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?

October 11, 2009

I like this. (from the deleted scene)
MS. POMEROY And when the other rabbits hear of Fiver's vision, do they believe him?
It could be the death of an entire way of
life, the end of an era.

Why should we care?

Because the rabbits are us, Donnie.

Why should I mourn for a rabbit like it
was a human?

Is the death of one species less tragic
than another?

Of course. A rabbit is not like us. It
has no history books... it has no
knowledge of sorrow or regret. I like
bunnies and all. They're cute... and
they're horny. And if you're cute and
horny... then you're probably happy that
you don't know who you are... or why
you're even alive. But the only thing I've
known rabbits to do is have sex as many
times as possible before they die.
There's no point in crying for a dead
rabbit... who never feared death to begin

You're wrong.
You're wrong about these rabbits. These
rabbits can talk. They are the product of
the authors imagination. And he cares for
them. So we care for them too. We care
that their home has been destroyed... and
that their lives are in danger. Otherwise
...we've missed the point.
I think Gretchen has the better of the argument.

September 09, 2009

The Lutherans say
we reject and condemn the following manner
of speaking...that no one has ever been saved without good works; or that it is impossible to be saved without good works.
What say the Reformed?

August 28, 2009

So I wanted to see what was out on the Internet on the topic of a Christus Victor view of atonement as it had relation to a view of restorative, rather than retributive justice. I came across, appropriately enough this article at Christus Victor Ministries. This article is by one Grey Boyd, who I was dismayed to learn, is some kind of open theist. Oh well, lets bracket that off. I think Boyd is a fairly able defender of a "different" model of atonement. But I find some things a bit odd. The article is all pretty much ok (I have some quibbles, or areas where I think he goes off the rails a bit; but I don't disagree that Christus Victor is an important theme in Jesus' work and life and self-sacrificial death.

Then Boyd discusses "Jesus [sic] Substitutionary Death"
The Christus Victor model affirms that Jesus died as our substitute, bore our sin and guilt, was sacrificed for our forgiveness and was punished by the Father in our place (e.g Isa 53:4-5, 10; Rom 3:23-25; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 2:17; 9:26; I Jn 2:2). But unlike the common substitutionary view espoused by many today, the Christus Victor view can affirm these important truths while avoiding a number of paradoxes that accompany the common substitutionary view — that is, without supposing that our individual sins, guilt and just punishment were somehow literally transferred onto Jesus and without supposing that Jesus had to literally placate the Father’s wrath.
That sounds fine, if it can work. "punished by the father in our place" but somehow not involving the transfer of just punishment from us to Jesus
In the Christus Victor view, Jesus died as our substitute and bore our sin and guilt by voluntarily experiencing the full force of the rebel kingdom we have all allowed to reign on the earth. To save us, he experienced the full consequences of sin that we otherwise would have experienced. In so doing, he broke open the gates of hell, destroyed the power of sin, erased the law that stood against us, and thereby freed us to receive the Holy Spirit and walk in right relatedness with God.
Ok. In an important sense this is true. Jesus doesn't die in fire that came down from heaven. He dies at the hand of lawless men. A "consequence" of our sin is death [ah, but WHY?] and Jesus experienced it on our behalf.
Along the same lines, in the Christus Victor view, Jesus was afflicted by the Father not in the sense that the Father’s rage burned directly toward his Son, but in the sense that God allowed evil agents to have their way with him for a greater good. This is how God’s wrath was usually expressed toward Israel in the Old Testament (e.g. Jud 2:11-19; Isa 10:5-6). It’s just that with Jesus, the greater good was not to teach Jesus obedience, as it usually was with Israel in the Old Testament. Instead, God the Son bore the Father’s wrath, expressed through the powers, for the greater good of demonstrating God’s righteousness against the powers and sin (Rom 3:25) while defeating the powers and setting humans free from their oppression. (17)
This is where the argument becomes a bit interesting, but also confused. Didn't Boyd say earlier that Jesus was punished by the Father in our place?

Here are some questions I want to sort out:

1. Is it anyone's view that the "Father's rage burned directly"?
a. Is the problem "rage"? (a term that seems to express passionate overcoming emotion?
b. Is the problem "directly"? In orthodoxy I think one could argue that God's wrath expressed towards Jesus is a bit "indirect". Its only at Jesus (who was sinless), because God is directing it at the transferred guilt and sin (which Boyd denied) that Jesus is now judicially responsible for (why? In my view, because he is the representative messiah)

2. It seems like Boyd engages in "slight of hand". What he opposes is direct rage towards the son. What he affirms is "the Father's wrath" and "borne" (directly? or not?) but it's for a purpose. ("the greater good"). This seems to come up in Wright/Chalke's caricature of penal substitution. Perhaps extracted from every other part of the Christian narrative, it takes on the nature of cosmic child abuse, but even if not, nobody says the punishing wrath of God was poured out for no good purpose!

3. The biblical citations are odd. Judges 2:11-19.
They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
Ok, this apparently isn't God's "rage" (lets just say anger, ok?) burning directly against Israel. Because God has a purposes in it of getting the people to cry out (and in his compassion, saving them, even though they were ingrates and never changed). But when God allows evil agents to have their way with you, this IS God's direct wrath for your sin. Yes, he has a great purpose for it. And if you don't want to turn to him for salvation, he leaves you in it, and it leads to death.

Further, this was a stipulated punishment from God ("as he had sworn to them").

4. What strikes me as very odd now about this is that Boyd is some kind of open theist. If there is one thing compelling about open theism, is it takes as literally and seriously all the language in the bible about God changing his mind and repenting and living a "risky" life. But apparently, God's wrath isn't "real" to Boyd. Its not really wrath or anger since there is a good purpose to it. (as if anyone seriously disagreed?)

So so far, though the Penal Substiutionary model may suffer from criticisms, I'm not very impressed with the attempt to find a different model of justice to account for all the biblical data.

Justin Taylor's blog posted comments from Carson and Gilbert to the topic of differing conceptions of "the plight" that Christianity is the answer to. For Carson and Gilbert, Wright and others have been too influential on young evangelicals to get them to talk about the brokenness of the world and the powers of hatred, but not enough about the Wrath of God as that which we need saving from.

For Carson and Gilbert, it seems to me that they take for granted that their understanding of 'justice' is the only valid operable one. Thus when Wright, et al, speak of God dealing with sinful humanity righteously without sufficiently highlighting the penal substitution of Christ for the wrath justly deserved, they are accused of simplifying or undercutting the honor and justice of God, downplaying his just wrath.

But is the "retributive justice" of God the only, or even most important model of justice? If it were, perhaps Carson and others would be right: God cannot show "justice" by forgiving people with nobody paying a penalty, he has to make someone pay for their crimes. But there are other models of justice, such as "restorative justice", where the issue, instead of being "does everyone receive their desserts" is something like, "does everyone get what they need". I want to explore some kind of alternate approach and 1) see if that's at the root of the disagreement 2) see if any alternative approaches to defining "justice" are helpful/more biblical.

I've been struck in a recent Sunday School class of the importance of the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. Too often its seems "simpler" to assume God is made up of parts, where his 'justice' part has certain desires and needs and his 'mercy' part has other desires. Thomas Boston (IIRC) even puts these two attributes of God in dialogue where the one pleads one thing and the other pleads something else. [citation needed] The orthodox doctrine is that there is no real distinction between the mercy and justice of God. They are attributes of the one God. His justice is merciful, and his mercy is just.

Is there an insoluble paradox? Probably. One big one seems to always be, if God is only forgives our sins because someone else pays the penalty, how is that actually merciful or forgiving? I forgive you the $5 you stole, but I don't take $5 from someone else. I'm just out $5. We think of mercy as the opposite of justice: we release the Locherbie bomber even though no full payment has been done for his crime, because if full restitution WAS made, then it wouldn't be "mercy" to release him, it would be justice.

Is God faithful and just to forgive us our sins only because a penalty has been paid by someone else, or is God just to forgive our sins because we are his charges/creatures/children, and we need his saving help?

It would seem there is room for more reflection. I've been intrigued for a while by this article by J I Packer on penal substitution and atonement, because Packer starts off criticizing the tradition
The almost mesmeric effect of Socinus’ critique on Reformed scholastics in particular was on the whole unhappy. It forced them to develop rational strength in stating and connecting up the various parts of their position, which was good, but it also led them to fight back on the challenger’s own ground, using the Socinian technique of arguing a priori about God as if he were a man — to be precise, a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century monarch, head of both the legislature and the judiciary in his own realm but bound nonetheless to respect existing law and judicial practice at every point. So the God of Calvary came to he presented in a whole series of expositions right down to that of Louis Berkhof (1938) as successfully avoiding all the moral and legal lapses which Socinus claimed to find in the Reformation view. But these demonstrations, however skilfully done (and demonstrators like Francis Turretin and Hodge, to name but two, were very skillful indeed), had builtin weaknesses. Their stance was defensive rather than declaratory, analytical and apologetic rather than doxological and kerygmatic. They made the word of the cross sound more like a conundrum than a confession of faith — more like a puzzle, we might say, than a gospel. What was happening? Just this: that in trying to beat Socinian rationalism at its own game, Reformed theologians were conceding the Socinian assumption that every aspect of God’s work of reconciliation will be exhaustively explicable in terms of a natural theology of divine government, drawn from the world of contemporary legal and political thought. Thus, in their zeal to show themselves rational, they became rationalistic
In the next 2(?) posts I'd like to first examine someone defending a purely "christus victor" view of atonement, and then look more at another critic of Wright.

August 17, 2009

I liked his sermon 2 Sunday's ago, on Hebrews 11:

"Faith attaches us to the infinte resources of the power of God. In each instance [in Hebrews 11:29-31] there is an obstacle; a call of faith; and divine intervention"

"Faith is something you live. Faith is such a deep belief in the presence and power and grace of God that I will do what he commands even when it doesn't make sense to me. That's faith. And its as you follow God's commands that you the experience the resources of his power. You don't experience that power when you're shrinking back and refusing to do what he's called you to do. You don't experience that power when you take life into you own hands and step outside of the boundaries of his commands.

Think about this, if Israel had panicked, if they waved the white flag and headed back toward Egypt they never would have experienced this moment of awesome redemption.

You attach yourself to that power...are you hearing me? by careful, obedient faith."

Why is a "public option" the only way to "keep insurance companies honest"?

Whenever oil prices are high, the feds launch yet another investigation into whether the oil industry is fixing prices. They always find no evidence of this.

If that's sufficient to determine the oil companies are "honest", why not insurance?

Or should we have a "public option" for oil, where the government sells some oil at the "correct market price" instead of what it gets in the actual market. I think Chavez tried that.

August 13, 2009

Explain how this works, somebody (there's issues with the numbers quoted, but lets just assume that this is right
Right now, if we paid a family — if a family care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they are taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance.

But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that's $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, immediately, the surgeon is reimbursed. So why not make sure that we are also reimbursing the care that prevents the amputation? Right? That will save us money.
Is Obama saying the problem is we reimburse the surgery a great deal of money, but we don't reimburse the regular care enough, so we end up with people who miss the prevention care, and end up with amputations. (What percent of diabetes patients need amputations, I wonder).

So what's Obama's solution? Pay the prevention care people more? How much more? 20K per patient? Per year? how will that SAVE money exactly?

And what about this "monitors whether they are taking their medications in a timely fashion"

So previously on ER, the doctor would send you home and say "hey, you need to take insulin in a timely manner" and be paid a small amount. So Obama wants the doctor to monitor the insulin shots? And he'll be paid more? So now the patient comes in once a week and gets paid $1000 for his time and he says "did you take your insulin at the right time? You should do that". Again how does that save money?

I think Obama should stop talking about this issue. Get Orszag up there, and I'd probably be more convinced.

August 04, 2009

Calvin (Institutes 3.20.45) wants us to know that we should not ask God for forgiveness unless we ourselves forgive.

"Wherefore, we are not to ask the forgiveness of our sins from God, unless we forgive the offenses of all who are or have been injurious to us. If we retain any hatred in our minds, if we meditate revenge, and devise the means of hurting; nay, if we do not return to a good understanding with our enemies, perform every kind of friendly office, and endeavour to effect a reconciliation with them, we by this petition beseech God not to grant us forgiveness. For we ask him to do to us as we do to others. This is the same as asking him not to do unless we do also. What, then, do such persons obtain by this petition but a heavier judgment?"

He also says that of course, our forgiving others is not a condition of the forgiveness, but that when we are conscious of having forgiven, the prayer becomes a SIGN to us that ASSURES us that we ourselves are forgiven.

"but by the use of this expression the Lord has been pleased partly to solace the weakness of our faith, using it as a sign to assure us that our sins are as certainly forgiven as we are certainly conscious of having forgiven others, when our mind is completely purged from all envy, hatred, and malice; and partly using as a badge by which he excludes from the number of his children all who, prone to revenge and reluctant to forgive, obstinately keep up their enmity, cherishing against others that indignation which they deprecate from themselves; so that they should not venture to invoke him as a Father. "

Interesting use of "badge" language there from Calvin.

July 31, 2009


Good stuff

Paul Helm writes
I think we need to pause for a moment or two on this claimed identity between righteousness and covenant faithfulness. It means, for one thing, that there is no other way that God could express his righteousness than by way of covenant faithfulness. Why? Because the one is the other. So in order to be righteous God must establish a covenant and be faithful to it. God cannot do other than he has in fact done. This would be seem to be, shall we say, rather restrictive? Where is God’s freedom in grace? In his wisdom, could he have seen fit not to establish a covenant? If so, would he nonetheless be righteous?

In making a covenant (with Abraham, say) is God acting righteously? Strictly, not according to Bishop Wright. He is only acting righteously in keeping his covenant, in being faithful to it. Weird. For Wright seems to be implying that God’s making a covenant could be an act of whimsy, caprice, sheer arbitrariness, coin-tossing, or whatever, but that everything changes when it comes to keeping the covenant. Can that be right?
I know everybody says this, but I'm not sure Helm is hearing Wright rightly.

God is "not guilty" too, but it would be very odd for us to go around proclaiming the "not guilty" status of God. Because the term "not guilty", while it has a meaning, also has a context as something you say at the end of a trial.

So it seems to be missing the point to argue that Wright can't be right because "couldn't God have been righteous without making a covenant"

Yes and no. He's morally perfect, but what Wright is claiming, as a broad scriptural hermeneutical matter, is whenever the Jews said "God, you sure are righteous" they were saying God kept covenant. And they weren't trying to say more.

That may be wrong, but it needs to be addressed in a different way.

If the Bible kept telling us God was "not guilty" we'd rightly ask what such a peculiar construct meant, and decide that God must be on trial or something.

We too easily say that "righteousness" is nothing other than moral perfection, without noting its contextual character as having to do with delivering justice.

De script shun




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