March 27, 2004

The discussion on Rabbi Saul about baptism is discouraging to all parties, apparently.
Rick Phillips asked me to clarify my initially misspoken beliefs about Calvinist views of the seed of infant faith as it relates to the benefits of baptism being communicated to them. I wrote:

1. Children, even infants, have a disposition towards the paradigmatic trust toward persons.

2. In Baptism, they meet the person of Christ.

3. So children baptized may be considered to have an attitude of dependence toward Christ, that if they persevere in, is saving.

I did not mean to say that because all human infants are trusting that therefore all are saved. I'm saying all human infants who meet Christ have the capacity to depend upon him. They may and do in fact do so in Baptism.

I think (2) is the more important question before us, and I think that the FVs desire to articulate the objective presence of Christ in the sacrament is the issue.
Rick responded
Thanks for the clarification, although I take little comfort in it. I would say that the infant child has no idea of the spiritual significance of what is happening when he/she is being baptized. That is why they so often start crying when I sprinkle the water over their head. You say they meet the person of Christ in baptism and they have a paradigmatic trust towards persons. But what they meet in baptism is water, so far as they know, along with a strange man who isn't their father. That is why they cry. This whole approach to faith in infants is such a stretch that by it the whole biblical idea of faith gets washed away (pun intended).
I'm not sure how to respond. What Rick is saying seems to me to sound an awful lot like the idea of a "nuda signa".

Also, the idea that all signs are communications from persons seems inescapable to me. Baptism is a sign instituted by Jesus Christ, and when it is efficacious, its efficacy is generated by the Person of the Holy spirit working in the sacrament. The HS makes the person of Christ present to us since his ascension. His presence to us through the HS is even "better" than that of his presence on earth in flesh.

As much as Christ's person impacts upon our persons when we hear his word read and preached (Calvin's view) Christ's person impacts upon the person of the subject of baptism. Both are receiving signs that a person has communicated. See Ronald Wallace on this.

The WCF says that is sacraments, Christ is represented to believers. The WCF says that when baptism is efficacious it is when the Holy Spirit makes it so, and then when He does so the grace is "exhibited, and conferred ... to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto". Saying that the efficacy of baptism isn't tied to the time of administration is NOT to say that it can be any time BUT the time of its administration. The WCF here (by saying infants) seems to me to presume that infants will have efficacious grace (the benefit of the Person of Christ to them)

On Rick's view, I'd be worried that if my mind wandered during communion, so that my "ideas" about what was going on were not right, then Christ would be absent from the sacrament. But maybe if I later remembered that my mind wandered and then exercised faith, Christ would retroactively come near me an bless me.

March 26, 2004

Tim Gallant makes the pithy observation: "The bonus is that if you are satisfied with an invisible church, you will probably settle for a completely invisible heaven while you are tortured in hell in a merely visible and tangible state of existence, which we all know doesn't matter."

I've added Rabbi Saul to my blogroll, since I've been keeping up with it lately. And he, mine.

In Fisher's Catechism (explaining the Westminster) something very much like Wright is adduced:Fisher's Question 32:
Q. 4. What is the connexion between effectual calling and justification?

A. In effectual calling, sinners, being united to Christ by faith, have thereby communion with him in his righteousness, for justification, Phil. 3:9.
For Fisher, it seems that justifiation and adoption are not discrete acts following on the call, but rather reflexes of the union with Christ effected by the call.

I think opponents of Wright who see him denying imputation or recokoning as part of Justification_reformedmodel, should ask whether the imputation of Christ's righteousness occurs in an act called justification, or in the union with Christ as part of the call?

Mark Horne has posted some more comments on Sean Lucas's review of Against Christianity. I particularly appreciate Mark taking issue with Lucas's snide "why don't you go join the PC(USA)." That kind of stuff is really unbecoming.

I am moved towards another thought about Lucas' review, not just taking issue with the factual misrepresentations therein, but Lucas' own sacramental theology
People can know salvation outside the church's rituals, but they cannot know salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Conversely, people can participate in the church's rituals, but be far, far away from faith in Jesus Christ.
We have always affirmed that apart from the church there is no ordinary possibility of knowing salvation. This includes thereby the rituals of the church (since the rituals demark and define the church in a very real sense). Lucas is taking a statement about the rare case and making it paradigmatic for his theology. We're not to be concerned with people on desert islands or thieves on crosses, but with you and me who have easy access to the People of God in their visible assemblies, and who are devoted to the breaking of bread together as much to the Apostle's doctrine.

Lucas is also too much an individualist. He has to take issue with Leithart's very true claim: "Nor is salvation adjectival merely of individuals." He upbraids Leithart for claiming individual appropriation of salvation is heretical when he does no such thing.

What Leithart is saying (and Wright is also intimating) is that there can be no salvation that touches only the individual as an individual. The church (and her rituals) are where individuals participate in corporate salvation "in Christ", the totus christus. Lucas seeming denial of this fits very well with his hope that Leithart would "go away" and join some liberal body. Lucas has no desire to experience the corporate salvation that Christ has accomplished if it means that he has to be in the same church as Leithart.

Even the thief on the cross was there to see John and Mary participate in the corporate salvation (relations between individuals) which Jesus accomplished.

Robert Siegel of NPR hosts an error-ridden and biased report on the recently passed Unborn Victims of Violence act.

1. The lead-in says that 'opponents say that it has more to do with restricting abortion than protecting women'. Um, why would protecting women be the main focus?

2. The first comment on the bill from Seabrook is that it only applies to federal crimes. Well duh: the federal government doesn't have jurisdiction over general murder and assault, which is a state crime.

3. "Now, in, in the discussion of abortion, uh its always a question of, eh, of viability, is the fetus viable, at what, what stage in the development of the fetus is abortion ah legal. What is this bill, how does this bill address the question of viability of the fetus?"

What is this? First notice how he almost seems perturbed. "Why do I have to be talking about this unpleasant topic. Don't we have a viability issue to worry about here?" Second, what does "in the discussion of abortion" mean. When pro-lifers discuss it, they tend to ignore viability as an issue. If them mention viability they mention that under Roe vs. Wade, THERE IS NO QUESTION of viability. We have unrestricted abortion for all nine months

4. Mention of the bill having strong backing from the National Right to Life Committee, and the president's favor of it are mentioned. No mention of the significant number of democrats favoring the bill is made.

The bill passed the senate 61-38. Arlen Specter voted for it, but NRO's Jack Fowler reports
With challenger Congressman Pat Toomey breathing down his liberal neck in the Pennsylvania GOP senate primary (April 27), incumbent Arlen Specter continues his political suck-up to pro-lifers and their desperately needed votes. Yesterday, Specter voted to pass the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (...it is the fetal-homicide bill also named "Laci and Conner's Law"). But before that vote took place, Specter voted to kill the bill by supporting Sen. Dianne Feinstein's substitute proposal -- it would have codified the doctrine that when a woman and her unborn child are injured or killed during a federal crime, that crime has only a single victim. The proposal lost 50-49... Don't be surprised if the Specter campaign hasn't already cut ads to run on Pennsylvania Christian radio stations bragging about his vote on the final bill (with nary a mention his bill-killing vote on the Feinstein amendment).

March 23, 2004

Brewster Kahle's case against unconditional compyright sounds good to me. I wonder why Barlow will be opposed to it.

Terry Johnson has an excellent essay in Give Praise to God arguing for the use of metrical psalms pervasivly in worship. (He's not an exclusivist, though). He answers the objection to metrical psalms from the "right", that chanting would be preferable
1. Compromises inherent in the process of translating songs and poetry from one language to another go beyond the problems associated with translating prose. Rhyme, rhythm, cadence, wordplays, and letterplays are often lost. A strict English translation may literally convey the meaning of the text, but may not be it's "dynamic equivalent," to use a term employed by translators. What is the dynamic equivalent in modern English of the songs of the ancient Hebrews? It may be that rhymed and metered renderings do a better job of conveying Hebrew poetry and song than do more prosaic chant versions. What our culture sings is typically rhymed. What our culture sings collectively usually follows a regular meter for the sake of simplicity and group participation. Moreover the metrical psalms in the English/Scottish tradition purport to be rhymed and metered translations. They were not viewed as paraphrases but as translations, though translated in a scheme of meter and rhyme. French metrical psalms were more like paraphrases. English language psalmody sticks close to the original text.

2. Chants are difficult. Witvliet points out that Calvin deliberately promoted metrical psalmody over the current Roman Catholic psalmody in which the actual words of the biblical text were used. He favored a poetic reworking of the text because, says Witvliet, "the Psalms needed to be rendered in a singable musical form and metrical psalmody was judged to be the most singable" [Witvliet, "Spirituality of the Psalter," 284] A fundamental principle of protestant worship is simplicity. Whatever songs are sung in church must be simple enough to be sung by ordinary laypeople. Congregations rarely, if ever, are able to master chants. The history of their use follows a straight line from their introduction to the formation of specialized choirs that alone were able to sing the properly. Rare is the layperson or congregation that can sing them well [(he cites the article "chants" in the Dictionary of Worship and Liturgy, Westminster Press 1986)] If our goal is congregational singing, chanting is probably not a viable option

3. Chanting lacks the dynamic of singing. It lacks the emotional punch, the power to move the passions that is characteristic of singing. We might even ask, in what sense is chanting singing? Of course it falls broadly under the category of song, but it is called chanting because it is significantly unlike singing. Its lack of regular rhythm distinguishes it from ordinary song and the powerful emotive impact that results when we make a "melody" in our heart (Eph 5:19).
The second objection to chanting seems very odd to me. I have not much more more trouble getting into a chant when I have opportunity than I ever do with some of the new hymns we've used at Tenth. Also Johnson's citation of the dictionary article on chanting seems like his main source for the difficulty: reading the paragraph makes me doubt he's actually speaking from experience.

Rick Capezza wrote this about that:
Maybe presbyterians can't chant, but that's because they're not used to it. My congregation chants wonderfully, as does every congregation in our synod in the city (I've been to all of them). We use about 11 main chant tunes for the Psalms, each one using about 8 notes (and other tunes for canticles), and they're pretty easy to put to memory. In fact, I taught a few to a mentally retarded kid, and he sings them all the time now.
I'd really like to see more psalms used in singing at Tenth though. Also revising our responsive reading practice to drop the verse alternation in favor of line alternation.

Anybody read Jacob & the Prodigal? I was just thinking about this and the Day of Atonement.

UPDATE: Who cares: with amazon.com I can look inside the book!

Neat stuff: "among the 12 apostles Jesus includes a tax collector and a Zealot!"

March 22, 2004

The 2 main passages that I can think of that talk about works and final justification warn the listener not just about "good stuff you have to do" to be justified on the last day, but are more specific. When Jesus speaks of the sheep and the goats, the failure of the goats was that they did not treat the other members of the people of God like their own brothers, and so did not treat Jesus like their brother.

James warns that the one who does not love his brother will not be justified either.

Not that there is merit to be earned. But failure to treat the other members of the People of God as brothers is a denial of their status as brothers. Jesus is not saying to those on his left: now I see that you have come into my courtroom without any merits to present to me and so you will be declared wicked, but rather: though you claimed to have faith in me, you tried to find a right standing merely in some kind of individual connection to me by virtue of calling on my name. Rather, you should have shown your membership in my Body, your ratification as part of the righteoues people of God, by actually treating the people IN the group as they truly are: part of my body. You didn't act like a body-part: you aren't a body part. I never knew you.

Paul on the Damascus road is not confronted with a lack of merit per se on his part by Jesus, but that he is mistreating the people of God.

This is a good review of some issues surrounding the Passion, but I think the supposedly strongest point needs to be rethought:
Gibson's preoccupation with Christ's shed blood and agony threatens to distract us from another crucial dimension of his death. Survey any Roman legion in the reign of Tiberius and they'll probably say that crucifixion was as much about shame as it was about pain. Ask Paul about the scandal at the heart of his Gospel and he'll point, not to whips and nails, but to the sheer embarrassment and absurd foolishness of a crucified savior. Hebrews says Christ, "endured the cross, disregarding its shame," (Heb 12:2; cf. 6:6). So the cross was not only about cruelty but also about degradation and defilement, exclusion and ridicule, which is why, by the way, it proved such an obstacle to early Christian preaching
Now part of the problem as the writer admits is that we don't "get" shame in the west today. But showing the lashing is key to showing the shame, and I think this was recognized by some, even hostile reviewers, who felt such revulsion at the lashing scene's extended length.

Deuteronomy 25:2-3 too was fulfiled in Christ:
Then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.

Is Wright saying this?

Paul gives us no grounds for an idea of righteousness being imputed on an individual basis to those who have faith in Jesus, conceiving of them as before God's court as individuals.

Rather, Paul is saying that Christ has been hauled into God's court and declared righteous, and that all those who have faith in him share in the declaration, not as sinners hauled into God's court as individuals to face the standard of the Law, but as simple recognition that, as they are already in the company of the People of God (Abraham's family) by virtue of their faith in the one who already propitiated God's wrath against the sin of humanity as a whole.

Since my spike in hits from when Mark Horne linked me so nicely things have declined.

So here's another parable nobody will understand:
That Levite had a very interesting history. Before he revised the Yom Kippur rite, he had been with the exiles in Babylon. He was sitting by the river Kebar, having hung his harp on the tree by the banks of the river. He had tried so hard to be good and keep the law, and go to the temple every day. But here he was, in exile. How could he find gracious God, he wondered, and get out of this terrible place.

He looked around. His fellow Jews were all busy working and the masters over them were taking a break. Here was his chance. He would be like Abraham and get out of Ur of the Chaldees.

He jumped into the river and swam deep and fast, to the other side. looking back briefly, it seemed he was going to make it. He hitched up with a caravan and rode back into jerusalem.

He praised Yahweh for the end of the exile. If God hadn't forgiven his sins, he never would have made it back to the promised land. Finally he knew that God accepted him as righteous, because his own faith had laid hold of the promise that there would be a return.

He did feel a bit lonely, though.

God: I love you

Me: How do I know?

God: Here, I'll have dinner with you.

Me: I still don't believe you

God: That's your problem.

March 20, 2004

Back in October I said this about taking assurance from baptism:
When someone says 'let us take assurance of salvation from our baptism' I think we need to expand that a bit.

I doubt the person is trying to say 'take assurance from the water you have had contact you'.

But rather, because they believe that in baptism, the baptized person is claimed by Christ on the grounds of his atoning death on behalf of the baptized person, that therefore when the person receives assurance from baptism, they don't receive it from 'mere water' but from the work of Christ applied by the water.

I have the feeling that advocates of a weak baptismal theology think that statements about being 'assured by baptism' is about being 'assured by water rituals', and will lead to a person with assurance of salvation, but no 'real faith' and no fruit that accompanies the faith.

To be 'assured by baptism' is to be assured by the whole complex of things in which baptism is situated: the body of Christ, the name of Christ, his atoning death on our behalf, etc. If we don't regard where baptism is situated, we'll find such statements troubling.
This comes to mind as I read D. Marion Clark's essay on baptism in Give Praise to God. In laying out what it means that baptism is a "seal", Clark cites Boice using the illustrations of US Seals on passports: (all emphasis below is mine)
This seal indicates that the authority of the United States government stands behind the passport in affirming that the person ... is a true citizen of the United States.

Sacraments operate in this way. In the case of Abraham ... [he] had believed God and God had imparted righteousness to him, God gave the seal of circumcision to validate what had happened
Clark expands on this:
Thus, baptism does more that signify the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. It validates the benefits of Christ's work that have been applied by the Holy Spirit in the recipient. The recipient himself or herself is validated as now being in Christ. It is one thing for a new creature in Christ to be shown a sign of salvation; it is another to have the seal of salvation stamped on the believer to authenticate one's salvation experience. Hanging on the wall a picture representing one's alma mater might produce warm feelings, but of far greater meaning is to have a diploma on the wall that not only generates old memories, but authenticates the person named as a bona fide graduate of that school.
Earlier, Clark also wrote "We too when doubts assail us cry out with Martin Luther, 'I have been baptized!'"

I found Clark's essay refreshing. I also found his administration of baptism at Tenth to be refreshing. Unwittingly or not, Boice spent more time addressing what baptism didn't do and explaining why we were justified in baptizing infants then in telling us how great it was. It was the "baptismal liturgy" of sorts, because Boice's comments rarely varied. Clark was much less apologetic in this regard.

I think Clark is being nothing other than Reformed and in keeping with the Standard Model Westminster doctrine on this. Again, the Larger Catechism 167 is key. We improve "our baptisms" when we reflect on the nature of it (not what it isn't, or what 'really lies behind it') and when we "grow up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed [validated and authenticated] to us in that sacrament"

Joel has a long post addressing the sacramental union between the sign and thing signified in the sacrament (not that the sacrament is the sign, and the thing signified is something behind or beyond the 'total sacrament'.

March 18, 2004

National Review Online reports that Specter is encouraging democrats to switch party affiliation to vote for him in the primary, then switch back.

Go Toomey!

On the day of atonement, each Israelite brought 2 rams to the door of the tabernacle, and sent one off in the wilderness bearing his sins and took the other one and slaughtered it, and gave the blood to a Levite. The Levite took it all the way into the holy of holies and sprinkled one drop of blood on the altar to show God that a slaughter had taken place with respect to him.

Granted, there were rumors that they did it a bit different before the return from exile, but one Levite, troubled by his sinful conscience decided that the truth that his individual sins were atoned for by one ram being killed and offered by the high priest was obscured in the old rite. He argued that it certainly wouldn't be wrong to add an additional sacrifice on the day of Atonement, since nobody should criticize anyone for having more ceremonies than someone else, and sacrifices were ok before god generally. So they eventually added one ram sacrifice per person.

Later the Levites had to deal with gentiles who said they wanted to offer rams on the day of atonement too. Most of the levites said sure, why not. But some of them, realizing that since the rams they offered would represent the individual gentiles up on the altar, started to raise the prices of the rams for gentiles who wanted some.

This lasted for about a week, until some more Levites decided that they would just make another tabernacle for the gentiles and they could go offer their sacrifices at that one. The gentiles liked to clap and sway alot during the 10 days it took to offer all the sacrifces, and they used funny instruments the levites didn't know how to play. So it made everybody feel a bit more comfortable offering their sacrifices in seperate buildings.

To be continued?

This guy says alot of the same things about Wright as Rich Lusk. Too many of the same things, one might say.

Full disclosure: I plagarized back in highschool and got caught.

March 17, 2004

Wright: "Membership in this family cannot be played off against forgiveness of sins: the two belong together."

On bbwarfield Jeff Hutshison writes on Galatians 2 and Wright:
"When we are unforgiving towards a brother, is that because we are just not seeing them as a brother (maybe that's part of it), or is the problem deeper, that we are not genuinely experiencing our forgiveness from Christ? Anybody that would camp out in the first part, and not see the deeper issue as the second part, is pastorally inept, and certainly no trustworthy guide for the exegesis of Galatians.

Was Peter's real problem that he was missing the fact that the Gentiles too wore the badge of covenant membership, or was his real problem that he was forgetting his own justification, the grace that God had shown him in Christ? Again, any pastor or 'bishop' who believes that Paul's logic here is to encourage folks (Jews, in this case) from one group or class or race to accept folks (Gentiles, in this case) from another group or class or race as really just part of the SAME GROUP, and that that should solve that, is pastorally inept."
I think that when Paul's logic includes that the 'same group' of which Jews and Gentiles are composed is that of those united to Christ, and those who have been called out by God to repent of their sins, those who are in the family of God, that indeed would "solve the problem". Hutchison seems to be denying the many things that Wright says about the corporate group that is constituted as the justified: that their problem was sin, and that their justification together, on the basis of faith is the grounds of their union.

I don't think the supposed 'deeper' problem is at all the one that Paul tries to address in Galatians. Paul doesn't tell them that they are missing the "genuine experience of forgiveness," but that their actions betray what they know to be true about God's one new justified-apart-from-law humanity in Christ.

The reign in Spain falls, mainly on the train.

Go Toomey! PA Senate Racing Heating Up

Hopefully my wife getting the next mailing out will give him a nudge.

15% undecided probably just need some info. I haven' t been watching TV much. Has the evil Specter ad been on much? Seen any Toomey ads?

In How the Irish Saved Civilization Thomas Cahill says that Irish monasticism had a problem imitating the desert fathers because ireland was a bounteous verdant island. Too much surplus

They also seem to have a surplus of vowels and "H"s.


My cousin once wrote a letter to New Horizons taking to task someone who claimed that the psalms were inappropriate for Christian worship, not because they have icky imprecations in them, but because David asking god to "take not thy Holy Spirit from me" was an impossibility in the New Covenant.

Norm Shepherd was (is?) an exclusive psalmist, you know.

Webb cites the AAPC position paper thusly
"Once baptized, an individual may be truly called a "Christian" because he is a member of the household of faith and the body of Christ (I Cor. 12). However, not all who are "Christians" in this sense will persevere to the end. Some will fall from grace and be lost."

This notion, however should be abhorrent to us as contrary to all the great and precious promises of scripture that teach us that our perseverance depends not on our own obedience as is presupposed by this system of "Covenant Nomism," for then we would all be lost, but upon the work of the Christ in preserving and keeping us.
The point that Webb seems to disallow is all the AAPCs affirmations that exactly match these objections.

Not all the baptized members of the covenant, (yes, "members") of the visible church (which in the WCF is the "kingdom" and "household" of God) will persevere. But no one is claiming that mere disobedience that will lead to apostasy. Faithlessness is the root of apostasy; faithlessness will lead to disobedience, for without faith, no true good works will ever follow. The Bible is clear about those like Simon the Sorceror who "believed" and were baptized, but then apostasized. That "falling from grace" and making "shipwreck of one's faith" is something that can happen. That the word can spring up with true joy in one who hears it and believes, but that the cares of the world can choke out such faith.

And we affirm always that it is Jesus preserving work that is the origin of persevering faith. That it is not "our own obedience", but "God working in us to will and to do his good pleasure"

This article by David R Anderson beats up on Calvin for sounding too much like the AAPC "Federal Vision" folks

Andrew Webb quotes Robert Shaw's commentary on the WCF on baptism on theWarfield list:
It is a solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, and to all its privileges. It supposes the party to have a right to these privileges before, and does not make them members of the visible Church, but admit them solemnly thereto. And therefore it is neither to be called nor accounted christening-that is, making them Christians: for the infants of believing parents are born within the covenant, and so are Christians and visible Church members; and by baptism this right of theirs is acknowledged, and they are solemnly admitted to the privileges of Church membership"
Does anyone want to argue that that kind of a distinction makes any sense? Is "admit" some wierd covenantal 'term of art'? Is Shaw just trying to avoid the obvious point that if you are admited to something you weren't in it before? Is he trying to save the Westminster Directory when it says that children of believers are to be baptized because they are already Christians?

Is Shaw saying that baptism is, after all, a mere solemnization?

UPDATE: Later in the article he approvingly cites Samuel Miller saying that by baptism "They are engrafted into the visible church". Does Webb perceive no need to clarify these prima fascie contradictory claims about membership in the visible church? Engrafted and admitted, but they were already members?

March 16, 2004

I think I'm getting a better handle on the family and collective aspect of what Wright is talking about.

I can clarify a bit what I was saying farther below about Jeremiah 31 and the irrevocable nature of the New Covenant. I said that even if nobody believed and all apostasized, the New Covenant wouldn't be considered as broken, because Jesus keeps it.

But we're talking about Christ, and Christ must be considered collectively, involving the people for whom he is the annointed representative. A Christ with NO people is no 'christ' at all.

Charles Hill is bothered by the idea that Wright seems to deny that the only way to read Romans is of his speaking of an individual sinner brought into the court for judgement

Lets look at Romans 4 (esv)
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.

For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring--not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"--in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
It really seems clear to me that the prevalence of the collective and family-oriented terms in chapter 4 are a good grounding for Wright's point about covenant as 'family' membership. Now as Wright says, you get the collective right and you get the individual thrown in as well. But the standard accounting that Abraham is just an 'exemplia gratia' of somebody saved by faith, instead of the whole origin of plan of salvation of many nations by faith seems fairly obvious.

Charles Hill's essay, N.T. Wright on Justificiation fails a reading comprehnesion test
In other words, the context which could validate Wright's view simply does not exist. He says, "Within this context, 'justification,' as seen in 3:24-26, means that those who believe in Jesus Christ are declared to be members of the true covenant family which of course means that their sins are forgiven, since that was the purpose of the covenant." In Wright's construction, forgiveness of sin has the character of a by-product, a bonus that comes with covenant membership. The removal of one's sins is not connected directly to justification. Justification for Wright simply confirms an already-possessed status as members of God's covenant.[emphasis added]
Huh? How does Wright saying that the purpose of the covenant was forgiveness of sins make that into a mere 'byproduct' of the covenant membership?

I'm trying to find out why people think Wright has a low view of human sinfulness. Can we find Wright quotes where he says "people aren't really all that bad"?

March 15, 2004

My thoughts on the 'elaborate' in worship are brought out by two essays by J. Ligon Duncan in Give Praise to God, a book celebrating the legacy of James Montgomery Boice, late pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia where our family worships. Reading these essays is a somewhat aggravating exercise for me, largely because I am someone coming from 'outside' the Tenth tradition and from an even more conservative wing of the Puritan worship spectrum. My background in strict regulativism relativizes the claims made by Duncan and others in the book, and also raises the issue of 'take the beam out of thine own eye first' when the book (and Boice's own ministry) proposes many salutary forms and ideas about worship that are either unimplemented or half-implemented in Tenth's own worship (either under Dr. Boice or currently).

When Duncan "takes swipes" (Sean Lucas sympathetic description) at liturgists who use 'elaborate' or complex rituals (of an unspecified nature) I wonder why the church music at Tenth seems to be inoculated against the criticism.

The Puritan tradition was one that demolished organs, and argued for strictly 'a capella' music as being the pure musical tradition in church History (indeed it is still the practice of the tradition-bound Easter Orthodox, so it must be of ancient practice)

The Puritan tradition favored the simple spiritual purity of unadorned and unaccompanied singing, where the 'types and shadows' of instruments (always linked to altar sacrifices in the Old Testament) have fallen away, and 'real, heartfelt' worship can stand on its own.

The Puritan tradition disdained arguments that Revelation, as a New Testament book, gives warrant for the use of instruments in worship. The standard excuse was based in the books 'visional' qualities, but now Duncan argues for its being based in 'old covenant' worship (p.26)

So it strikes me as disingenuous in the extreme to make arguments against 'the elaborate' from Puritan liturgical principles in the context of celebrating the ministry of Dr Boice and his preferences in worship which always included instrumentation.

Even if we were to accept that some instrumentation met the ideal of Reformed worship 'simplicity', the musical excellence of Tenth Presbyterian can hardly be anything other than elaborate. We are training children every Sunday night in the complexities of church choral music. We have a complex and elaborate organ. We have a complex choir that sings in multiple parts. We have the Westminster Brass playing all manner of 'fleshly' complicated instruments like drums and xylophones and trombones and harpsichords. We have performed in the worship service complex and elaborate pieces of music with polyphonic attributes. Every Advent we have a rendition of "O Come Emmanuel" with the Westminster Brass that my Puritan forebears would describe as loud, overbearing, and fleshly in its pomp and pretention.

It also gives you goosebumps as you almost can feel that Emmanuel is processing (!) into the church as the snare drums play a martial rhythm.

So how can Duncan decry elaboration in worship, but favor elaboration in the music we have in worship? I can't sing the pieces the choir does, not without training. But I could read along with some responses in a prayerbook.

We practically have a call for elaborate music in our 'mission statement': "To worship God in a worthy manner through thoughtful words, prayers, and superior music"

I'm loathe to go into any further public comment on the many other zones of worship practice where I see a demand for evangelicals to instantiate in their worship elements where Tenth is oblivious to her own deficiencies. This is both out of proper submission to my church's authority and the charitable hope that while Boice or the book's contributors might favor such improvements in public worship, for whatever reason there are too many countervailing forces or opinions to make any additional changes.

If that is the case, then I am very happy to see the book making a public call for certain instantiations of Reformed and Calvinistic principles in worship and I pray for and await the day when we can enjoy the substance of what is presented in the book.

March 14, 2004

The rituals of old covenant worship were not particularly elaborate. They can be reproduced on a few sheets of paper.

Prayer books worship is not particularly elaborate either.

When Paul criticizes days and seasons in Colosians 2, he makes no mention of these aspects of worship being elaborate or intricate and now things are simple.

Do Lutheran or Anglican liturgists talk about how cool it is that their worship is complicated?

What's with people worried about 'elaborate' worship?

After some conversations with Garver, I'd add to my comments on Robbins thusly:

Jeremiah 31 is of course first of all a declaration of a New Covenant that comes with the restoration of the nation of Israel from exile. It is not something that is held in abeyance until the Incarnation or Pentecost or 70AD. It comes in the return.

It comes in two phases to be certain. The first phase is the restoration of Israel to the land. And in that first phase, there is a general decline of Israel leading down to Jesus. There is not a breaking of that new covenant, for Jesus is the one who becomes the guarantor and keeper of that covenant. But ever other Israelite, even Jesus own disciples, "apostasize" from it prior to Jesus death and resurrection to eternal life making it finally perpetual, as Jesus, a human Israelite son of David, is now seated on the true throne of Israel and will never be dethroned.

What of the "all shall know me"? How is this related to the new situation? Some have suggested that it means that in the New Covenant, evangelism of covenant children is contrary to the new covenant. Possibly, but I don't think we have a general degrading of instruction or teaching, any more than we do in 1 John where he says we have no need of anyone to teach us.

Possibly what's going on is that the New Covenant is removing one final 'excuse' for apostasy: ignorance. This might be in keeping with Paul's statement in Acts that the "times of ignorance" God overlooked in the past, but now calls all men everywhere to repent.

The removal of the excuse of ignorance is ultimately due to the testimony of the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of sin, who testfies to the truth to the chuch, and who empowers the church to declare the good news of Jesus covenant mediatorship as the King who died for his people.

March 12, 2004

Some interesting articles linked by Tim Wilder About the Federal Vision Theology

Robbin's assertion that the phrase "all shall know me, from the least to the greatest" predicated of the New Covenant is an explicit denial of the possibility of members of the new covenant breaking with that covenant and apostasizing is pretty obviously not true.

Even if Robbins were right that that was a general proof, it is hardly explicit.

Jeremiah 31:32 might be a better text, with the contrast that this covenant will not be like the old one which they broke.

But before we grant that, lets notice that of that older broken covenant, God still describes it as being made with a people that were his, that he was a husband to, and that consisted in God leading his people out of Egypt "by the hand"

So even if we say something otherwise about the New Covenant, we can still say that people that apostasize were previously God's people, were redeemed by him, and had him as their husband.

Now what is the difference with the New Covenant? Is it really that the new one is not breakable by them? Verse 32 does not establish that the New will be different from the Old in being unbreakable, but rather incidentally describes and identifies the old covenant as one broken by the people, which is a reason for making a new one.

The new covenant is superior in that the law is in the heart of the covenant person, and that they will no longer have to teach neighbors to know the Lord for all will know him.

But knowing the Lord does not preclude individual apostasy. Why would it?

Verses 36 and 37 does indicate an irrevocability of the covenant, but this does not speak to individual apostasy from the covenant, but that God will never forsake all Israel as he did when they went into exile.

The New Covenant can be seen as unbreakable in this sense: the one with whom it is truly made, Jesus, will certainly never break it, and those elect who are in him will never fail out of it. There will always be a sufficient remnant within the New Covenant Israel (the Church) that it can never be predicated (as it was with the Old) that the Covenant was broken by the human party thereof.

But it is not unbreakable in the sense that none can apostasize from it. Which is why Hebrews and 1 Corinthians 10 speak so much about the dangers of apostasy from it.

March 11, 2004

Hey Cerebus 300 came out this week. Maybe I'll buy it, but I'm prolly going to wait for the last phonebook.

A bunch of comics pros I've never really heard of make comments

Sim comments

Mark Horne wrote a satirical bit questioning the validity of his marriage because he didn't 'really mean it in his heart'. This was to be analogous to arguments that baptism doesn't really put you in covenant with God unless you have a personal faith in your heart.

Andrew Sullivan continues to beat up on the National Review's opposition to gay "marriage" by noting that American Catholics are responsible for 90% of Catholic annulments in the world. (not a bad point)

He linked to this catholic site's description of reasons for annulment being granted
For example, one of the essential properties of Christian marriage is the property of unity, meaning that the marriage is monogamous. If, in one of those countries where polygamy is still practiced, a Christian got married but said in this heart, "I will only take this wife on the condition that I later can take another wife in addition to her," then the person was not accepting Christian marriage on God's terms, meaning that he rejected Christian marriage and so was never married in God's eyes.

More relevant to our society (where polygamy is not practiced), a person might exclude the essential property of fidelity and say in his heart, "Yeah, I will marry her, but only on condition that I can fool around a little later if I get tired of her." This person rejects the essential property of fidelity, and so rejects Christian marriage, meaning he was never married in God's eyes because he refused marriage on God's terms.
Um. Wow. Jesuitical casuistry in spades.

And I wonder that even if that means the marriage can be annulled presumably without sin, does the catholci church not take a dim view of the marriage vow being entered into with mental reservation? If the guy said "forsaking all others", then isn't he still guilty of oathbreaking?

March 10, 2004

Hasbro is coming out with a revised edition of the venerable Axis and Allies (Demo, Articles, Annoucement) and a new Axis and Allies: D-Day game.

It appears from the articles that the new A&A is heavily revised, even advancing the rules ahea do fthe (improved) A&A: Europe and A&A: Pacific rules. New map, new units, new values for old units (Tanks are 3/3 instead of 3/2) and new rules. The articles indicate alot of thought and play balance has gone into the changes. I look forward to getting the new A&A and playing it.

Somebody had some link to some new weblog by a Christian dealing with SF and space exploration. Where is it?

March 09, 2004

creepy syncronicity: slashdot's top story was about software that caused deaths: 28 panamanian cancer deaths from incorrect radiation dosage, and the 1991 Patriot missile where failures led to 28 serviceman deaths.

There were 28 posts in response to the article when I read it.

March 08, 2004

I was struck by something in the Sunday School I attend on First Corinthians. We were looking at chapter 9, where Paul goes though some great detail on the biblical and moral basis for paying a pastor or apostle who ministers. Paul himself took no money from the Corinthians, but it seems that establishing that Paul ordinarily should be paid was a way of signalling his authority to the Corinthians (and also setting an example of willing refusal to assert rights).

Anyway, in the course of the argument he says (9:13-14)
Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
What struck me was that far from considering a law we would properly consider "ceremonial" to be "out of gear" or irrelevant, abrogated by Christ, Paul instead teaches that Christ's commandment that the apostles should look to the subjects of their ministries for their sustenance was itself in keeping with the regulations of the temple that the priest who ministered the sacrifices got to share in the meat thereof.

We also see Paul regarding the church to which he ministered as a form of the Temple, and the "food" being offered thereon the people to whom he ministered delivering to them the Gospel. Paul has spoken of the church an new Temple previously in 1 Corinthians, and this continues the image.

Just another example of how principles of worship from the earlier part of God's history continue even after the coming of Christ. This is a species of the "divers instruction on moral duties" that the cermeonial law contained that the WCF regards as abidingly relevant, but a rather different kind than the 2 prooftexts offered in the WCF would seem to be. Those proofs are of the sort where a principle of cermonial law like purging leaven or prohibiting the "unclean thing" is a symbolic representation of immorality and its corrupting effects. The reference in 9:13-14 is more of a type of continuity by analogy between occupational roles and central worship acts.

In this game, you get to play Maxwell's Daemon.

Last night our evening service ended our Urban Missions conference. I didn't attend the conference events apart from Sunday Worship, though. The children's choir sang in the service and did several pieces before the service as well. The offertory consisted of Now Is the Healing Time (traditional chant), C. Gregor's Hosanna and J.S. Bach's Alleluia. Wow. The children's choir has gotten way better, attributable to the evening program "Schola Cantorum", a whole period of music instruction for the children that coincides with the evening service. (Which serves two purposes: educating the kids in music and singing skills, and giving a greater reason for the parents to make it back into the city for evening church.)

But while I'm impressed, I'm also a bit torn. When my daughter was three we began our concerted effort of having her stay with us in at least one church service, and the evening service, having moved a half hour earlier better to accommodate parents with children was a preferred choice. And when she turned four we added the morning service as well. When Schola Cantorum started, she was too young for the evening instruction part, but they also began a briefer music class that coincides with the sermon in the morning. I was a bit dubious about the nature of the music class, but I sat in on a few, and my daughter really likes it. The sermons at tenth are fairly heavy intellectually, though we make a point of reiterating to her some of the details that she can comprehend or make connections to aspects of her piety that she's been attending to. She also enjoys being with us, reciting the creed and singing the hymns.

So while I appreciate what a wonderful job the church is doing with the music instruction for children, I'm ambivalent because involving her in it to a greater degree would seem to undermine the training in Presbyterian worship she's being positively exposed to. When my son turned three we continued our focus on training him in attending through a whole worship service.

Certainly, to do this we involve a bit of coloring time and quiet distractions (preferably bible story books), and I'm not expecting much understanding of the sermons until much later (I don't think I really started understanding most sermons until my mid teens). Sure it would be nice if Tenth would make about 15 or so slight-to-medium alterations of the worship service (how 'bout a participatory 'long'/'pastoral' prayer) to move in a more participatory liturgical direction and I hope that in the long term (you have to have a long term view of these things) I might be a positive influence in that direction.

Another factor is possibly making my kids feel singled out when their friends are involved in the Schola Cantorum but I'm keeping them in the service. That's been a holdup for me with regard to my daughter and communion. While I'd probably never advocate a church switch to paedocommunion, I readily admit I can discern no compelling arguments against it, and I have to contend that my daughter at least can make a profession of faith that is credible to me. I've considered asking about what specifics she'd need to work on to express her faith adequately for being received as a communicant member but I'd probably just be asking for trouble.

Blogger's spell check is the worst

And the "show everything" list doesn't show the drafts, even though that is implied by the dropdown list.

Amazon has finally added a prioritization feature on their wish list.

In other news, my birthday is at the end of May.

March 05, 2004

Lileks has a satircially crude post on the Stern/Clear Channel and FCC fining business. Pretty funny.

Clifford D. May writes
In other words, democracy is more than one man, one vote, one time. Those attempting to build democracies – Ambassador Paul Bremer leaps to mind -- must recognize that some of the people most eager to participate in elections may be enemies of democracy. They should be dealt with accordingly.
Well, how exactly? The article offers no clues.

Democratic loyalty oaths before admission to a voting booth?

If Gene Robinson is just the "first openly gay bishop" in the ECUSA, why hasn't his approval led to any other bishops in the church to proclaim their homosexuality?

Or have I missed the annoucements?

March 04, 2004

Finally found some useful information on playing The Sims. I was previously bothered by the fact that the Sims had disagreeable conversations during dinner or other group activities, that they tended not to have one-on-one. That's by design: in a group setting, the Sim speaks of his highest-rated interest without coincern for partner's interests. But the game doesn't penalize those conversations as it would one-on-one.

I also recently dicovered at least one reason the Sims is a teen-rated game (aside from the infinite malleability of . Playing with the kids, we set up a family based on some friends of ours. Bought a basic stove, and set the wife to cooking. Big mistake.

Instant inferno. The sims and visitors really had disturbingly terrified yells, which set my kids a bit on edge. I set the simhusband to call the fire dept and noted the fire had an "extinguish action", so I told the simwife to do that while we waited.

Mistake two. Bye bye simwife. My real kids became even more concerned with this turn of events.

So I reassured them that it was 'Just a game, pretend" and quickly moved to set up a new game to show kids that the simwife was really "ok".

My son adopted his "angry football blocker stance" with his open palm in a "stop" position: "Daddy, this time no stove, OK!"

Daughter: "I don't like the guy with that pointy thing, daddy". The grim reaper came onscreen to harvest the deceased sim. I tyried to stifle my amusement at the new urn of ashes and the "mourn" action it made available.

Let's say that these Robotic Exoskeletal Legs could be improved and used to enable those who can't make use of their legs for walking to be able to do so.

Will wheelchairs be prefered for any reason other than cost? Will there be conflict between those who favor the chairs and those who can afford the new legs?

Will the Americans With Disabilities act be rewritten/interpreted to avoid mandatory wheelchair access?

Toomey denies the allegation, according to this post in The Corner on National Review Online

March 03, 2004

Pennsylvania Republican Senator has produced this thoroughly offensive ad against his primary challenger Pat Toomey, currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives

Here is the text, if the video download takes to long
Les Sheaffer – Brittany’s father:
“Brittany has a disease called Mucopolysaccharidosis, MPS.

She’s not going to go to the prom. She’s not going to have a wedding. She’s eleven years old but cognitively she functions as an infant, and she can’t be left unattended for any length of time.

We had nursing care that was approved. The insurance company then reduced her care and then denied the care that her doctor said that she needed. When I went to Pat Toomey’s office, and I asked for help and I followed up with three phone calls after that meeting and I never even got a phone call back.

I approached Senator Specter’s office and asked for some assistance because I didn’t know what else to do; I didn’t know where else to go. Senator Specter cut the red tape and made sure that Brittany got the nursing care that she needed.

The bottom line is nobody’s been better in the Senate for children with rare diseases than Senator Specter.

Pat Toomey has other priorities, but I don’t know what they are.”
A bit much, no?

Go Toomey!

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