Traditions 1, 2, and 0

I’ve been reading in Timothy Ward’s excellent little book Words of Life, and he has a very helpful and clear description of the three main view of Scripture and tradition that were circulating at the time of the Reformation. In this description he builds on Heiko Oberman’s very important work in his Harvest of Medieval Theology. What Oberman calls Tradition I (T1) is the view “that tradition is a tool to aid in the faithful interpretation of Scripture, expounding the primary teachings of Scripture, with Scripture remaining the only source of infallible divine revelation” (Ward, 144). Tradition II (T2) is the view “that there are two distinct sources of divine revelation, Scripture and church tradition, with the latter being handed down either orally or through customary church practices.”

Ward argues that T1 was the position of the early church, and that T2 developed only in the twelfth century, appealing (in his view wrongly) to Augustine and Basil in so doing. The Reformers were therefore advocating a return to T1 in their rejection of T2.

The Anabaptists rejected both T1 and T2 in what Ward calls T0 (this comes from Keith Mathison and Alister McGrath). This view elevates individual interpretation above the corporate, which T1 and the Reformers did NOT do, contrary to Roman Catholic accusations. It is a failure to distinguish these various views of tradition that has prompted so much misinterpretation of the Reformed tradition, and this misinterpretation comes from various quarters.

From the perspective of Roman Catholicism, any view that is not T2 (though there have been some rather widely differing interpretations of T2 in modern Catholicism) elevates personal interpretation above corporate. When Reformed folk respond with T1 views, the typical Roman Catholic response harps on the situation where an individual disagrees with the church. What happens then? The ultimate authority for the Christian is the Bible. Furthermore, Reformed folk believe that the Bible actually means something objectively considered. It is not all just a matter of interpretation. Otherwise, God should never have given us the Bible in the first place. The Christian needs to be patient in asking his church what the church’s real position is, and needs to show that interpretation great deference. However, since the church can err, the church cannot bind anyone’s conscience. If the church contradicts the Bible, then the church loses. This is not making the individual higher than the church. It is making the Bible higher than the church. Remember that the Reformed position holds that the Bible objectively means something apart from our interpretation of it. This is, I believe, one of the great sticking points when Roman Catholics and Protestants speak about authority. What is the nature of the Bible? Does it have any objective clarity on any issue? Does it have any inherent authority? The Roman Catholic typically believes that the Bible doesn’t exist except as interpreted by the church. We demur and say that even if there was no soul on earth existing at all, the Bible would still be there, and would still be clear on the matters of salvation, would still have the authority of God behind it (since He wrote it), and would still mean something.

Another attack from another quarter comes from the “no creed but Christ” crowd. They, like their Anabaptist forefathers, reject all tradition, as if the Holy Spirit never instructed anyone else in all church history before they came along, and as if they have nothing to learn from church history. This is the T0 crowd. Among them, the Hebrew Roots Movement has shown itself definitively to be in this category. They despise the church, and they despise all forms of extra-biblical tradition, whether those traditions are elevated to the level of Scripture (T2) or not (T1). And they cannot distinguish between T1 and T2. To them, everything that is extra-biblical is automatically T2 if appealed to in a debate. Usually the only time they quote the early church fathers, for instance, is to find fault with them. The entire church was completely heretical until they came along. There never has been the seven thousand who did not bow their knee to Baal until they came along. To put it mildly, this is sectarianism in its worst form. For them, the gates of Hell prevailed against the church until they came along.

The Reformers were very different in their approach to church history. They believed that the Roman Catholic church, by excommunicating the Reformers (who didn’t leave of their own volition (another myth initiated by Roman Catholics), but were expelled) and anathematizing the gospel at the Council of Trent, thus broke themselves off from the true church.

There are those even in the PCA who have a great deal of sympathy with the “no creed but Christ” crowd. Whenever any confessionalist quotes the Westminster Standards to address any question whatsoever, they will immediately charge us with T2. For them, there is no intermediate, fallible authority present in church creeds at all. Therefore, the creeds should never be used in any church controversy. The problem with this, as Ward demonstrates so clearly and helpfully, is that we need a rule of faith as a summary of what the Bible is saying. Creeds and confessions provide the church’s agreed upon Rule of Faith. It constitutes the analogy of faith as we understand it. And, as Trueman in his book The Creedal Imperative says so well, everyone has a creed! The question is not whether you will have one or not. The question is whether your creed is visible or not, and thus can be used as a means of accountability, and for unity in the church. People who desire to have unity by scrapping the creeds are therefore whoppingly wrong. There can be no unity without truth. And without creeds, we have no way of agreeing on what that truth is. So creeds and confessions are T1, fallible authorities that nevertheless have more authority than an individual, but less authority than the Bible. It is as we are abandoning the Westminster Standards, for instance, that we are having the unity problems in the PCA right now. The abandonment of the Westminster Standards will presage not the salvation and progress of the PCA, but rather its destruction.

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81 Comments

  1. xpusostomos said,

    February 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    There is no T1, or no meaningful one anyway. Tradition is a “tool”??? So what? The “Watchtower” is a tool too, and so is the Book of Mormon. Not very great ones, but they are tools. However, this is not a very interesting discovery.

    The question at hand…. the only question worthy of our attention is not whether tradition is a tool, but whether tradition has any authority to bind our consciences. If yes, then we are T2. If not, we are T0.

    The argument about the true church… there was no true church till… oh say Anabaptists came along or whatever. It’s good to reject such nonsense, but then… if you reject that nonsense you have to have a plausible answer to where in fact the church was. That kinda leaves you with Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. If you pick those or one of them and say, yeah but their doctrine is so bad that we could never even contemplate accepting it, then how are you different to Anabaptists? Just the mere hair difference that you give intellectual assent to them being a church, just one that needs to be ignored? That’s a tightrope.

    Creeds have more authority than an individual but less than the bible? Interesting theory, but if we break it down, the creed is the authority of a group of like minded people (or like-interpreting) who decided to form a denomination, over and against other minded people who didn’t want to join their interpretation and denomination. It can’t have authority over the church universal, since the church universal didn’t agree to it. If you say it has authority over the believer in the denomination, what does that mean? Does it mean it should bind the conscience of believer thus? Then Martin Luther was wrong for overturning the “creed” of his own Roman church. If you say it’s subservient to the bible, what does that mean? It means its true, unless you as an individual believe the bible says something else? That means its worthless.

    If you say, it binds the rules of the denomination, well ok it’s an administratively useful instrument, but theologically irrelevant and has no place in church worship or binding the believer, and should be kept for AGM meetings and similar.

  2. February 23, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    The distinctions T1, T2 and T0 are good. Everyone has a creed, written or unwritten (try arguing Scripture teaches infant baptism in a US Church of Christ and you’ll find out!). To put your understanding of Scripture in written form is just being honest; that the creed is a consensus of a number makes it more likely to avoid idiosyncracies; and to be aware of the past history similarly helps avoid mistakes. If the RCC omits tradition not in Scripture would she not end up broadly with us?

  3. xpusostomos said,

    February 23, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    No she wouldn’t end up broadly with you. Maybe (very maybe) there would a few issues RCC would have to change if it were to abandon issues that everyone agrees is totally not in scripture. But pretty much all the important stuff would be intact.

    Don’t forget that tradition doesn’t tend to just appear out of thin air. It in large part comes from what a lot of people thought scripture was teaching over time.

  4. Jon said,

    February 23, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    There are several versions of T1: strict vs. good faith subscription, etc. It seems to me that is what is causing tension in the PCA.

  5. Mark B said,

    February 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Good post Lane, you touched on all the salient points.

    Response 1 misses the point :
    ” That kinda leaves you with Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.”

    This was addressed in the post:
    “The Reformers were very different in their approach to church history. They believed that the Roman Catholic church, by excommunicating the Reformers (who didn’t leave of their own volition (another myth initiated by Roman Catholics), but were expelled) and anathematizing the gospel at the Council of Trent, thus broke themselves off from the true church. ”

    To add to this a little, the reformers didn’t see themselves as breaking with the Church, they saw Rome as breaking with the Church. For example, consider how often Calvin quotes the Fathers. One is entitled to have their individual opinion as to who is the true continuation of the Church, but we are not “kinda [left] with Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy”. Tradition doesn’t appear out of thin air, but that doesn’t imply that it came from Scripture. There are other more base human motives for inventing some of the heresies of the Roman Church. Scripture must be the ultimate authority that judges the Church, we cannot accept Romes claim that it is the church just because it claims that it is.

  6. xpusostomos said,

    February 23, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Mark B, I think you missed my point. I was not trying to make a case of who left the true church in the 16th century. I was talking about who has been the true church for those preceding 15 centuries.

    You say Calvin quoted the fathers, which is true. But the point is, if you’re going to say there is such a beast as “the true church” you can’t have it end with the fathers. It has to exist in every century, including the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.

    So in order to not fall into the Anabaptist hole, it’s not enough to quote 5th century folks who you agree with. You’ve got to quote folks from every age who you agree with.

    Other than questions about the papacy, I’m not sure what “base human motives” were responsible for Roman Catholicism. An example might help.

    I haven’t heard before that the reformers considered that Rome split itself off from the true church by the act of the Pope excommunicating them. Since reformers don’t recognise the pope’s power, one wonders how that can work. Anyway, what is the reformers’ excuse from splitting with the rest of the church, the part not under the pope of Rome? If you are going to start a whole movement based on not liking the Pope and not liking Trent, wouldn’t it be incumbent on you to keep in with the already preexisting churches not in with the pope and not caring about Trent?

  7. Ron Henzel said,

    February 23, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    “If you say [a creed is] subservient to the bible, what does that mean? It means its true, unless you as an individual believe the bible says something else? That means its worthless.”

    According to this logic, we must also say: “If you say the Church’s authority is subservient to Christ’s, what does that mean? It means it’s true, unless you as an individual believe Christ says something else? That means it’s worthless.” And yet, Roman Catholics believe that their church’s authority is subservient to Christ’s.

    The worth of a creed is not determined by the people who dissent from it, or even the fact that dissenters exist. A creed may be worthless to the person who believes that the Bible says something else, but it is far from worthless to the person who subscribes to the creed.

  8. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 12:36 am

    I don’t know that Roman Catholics say the authority of the church is subservient to Christ’s. They say that the authority of the church IS the authority of Christ, and therefore you can’t pit one against the other.

    Anyway, whatever RCs do or don’t say, the whole idea of subservient authorities is a lot of baloney. Something has authority above you, or it doesn’t. If it does, you have ZERO freedom to dissent from it. If it doesn’t, then you have unbridled freedom to dissent from it.

    You can wax lyrical all day about how great creeds are, but do they have AUTHORITY? If so, then if there’s even a .000001% chance that they correctly interpret the bible, then you MUST follow it. If not, then what use are they really?

  9. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2014 at 3:30 am

    The Bible is the ultimate authority for my denomination, the PCA. The Westminster Standards are its subservient authority, which are useful in defining the doctrinal boundaries of the PCA. The way the difference between “ultimate” and “subservient” works out is that ordained officers in the PCA are allowed to hold to exceptions to various points in the Standards so long as those exceptions do not undermine the system of doctrine as a whole. Teaching elders (pastors) In particular are required to declare their exception(s) and their presbyteries are required to judge whether they are acceptable.

  10. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 4:05 am

    So… It has very little meaning at all. Not only can elders give “exceptions”, the elders are presumably elected by the laity who have no restrictions at all. So in principle, everything could be optional. Theology by vote.

  11. February 24, 2014 at 5:29 am

    #8. The ability of PCA presbyteries to allow exceptions leaves the security of the doctrinal position subject to the various presbyteries.
    I know this goes back to the Adopting Act in the 18th century but it is not a wise position. Any exceptions should be specifically a matter for the broadest Assembly.

  12. February 24, 2014 at 5:31 am

    I appreciate my church having something to guide their interpretation of the bible! Even in the Apostles’ time there were tradions of interpretation, and CREEDS to guide them. Paul cites some of these “faithful sayings, worthy of acceptation” in his letters (1 Tim 1:15, 3:1, 4:9, 2 Tim 2:11, Titus 3:8) and urges his own disciple Timothy to honor his mother’s tradition. Paul again cites tradition (“custom” in 1 Cor 11:16) in the matter of head coverings for the benefit of any one “inclined to be contentious.”

  13. February 24, 2014 at 5:35 am

    Reblogged this on A Sidekick's Blog and commented:
    On Bible Interpretation: I appreciate my church having something to guide their interpretation of the bible! Even in the Apostles’ time there were tradions of interpretation, and CREEDS to guide them. Paul cites some of these “faithful sayings, worthy of acceptation” in his letters (1 Tim 1:15, 3:1, 4:9, 2 Tim 2:11, Titus 3:8). If creeds and traditions had a place even in the 1st century church, we ought not dismiss sound creeds and traditions in the 21st century church.

  14. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2014 at 6:45 am

    xpusostomos

    You wrote:

    So… It has very little meaning at all. Not only can elders give “exceptions”, the elders are presumably elected by the laity who have no restrictions at all. So in principle, everything could be optional. Theology by vote.

    No, not at all. First of all, the elders are not directly elected by the laity in an unrestricted fashion, but are first nominated by the members and then examined and approved by the Session prior to the congregational vote on whether they will become elders. During that examination our Book of Church Order requires nominees to (a) meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, (b) demonstrate knowledge of Bible content, (c) demonstrate knowledge of the system of doctrine, government, and discipline found int he PCA’s Constitution, (d) demonstrate competency in the duties of the office, and (e) demonstrate willingness to take a vow providing affirmative answers to the following questions:

    1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

    2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will, on your own initiative, make known to your Session the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?

    3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of biblical polity?

    4. Do you accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon, as the case may be) in this church, and promise faithfully to perform all the duties thereof, and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your life, and to set a worthy example before the Church of which God has made you an officer?

  15. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 7:20 am

    @adoptedsidekick: that’s great that you support traditions as having authority, citing the apostles, but if you’re going to cite the apostolic mandate on traditions, the question then becomes, which traditions are worthy of the apostolic mandate? You see, there can’t be authoritative traditions without the concept of an authoritative people of God, aka, the true church. Otherwise tradition is just a highfalutin name for your opinion, or your sectarian preferences. So my question is where is the true church?

    @Ron that’s great and all, but the system allows the doctrinal position to change over time. Not that one guy can come in and change everything, but the system does allow congregational influence over time to move the doctrinal yardstick. For example, I’ll bet there are a lot of Presbyterian churches that are not as Calvinistic as the WCF would seem to promote. I don’t know much about the PCA, but a lot of Presbyterian churches are darn right arminian.

    Or to summarize, this creed is what you believe for now. But since your group is actively in the process of allowing exceptions and questioning their truth, all they are is an official working hypothesis, inviting challenges from all.

  16. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2014 at 7:57 am

    xpusostomos,

    You wrote:

    @Ron that’s great and all, but the system allows the doctrinal position to change over time. Not that one guy can come in and change everything, but the system does allow congregational influence over time to move the doctrinal yardstick. For example, I’ll bet there are a lot of Presbyterian churches that are not as Calvinistic as the WCF would seem to promote. I don’t know much about the PCA, but a lot of Presbyterian churches are darn right arminian.

    First you argued that a subservient authority is worthless, then you clarified that position by locating its worthlessness in the notion that it makes everything “optional.” And now, when I show you that it does not make everything optional, you claim that the system of subscription to that authority “allows the doctrinal position to change over time.”

    But there is nothing inherent in the system of subscription that I described which allows for any change at all in the doctrinal system itself. Allowing for incidental (as opposed to essential) exceptions to the Westminster Standards on an individual basis does nothing to change those Standards. The Standards themselves do not get amended. So the weak link in the chain is not the Standards, but the men enforcing them. If we did away with the Standards and claimed to keep only the Bible as our authority, with no subservient authority (either formal or informal), the situation would be the same—actually, I would say worse. On the other hand, if we allowed no exceptions whatsoever to the Standards, I believe it would raise the question of whether they were truly subservient to Scripture. So if the weak links in the chain—the men charged with enforcing the system—eventually become so unreliable as to compromise the confessional integrity of the denomination by allowing too many exceptions, I say it is time to either found or join a denomination that maintains confessional integrity.

  17. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Actually Ron, I conceded right up there in post #1 that a creed could be useful as an instrument for administrative purposes.

    But it’s worthless, maybe worse than useless as something to bind the conscience, UNLESS you believe it has actual authority. It’s useful for bean counters to keep order, but valueless for the man in the pew, unless it has authority of a similar type to the bible.

    So in your theory, the standards don’t get changed, but you could get to the point where everyone to a man doesn’t subscribe to them. Well that’s just wonderful isn’t it.

    If there are “too many” exceptions, (whatever THAT means), it’s time to start a new denomination? That assumes that the exceptions weren’t actually improvements. But since the creeds aren’t binding, you can’t assume that. You’re between a rock and a hard place, defending creeds that you concede could be wrong, but not wanting a system that allows them to be circumvented, even though that circumvention might actually be the mechanism that leads to purer doctrine. The system can be either the instrument for destruction by allowing change, or by not allowing it. And those sitting as judge and jury, not having any intrinsic authority, have no real right to make those judgements.

  18. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2014 at 9:18 am

    xpustostomos,

    Actually, you not only said that a creed was useful for administrative purposes, but you also said it was “theologically irrelevant and has no place in church worship or binding the believer, and should be kept for AGM meetings and similar.”

    It’s difficult to see, however, how a theological statement can be theologically irrelevant. Creeds and confessions are created in order to defend a group’s doctrinal positions, usually while combating the teaching of theological opponents. Their authority lies in establishing the theological boundaries between what “we” teach and what “they” teach, and as such they are consensus documents. Even so, they cannot be shunted off into some administrative division of the church, since from time to time it is always incumbent upon us to explain to our congregation where we stand on various theological positions and why. In our case, the Westminster Standards provide us with not only an authoritative basis for our denomination’s theology, but a biblical and historical basis for it, since all its points are documented with Scripture texts and we can also describe the historic context in which the Standards were written. So it is far from valueless for the man in the pew who, in abundantly-confirmed experience, frequently and regularly seeks answers to such questions.

    My “theory” does neither allows nor requires the eventual abandonment of the Standards, but simply acknowledges that all denominations and even local congregations have exhibited an ability to depart from their doctrinal standards over time, even when that standard is purported to be “no creed but Christ.” I don’t feel a bit uncomfortable defending the use of potentially-fallible creeds, and neither do I feel a bit uncomfortable permitting others to find another congregation that does not subscribe to our Standards should they become uncomfortable with them. We have not only a right but a duty under the authority of Scripture to explain and defend our doctrines, and that’s what creeds, confessions and catechisms help us do.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2014 at 9:28 am

    xpusostomos, welcome to my blog. Would you please let us know what your full name is? One of the blog rules here is that we do not allow anonymous commenting. If you are not comfortable telling everyone your name, then please email your name to my gmail (greenbaggins AT gmail). Thank you very much.

  20. Pete Rambo said,

    February 24, 2014 at 9:40 am

    xpusostomos is doing a fine job identifying some areas that for much needed scrutiny. But, at the risk of turning focus from his points, I’d like to ask a few questions.

    The author wrote,

    This is the T0 crowd. Among them, the Hebrew Roots Movement has shown itself definitively to be in this category. They despise the church, and they despise all forms of extra-biblical tradition, whether those traditions are elevated to the level of Scripture (T2) or not (T1). And they cannot distinguish between T1 and T2. To them, everything that is extra-biblical is automatically T2 if appealed to in a debate. Usually the only time they quote the early church fathers, for instance, is to find fault with them. The entire church was completely heretical until they came along.

    Despising the church? No. But strongly correcting.

    Despise all forms of extra-biblical tradition? Quite possibly. The hard question they and many historically (Anabaptists as one named) have asked is, ‘What is the origin of _______ tradition?’ If the origin can be traced to paganism, then no amount of ‘Christianizing’ will save it. If the root is holy, then the branches are… conversely, if the root is pagan… You do the math.

    Do the research! You are no longer unknowingly ignorant. Willful ignorance is an exceedingly dangerous place to be.

    History is full of those who saw and separated themselves from the pagan influences of the RCC and even the church fathers. The church then displayed the ‘love of Christ’ by persecuting them and hunting them to their death! n Protestants, included… even today. Why? Because their very existence exposes the fallacies in Christendom. In the mind of ‘the church,’ they MUST BE SILENCED, else the leadership of the church risks losing power, position, money, etc.

    The author mentions the 7000 who did not bow the knee to Baal. They indeed have always been here, but only rarely among what he believes to be ‘the church.’ Those martyred for exposing the truth… There is a significant chunk of the 7000.

    Brothers, I beg of you. Get a spine and do the research! Stop making excuses. Instead of shoot the messengers, humble yourselves and take the bullet before it is too late! You have been and are being warned.

    What is the connection between easter and ishtar?

    What is the connection between santa and moloch?

    Read about saturnalia, mithras, etc.

    Why did the Puritans punish christmas observances?

    Almost every single tradition in Chistendom, whether ‘T1,’ or ‘T2′ needs to re-evaluated. Failure to do so is willful ignorance.

    The author said it rightly, ‘extra-biblical.’ That would be ‘adding to’ Scripture.

  21. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I meant theologically irrelevant in that it can’t have an important place in the theological and worship life of the church.

    How is it a consensus document when you even allow elders to depart from it (with permission) and the laity presumably don’t even need permission.

    Why do you need to explain to your congregation what “we” teach? What if you explain to your congregation that “we” teach X, and the congregation says “really? I don’t accept that”? Is it still a consensus document? Does it still represent anything meaningful? I’ll bet not a few congregations have had some pastor explain that we believe in Calvinism, citing the WCF, and the congregation expressed a collective “nuh-uh”, and bide their time (or not) until they could boot that pastor.

    And why shouldn’t they, if that’s what their conscience tells them? It is after all, not authoritative, right?

    All the creed does it represent what some clique would like to thrust on everyone else, where that clique may or may not be a more powerful clique than other cliques, may or may not be right, and doesn’t even claim any special authority for their belief beyond they persuasive abilities and the hopefully self-evident (to some anyway) nature of their claims.

    So when you explain to the congregation where “we” stand, the “we” is a rather nebulous thing. It may or actually might not include the guy standing next to you. It may or may nor include the elder standing next to the elder giving the talk. It may or may not be right. It may or may not include a majority. Just a rhetorical device really, other than in the administrative scenario that next time the eldership has a vacancy, the next applicant will need to look like he toes that line (at least until the power balance shifts a bit, and particular “exceptions” become de rigueur).

    You have no discomfort at all that people regularly depart the congregation to pursue other doctrines, despite that they are supposedly documented with scripture texts, and apparently amply explained by the elders subscribing to them? Strange. If they are so well documented with scripture, so clear, and so well explained, and yet people leave so that you don’t even flinch a little, is that not strange?

    Here is where the rubber hits the road that there simply is no Tradition-1. You don’t flinch because these traditions of yours have zero authority and you know it. If they had authority of even the most meagre kind, you’d be able to go up to such people and say, “you can’t leave, because this is the tradition”, and that argument would have SOME weight. Even if some small, little weight, it would weigh SOMETHING. I’ll bet you don’t, because you know it doesn’t.

    So what we are left with is tradition-0 and tradition-2. That’s it, that’s all.

    Tradition-1 is left for the bean counters at the AGM when they select new elders.

  22. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I complied with your request back in 2010.

  23. Dan MacDonald said,

    February 24, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Lane

    I liked most of what you said in this post. Helpful discussion of the various approaches to tradition and scripture. Thank you.

    Your last sentence, I am less sure I follow. You say the following:

    ‘It is as we are abandoning the Westminster Standards, for instance, that we are having the unity problems in the PCA right now. ‘

    I am fairly new to the PCA, and I am in Canada, where the landscape is obviously different, so pardon my lack of context. My admittedly… superficial take on our denomination is a little different.

    I think the unity problems in the PCA seem more complex to me than just – fidelity to the WS vs. abandonment of them. We were founded by Southern Presbyterians fleeing the theological implosion of the PCUSA. That coterie of founding churches, I am told, was a bit eclectic; a number of quite Reformed, confessional churches, a number of more ‘evangelical Southern’ churches that did adhere to reformed theology, but less rigorously, and a few aggressively evangelistic churches that were also reformed, but not rigorously so. I will call them the ‘historic’ group.

    Since the 1970’s, it seems to me – and help me if I am wrong – at least three other groups have begun to grow within our denomination, in and around the ‘historic’ group.

    First, the evangelistic, mostly city-focussed church planters, more interested in cultural engagement, practical soul-winning and mercy/justice issues. I will call them the ‘missional’ group, simply because I have no good name for them. They are influenced by Harvey Conn, Tim Keller, and a host of others. I think I am usually labelled as one of these. They – we?- tend to be practitioners, perhaps to a fault.

    Second, a group of theologically and biblically…creative thinkers who look to push Reformed theology into new areas. They seem to be loosely aligned with each other, but also differentiable. They would include people sympathetic to Anglican liturgical forms, N.T. Wright and Federal Vision theology, ecclesial catholicity, paedocommunion, and other issues – these are the ones I am aware of, but there are probably many more. I will call them the ‘creative’ group, just for this thread’s purposes.

    Third, a group of theologically rigorous, historically rooted, pastors and thinkers who are much more confessionally sensitive in their expression of Reformed theology. They seem to take many, though not all, of their cues from the expression of reformed theology arising out of Westminster Seminary West, in Escondido. I will call them the ‘rigorous’ group.

    The first two of the groups I mentioned that are ‘new’ to the PCA seem to be characterized by, for very different reasons, a somewhat more relaxed approach to the Standards.

    1. The ‘missional’ types, of which I think I am one, being more practitioners, are generally not wired toward rigorous theological reflection unless circumstances push them in that direction. Their energy is wired toward evangelism, city exegesis, racial reconciliation, practical discipleship, etc. I do not say this to excuse but explain.

    2. The ‘creative’ group, liking to push theological creativity, also prefers wider freedom – but for different reasons. From what I can tell, they feel strict subscription to the Standards stifles theological and exegetical creativity and biblical fidelity, and will lead to stagnation.

    3. The ‘rigorous’ group is alarmed by both of the other two groups. They do not think that the seeming lack of concern for theology amongst us ‘missional’ types is wise. They are quite alarmed at some of the directions the ‘creative’ types are going. They think the combination of 1 and 2 getting more influence will lead to compromise.

    I submit to you that, in my somewhat cursory analysis, that all of these groups, and I am sure I am grossly simplifying it, are impatient with each other for reasons that transcend the Standards. I think all groups have an overly confident view of what is needed for the church to glorify Jesus in our day. We each tend to over-emphasize our own tribe’s strengths as THE real answer for both the church we see AND the culture we engage.

    Missionalists think that THE need of the church is to recover her first century sense of mission to a cross-cultural society. Creative groups think that THE need of the church is to dig deeper, with the latest biblico-theological insights, the deepest understanding of the nuances and currents of historical reformed theology, and even more ancient church history, to refresh the Reformed church in her ecclesiology and spirituality. Rigorists think that THE answer for the church is to recover her rich Reformed heritage, which is already wide and deep enough in the Standards to renew and refresh the church and reach the culture.

    Frankly, I find myself needing wisdom here. I am actually sympathetic to all of these positions. I regularly read your blog because I know I am weak in the areas you and this blog are strong. I try to read some of the ‘creative’ group’s authors to understand them better, and it drives me to the Bible to see if such things are so – and that is a good thing.

    And, I grow in appreciation of the ‘historic group’ that has watched their denomination change so much over the years. I wonder how they feel about all of this.

    But in all of my analysis of all of this, I struggle to make the answers as binary as your last statements make them. I think we need to listen to each other, and lean on each other, and respect each other much more than we presently seem to be doing. I need more theological rigour to help give me balance. I need the Standards and the BCO to help keep me grounded in scripture and the truth. I need more deep biblical thinking and reflecting to help keep me fresh and grounded in the Bible, not merely my own tribe’s version of it.

    And out of this discussion I wish we had, I would love to see a new confession arise. I frankly feel that we need a new confession, that deals with some of the modern issues that have arisen in the last 400 years, to help us navigate our way. It is not that I find the Westminster Standards in error; rather, it is that I find them not comprehensive enough to deal with abortion, euthanasia, sex-change operations, and a whole host of other issues I deal with regularly.

    Okay, enough for now. Thanks for listening.

  24. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Xpusostomos, I looked back through the comments, and I found some ambiguity. On one comment, you signed your name Chris, and on several others, I found John, but no last name. I am not trying to be officious or anything, but there are quite a few new commenters on this blog since the last time you had substantive interaction here, and it would be helpful for people to have a full name.

  25. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Dan, thanks for a very thoughtful comment. One thing you need to know about me is that I tend to over-simplify for the sake of the big picture, and I regularly get called for it (quite often rightly). There is no doubt that there are more issues at stake than simply the Westminster Standards. You would probably also agree that the boundaries between the groups you mention are not necessarily hard and fast. For instance, I know a fair number of the “rigorous” group who would deny that they are lacking in many of the positive aspects of the other groups you mentioned. I dare say that there are members of the other groups who would deny that they do not care about doctrine (as indeed, you yourself seem to be saying).

    The point I wanted to get at in the post was that unity cannot be had over how to do something, but can only be had over what we believe, and that the confessions fill that need of an agreed-upon way of seeing the Bible. Just about every group that calls themselves Christian whether rightly or wrongly claims to believe what the Bible says. Most heretics have done so as well. This is why we need an agreed-upon way of reading the Scripture. If we start to abandon that, we will lose our unity. And there are many people who don’t want the WS to be the basis for unity anymore.

  26. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Pete, again we come to the problem of sources. Which sources are you using to posit a connection between Easter and Ishtar? There is incidentally NO linguistic connection. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is not related at all to the ANE goddess Ishtar. That is a very common misconception. Most languages call Easter by the Jewish name for Passover “Pascha” or some such derivation. The word “Easter” comes from “Eostre” not “Ishtar.” “Eostre” is a Germanic goddess, not an ANE goddess. So, not only are you committing a word-concept fallacy here (just because a word is used does not mean that a particular concept is being used), but you also commit the etymological fallacy: that the way a word originated determines its meaning. There are a thousand different ways in which people celebrate Easter. Some of them are good, and some of them are not good. Some of them (like our church, for instance) focus entirely on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not about the “Easter bunny,” still less about ANE or Germanic goddesses. I am fairly sure that I wouldn’t have to dig very deep to find out many other fallacies of your supposed research.

  27. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    P.S. I don’t believe in Santa, and our family ignores it, not because of a connection to Moloch, but because of the far greater problem of materialism that comes with it. So stop shooting with a shotgun, and improve your aim.

  28. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    And Pete, let me put this as pointedly as I can: which EXTRA-BIBLICAL TRADITIONS (ANY book outside the Bible that talks about the Bible is an extra-biblical tradition of interpretation) are you using for your sources that connect Easter and Ishtar?

  29. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    xpusostomos,

    You wrote:

    I meant theologically irrelevant in that it can’t have an important place in the theological and worship life of the church.

    Well, the Westminster Standards naturally have an important place in the theological and worship life of PCA churches, since they form the basis for our teaching.

    You wrote:

    How is it a consensus document when you even allow elders to depart from it (with permission) and the laity presumably don’t even need permission.

    I think the answer to your question is found in the definition of the word “consensus:” it refers to a general agreement about something, not to any disagreements. So the real question is, How can it not be a consensus document when the act of subscribing to it indicates agreement with what it says? We do not force our elders or deacons to subscribe to it, we simply make subscription a condition for holding those offices, with the result being that we have a body of leaders who share the consensus that the Westminster Standards are our church’s teaching standards.

    You wrote:

    Why do you need to explain to your congregation what “we” teach? What if you explain to your congregation that “we” teach X, and the congregation says “really? I don’t accept that”? Is it still a consensus document? Does it still represent anything meaningful?

    Since we do not require our members to subscribe to the Westminster Standards; but only require our office holders to do so, members are free to disagree. But we tell them as part of preparation for membership that these are our standards, that we have taken vows to uphold them, we provide them with copies of them, and we tell them that they will themselves take vows to uphold the peace and purity of our congregation, meaning that they cannot use any dissent on their part as a pretext for trying change our standards, as it will disturb the peace of the church, and, we also believe, diminish its purity. Occasionally we see people who do not take this advice to heart, but that is a disingenuous attitude that eventually becomes apparent and leads to their departure.

    You wrote:

    I’ll bet not a few congregations have had some pastor explain that we believe in Calvinism, citing the WCF, and the congregation expressed a collective “nuh-uh”, and bide their time (or not) until they could boot that pastor

    Should that happen, the local presbytery of that congregation would be responsible to hold the denominational door for that church so that it could process out of the PCA at its soonest possible convenience.

    You wrote:

    And why shouldn’t they, if that’s what their conscience tells them? It is after all, not authoritative, right?

    The Westminster Standards are authoritative within conservative Reformed Presbyterianism, of which the PCA counts itself a part. If the collective conscience of a congregation dissents from those standards, chapter 20 of the Westminster Confession of Faith grants such a body liberty of conscience to believe whatever it wants, but not liberty to deny the Westminster Standards and remain in the PCA.

    You wrote:

    All the creed does it represent what some clique would like to thrust on everyone else, where that clique may or may not be a more powerful clique than other cliques, may or may not be right, and doesn’t even claim any special authority for their belief beyond they persuasive abilities and the hopefully self-evident (to some anyway) nature of their claims.

    Actually, the Westminster Standards, as with every other church creed and confession, represents the stated views of a group of like-minded Christians on topics essential to salvation and the Christian life. If you don’t agree with it, you are perfectly free to join with a body of believers who hold views more to your liking.

    You wrote:

    So when you explain to the congregation where “we” stand, the “we” is a rather nebulous thing. It may or actually might not include the guy standing next to you. It may or may nor include the elder standing next to the elder giving the talk. It may or may not be right. It may or may not include a majority. Just a rhetorical device really, other than in the administrative scenario that next time the eldership has a vacancy, the next applicant will need to look like he toes that line (at least until the power balance shifts a bit, and particular “exceptions” become de rigueur).

    This is far from the case. I know very well who is included in the word “we,” both in my local church and in my church’s presbytery. I sit on a board of elders we refer to as our Session. I know that every other member of that Session stands with me in affirming the Westminster Standards. I know that every member of our church’s Diaconate does also. And since we are a closely-bound fellowship of like-minded believers, I personally know many men and women who have never been church officers but who specifically chose our church because it holds to those Standards. Occasionally there are people who attend our church in spite of the fact that they may dissent on either narrow or broad aspects of Reformed theology, but we are aware of them as well, and they are definitely in the minority.

    You have no discomfort at all that people regularly depart the congregation to pursue other doctrines, despite that they are supposedly documented with scripture texts, and apparently amply explained by the elders subscribing to them? Strange. If they are so well documented with scripture, so clear, and so well explained, and yet people leave so that you don’t even flinch a little, is that not strange?

    When people leave us for any reason it is painful. We usually do more than flinch. But in my personal experience, people rarely leave over doctrinal issues, and when they do, 99 percent of the time we already went out of our way to prepare them concerning our doctrinal positions before they ever came into membership. Meanwhile, people leave all sorts of other types of churches over doctrinal issues every week, so when it happens in our midst, it is far from strange considering the experience of the church at large.

    You wrote:

    Here is where the rubber hits the road that there simply is no Tradition-1. You don’t flinch because these traditions of yours have zero authority and you know it. If they had authority of even the most meagre kind, you’d be able to go up to such people and say, “you can’t leave, because this is the tradition”, and that argument would have SOME weight. Even if some small, little weight, it would weigh SOMETHING. I’ll bet you don’t, because you know it doesn’t.

    So what we are left with is tradition-0 and tradition-2. That’s it, that’s all.

    Tradition-1 is left for the bean counters at the AGM when they select new elders.

    Probably the most pertinent thing you have said among all the comments you’ve written thus far was: “I don’t know much about the PCA.” And yet you’ve made all kinds of losing rhetorical wagers based on your lack of information.

    Yes, there is a Tradition I, and although in Heiko Oberman’s Harvest of Medieval Theology that term primarily applies to extrascriptural traditions handed down after the time of the Apostles, and Carl Trueman’s The Creedal Imperative is dealing with a separate issue, they remain connected by the fact that the orthodox Christians who have gone before us have established a consensus, both in the broad corpus of the writings they have bequeathed to the church, and in the more specific creedal and confessional documents they forged in the heat of controversy. And while Tradition I is not a source of divine revelation, it is nevertheless helpful in interpreting that which is: the Bible.

  30. Pete Rambo said,

    February 24, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Lane,

    There are a thousand different ways in which people celebrate Easter. Some of them are good, and some of them are not good. Some of them (like our church, for instance) focus entirely on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not about the “Easter bunny,” still less about ANE or Germanic goddesses.

    You fail to remember that I was an elder in the church you currently pastor and was attending easter egg hunts, likely before you were born. Until a couple years ago, they were still going on.

    P.S. I don’t believe in Santa, and our family ignores it, not because of a connection to Moloch, but because of the far greater problem of materialism that comes with it. So stop shooting with a shotgun, and improve your aim.

    Santa is a side issue, though I’ve seen “him” in the Lebanon fellowship hall on multiple occasions. A closer issue is the tree and the hanging of greens in the sanctuary… Where do those traditions come from? And why December 25?

    And,

    … Pete, let me put this as pointedly as I can: which EXTRA-BIBLICAL TRADITIONS (ANY book outside the Bible that talks about the Bible is an extra-biblical tradition of interpretation) are you using for your sources that connect Easter and Ishtar?

    I’m pretty sure Easter is NEVER mentioned in Scripture. It is always Passover. So the question remains. Where did that tradition come from? -Particularly when aspects of its observance predate Christ by more than a 1000 years.

  31. Dan MacDonald said,

    February 24, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Lane,

    Thanks for your gracious reply. I fully agree with your response at 26. We do need an agreed-upon way to read and understand the Bible. Unity cannot be achieved at the expense of truth. And I apologize if I seemed to infer that any of the ‘tribes’ were lacking in any of the graces of the gospel. I did not mean to communicate that. As you already mentioned, the need for brevity leaves room for ambiguity.

    My hope is for a serious, respectful mutual discussion leading to broader agreement over how to apply confessional unity in a fairly diverse denomination.

  32. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Pete, I have not failed to remember that you were an elder in the church I pastor. But what you were doing before I was born is not really relevant, is it?

    Yes, the Easter egg hunt goes on. It’s not a part of our worship, or the worship service. The RPW therefore does not apply to it. By what extra-biblical standard are you positing that easter egg hunts are not allowed outside the worship service? What I mean by that is which book or article are you basing your claims on? Or would you claim that the Bible spells out every single activity we are to engage in outside of worship? In which case I would like to know if the Bible allows me to play softball or not. Please tell me. You are making very specific claims that the Bible could not even speak to, such as Ishtar. The Bible does not address the question of Easter/Ishtar. You have to use historical sources outside the Bible even to address the question. So, I repeat my question, which you seem not to have understood: which EXTRA-BIBLICAL TRADITIONS are you using to support your claims about Easter/Ishtar? You lambaste me for being persuaded by anyone outside the Bible on any issue, and yet you use extra-biblical books and articles as well. That’s the tradition you are using. The difference is that I acknowledge my indebtedness to those who have gone before me, whereas you are in serious denial about it. Look up the word Easter in the Oxford English Dictionary and tell me with a straight face that the foremost authority in the entire English world on words supports your connection of Easter with Ishtar. If you were to start to use good sources for your conspiracy theories, I might start to listen. So far, the only sources you have sent my way are trash.

    What really gets me is that you cannot tell the difference between a good source and a bad source. For you, a good source is one that agrees with your position, however horrendously it does so. That is not the definition of a good source. I have pointed this out to you before, but you refuse to acknowledge that I ever have a point in this area. As an example of this, I have pointed out what a good source is for an argument for Saturday Sabbath: Samuelle Bacchiocchi’s volumes are tremendously scholarly resources, based on solid research. They are undoubtedly make the best argument for Saturday Sabbath I have ever seen. I have never seen you make use of them. Instead, you direct me to an internet (???) article that argues that mia ton sabbaton means “first of the sabbaths” instead of “first day of the week.” This is linguistic nonsense, as any Greek dictionary or lexicon will make plain to you. Oh, I forgot, those dictionaries and lexicons don’t agree with your position. Therefore they are bad sources. Discernment about sources is a prerequisite for scholarship. Therefore I conclude that you are no scholar. I have made the point repeatedly before that you abandoned the Reformed tradition without giving it any kind of a fair shake. Instead, your conspiracy theory-propensity just took over. You would benefit, I think, from some serious consideration of Isaiah 8:11-12 “For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.'”

    Santa has not been seen in the church since I’ve been here, and if I were consulted about it at some point in the future, I would strongly urge a no-go on that, again because of the materialism it represents in modern culture.

    With regard to Christmas trees and such, you are still making the fallacy that the origin of a practice determines its meaning. It no more does that than the origin of a word determines its meaning. The meanings of both can change over time. For instance, what does my family mean by putting lights on a Christmas tree? All we are saying by it is that in the Incarnation, the Light of the world (Jesus, to give Him His New Testament name) came to earth. Why do we give gifts? Because the greatest gift of God to the world is Jesus Christ. You may not be able to shake off the so-called pagan origins of Christian practices (which are greatly exaggerated anyway, I believe), but do not attack other Christians who do not mean the slightest pagan thing by their practices. The candles and greens in the church are strictly decorative. They have no liturgical meaning.

  33. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    If we are not bound by tradition, as you claim, then what make you think I am bound to mean by tradition x (whatever that tradition might be) what other people have meant by it?

  34. Ron said,

    February 24, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    If you were to start to use good sources for your conspiracy theories, I might start to listen. So far, the only sources you have sent my way are trash.

    Watch it, Lane. Rambo might double down with Chick tracts.

    Therefore I conclude that you are no scholar. I have made the point repeatedly before that you abandoned the Reformed tradition without giving it any kind of a fair shake.

    You’ve done it now. Rambo’s ladies might now come out the woodwork calling you unloving.

    but do not attack other Christians

    Now here I must disagree with you if by “other Christians” you are distinguishing some Christians from Rambo the Christian. I don’t consider him a Christian. He is a deceiver of the first degree and an enemy of the gospel.

  35. davejes1979 said,

    February 24, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Genetic fallacy alert.

  36. Reed Here said,

    February 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    David: hah!!

  37. Pete Rambo said,

    February 24, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Lane,

    Your library is impressive. Probably about 50 times the size of mine.

    I do not have dedicated books on hand for the topics in question, though I know I have loaned several very good/trustworthy sources out. But, just for grins I went through the index of multiple volumes that might have a relevant thread to confirm the information exists in any library of substance.

    World Book Encyclopedia, Volume A, pg 782. “…the most important godess of the pagan Semites. She was the godess of love, fertility, and maternity for the Phoenicians, Canaanites….even the Egyptians. Her name was Ishtar in Babylonia and Assyria…some Old Testamnet stories call her Ashtoreth… identified with the planet Venus. The Greeks called her Aphrodite and the Romans knew her as Venus…’

    Encountering the Old Testament, Bill T. Arnold, Bryan E. Beyer, Ph.Ds, pg. 411, “Tammuz worship (Ez. 8:1`4-15) The Lord took Ezekiel to the gate of the temple at the outer court, where Ezekiel saw women weeping for Tammuz. Tammuz was a Mesopotamian agricultural god, husband of the godess Ishtar. His followers believed that every year at harvest time, Tammuz died, and these women joined Ishtar in mournig his death. Tammuz came back to life in the spring when crops rejuvenated themselves…”

    Zondervan Handbook of the Bible, Third Edition, 1999, Confirms Ishtar, Asheraoth, Astarte connection as fertility godess. Pgs. 303, 457, 782, 793

    … I’ve got more…

    The point is that a simple study of Oestre leads to the same spring fertility goddess… Paganism is paganism. Nothing new under the sun…. Eggs, bunnies, etc… All the ancient mythologies come back to the same root.

    Lent, connected with easter: Straight out of the Nimrod/Semiramis/Tammuz story connected in Baal worship with Istar and Molech…

    You don’t see it because you don’t want to see it. I can almost guarantee that anyone who spends half a day in your library using the indexes of your many volumes will find enough evidence to stick a dagger in the heart of numerous ‘traditions.’ Once they know where those traditions originated, the Father will show that He means something when He gave Deuteronomy 12:29-32!

    Saturnalia? World Book Encyclopedia, 1973, Volume S, pg. 129. “Saturnalia was the name of the ancient Roman festival given in honor of Saturn, the Roman harvet god. The festival began on December 17 and lasted seven days. On the first day, public religious ceremonies honoring Saturn took place. On the second day, many families offered sacrifices of young pigs… The last days of the festival were spent visiting and exchanging presents…”

    Plenty of sources to chase that one, too!

    You may not be able to shake off the so-called pagan origins of Christian practices (which are greatly exaggerated anyway, I believe), but do not attack other Christians who do not mean the slightest pagan thing by their practices. The candles and greens in the church are strictly decorative. They have no liturgical meaning.

    You fail to understand that the God of the Universe remembers the atrocities and orgies associated with these festival days. He has not forgotten the screams of babies sacrifices to Molech, the temples and people defiled. You should not give a rip what those days mean to YOU! It is a matter of what they mean to HIM and what HE said about syncretism.

    If your traditions include syncretism, then you need to re-evaluate them! My concern is that you know the pagan background on all that stuff but you choose to be blind. I happen to care deeply for the people you lead which is why I continue to persist in sharing truth every time you mock. I pray some of them will read and have the audacity to start digging!

    @Ron, Dave… Mockery and peer pressure stopped working on me a long time ago!

  38. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    “And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” (Acts 12:4, King James Version)

    That’s good enough for me! I think I’ll start coloring my Easter eggs this weekend!

  39. Ron said,

    February 24, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    You fail to understand that the God of the Universe remembers the atrocities and orgies associated with these festival days. He has not forgotten the screams of babies sacrifices to Molech, the temples and people defiled. You should not give a rip what those days mean to YOU! It is a matter of what they mean to HIM and what HE said about syncretism.

    Peter,

    The problem you’re having is you think God is altogether like you. As hard as this is for you, God distinguishes December 25 from baby sacrifices.

  40. Pete Rambo said,

    February 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    @ Ron, 39. My 17 year old son checked the Greek and says you may want to see what the KJ translator bias was… e-sword. So easy a cave.. uh, teenager can use it!

  41. Ron said,

    February 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    What is the connection between easter and ishtar?

    The secret lies with Charlotte, (or is it Tyndale?

  42. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Pete, finally, some decent sources! I looked very carefully in your quotations for any argument whatsoever *connecting* those ancient idolatries with Easter. Deafening silence. Or did you think that my argument hinged on a denial that people used to worship Ishtar? Sure, people worshiped Ishtar, Baal, Ra, and countless other false gods. You still have not produced a shred of evidence connecting Easter to those idolatries. Those sources you quoted didn’t mention Easter at all. So, you’re still a no-go with that argument. Furthermore, what God objects to is the worship of Ishtar, the sacrificing of children to Moloch, and the like. He hasn’t said that He has a problem with coloring some eggs and hiding them so as to celebrate new life as connected with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, especially as it is not part of a worship service. If your argument were correct, then if, hypothetically speaking, people used to kneel in worship of Ishtar, then people couldn’t possibly kneel today in any context, or else that would be syncretistic. You don’t see the logical problem here. Idolatry and the sacrifice of children are inherently immoral. Coloring and hiding eggs is no more inherently immoral than eating them. Therefore the problem comes in when the motivation and the meaning assigned to them are problematic. They were problematic in ancient fertility cults. Not so when the motivation is allowing the kids to have a fun activity that reminds them of Christ’s resurrection. The motivation and the meaning have nothing to do with ancient near eastern religions. So, your argument still holds no water.

  43. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    “meaning that they cannot use any dissent on their part as a pretext for trying change our standards”

    Well Ron, to the extent to which this system works (and no doubt it works a lot of the time), then you have successfully raised tradition, the WCF, to a level equal with scripture. No different at all to what Rome does. Dissent in the church, no matter how persuasive or how scripturally based, or no matter how cogently argued from scripture is rejected because of “our standards”. Forget “Semper Reformanda”, reformation is now banned by statute.

    And to the extent to which the system doesn’t work. People ignore the standard, you don’t argue about the standard’s authority – “You should believe it because tradition says”, the tradition has zero ability to bind the conscience. It binds the organisation because in a legalistic way, you’ve all agreed it will. But it doesn’t bind the conscience. At least Rome could say “follow this because we have the authority to say so”. All you can say is “we follow this because we have sworn to uphold this document, we are bound by our oath to ignore your contrary argument”.

    “Actually, the Westminster Standards, as with every other church creed and confession, represents the stated views of a group of like-minded Christians. If you don’t agree with it, you are perfectly free to join with a body of believers who hold views more to your liking.”

    So the value of the “tradition” in this case is less about the authority of the tradition, and more about some people self-selecting themselves. Not that Christendom, or wise or orthodox people figured this out and passed it on. More like a few people wrote down their sectarian opinions, and everyone who agreed rallied to the same trumpet. How do you demonstrate the authority of the tradition in such case? I could write a document extolling the virtues of worshiping pink unicorns, and rally all like minded people to an organisation holding up the document. Does that demonstrate my document has some kind of “authority”? Or does it merely demonstrate that birds of a feather flock together?

    “they remain connected by the fact that the orthodox Christians who have gone before us have established a consensus, both in the broad corpus of the writings they have bequeathed to the church, and in the more specific creedal and confessional documents they forged in the heat of controversy.”

    If that is so then you would unequivocally accept the canons of the first seven ecumenical councils and hold in the highest esteem teachings that were undisputed before the reformation. But you’re a presbyterian, so that clearly isn’t the case. You accept the “broad consensus” of a very narrow sect of Christendom, then put on the blinders and promote it as “consensus”. How do you dare label a relatively late to the game and small sect as consensus?

  44. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    “I’m pretty sure Easter is NEVER mentioned in Scripture. It is always Passover. So the question remains. Where did that tradition come from?”

    Easter is an English word for Christian passover. Some churches use the word “pascha” when operating in non-English speaking countries, and revert to “Easter” in English speaking countries. It’s not a tradition, its a translational issue.

    The history of the word, and how we goto to this point is pretty irrelevant at this point. That’s what the word means in 2014.

  45. Andrew McCallum said,

    February 24, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Lane says: Ward argues that T1 was the position of the early church.

    Which is just what Oberman argues, quite convincingly I think. One example Oberman utilizes is from Athanasius who in his Discourses Against the Arians hits the Arians with Scripture after Scripture and then accuses them of ignoring the plain meaning of Scripture. Athanasius never appeals to an infallible Church, but he does appeal to an infallible Scripture and allows Scripture to do it’s work in the hearts of the Arians as God saw fit. Of course Athanasius believed in the role that tradition played and certainly believed that what Nicea said was irrefutably true. But he believed it because Scripture said it, not because the Church had infallibly pronounced it. This is T1.

    I really like the quote from Georges Florovsky (an EO scholar no less) who noted that in the Early Church biblical exegesis was “the main, and probably the only, theological method, and the authority of Scriptures was sovereign and supreme.”

  46. Andrew McCallum said,

    February 24, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    And to the extent to which the system doesn’t work. People ignore the standard, you don’t argue about the standard’s authority

    Xpusostomos – And isn’t this exactly why there are so many versions of Roman Catholicism today, from the extremely liberal to the ultra-conservative? They all affirm “holy tradition” but then pick and choose what traditions they like. In practical terms stamping “infallible” on a given tradition does nothing – the Roman Catholic still decides whether he wants to follow that tradition or not. Those within the Catholic tradition to the theological right and left of you both look to the same tradition of the Church but come to different conclusions on any number of doctrines. You think they are being unfaithful, but then they think the same of you.

    Tradition in the Reformed understanding plays an analogous role to traditions in any area of thought. You name it – philosophy, history, physics, etc etc – they all have traditions which guide the thinking of those who seek to understand the particular discipline in question. The fact someone can break with tradition is just part of what it means to practice any system of thought. Nobody would suggest that in any other system of thought outside of theology the fact that tradition can be questioned devalues the role of tradition. So why should this be true in the realm of theology?

  47. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    “Athanasius never appeals to an infallible Church”

    He can’t exert too much effort in appealing to that which his opponents are determined to ignore.

    “The blessed Apostle approves of the Corinthians because, he says, ‘ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you’ (1 Cor. xi. 2); but they [the Arian heretics], as entertaining such views of their predecessors, will have the daring to say just the reverse to their flocks: ‘We praise you not for remembering your fathers, but rather we make much of you, when you hold not their traditions.’ And let them go on to accuse their own unfortunate birth, and say, ‘We are sprung not of religious men but of heretics.’ For such language, as I said before, is consistent in those who barter their Fathers’ fame and their own salvation for Arianism, and fear not the words of the divine proverb” – Athanasius Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 14

    “But after him and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power.”
    Festal Letter 2:6

  48. Andrew McCallum said,

    February 24, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Xpusostomos (what is your real name BTW?).

    ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you’

    And we Reformed keep those same traditions. As I said in my previous post the question is why those traditions are to held to. It is in his Discourses that Athanasius answers this “why” question. As it turns out the reasons he adduces are the same reasons we Reformed hold to these same traditions.

  49. xpusostomos said,

    February 24, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    “philosophy, history, physics, etc etc – they all have traditions which guide the thinking of those who seek to understand the particular discipline in question. The fact someone can break with tradition is just part of what it means to practice any system of thought. Nobody would suggest that in any other system of thought outside of theology the fact that tradition can be questioned devalues the role of tradition. So why should this be true in the realm of theology?”

    Well in Christian theology, the entire religion is based on various traditions, both written and oral. If you question that too much it ceases to be Christian theology, and just becomes speculative theology.

  50. Ron said,

    February 24, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    He hasn’t said that He has a problem with coloring some eggs and hiding them so as to celebrate new life as connected with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, especially as it is not part of a worship service.

    Lane,

    Maybe more to the point is that there is no problem coloring eggs even without connecting the activity to some deeper spiritual meaning though there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing so. Personally, I’m not inclined to explain the candy cane in some spiritual manner, but I have no problem with those who do that sort of thing. It’s all good! I just wouldn’t want the HRM lurkers to think that we don’t believe in complete liberty on this matter.

  51. Ron said,

    February 24, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Stephen,

    What do you think of Dradles?

  52. Ron said,

    February 24, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Excuse me, Peter not Stephen!

  53. Bob S said,

    February 24, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Maybe I missed it but one, is coloring, hiding and finding easter eggs a work of necessity, mercy or piety on the Lord’s Day?
    Or does this all fall into the abyss category of good faith subscription?

    Two, xp seems to want to claim that outside of Rome any claim to T1 is really T2, much more the Roman T2 is the true T1. Or something like that.
    Whatever.

    Whatever it takes to avoid those places in Scripture that tell us something as plainly as he calls himself xpwhatever, if you know what I mean.
    Next we suppose, he will be telling us tradition is Scripture and implicit faith in his understanding of tradition is the order of the day.
    Except if you are an anabaptist.

    Gotta love the one way/tunnel vision skeptics. Rome pumps them up and sends them out on a mission and next thing you know, bingo. They show up here, ready to rock and roll.

    Good thing, my java flash audio doesn’t work.

  54. February 25, 2014 at 12:29 am

    # 49 his blog named suggest he’s golden mouthed.

    Me thinks Pete better drop using the common names for the days of the week and adopt the older church practice of numbering them instead.

  55. xpusostomos said,

    February 25, 2014 at 12:41 am

    “the Roman T2 is the true T1″

    Wow. You’d think that “there is no T1″ would be clear enough, but no.

    “Whatever it takes to avoid those places in Scripture that tell us something as plainly as he calls himself xpwhatever”.

    Xpusostomos, aka “xpwhataever” is my way of writing Χρυσόστομος. Look it up sometime.

    As for avoiding scripture telling us stuff plainly, Malachi 1:11 says something plain about what will happen when God’s name is preached to the nations or the Gentiles. Will we find 1:11 occurring in your church if I turn up? Or will you conveniently avoid this plain verse?

  56. Pete Rambo said,

    February 25, 2014 at 4:55 am

    @ Ron, 52,

    We didn’t celebrate Hannukah this year for several reasons.

    @ Rowland, 55, That has been discussed, though poses a bit of a challenge. I do believe in a literal Millennial Kingdom as the next step in the progress of redemption. I do not expect our Messiah to keep many of the syncretisms we partake of. The quest we should ask about each tradition, activity, etc, is, ‘Is this something Yeshua would lend His name to?’

    I’m certain He loves a good time and fun will be on the agenda, but I seriously doubt it will include anything that reminds us, or Him, of the pagan influences we have accepted, even embraced and defended. He will quote Deuteronomy 12:1-4.

  57. Ron Henzel said,

    February 25, 2014 at 8:06 am

    xpusostomos,

    You wrote:

    Well Ron, to the extent to which this system works (and no doubt it works a lot of the time), then you have successfully raised tradition, the WCF, to a level equal with scripture. No different at all to what Rome does. Dissent in the church, no matter how persuasive or how scripturally based, or no matter how cogently argued from scripture is rejected because of “our standards”. Forget “Semper Reformanda”, reformation is now banned by statute.

    Of course, the reality is diametrically opposite from what you write here. We subscribe to the Westminster Standards (and are also in agreement with the other confessions and catechisms of the Reformation) because we have first studied the Scriptures “to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). This process involved exposing ourselves to contrary arguments from Scripture as well, but ultimately they did not persuade us.

    Since Rome does not allow its church officers to take exceptions to its doctrinal standards, nor does it exempt its lay members from subscribing to them, your analogy does not work. And since Semper Reformanda in no way implies that the previous reforms that led to the Reformed confessions and catechisms were wrong, neither does it necessarily imply that it should ever be necessary to revise the Westminster Standards (even though they have been revised, as I’ll explain shortly). The work of reforming the church can just as easily progress by dealing with matters beyond those addressed in the Standards.

    However, since the Standards have, indeed, been revised over the course of time, it is abundantly obvious that these consensus documents (i.e., documents representing the consensus of those who composed and subscribe to them) are not on a level equal to Scripture. When the consensus changed, the documents themselves were changed, as witnessed by the American revisions to chapters 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 31 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. These revisions pertained to Christian liberty and various ecclesiastical and political matters.

    You wrote:

    And to the extent to which the system doesn’t work. People ignore the standard, you don’t argue about the standard’s authority – “You should believe it because tradition says”, the tradition has zero ability to bind the conscience. It binds the organisation because in a legalistic way, you’ve all agreed it will. But it doesn’t bind the conscience. At least Rome could say “follow this because we have the authority to say so”. All you can say is “we follow this because we have sworn to uphold this document, we are bound by our oath to ignore your contrary argument”.

    To say “You should believe it because tradition says” is a “Tradition II” type argument, which the Reformers unanimously rejected and we in the PCA unanimously reject. The Standards themselves do not bind the conscience; only the Scriptures that stand behind those Standards bind the conscience. Church officers bind themselves by oath to uphold those standards, but even their oaths assume the possibility that a person’s conscience can change, as reflected in the second point of the church officer vow that I quoted above: “…do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will, on your own initiative, make known to your Session the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?” And in the examination process for considering church officer nominees, it is incumbent on the elders to ascertain whether candidates understand the biblical reasons for holding to the Standards and are capable of defending them from Scripture. It is unacceptable in the PCA for a church officer to merely appeal to his oath rather than to the Bible.

    You wrote:

    “Actually, the Westminster Standards, as with every other church creed and confession, represents the stated views of a group of like-minded Christians. If you don’t agree with it, you are perfectly free to join with a body of believers who hold views more to your liking.”

    So the value of the “tradition” in this case is less about the authority of the tradition, and more about some people self-selecting themselves. Not that Christendom, or wise or orthodox people figured this out and passed it on. More like a few people wrote down their sectarian opinions, and everyone who agreed rallied to the same trumpet. How do you demonstrate the authority of the tradition in such case? I could write a document extolling the virtues of worshiping pink unicorns, and rally all like minded people to an organisation holding up the document. Does that demonstrate my document has some kind of “authority”? Or does it merely demonstrate that birds of a feather flock together?

    We believe that the value of the Westminster Standards lies in the extent to which they faithfully reflect the teaching of Scripture. And since we, in the course of our personal study, have come to see that it does, and since many of us have also studied the history of the Westminster Assembly of Divines that produced them, we have come to trust that these Divines were wise and orthodox people.

    The only authority that documents such as the Westminster Standards are able to carry is that of the group that subscribes to it, and whatever authority a group assigns to the Standards is what it has for that group. The PCA assigns to it the authority of defining what is normative theology for our denomination, with the understanding that the Bible is the “norming norm,” since the Standards themselves assume that “The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error” (WCF 25.5), and therefore “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture,” (WCF 1.10).

    Meanwhile, the confessions and catechisms of the Protestant Reformation did not simply represent the opinions of “a few people.” There is exceedingly little in the Westminster Standards, which were composed for the Reformed churches in England and Scotland, that could not be affirmed by Reformed churches on the continent of Europe. Likewise, there is hardly anything in the Continental standards known as the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Confession, Canons of Dort), that subscribers to the Westminster Standards could not agree with. If I, as a PCA elder, transferred my membership to a church in the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA), I would be just as delighted to publicly subscribe to their Three Forms of Unity as I have been to subscribe to the Westminster Standards.

    Denominations as well non-denominational church affiliations of various kinds are always bound together by agreement on doctrine, sometimes stated formally in documents like our Standards, other times more informally according to the degree with which their individual statements of faith correspond with each other. If we’re talking about Protestant churches with a high view of Scripture, such agreement is invariably based on a common understanding of what Scripture teaches.

    You wrote:

    “they remain connected by the fact that the orthodox Christians who have gone before us have established a consensus, both in the broad corpus of the writings they have bequeathed to the church, and in the more specific creedal and confessional documents they forged in the heat of controversy.”

    If that is so then you would unequivocally accept the canons of the first seven ecumenical councils and hold in the highest esteem teachings that were undisputed before the reformation. But you’re a presbyterian, so that clearly isn’t the case. You accept the “broad consensus” of a very narrow sect of Christendom, then put on the blinders and promote it as “consensus”. How do you dare label a relatively late to the game and small sect as consensus?

    I never said that the Westminster Standards represented the broad consensus of all Christians; only the broad consensus of those Christians who subscribe to them. And within that broad consensus there is room for disagreement on narrower matters such as eschatology (amillennialism vs. premillenialism vs. postmillennialism) and other issues.

    And actually, we do hold the first seven ecumenical councils in high esteem, although we do not place them on the same level as Scripture any more than we do our confessions and catechisms. So while we do not use them as the rule of faith and practice, we still use them in accordance with the “Tradition I” approach, in which “tradition is a tool to aid in the faithful interpretation of Scripture, expounding the primary teachings of Scripture, with Scripture remaining the only source of infallible divine revelation.” So the first seven councils, when we find them in agreement with Scripture contain helpful things for us today.

    But the Westminster Confession is clear: “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both,” (WCF 31.4).

  58. Ron said,

    February 25, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Pete,

    My point is that you are objecting to games and aspects of culture that are not regulated by God’s law. I would hope you might consider that the things you object to are not written on man’s heart nor are they a matter of special revelation. That is what God abhors for it makes you Law Maker. But, even working within your strictures one could be invincibly ignorant and without sin on these matters of Easter and Christmas because sin for you is not limited to a matter of God’s revelation but encompasses an esoteric meaning of words and history. I will agree with you on one thing though. It is sin for you to do so many things because you have replaced the simplicity of God’s law with precepts of your own making; in doing so you will provoke those within your sphere of influence to wrath, but I won’t preach.

  59. xpusostomos said,

    February 25, 2014 at 9:20 am

    “We subscribe to the Westminster Standards because we have first studied the Scriptures”

    Some of you did. Some of you were just born into it. Some joined because the location was convenient. Others because the biscuits at morning tea were better than the other mob. The problem is, ALL of you are stuck with this document, because of your administrative structure, not necessarily because its what the bible teaches, or because its what most of the people believe the bible teaches. It might be, but it might not be, either way this document trumps a biblical argument.

    “Since Rome does not allow its church officers to take exceptions to its doctrinal standards, nor does it exempt its lay members from subscribing to them, your analogy does not work.”

    But Rome has a theological reason officers can’t take exceptions. You don’t.

    “And since Semper Reformanda in no way implies that the previous reforms that led to the Reformed confessions and catechisms were wrong, neither does it necessarily imply that it should ever be necessary to revise the Westminster Standards”

    The issue is not whether the Standards need revising. The issue is, you would never ever know since your system is designed to snuff dissent before it could ever come to that.

    “as witnessed by the American revisions to chapters 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 31 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. These revisions pertained to Christian liberty and various ecclesiastical and political matters.”

    All very boring stuff, a million miles from anything controversial.

    “To say “You should believe it because tradition says” is a “Tradition II” type argument, which the Reformers unanimously rejected”

    Well that is the point, only a Tradition 2 argument carries any weight whatsoever. A tradition with zero weight is just an historical document. The whole reason to throw the word “tradition” into a Christian epistemological discussion is to imply that said tradition carries SOME weight. If it doesn’t, why mention it other than out of academic interest?

    See, reformed people always want to have their cake and eat it too. Out of one side of their mouth talk about how important they consider the traditions. Out of the other side of their mouth, admit that the weight they carry is precisely zero.

    “do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will, on your own initiative, make known to your Session the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?”

    At which point… what? There is a decent chance you will be tossed out I guess, right? So if he stumbles across the truth, ripe for phase 2 of the reformation, the traditions, perhaps false traditions, will activate to quash the budding reformation, right? That’s why your WCF is put on the same level of scripture… nay actually put above scripture, just as surely as a pope in Rome.

    “The PCA assigns to it the authority of defining what is normative theology for our denomination”

    And doesn’t your denomination aspire to being the true church on earth, open to all true Christians, and teaching the full and whole truth? Yet you talk wistfully about how if you disagree with the standards, even if that disagreement might perhaps have stumbled upon the fuller truth and be argued carefully from scripture, oh well, such people can just leave for another denomination or to found their own denomination, never having even the briefest hope of taking root within your denomination. Or in other words, no reformation is likely to take place in the PCA no matter how true or how biblical. Semper Reformanda be damned, you must have restoration when your denomination is found wanting, rarely reformation.

    “Meanwhile, the confessions and catechisms of the Protestant Reformation did not simply represent the opinions of “a few people.”

    In a Christendom stretching from England to Russia, from Sweden to Egypt, only a few, mostly smaller countries were involved, and no doubt most of those masses went whichever way the wind was blowing. What there was mostly burnt out in a few hundred years in favour of a protestantism that has little love for WCF style systems, albeit retaining a portion of those beliefs. It certainly never ever was as widespread or had the longevity of say the 7 ecumenical councils. Yet you feel the need to bolster them by talking about their “orthodoxy” and their wisdom. But such opinion is more about your internal choice than that of Christendom, which has no such high opinion of it.

    “I never said that the Westminster Standards represented the broad consensus of all Christians; only the broad consensus of those Christians who subscribe to them.”

    Which is a tautology. Every single document in the history of the world represents the consensus of those people who subscribe to them. As an argument about their authority, it has no meaning.

    “And actually, we do hold the first seven ecumenical councils in high esteem, although we do not place them on the same level as Scripture any more than we do our confessions and catechisms.”

    The question is why you place the WCF on a higher level than something like the first seven councils which have far broader agreement. Presumably, just personal interpretation and individualism, and blatant disregard for tradition. Whether you want to regard it as T1 or T2, you trample underfoot any truly consensus tradition, in favour of sectarian tradition that represents the narrow band of what supports your individualism. A T1 tradition that says “hey, I happen to agree with this document, so I give it weight”, is a truly meaningless tautology.

  60. Ryan Haber said,

    February 25, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Sir,

    I wonder if you’ve read your own post. Do you not see how incoherent it is, or how little epistemological awareness it shows? I refer principally to the paragraph that begins, ” From the perspective of Roman Catholicism…”

    Firstly, you mention how Catholics harp on “the situation where an individual disagrees with the church.” Of course we do, at least in discourse with Protestants. This question is the question of authority, which is the question that underlies every other disagreement with Protestants. What else are we to harp about?

    Additionally, you think that your T2 doesn’t admit the objective basis of Scripture. Of course it does. It presupposes it. Any act of interpretation, rather than interpolation, presupposes an object to be interpreted.

    The question is not who makes up a meaning authoritatively, but rather, who has been given authority to preserve the meaning? Our blessed Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit to the Apostles to guide them to all truth. He did not send that promise to you or to me, sir.

    In your rendering, you note that a church can err, without any recognition that an individual can as well. If I cannot trust a church, any church, I cannot see how I have more reason to trust myself. The church, at least, as a corporate entity, can have a living memory back to the Apostles, whereas I cannot, unless I receive it from the church.

    “Does it have any objective clarity on any issue? Does it have any inherent authority?”

    No, that is not the sticking point. The Bible, imbued by the Holy Spirit with meaning and with the full authority of God and His Only-Begotten Coeternal Son, Jesus Christ, the Word Made Flesh, it must be noted is nonetheless incapable of speaking for itself. It literally has no mouth or vocal cords. It literally requires a human to speak on its behalf, even to take one verse to unlock the meaning of another, or to argue what its meaning is. The sticking point is this: who speaks for the Bible? You? Me? Or the ones who have a guarantee of being led in all truth?

    “We demur and say that even if there was no soul on earth existing at all, the Bible would still be there, and would still be clear on the matters of salvation, would still have the authority of God behind it (since He wrote it), and would still mean something.”

    And see, this is the silliest thing you wrote. Of course the Bible would not be there if there was no soul on earth existing at all. Who do you think *wrote* the Bible? I do not mean who inspired it. I mean, who put pen to paper? People, sir. People wrote the books, people decided which books go into the Bible and which get set aside, and people copied it by hand for centuries. Even now, people man the printing presses. It’s the only possibility.

    If you make the Bible the basis for your religion, you necessarily unwitting take your own understanding of it as the basis of your religion, which is to say, you take your own intellect as the basis of your religion. All the time, because your intellect will be talking about Jesus, you will think you are following Jesus, but in reality, you will, at best, be following your own best ideas about Jesus.

  61. Ron said,

    February 25, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Ron,

    I can almost promise you that you will get nowhere trying to untangle such a confused mess. Your time would be much better spent coloring those eggs.

  62. Mark B said,

    February 25, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    “… in Christian theology, the entire religion is based on various traditions, both written and oral. If you question that too much it ceases to be Christian theology….”
    If we ignore Rome’s claimed oral tradition, yes, it ceases to be Romish religion, but it doesn’t cease to be Christian theology (two different things despite the implied assumption to the contrary). Which is why this discussion keeps going round and round, because of different assumptions about (and demands of) tradition. If we don’t start with Rome’s (self serving) assumptions about the nature of tradition, what is meant by T2, T1, T0 is clear. The difference between some in each generation saying “this is what I think Scripture says regardless of what others may say (T0)”, and saying “These are the confessions that our fathers in the faith have agreed on, and when we consider these passages in Scripture, and the controversies that have arisen in the Church throughout the ages, we can understand why they did so (T1)”, is obvious. The analogies Andrew gave, and an analogy with Science is (loosely) apt. Some things in theology are settled, but future controversy may require additional confession, the same way that in science some theories are demonstrable almost to the point of absolutes, but future discoveries may require new formulations on other things.
    Coming from a Romish perspective, T1 will seem like a “truly meaningless tautology” and the same as T0 because neither give what the Romish inquirer demands of tradition, which is assurance of faith that doesn’t come from Scripture or the Holy Spirit, but from a human institution. While it might be nice to have an infallible human magisterium to answer controversies of theology by declaring what tradition is, that is not how God has ordered His Church, which any honest survey of the Old Testament Church (national Israel,) and the current Church age (consider the horrendous errors and contradictions of Rome), will show.

  63. Reed Here said,

    February 25, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Gold Mouth: have you sent you name, etc., to Lane offline, as he requested? Thanks!

    Reed
    moderator

  64. davejes1979 said,

    February 25, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    More like Wormtongue.

  65. Mark B said,

    February 25, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Our Romish commenters here are entitled to hold an opinion that every position that is not the Romish position is wrong, of course, but understanding how T0, T1, T2 are being defined should not be as difficult as they wish to make it seem.
    If we wanted to be ridiculous, we could make an argument similar to theirs from a Reformed perspective. In that case we would say that there are only two positions, T1 and T0, as T2 and T0 are the same thing (or have “no meaningful” difference), because the most radical charismatic individualistic sect and Roman Catholics are ultimately the same. For example, they both believe in modern Apostles (the sect calls their leaders apostles and believes that they receive revelation from God, Catholics believe that the magisterium is successor to the Apostles and is protected from theological error by God) in a way that minimizes the authority of Scripture (and they would both deny that they minimize Scripture by their other beliefs).
    However, how would taking that approach help anyone better understand differing perspectives on the issue of tradition? The originating post was well written in that it conveys what is meant by the terms T1, T2, T0, and how various scholars use those concepts. It would seem that some of our Romish commentators are intentionally missing the point.

  66. Ron Henzel said,

    February 25, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I wrote:

    “We subscribe to the Westminster Standards because we have first studied the Scriptures”

    And you replied:

    Some of you did. Some of you were just born into it. Some joined because the location was convenient. Others because the biscuits at morning tea were better than the other mob. The problem is, ALL of you are stuck with this document, because of your administrative structure, not necessarily because its what the bible teaches, or because its what most of the people believe the bible teaches. It might be, but it might not be, either way this document trumps a biblical argument.

    Again, to quote your own words: “I don’t know much about the PCA.” And when it comes to why we subscribe to the Westminster Standards, you obviously don’t know anything. I and countless others joined the PCA because it has embedded the Westminster Standards in its very constitution. We train up our children in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but they are free to choose a different doctrinal standard when they grow up. We teach the Scriptures first and use the Standards to help us summarize what we believe the Scriptures teach.

    I wrote:

    “Since Rome does not allow its church officers to take exceptions to its doctrinal standards, nor does it exempt its lay members from subscribing to them, your analogy does not work.”

    And you replied:

    But Rome has a theological reason officers can’t take exceptions. You don’t.

    On the contrary: Rome bows down to the idols of power and control while we have theological reasons for both why officers can take exceptions as well as why they cannot take exceptions to those parts of the Westminster Standards that are necessary to sustain its system of biblical interpretation. In the first case, the theological reason for allowing exceptions is the supremacy of Scripture combined with individual Christian liberty. In the second case, the theological reason for now allowing exceptions is that they undermine our theological identity, which we are strongly convicted is grounded in the Scriptures. Our entire theological rationale for our confessional stance as well as how we adhere to it all gets back to our view of Scripture.

    I wrote:

    “And since Semper Reformanda in no way implies that the previous reforms that led to the Reformed confessions and catechisms were wrong, neither does it necessarily imply that it should ever be necessary to revise the Westminster Standards”

    And you replied:

    The issue is not whether the Standards need revising. The issue is, you would never ever know since your system is designed to snuff dissent before it could ever come to that.

    This is simply more ignorant demagoguery on your part. We have debates on the Standards all the time, reaching from the congregational level to that of the General Assembly. You no absolutely nothing of which you speak.

    I wrote:

    “as witnessed by the American revisions to chapters 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 31 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. These revisions pertained to Christian liberty and various ecclesiastical and political matters.”

    And you replied:

    All very boring stuff, a million miles from anything controversial.

    As per your habitual psychopathic non sequitur, the question of how controversial the changes might have been is utterly beside the point, which was that you yourself asserted that our practice is no different from what Rome does—even though Rome refuses to ever change its doctrinal standards—and you also asserted that “reformation is banned by statute” among us—even though we have actually reformed our Standards. So now that I have put your ignorance on full display you think you can escape the ridicule you deserve by blowing it off as “boring stuff?”

    In any case, the changes I cited were far from uncontroversial at the time. But then, you wouldn’t know about that because you do not investigate or research anything about the PCA or the Westminster Standards before you write it.

    I wrote:

    “To say “You should believe it because tradition says” is a “Tradition II” type argument, which the Reformers unanimously rejected”

    And you replied:

    Well that is the point, only a Tradition 2 argument carries any weight whatsoever. A tradition with zero weight is just an historical document. The whole reason to throw the word “tradition” into a Christian epistemological discussion is to imply that said tradition carries SOME weight. If it doesn’t, why mention it other than out of academic interest?

    A Tradition II argument carries no weight at all in Reformed theology. Traditions are simply things handed down. There is no inherent authority in something simply because it is handed down. Buddhists have traditions. They have authority for Buddhists, but no authority for me. In fact, they carry no inherent weight at all. So tradition has no inherent authority; it only has authority for those who subscribe to them. The traditions of Christians who lived before the Reformation have authority for those of us of the Reformed faith only insofar as they can be supported by Scripture, which I know is difficult for someone with an unbiblical worldview like you to understand.

    You wrote:

    See, reformed people always want to have their cake and eat it too. Out of one side of their mouth talk about how important they consider the traditions. Out of the other side of their mouth, admit that the weight they carry is precisely zero.

    Yeah, folks are always complaining about how we Reformed people constantly yammer on and on about how important we consider the traditions that…uh…they like…never mention it…because, like—oh yeah !—we don’t. But what do you care? You make up your lies as you sense the need to protect the parapets of your little fantasy land.

    Actually, it depends which tradition or traditions you’re talking about. Our traditions carry tremendous weight for us. Yours? Not so much. The traditions we value are the ones that can be supported by Scripture. The only tradition you have modeled here in this blog is that of spouting ignorance in the most obnoxious manner you can. Do you have any others?

    I quoted from our officer ordination vows as follows:

    “do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will, on your own initiative, make known to your Session the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?”

    And you wrote:

    At which point… what? There is a decent chance you will be tossed out I guess, right? So if he stumbles across the truth, ripe for phase 2 of the reformation, the traditions, perhaps false traditions, will activate to quash the budding reformation, right? That’s why your WCF is put on the same level of scripture… nay actually put above scripture, just as surely as a pope in Rome.

    It depends on how far out of accord an officer finds himself as to what the consequences will be. There are exceptions to the standards that do not touch the system of doctrine (e.g., one’s view of how strictly the Lord’s Day must be observed), and there are exceptions that undermine it entirely (e.g., denying justification by faith alone). If an officer were to change his mind about an essential part of the Standards, it would be more reasonable for him to step down and look for a church that he could agree with. The chances of getting a church that is committed to the Westminster Standards to change its view of, say, justification by faith is virtually non-existent. Why disturb the peace of the local congregation for such a futile goal?

    But I wouldn’t expect you to understand these things, because you give every indication of having already decided to refuse to understand them.

    I wrote:

    “The PCA assigns to it the authority of defining what is normative theology for our denomination”

    And you replied:

    And doesn’t your denomination aspire to being the true church on earth, open to all true Christians, and teaching the full and whole truth? Yet you talk wistfully about how if you disagree with the standards, even if that disagreement might perhaps have stumbled upon the fuller truth and be argued carefully from scripture, oh well, such people can just leave for another denomination or to found their own denomination, never having even the briefest hope of taking root within your denomination. Or in other words, no reformation is likely to take place in the PCA no matter how true or how biblical. Semper Reformanda be damned, you must have restoration when your denomination is found wanting, rarely reformation.

    You seem to only be able to conceive of a church that is open to all believers and teaching the whole truth in terms of that lowest-common-denominator approach espoused by the semi-Pelagian Vincent of Lérins, who believed we “should cling to Tradition and what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all [quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est].” We left that pile of male bovine excrement behind nearly 500 years ago! And you seem to only be able to conceive of further reforming the church in terms of reversing its previous reforms. And yet, the concept of reformation has never included such a moronic idea. Reform has always been associated with restoring the church’s original faith and practice. Since we believe that was largely accomplished in the 16th century, and although we believe we have made additional progress since then, why would we for a nanosecond consider your profoundly idiotic idea of undoing it? But I do understand that such basic logic is not very useful to ignorant mockers.

    I wrote:

    “Meanwhile, the confessions and catechisms of the Protestant Reformation did not simply represent the opinions of “a few people.”

    You bloviated:

    In a Christendom stretching from England to Russia, from Sweden to Egypt, only a few, mostly smaller countries were involved, and no doubt most of those masses went whichever way the wind was blowing. What there was mostly burnt out in a few hundred years in favour of a protestantism that has little love for WCF style systems, albeit retaining a portion of those beliefs. It certainly never ever was as widespread or had the longevity of say the 7 ecumenical councils. Yet you feel the need to bolster them by talking about their “orthodoxy” and their wisdom. But such opinion is more about your internal choice than that of Christendom, which has no such high opinion of it.

    If the word “few” means a minority (even when it numbers in the millions!), then, yes, Protestants are and always have been a minority in Christendom. But that’s not what “few” means, as most kindergarteners know. But then, why should the actual definition of words stand in the way of your perversions of reality?

    I wrote:

    “I never said that the Westminster Standards represented the broad consensus of all Christians; only the broad consensus of those Christians who subscribe to them.”

    And you replied:

    Which is a tautology. Every single document in the history of the world represents the consensus of those people who subscribe to them. As an argument about their authority, it has no meaning.

    And it seems that the actual definitions of words have no meaning for you. A tautology is a needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word. Saying that the Standards represented the consensus of its subscribers was not a needless repetition, inasmuch as I was responding to your mentally-challenged misrepresentation of my reference to the Standards as “consensus documents” in which you foolishly complained that they could not be such because they did not represent the consensus of all Christians. You obviously needed a definition of the term “consensus document,” and definitions are not tautologies. And, of course, I realize when people such as yourself make such basic mistakes, it is necessary to dumb-down the answers, but it’s difficult to reach the level of dumbness required to communicate with you.

    I wrote:

    “And actually, we do hold the first seven ecumenical councils in high esteem, although we do not place them on the same level as Scripture any more than we do our confessions and catechisms.”

    And you responded:

    The question is why you place the WCF on a higher level than something like the first seven councils which have far broader agreement.

    For starters, while this may offend what few sensibilities you have, truth is not decided by majority vote. We frankly don’t care how much broad agreement the first seven councils had; where they are wrong we part company with them.

    You wrote:

    Presumably, just personal interpretation and individualism, and blatant disregard for tradition.

    Or, it could be that we read the Scripture and then compared them to preposterous arguments like yours, and decided to kick yours to the curb.

    You wrote:

    Whether you want to regard it as T1 or T2, you trample underfoot any truly consensus tradition, in favour of sectarian tradition that represents the narrow band of what supports your individualism.

    What can I say? We had a few drinks. Smoked a few cigars. Watched a few philandering popes grant cardinal’s hats to their illegitimate sons—and we just lost our heads. If we would have stuck with those great traditions instead of reading the Bible for ourselves—who knows?—maybe we could have turned out like you: somebody who thinks it’s okay to violate the second commandment because the Seventh Ecumenical Council said it was good to bow down to images.

    You wrote:

    A T1 tradition that says “hey, I happen to agree with this document, so I give it weight”, is a truly meaningless tautology.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    But then, you are nothing more than an arrogant accuser, a spiteful mocker, a dissembling fool, and a haranguing slanderer, utterly without scruples when it comes to deliberately murdering the reputation of Christians on the altar of your pomposity.

    But do make sure to have a nice day!

  67. Reed Here said,

    February 25, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Sorry Gold Mouth: you’re gonna have to address no. 64 before you post any further. Thanks.

  68. Reed Here said,

    February 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Gold Mouth: did you miss no. 68? I’ve placed your last two comments in the pending que. You’ll need to respond to me before you can post further.

  69. xpusostomos said,

    February 25, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    And did you miss 70. where I answered you? Look, I periodically answer this nonsense when I periodically drop into Green Baggins. If you can’t keep track of this stuff, why bother?

  70. Bob S said,

    February 25, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    56 As for avoiding scripture telling us stuff plainly, Malachi 1:11 says something plain about what will happen when God’s name is preached to the nations or the Gentiles. Will we find 1:11 occurring in your church if I turn up? Or will you conveniently avoid this plain verse?

    In that Mal. 1:11  reads:
    “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.”

    And Ps. 141:2  reads:
    “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”

    All the while Rev. 5:8 says:
    “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.”

    It’s pretty clear what incense refers to and is meant to be typical of in both the Old and New Testament.

    IOW xp, there’s a reason why you’re fighting a headwind from the get go here. Some of us are only too familiar with the typical Roman spiel, i.e. the drive by appeal to Scripture, not to mention the practice of assuming that an assertion is not only an argument, but a proven argument.

    Again, Rome is enamored of the externals and mistakes them for the reality.

    Much more, it is one thing when God commands images of pomegranates and cherubs in the typical ceremonial worship of the temple – which the entire NT Book of Hebrews plainly tells us Christ, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, entirely fulfilled. Hence why the curtain was torn in the temple at his death Mk. 15:38.
    It is entirely another thing when the pope commands images of Jesus, Mary and the saints to accompany Rome’s pseudo-Aaronic priests as they offer their abominable sacrifice of the mass for the forgiveness of sins.

    And yes, most of us know who John Chrysostom is. My point was that typical of most papist apologists, you assume your comments are entirely perspicuous, all the while you, arrogantly or ignorantly deny it to Scripture. WADR In your case I might say both.

  71. greenbaggins said,

    February 25, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Chrysostom, you missed my 25. I looked over all your comments. Every last one of them. I saw ambiguity. One time you signed your name Chris. One time you signed your name John. And you have never given us a last name. Your tone of late is more than snarky and has transgressed into the realm of the petty. Lay off of it, please. I allow some heat on this blog, but you are near the edge of that into personally insulting remarks.

  72. Reed Here said,

    February 25, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Gold Mouth, do you mean your response no. 23? Surely you don’t mean the rude response you just made (no. 70). Did you miss Lane’s response in no. 25? (Or, given you think it is nonsense, did you ignore it?)

    It really means nothing to me that you find these rules nonsense. They have been very helpful for those who wish to comment here in integrity, without using anonymity as cover for rudeness, arrogance, and a host of others sins for which they think to escape accountability.

    It is simple. If you care to humble yourself you’re welcome to engage with us on this blog. If so, send your name, your church affiliation, general location, etc., enough info. that we know to whom we are talking. If for some reason you prefer to be only identified online by your pseudonym, you must still i.d. yourself to Lane and/or his moderators. If your reason is agreeable to Lane he will allow you to keep posting under your pseudonyms, and keep your i.d. private.

    You may contact Lane, or me (reedhere, a gmail account), or one of the other moderators.

    BTW I am curious ad to why you chose for a pseudonym a name given in honor to a great preacher.

  73. xpusostomos said,

    February 25, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Reed, I have the email here from you from way back, where I answered all your questions, and you respond “Thankyou John”, indicating you were satisfied with them. Obviously you now want to bully me about this rubbish, rather than discuss this article.

  74. Reed Here said,

    February 25, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Gold Mouth: not being petty. But you are bring contentious. You i.d. yourself and you are free to mock Ron Henzel back. At least he is willing to speak in his own name.

    Quilt the childish “it’s not fair!” rant, i.d., yourself, or find something better to do with your time.

  75. Reed Here said,

    February 25, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Good, simply forward the email. No big deal. No harm done.

    I dont remember you, nor do I keep these emails. Frankly, Lane doesn’t pay enough;). This is not that big a burden for people wanting to act in good will. Quite accusing me of sin when I’m doing nothing more than applying the blog rules.

    Or Are you just intent on bullying?

  76. xpusostomos said,

    February 25, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I’m not going to be interrogated every single time I come here to satisfy your perverse insular rules. I did it once, I submitted myself to it, now I’m done. If being interrogated once isn’t enough, you all can go back to your ivory towers and self congratulation where consensus is defined as agreement with everyone you agree with.

  77. Reed Here said,

    February 25, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Good bye Gold Mouth. Obstinacy.

  78. Ron Henzel said,

    February 26, 2014 at 3:57 am

    The essence of Crusty Mouth’s (xpusostomos’s) bi-polar argument was that subordinate standards (i.e., doctrinal standards subordinate to Scripture) are impossible, and therefore confessional Reformed Christians can only have either

    (a) a worthless, meaningless set of doctrinal standards that is to be utterly despised, or

    (b) an unreformable set of doctrinal standards that is as absolutist as Rome’s.

    He would even argue that Reformed standards are both (a) and (b) in the same comment!

    He summed up his premise in the following statements from comment 8:

    “…the whole idea of subservient authorities is a lot of baloney. Something has authority above you, or it doesn’t. If it does, you have ZERO freedom to dissent from it. If it doesn’t, then you have unbridled freedom to dissent from it.”

    Of course, this was not an actual argument but merely a statement of a presupposition that he reiterated with ever-increasing logic-defying circular (un)reasoning. Not once did he support his position with any actual evidence, but rather he repeatedly accused us of both (a) and (b) without the slightest shred of information about us and in the most intellectually-deficient and morally-bankrupt ways possible. I don’t blame him for not wanting to identify himself after his embarrassing display of juvenile sub-troll behavior here.

  79. February 26, 2014 at 8:41 am

    a worthless, meaningless set of doctrinal standards that is to be utterly despised….

    Yes, the kind of conservative Roman Catholic that comments on this blog sees our confessional standards as worthless. Why they are so hard-headed on this issue I really don’t know. They speak as if they have no idea as to how Reformed traditions function and the vital role they have played in the formation of Reformed dogma. From my conversations with them they would not think of saying that analogous traditions in any other area of human thought are worthless, but when it comes to theology traditions are worthless if those who utilize the traditions can question them. The real irony here is that the typical Roman Catholic church has lots more problems with both clergy and laity rejecting specific confessional positions than does the typical Reformed congregation. But with these conservative RC’s it’s all about theory rather than practice.

  80. Vincent said,

    February 28, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Hello Pastor Lane, my name is Vincent and i have been following this website for a while. I would like to talk about some of this stuff via email if that is possible? I have some questions to ask you, since you seem to be a very knowledgeable guy on everything. My email is vincentvdweerden AT gmail DOT com.


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