July 31, 2009


Good stuff

Paul Helm writes
I think we need to pause for a moment or two on this claimed identity between righteousness and covenant faithfulness. It means, for one thing, that there is no other way that God could express his righteousness than by way of covenant faithfulness. Why? Because the one is the other. So in order to be righteous God must establish a covenant and be faithful to it. God cannot do other than he has in fact done. This would be seem to be, shall we say, rather restrictive? Where is Godís freedom in grace? In his wisdom, could he have seen fit not to establish a covenant? If so, would he nonetheless be righteous?

In making a covenant (with Abraham, say) is God acting righteously? Strictly, not according to Bishop Wright. He is only acting righteously in keeping his covenant, in being faithful to it. Weird. For Wright seems to be implying that Godís making a covenant could be an act of whimsy, caprice, sheer arbitrariness, coin-tossing, or whatever, but that everything changes when it comes to keeping the covenant. Can that be right?
I know everybody says this, but I'm not sure Helm is hearing Wright rightly.

God is "not guilty" too, but it would be very odd for us to go around proclaiming the "not guilty" status of God. Because the term "not guilty", while it has a meaning, also has a context as something you say at the end of a trial.

So it seems to be missing the point to argue that Wright can't be right because "couldn't God have been righteous without making a covenant"

Yes and no. He's morally perfect, but what Wright is claiming, as a broad scriptural hermeneutical matter, is whenever the Jews said "God, you sure are righteous" they were saying God kept covenant. And they weren't trying to say more.

That may be wrong, but it needs to be addressed in a different way.

If the Bible kept telling us God was "not guilty" we'd rightly ask what such a peculiar construct meant, and decide that God must be on trial or something.

We too easily say that "righteousness" is nothing other than moral perfection, without noting its contextual character as having to do with delivering justice.

July 28, 2009

Reed DePace at greenbaggins suggests, after talking to Guy Waters, that the problems of Theonomy and paedocommunion stem from the mistake of interpreting the NT in the light of the OT, instead of the proper way, the other way around.

I'd think we could add to that list:


Lawful NT vows and oaths (note the prooftexts)


Any more?

July 27, 2009

And getting up here, I say
it is the best road trip in America, soaring through
nature's finest show.

Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun.
And then the extremes.

In the winter time, it's the frozen road
that is competing with the view of ice fogged frigid beauty
the cold though
doesn't it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs?

And then in the summertime, such extreme - summertime -
about a hundred and fifty degrees hotter than just some months ago,
than just some months from now,
with fireweed blooming along the frost heaves
and merciless rivers that are rushing and carving and reminding us that here,
Mother Nature wins.

July 21, 2009

A while back someone posted a sentence diagram of a complicated Obama sentence.

I'd like to see one for this
And all weíre suggesting ó and weíre not going to solve every difficult problem in terms of end-of-life care.

A lot of that is going to have to be, we as a culture and as a society starting to make better decisions within our own families and for ourselves.

But what we can do is make sure that at least some of the waste that exists in the system thatís not making anybodyís mom better, that is loading up on additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care, that at least we can let doctors know and your mom know that, you know what? Maybe this isnít going to help. Maybe youíre better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.
What's interesting to me in the bold sentence is that he was going to do something about the "waste". He was going to have something "sure" about the waste in the system. What happens in the sentence is that "we let doctors (and mom) know" that the surgery isn't right.

But actually, he says the surgery "maybe" not helpful. Does anyone dispute that futile care should not be offered (and are we going to cover still unproven treatments like armoatherapy or homeopathy)? But if evidence-based coverage is only going to handle "maybe" cases, does that put us anywhere better?

I would also think that we're going to need more tests in the short run before the doctors will know what the evidence is going to show.

When can we have "evidence-based" costs controls in education?

July 15, 2009

Writing against the Free Offer of the Gospel, REFORMED VERITAS writes
The sympathy of the Saviour in Matthew 23:37 is the expression of his humanity which he assumed in order that he might become a High Priest that could be touched with a feeling of our infirmities. To draw inferences as to what his divine nature might be in back of this distinctive feature of his sacred humanity is surely unwarrantable speculation into what has not been revealed.
That might work. It has interesting dimensions for the extent of the atonement. Could Jesus in his human sympathies intend his work on the cross for everyone ("Father, forgive them") while at the same time his divine will does not intend the cross for everyone?

But I wonder why Jesus in only his human sympathies decides to bring all the blood from Abel to Zachariah on Jerusalem. That exceeds his personal affront from Jerursalem's rejection. Since the reference is to all the past prophets YHWH has sent and been rejected, isn't Jesus speaking on behalf of the YHWH who sent the prophets? 'How often' is unlikely to refer to the 3 years of Jesus ministry, rather to the entire history of Jerusalem.

July 14, 2009

I was amused to hear Sotomayor claim that the "Constitution is a timeless document" since thats 1) unlikely to be her actual view 2) incoherent (was it carved on the scepter of the Emperor-Over-The-Sea?)

But this exchange between Orin Hatch and her was also interesting

HATCH: What's your understanding of the test or standard the Supreme Court has used to determine whether a right should be considered fundamental? I'm not asking a hypothetical here. I'm only asking about what the Supreme Court has said in the past on this question. I recall (inaudible) emphasizing that a right must be deeply rooted in our nation's history and tradition, that it is necessary to an Anglo- American regime of ordered liberty, or that it is an enduring American tradition.

I think I've cited that pretty accurately on what the court has held with regard to what is a fundamental right. Now, those are different formulations from the Supreme Court's decisions, but I think the common thread there is obvious. Now, is that your understanding of how the Supreme Court has evaluated whether a right should be deemed fundamental?

SOTOMAYOR: The Supreme Court's decision with respect to the Second Circuit incorporation -- Second Amendment incorporation doctrine is reliant on old precedent of the court, and I don't mean to use that as precedent that doesn't bind when I call it old. I'm talking about precedent that was passed in the 19th century.

Since that time, there is no question that different cases addressing different amendments of the Constitution have applied a different framework. And whether that framework and the language you quoted are precise or not, I haven't examined that framework in a while to know if that language is precise or not. I'm not suggesting it's not, Senator. I just can't affirm that description.

SOTOMAYOR; My point is, however, that once there's Supreme Court precedent directly on point, and Second Circuit precedent directly on point on a question, which there is on this incorporation doctrine and how it uses the word "fundamental," then my panel, which was unanimous on this point -- there were two other judges -- and at least one other -- or one other panel on the Seventh Circuit by Justice -- by Justice -- by Judge Easterbrook has agreed that, once you have settled precedent in an area, then, on a precise question, then the Supreme Court has to look at that.

And under the deference one gives to stare decisis and the factors one considers in deciding whether that older precedent should be changed or not, that's what the Supreme Court will do.

HATCH: OK. As I noted, the Supreme Court puts the Second Amendment in the same category as the First and the Fourth Amendments as pre-existing rights that the Constitution merely codified. Now, do you believe that the First Amendment rights, such as the right to freely exercise religion, the freedom of speech, or the freedom of the press, are fundamental rights?

SOTOMAYOR: Those rights have been incorporated against the states. The states must comply with them. So in -- to the extent that the court has held that...

HATCH: Right.

SOTOMAYOR: ... then they are -- they have been deemed fundamental, as that term is understood legally.

HATCH: What about the Fourth Amendment, about unreasonable -- unreasonable searches and seizures?


HATCH: Same...

SOTOMAYOR: But with respect to the holding as it relates to that particular amendment.

What interests me is Hatch's citation of what constitutes a "fundamental" right.

Its TRADITION! [Cue Fiddler on the Roof music]

and it's ANGLO tradition!


R Scott Clark takes time to carefully argue that baptist churches are not churches according to the historic reformed understanding of the "marks" of the true church, as Mark 2 involves right administration of the sacraments.

July 08, 2009

Reformed theology is usually ok with the idea that people can by and large keep parts of the law and this is common grace to them, and that the benefits of that lawkeeping are also common grace to them.

So if a person doesn't commit adultery, that's great, and will be good for their relationships, and have positive benefits for them (either directly from God, or indirectly because God sets up the universe to work that way; wait, is there a difference?)

I wonder if we can have a form of "common grace" benefits that stream from something that is less law-like.

For instance, when Jesus says, in John 12:24-26
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Jesus speaks in generalities at least at first.

He is going to lay down his life. But the principle by which he says benefits will accrue is one of general application. Lots of seeds die. Jesus then uses the benefits of his death to encourage OTHERS to a life of self-sacrifice and cross-bearing.

Surely the main import, as Jesus say at the last, is for the one who, in cross-bearing, serves Jesus himself. But is it out of line entirely to say that, say, if Gandhi dies in the service of others, and we note the benefits to the cause of Gandhi in so doing, that we are witnessing an application of John 12, in a "common grace" kind of way?


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