June 30, 2006

If this year were like last year, this is the time of year that I would be in Columbus, Ohio attending the Origins Game Convention, playing games and checking out new games.

But a combination of factors have conspired to keep me in Philadelphia this weekend. 1) lots of vacation time used up on my trip to Arizona. 2) Kids might enjoy gaming with Dad if they were a bit older, but for now, it's either the hardship of Dad going alone, or the hardship of mom babysitting the family in Columbus. 3) Unexpected back taxes from the city of Philadelphia.

DexCon is coming up mid July and it's only an Hour away, so I can't really complain.

I also got Stand at Mortain, my free game from Against the Odds magazine. It's literally a postcard, one side with map, the other side with rules. The counters are printed around the edge. Very clever. You can still get one at the link.

You can also see Pictures of the full game at boardgamegeek. It uses playing cards for resolution, but it looks like one player has found very appropriate cards for play.

Its like Origins sent me a postcard, saying "Wish you were here"...

June 29, 2006

Coalesce is a very useful SQL function. Badly named (have any idea what it might do?), but very useful.

COALESCE(expression1,...n) is equivalent to this CASE function:

WHEN (expression1 IS NOT NULL) THEN expression1
WHEN (expressionN IS NOT NULL) THEN expressionN

A gem of a comment from Peter Leithart on Jesus use of parables: they are geared to recount the history of Israel.

Wright is conscious of this when he interprets the parables, which is why I found so Jesus and the Victory of God so fresh and compelling.

Also see this, on the end of the Sermon on the Mount

June 21, 2006

Derek Thomas writes of how much fun GA is
True, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church In America is like no other. More about schmoozing than ecclesiastical politics....Talk there is plenty of--it's just not in the Assembly Hall but in the local Starbucks across the road or the very expensive cafe at the Hyatt (where the Assembly is taking place). Groups are huddled in corners but there's no sense of "us and them".
Not according to some. Maybe Thomas will try to intervene and promote harmony.

Patrick's questions on the status of the New Heart in the covenant (is it a promise offered, or something soveriegnly imposed) raised in my mind the issue of corporate election and the way in which the Jeremiah 31 text seems to be speaking in corporate terms.

Grover Gunn writes on Corporate and Individual Election
Among those who acknowledge that the membership of the church from these two perspectives is not identical, some limit the mystery in lesser degrees. Some overemphasize the invisible and individual aspects of salvation at the expense of the visible and corporate. For example, some limit the grace the non-elect receive in corporate election to mere outward privileges and downplay the importance of the means of grace in the visible church. Others overemphasize the visible and corporate aspects of salvation at the expense of the invisible and individual. For example, some argue that all the members of the visible church are saved, but only the elect will persevere in that salvation. Both of these approaches, the overly individualistic and the overly corporate, are rationalistic distortions of the Biblical message. I believe the relationship between corporate and individual election is in accordance with these principles:

1. The church in history should be administered in accordance with principles revealed in Scripture. We can't administer the church in terms of the decree of election because it is secret.
Point 1 sounds fine to me. But how far does "administering the church" extend? Does it extend to how we perceive and regard covenant children? Does it extend to how we regard ourselves. I think it was this kind of point that led Wilkins initially to say that we shouldn't focus so hard on decretal election in theologizing about salvation because it's a secret, though when it was pointed out that the WCF says that we can be assured of our elect status he backed off.
2. The non-elect in the church often receive more than mere outward privileges. They may also experience what the Westminster Confession of Faith calls 'common operations of the Spirit' (WCF 10.4). The visible church can have a sanctifying influence on the non-elect among its membership analogous to the sanctifying influence of a godly wife on an unbelieving husband (1 Corinthians 7:14).
I'm not familiar with this way of thinking of the holiness of the non elect. I've usually conceived of holiness as a status, that the husband or church member possesses as part of his inclusion in the kingdom or inclusion in the marriage covenant. Does it make sense in 1 Cor 7:14 to say that your children are holy because the unbelieving husband is a nicer guy because of your good influence? Or isn't it saying that the status you possess is coverage for you and your children? Do husbands and non-elect kids get infusions of resistible sanctifying grace? Or something more like definitive sanctification?
3. Christ accomplished redemption in history in terms of the decree of election, and the Holy Spirit applies that redemption in history also in terms of the decree of election. When the Holy Spirit works grace in the lives of the non-elect, that grace is always the resistible grace of His common operations. The Holy Spirit works special and irresistible grace only in the lives of the elect.
Does totally depraved man have capacity to respond with temporary faith to common operations of the Spirit? I would have thought that totally depraved man would need irresistible grace to even have temporary faith. Now the grace of those common operations might be resistible, or it might be temporary. I'd think seeing it as temporary preserved divine sovereignty even in the zone of common operations. Doesn't that follow?
4. Though the non-elect can be valid members of the visible church in history, they are never in that vital covenant union with Christ that is the basis for full salvation.
Are they in the vital covenant union that is the basis for their common operations of the Spirit? Are common operations not founded on Christ's work, and are they not the work of a vital Spirit?
7. All the members of the covenant community have both the promises and the obligations of the covenant. The obligations of the covenant are faith, repentance and new obedience. In order to receive that which is promised in the covenant, the members of the covenant must meet the obligations of the covenant. Only the elect, who receive the enabling grace of God, meet the obligations of the covenant.
Gunn seems to be studiously avoiding the use of the term "condition," but I'm not sure how else to read the bold section above. I like the 'obligation' language though.

June 20, 2006

Somewhere in my dim memory of what's been told to me about the Machen controversey was that when Machen was on trial he was not allowed to speak to the issues that were his rationalle for his actions. The supression of the actual content of Machen's beliefs during the trial was seen by his supporters as a bad thing.

Is that right?

June 17, 2006

Learn your catechism, you big dummy: Stephen Colbert and Congressman

In thinking about the covenant of works and schemes of merit therein, I note that Lusk has criticized thinking of Christ's work in contractual or employment terms. Rhetorically, that has alot of force because of our view of contract as a mechanical and impersonal means of relation. Christ's work sounds so "cheap" when viewed that way.

(but see my post long ago where I call into question the supposed antithesis between 'mechanical' and 'personal' views of relationships)

It would seem to me though that an answer to that objection might be found in the view of economic relations in the OT. There were 'hired men,' but there were also household servants. Household slaves and sons are alike in very many respects (see Galatains 3), but the son ultimately can inherit, and the servant cannot. But the slave can be seen as fulfiling terms of servile duty with less of the impersonality that we conceive of in modern contractual work relations. When he works as a slave of the house who loves his master and seeks to do all his will, his service has a 'filial' quality that Lusk demands of Christ's obedience.

Is the Servant of Isaiah not a filial servant?

The problem here is the downplaying of the role of biblical slavery in the modern era. We don't really know what to do with the picture of slavery in the bible, due to our distance from that era of history, and our own modern problems with racial chattel slavery in the american south. We're more comfortable seeing Christ (fi we have to) as a contract employee than as Uncle Tom who loves and willingly serves his "massah".

Ironically, it's been federal visionists like Steve Wilkins and Doug Wilson who have tried to do the most to make the picture of biblical slavery look attractive. And they've made very few friends in so doing.

June 16, 2006

It has been rightly complained, some of the time, that when defenders of wright or federal vision declare that their opponents are 'misunderstanding' them, that the defense lacks a certain engagement of the argument.

It seems to me that Lusk's interaction of with the OPC report by and large accurately avoids this rabbit trail, by focussing not on misunderstandings of Lusk, but careless misreadings of Lusk that make him out to be out of conformity with the WCF.
First, let’s examine what I have actually said about the requirement of sinless perfection. The statement of mine the Report quotes above affirming the keepability of the law has a very specific context – a context which the Report
conveniently omits. The Report is quoting from my colloquium essay, “Reworking the Covenant of Works: A Response to ‘The Biblical Plan of Salvation,’” found in The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons, edited by E. C. Beisner. The quotation above comes from my discussion of the Mosaic law, on page 128. It is the third point in a ten point argument for the graciousness of the Mosaic covenantal administration. How many of these points does the Report interact with? Zero. They simply pluck a statement out of its wider theological framework in the essay and attribute to it a totally foreign meaning. They take a claim about what it meant be a law-keeper under the Mosaic administration, and project it back onto the Adamic situation without warrant. In context, I am dealing with the law as an administration of the covenant of grace (WCF 7.5) and a typological foreshadowing of the good things to come, given by God to his redeemed people for a specified period of time in history (cf. Gal. 3:15-4:7; Heb. 8-10). My point is show that the law is indeed gracious, as the Confession teaches, though it cannot be identified with the Abrahamic or New covenants, strictly speaking. I was explaining how the Bible can speak of believers as having kept the law, despite that fact that they are imperfect.

Reading Leithart's Response to OPC Report on Justification, it seems to me that he makes a very cogent point against the report. The report states
5)Given Leithart's definition of the righteousness of God as covenantal-relational loyalty and Lusk's definition of man's righteousness as 'covenant loyalty and trust, not sinless perfection,' many questions come to mind. Is righteousness an essential property of God so that He would still be righteous whether or not He determined to create and whether or not He determined to save some of those whom He created? While God's covenant faithfulness to His people may, arguably, be a demonstration of His righteousness, is it the most basic component of righteousness, more so than moral, legal perfection? Why should the definition of righteousness be so limited? Is not God demonstrating righteousness in the condemnation of the reprobate and not simply in the salvation of the elect? To define righteousness as thinly as do some FV proponents—in relational terms—cannot be sustained by our Standards and leaves a host of important questions unanswered by the FV project that are answered within and by the Reformed tradition.
Leithart replies
To the first question, the answer is pretty clear, and the answer has been public for some time in Ralph Smith's book on the Trinity and covenant. Of course, God is eternally righteous because He is eternally a trusting, loyal community of Father, Son and Spirit
How can the report (or the confession for that matter), claim that the most basic component of God's righteousness is "moral, legal, perfection". If it were, wouldn't we falling into a kind of euthyphro dilemma? If God's moral perfection is 'most basicly' legal, how does that stand with the concept that the law is an expression of God's character, not an externally binding limitation on God's character which he meets.

June 15, 2006

Free wargame by mail from Against the Odds.

June 13, 2006

Hey, I haven't been blogging for a while because I've been in Arizona, visiting AZmom and AZdad. What a great vacation! I'll have much more to say later, but for now, AZGram has some pictures..

We'll be back in Philly tomorrow AM.

June 01, 2006

As a gamer, I'll have to give the 25 element version of rock, paper, scissors a try

De script shun




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