Lane Leads, WTJ Follows

All of you Green Baggins fans out there may remember the series of posts Lane did critiquing Leithart’s Federal Vision article some months back. At the heart of Lane’s critique was the accusation that Leithart was committing a sort of illegitimate totality transfer fallacy (a fallacy that those who have read Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies will recognize). In short, Leithart was trying to widen the dogmatic category of justification to include non-forensic and transformative realities based on biblical texts that use justification language in a broader sense.

Refreshingly, I found this critique echoed remarkably closely by an article in the current (Spring 2008 ) issue of the Westminster Theological Journal. It was written by two Wheaton College professors that I have not heard of before, R. Michael Allen and Daniel Treier. In Dogmatic Theology and Biblical Perspectives On Justification: A Reply to Leithart, the authors demonstrate that Leithart’s “argument fails to move clearly beyond the strictly semantic to a fully analytical domain of dogmatic theology. Leithart’s dogmatic case flounders insofar as he fails to distinguish between scriptural language and theological terminology.”

The authors discuss what Lane has termed a form of “word-concept fallacy”, confusing biblical words and theological concepts, a distinction they strangely (to my ear) refer to as “concepts” and “judgments” respectively. They write:

…the doctrine of justification may draw on many biblical uses of terminology insofar as they do not contradict its material import. The flip side of this claim, contra Leithart, is that the presence of justification language within the biblical texts does not necessarily imply that each of these texts will bear directly upon the doctrine of justification. Equally important will be texts that bear on the doctrine without using any of the biblical terminology of justification (e.g., Eph 2:7; 1 Cor 15:44-45).

Just remember that you heard it here first, folks.

Posted by David Gadbois

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What People Think

Mark Horne has “responded” to my post here. The scare quotes are necessary, because Mark took a small sliver of the argument, reacted to that, and leaves it at that, plainly implying that no further argument is necessary. He has been doing this ever since I was on the Wrightsaid group. There is no acknowledgment that I have understood one word of his writing. There is also no acknowledgment of what I have been meaning by the word “heresy” for as many times as I have explained the word. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word this way: “Theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the ‘catholic’ or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox.” I have been using the term in this “extension” manner as an opinion that contradicts the Westminster Confession of Faith. I make no judgment on Mark’s heart, although his patent uncharitableness, biting sarcasm, and paranoia make one wonder sometimes. Therefore, I leave it to the reader to discern which is the greater sin: my taking the same line that 7 orthodox denominations have already taken (which is really what I mean by saying that the Federal Vision is heresy), or Mark’s calling the PCA’s SJC a “politburo,” thus equating the PCA’s SJC with communist Russia, with all the “big brother” implications that has. Furthermore, I also wonder at his calling my appointment to the prosecution of the LAP as “political.” I did not seek this appointment in any way whatsoever. The word “political” can be thrown about quite carelessly by those who would rather throw out words intended to hurt than deal with actual arguments. Let it be known that I am not only not hurt (and not angry), but I forgive Mark for his uncharitableness and refusal to read my words in the best possible light, the very thing that the FV accuses its critics of doing. I should note that the FV gains no credibility whatsoever for its claims that the critics aren’t reading their words in the best possible light, when they refuse to do so to their critics. This is not true of all FV’ers, of course.

Now, on to what Mark said about my argument: Mark’s claims are not conclusive in the least, because “temporal and eternal punishment” does not solve the question without further clarification. Are there not temporal and eternal punishments in the 1 Corinthians 3 sense? This would, of course, be a very loose sense of the term “punishments.” Still, Paul uses the term “through fire” to describe someone who is still saved. I do not, of course, advocate a Purgatorial reading of this passage. But if works are required to escape hell, then that is a works salvation. Period. The only way to escape hell is to go to heaven. Period. Mark’s quotation of the WSC 85 here is not to the point at all, since the activities that the Catechism describes are described elsewhere as evangelical graces, and not works. So, to recap what Mark has not addressed: he has not addressed this question: for what are works required? (See my fourth paragraph). And this also: the issue of context in my fifth paragraph. Furthermore, Mark’s lack of attention to the merit problem. Those three issues were ignored completely in Mark’s “treatment.”    

Lectio Continua Scripture Reading

Terry Johnson, in the recent Festschrift for O. Palmer Robertson, advocates lectio continua Scripture reading in worship. This is defined as the systematic reading through of books of the Bible (omitting nothing), one chapter one week, the next chapter the next week, and so on. This is distinct from lectio continua preaching, which, however, has the same structure. What was so encouraging in this chapter was that it confirmed what I have been doing in my worship service. I wish publicly to encourage Terry Johnson that there are a few of us actually doing this. I preach according to the lectio continua method. But in addition to the sermon, I have a Bible reading plan for both the morning and the evening service. The portion read is normally a chapter, unless it is very long. Then I might divide it. I usually expound upon the meaning of the text before I read it, usually for about 3-4 minutes, enough to see its significance, as well as some trajectories for application, and showing how the passage shows Christ. It is a mini-sermon. Currently, I am in the middle of 1 Samuel in the morning, and in Isaiah at night (both Old Testament, to balance out the New Testament preaching, although I have since moved on to Daniel in preaching the morning service).

I do know that Tenth Presbyterian Church does this with the New Testament. However, it would be a wonderful thing if they were to add the Old Testament as well, so that the congregation can regularly hear the entire Bible. Tenth does do expository lectua continua preaching. However, it is impossible for the congregation to hear the whole counsel of God if the Old Testament is left out.  

I am as strong an advocate of the practice as Terry Johnson is, and I sincerely hope and pray that more churches in the Reformed world will give their churches the whole counsel of God. Think of it: on some Sundays, where the preaching takes a whole chapter, the congregation could be exposed to four entire chapters of Scripture! It would then take only 7 years to get all the way through the Bible at that rate. What could we not see in revival if these fat chunks of Scripture are assaulting our rebellion at every step? I highly recommend Terry Johnson’s article to the attention of the church.