It’s In!

A Short Review of “The Hope Fulfilled”

Previously, I had only reviewed the one article by Terry Johnson on lectio continua Scripture reading. I am still not going to comment on every article. That should not be read as a slight on any of the articles, as they were all of them excellent. I merely comment on a few which I think are particularly timely. Here is a link to the book in question.

Nick Willborn has an article in this book on biblical theology in Southern Presbyterianism. I think that Southern Presbyterianism in general has been unjustly neglected anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line. Of course they got some things wrong (as all theologians have). But why should that blind us to all the good things they did? Furthermore, they were not monolithic even there. Willborn’s article, therefore, reintroduces us to the theological insights in biblical theology, and in so doing, re-inserts Southern Presbyterians into the mainstream of Reformed thinking. May we not slight any Reformed theologian simply for where he lived and for what position he took on slavery!

Dr. Gaffin has an article on Christ in the OT in the NT. The question that he answers is this: is Christ in every sentence of the Old Testament? To quote Abelard completely out of context, sic et non. Gaffin does not advocate an atomistic reading of Christ in every detail of the OT, as some like Pink have done. Rather, it is an organic, progressive, unfolding of the story-line that has its climax in the person and work of Christ. Included also are some important methodological considerations (pp. 62-63) related to the study of biblical theology.

Rick Phillips has an article on the language “baptism now saves you” in 1 Peter 3:21. Given the recent hoopla over the Federal Vision in various Reformed denominations, this is a very healthy reminder to us of what sacramental language does and what it means.

Guy Waters has a thorough article on the development of the theology of Norman Shepherd. I’m sure this is preparatory to the publishing of his book on the theology of Norman Shepherd (not sure exactly at the moment where that book is in the process of publication). His always careful (FV pundits notwithstanding!) qualifications are helpful: “The Federal Vision, while not to be identified with the theology of Shepherd, is nevertheless sufficiently indebted to that theology as to bring Shepherd’s doctrine before the attention of the church once again” (p. 207). Waters notes the theological progression in Shepherd’s views, and that Shepherd’s views are not monolithic, but developed over time, even though some things have their origin in very early pieces. So, there is continuity and discontinuity.

Dominic Aquila has an article on the regulative principle of worship as it relates to biblical theology, or redemptive history. He affirms the usual distinction between elements of worship and circumstances (p. 257). His principle on what hymns should be used is simple: “We should sing only what is acceptable to preach” (p. 265). He expands on this: “If the human preacher can interpret, explain, and apply Scripture in human language, we can also sing scriptural concepts written by human authors” (p. 265). To me, this position makes a lot of sense. Exclusive psalmody (EP) seems to me to make the fallacy of the word-concept variety when it says that we must use scripture’s very words in singing. Of course, EP does not even do that, as most EP’ers use a translated-into-meter version of the Psalms to sing. To me that gives the ball game away. If one can translate the Psalms into meter, effectively instituting a paraphrase, then why is it unlawful to make hymns that paraphrase other parts of the Scripture’s truth? Aquila also makes the point that the Psalms speak of Christ typologically (p. 265). At the very least, this means that we must sing the Psalms Christologically. However, it also means that we must have hymnody that sings about the fulness of Christ’s person and work as we find it in the NT. I might add to this a comment about the structure of redemptive history: after every major deliverance of God’s people, there is singing. After the creation, the morning stars sang. After the Exodus, the people sang. After Hannah’s deliverance from barrenness (which was death to a woman in those days), she sang. In the New Testament, Mary sings, Elizabeth sings, Simeon sings, and Zechariah sings. And now, after Christ’s death and resurrection, we can sing no new songs? Far be it from me to denigrate Psalm singing. I have a Psalm that is read responsively, and then sung, every week in worship. The Psalms are still the crown of the Christian’s hymnbook. Nevertheless, we can sing new songs, in my opinion.

Along the same lines is Joey Pipa’s article on the second commandment and the regulative principle. Fundamentally, it seems to me, Pipa’s concern is with a practice that establishes itself before it has theological justification for it (see pg. 268). Pipa particularly targets Frame and Schlissel for making this error (and rightly so, in my judgment). Pipa’s article is on the issue of images. This, I thought, was a very helpful way of framing the matter (pardon the pun): “By forbidding us to worship him according to our imagination, God requires us to worship him according to his revelation” (p. 273). Along the way, he makes some very helpful comments about synagogue worship and its relationship to temple worship (pp. 280-281). The real problem with jettisoning the regulative principle is this fundamental fallacy of the human heart: “How foolish for us who possess a remnant of sin, which fuels our lusts and vain imaginations, to think that because something pleases us it pleases God” (p. 285). Indeed.

This book is a very fitting tribute to someone who is surely one of the most significant biblical theologians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, O. Palmer Robertson. Any theologian would have to feel abundantly honored to have such a resource that is written in honor of him.

I Didn’t Know He Had a Blog

But you should check out Voddie Baucham’s blog. He has gotten a fair bit of press lately for standing up for complementarian values in the face of a hostile media. He is Reformed Baptist, and seems to me a very sane voice in today’s world. He has a powerful message here on theodicy.