New Book on Jesus and Paul

This book looks very interesting. The relationship of Jesus and Paul has been controversial for quite some time, even in popular levels. The list of scholars looks great.

Norman Shepherd’s First Article, part 3

Shepherd goes on in this article to attempt to set Godfrey against the Westminster standards. Here is the entire paragraph (pg. 58):

Godfrey’s chapter makes quite clear that he cannot really accept what the Westminster Confession says about the necessity of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The Confession says, “Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it” (chapter 15, section 3). The Confession defines justification as including the pardon of sin, and therefore makes repentance necessary for justification. And as already noted it defines repentance so as to include not only a grief for and hatred of sin, but a turning away from sin with an endeavor to walk with the Lord in all the ways of his commandments. For Godfrey, the Confession really mixes a toxic cocktail of faith plus works as necessary for justification.

Now, there are several things I wish to point out here. Firstly, Shepherd seems to have missed the import of the clause “or any cause of the pardon thereof.” This allows him to make the ambiguous statement “therefore makes repentance necessary for justification.” I would hope that all would say that repentance is necessary for justification. But how is it necessary? Is it necessary as a cause, necessary as a concomitant, necessary as an instrument, what? Shepherd does not clarify here. Certainly, the confession rules out the necessity of repentance as a cause, by the phrase I have highlighted. Given this fact, and also given the fact that chapter 11 clearly states that no evangelical obedience forms any part of the instrumental cause of justification, therefore I conclude that repentance is necessary as a concomitant. That is, repentance is necessary as an adjunct to saving faith. It says “without which.” This should remind us of other statements that say that faith is never alone in the one justified, even though it is alone in justification. So also, repentance being an evangelical obedience, it is a necessary adjunct to faith. Some might say, with good plausibility, that repentance happens before faith, and is a result of regeneration. I would be happy with this formulation. At any rate, Shepherd’s critique of Godfrey is much too vague to clarify much.  

Update to Commentary Recommendations

I have updated my commentary list, especially in 1 and 2 Samuel and Daniel.

Robert Rollock, a Ridiculously Neglected Theologian

Robert Rollock’s works have just been reprinted. Buy them. Rollock has been terribly neglected by the scholarly world, although that picture is changing. Muller has drawn attention to Rollock recently. However, the above-mentioned reprint should be instrumental in getting Rollock’s name back on the map of important post-Reformational thinkers. Rollock lived from 1555-1598. He was involved in some ecclesiastical controversies, where it was thought that he sided too much with the king (see the excellent biographical introduction in the two-volume set by Andrew Woolsey). Andrew Woolsey thinks that this is the reason why he has been unfairly neglected (p. 20).

However, Rollock’s influence in British theology is much like George Whitefield’s influence on Methodism, unrecognized but pervasive. Woolsey goes on to mention Gunn’s appraisal of Rollock: “It is Rollock’s greatest glory that he introduced into Scotland the expository system, which had already so much benefited religion on the Continent” (ibid.) Furthermore, it was his several commentaries that provided inspiration for the later Scottish commentaries by David Dickson, George Hutcheson, James Ferguson, and Alexander Nisbet (p. 21).

There are 17 sermons in the first volume, and 56 in the second volume, which volume is entirely taken up with the passion of Christ. Woolsey’s opinion is that Rollock’s sermons most closely resemble Beza and Calvin (p. 21). It is to be noted that Beza thought very highly of Rollock’s works, calling his Ephesians and Romans commentaries “a treasure most precious” (p. 9).

Undoubtedly, however, the greatest impact Rollock has had in the history of theology is in the doctrine of the covenant. In this theology, he closely resembles Ussher, who is one of the precursors to the Westminster Assembly’s theology (p. 16). He advocated a firmly bi-covenantal theology, wherein the principle by which Adam would have obtained eternal life was works, though he (as well as most other Reformed theologians) did not deny the presence of grace before the Fall. Christ then stepped in to Adam’s brokenness, and merited eternal life by fulfilling the covenant of works. This righteousness is then imputed to the believer by faith in justification (see pp. 11-16, 33-51). In short, if you want to know where Westminster’s theology of covenant came from, you have to study Rollock. Highly recommended. It is to be hoped that his commentaries will shortly be reprinted as well. I imagine that will depend on how well the two-volume works sell. So buy them!

On Peter Enns

Many have noted by now that Enns has been suspended from teaching at WTS, effective May 23. My thoughts on the matter are recorded here. Gary Johnson’s post is here. Few have commented, however, on the most recent development. One who has (and with whom I whole-heartedly agree), is Jim Cassidy. Update: see now Scott Clark’s extremely compassionate and measured thoughts. I have little to add to his excellent comments, except to say this. I am by no means dancing in glee, delighted, or in any other way gloating. It is a sad day for Westminster, despite the fact that it was the right decision. I am praying earnestly for Pete that the Lord will sustain him in this time of trial, and that the Lord will lead him to more solid views on Scripture. I echo Jim’s comments on the fact that critics of Pete are not trying to duck the tough questions. Rather, the issue is how we answer these questions.

Preview of a Coming Attraction

Here at GB, Gary Johnson will be reviewing a book recently published, one that I devoured in a little over a day, a wonderful book, and one you should purchase straightway.

Index of RINE Posts

I intend here to make sure that my discussion with Doug Wilson remains accessible to people. So I am going to post here an index not only of all my posts on RINE, but also all of Doug’s responses. Doug’s responses, plus any further back and forth will be in the parentheses. I have worked quite hard to make sure that all the blog posts are linked. If there are any I missed, I would greatly appreciate it if someone would point it out to me. It should be remembered that Doug and I often responded to each other in the comment section. This was an extremely difficult index to compile, as it was not always clear which post was responding to which. Furthermore, my computer didn’t like Wilson’s archive page for Auburn Avenue Stuff (too many posts on the page?). So, I had to sift through all of Wilson’s posts to find the responses to mine. This index will also be posted on my Federal Vision index.

Overall Review (Doug’s response); Chapter 1 (Doug’s response); Chapter 2 (Doug’s response); Chapter 3 (Doug’s response); Chapter 4 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response); Chapter 5; Chapter 6 (Doug’s response to both chapter 5 and chapter 6, my response, Doug’s response); Chapter 7 (Doug’s response); Chapter 8 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response); Chapter 9 (Doug’s response) Chapter 10, part 1 and Chapter 10, part 2 (Doug’s first response, my response Doug’s response, Doug’s second response) Chapter 11, part 1; Chapter 11, part 2 (Doug’s response); Chapter 12 (I could not find Doug’s response) Chapter 13 (Doug’s response) Chapter 14 (Doug’s response); Chapter 15 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response, my response) Chapter 16 (Doug’s response, my response); Chapters 17-18 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response); Chapter 19 (Doug’s response) Chapter 20 (Doug’s response); Chapter 21, part 1 (Doug’s response) Chapter 21, part 2 (Doug’s response); Chapter 21 penultimate (Doug’s response); Chapter 21 final (Doug’s response); Chapter 22, part 1 (Doug’s response, my response); Chapter 22, part 2 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response); Epilogue (Doug’s response)

A Book Review of a Recent Calvin Book

I am honored to present to my readers a book review that Barry Waugh sent to me to publish on this blog. The book is available at Amazon (only 2 copies left!). Buy dot com is currently out of stock on the item. Apparently, the book is selling well.  Update: Reformation Heritage Books is also selling this title.

Jean-François Gilmont. Translated by Karin Maag. John Calvin and the Printed Book. Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies 72. Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2005. Paperback. 331 pages including appendices, bibliography and index. Reviewed by Barry Waugh

As the five-hundredth anniversary of John Calvin’s birth approaches, interest in titles by and about the Genevan are enjoying increased interest. There are the usual studies of Calvin regarding various points of doctrine, the more sociological titles that deal with his work in Geneva, while other studies emphasize the Institutes, but the book that is the subject of this review provides a perspective on Calvin from a French speaking author. The English edition is available due to the labors of Karin Maag and her assistants whose translation provides a graceful and coherent English volume—there were no occasions for this reviewer to scratch his head and say, “What does that mean?” The English reads as though Gilmont had written it himself. Gilmont’s book reminds us that there is a whole world of publications on Calvin written in French. Some other French titles available in English, such as Bernard Cottret’s, Calvin, A Biography, translated by M. W. McDonald (French 1995, English 2000), as well as François Wendel’s, Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, translated by Philip Maret (French 1950, English 1963), may be familiar to Americans, but other titles such as Luchesius Smit’s massive 1958 work on Calvin’s use of Augustine has enjoyed a limited audience due to its French text. The number of studies on Calvin in English is massive, but there is a whole other world of materials available in French.

The title may lead one to think that Gilmont’s work is restricted to Calvin and the printing process, but the table of contents shows that the author’s work extends beyond just printing and publishing. The volume is divided into seven chapters titled, “Introductory Remarks,” “Printed Works,” “Writing,” “Reading Practices,” “Printing,” “Censorship,” and “Conclusion.” Some of the subsections distributed in these chapters include, “On the Usefulness of the Pen,” “The Sermons in Print,” Calvin’s Work Environment,” “Calvin’s Library,” “Choosing a Printer,” and “Calvin’s Knowledge of the Book World.” There are six helpful appendices provided, three of which are as follows: “Calvin’s Productivity,” which provides the total word count for each of ninety of his works; “Polemical Treatises in Chronological Order,” which is helpful for those interested in studying Calvin’s polemics; and “Calvin’s Dedications,” which lists thirty-three of his dedications. The book concludes with a bibliography of primary and secondary sources and a helpful index. One particularly user-friendly aspect of the book is Gilmont’s summary at the end of each section and chapter; the summaries bring it all together and provide the reader with the key points for future reference.

There are many interesting facts and trivia about John Calvin and his work provided in John Calvin and the Printed Book. When the Genevan taught, he did so at a pace of about one-third of that for normal speech, thus facilitating his students transcribing the full text of his lectures (30). Calvin was “very unwilling to see his sermons published” (77). One of his reasons for wanting to withhold his sermons from the press was he believed they were not as precise as works he specifically composed for publication (77). He also opposed publication of his sermons because by nature they were excessively long winded (124). His choice of language for publication, following the thought of the reformers in general, was indicative of his audience since French was intended for the general population, while Latin was directed to clergy and academics (113, 118, 280). He rarely translated his writings originally composed in French into Latin, but he often translated his Latin works into French (119-20). Calvin’s library has been estimated by Gilmont to have contained between 300 and 350 volumes (139, 143), which may seem small by today’s standards, but one must remember that there were fewer books available and they cost more in the sixteenth century than today.

Despite Calvin’s hectic schedule, he was able to fulfill pastoral needs in the church and the Geneva community. One particularly pastoral aspect of Calvin’s ministry was, as Gilmont expressed it, “his door was always open,” and “he had to cope with numerous interruptions to his work” (278), which may have pertinence for contemporary pastors who might find the four words, “I am too busy,” a convenient response to avoid interruptions. Considering the massive Calvin corpus for a life of only fifty-five years, it is a wonder he had time to eat, much less have an open door policy.

The chapter on censorship covers more than the efforts of ecclesiastical and community leaders to insure the publication of correct doctrine. In 1561 Calvin complained about works being distributed in which “passages of scripture are misused” (258). In one case, an author wanted to publish a book of spiritual songs, but he was informed that he would have to redo his work with better French rhyme before he could receive publication permission (261). Another book was rejected for publication because it did “not provide much edification” (261). If books with bad exegesis, poor music and lyrics, and little edification were denied publication today, it might prove financially cataclysmic for the market driven publishers of Evangelicalism.

Gilmont’s book would be a helpful read for anyone interested in how Calvin studied, wrote, thought, and distributed his writings. He lived in an era when writers were developing the use of the printing press and seeking new ways to use the technology for their reforming work. As the digital era continually presents new challenges and opportunities, John Calvin’s extensive use of the communications revolution of his own era—movable type printing—may inspire readers of Gilmont’s book with ideas for the digital computer age.

Any one interested in learning more about the use of printing, literacy levels, or the book industry in the Reformation era might want to look at the following titles:

Tessa Watt’s, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550-1640, Cambridge, 1991, which deals with the transition from a predominantly oral culture to printed communication, and how literacy levels affected the distribution of popular religious literature. Watt tells how broadsides (large printed sheets posted for public reading) and pamphlets (suitable for the common folk because they were fairly inexpensive) were used to distribute the ideas of the reformers.

Elizabeth Eisenstein’s, The Printing Press as an Agent of Social Change, originally published in two volumes in 1979, then in a two-in-one volume version in 1980, which was then abridged in her, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge, 1983. The abridged version is helpful for those desiring a less detailed but thorough survey of the communications revolution wrought by movable type printing. Her study examines printing and its influence during the Renaissance, Reformation and the growth of modern science.

The two French authors, Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin’s, The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing, 1450-1800, (1990), which is a reprint of the 1976 English translation of the original French of 1958. This book is concerned more particularly with the book itself, discussing such aspects as paper, technical problems of printing and their solutions, the aesthetics of the book, authors and their rights, how geography related to publishing, the expansion of the printing industry, how books were sold, and how the book was influential.

Those interested in Martin Luther’s relationship to printing and books should read, Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther, by Mark U. Edwards, Jr. This study provides a picture of Luther’s use of printing by examining his publication of pamphlets. A great part of the ex-monk’s success was due to his ability to produce timely tracts for the polemics of his era. Edwards notes that between 1518 and 1525 there were 219 editions of Luther’s publications in German with the total printings and re-printings of these works reaching 1465.


Doug Wilson has responded to my latest post with questions surrounding food. I am going to respond with only one question, and leave it at that: do paedo-communionists really believe that credo-communionists are starving their children? Is the Word not food? Do you give an infant solid food or milk? If children are welcomed into the church and given the Word of God clearly and effectively, who can say that such children are starving? Or can the Word not exist unless it is sealed with the Sacrament? Okay, I lied. That was five questions. My point is this: the Word of God is the primary food. It is not as if someone who doesn’t have the Sacrament is starving to death spiritually speaking. If one believed the paedo-communionists, the children are on the verge of malnutrition, if not actually there, if they don’t have the Sacrament. Am I saying the Sacrament is unnecessary? Absolutely not. But I am saying (I believe the Bible to be saying) that it is for those who have the notitia element of faith and know what the Sacrament means. I realize that someone may come up to me and say, “But what about baptism? The children don’t understand that, do they?” But it is clear that the benefits come slightly differently between baptism and the Lord’s Supper. 1 Corinthians 11 does, I believe, say that each person must appropriate that benefit to himself. No one can commune with Christ for someone else in the Sacrament. If Doug wants the last word on this, that is fine.

On the epilogue, there are several things I would amen. I thought his insight into Saul’s conscience on page 192 was very helpful, and very logical. I also agree with his assessment of human nature: “But it appears that as soon as we are stopped from rummaging around in our own hearts, we have an immediate yearning to rumage around in someone else’s. We either doubt our own salvation with anguish or we dougt someone else’s with satisfaction” (pg. 192). I don’t agree with his solution (that of an objective covenant). What I mean is that I think that there is more to the covenant than objectivity. The covenant is not exclusively objective. Properly speaking, the covenant is made with Christ and all the elect in him, as the LC says. That is a subjective appropriation of salvation that constitutes the heart of the covenant. The outward administration is objective.

Query for Wilson: what is your position on Romans 7:14ff? Paul as believer? Autobiographical flashback to the time when he was an unbeliever? Paradigmatical struggle of the unbeliever under conviction? Or something in-between (as Lloyd Jones holds)? Or something else (such as Wright’s position)?

I am not going to comment much on the appendix. I really liked this quotation: “If the average Bible-reading Christian takes a dim view of first-century Judaism, it is evident where he got that dim view. Read through the New Testament, and simply mark every polemical comment directed at the Pharisees, Sadduces, the circumcision, the Jews, and so on. The evidence is so clear that it takes about three years of graduate work in theological studies, on average, to erase it” (pg. 202). Doug has made it fairly clear that he does not agree with the basic premises of the New Perspective on Paul, even if he (as well as myself) have benefitted greatly from the writings of N.T. Wright and others of that persuasion. This is a point on which the Federal Vision is not united, as their joint statement makes fairly clear. Therefore, it is false to lump together the Federal Vision and the New Perspective, as some have done, and call them the same thing. I think there is overlap certainly (and influence) on some of the Federal Vision writers. I think of Steve Schlissel, who is cookie-cutter N.T. Wright, and Mark Horne, who thinks that Wright is right on a lot more issues than Doug thinks he is, although even there, Mark is not necessarily lock-step with Wright. It is extremely tempting for critics to lump all the FV and NPP guys together. It makes for easier target practice. However, it does not make for better scholarship, or greater credibility.

Coming soon will be an index of all the posts on RINE, together with individual links to Doug’s responses, so that the back and forth will be fairly easy to follow and trace.

One last question for Wilson. I have enjoyed the interaction, and I think that some greater clarity has resulted. Doug, are you willing to continue the conversation, using the Federal Vision issue of Credenda/Agenda as the next point of departure?

Two-Tiered Membership

Wilson has responded to my post. I don’t feel the need for an extended discussion at this point. I only wish to point out a few things. Firstly, with regard to the two-tiered membership and its approximation to the visible/invisible church distinction. Even if we cannot make these two correspond in reality, it is still the ideal for which we should strive. Just because our sanctification, for instance, does not correspond in life to what it should look like does not mean that we should stop trying in God’s strength to become more holy. Similarly, the better church discipline is handled by a church, the closer will be the correspondence between the communicant membership and the invisible church. The two “problems” with the system are problems that true church discipline aims either to minimize or eliminate. The church should constantly seek to disciple its members. In that process, hypocrites will be discovered eventually. Similarly, the elect and the regenerate among the non-communicants are brought to the place in discipleship where they can make profession and become communicant. This is what church discipline is all about.

Wilson asks why we should require a profession of faith in infants for (communicant, I assume he means) church membership, when we don’t require it for salvation. Church membership is a bit like citizenship in the US. We are born citizens. We don’t ever become more of a citizen than we already are by birth. However, that doesn’t mean that an infant can drive a car, vote, or drink. One grows into these privileges. Of course, the analogy breaks down in that some “citizens” of the church are traitors to the church. But then, there are traitors in our country as well, even if our country doesn’t always recognize the fact. I agree with David Gadbois’s argument about the notitia element of faith. The faith exercised in the case of baptism is the faith of the parents. This answers the first comment on Wilson’s post. The faith exercised by someone in the Lord’s Supper is that person. The church must have some way to judge whether in fact a person at the Supper is exercising faith, including notitia. So, it is not a matter of whether the child has faith, for all sides agree that infants can have at least the seed of faith from the womb. The question, as Ursinus put it so helpfully (and I notice that Wilson did not interact with the historical material), is how the church can make a judgment about said faith. It is the responsibility of the church not only to discipline those by bouncing hypocrites, as Wilson would put it. The church also has the responsibility to examine each person who would come to the table (though this examination need not be every time).

By the way, I have to thank Wilson at this point. This particular interaction has considerably sharpened my own thinking on this point.

« Older entries