Funny Theology

Wes White sent me this, and I thought I’d post it for y’all.

And Jesus said unto the theologians: “Who do you say that I am?”

They replied: “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed.”

And Jesus answered them, saying: “Huh?”

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Wilkins’s exam, part 11

I don’t have any huge quibbles with his answer on assurance, except that I think he needlessly over-emphasizes the external aspects of assurance at the expense of the internal. But this is not an issue of orthodoxy. One sentence I do find problematic, however, is this: “We do not attain assurance by trying to discern the sincerity of our faith or repentance through introspection of our hearts and examination of our motives, affections, or feelings.” My problem with this is that the WCF says that the Holy Spirit attests to our spirit that our faith is genuine. Therefore, some kind of introspection to see if the Holy Spirit is working would seem to be required for such assurance. There seems to be an unwillingness on Wilkins’s part to engage the Puritans on this score, who were famous for their dissection of the human soul (much maligned and hated by many today). We should not disenfranchise the Puritans, since it was they, after all, who fashioned the WS in the first place. But even this is still a minor point.

On to baptism. His answer to the first question is by no means the same thing as what he said in Federal Vision. In Federal Vision, he plainly says that baptism unites us to Christ. Period. No qualifications on that. He does not repudiate what he said in Federal Vision, even as as his exam gives a much more balanced picture (though still defective). Wilkins says “that baptism delivers over to us all the promises of God in Christ Jesus (for this reason the LC #167 imposes upon us the necessity of ‘improving our baptism’ by ‘growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament’).” Emphasis his. This is extremely vague. “Delivers over to us all the promises?” Does baptism give the goods to us or not? See, “promises” can mean either the bare word of promise, or it can mean the thing promised. So, this is still vague and obfuscating, in my opinion. He does say that “What is offered in baptism may not be received because of unbelief.” This is certainly better than the phrase “delivers over to us all the promises.” However, it still begs the question of whether or not baptism works ex opere operato (by itself) or not, because he goes on to say again, that “these promises are given over to him and are his, but they must be embraced by faith for him to enjoy their benefits in salvation.” He continues his ambiguity in the last sentence of the paragraph: “All the benefits of Christ and the new covenant are presented, delivered over to the baptized individual, but they cannot secure salvation apart from faith.” This is downright contradictory: all the benefits of the new covenant are delivered by baptism, but eternal salvation cannot be secured except by faith. This is not saying the same thing at all as the Hodge quotation. Hodge is saying that the benefits of the covenant of grace do not come to the person at all unless ratified by faith. The ratification by faith is an absolutely necessary condition to having the benefits of the covenant of grace. Wilkins subtlely changes this to read “delivered over…but salvation not secured apart from faith.” These are two different statements altogether. He inserts the possibility of ex opere operato in between Hodge’s main clause and the necessary qualification.

I think that Wilkins’s third paragraph on the second question connects the sign too closely with the thing signified. He doesn’t deal with the issue of sacramental language. So, even though the fifth paragraph exists, it is not enough to counterbalance the problems of the third paragraph. I’m not going to deal with the quotes, since those are not Wilkins’s own words, to which I confine myself. I will deal with the last part in the last post in the series. Boy, I’m getting tired!

The Ten Plagues, part 1

I am going to do a series on the ten plagues in Exodus 7-12. My primary resources are Ryken’s, Enns’s and Currid’s commentaries on the book.

The first thing I want to talk about can be accessed by this question: “Why were there ten whole plagues?” It would seem that it would have been much simpler and more effective for God to simply annihilate the Egyptians with one swift stroke (to quote Star Wars, ep 4), rather than dragging it out, and having this agonizing back and forth with a wax-nosed Pharaoh. Well, the answer to this question is that the conflict (and it is nothing more nor less than a battle) is broader than simply between God and the Egyptian Pharaoh. God is also making war on the Egyptians gods. This will become much clearer as we get into the details of each plague. But for now, we recognize that the Egyptians worshiped many gods. God, the God of Israel, therefore shows the Egyptians that their gods have no power compared to Him.

We will start by noting the structure of the plagues. There are three triads of plagues that set up the ultimate finality of the tenth plague. Look, for instance, at plagues 1,4,7, which all start with the Lord telling Moses to rise up early to go to Pharaoh. Plagues 2,5,8 all have the Lord saying to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh.” Plagues 3,6,9 all have no confrontation of Moses with Pharaoh: Moses simply does what God commands. So the first three, middle three, and last three plagues each form a triad. Within each triad, the action gets more and more shortened and decisive. The third plague in each triad is very short and to the point. It demonstrates, as it were, a shortening of Yahweh’s patience with Pharaoh’s stiff neck. Then, after the ninth plague, we have the institution of Passover, which prolongs the tension almost unbearably for the reader, until finally the hammer stroke falls in 12:29-32. But the description is chillingly short and laconic. In fact, by the description, you wouldn’t have guessed that this was the plague that would send Pharaoh to his knees. You wouldn’t have guessed it until you actually saw what it did to him. This also will be explained when we come to it.

Passover, of course, is intimately tied up with the plagues. Therefore, Christ, our Passover Lamb, will be the focus of our discussion. Christ took on Himself the powers of darkness and defeated them in His death and resurrection. That statement by no means exhausts the meaning of Christ’s work. Nevertheless, Christus Victor is a legitimate biblical theme. In Christ’s victory over our spiritual enemies, we have the antitype of God’s victory over the Egyptian gods. In redeeming us, God also defeats our enemies Satan and death. Therein lies the true significance of the ten plagues.