January 31, 2006

Some discussion of the Misourri FV Report at Westminster Brass. (cute name).

January 30, 2006

Rick Phillips writes on Reformation 21 Blog
The question is raised, 'What benefits do wet babies have that dry babies don't have on a practical basis, at least in good churches?' My answer is that there are probably none -- both hear the Word, receive prayer, grow up under the loving gaze of Christ's shepherds, etc. For this I am grateful, and I think it shows that the more theology we have in common (i.e. Reformed Baptists and Reformed Presbys), the less radical is the difference occasioned by our different baptismal views.
I continue to recommend to Rick the essay in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship : Celebrating the Legacy of James Montgomery Boice by Marion Clark on this issue, which answers the question in terms of the meaning of a seal.

Wet babies have a seal of their in-grafting into Christ already. They have something that authenticates their covenant status. They have something that they and their parents can draw assurance from. When doubts assail them, they can cry with Luther "I am baptized".

'Dry' babies lack this thing.

[updated to answer the first commenter's question]

January 27, 2006

In 12 minutes, it will be Mozart's 250th birthday!

Latest episode of the Dice Tower podcast is up. In this epispode, Tom and Joe interview their wives!

I wonder if this might have something to do with the sterotype of a crazy lady hoarding many cats. It's a feedback loop.

January 25, 2006

If past experience is a guide, maybe Modern Reformation will actually interview Beth Moore and make her sound even better than this review of Beth Moore's Believing God
In the introduction to Believing God, Moore shows her true, but mistaken, agenda when she says, "I know I’m going to make it to heaven because I’ve trusted Christ as my Savior, but I want to make it to my Canaan on the way. I want to finish my race in the Promised Land, not in the wilderness. You too? Then we have to cash in our fear and complacency and spend all we have on the only ticket out: BELIEF."

There are many worthy goals of Bible study, but securing heaven on earth is not one of them, at least for Reformed Christians
I carry no water for Ms. Moore, and reject her apparent charismatic tendencies, but I have to say that since she just distinguished heaven from the promised land, accusing her of seeking "heaven on earth" seems uncogent.

Do we teach our children that if they 'honor their parents' they will 'live long in the earth'? Is that because what we are offered in this life is analogous to the land promised to the Jews?

Doctors say cough syrup not worth cash. Why do i suspect that cough syrup's will start containing antihistamines.

January 24, 2006

As promised, for your edification, here is Waltke on Proverbs 30:19
Agur probably chose a ship (see 31:14), not a fish, both to turn attention away from animal skills to human skills and for its rocking motion in common with the other three things. In the heart of the sea (or high seas; see 23:34), which refers to the remote open seas and trade routes away from coastal areas (e.g., Ezek 27:4, 25-27), connotes the ship's defiance of the unfathomable hidden depths. Of a man (geber, see I:89) with (or more probably "in") [182], refers to sexual intercourse.

[182] since the other two instances of beth ("in the sky...in the...sea") are clearly spatial, as is ale("on"), and since the common denominator is a rocking motion within an area, the spatial sense of beth is preferred to its concommitent sense (see IBHS, pp. 197-97, PP. 11.2.5b, d)

Some people have categories of blog posts. If I did, I'd have alot of posts under "Nobody knows what they're saying anymore"

Tim Keller writesin a forthcoming book
Many non-believers in Christianity have friends or relatives that have become ‘born again’ and seem to have gone off the deep end. They soon begin to loudly express disapproval of various groups and sectors of our society—especially movies and television, the Democratic party, homosexuals, evolutionists, activist judges, members of other religions (all of which are branded ‘false’) and public schools. When arguing for the truth of their faith they often appear intolerant and self-righteous. This is what many people would call fanaticism.


The extremists we think of as ‘fanatics’ are so not because they are too committed to the gospel but not committed enough. Belief that you are accepted by God via sheer grace makes you both confident (because you are loved) and humble (because you didn’t earn it.)

Think of Jesus himself. He was enormously bold and daring, casting the money-changers out of the temple with a whip (John 2:11ff,) calling the ruling power, Herod, a "fox" and refusing to leave his territory, though he knew he wanted to kill him (Luke 13:31-32,) denouncing the religious and civic leaders for their corruption and injustice, though he knew it would cost him his life (Matt 23:27.)
Wow, sounds like those fanatics are condemning civic leaders like the Democrats and activist judges for 'injustice'. I also don't know too many Christians out there condemning individual gays or evolutionists, though when the gatekeepers (read 'religious leaders') strain out the gnats of Christian intolerance of gay marriage and challenging of materialism in science education, they do complain in rather bold and daring terms.

1. Forced to leave his home because of a rival who sought his death.

2. Rightful posessor of that which his rival claimed

3. In exile, does useful service of the flocks of a kinsman who refuses to give him what is due in return.

4. the kinsman insults him by denying he is a kinsman

5. he ends up with a second wife at the end of the story

Who is he?

I'm getting ready to teach the second half of Proverbs 30 in a bible study.
Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a virgin.
This is the way of an adulteress:
she eats and wipes her mouth
and says, "I have done no wrong."
I'll have to share later some of what world-class exegete Bruce Waltke does with this text (If you think James Jordan's comparison of the blood of cirumcsion to the blood on the doorways of passover is freaky...)

For now, I'll note that I of course assume that the way this text proceeds is listing four things that are 'wonderful' in a mysterious way. That's there on the text. But why the Agur pick these four things? Is there a 'rule' of interpretation that is objective, definite, and consistent, that will tell us what it similar about these four items such that they can be linked?

It would seem that some of the connections between them are clear: these are things that move effortlessly, and things that are at home in their environment. They are also clearly in the case of the eagle, snake, and ship, things that move without a trace.

I would assume that with the exception of the fifth thing, the adulteress (which is made exceptional in the list by being excluded from the 'three, no four' count) are things that Agur considers positively wonderful. That as eagles, snakes, and ships are all wonderfully fit to their environs, so a man is meant and intended for his bride. Most commentators I've read see it similarly. Not so Matthew Henry
The fourth is a mystery of iniquity, more unaccountable than any of these; it belongs to the depths of Satan, that deceitfulness and that desperate wickedness of the heart which none can know, Jer. 17:9. It is twofold:—(1.) The cursed arts which a vile adulterer has to debauch a maid, and to persuade her to yield to his wicked and abominable lust. This is what a wanton poet wrote a whole book of, long since, De arte amandi—On the art of love. By what pretensions and protestations of love, and all its powerful charms, promises of marriage, assurances of secresy and reward, is many an unwary virgin brought to sell her virtue, and honour, and peace, and soul, and all to a base traitor; for so all sinful lust is in the kingdom of love. The more artfully the temptation is managed the more watchful and resolute ought every pure heart to be against it.

Jeff Meyers posts his Lecture on Mark, Part 1.

Check it out. Meyers bit on the beheading of John the Baptist [in part 2, not yet posted] was eye-opening. Its so obvious once its pointed out, and you slap your head for not seeing it before.

I couldn't tell you what objective, definite, or consistent rule of interpretation Meyers used beyond reading the text and assuming that the features of the text and context are there for a reason, but he's still undoubtedly right.

I'm open to have someone explain to me the 'rule' he used. It could be helpful.

January 23, 2006

Four Jobs I Have Had:

Help desk for a business school computing center
Programmer (in BASIC!) of a chew sensor for obesity research
Proofreader for the Comanche helicopter proposal from Boeing
TeX composition specialist

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over:

I'm not much of one to do such a thing. Some of my favorites, that bear repeat viewings

Blade Runner
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
The Entire Looney Toons Oeuvre

Four Books I Could Read Over and Over:

The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe (that's four books)
The Holy Bible (of course!)
Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul's Soteriology, Richard Gaffin
Watchmen, Alan Moore

Four Places I Have Lived:

Overbrook, West Philadelphia
Penn's Campus, West Philadelphia
Another part of University City, West Philadelphia
The place I'm now in West Philadelphia.

(what a variety!)

Four TV Shows I Watch:

All my favorite shows got canceled

Teen Titans
Ask This Old House
America's Test Kitchen (check out the sexual chemistry between the hosts sometime! wow!)
CSI: Miami (when I'm not on the PC and the wife has it on)

Four Places I Have Been On Vacation:

Sandy Beach Resort, Minnesota (best ever)
Origins Game Convention, Columbus, OH
Ocean City, New Jersey (as a kid, and now, with my kids)
Williamsburg, VA (I remembered this after I read my wife's list)

Four Websites I Visit Daily:

National Review Online

Four Favorite Foods:

Shrimp (cocktail and BBQ, but not scampi)
Scrapple, egg, and cheese on a roll
Beans with crunchy things on top

Four Places I’d Like To Be Right Now:

Someplace they're handing our free money
A weekend game convention
Somewhere with my wife and kids, and the kids are nearby playing, being watched by a Chinese nanny.
With my parents

Four Bloggers I'm Tagging
D. Marion Clark

(hey my wife tagged you all already! well, at leats it reduces the spread of the meme!)

Jeff Meyers
Justin Taylor of Ref 21

Southern Baptists won't send missionaries who pray in tongues privately.

Next on the chopping block, missionaries who cry when they pray.

January 19, 2006

The Missouri Presbytery report advises that it's unwise to use "union with Christ" language to describe the fellowship unelect covenant members have with Christ and His Spirit.

I continue to come back to Chapter XXVI of the WCF, and am disappointed by how limited and vague the claims are there
Section I.–All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as to conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

Section II.–Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.
The WCF affirms that saints (comprehending the elect and only the elect) are united to Christ and each other in love, and speaks secondarily of the holy fellowship and communion that the visible church has.

One of the recurring motifs of the FV debate has been a reaction to Wilkins initial claim (later withdrawn) that since election was "God's business", we should focus more in theology on the revealed covenantal visible aspects which seem to speak of the union that visible church members have with each other, which has to be 'in Christ' and by his Spirit as well. This was objected to on the grounds that the WCF indicates that we can very well be aware of our election, and should seek to be so aware by the testimony of the Spirit to the internal graces that the elect, and no other, possess.

What troubles me about such an approach is that if we take sections I and II as presenting dichotomous levels of union, then not only is my knowledge of my own election attestable by internal graces, but apparently knowledge of the election of other's election is knowable by the fact that only the invisibly elect have a union of each other "in love".

What is the experiential and phenomenological difference between my bond in love with a fellow elect Christian, and a merely visible professing Christian who has not yet apostatized? If there is no experiential difference, how can we speak of it exclusively as a union of "love" between the elect, and refuse that of the other covenant members. If there is an experiential difference, how can we avoid the conclusion that we can know the elect by our apprehension of that experience of union?

Is it pastorally wise to make sure people are considering in the back of their minds that there are some in the congregation with whom they are actually united in love, and are obliged to do things for their mutual good, and others with whom they merely have obligations of fellowship and sharing spiritual services that tend to their edification?

if an unbelieving wife can be 'sanctified' by the husband, is it wrong to say that visible reprobate saints have no communion in each other's 'gifts' and 'graces'? We know that spiritual gifts can be given to the reprobate in the church. Are not those gifts for the good of the elect?

I'm also intrigued by the comments of Robert Shaw on this chapter of the WCF. Firstly
All saints are united to Jesus Christ. This is not an essential union, such as subsists between the sacred persons of the Godhead; nor a personal union, such as exists between the divine and human natures in the person of Christ; nor merely a political union, like that between a king and his subjects; nor a mere moral union, like that between two friends. Between Christ and believers there is a legal union, like that betwixt a surety and the person for whom he engages.
Interesting, because I believe Joseph Pipa tried to affirm that there was 'legal' union in the covenant between Christ and the visible church, but that there was only 'vital' union with the elect. Shaw goes on to say that there is more than the legal union, that there is also a spiritual or mystical union, which is undefined by given several analogies in scripture.

Secondly, writing of the nature of visible church unity
The visible bonds of this unity are specified by the Apostle Paul: "There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" - Eph. iv.4)
I find it odd that Shaw cites a text which speaks of the 'one body' and 'one faith' that the visible church shares, when he said that the unique qualities of the faith of the elect ('like precious faith') that they have in common was what was the instrument of saving union with Christ. If the visible church also shares 'one faith', then how is it objected that they don't share the same union with Christ in that one faith.

The credibility gap to me is in imagining that Paul had all these fine distinctions in minds when he speaks in various ways about union and unity in Christ. It seems very much to me that he would be happy to "[refer] indiscriminately to all members of visible churches as 'people in union with Christ'" (language describing a bad thing in 'theological discourse' in the Missouri report; is it 'ok' in apostolic epistles?) What accounts for this apparent gap, which even the Missouri report realizes:
we deny that it is prudent to use the terminology of "union with Christ" to describe the relationship of all those in the covenant community (elect and non-elect alike) without carefully clarifying the difference between the specific sense the terms have come to have in our theological tradition, and the other senses they may have in the Bible.
Can it be accounted for in some sense like that sometimes advanced in questions of prophecies: that the prophet was unaware of the full implications of what he was saying? Can our grasp of a particular Apostle's doctrine exceed that of the Apostle himself? If so, what does that say about apostolic and biblical authority in the Church?

January 18, 2006

The Carnival of Homeschooling returns for a third week.

A new report by the PCA Missouri presbytery study committee on Federal Vision Theology makes a number of salutary points.

In the list of affirmations and denials, though we have the following
We affirm that Adam mediated the first covenant in the original integrity of the creation order. We further affirm that having created Adam in and for covenant blessing, God called Adam to loyalty and fruitfulness: so long as Adam walked with God in love and obedience, God promised to bless him, his posterity, and the entire earthly creation, but should Adam fail to obey God's word, he would bring frustration into the creation, and would subject himself and his posterity to the enslaving power of sin and the reign of death.

We deny that God’s creational intention was for Adam to mature, eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, die, and be raised from the dead; and further deny that Adam’s sin was only seizing the fruit of the Tree prematurely; and thus deny that death coming upon Adam and his posterity was part of God’s creation purposes instead of a threatened response to human disobedience
The affirmations seem fine to me as far as they go. The denial, on the other hand, seems to be directed at what James Jordan has written in The Federal Vision, and I'm not so sure it holds up. Jordan's exegetical case to me seems very sound, and I would have found it much more helpful to have a refutation of the exegetical case than otherwise.

Some thoughts:

1. Does the denial actually mean to certainly deny that Adam was to mature and eat from the Tree of KoGaE?

The exegetical case that Adam was to eat from the tree seems very certain to me from the following points

a. God does say that every tree will be food for Adam and Eve in Genesis 1, seemingly after God created Eve. The prohibition given to Adam on eating the ToKoGaE is either a contradiction, or an indication that the prohibition was temporary.

b. Knowledge of Good and Evil is a good thing to have in biblical terms, and is associated with maturity and wisdom.

c. The tree of life gives life by eating. Why would the tree of Knowledge give Knowledge by perpetual avoidance?

d. In actual fact, eating from the tree gave Adam and Eve KoGaE.

e. Many reformed commenters have indicated they considered the prohibition to be temporary (I'll have to get a list one of these days). Jordan is not unique in this. If this denial is to be sustained, what of those other commenters?

2. What arguments exist for denying that there was an intention that, if Adam were permitted to eat he would die?

a. We have in the text the statement of what will happen if Adam eats from the tree. "In the day you eat of it, you shall surely die." If we accept that Adam would have received permission to eat from the tree as I claim above, then the logical conclusion from God's own word is that Adam would experience death. What would mitigate against such a conclusion?

b. We can happily affirm that the death Adam would undergo would not be under the enslaving power of sin, or a 'reign' of death.

c. The parallel nature of the account in Genesis 2 and 3 indicate that some kind of transformation that is like death would be in view. Adam needed a helper to dress the garden. God brought animals to Adam to train him in this knowledge. Adam then goes into a coma or has a near death experience. A bone is removed from him and a hole is made in his body. Then God heals his body and wakes him up and gives him the helper he made for him.

(Parenthetically, would anyone in the ancient world really distinguish the deep sleep and surgery that Adam underwent as anything but a death. The ANE did not have many effective ways of anesthetizing a person safely, removing whole ribs and closing up flesh again.
Doc, what's gonna happen?

We'll, I'm gonna knock you out, cut you open, take out a rib, and close up the hole.

Doc, you're gonna kill me?)
Following along in Genesis 3, we see that Adam and Eve were naked (lacking glory: see Noah and Joseph later in Genesis for how this plays out), and an animal comes to them, and tempts them to disobey god. Assuming God will provide something for Adam (kingly maturity to deal with invading serpents, the greatest of all God's animal creatures), would he not provide it in the same manner he provides a wife: through a similar near death transformation.

d. Jesus can speak of death of seeds as the only way of having anything 'bear much fruit'. His account of death of seeds has very little to do with death as a punishment or something as a terrible reign: there is a creational order to it.

3. I can accept the denial that Adam's sin was "only seizing the fruit of the tree prematurely"

His sin was refusing to hear God's word, letting his wife be deceived by a serpent, listening to his deceived wife instead of God, and disobeying an express command.

But his sin included the premature taking (stealing) of fruit.

4. The final denial, that "death coming upon Adam and his posterity was part of God’s creation purposes instead of a threatened response to human disobedience" is correct, but not to the point

I don't think Jordan's or anyone's position is that death, as it may have come upon Adam under permission, was to come upon his posterity in the same manner it came upon the posterity in the fall.

b. The sticking point to me seems to be equivocation on what is meant by 'death'. Death has analogies that don't have the full connotations and denotations of the only kind of death we have knowledge of. Deep sleep is one. A seed changing into a plant is another. One day ending in night is another.

c. It should be strenuously affirmed that there are great discontinuities in the way one should conceive of death under God's permission to eat from the tree. If the above denial may be accepted as to being limited to the kind of death we know in sin, then well and good. But if any kind of death or analogous death is ruled out as a result of permission to eat, then we run up against the sciptural and exegetical considerations above: 1) that Adam would have been permitted to eat 2) God says that when you eat the fruit, you will die.

Scripture cannot be broken.

A commenter on Triablogue remarks on Lutheran rootings of the doctrine of the Real Presence in God's creative word
Such a complete misunderstanding of Lutheran teaching is...fascinating. Take a good, hard look at the section concerning the Lord's Supper in the Formula of Concord. Christ's presence in His Holy Supper is founded neither on some 'peculiar construction of the hypostatic union', nor on 'an illocal, supernatural mode of presence', but rather on the creative Word of God. Just as from the beginning, where God speaks the world into existence, what God says is. Thus when Jesus says, 'This is my body', it is. Going further than that is a waste of time.
This might be more compelling if the creation narrative involved God speaking about stuff he created and calling it other stuff.

"And God said, This earth is grass, seed bearding seed"

"And God said, May the water be fish"


But it doesn't. God creates ex-nihilo by making individual new things within places. He doesn't turn some water into firmament. He makes firmament, and places it inbetween water and water.

Even in Genesis 2, when God makes man from dust, he doesn't say "this dust is man", but he forms man from dust.

What you do get that follows the eucharistic grammar, is God making light and calling it 'day', and you get God making man and assigning him dominion. If we're going to say that "This is my body" is equivalent to saying "This light is 'day'" then c'mon zwinglianism!

The way most evolutionist Christians understand Genesis 1-3 as speaking in terms of 'ex-nihilo' creation, but actually God continues to draw out the potentialities of hydrogen gas, saying "this hydrogen is zinc" and "this fish is an amphibian", etc. If this were the case, then there might be an argument that God's creative word in Genesis 1 is the same as what appears to be God's transformative or declarative word in the eucharist. Ironically, the most conservative Lutherans deny this, as they are strict creationists.

January 16, 2006

Remember to watch The War That Made America on PBS this wednesday.

Either that, or get a new 3d card for Age of Empires III.

I'll probably get the the Age of Empires boardgame from Eagle Games. No info on it yet, though. It's supposed to be based on Age of Empires III. With plastic pieces.

The existence of employment discrimination against the Irish in the 19th century is largely a myth?

So says Richard J. Jensen - "No Irish Need Apply": A Myth of Victimization - Journal of Social History 36:2

January 14, 2006

Instapundit links some interesting thoughts on "God and the Singularity" from the Speculist.

"The Singularity", for those who don't know, is an assumption that the rate of techonolical chnage continues to skyrocket, until one day, we're just going to transform into something unrecognizable from the trajectory we're on. We'll have AI smater than us all of a sudden, or nanobots remaking the world instantaneously, or transhumanist brain enhancement.

All probably rot, but the Speculist brings some good theology from Genesis into the mix, including questions of Adam and his right to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Steps through a theonomic theology

1. Learn of it. "Oh, that sounds interesting, if a bit wired".

2. Have an authority I trust (my dad) point out some problems with it.

3. Generally agree with dad, that there are some problems. Notice that the OPC version of the WCF, with the American 1789 version of chapter XXIII.3 on the civil magistrate sure would rule it out. As a strict subscriptionist, decide that theonomists should be more honest, like all those evil hymn-singer and Christmas celebraters should own up to their lack of subscription to the standards.

4. Read alot more of theonomists and more Van Til. Find "some value" in the approach, and appreciate its Biblicality. Start thinking about how XXIII.3 used to be different. Isn't that interesting.

5. Occasional adopt a theonomist approach in usenet forums back in college, 'trying it on' to see if it works, or using it as a 'devils advocate'.

6. Continue to read critiques of theonomy, realizing that just because its against the 1789 Confession doesn't mean it might not be Biblical.

7. Notice that a great many critiques of theonomy tend to miss the mark, and rely on the rhetorical effects of 'all those mean penalties' and other stuff that's unreformed or unvantilian.

8. Become perturbed at the lengths some will go in opposing someone with theonomic views. Be gladdened that some respectable folks, even though they disagree with points of theonomy, affirm a whole lot of it, and are at least to the point in their critiques.

9. Notice that the provisional or "devil's advocate" acceptance of some theonomic thinking has become part of ones box of theological tools. Notice how often the "moral" "ceremonial" and "civil" distinction appears arbitrary, nominalistic, or useless.

10. Basically be a theonomist. Pick up James Jordan's monograph on the 'law of forbidden mixtures". Become amazed at how this answers the issue of what to do with the mixture laws, which reformed people tend to declare a 'ceremonial' with no argument, and which Rushdoony actually gets wrong because he doesn't translate it right.

11. Read alot more Jordan and Poythress. Read footnotes, and follow them out.

12. Notice that Bahnsen tends to ridicule Jordan's and Poythress's hermeneutics, and never engages the issues. Notice how dismissive he is of Poythress and Jordan's seemingly valid point that some 'unimaginative' people have a tough time with analogical and typological approaches to interpreting the law. Wonder if that's because he's kinda 'unimaginative'.

13. Be impressed with how closely Jordan reads the text and connects up stuff that hadn't occurred to me, but makes alot more sense of some of the intricacies of the text.

14. Attend the Basilean lecture by Jordan of his critique of theonomy. Accept it, while still maintaining that the whole bible is relevant for questions of Christian civil jurisprudence, and that Horton's 'Christianity is not a culture' stuff still won't cut it.

14.5. Notice how Jordan's Law of the Covenant book tries to demonstrate how even civil and judicial laws point to Christ in some fashion, though sometimes in a loose or analogical way. Notice that, under Bahnsen's 'restorative law' paradigm, a law that can demonstrably show to point to Christ would be nonbinding in the New Covenant. Maybe that's why Bahnsen and Rushdoony don't like Jordan's work? If its true, the whole theonomic project as they've defined it rhetorically is off?

15. Notice how limited to a particular historical moment and cultural setting the critics of theonomy are. Still find it interesting to imaginatively apply the principles of the whole bible in any number of settings: monarchical, tribal, future eras where society has become more Christianized, etc.

16. Still occasionally be annoyed at lousy critiques of theonomy, even though one is no longer a theonomist, since it becomes obvious how little people understand it, and how little people understand about how to go about providing a valid critique.

17. Sigh when you start to feel like its starting all over again, but with a different controversy. Keep looking for a Frame or Poythress or someone who knows how to engage people they disagree with in a respectful and appreciative way to enter the controversy in a big way.

Update: Like the first paragraph of this. Woot! (hat tip Mark Horne)

I'm embarassed.

For one, this quote
I was not in the least surprised to read statements expressing insight into my motives. One commenter opined that I am obviously driven by envy (the same defense Rick Warren always uses, by the way, so apparently it is effective). I suspect that this person would not recognize me in a restaurant, but I appreciate the brotherly counsel. For the record, I do not suspect my critics of being motivated by personal malice towards me (although reading some blogs you have to wonder) or of any other sin tendency about which I could not possibly know. I do suspect them, however, of being so saturated by N. T. Wright puppy-love that the slightest spark of criticism sets off an explosion in their smitten hearts.
has a contradiction within a single paragraph.

mark horne: Zacharias Ursinus & Imputation of the Active Obedience is interesting, reminding us that Ursinus used a model that saw the sufferings of Christ as filling out what is meant in terms of the imputed righteousness of Christ. (Horne disagrees with Ursinus, of course)

I wnat to add that maybe this debate sometimes approaches the territory of questions that C.S. Lewis said, even God can't (or doesn't) answer, like "is yellow square?"

For on the one hand we say what is crucial (hah!) is the active obedience of Christ, yet without the cross, all of it would have been useless.

Can we speak of differing merited value to various acts of obedience in Christ's life? If he "did not take the mother bird with the young" is that as meritorious as feeding 5000, or answering not a word when he was tormented? I'd have to think not. Is there any who claim all the merit was on the same field?

Sometimes it seems like one can read Kline to be saying that the 'active merit' of Christ was particularly focussed on the elements of the Adamic narrative. Jesus resists the tempatation of Satan, in worse circumstances. Surely that is high on the merit scale.

And Jesus dies "on the tree", restoring what was stolen. I apprecite that focus, since its a focus found in the gospels (where 'obedience to moral natural law' seems more minor)

And how can we call the death on the cross passive 'obedience' at all. If a criminal dies a deserved penalty, there is not merit in him receiving what he was due. But we believe that Jesus suffered the just wrath of God for our imputed sins. Then is the merit of the cross to be found in the willingness to take our imputed sins, and then having done so, he suffers the penalty that those sins deserve, without accruing merit?

Did Jesus accrue merit while sleeping?

How can Jesus simultaneously gain merit by obeying God, when what God is requiring is suffering the curse of the Law. It seems to me if you push too hard on the merit of the cross, you pull down penal substitution, because then it isn't 'taking a just penalty' but rather obeying a command to receive reward.

January 13, 2006

Mike Horton has improved his "Christianity is not a culture" line
But the church is not really a culture. The kingdom of God is never something that we bring into being, but something that we are receiving. Cultural advances occur by concentrated and collective effort, while the kingdom of God comes to us through baptism, preaching, teaching, Eucharist, prayer, and fellowship.
But some questions remain:

1. So prayer and preaching and fellowship are effortless and unconcentrated now?

Surely, I understand what Horton is getting at: There is the paradox that we don't bring things under the rule of God by our own "direct" efforts. I'm not going to invent a product or write a novel by prayer to God to change the words on the page.

2. Cultural advances occur by the concentrated exchange and transformation of information. Teaching is a form of exchange and a transformation of information. How is it not related?

3. An aside: I'm more and more impressed after studying Colossians a bit is that prayer is supposed to take a lot of effort and struggle. One would think that the ideal of prayer is for it to become 'effortless' as one is more and more in tune with God's purposes and plan. But Paul speaks of the value of his struggles in prayer.

4. It would be great if Horton would interact with Wrights claims on Philippians 3:20-21, that 'heavenly citizenship' is not a call to live some kind of life that has no impact on the surrounding land, but that, as Philippi was a Roman colony, bringing the virtues of roman citizenship and culture to bear on the area, so Christians are colonists, bringing their citizenship with the goal of living that out in a new place, extending the reign of Christ by so doing. But Horton views Phil 3:20-21 this way
Rather, they are called to belong to a holy commonwealth that is distinct from the regimes of this age (Phil. 3:20–21) and to contribute as citizens and neighbors in temporal affairs
which is unargued in the face of Wright's very different reading.

(maybe Wright's reading can be dismissed as one that relies on the extra-biblical work of an historian?)

5. The whole rest of the article undercuts or blurs his claim that the church is not really a culture, as he identifies many tangible ways in which it needs to be better as a counterculture. (Which to me, is another form of saying its a culture). Is the point just never to be too comfortable with any status quo? Absolutely. To tradition bound superstitious tribesmen, we can bring freedom and 'demythologizing'. To rootless and narcissistic moderns, we offer order and roots (when we do our best in apprehending the nature of what we have received in Christ; no it isn't by our own effort, or our ideas!)

I now know why Kerry lost to Bush. It wasn't a broad based right-wing conspiracy. It just involved right-wing photographers

I can see why this xbox 360 ad would have been banned/not run/only used on the internet as a viral marketing scheme/etc.

January 10, 2006

In the market for a church? Try meCHURCH

Rick Phillips on Warfield
But a second reflection surely places some bounds on this. Since all the human factors in the process revelation are exercised under the governance of the Holy Spirit, surely those human elements that should be factored into our interpretation are provided by the Spirit in the text and context. In other words, what about those human elements that the Holy Spirit did not see fit to include in the Bible's text? Warfield's theory would suggest that just as human writers selectively record their facts, so also the Holy Spirit selectively records the human elements he wants us to consider in interpreting a text. Naturally, lower criticism receives full endorsement here --- since the text is the product of the Holy Spirit's work in revelation, we ought to carefully establish the text, translate it, and so forth. But the same unqualified endorsement cannot be ascertained for higher criticism, which relies upon information the Holy Spirit has not seen fit to give us. When someone like N. T. Wright says that we must first do the work of historians - by which he clearly means the application of higher-critical scholarly analysis - and only then consider ourselves qualified to handle the text, he methodologically denies the concursive operation of the Spirit.
I don't know enough to evaluate the claim that Wright 'clearly' means higher critical scholarly anlysis (or how that is being defined), but it seems to me that Rick limiting the investigation of the human characater of scripture to the mere text runs into too many problems of how text actually function within broader cultural contexts (which ARE the Spirit's work) and also runs afoul of the formulations of the Council on Biblical Inerrancy.
However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of his penman’s milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.
This, to me, indicates that it is entirely right to fully investigate the milieu of the Biblical eras as historians, and in fact, the Council did so in coming to such conclusions as that 'nonchronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable'.

Is Rick pointing to a discrepancy between Warfield and the COBI?

FredsBibleTalk.com - What is New Perspectivism? - By Travis Allen
Wright's attitude toward the theological leanings of his predecessors must be taken into account when determining the validity of his approach - it's no minor matter. Intellectual abilities and educational attainments aside, to be a qualified interpreter of Scripture a person must meet spiritual qualifications as well. Bernard Ramm says, "The first spiritual qualification is this: a man must be born again." 1 Corinthians 2:14-15a explains why: "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things." Without that initial spiritual qualification, a man, because of his intellectual abilities and theological attainments, may understand many things about the Bible, but he will never attain a knowledge of the truth that leads to life - his interpretations will inevitably err. Those who follow such a man have committed themselves to following a blind guide
But what does this get us? The interpretations of everyone inevitably err, don't they? There are millions of godly baptists who are erring, (or their are thousands of godly Presbyterians who are).

I thought a major component of the evangelical claim that the bible was objective truth given by the hand of God was that it was revelation to all alike, there on the page for anyone to read and discover the truth of salvation.

January 05, 2006

Really interesting musings on 'avatar choice' in the World of Warcraft online game. The author makes the moral choice concrete, not just abstract
I am a father. A guild of colleagues chose to play Horde. I rolled an Undead. My son (age 3) was afraid of my character. He was afraid of the Undercity. And that's just from the imagery - he would know nothing of what the Undead actually do in terms of kinapping, imprisonment, and torture. He's afraid, and he should be afraid, and as his father, my only defense in this frightening choice would have to be that I am just trying out evil, just getting to know it, just using evil instrumentally for some greater purpose. He obviously can't grasp that now, but even if he could, these are the only possible justifications for me to inhabit such a wicked being. And my point is that the inhabitation would indeed require justification. If my undead warlock were an extension of myself, something I was pursuing for mere enjoyment, then it ought to be a troubling question for me, sholdn't it? Why am I finding pleasure in expressing myself in a form that frightens 3-year-olds?
it is of note that he finds the moral choice in WoW so significant because online worlds are "not mere play-spaces, nor mere extensions of the real world. They are a place where we can hear a faint echo of things unconscious, even mystical." Which I think is a bit of a stretch.

A post last year from Rabbi Saul reminds me of something I've come accross in reading at James Kugel's The Bible as it Was, a fascinating book which traces out intertestamental period hermenutical issues in Judaism.

Gallant's posting referenced Ridderbos on Colossians 1:16, where of Christ, it is said that "in him all things were created" and that Christ is "the Beginning."

Kugel writes
if wisdom was the first thing that God had created, and if God had in fact used it to create the rest of the world, then biblical interpreters had to wonder: why did the book of Genesis leave out this crucial detail? Why didn't the first verse in the Bible read "In the beginning, God created wisdom and afterwards, the heavens and the earth"?

In looking for an answer, interpreters noticed a striking coincidence. In Prov 8:22, wisdom says "The Lord made me the beginning of his work," while the Genesis account opens "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Perhaps this was not just a coincidence. Perhaps the word "beginning" in the Genesis verse was a subtle hint, and allusion, to wisdom.... [O]ne might argue the word "beginning" itself might be used elsewhere in the Bible as a kind of nickname for wisdom, a shorthand reference to the very first thing that God created...This is precisely how [Genesis 1:1] was translated in two ancient translations of the Bible [Fragment Targum and Fragment Neophyti]
so is Paul the same kind of ancient interpreter?

since this is my rewriting of it, Rick Phillips never wrote this
With this in mind, I would like to suggest that there are in fact better explanations for the preponderance of covenant in history than that [marriage] must involve an essential covenant relationship. The first is that the Creator-creature relationship necessarily involves lordship and lordship expresses itself through covenant, a point Smith himself labors to make. But this situation does not pertain ontologically to [marriage]. Covenant is the outflowing of God's lordship as manifested in commands, sanctions, and promises of blessing. But as [Council on Biblical manhood and womanhood] insisted so [recently], there is no ontological subordination within [marriage], hence no lordship, and hence no covenant, which is, by Smith's own reckoning, a function of lordship
But the International Conference on Biblical Inerrancy "Chicago Statement on Biblical Application" affirms that "marriage is a sacred covenant under God uniting a man and a woman as one flesh"

Does that mean there is ontological lordship in marriage? Or was the ICBI wrong?

January 04, 2006

Kim Riddlebarger recommends Mark Elliott's book The Survivors of Israel
This book lays the axe at the root of the tree so to speak--challenging a fundamental assumption of the Dunn-Sanders school that Second Temple Judaism was nationalistic in its understanding of the covenant (covenantal nomism). Elliot argues, on the contrary, that only a remnant of Israel would be saved, and that after a time of horrific judgment. This is an important book.
Maybe since I've focused more on Wright than Dunn or Sanders, I was never under the apprehension that the NPP claimed that all the various Judaisms were believers in the final vindication of all of Israel.

It seems obvious to me that the issue was that Pharisees or Essenes or what have you each considered themselves the "true Israel", and that all the rest of the 'people of the land' would never measure up to their standard of Torah observance, and thus fail to be the remnant that God would prove were right all along (and thus righteous). And certainly Gentiles wouldn't measure up.

That is, after all, why Jesus offers the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector: it isn't addressed to nationalists: it's addressed to religious chauvinists, who think 'trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else'

Jane Austen as you've never seen her before.

One thing I appreciate about Bryan Chapell's critique of New Perspective is that his three major warnings are about things in the NPP he views as 'unnecessary' to the NPP.

He isn't claiming that the NPP is a Trojan horse waiting to undermine everything, but that it has some helpful emphases with unhelpful and removable baggage.

Rich Lusk once asked: "Some have balked at FV/AAT formulations of justification because they focus less on the imputation of Christ's active obedience to the law, and more on the resurrection status we share by virtue of our union with him. Again, this is simply two of ways of netting the same result. Why is it better to have Christ's active obedience imputed than to share in his legal status as the resurrected/vindicated one? How is the former any more adequate than the latter? How is it a better gospel? What does the latter lack that the former includes?

I have been asking this question of FV/AAT critics for quite some time, but no answer has been forthcoming."

Anyone seen any?

[update] It might be, I guess, because of the matter of how one conceives of the holiness of God. If God is primarily a debt holder, requiring a specified ammount of 'legal obedience' to allow anyone into his heaven, then someone who comes along and says that such a construction isn't necessary would be seen as 'letting people off easy'.

It depends on how you formulate the problem of the human condition before God.

Did God the father only decree that the Son would be the husband of his Bride, elect humanity, after the decree of the fall?

But if God the Father intended for his Son to be the covenant head of elect humanity irrespective of the fall, then what need is there for a seperate covenant of redemption? Or how 'seperate' is it?

The New York Times posts a Case for Cultural Contamination

January 03, 2006

Fascinating. As a lover of misinformation and urban legend hunting, I was taken by John Derbyshire's challenge of the purported African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child".

Some googling for the phrase with "-clinton" attached found this page from NOBLE, the North of Boston Library Exchange, which keeps a few short records of common queries librarians receive. They state that the source for the proverb is Scheven, Albert. SWAHILI PROVERBS. 1981, Washington,D.C.: University Press of America. #474 p.123.
Scheven, who was a missionary in Tanzania, cites his source as: Farsi, S.S. SWAHILI SAYINGS FROM ZANZIBAR. Vol 1, Proverbs, 1958, Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau.
The phrase in Swahili is Mkono mmoja haulei mwana, literally translated as "as single hand cannot nurse a child", expressing a similar sentiment as "it takes a village", I suppose. But one could equally go the direction of the mere nuclear family to fulfil the substance of the proverb.

I also note that more Swahili proverbs exist, including some that are less useful to Hillary Clinton, such as the similarly structured Mkono mmoja hauchinji ng'ombe "A single hand cannot slaughter a cow".

Maybe "Mla cha mwenziwe na chake huliwa" (He who eats another man's food will have his own food eaten by others) could be made use of by low-tax Republicans.

And who could argue with Mkuki kwa nguruwe mtamu, kwa mwanadamu uchungu!
It's nice to throw a spear at a pig, but painful when thrown at you.

January 02, 2006

Trying not to leave anything incomplete (ha!) I am continuing with part 4 of my blog entries (see part 1, part 2, part 3) in reply to Rick Phillips on John 5:24 and the New Perspective(s) on Justification.
4) Note that the one who hears Christ's word and believes his Father "has" eternal life. It is a present tense possession (see also John 3:36 for the same emphasis). Whereas the New Perspective(s) posit that our faith enters us into a community that will receive eternal life after its final justification according to works, Jesus says that the individual who believes in his word "has" at that very time eternal life as a personal possession.
I indicated previously that I was confused by the line of reasoning advanced by Rick Phillips, that Jesus in John 5:24 was providing a sufficiently detailed account of salvation that its purported omission of ecclesiological concerns made it usable as a text to contradict the "new perspective(s) on Paul" here I think I understand Rick sufficiently, but I dispute his characterization of the NPP(s) (at least Wright's views, which are about all I can be bothered to track or care about)

I do not see Wright arguing that the fact that the community that we enter in by God's effectual call is one that will indeed receive resurrection and eternal life at the end, after they have "gathered fruit for eternal life" (John 4:26), that because they receive it at the end, 'according to works' (Romans 2:6) that they therefore are not in any way possessors of eternal life now.

Rather, Wright claims explicitly that those who have faith receive in the present the verdict that will be declared upon them and their works at the last day: that they are righteous, and there is no question that the 'golden chain' of salvation in Romans 8 will not apply to the one with true faith. In contrast to Dunn, who operates from within a Wesleyan Evangelical tradition, Wright says
[Romans] 5 to 8 is saying those whom he also justified, them he also glorified. And that is part of the point of justification by faith, it that then and there is given that assurance, even though that has to be tested to the limit and has to face the possibility that faith itself might prove false, but I'm thinking of I Corinthians 3 where albeit he's talking about Christian workers rather than simply Christians per se, but where he speaks of those who build on the foundation with wood and hay and stubble, whose work will be burned up when they day appears, he says nevertheless that person will be saved

I also think that Rick is obscuring something important about life by his need to refer to it as a 'possession,' which, while consonant with John's usage, seems to me really beside the point. The importance of 'life' as granted by God, and as Wright has outlined it speaking of Romans 8, is not to posses it like an object, but to put it to use in the service of God. It is a result of the Spirit (John 7:38) as much as a judicial declaration, and the two are inseparable.

Wright's claims about eternal life are quite far from saying it is something that only arrives at the end of the life lived by faith. On Romans 8:3-4, he says of the present reality of those that have faith in Messiah that
The life the Torah intended, indeed longed, to give to God's people is now truly given by the Spirit
and that the way the living of the Christian life then follows into the final resurrection verdict is that
that verdict will correspond to the present one, and will follow from (though not, in that sense, earned or merited by) the Spirit-led life of which Paul now speaks
On Romans 10:5-11, Wright says
All who believe in the Messiah...are thereby 'fulfilling the law'; they are 'doing' it in the sense Deuteronomy 30 intended; and they thereby find "life," as 8:9-11 demonstrated, the life that Torah wanted to give but could not (7:10) the life that can now be spoken of more specifically as "salvation".

What Wright lines out here is almost exactly parallel to that which Phillips intimates about John 5:24.
Those who hear my word and believe him who sent meThose who believe in the Messiah
has eternal lifehave life
which the Jews thought they had by "searching scriptures" (John 5:39)which the Law wanted to give, but couldn't
but Moses actually pointed ahead to the one who would give the Spirit, having life 'in himself', and thus remove the dead sinful life right now (5:25) and they will receive resurrection after a life of 'doing good' (5:29)but now we find that the life we life in the Spirit is the antithesis of the sinful life, and it will end in resurrection
In sum, Wright's (and Paul's) view is that eternal life is a present tense experience/possession of those who have faith in Messiah.

January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

I will begin this first blog entry of 2006 in a frenzy of self-referentiality by commenting on my Jan 1 posts for the last 3 years.

In 2003 I wished everyone a happy new year. Can't beat that!

In 2004 I resolved to blog more interesting stuff. I mentioned that I began officially as a Parish Elder Assistant at Tenth. Still doing that, though with some less intensity it seems. Maybe I'm getting more used to it. I reviewed my 'job description' and noticed I was supposed to sit in on more meetings than I ever did. So I need to get on the ball a bit, I think.

I remarked how winter was a brutal month for the budget. Gas heat is out of sight this year, and my November bill already looks like the February bill from last year. Lets just hope no more major appliances go south, like the fridge and the clothes dryer (not to mention the DVD player and a big car maintenance bill)

In 2005 I talked all the fun stuff we did like went to plays and played new board games. This year I feel like we did less stuff. We went to the Franklin Institute (NOT the plastinated corpse exhibit, though), and played alot of Carcassone (great game!). We rented X-Men 2 for the grownups and the old version of King Kong which amused and scared my son a bit.

I mentioned how I hoped to lose 30 pounds more on Atkins, but that was not to be. I should be able to take off the holiday 10 again though. Bye-bye donuts.

De script shun




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