Dr. Ligon Duncan’s Seminar on the Marrow Controversy

In today’s theological climate, antinomianism and the Sonship theology are rife within Reformed circles. The Marrow Controversy therefore has much to teach us about the relationship of grace and law.

Dr. Duncan started by sketching a short history of the Marrow Controversy, emphasizing Boston’s role in recommending the Marrow of Modern Divinity. The book, of course, caused waves in the Scottish Presbyterian church. There had been a professor at Glasgow who had showed affinity for Socinianism and Arminianism. This man was tried by the church and basically given a slap on the wrist. So those heterodox doctrines would find a refuge in the Scottish Presbyterian Church, but the evangelical Calvinism was not found congenial. The Auchterarter Presbytery had a question that they asked candidates about the relationship of coming to Christ and forsaking sin. Understood properly, the question was designed to make clear that a person does not forsake sin in order to come to Christ, but rather comes to Christ in order for sin’s hold on the person to be broken. The General Assembly rebuked the Auchterarter Presbytery for asking the question this way. What would later be called “moderatism” had its beginnings in the General Assembly. Enlightenment thinking took over, to the point where, as one writer puts it, a typical “moderatism” sermon was like a winter day: cold, clear, and brief. The Marrow, on the other hand, was condemned by the General Assembly. The defenders of the Marrow, such as Thomas Boston, and the Erskine brothers appealed the decision, which was rejected. This almost guaranteed that everyone in Scotland would purchase a copy of the book! There’s Scottish contrariness for you.

There are three interpretations of the Marrow controversy. Some argue that it was an internecine dispute of two sides that both held to the Westminster Standards. Those who condemned the Marrow quoted the Westminster standards against the Marrow men, which creates a certain plausibility for this view. This view is wrong in Duncan’s mind, though.

The second view says that the Marrow men represented a revolt against classical Calvinism (this is held by J.B. Torrance). In other words, the Marrow men were trying to liberate the Scottish church from the Westminster Standards. The Marrow men, however, vowed ex animo in strict subscription to the Westminster Standards.

The third view is that the Marrow men were the Westminster theology men. This is the proper view.

Dr. Duncan then shared many of the most important quotations from both Boston and Fisher.

Recent Book on Trent

There are very few full-length books on the council of Trent. There is an historical reason for that, in that the pope forbade any commentaries from being written about the council, since he wanted to control the reception and implementation of the council. With the opening up of the Vatican archives in the twentieth century, Trent is finally fair game for historians. In this regard, John O’Malley has done it again, and the scope of his achievement is rather mind-blowing to me, especially when one considers how much research he also has done on Vatican II. In both cases, he not only read the complete series of books that document the councils, but also most of the secondary literature as well. This may not seem huge until one realizes that in both cases (Trent and Vatican II), the documentary series of books runs to over 30 volumes. O’Malley certainly seems to have read everything of importance, and the result is a highly compact, incredibly fact-dense, but also very readable history of Trent. I thought I was going to run out of the world’s supply of lead, I underlined so much. Now, his being Roman Catholic means, of course, that I am not going to agree with him in many places. However, that does not take away from the fact that this is an incredible book. It will give you an excellent handle on what happened at Trent. Given the situation of the RCC at the moment, which is in large part determined by Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II, it is exceedingly important that we know not only what happened at Trent, but also what did not happen.

He does an especially good job making distinct the actual acts of the council from the reception and perception of the council. His delineation of the political situation was a real eye-opener. The reason why the council took so long and was interrupted, was due to the highly volatile political situation involving the two most powerful political entities (France and the Holy Roman Empire) in their various relations and machinations with the popes of the day.

The only thing I wish he had done was to analyze the Joint Declaration that the Lutherans did with the Roman Catholics. O’Malley seems to think that the entire discussion of whether the anathemas of Trent still apply is to be referred to those ecumenical discussions. I’m not so sure about that, to put it mildly, and I would have liked to see his own evaluation of that in the light of his own mastery of the history of Trent. Still, this is only a minor blemish on a work of fantastic historical value. If you want to know what happened at Trent, you really need to read this book.

Carl Trueman’s Seminar

Original Sin in Modern Theology

He plans on dealing with four theologians (Friedrich Schleiermacher, Walter Rauschenbusch, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann). Modern theology, in losing scriptural authority, has lost its unifying factor. He seeks to look at the implications of their project. His basic conclusion is that, in modern theology, sin is horizontal, and not vertical. That is, it brings about enmity between people, and has no implications with a relationship to God.

Friedrich Schleiermacher: original sin became distasteful, and therefore ignored. He wanted to rebuild Christian dogmatics. The God-consciousness (the feeling of utter dependence). Psychology is central to his understanding of sin. The human is two-fold: the higher consciousness and sense consciousness. Obstruction of the sense of the higher consciousness is Schleiermacher’s definition of sin. Sin is psychological. For Schleiermacher, Jesus is the primary example of someone living in utter dependence. He doesn’t care whether Adam and Eve were historical. He regards the traditional teaching on Adam and Eve is incoherent. He believes that creation is inherently flawed. The Fall is therefore a paradigm of how the sensuous consciousness obstructs the God-consciousness. Sin is a disruption of human psychology.

Walter Rauschenbusch: (the originator of the social gospel). Rauschenbusch sought to recast Christianity in such a way as to address social problems. The kingdom of God is central to his theology: but not as individual, but a more corporate focus (can anyone say New Perspective on Paul? LK). Sin of the structures is a Rauschenbusch construct. He implicitly denies the historicity of Adam. His view of Christianity is purely pragmatic. All ideas are judged by their practical merit. He views the traditional view of the Fall as downplaying later societal evils. He does, however, believe in human solidarity. For him, sin is selfishness (dependent on Schleiermacher). If sin is primarily horizontal, then there is no basis for opposing gay marriage. So, this is not just an ethereal irrelevancy.

Karl Barth: he was definitely a rebel against Schleiermacher and Rauschenbusch. However, his thinking on original sin owes quite a bit to liberalism. He often uses the language of orthodoxy, but opposes the ideas behind the traditional doctrine. Barth distinguishes between historie and geschichte (history and significance). Adam and Eve are saga, a third term that is close to myth. He posits a contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2. Plus, he rejects the unfallen nature of the creation before the Fall. For Barth, Adam is Everyman. Adam is the truth concerning us. Adam as the paradigm for us is something Barth has in common with Schleiermacher. Barth reverses the first and second Adams. This pushes Barth in a universalistic direction, though he is not explicit. We are not IN Adam, but we actually ARE Adam.

Rudolf Bultmann: arguably the most influential New Testament scholar of the twentieth century. He actually believed that the idea of a pristine creation is due to a gnostic intrusion into the New Testament. Bultmann says that Paul’s account of sin is incoherent. Bultmann believed that the Fall is a myth.

Conclusion: All are in the stream of Enlightenment theology. All reject the relevance of the historicity of Adam. They don’t necessarily say that Adam wasn’t historical. They are saying it doesn’t really matter whether Adam was or not. There is therefore no movement from pristine innocence to guilt, which in turn brings into question the transition from guilt to grace. The nature of sin as attenuated. The “problem” of the injustice of the imputation of Adam’s guilt is not solved in modern theology. If we can’t be held accountable for Adam’s sin, then why should we be help accountable for our own sin?

Jon Payne on the Heidelberg Catechism

This year is the 450th anniversary of the writing of the Heidelberg Catechism. The reception of the Heidelberg Catechism was excellent right from the beginning. Bullinger called it the best catechism ever written. However, little of the knowledge of that catechism is left today.

Elector Frederick II, the ruler of the Palatinate, began to embrace Lutheranism about 20 years after Luther’s posting of the 95 theses. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 was crucial to making Protestantism legal. The polity of that agreement was that whichever religion the ruler was of a particular region was, that was the religion of the region. Frederick II prepared the ground for Frederick III (not Frederick of Saxony) to bring great reform to the entire region.

Frederick steered the Palatinate more towards Geneva after the death of Melanchthon. The Lord’s Supper controversies between the Gnesio-Lutherans and the Melanchthonians was a bitter debate. The former believed in absolutely no change from Luther’s views. The Melanchthonians were much more open to Reformed ideas. Frederick III decided that the Gnesio-Lutherans had to go. Hence Zacharias Ursinus came to the Palatinate. Ursinus was Polish. Ursinus studied in Wittenburg under Melanchthon. He was greatly influenced by the major Reformers during his tour of Reformation cities. This might explain his gradual shift to the Genevan Reformation out of the Lutheran stream. He studied under Vermigli. Ursinus was like Calvin, in desiring a quiet life of study. But Ursinus was not allowed by God to have that. Frederick II appointed him to the College of Wisdom, and the University of Heidelberg.

There is a great outline of the Catechism, of course, in question 2, which lays out guilt, grace, and gratitude, a good way to share the gospel with someone. It is noteworthy also that the exposition of the law does not come under the section on guilt, which would be more consistent with the first use of the law. In the Heidelberg Catechism, the treatment of the Ten Commandments comes under the section on gratitude. Use the Heidelberg Catechism!

Jon Payne on John Owen and the Means of Grace

Word, sacraments and prayer are the means of grace. Owen is needed, because our churches are losing their Reformed moorings because of an over-emphasis on urban culture, and a substitute of our own means of grace for God’s means of grace.

Owen was raised by a non-conformist father. His time at Oxford was long and fulsome. He went to hear Edmund Calamy, but, in God’s providence, Calamy was not there. Yet the Lord used the substitute’s message to work powerfully in Owen’s life. Married Mary Rook. Had 11 children, only 1 of whom lived to adulthood. Owen was an ecclesiastical statesman, as being chaplain to Oliver Cromwell.

Public worship and liturgy was a hugely controversial subject at the time, and figured large in Owen’s work. As Mohler would say, if you want to know what a church is really like, go worship with them and listen to the preaching. You will learn who they are by looking at their worship. Lex credendi, lex orandi: the law of belief is the law of worship. If there is such a thing as acceptable worship, then there is such a thing as unacceptable worship. The persons of the worshipers need to be accepted first. Secondly, worship can only be of God’s own appointment. Evangelical graces need to be exercised in worship. Getting worship outwardly correct is not enough. There needs to be a subjectively active and pious attendance on worship.

God’s means of grace are efficacious: they work! In our modern age where people no longer believe this, we hear from the Word that the means of grace work as efficacious for salvation. Owen didn’t write anything on preaching. The sermons we have are parliament sermons, not his normal week to week sermons. Owen’s sermons on the Lord’s Supper are rich sacramental theology (and are in volume 9).

Jon Payne on Charles Simeon

The overall topic of the pre-conference is “Recovering a Reformed Ministry.”

God rests too inconsequentially on ministers and on ministry. He means this, of course, in the sense that we are not aware enough of God, not that God is at fault in any way.

Simeon’s life and ministry are a good corrective to problems in ministry today. He preached for over 54 years. For decades, Simeon was the object of scorn and derision by students at Cambridge. And yet, he persevered in preaching the true gospel. Born in 1759. Eton at that time was completely devoid of true piety. Simeon entered into Cambridge, which was no different. Simeon thought, upon being required to attend communion, that Satan was just as qualified to attend communion as him. He read William Law’s book on what was required of man, a very moralistic book. Then he read a different book that set out the substitutionary atonement, which converted him.

Simeon faced enormous difficulty in his church at Cambridge, where the people completely rejected him, and found many ways to make his life extremely difficult for many years. The students once threw eggs in his face. Simeon knew that the ministry would not be easy. So many stood against him. But Simeon knew he was on the Lord’s side. He was first and foremost a preacher.

Simeon preached the gospel, but did not forget the imperatives of the Bible. Our anemic preaching of the third use of the law is highly detrimental to the Lord God.

We need to preach when it is convenient and when it is not. Consistently cultivate personal, biblical piety. Cultivate humility. Simeon believed that downward was upward. We are making disciples of Jesus Christ, not disciples of us. We should not neglect the global task of the gospel just because of the local church ministry. Invest in the next generation of ministers. Never negotiate the primacy of preaching.

Ignatius’ Epistle to the Romans

The two editions of this epistle are again debated, with most scholars believing that the shorter version (thought, in this case, not much shorter!) is the original. We will base our comments on this edition. You can find the Donaldson translation here, and the Lightfoot translation here. The Greek is available here, and the PG edition is here (starts on column 685).

An outline of the epistle follows these lines: Title, I. Desire to see the Romans (ch. 1); II. Desire for martyrdom (chs. 2-5); III. Reasons for desiring martyrdom (chs. 6-8); IV. Conclusion (chs. 9-10).

Ignatius really seems to have a death wish in this letter. He wants to become food for the wild beasts. His words are: “Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.” He was, in fact, sentenced to a death by wild beasts in the Colosseum, according to tradition.

One incidental thing needs to be mentioned. I looked carefully for any evidence pro or con the Romanist claims concerning the succession of Peter at Rome. There is no mention of the leadership of the church at Rome. Neither side, therefore, can gain much fodder for their arguments.

Echoes of the Exodus

(Posted by Paige)

All right, Bible scholars, let me employ you in doing some of my homework for me. Can you think of any mentions of or allusions to the Exodus event in the NT, besides Hebrews 10:1-2? Unless I am completely blanking on something obvious, I think that they must be more indirect than direct. I can easily think of echoes of the Passover or the wilderness wanderings, but echoes of the Exodus are harder to hear. Which is intriguing, given the prevalence of such echoes in an inner-Testamental way, as the prophets rehearse the most significant acts of God in Israel’s history.

A related historical question is whether theological parallels that we see between Jesus’ redemptive work and the Exodus developed from NT teaching or from reading the OT with NT spectacles.

Thanks!

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians

This epistle, like the others of Ignatius, exist in two editions, a longer and a shorter. We will be looking primarily at the shorter. There are three English translations available on the web: Roberts-Donaldson, Lightfoot, and Hoole. CCEL has a beautiful Greek font edition of the letter. And the PG link is here (the letter in question starts on column 673).

An outline of the epistle can go as follows: I. Beneficent greeting (1); II. Honor the officers of the church (2-3); III. Warning against the Docetists (4-11); IV. Final Exhortations and Greetings (12-13).

There are some very interesting things to note in this letter: Presbyterianism can find historical support in chapter 2: “It is therefor necessary that, as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ.” Note also the strong emphasis that Ignatius places on the diaconate: “the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire. 3. In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no church” (chapters 2-3).

There is no doubt that the meat of the epistle has to do with Docetism, a heresy that believed that Jesus only appeared to be human, and wasn’t actually human. Therefore, Ignatius spends a great deal of time (chapters 9-10) propounding the reality of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

A Great Opportunity

If you have been wishing that there might be a way to obtain the early church fathers in the original language, there is a solution for a little less than half the problem (order form is here). You can order the complete Greek Migne series here (I have not yet found a place to acquire the Latin series). If you desire to purchase an individual volume, the cost is 38 Euros per volume (a Euro is worth about $1.30 at the moment). If, however, you contract to purchase the whole set, the cost plummets to only 22 Euros per volume. They are flexible as to the number of volumes you get each month. There are 161 volumes in the set. I just received the first 8 volumes in the set, and they are beautifully bound, and Mr. Vasilatos George (the person I have corresponded with) was very polite and efficient. This is the real thing, folks. You can actually have the complete Greek Migne for a VERY reasonable price (I checked, and it is the first edition, which is vastly superior to the second edition). While it is true that the Corpus Christianorum is intended to replace the PG, the problem is that each volume is anywhere from 50-150 Euros, and they haven’t published everything yet. That series is really only practicably accessible in a library. Of course, you can also get the PG volumes online. However, if, like me, you don’t like reading your theology books in electronic form, then this is the way to go. If you decide to go ahead and purchase the set, please let the CPP know that you found them through me! I can get a small benefit on my own subscription if you mention that you found it through me.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 351 other followers