May 24, 2005

We can say: We are so defiled with sin's polution that no matter how well we clean our selves up, and we do in fact make progress, we still find more.

Can we also say: We are so delivered from the corruption of this world by its lusts, and so delivered from the condemnation of sin, that no matter how often we observe ourselves we are yet able to find more sin to overcome.

Too paradoxical?

Does the covenant of grace, something outside of God, limit Gods freedom to damn the elect, or does God's refusal to damn the elect come from his own love.

May 23, 2005

The Philosophy Resource Center: Efficient Causality is helpful to those of us who only remeber formal logic from philopophy class.

In speaking of efficient causes, it lists several classification schemes for efficient causes. One is principal vs insturmental.
A "principal" cause is an efficient cause which produces an effect in virtue of its own power. An "instrumental" cause is an efficient cause which produces an effect in virtue of the power of another cause.
It seems to me that to say something is not conferred by any power in a thing is to place the thing in the category of instrumental cause by definition.

We Affirm

A.4. That there is an administration which is given to all, elect and reprobate alike who live within the context of that covenant.

A.6. The administration of the covenant is limited to the benefits of baptism, church membership, the preaching of the Word and church discipline. This is commonly called the outward administration of the Covenant of Grace.

D.3 The non-elect who participate in the outward blessings of the covenant may experience non-salvific benefits of the Holy Spirit's work, such as the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments.

H.5 The benefits of the sacraments are the nourishing and strengthening of our faith that we may be more assured of our salvation and drawn closer unto our God.

We deny:

H.3 That the non-elect ever participates in the thing signified, or receive any grace from their participation of the sacraments.

H.4 That any benefit of the sacraments can ever be received apart from faith, or received by any other instrument than faith.
I guess if you like paradox, you might like these affirmations and denials. They seem somewhat inconsistent to me. The statement comes from a holder of the Three Forms of Unity, not the WCF, so I certainly have to demure from the following
H.7. Baptism is a sign and seal of the reality of the believers regeneration and forgiveness, but is not the reality thereof nor is the application thereof.

H.8. The Lordís Supper is a sign and seal of the reality of believers justification and union with Christ, but is not the reality thereof nor is the application thereof.
since the catechism defines a sacrament thusly
A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

May 22, 2005

My son, "Daddy, can I play a computer game?"

"No we don't play computer games on Sunday"

"What about the Jonah one, that's in the bible daddy!"

"Well, shooting cheesy-puffs at vegetables doesn't have much to do with the bible story of Jonah"


"I know, I can play a board game!"


"We usually only play board games that are about the bible, like Journeys of Paul"

holds up a candyland variant

"But this one has stuff God made in it?"

"Like what?"

"see! God made the trees, and the grass."

"yes He did, you're very correct."

May 21, 2005

Its a good thing when a day I thought would be lousy turns out well. Stress and my bad attitude have been wearing me down lately, and I was approaching this Saturday with no idea of what I was going to accomplish. Turned out I was able to accomplish a lot of spring cleaning, which helps my attitude too.

I got most of the front windows cleaned, which I don't think was done since we've moved in. Makes quite a difference. Also several rooms were straightened and the kids toys were picked over for stuff to thrift-store.

We have gobs of stuff to thrift-store, but once again we have it all when the store is already inundated because of student move-out in the neighborhood. Porch sale is a possibility, but we tried one before an got nada with it. Our old neighborhood used to have a well publicized one ever fall. Maybe we'll bide our time and reserve a table in the old neighborhood.

Also helping my attitude was last night's excursion to the Settlement Music School to hear the bassoon recital of a family friend. She did wonderfully. The kids seemed to be fairly well behaved, aside from my son's lurching out of my lap to retrieve an stuffed toy and almost bonking his head. I needed to get out of the bad zone I was in.

Cool. An expansion to War of the Ring is coming in October: Battles of the Third Age. Has Corsairs and Dunlendings.

May 20, 2005


That felt better.

A bit.

May 19, 2005

On The Puritanboard, Mark Horne quotes Charles Hodge favorably

(Hey, what is Horne doing on the puritanboard? dumb question, since he certainly belongs there as an advocate of plain vanilla presbyterianism)
There is, however, a sense in which it is scriptural to say that Christ died for all men. This is very different from saying that he died equally for all men, or that his death had no other reference to those who are saved than it had to those who are lost. To die for one is to die for his benefit. As Christ's death has benefited the whole world, prolonged the probation of men, secured for them innumerable blessings, provided a righteousness that is sufficient and suitable for all, it may be said that he died for all. And in reference to this obvious truth, the language of the apostle, should any prefer this interpretation, may be understood, 'Why should we destroy one for whose benefit Christ lay down his life?'
I am recalling several things I've encountered looking into the claim that Wright favors a "representative-substitute view" of atonement instead of a "substitute-exchange view". One is that the question of penal substitution is more controversial than is let on in Reformed circles. Second is that there are alot of views of atonement out there but penal substitution hinges exegetically on verses that say "christ died FOR us". Critics claim that penal substitution is too facilely proved from such verses.

Does it seem that Hodge is happy to affirm these different theories of atonement as applied to the reprobate while denying one theory in particluar: penal substitution. In other words Christ's death provides moral suasion, government, a victory, etc, all on behalf of the entire world, but only acts as a penal substitute for the elect.

Intersting way to have ones cake and eat it too.

The search terms leading to my blog have been "heating up" lately.

Gross errors in reformed theology: I'm on the 10th page of google hits for this set of words, which means somebody is really interested in the topic, since they paged through 10 pages and hit my blog anyway. Maybe its automated.

Some other search hits.

percentage of alien beleivers
adam "public person" wilkins (that was me, actually)
double imputation auburn
joel garver imputation
"covenant business"
daniel fuller law gospel
chris hedges dominionism
lee irons federal vision
Adam garver
joel garver NPP
"WEEKLY" "Joel Garver" communion
puritans temporary believers

I wonder what Garver has been hit by lately...

Confessions of a starwars fan: Star Wars and Me

Tole, lege? or Oota goota

In My Documents: The Westminster Confession of Faith, A. A. Hodge writes
The Reformers, on the other hand, went so far as to teach that the special object of justifying faith is the favour of God toward us for Christ's sake: therefore to believe is to be assured of our own personal salvation. Thus Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin taught. This is the doctrine taught in the Augsburg Confession and Heidelberg Catechism. It is not, however, taught in any other of the Reformed Confessions, and, as will be seen below, is not the Doctrine of our Standards.
WCF 18 can only fuction as it does if faith and assurance are seperated. In WCF 18, assurance can come through subjective criteria like inward evidence of graces, which in the scripture proofs include virtue added to faith, and loving the brethren. Ordinary Means of grace can be made use of to attain to this assurance, or to paraphrase Ligon Duncan "...God [has chosen] the means, letís say, of the sacramental system as the way to receive this [assurance]; we [have to] busy ourselves in the work of appropriating this sacramental grace".

When put this way, does it sound like we're talking about justification by faith alone, but assurance by "faith and works"?

Is that why Barach and Schlissel, coming from a context where they affrm the Heidelberg Catechism and not the WCF, get into trouble with the MVP because they see the WCF as saying assurance is provided by things that are not the empty hand of faith? And they hear the presbyterians speaking of the duty of getting assurance for yourself?

This Lutheran writes of the external indications of salvation
However, God has provided us with some external indications of salvation. These may be for the purpose of identifying other believers for the purpose of advancing the gospel....

1. The fruit of the Spirit. These are characteristics that should develop in every believer. For example, I John 3:14 says, 'We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.' (NIV)

2. The gifts of the Spirit. I Corinthians 12: 1,3 states: Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant ... no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit. (NIV) The evidence of the power of God being poured out through a gift we are exercising is an indication that we are on God's side.

3. Signs from God. These may include: a time when God seemed to be speaking directly to you, an answered prayer, or a miracle.

4. The inner witness of the Spirit. Romans 8:16: The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (NIV)
he adds
I have a friend that I have seen respond to an evangelistic invitation several times, reflecting the problem he is having finding assurance of salvation. By having to look at your own life for assurance, who would not doubt their salvation? Can you really believe that you have been converted when you see the wretchedness of pride and self-will in your life?

A relationship with God that starts at a very early age can produce a tender heart so troubled by daily sins that it canít imagine how anyone could be a Christian and still sin against God. Even Luther struggled with this, until he discovered that his only assurance must rest on the forgiving nature of God alone.
This a very different system than that of WCF 18 it seems. It views "inner witness of the Spirit" as an "external" way salvation is indicated.

Even assuming its always wrong for churches to make use of rites ir ceremonies or rites that are not specified by God, under what possible understanding of "rite" or "ceremony" does Lent qualify?

Circumcision and baptism are rites.

Lighting an advent candle may be a ceremony.

Fasting is a God-ordained element of worship, though neither a rite or a ceremony.

May 18, 2005

This miniature has been available for quite some time. Look familiar?

Did Lucas ever see it?

Made by these guys

Can we just cut this "on the Road to ROME!" baloney?

Aren't there at least two logical fallacies implicit in it?

1. That because Rome has such a thing, it is of the essence of the false distictives of Rome to have such a thing.

2. The slippery slope fallacy.

We need a "Godwins Law" of the Road to Rome. When someone mentions it, it 'ends the discussion' and demonstrates a failure to communicate.

May 16, 2005

Everybody needs a Cthulhu action figure.

May 14, 2005

Bought a new toothbrush today. I was surpised to be able to locate one which had an angled head and fancy bristles with a normal slim handle instead of these "good grips" kind that never seem to fit in the toothebrush holder.

Exciting, huh?

Ok, I also attended the parish picnic with fellow bloggers Sherds (wife) and Marion Clark. There may have been other bloggers in attendence but they did not identify themselves, or cary laptops to blog the event.

I forgot to bring the digital camera even.

Oh well.

May 13, 2005

A while back I criticized Joseph Pipa for arguing that Steve Wilkins was departing from the Westminster Standards by focusing on the role of Adam as husband and father of humanity as fairly exhaustive of his status as federal head.

Pipa seemed to want to press the language of "Adam as a public person" from the Westminster Larger Catechism as making the fall and imputation of sin a strictly legal matter.

The whole question of a public person needs to be asked, though. What is meant by this term? It would sound to be referring to a large class of people for whom certain covenantal statuses can be assumed to legally bind their descendants and/or representatives. But for the communication of Original Guilt and the imputation of Christ's righteousness, we generally only speak of Adam and Christ as functioning this way. They are uniquely federal heads, and no other human beings ever seem to have such a federal function in modern reformed theology.

We do speak of the children of believers as "federally holy". Who is the federal head who representatively provides this holiness? One believing parent would seem to be the answer. But if federal representation can work on the basis of "public personage" and not simply familial authority it raises the question of what kind of covenantal benefits can be communicated through the federal headship of public persons.

Matthew Henry writes, commenting on Romans 5
for it is agreeable to the law of all nations that the acts of a public person be accounted theirs whom they represent; and what a whole body does every member of the same body may be said to do. Now Adam acted thus as a public person, by the sovereign ordination and appointment of God, and yet that founded upon a natural necessity; for God, as the author of nature, had made this the law of nature, that man should beget in his own likeness, and so the other creatures. In Adam therefore, as in a common receptacle, the whole nature of man was reposited, from him to flow down in a channel to his posterity; for all mankind are made of one blood (Acts 17:26), so that according as this nature proves through his standing or falling, before he puts it out of his hands, accordingly it is propagated from him. Adam therefore sinning and falling, the nature became guilty and corrupt, and is so derived. Thus in him all have sinned.
Is this a consistent argument? Henry moves from declaring that all die in Adam because Adam is a public person and the "laws of nations" declare that a representative's status and acts may be imputed to the represented. He says that this is by the ordination of God, but is also founded on a natural necessity.

That certainly adds to his argument from public personhood, but isn't the natural decent argument sufficient all on its own? Does the public representation of Adam have to depend on natural generation?

Since Christ is a public federal representative analogous to Adam, yet there is no apparent foundation of his public personhood in familial relation with those he represents (and in fact, the Bible is at pains to declare that familial relation is NOT the foundation of his federal headship). So he is an example that federal headship can be divorced from biology.

But not entirely, at least not in some kind of relationship analogous to the biological. Anthropologists speak of "fictive kinship relations", where persons can be regarded socially as having the same status as biological cousins or mothers without an actual biological relationship being present. "Fictive" might seem a prejudicial term, as we speak of adopted parents as true parents, though not biological parents. However, this can be seen in things like the Davidic kingship, where David is said to be "bone of bone" with the Israelites who are having him as king over them, which is a statement of familial relationship, though technically "fictive". (I am dimly aware that there is basically great controversy over the framing of this point in some anthropological circles; some schools seeing the imposition of a framework of real biological relations versus fictive ones, when that begs the question of their being an objectivity to cultural expressions of family relations. If a culture has a concept of cousin, yet applies it to certain cases of nonbiological individuals, then the concept of cousin in that culture is simply not the same one as that of the Western anthropologist, who only calls it fictive from her frame of reference).

This could raise the question, if a society conceives of a elite or other person as some kind of representative public person, what acts or statuses of that public person can be said to federally fall onto those represented?

Is the chieftain of a tribal village a public person? Is his accepting the Christian faith an act that makes those he represents federally holy?

Is a parliament a collection of public persons? Is their agreement in covenant to submit to the gospel and law of Christ actually an act that is binding on all those they represent? Does it convey to them federal holiness? Sufficient federal holiness to make them valid subjects of baptism? A lesser level of federal holiness?

The question is a curious one, for I have heard that Samuel Rutherford believed that all Scots children could be (should be baptized) on the strength of the efficacy of the Scottish covenant. Modern presbyterians would tend to reject such a construction, but is it implied by a theory of "public personage" that allows guilt of original sin to fall on all humanity? If they would reject such a conclusion, why retain the idea of "public personhood" as not just a metaphorical but an actually descriptive account of the basis for which imputation of guilt or holiness may be found. If nobody but Adam and Christ qualify for this class of public persons, then the term would seem to be dispensable. What reason would there be to retain it?

In examining this, I wonder if J. I. Packer's remarks about some accounts of penal substitution apply here as well: that the milieu of the discussion was "the seventeenth century, at a time when Protestant exegesis of Scripture was colored by an uncriticized and indeed unrecognized natural theology of law, and this has left its mark on many later statements"

May 12, 2005

The Force Skeptics Page makes some bit of sense. Especially considering how Han Solo can say he's been all over the galaxy with no evidence of the the Force. And his parents and gradparents would have recalled the Jedi era, but he finds himslef able to doubt the force.

May 10, 2005

Last night I was confused by what Brian Schwertlty writes
It is true that the New England Puritans attempted for a time to have a regenerate church membership. People were required to keep spiritual diaries and jump through many burdensome hoops before they could become communicant members. It is also true that such practices contributed to the destruction of biblical Christianity in New England.[60] Such practices, however, are explicitly rejected by the Westminster Standards and were never a problem among conservative Presbyterians. Confessional Presbyterian churches do not attempt to read the heart and determine if a person is truly regenerate or not. Rather, they ask for a credible profession of faith (25:2). While there may be a "Reformed" Baptist church here and there that has a similar problem, the peculiarities of the New England Puritans (who were Congregationialists) have absolutely nothing to do with conservative Presbyterianism.
I was under the impression that the congregationalists had a confession that was basically identical to the WCF on such points as assurance and election, so I'd wonder how it would be that they would fall into a problem that the WCF prevented the Presbyterians from experiencing.

But in actual fact there are some subtle differences in the Savoy Declaration contrasted with the WCF.
1. Although temporary believers and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes, and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.
2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ, revealed in the gospel, and also upon the inward evidence of those graces unto which promises are made, and on the immediate witness of the Spirit, testifying our adoption, and as a fruit thereof, leaving the heart more humble and holyThis certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.
The first difference, describing the problem that temporary believers face versus those of hypocrites would factor into morbid introspection among congregationalists I suppose. Its much harder to self-identify as a hypocrite than to worry about the possible temporaryness of your faith.

The second difference is also instructive because Savoy decided (as in several other places) to specify or clarify things the WCF left unspecified. The witness of the Spirit in the WCF would seem to be at least able to include sacraments as means for that witness to be made apparent. But the Savoy specifies that the witness of the Spirit must be im-mediate, thereby having nothing to do with the sacraments or even the preached word.

Since in the current controversy, some seem to be denying the mediate activity of the Spirit in providing assurance through the instrument of the sacraments, it would seem that they would favor the Savoy Declaration's terminology in this case. I wonder how many of those same folks would at the same time readily state that the WCF is "the richest and most precise and best guarded statement possessed by man, of all that enters into evangelical religion and of all that must be safeguarded if evangelical religion is to persist in the world"

John Calvin writes:
Again, they hold to other things, such as Lent. This is the fast that is to be kept, say the Papists. The reason is because Jesus Christ fasted. Yes, but did He who is the Fountain of all perfection and the Mirror of all holiness, fast every year? No he fasted but once in His life
And here we see yet another place where Calvin nods (like when he accues Moses of excessive emotion in destroying the tablets at the Golden Calf, and criticizes the excessive emotion of some of David's Psalms. Jesus, as one who followed the Torah in exhaustive detail, may be assumed to have fasted from leavened bread during the Passover, and would have afflicted his soul (fasted) during the day of atonement.

So yes, Jesus fasted every year.

May 09, 2005

Here's another case of probable overheated vague rhetoric issuing from MVP
Members transferring from AAT/FV-friendly churches have attempted to force the sessions of the churches to which they have relocated to allow for their practice of AAT/FV distinctives relating to child communion and membership (and in one case have pursued a judicial appeal all the way through presbytery to the SJC)
Forced? They pulled a gun?

Or they said "Hey, my 4 year old was admitted by the session at my former PCA church and now he isn't? What gives?"

Are the sacraments the acts of God, or of man?

When I give money in the offering during my worship of God, is it an act of worship? Does the money go "to God"? How does it get there?

May 08, 2005

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.
This text is found along with other saying of Jesus of a form that in other gospels have clear referent to the Second Coming or some kind of escatological manifestation of the kingdom. Here I wonder if those parallels color our understating of this text in situ. Jesus has been reminding his followers to not be anxious about their provision, being instructed to seek first the Kingdom. He will end by warning those who are witnessing his acts that they do not know how to discern the signs of the "present time".

So is this not rather written as a message to the disciples in the immediate moment to be ready in their service to him as he comes into his kingdom through the inaugurating work of the Cross and Resurrection? What led me at first in that direction with this saying is that Jesus presents himself as a master who will become the servant of those who are faithful in their watchful service to the master. The language of the master girding his loins and serving the servants seems too much like the picture of Christ's work in his first advent, "coming not to be served, but to serve". It's not the recurrent picture of the Second Coming elsewhere where Christ is Lord and welcomes us into his kingdom.

(Though now that I think about it further, the statement in John's gospel that Jesus is 'going to prepare a place' for the disciples certainly could have the sound of the task of a household slave.)

There still seems to be a bit of an anomaly in this depiction of the reward that the servants can expect for their faithful watching.

We'll be using Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World as a text for narrative readings on world history. We had wanted to pick up something else to supplement that and had recommended to us books by Genevieve Foster, and so picked up Augustus Caesar's World: 44BC to AD14. Flipping through it it seemed nicely illustrated, covering a lot of good world detail, told engagingly, and having an interesting organization around calendars and holidays, which I figure will be useful mnemonically. Published by Beautiful Feet Books and available from several vendors at the Fair, it seemed to offer a good text from an assumedly Evangelical perspective.

Thus, I was surprised to read this
Through [the Bible] runs the record of how time and again the Jewish people, unlike their neighbors, had been brought back by their great prophets to the worship of one God. During the centuries, however, their idea of what God was like had greatly changed.

Those who were writing the Bible in Babylon has come to think of Him as God of righteousness and justice. Before that he has been a vengeful god of war, leading them to battle against their enemies. And in the earliest days, when the Jews had been but a tribe of half-savage shepherds roaming the Arabian desert, their god had been but one of the many strange spirits which seemed to people the desert world about them. Then, as they led their herds of sheep and goats from one oasis to another, they made bloody sacrifices to the chosen god of their tribe for his protection, burning on the altar their first born children, as later they were to offer up each first-born lamb or goat.

In time these ragged shepherds pushed north out of the barren desert into the fertile valley of the Babylonians, and later from there on into Palestine, the land of the Phoenecians or Canaanites.

Fearing that their desert god would have no power in this land of green pastures and villages, they adopted the local gods of the Canaanites. Later driven by famine into Egypt, they accepted the gods of the Egyptians. There in Egypt they remained, oppressed by the Pharaohs until rescued by Moses their first great prophet and leader.

Leading his people out of Egypt back into the desert, Moses brought them to the worship of one God whose name was Javeh "the thunderer," whose dwelling place was the volcano Mt. Sinai, and whose power could be seen in the pillar of flame by night and in a pillar of cloud by day. Allowing them to make no idols or images of their God, Moses had them build and ark in which the spirit of Javeh might be carried with them over the desert, and they journeyed onward toward Canaan
even allowing for some kind of idea of the development of the Hebrew concept of God, this is an extraordinary reconstruction! Also note the significance of the capitalization of God in the passage.

Not much blogging, parlty because of very spotty internet service from Verizon since Thursday, and also because of the Christain Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania fair in Harrisburg this past Friday and Saturday.

We had a good time, with thanks to our friends who watched the kids for us Saturday so I could go up and meet my wife to check out the stuff she'd found and go over curricula for math, language, and world history. My trouble with the homeschool fair for the last three years we've gone is seeing all this cool stuff that won't really be applicable for a while longer yet and having to hold off.

May 03, 2005

Some helpful resources on the book of Revelation from Knox Seminary. (hat tip to Peter Leithart)

Interesting discussion of Christian Dominionism. About 20 minutes in they have Christopher Ortiz of Chalcedon Foundation on who joins Chris Hedges (a critic with an article in Harpers magazine) in complaining that activitsts on the Christian Right are viewing things much too politically and not looking for a long term strategy.

De script shun




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