July 31, 2005

In thinking about stories and propositional truth, i realize we don't want to oppose them to each other. The content of the stories of course can be and often is (even in the stories themselves) expressed propositionally.

Stories can be suprising. I'm pretty sure a syllogism can't actually qualify as suprising. Or can it?

An analogy I've thought of is that a story is like playing a challenging computer game. The propositions contained in the game are like the spoiler-filled walkthrough that you could read instead of playing the game.

Phillips writes about the semantic range of 'righteousness'
This is confirmed by Mark A. Seifrid in two studies related to the biblical (specifically Old Testament) usage of "righteousness." He found that "The language of 'righteousness' appears with remarkable frequency in association with the vocabulary of 'ruling and judging,'" and that it involves the upholding of a standard of righteousness. Therefore, Seifrid concludes, that righteousness "cannot be reduced to the idea of a proper relation, as often has been done in recent interpretation." An example of righteousness being wrongly viewed as a relational category would be Wright's reading of it as "covenant faithfulness." Seifrid concludes, "The biblical usage of 'righteousness' is essentially forensic in orientation."
Well I decided to react to this quote with only one thing in focus, which was some biblical texts that seem to me to unite the covenant-relational and the forensic aspects of righteousness pretty clearly. But then some other questions and issues emerged:

1. If Seifrid is correct, that righteousness language has the most frequent referent to justice in terms of upholding a standard of ethics, then how does that match the traditional Reformed affirmation of imputed righteousness. We affirm that the obedience of Christ to the whole law, and his willing submission to death are his righteousness. That is what we lacked, and that is what we are in need of. Are we in need of the kind of righteousness a king or ruler has when he upholds the law of the land? If we are to determine our definition of righteousness from such a study, then doesn't that leave us back in the state of a pre-converted Luther, wondering how the Gospel can be comforting if it is all about the distributive justice of God revealed. Are we in need of being better judges? Or have we violated the law we have been given as creatures of God?

2. I'm not convinced Wright 'reduces' the idea of righteousness to that of a 'proper relation'. He speaks of the forensic as well and makes the lawcourt setting an important part of his explanation of justification.

3. I wonder at the possible inconsistency in setting covenantal relation over against the forensic and judicial. Don't we usually affirm that the elect, those who receive salvation completely from their savior, the ones for whom Christ died, are those who have a 'vital and personal' relationship with God, who are the 'true members' of his covenant. So why then is there a denial of the centrality of the 'vital covenantal' relationship when we speak of justification, in favor of 'legal and forensic.' We can affirm that those in the visible church have a 'merely legal' connection to the covenant, but they remain unjustified. So how can justification be a merely legal act that doesn't touch on the relational?

Are we saying that justification is a 'cold piece of business' after all, unrelated to our 'relationship' to God?

At this point I can also refer the reader to my complaint against separating the personal and the contractual or legal.

There might be more that could be said. But I came here to cite Psalm 36, primarily
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
and this is 40
I have told the glad news of righteousness
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
I have not hidden your righteousness within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
Now, to me, it seems like these parallel statements about God's righteousness and his faithfulness, judgments, and steadfast love (chesed) mean that the lexial meaning of these terms is very closely correlated. And we know that chesed has very definite overtones of covenant faithfulness

So is Seifrid's criticism, that zedeq always has reference to a unreducably forensic quality of God, really true if it can be correlated in these psalms with his covenant love and with his faithfulness?

Is this another case of misplaced criticism? Wright really shouldn't be criticized for saying that God's righteousness has something to do with his covenant faithfulness. But the question of the righteousness we have being regarded as having primarily covenant/relational meaning instead of moral meaning is more to the point. Granted, at issue is whether the 'righteousness of God' in Romans has reference to His ethical character being imputed to us (but then why doesn't Paul speak more accurately of Christ's righteousness being imputed; and also see (1) above).

I learned a new word recently:


Meaning: Not inherent or essential; derived from something outside. Usually this is used in the sense of something supplemental, but more specifically means something acquired extrinsicly. So it looks like a fun little word to drop into justification controversies.

July 30, 2005

We agree that the FV helpfully challenges sectarianism, individualism, and a low view of the sacraments.
This is new, and encouraging. I thought they thought FV was unhelpful, confusing, and sacerdotal. "Helpful" is good.

July 28, 2005

Optimus keyboard, very cool.

I agree with this part of the MVP report
Wright is fairly silent on the mechanism that links Christ's death and the believer's justification, other than that there is a connection that the apostle has forged between them. Concerning the death of Christ more generally considered, Wright concedes that we may speak of Christ's death as atoning and propitiatory. Nevertheless, in terms of expressing the mechanism whereby Christ's death is applied to the believer, Wright is vague. Where Christ's death does connect with the believer's experience it is as it defeats the powers of sin and death
except I'd say that Wright insists that we should speak of Christ's death as atoning and propitiatory. He sees the application of that death, if anywhere, in the effectual calling of the unregenerate. Or he doesn't really think it needs to be "applied" (especially not with a 'mechanism') since sin was dealt with comprehensively on the cross. Or that the covenant with Abraham was the application of redemption, and being joined to that covenant through regeneration makes you an inheritor of all the redemption found in the covenant.

UPDATE: Leithart agreed there seems to be some unclarity
P 14: Here perhaps is the nub, and shows to me (as several of NTW positions do - such as his use of circumcision/faith as the progression from OC badges to NC badges) that he is still TOO evangelical/Baptistic. Where is the declaration of justification heard? It is an event rather than simply a statement (I like that), and the event is baptism (I like that too). BUT, is he then saying that BAPTISM is not about entry?? Is he saying that baptism is a statement about what has already happened (ie, baptism/justification is distinguished [but how?] from and subsequent to [but how?] call/becoming a Christian)?

Effectual calling preceeds justification, right?

Then how can God renew the will of a person, and determine them to that which is Good, yet say that they are not actually regarded as morally good until faith is exercized and the righteousness of Christ is imputed.

What don't we get in regneration, or implied by regeneration, that we get in justification?

The WLC says that union with Christ is accomplished in their effectual calling. Are they unpardoned when then are united to him?

Rick Phillips writes
How does Wright respond to Romans 4:4-6? First, he makes a tortured attempt to deflect the clear teaching of this vital passage by complaining against Paul’s description that Abraham is "ungodly." His second response is a resort to dismissal: "We should not allow this unique and brief sidelight to become the dominant note, as it has in much post-Reformation discussion".
That sounds pretty bad, for Wright to complain about Paul's argument, and for him to dimisss it to boot.

Wright says
Paul is presumably thinking of Abraham's whole history, from his background in pagan Ur through to YHWH's call and the establishing of the covenant. Jewish tradition knew of Abraham's background in idolatry and tended to regard him as the first one to protest against this and to worship the one true God instead. Paul does not entirely dissent from this tradition. As he will show in the rest of the chapter, Abraham is thus the forefather quite specifically of Gentiles who come to faith, not merely of Jews. This is in fact the beginning of a daring theme, that Abraham is actually more like believing Gentiles than he is like believing Jews.

...What matters is the covenant, established by God with Abraham while he was still "ungodly," and now extended by sheer grace to any and all who, despite their ungodliness, trust in this God. The covenant was always intended to be God's means of putting the world to rights; the key moment in this promised accomplishment comes when, because of the unveiling of God's righteousness in the death of Jesus, God not only can but must declare the ungodly to be set right, to be within the covenant....

Third, the word "ungodly" takes us right back to the start of Paul's description of human idolatry and wickedness in 1:18: The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and injustice of those who suppress the truth through injustice. That Paul intends this reference back, demonstrating how, within the Abraham story, one can see God's proposed solution for the problem of 1:18-3:20, will become clear in vv. 18-22.

One who believes in this God, therefore, will discover that this 'faith' will be regarded, not as a meritorious spiritual act (how could that be, for the "ungodly"?), but as a badge of covenant membership given by God in sheer grace.
Further, as to Wright's 'dismissal' of imputation, we note that what Wright regards as a 'unique and brief sidelight' the use of a 'bookkeeping metaphor in the direction of employment and wage-earning'. Wright accuratly states that the terminology of wages and the means by which they are credited is only used here in discussing justification. So, in fact, it is a brief and unique reference to one way of looking at the reckoning of righteousness (for Wright: covenant status).

None of these texts adduced by Philips to show that Wright may be missing something in denying that it is God's righteous status that is imputed in 2 Corinthians 5:21 actually establish the matter in contention, that Paul views the righteousness reckoned (in Wrights understanding, the reckoning is functionally like that of an indentifying badge, and the righteousness is that of right standing in the covenant, a covenant that goes back to abraham, and which issues forth in the production of dying and rising Messiah Lord who propitiates wrath so that the sins of those in the covenant are atoned for and can be forgiven) as the righteousness of God himself.

These texts that speak of the righteousness of God do not make explicit reference to reckoning or imputation, and the texts that speak of reckoned righteousness (Romans 4:4-6) do not speak of it being the righteousness of God or Christ that is reckoned. [Romans 10:4, though appearing to link up a clear "righteousness that comes from God" with "God's righteousness", needs an accurate understanding of the Greek to contexualize, which I lack.]

It seems to me a better line of attack on Wright, and one which Phillips seems to keep trying to make but confuses Wright's denials of imputation of God's own righteous status with a denial of any kind of reckoned status of righteous, would be his view of how covenant membership is the definition of the righteous status that he regards 'imputed' in a manner (as of a badge) that is functionally equivalent to everything meant by imputation in the standard Reformed model.

Wright seems to see the dealing with sin and making a way of acceptance with God as an event that took place on the cross, and then those that find themself in union with their righteous messiah are, by faith, accounted as covenant members, in covenant with the God who dealt with sin for all His people in the cross itself.

July 27, 2005

Unintentional bad language here, but this english to chinese to english translation of Revenge of the Sith translates 'Jedi Council' as 'Presbyterian Church'.


"So you're saying that even though Ahasuerus made a declaration on his throne that the Jews have the right to defend themselves, that declaration only comes into effect by the proclamation of the decree by these pieces of paper? Not that the paper itself gives the Jews any rights, but the paper is a tool by which Ahasuerus gives the right"

"yes, you've got it"

"well, it takes time for all these proclamations to get spread around. I know neither rain nor hail nor dead of night will keep the Persian messengers from their appointed rounds, but yesterday I heards about a Jew who was arrested for being caught sharpening a sword. If the proclamation of the decree had been any later, he would have been executed. And all his family's goods would have been forfeited to the governor."

"Yes, its unfortunate when people don't benefit in this life from the decree being proclaimed to them formally. But that decree still applies, since he's one of the ones to whom it was concerning: a Jew. And so when the governor's decision is reviewed, it will certainly be overturned on appeal and his inheritance will be secure."

"That's weird"


"Those Jews over there are fawning all over the messenger, thanking him, bowing in honor to him, and giving him money"

"What's strange about that"

"First of all, if the paper the decree is on and the person who posts the paper are just instruments and tools for the king to proclaim his decree. Shouldn't they be showing that reverence for the king, not the messenger or the paper?"

"Well, its quite natural for them to be thankful for the very things that brought them the decree don't you think"

"sure, but who knows how far this is going to go... And second, its pretty ironic that they're bowing to the messenger when it was Mordecai's refusal to bow that started this whole mess off in the first place"

"yes, that is a bit ironic"

"and now look, they're kissing the paper and waving it around, and that Jewish gematrist is starting to analyze it for magic words!"

"yes, those gematrists are pretty strange. But that's only one of them. I guess any good thing can be abused"

"I guess I'd be pretty grateful if Ahasuerus sent a proclamation saying I could defend myself against the Jews when they defend themselves. I wonder though..."


"So this message went everywhere in the empire right. Even that little province where the Jews have been rebelling against the taxes?"


"So, does it apply to them? He already made a medo-Persian decree that the Jews there would be put to death for their continuing refusal to pay the tax. And now they're going to read a proclamation that says that they have a right to defend themselves against any attacker. So they'll think they have a right to keep doing what they're doing!"

"That may be the case, but they'd be pretty stupid to try it"


"well, medo-Persian law is unique in that none of the laws can be repealed and replaced with other laws. It has something to do with our view of law as given by Ahura-Mazda, the one good God who is perfectly just. So while they have the right to defend themselves, they also know that there is a death penalty still standing against them. When Queen Esther intervened on behalf of all Jews everywhere, it was because they were innocent as a people of such a great injustice being done to them and her intercession saved their life. But she does like her lawful tax revenue to pay for all those servants, so she's not going to keep interceeding on behalf of rebels among her own people.

"The genius of the decree is really that it means most of the bloodshed is going to be averted. You and I were gearing up to get us some Jewish spoil, but now its going to be much tougher. I think I'm just going to sit this one out and let the whacko agagites get themselves killed. So its not like the Jews are going to have to fight a difficult campaign against the same number of people who were after their loot before. But these Jewish tax rebels are going to face actual army elements. They can legally resist, its true, but that's just going to make their slaughter all the worse"

"Interesting. So you're saying that the way in which all the Jews have really and truly been given a right of self defense, and the way in which that was formally proclaimed to them is going to make the situation even worse for the rebel Jews who care not at all for the decrees of their lawful king"

"Exactly. Of course, if they would see how just their king is to them in grantng this right of self defense, even to these rebels, they would stop their rebellion and benefit from the king's mercy."

"I'm worried"


"well, as you said, its probably smart to sit this one out. But some of these hard-core Agagites are going to come to my house and probably threaten my family to get me to join them. And this decree only lets Jews defend themselves, and the old decree only lets me kill Jews, not my agagite 'brothers'. So I'm worried."

"Ah, but there's a solution! We know the decree applies to those who meet a certain criteria. In a sense, there is a 'badge' you could wear that would mean you would fall under the category of people to whom the decree pertains. You could get circumcised and become a Jew. Then you too would be one to whom the decree applies, and you'd be in the right if you killed the agagites who come to threaten you"

"Become a Jew! Ugh! That would mean people would think I followed their cheap imitation of Ahura-Mazda. Never!"

"Yeah, look where following Ahura-Mazda got Haman. Suit yourself."


Mark Horne recommends Firefly. As do I, having finished the available DVDs with my wife. Incredibly well written, character based, and funny, Firefly chronicles the adventures of a Han Solo-esque smuggler with a buried heart of gold. The show has an explicitly cowboy/western styling to it, which fits the frontier era of space colonization in the show.

I'm really stoked for Serenity, the film version of the continuing story. I wonder if Mark knows that there is a comic book series written by Whedon that bridges the gap between the end of firefly and the new movie.

I also wonder if Mark knows that Joss Whedon has been writing X-men. I haven't read them myself, since I think waiting for the collections is more cost effective. So I'll be ordering this one soon.

In Genesis 15, God reckons Abraham as righteous. And THEN, in a ceremony, he signfies and declares that Abraham's decendants will inherit the land. Did God reckon Abraham righteous without including the promise of inheritance? Of course not, as in Genesis 15:17, God delcares that he is the God that brought Abraham out to inherit the land.

So, when does God actually promise the land?

And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess."

And Abraham said "how do I know that I shall posess it?"

And God said "Didn't you notice I accounted you righteous?"

And Abraham said "Ok, whatever."

July 26, 2005

THEY that go down to the sea in ships,
and occupy their business on the great waters;
These men see the works of the LORD,
and his wonders in the deep.
For at his word the stormy wind ariseth,
which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They are carried up to the heaven, and down again to the deep:
their soul melteth away because of the trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
and are at their wits' end.
So they cry unto the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivereth them from their distress.
For he maketh the storm to cease,
so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad, because they are at rest;
and so he bringeth them unto the haven where they would be.
O that men would therefore praise the LORD for his goodness,
and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men!

Ligon Duncan wants to promote bible reading in evangleical churches
We are to read the Bible in public worship. Paul told Timothy 'give attention to the public reading of Scripture' (1 Tim. 4:13) and so, a worship service should contain a substantial reading of Scripture (and not just from the sermon text!). The public reading of the Bible has been at the heart of the worship of God since Old Testament times. In the reading of God's word, He speaks most directly to His people.
That's great, because some Alliance affilaited churches don't have a sermon text reading.

July 25, 2005

Phillips criticizes Wright for claiming that 'righteousness of God' is a 'technical term' for God's own righteousness in keeping his covenant. (in the first place, the claim that it isn't lexically possible to have anything to do with covenant always strikes me as disingenuous. The Reformed argue that the standard of righteous behavior are those things stipulated in the covenant-law. So if God keeps his promises given in the Torah, what else is he than 'righteous'? And if man kept his, he would be (but he doesn't)). Using it technically is supposed to prejudice Wright against the contextual cues that indicate that Romans 1-7 is talking about imputed righteousness:
Consider Romans 1:17 again: "For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" Unless we approach this verse with a pre-conceived notion of the righteousness of God, we might notice that it is joined to an Old Testament citation (Hab. 2:4) in which the believers (as opposed to God) are described as the righteous. It is at least possible, then, that the righteousness of God is that righteousness bestowed by God on those who believe. Another example is Romans 3:22, where Paul writes of "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." Unless one's approach has already ruled out the option, the local context would suggest that this righteousness is bestowed on believers.
All this argumentation may be true, but it doesn't recognize or interact with Wright's engagement of the context of Habakuk 2:4 in his commentary on Romans.

And Wright makes the same accusation back
It is important to note that the NIV translation ("a righteousness from God is revealed") presupposes what I argued in the Introduction to be the wrong understanding of the phrase. Instead of God's own righteousness, it suggests that Paul is referring here to the status that Christians have as a result of God's justifying action. Although this is a possible meaning of the Greek, there is no warrant for it in Paul's Jewish background; it makes the reading of 3:21-26 very problematic; and it effectively splits off other sections of Romans, notably chapters 9-11, from the early chapters, since in 9-11 the questions Paul is addressing are precisely those summarized in Jewish literature by the notation of God's own righteousness.
So Wright offers three reasons why he favors the alternate interpretation of Romans 1:11. None hinge on a 'technical nature' of the word, rather, the historical question of warrant for that lexial meaning in Paul's Jewish backgrousd (is that disputable?), and how it fits the flow of other passages of Romans. if this is to progress beyond "is not/is too" and "well then you're saying the WCF is wrong" then better arguments will have to be offered.

Its also somewhat disingenuous for Phillips to claim that the referent to the people in Habakuk 2:9 should be determinative of the reference earlier, for the context of Habakkuk (as Wright points out) clearly brings to the fore not questions of how sinners can find a loving God, but why the distributive justice of God is not brought to bear, and why God is using agents of injustice to destroy the just, in a seemlingly unjust fashion. Where is that data in Phillips analysis?

Reformation 21 »The New Perspective on Justification Pt. 3, by Rick Phillips
For him, faith is not the instrument by which righteousness is imputed. Instead, faith is a badge of covenant membership. Faith is not how sinners receive righteousness; rather, faith is what identifies a person as belonging to that covenant community that is “in the right” with God. In Wright’s words, “Faith is the badge of covenant membership, not something someone ‘performs’ as a kind of initiation test.
I'm not sure that faith as an instrument "by which" righteousness is imputed and faith as a badge of covenant membership (which for Wright is equivalent to righteous status) are antithetical.

Does it make a difference if one says that God looks for the identifyer of 'faith' in those he consideres his righteous covenant people rather than say God uses faith as an instrument to impute righteousness? An instrument is a very broad term which could encompass things like badges that identify the members of the covenant to each other and God. At the very least, there needs to be some argumentation that badge of reckoning vs. instrument of imputation is antithetical.

Would Wright say "faith is not how sinners receive righteousness"? Has he said that? Phillips quotes Wright denying that faith is an "initiation performance" but wouldn't everyone agree that faith is no subsitute work?

Amusing takedown by Lileks, on a WaPo article criticising the Roberts family for dressing their kids funny. From the WaPo:
But the Roberts family went too far. In announcing John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, the president inextricably linked the individual -- and his family -- to the sweep of tradition. In their attire, there was nothing too informal; there was nothing immodest. There was only the feeling that, in the desire to be appropriate and respectful of history, the children had been costumed in it.
A picture of the family.

Derbyshire blogs about math curricula and says
Math is hard, and the current approach to hard tasks is, to find foreigners willing to do them for low wages, while we get busy with **real** American careers -- lawyer, doctor, movie star, Professor of Media Studies, drug dealer, etc. (The 'quant' section at the investment bank I worked for up to 2001 -- that is, the floor where dwelt the math whiz-kids who devised the firm's very complex trading, pricing, and risk management strategies -- was known on the trading floor as 'Chinatown.') Awareness of this seeps down to kids much faster than you'd think, and by the time they hit teen age, American kids have already got the idea that math is something done by people with funny accents and bad haircuts, for low wages. They seek career opportunities elsewhere
Is this why comp sci majors are declinging even as opportunities are still increasing? The "american kids" are thinking all the jobs have already gone to india (not) and its 'too hard' anyway?

Arlen Specter is apparently making stuff up

July 23, 2005

Well the toilet fill valve keeps 'firing' every 20 minutes or so even with the second new flapper, so I guess the next step will be replacing the whole flush valve. That's such a pain.

When 40 Bicycles wrote a bit about singleness, I didn't give it my full attention and so missed a lot of excellent stuff about baptism and its significance as a rite that demolishes the family before reconstituting it.

I agree with him that we make far too many uses of a "flat" hermeneutic when we compare baptism and circumcision. This is largely because we only do so to engage in polemics favoring infant baptism. There are those who don't want to see baptism as 'God's work' because so doing will diminish the polemical value of all the texts where Paul devalues circumcison as paradigmatic work of the law, and which can be pressed into service to attack a purported 'ritualism' in Christian contexts. (Can anyone seriously argue that Paul would go around saying he counted his baptism as dung in comparison to Christ?)

There are others (see the discussion in the link above) who want to see baptism as 'God's work', but because they have absorbed so much of the Reformed tradition which places baptism and circumcision together as arbitrarily distinct rites that have completely identical meanings, they seem to blunt Paul's definition of circumcision as work of Abraham which he performs on himself. Its subsequent-to-faith nature is the logic of Paul's position which falls apart if we start regarding it as "God's work" as well as circumcision.

I think on this point there may be emerging two very different strains of thought on these matters, and they seem to be becomeing increasingly incompatible, as two species of animals who have drifted genetically while interacting amongst themselves, and return to find them both out of accord with their ancestral morphology. This came home to me when a very traditional reformed pastor tried to instruct his congragation about, basically, the doctrine of adoption, that each child was born 'dead in trespasses and sins,' 'under the wrath and curse of God' and so needed to be adopted into God's family. This was greeted with hostility by some congregants who took the pastor to task for saying the little babies, in the covenant by birth of course, and federally holy before baptism of course, could hardly be said to be God-hating wretches.

If the Reformed tradition is going to keep recovering a doctrine of covenant succession 'by birth,' and respond to baptist polemics about how horrible it is to apply baptism to those to whom it does not pertain (did Christ come to resurrect the living? or the dead?) by merely insisting that babies are 'good enough' to be worthy of baptism, then the Reformed will continue to have a sub-biblical polemic against credobaptism, but will also continue to have a sub-biblical view of singlesness and the place of family life as relativised values in the kingdom and ministry expected of Christ's people.

Fascinating reading on the 'history' of kissing
Meanwhile, the erotic meaning of the kiss became increasingly central. In 1649 an English observer could write that the kiss was used “in salutation, valediction, reconciliation . . . congratulation, approbation, adulation, subjection, confederation, but more especially and naturally in token of love”. The mouth became more welcoming with the advent of more effective dentistry — which did something to diminish halitosis and produce gleaming white teeth — and the sexual connotations of the kiss became more apparent and its meaning more ambiguous. Eventually the ambiguity proved too much; and, for social and ritual purposes, the meeting of lips had to be replaced by other words and actions, less susceptible to misinterpretation. The English social kiss between men and women had been on the lips and therefore disappeared, whereas the French kiss on the cheeks was less blatantly erotic and accordingly proved more enduring.
I guess that helps explain why the Christian kiss of peace is deader than a doornail. We're all too good looking now.

July 22, 2005

Does the WCF teach individual justification, or corporate justification?
1. Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

2. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

3. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to His Father's justice in their behalf. Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them; and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for any thing in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
if Christ is a Public Person, are not his acts governmental and judicial for the whole body of those he represents? For their 'common good' not their private goods?

The WCF could have said, "the ones", or "each elect", or "on behalf of each". But it didn't.

Also there is this
the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification

I hope presbyterians wouldn't make the following accusation
It is absolutely amazing that very few seem to realize that Luther in fact believed that we are saved by "faith alone through baptism." However, you can't have it both ways at the same time -- "Faith Alone" and "Faith through Baptism." The addition of "through baptism" in effect contradicts "faith alone.
In reality, Luther did not hold to JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE! If he had really held to this, he would have rejected the doctrine of 'baptismal regeneration.' He did not! In fact, Luther called for the death of those (Anabaptists) who outspokenly believed in JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE and practiced BELIEVER'S BAPTISM. To get away from a gospel of works salvation, Luther referred to baptism as 'God's Work' and not a work that man does. However, the OBJECT of Luther's faith was not Christ ALONE, but CHRIST plus BAPTISM. That is ANOTHER GOSPEL!!!

July 21, 2005

Not sure if this is the best way to put things
A Christian says: "though I have often failed to obey the law, the deeper problem is why I was ever trying to obey it! Even my effort to obey it is just a way of seeking to be my own savior. In that mindset, even if I obey or ask for forgiveness, I am really resisting the gospel and setting myself up as Savior."
Let's try
Why was I ever trying to keep in step with the Spirit in the first place
Why was I ever trying to love God in the first place
my every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace was just a way of setting myself up as savior.

July 20, 2005

"Hey, did you hear?"


"Artexerxes has declared that the Jews can defend themselves. We're in for it now"

"He did? Since when?"

"I think it was a week ago. That's what all my fellow Agagites have been saying. Something bad happened to Haman too"

"Well, that's just a rumor"

"Hey wait, look, a rider is posting up some notice. Look: it says just what I heard, that the Jews have legal permission to defend themselves."

"So what"

"What! Are you nuts?"

"No, why? Its just a piece of paper. It doesn't DO anything for the Jews"

"well, yeah, the paper is just paper, but its going to have an effect."

"No, no, the king can give them permission, but a piece of paper can't give them permission"

"You must be one of the small-town Agagites. While I know the macedonians have been giving us trouble lately, I have to admit their schools are top-notch in explaining reasoning. Here's the deal"


"Artexerxes is the one who legally decides that the Jews have permission to defend themselves. So he is the principle cause of their new right. But unless people know about his decision, it isn't actually going to be a complete decision, and wouldn't have its intended effect.

"To do that he has to proclaim it. We Persians have one of the most effective postal systems ever devised. Messages go to the entire empire, and that's what keeps thing moving, and allows us to hold so much territory under one ruler. So our King uses pieces of paper to DO things; mainly, to make known his decisions. They're like tools. A man is the principal cause of a tree being chopped down, not the axe he wields, but the axe is an instrument that causes the tree to be cut."

To be continued?

Huh? "Justification, though, is not something we experience. It is something legally declared about us as a result of the Covenant of Redemption. FV and AA advocates totally mess that up. "

Commenting on Proverbs 20:11, which Waltke translates "Even a youth in his evil deeds dissembles, so is his conduct pure or is it upright?" Waltke says
Delitzsch objects to the meaning 'dissembles' because the statement "is not justified by experience." Did he have children?

July 19, 2005

Lileks comments on film
"Star Wars" was made by a sophomore who was bumped ahead to the senior class because of his smarts, but never fit in and spent lunch hour drawing rocketships in his notebook. "The Incredibles" was made by 30 year olds who remembered what it was like to be 16, but didn’t particularly care to revisit those days, because it’s so much better to be 30, with a spouse and a kid and a house and a sense that you’re tied to something.

Miscreant is almost as good at irony and sarcasm as I am.

July 18, 2005

Assyrian Wars: Biblical-era card-driven-strategy wargaming fun.

In other news, a recently unearthed text of Iraneus', titled On Christian Practice contains the following remark
We Christians of course continue to include even the littlest infants among our number; as Abraham our father circumcised his children, and as all Israel were baptized in the sea, so we all baptize our children, sprinkling them with the water of life, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Thus we suffer the little children and forbid them not
This suprisingly clear testimony from early church scholars has led to ninety percent of the Southern Baptist Convention voting to institute the baptism of infants at once, and rename the denomination to the "Southern Independent Convention".

The remaining ten percent of the churches have declared the new denomination to be apostate, but suprisingly, not because of the actual practice of baptism, but because of the SIC's denial of the perspicuity of scripture. Moderator of the much smaller Continuing Southern Baptist Convention, Rev. Peter Louwen commented "We Baptists have clearly recognized the necessity of believer's baptism simply by opening our Bibles and reading them. It's impossible to confess the doctrine of perspicuity and at the same time to declare that we've been wrong for the past 400 years or so on an area of such salvific import. I'll grant that only very few of the SIC's pastors actually deny perspicuity outright, but it's the logical outcome of their position"

July 16, 2005

Napoleaon Dynamite Figures make their Debut. Do they have large talons?

July 15, 2005

Does God create faith in the Christian im-mediately, or using the Word of God as an instrument?

Is the Word of God the alone instrument of God's creation of faith in the Christian?

Are not the providential events of man's life also instruments God uses to create faith along side of the Word of God?

If they are, then are not the sacraments highly focused and divinely revealed providential events God uses as a instruments to both create and strengthen faith? (Other events are from God as equally, but the sacraments have divine institution in a way in which mundane life does not)

It is easy to narrate how God can use the baptism in an "instrumental" fashion to create faith in a child. He is told of God, his sin, and told of Christ's death, and then told that because his parents want him to be saved from God's wrath, they baptized him as an infant, which signified God's claim over him as a member of God's family, and that by his Baptism he is bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh.

Hearing of the gospel promise to him in his baptism, the child believes.

In such a way, cannot the baptism of the child be an instrument, along with the Word, that creates faith?

If "instrument" should not be used to describe the functioning of baptism in this narrative, what term should be used?

Is this contra-confessional? Or merely supra-confessional?

Rick Phillips from Whilin' Away the Hours: "if trusting faith is necessary for salvation and assurance, then I have to know that I trust in order to be assured."

Isn't being unsure of one's own trust a form of doubt? Which is the opposit of faith?

And since in the videos below Rick Phillips repeats his accusation against Peter Leithart that he falsely teaches that being a member of the visible church makes you a 'child of God' I repeat my question from the discussion:
the WCF says

"The visible Church... is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God"

If I've been admitted to the house and family of God, what am I?

A few years ago, when I was starting to read some of N. T. Wright's works I entertained the notion of getting James B. Jordan to do a Northeast version of his Biblical Horizon's theology conferences up here in Philly. Maybe we could talk about preterism in Wright, or something of that sort.

I considered where we would host such an event. I thought maybe Westminster seminary might be available or somthing.

If someone had told me that Wright heard about my idea, and would love to come speak to our little group, I'd have been amazed and delerious with enthusiasm. Imagine, getting Wright to speak. Maybe he and gaffin could interact, and we'd clarify things. It would be so intriguing and interesting.

I'm glad nothing of the sort ever happened. I'd hate to be accused of inviting Wright because I 'needed his exegesis'.

Does our law condem men for wanting to hear men speak?

July 14, 2005

Good stuff on covenant by Ligon Duncan
Covenant theology flows from the trinitarian life and work of God. God’s covenant communion with us is modeled on and a reflection of the intra-trinitarian relationships. The shared life, the fellowship of the persons of the Holy Trinity, what theologians call perichoresis or circumincessio, is the archetype of the relationship the gracious covenant God shares with His elect and redeemed people. God’s commitments in the eternal covenant of redemptive find space-time realization in the covenant of grace.

July 09, 2005

Funny story about the DVD-VCR combo we purchased two weeks ago.

My friend had leant me the DVDs of Firefly, for which I am grateful, because this is such a great show, and of course its a shame that it got canceled. At least there will be the movie in September, and now I'll know a bit more going into it what to expect.

Anyway, the Sony DVD-VCR combo was giving me trouble on the DVD side, taking some disks a long time to load, declaring occasionally that a disk was unreadable that wasn't, etc. We had to watch two episodes on the PC upstairs, and that was no fun. (My PC monitor is pretty dark, making many of the interior shots very hard to make out. And it turns out in all the shenanigans of connecting electronics that my TV had its brightness set somewhere in the midrange making a bunch of shows more dark than they were intended to be)

(All the CSI's really should turn on a light switch when they check a crime scene, but now it won't be so obscure for the viewer at home at least.)

So since it was new I didn't want to put up with the machine in this condition, and I took it back to Best Buy. I scrounged around for the receipt, but it was lost. Fortunately they accepted the fact that I had paid with a credit card. I ended up getting a Panasonic DVD-R/VCR combo for more money, because none of the non DVD-R combos seemed worthwhile, and I've liked Panasonic in the past.

So I get home and I'm ready to try the problem Firefly disk in the new machine, and lo and behold, its nowhere to be found. It turns out I left it in the Sony before I boxed it up!

So we all get in the car and head down to Best Buy, and the kids go off to check out the Playstations while I wait and see if I can resolve this. I explain the situation to the salesgirl and she gives a sheepish/bothered look like she's going to have to hunt around for it or might have to disappoint me that the disk is gone or something.

Well she locates the Sony under a cabinet, and starts to unpack it. That's when I notice that the box already has a "open item" pricetag slapped on it ($15 less than list) and has been re-sealed with tape that says "tested unit". The disk emerges when she plugs it in and turns it on.

Yeah, you 'tested' that machine when I returned it, huh...

Another reason to avoid Best Buy.

The new Panasonic is working great. And the Mrs. Reynolds episode of Firefly was fantastic!

I've tied together a new geeklist on boardgamegeek: Games with a theme of extremist politics. I was struck by the micro press of game publishers who have made interesting games involving 'extremist' political movements or other social upheavals short of world wars (which, in a sense, are the most 'extreme' of all.

I decided to order two of the games in the list, as I'd hate not to have a game about the veritable "Battle of Armageddon" in my collection. (Has anyone made one that involves more obvious supernatural elements? From the description, this seems pretty straightforward). And the game description below also sounded unique
Land of the Free is a simulation of the political turmoil in America during the period of the Great Depression, 1930-1941. The economic devastation caused by the financial irresponsibility of the Roaring Twenties created massive job losses, business failures, and a crisis of confidence in the political institutions of the day, including democracy itself. Many people sought a solution to their problems through simplistic ‘set the world right in ten lessons’ schemes such as the Technocracy or Social Credit movements, but others put their trust in radical political movements of the far left and right such as the German-American Bund organization, the Wobblies, and the Communist Party. Still others learned the value of simple corruption and demagoguery, as Governor Huey Long did in Louisiana.

“In the game, two or three players represent extremist political organizations trying to gain power through covert means, at regional and (when they are strong enough) at Federal level. A process of patient organization and propaganda will result in an accumulation of influence, which will translate into power, which has its own rewards. It is also possible to try and muscle one’s way into power by intimidation and strong-arm tactics.
Anyway, potential diverting fun there.

July 08, 2005

It seems to me that if you design and produce a game you have implicily licensed the performance and play of that game in any form or manner the players decide, including for-profit ventures.

The White Wolf Policy on Pay-for-Play Games tries to close that obvious mental loophole. I wonder if it will be succesful, or result in someone making an open source version of the pretty much public domain "IP", White Wolf claims. (They couldn't win a suit against Underworldthe blatant rip-off of "their" ideas, which is basicly a mish-mash of public domain concepts. If youre going to claim to have IP, you'd better create something newer.)

Most expensive computer game ever? CYBERWAR XXI

July 07, 2005

Made a few blogroll and link updates to the site today.

My company webpage has recently been revised. I think it looks pretty nice.

After yesterdays abortive three turn attempt at Target Arnhem, we played a new game through four turns, with me as the Allies and my co-worker as the Germans. This is a tough game for the Allies to win, especially if you do anything remotely like the historical set-up of spreading the paratroopers all across the battlefield. I have some ideas of things to try, and my next game will completely concentrate my forces (which is what I think I'll have needed to do this game). We'll see how the next turns go tomorrow.

It feels somewhat unusual for a wargame as you can keep spending supply points to remove damage from units. The supply points for the Germans are limited, but my co-worker keep getting pretty maximal amounts. So I'd make 2-1 and 3-1 attacks and he's remove the damage the next turn. Of course, that limited him from attacking...

I like the three-impulse structure of the turn, and the way only the armor units can act again in the third impulse. It gives a nice feel for the armor advantage, and the limitation on one action per impulse keeps the player involved making trade-offs.

So far I'm really pleased. And it was free!

The church on earth is made up of those who make a public profession that Christ is the savior and agree to submit to him as Lord
Is this the confession of a subscriber to the Westminster Confession of Faith, or a baptist?

And would it be more Biblical to at least reverse the order of the public profession and submission. The Bible speaks of professing that Jesus Christ is Lord, primarily.

Actually the ESV has 105 verses with "Lord" and "Christ" in it, and only 13 with
"Savior" and "Christ" in it.

Since I don't have a physical one to fly, this will have to suffice for now

July 06, 2005

I guess working at one company for fifteen years and never having a crappy assignment is pretty good, and should soften the blow of my dashed expectations for how much better a new system was going to be.

July 04, 2005

Details of my Origins trip may be found on my geeklist: Game Narrative of Origins.

July 03, 2005

My mother has some health problems that will entail surgery in the near future and uncertainty about the seriousness of the results (We have no idea, so it could be any number of things).

I have a difficult time worrying when I don't know anything, so I don't, but prayer is appreciated. Sometimes I don't know if I'm just a peaceful calm person, or someone who doesn't empathize enough.

Two thoughts today!

One was that I'd never considered that the Pharisees had much biblical basis for their washing of pots and hands. But they modeled their holiness code on the application of the priestly holiness standard to the whole nation, which they could derive from Zechariah's statement that every pot in Jerusalem and Judea would be holy to Yahweh's service. Thus the rites of special holy treatment of vessels would have some prima facie legitimacy

The second was unlike it. It was that when Saul persecuted the church, the most identifiable Christians would have been the Jews who followed Christ and were living in the least Jewish way having internalized the transformations of the Torah that Jesus had brought. Thus, the most prone to 'judaize' could be the remnants of the persecution Saul himself brought, as they would have been the least visible as Christians.

De script shun




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