August 30, 2006

August 25, 2006

I think there is a misunderstanding of the FV.

[no, really?]

Dallison accuses the FV of teaching that "Union with the (visible) church automatically implies union [sic] with Christ".

(One might first ask why the adjective 'automatically' is being applied in this criticism.)

Do we find 'FV' proponents speaking that way?

Garver says "Does our covenant status as baptized Christians imply our election? Yes, since election is only revealed in and through the covenant."

But 'imply' has two dictionary definitions. One is 'to require by logical necessity', the other is to 'state indirectly'. Actulally, Merriam-Webster defines it very well this way
2. to involve or indicate by inference, association, or necessary consequence rather than by direct statement
3 : to contain potentially
4 : to express indirectly
(definition 1. is the obsolete meaning of 'entangle')

I doubt Garver is speaking of 'imply' in the sense of 'necessary consequence'. If the FV is heard to be saying that perhaps they have been misunderstood? If there is ambiguity in 'imply', did the reader look for the most charitable interpretation of 'imply'? If not, is that because the reader has a too critical spirit, and is out to 'get' somebody? Charity demands the former interpretation.

Apropos of the disussion on the post below this one, I find helpful the distinctions Joel Garver makes in his reply to Guy Waters
Third, Waters goes on to suggest that my 'doctrine of perseverance and apostasy must...be Arminian' inasmuch as I suggest that one can possess 'the reality of redemptive grace' and then lose it (244). This, however, is mistaken since, with Calvin and the wider tradition, I maintain that unbelief does nothing to alter or impair the nature of the sacrament as such and, moreover, I distinguish between the offeror giving over of redemptive grace, on one hand, and its reception by faith, on the other – a distinction I make all the more clear in the revised version of the essay in question. The difference here is the difference between giving a gift, packaged in paper and ribbon with the recipient's name on it, and the recipient unwrapping the gift in gratitude, putting it to use. Or, to use Calvin's image, it's the difference between water poured out upon a rock that has no opening by which to receive it and water poured out so that is absorbed and taken in.

Waters also ties his criticism here to my discussion of God's faithfulness and the faithfulness of Christ as something signified and sealed in baptism. But my point was no different from that of Westminster divine Stephen Marshall when he preached on baptism before the Assembly and Parliament:
I say therefore, that in every Sacrament, the truth of the Covenant in itself, and all the promises of it are sealed to be Yea, and Amen; Jesus Christ became a Minister of the circumcision to confirm the promises made unto the Father, and so to every one who is admitted to partake of Baptism, according to the rule which God hath given to his Church, to administer that Sacrament, there is sealed the truth of all the promises of the Gospel, that they are all true in Christ, and that whoever partakes of Christ, shall partake of all these saving promises; this is sealed absolutely in Baptism. (A Defence of Infant Baptism)
The sacrament, therefore, in what it truly offers, is an expression of divine faithfulness and the faithfulness of Christ in whom all God's promises are "Yes and Amen."

August 24, 2006

Anthony R. Dallison on FV
The third major cause for concern is the unquestionable incipient sacramentalism in the Federalist position. In reading paper after paper in this colloquium, the reader is left with the conviction that the Federalists impute the efficacy of the thing signified to the sign itself, whether in regard to baptism or the Lord's Supper. The sacraments can communicate blessings apart from faith, and baptism appears to be a converting ordinance. The Federal Vision states that the unbelieving feed upon Christ when they partake of the Lord's Supper, and that a person is given new life by virtue of baptismal union with Christ.
1. "incipient sacramentalism" seems to be used here in an undefined way.

2. I would think IMPUTING the efficacy of the thing signified to the sign itself was the very definition of an orthodox reformed view of the sacraments. We don't say that the sign has inherent or infused capacity to save, just that for the sign to have its proper sacramental purpose and to make use of the proper sacramental union between sign and thing signified, we need to attribute or 'impute' the value of the thing signified to the sign.

That's how a sacrament will be of benefit to the recipient: He imputes the water or the bread as an expression of the efficacious saving love of God for him.

The way FV critics constantly move in the direction of getting people to hold doubts and caveats in their mind when the sacramental function cannot be savingly efficacious apart from faith boggles the mind. Where will reformed people be in 100 more years with this kind of thinking?

3. The FV teaches that sacraments CAN communicate blessings apart from faith, only if you remember the constant FV caveats that a) the blessings that are communicated are not fully saving blessings (those exist, right?) and b) blessings that are communicated to infants 'apart' from faith are only apart from 'mature' or 'fully formed' or 'unactualized' faith. If a critic neglects to mention those caveats, is it perhaps because the critic has misunderstood the FV? Or is the critic malicious and is not interested in making the FV sound balanced and reasonable? Charity demands the former analysis.

4. I'll grant that the the idea that the unbelieving feed upon Christ is possibly a new idea that some FV people teach or hold. I think it has some merit, if we remember the caveat that the unbelievers who feed on Christ do so only to their harm, not to their good (as 1 Corinthians implies). Calvin likens sacraments to the appearances of God at the Red Sea. The same God appeared to the Egyptians as to Israel, but to the one (even the unbelieving, unelect Israelites who would die in the wilderness!) he was a shield and protector and to the other he was a terror and threat. But God was present nonetheless. If this is a variation from Reformed theology I think it has good biblical precedent and should be considered and responded to exegetically.

5. "new life" but what kind of new life? New life like the seed that sprang up among the weeds or among the rocks? Surely. New life like the branches that are in Christ but then later plucked out?

The author of the review earlier complained that the FV teaches "Union with the (visible) church automatically implies union with Christ in the Federal Vision teaching, thus over-objectifying the covenant and failing to distinguish between covenantal union in the visible church from the saving union of the invisible church". But what is the covenantal union he speaks of a covenantal union OF? Covenantal union with Christ? If yes, then, union with Christ IS implied by membership in the church, and there is no dispute. And if there is covenantal union with the living Christ, there cannot but fail to be covenantal life for the one so united. If the 'covenantal union' not be with Christ, then with who is the church member united? What reason is there to speak of fictitious union?

August 23, 2006

I'm beginning the countdown now for the outcry from this article:

Don't Marry Career Women - Forbes.com

There's even a slideshow

Grover Gunn quotes Peter Toon on hypothetical regeneration
The question arises as to whether Luther in Germany and Cranmer in England (with their colleagues) actually intended their liturgical prayers of thanksgiving (for regeneration having occurred) to be taken in a simple, literal sense in all cases or whether they were using the language in a hypothetical sense. The answer must be the second alternative. The only possible way to construct a service of holy baptism which seriously reflects the promises of God and the close biblical relationship between faith, baptism, and regeneration is to proceed on the hypothesis that those who are baptized do actually receive the promised blessings for heaven. ... There can be no absolute guarantee that at baptism every infant receives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. .
The only way to reflect (reflect? how about believe?) the promises of God in baptism is to treat them as a hypothesis which may or may not be true?

How is Toon using the word hypothesis here?

Oh, and when people brought there babies to Jesus to be blessed, were only the elect babies blessed? Or only the babies who would later grow up to have faith? What was the point of bringing the babies to Jesus to be blessed?

Did the parents leave with the hypothesis in place that it probably did some good to have their babies blessed, but there was no absolute guarantee that Jesus did anything beneficial for the baby?

August 22, 2006

Verizon Introduces New Charge-You-At-Whim Plan. Its from the Onion, but true nonetheless.

I signed up for the reduced rate for DSL if you make a 1 year commitment.

When the year is up, they take you off the plan, and you have to remeber to sign back up. Pointless

August 21, 2006

FareCast is an interesting new service in beta that tracks historical ariline pricing data to predict the times when when you can get lower fares. That's interesting enough, but I'd also like to preserve this remark from a commenter
Now, if only someone would do the same sort of thing for the Web.. wouldn't that be a great thing? Imagine a search engine where, after typing your query, you got all sorts of information about trends on the web related to your query: how many new pages on your topic have been added to the web in the past n days? What is the distribution over other query terms that are related/relevant to your query terms? In what clusters do many of the returned results belong?
sounds like a promising avenue to explore in search technology: at least in local interest groups if not mass users.

August 11, 2006

Alastair points to more discussion of his blog entry about whats wrong with Wright critics on this message board: Adversaria On Tom Wright.

I must say I was surprised to read an argument about what someone heard D. A. Carson say about Wright being 'reluctant' about affirming substitutionary atonement in favor of Christus Victor. The issue of Carson's credibility was raised.

The issue of 'who do you trust' is lying behind the debates about Wright and others in the Reformed world. People don't have time to study everything. They have to rely on trusted people. I'm sorry to say that a lot of good men have lost some of my trust because of their unevenhandedness in dealing with Wright or the FV. Or even, at this point, their relative silence about the lengths to which some go in attacking the FV or Wright. Can't someone speak up and say "isn't it a bit much for you to accuse Wright of X or Y. Sure he's wrong about X, but do we have to say he's invented another gospel."

The claim was made that Carson claims he is a 'close associate' or 'friend' of 'Tom', and this serves to bracket off questions of personal animosity: Carson uses it to establish his trusted credentials.

But should it? I get the most annoyed with people I care about and like when they do things that I think are dangerous or ill advised. Especially when I'm actually in the wrong. I want my friends to be like me. Those who are most like me point out my foibles and failings the most. Its not credible that being a friend of someone means that your critique is not 'personal'.

(apropos of this a friend who is researching 19th century Presbyterian polemics was remarking how the vast majority of them were published anonymously for the purposes of keeping personalities and relationships out of the debate. Carson is NOT doing that when he shares juicy bon mots about Wright in classes)

The claim was also made that Carson is either lying or telling the truth. Well there is the case of what Tom actually said, and what Carson perceived about his motives. We don't have any quotes. We don't have any tape. So why bring this stuff up?

I've noticed a tendency to throw all kinds of stuff at Wright that ends up not sticking: Wright denies Pauline authorship of Ephesians, Wright denies Substitutionary Atonement.

I've noticed a tendency to always assume the worst motives for things that maybe Wright does badly. His book title is so offensive, it must be because he's intentionally offensive and a wicked man. Well actually, his publisher picked it. Wright denies the instrumentality of faith because he wants to smuggle in works. Well actually, Wright seems to downplay faith's instrumentality because he's afraid (oddly) that faith as instrument will make it into a substitute work.

But "aha" you will say, "I have clear evidence that Carson is completely right! I have tape or something." Fine. Maybe Wright was reluctant. Does it occur to anyone that maybe Wright is reluctant to respond to Carson? What is Carson's goal? To make sure Wright agrees with him. He's already declared himself to be a Wright critic, and one who will tell tales out of school to get his point across. Is anyone surprised that Wright would be reluctant to meet the accuser and engage in dialogue on a controversial topic when he's not sure he can trust what Carson may do with anything he says?

I feel something similar and very understandable is going on in the case of Norman Shepherd. The level of accusations against him are fierce. The OPC report takes him to task (did they call him on the phone? They didn't call anyone else). In his response Shepherd emphasizes that he does not, as it is claimed, make works constitute the 'vitality' of faith. Contra Gaffin, he claims that he does not mean to say that obedience provides the vitality to faith (though obedience is a necessary concomitant in a living faith.) Shepherd is explicit that the Holy Spirit is what gives the vitality.

But, someone asks, what about what Shepherd later says about James. Doesn't that show he thinks James says works are the anima of faith? Doesn't it show he's ambiguous or equivocating
Although in the course of developing this objection Gaffin quotes James 2:26 as he concedes the point that “Undeniably, ‘faith without works is dead,’” he does not to deal with the main point of this verse, the analogy between body and spirit on the one hand and faith and deeds on the other. James says that the body without the spirit is dead. In the same way faith without deeds is dead. James compares faith to the body, and just as the body without the spirit is dead so also faith without deeds is dead. Is it the spirit, then, that gives vitality to the body? That is certainly the impression that James leaves us with. If so, then works give vitality to faith.

Now I am not concerned to press this point, and it may well be that there is some nuanced exegesis of which I am not aware that would enable us to avoid this conclusion; but in that case Gaffin would have to lay the same charge at the door of James that he lays at my door. The language of James is ambiguous because it suggests that works constitute the vitality of faith.

What is troubling to me in footnote 89 and in the broader discussion of the nature of
saving faith in this Report, however, is the apparent reluctance and even unwillingness to embrace with enthusiasm the teaching of James 2:14-26 as an authentic, clear, and accurate presentation of the gospel of sovereign grace.
So what is Shepherd doing? Denying what he just affirmed? Not really. I think he's just sick of all the hostile, unevenhanded rubbish he's had to take from his critics for the last 30 years. He's (to put it crudely) rubbing Gaffin's nose in it. "You want me to deny that works are the vitality of faith? Fine I deny it! Let's deny James while we're at it, since usually we'd think that the body is animated by the soul, but for some reason you don't want to talk about that text".

Maybe not the most gracious response, but certainly understandable under the circumstances (and in actual fact, phrased much more graciously than the tone my paraphrase tries to impose)

GamingReport has pics of a demo/playtest of FFG's forthcoming Tide of Iron a WWII combat game.

Looks like a smaller scale than Memoir 44 (and looks like it actually has a scale, so Joe Steadman can play it as a real wargame.

Lots of dice. Cards with unit detail. More hexes than Memoit 44 so more room to maneuver.

It will have platic figs instead of carboard chits, presumably. Plastic houses would be cute. Hmm...

Maybe when boardgamegeek is back up we'll see what playtesters think. Nice of FFG to do a public playtest. But since they're the scrappy competitor entering Days of Wonder and WoTCs field, I guess they have less to lose.

If God and man can agree to a covenant of works without any verbal expression of that agreement, why can't we expect little babies to have faith in the same God, though they lack verbal capacity?

Sometimes its asked how we can expect progress in theology from our forbears in the reformation. Packer points out some aspects of the milieu in terms of what was being argued against
The almost mesmeric effect of Socinus’ critique on Reformed scholastics in particular was on the whole unhappy. It forced them to develop rational strength in stating and connecting up the various parts of their position, which was good, but it also led them to fight back on the challenger’s own ground, using the Socinian technique of arguing a priori about God as if he were a man — to be precise, a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century monarch, head of both the legislature and the judiciary in his own realm but bound nonetheless to respect existing law and judicial practice at every point. So the God of Calvary came to he presented in a whole series of expositions right down to that of Louis Berkhof (1938) as successfully avoiding all the moral and legal lapses which Socinus claimed to find in the Reformation view. But these demonstrations, however skilfully done (and demonstrators like Francis Turretin and Hodge, to name but two, were very skilful indeed), had builtin weaknesses. Their stance was defensive rather than declaratory, analytical and apologetic rather than doxological and kerygmatic. They made the word of the cross sound more like a conundrum than a confession of faith — more like a puzzle, we might say, than a gospel. What was happening? Just this: that in trying to beat Socinian rationalism at its own game, Reformed theologians were conceding the Socinian assumption that every aspect of God’s work of reconciliation will be exhaustively explicable in terms of a natural theology of divine government, drawn from the world of contemporary legal and political thought. Thus, in their zeal to show themselves rational, they became rationalistic. Here as elsewhere, methodological rationalism became in the seventeenth century a worm in the Reformed bud, leading in the next two centuries to a large-scale withering of its theological flower.
much of the more formative and influential discussing of penal substitution was done in the seventeenth century, at a time when Protestant exegesis of Scripture was coloured by an uncriticized and indeed unrecognized natural theology of law, and this has left its mark on many later statements.

August 10, 2006

Does these two statements make sense together
God does not always tie man to verbal expressions, but doth often contract the covenant in real impressions in the heart and frame of the creature, and this was the manner of covenanting with man at the first; for God had furnished his soul with an understanding mind, whereby he might discern good from evil, and right from wrong: and not only so, but also in his will was most great uprightness, (Eccl 7:29); and his instrumental parts were orderly framed to obedience
This seems to be saying that there doesn't need to be a verbal covenant, because God put the covenant in man non-verbally, by furnishing him with understanding, righteousness, and holiness. But then there is this:
ought not man to have yielded perfect obedience to God, though this covenant had not been made betwixt them? Yea, indeed; perfect and perpetual obedience was due from man unto God, though God had made no promise to man; for when God created man at first, he put forth an excellency from himself into him; and therefore it was the bond and tie that lay upon man to return that gain unto God; so that man being God's creature, by the law of creation he owed all obedience and subjection to God his Creator.
claim that there was a NON-covenantal obligation for man to serve God placed inherently by virtue of creation. This obligation was called a 'bond and tie' but apparently that's different than a covenant.

Fisher goes on to say that the reason there needed to be a covenant too was that
man was a reasonable creature; and so, out of judgment, discretion, and election, able to make choice of his way, and therefore it was meet there should be such a covenant made with him, that he might, according to God's appointment, serve him after a reasonable manner
It seems like Ralph smith would be wise to point here to argue that covenant is inherent among reasonable beings, and that God's covenant with Adam falls into the schema that all reasonable persons (like the persons of the trinity) relate 'reasonably'

Its also odd for Fisher to cite the law of creation about owed 'obedience' from the creature when I can really only think of such language having a non-anthropomorphic quality to it in the case of actually reasonable creatures. if we say a brick "owes" "obedience" to it's creator, we're using "owe" and "obedience" in an anthropomorphic sense, using a reasonable relation to explicate a material relation.

A Comparison of the Westminster and the Reformed Confessions
X, 4 speaks of common operations by the Spirit: 'Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore can not be saved'.' It is quite clear from the remainder of this article that the divines had in mind good influences. It is also clear that later Puritan thinking, especially the Marrow men, connected this with the well-meant offer of the gospel. In fact Cunningham [25] is so bold as to say that all Calvinists maintain that certain benefits of the atonement accrue to all men.

The Westminster divines do not give any further explanation for this statement, and we are left to speculate what they may have meant by it. It is possible that they referred to the fact, common in later Puritan teaching, that the preaching of the law can and usually does have some kind of influence upon the unregenerate hearer so that he is able to see his sin, even sorrow to some extent for it, show an interest in Christ as the One through Whom he can escape from sin, and even have a certain longing for the blessedness of which the gospel speaks. In its reaction to the cold dead orthodoxy of the Church of England and the terrible worldliness which characterized so many of her members, and because the Puritans possessed a defective view of the covenant, religious experience was to them a crucial aspect of salvation. And their view of the effect of the gospel, especially the preaching of the law, was influenced by this. If this is indeed true, this idea is condemned by the Canons in III & IV, B, 4. But we can only speculate.

New York Times: Museums Establish Guidelines for Treatment of Sacred Objects. They're broader than NAGPA

August 09, 2006

If even John Piper can't keep it straight, i think we're witnessing sola fide die the death of a thousand qualifications.

Sometimes it sounds like some denials are made only to keep sola fide as a slogan sound like something appropriately sola.

Which means Zane Hodges is the new guardian of orthodoxy.

If it was part of Christ's humiliation to be born 'under the law,' how could he earn merit with his father by performing the law?

Sure, following the law is the path to glory for humanity, but its not a very straightforward path if the law is actual humiliating to be under. It's not making a million dollars by doing things that earn dollars. Its getting a million dollars by doing things that lose money.

August 08, 2006

The Jamestown Survivor Game is a new educational game from Chatham Hill Games.

Looks like fun. Not on the Geek yet, but I submitted it.

August 07, 2006

August 06, 2006

Mark Horne asks an interesting question
(Similarly, how can we teach them if, 'The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned' (1 Cor 2.14). What Sunday School Curriculum appears to presuppose the students belong in this category?)
If we ask the questions about what the covenant children do have, we might argue that they have enough enlightenment of the Spirit to accept the things of the Spirit of God, at least for a time, for they can be 'once enlightened' and 'taste' the heavenly gift. They may never have 'been of us' in the elect sense, but they very well may be enlightened along with us, and Hebrews would seem to allow for that shared common operation.

August 04, 2006

I wrote a post last night based on this good response to Waters from Wilson but Firebox rebooted in the middle and it got eaten. The gist was that the FV would (paradoxically? tongue-in-cheek?) have a better shot under a strict subscriptional regime than a 'system' subscription.

Anyway, it reminded me that I owed a response to the questions about assurance raised by my cousin in the comments three posts down.

You don't think that lacking assurance implies a lack of faith or trust in Christ -- do you?

Doubting one's self is not the same as doubting Christ.
No it's not, and I'm happy to affirm that. I guess I'm influenced by thinking about how our Lutheran brothers handle this issue. For them, the gospel is that "Christ died for me". Their argument is that for the Reformed, it's "Christ died for the elect, and maybe I'm one of them".

Putting your faith in the proposition that God is propitiated with respect to you because of Christ would seem to me to carry with it the inherent assurance that the proposition includes. Who could say "I believe Jesus died for my sins, but what if I'm not saved?". The question is nonsense, because the person already confesses a faith that God is propitiated with respect to the person.

I can't help but feel that has advantages over a definition of faith that is a trust in Christ that he died to atone for a certain number of persons. Can such a faith save? Can someone who is not believing that Christ paid for his sins be said to be merely lacking assurance? Is he not lacking saving faith?

Now the Lutherans handle this by positing 'objective justification', the concept (if i have it right) that there already exists a God propitiated by the work of Christ, and that justification becomes the possession of the individual when he puts his faith in the object of Christ's work or reconciliation. As a google hit writes
the very pardon which God has declared over the whole world of sinners that the individual sinner embraces in faith and thus is justified personally. Christ’s atonement, His propitiation of God and God’s forgiveness are the true and only object of faith. Here is what George Stoekhardt, perhaps the greatest of all Lutheran biblical expositors in our country, says, "Genuine Lutheran theology counts the doctrine of general (objective) justification among the statements and treasures of its faith. Lutherans teach and confess that through Christ’s death the entire world of sinners was justified and that through Christ’s resurrection the justification of the sinful world was festively proclaimed. This doctrine of general justification is the guarantee and warranty that the central article of justification by faith is being kept pure. Whoever holds firmly that God was reconciled to the world in Christ, and that to sinners in general their sin was forgiven, to him the justification which comes from faith remains a pure act of the grace of God. Whoever denies general justification is justly under suspicion that he is mixing his own work and merit into the grace of God."
It seems to me the FV is an attempt to provide a similar objective object for the person to put faith in. "You're already in the covenant where God objectively is declaring his mercy to you. So believe it! Be assured! Be a worthy receiver of the grace offered! to you! not just to 'the elect', but you!"

Now I don't believe the 'whole world of sinners' is justified in a well-defined theological sense that matches the definitions of the WCF. But I agree with Murray that in some sense God desires that all men be saved, and that there are 'covenantally salvific' effects of the atonement Christ brings, not only to all men, but to the Church particularly.

The analogy that I tried to use was of the wilderness wanderings. All those guys were out of egypt, whether they beleived it was a good thing or not. Waters tried to use that example to show that it's possible to have false assurance, but in actual fact, the faithless israelites were NOT even having false assurance of their deliverance. They thought the deliverance they posessed was worthless. Paul can use that to warn us as well: don't take the deliverance you have received as a license to do wickedness. Maybe the distinction is between the bare propsitions, and the necessary trust in the one who has made the propositions true. "yes, I'm out of egypt, but the God who got me out has bad intentions for me. i don't even know where he's gone. Gimme an idol."

August 01, 2006

Kids today (and parents): National Wimp Crisis

De script shun




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