanding of apologetics. Alas, very rarely does anything truly constructive occur. If you question these guys with scholarship, they typically claim you are an arrogant jerk or a kid who’s in out of his depth or that you’re simply babbling nonsense that has no relevance to “Truth.” If you question their exegetical methods, they claim you don’t like “Truth” and fear engaging “the plain meaning” of Scripture. If you question their interpretation of the Reformation, they accuse you of wanting to overthrow the Gospel and make eyes at Romanist idolators. If you question their unreflective commitment to Cartesian foundationalism, they blast you for being a “postmodern relativist,” or worse.

Asinine, yes. A waste of time and energy? So it seems. And yet…..these are brothers in Christ, for whom He shed His blood and to whom we are bound in covenant. Are they to be ignored and vilified and cast out of the project of Evangelical catholicity? Are they to be repudiated on the grounds that they excommunicate themselves from everyone else? I’m really floundering here as to how to deal with these brothers. Anyone else have the same problems and have any words of wisdom?

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Gaffin on Enns

Richard Gaffin has posted a critique of Pete Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation, as well as Enns’ overall methodology. While many of my friends are Enns’ supporters, and while Gaffin has perhaps not been as friendly to some of my friends (and their friends), I still think his criticisms are right on. You can read Dr. Gaffin’s paper here.

My concerns with Enns’ work had to do with his use of ANE materials to contextualize the Bible, his use of myth, and his use of the “Incarnational analogy.” In short, 1) I think the Bible provides its own context, specifically that of the Temple. 2) Myth and history are not incompatible, and both may or may not match up with “fact.” In the Bible’s case, whatever the genre, it always does. Weird stuff can really happen. If you had an ancient camera, then yes, you could have taken the sea monsters’ picture. 3) The Incarnational Analogy is limited in usefulness, and cannot really be pressed to prove a particular view of inerrancy.

Gaffin has his own critiques, but I found three statements to be very helpful. (more…)

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I just listened to Dr. William Barker’s talk on the Reformation and Puritan backgrounds to the Westminster Assembly on the Sacraments which he gave at the PCA GA colloquium on the efficacy of the sacraments .  Since this is one of those things I actually kind of know something about, I thought I’d make a few comments.

Let me say at the outset that I thought Dr. Barker did a fine job addressing an extremely extensive topic and highlighting the important features for discussion in about 30 minutes.  How anyone could condense such a huge subject into the length of a sitcom is beyond me.  It certainly takes the skill of an experienced orator to perform.  Also, I thought the concluding few minutes of Dr. Barker’s talk were just excellent.  If for no other reason than his concluding remarks alone, I commend his brief talk to all.

There are few historical points, however, which I feel constrained to make in response: one minor, and a couple which I think are pretty important. (more…)

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I have a question for the contributors and anyone else wanting to weigh in.

Let’s say gay marriage becomes permanently endorsed by more states and/or the whole U.S.  What should the Church’s official response be?

 Our offenses against marriage have already degraded the institution with the introduction of no-fault divorce (in some states) and the legitimization of bastardy.  Mariage is no longer widely considered to be a sacred  and inviolable bond.  Fatherhood and male headship are dishonored, and being a stay-at-home mother viewed with contempt. 

For secular government to take upon itself the prerogative to change the definition of marriage is the last straw. 

Therefore, I propose that the Church convene a disciplinary  regional council (in the United States and Canada) for the following purposes:

1)  To declare civil marriages performed after a certain date (i.e., after gay marriage came into effect) unlawful (contrary to natural and ecclesiastical law), and therefore null and void in the eyes of God.

2) To decree that no persons civilly “married” after said date are to be admitted to church membership and/or communion.

3) To decree that all such persons may be admitted to membership and communion only after their unions have been blessed by a minister of the Gospel.

Well, dear contributors, what do you think about the idea and possibility of such a Church assembly? 

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I’ve been regaining my former appreciation for the puritans somewhat lately.  It seems that the natural course of things when we undergo a paradigm shift is that we tend to look upon our previous views and those who hold them with disdain.  This in effect caricatures our perception of reality and of people.  I think that something like this happened to me when I underwent a shift from what is often described as a more “puritannical” understanding of Christianity to a more sacramental one.  Thus, I went through a stage when I didn’t like the puritans very much at all.  They were to me just too dry and bland.  Perhaps reading so much Nevin had something to do with this.  (Alhough, his problem was more with ninteteenth century revivalism–which he unfortunately labelled puritanism–than with the seventeenth and eitheenth century puritans.  See, for instance, his glowing estimation of men such Edwards, Whitfield, and Baxter in the “Anxious Bench,” as well as his looking to men such a John Owen for support in the “Mystical Presence.”)  

However, as time passes and we have time for more self-conscious and objective reflection (if we are the reflective type), we can tend to become a bit more balanced in our thinking.  This is what I think has happened with me over the past year or so in my estimation of the Puritans (and Reformed Christianity in general, which I feel myself more confirmed in now than ever).  While I still see in them some things I’d like to leave behind, I think there is much in them to appreciate and admire, especially if one is willing to read and understand them on their own terms and not buy into many of the common misrepresentations.

So, along those lines, I have decided to offer up some exerpts from Stephen Charnock’s reflections on the goodness of God in instituting the Lord’s Supper, from volume two of his Existence and Attributes of God (Baker, 2000).  I’ve ommitted Scripture references in order to save some time.  (I find few things more tedious than transcribing lengthy quotations from books.) (more…)

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