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.

4 Comments

  1. E.C. Hock said,

    October 22, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    On this Festshrift for O. Palmer Robertson, is it not true that on the Regulative Principle, a key poin needs to be added about Aquila’s essay and a shorter comment on Pipa’s essay ( as noted above).

    1. Aquila makes the key point throughout about the expansive nature and application of the RPW. He writes that the RPW must be applied as an “expansive principle,” rather than remain a “restrictive principle,” since it, too, rests upon the flow of progressive revelation and Scripture’s overall redemptive development from shadow to substance, and from promise to fulfillment. For the RPW to remain and Old Testament principle, with OT references alone (as if left in the shadows), actually relegates the RPW to a worship and ministry model that still accents the priority of Old Testament worship (and what all goes with it). He gives other reasons for supporting this. But given what we know of worship, more broadly considered in the New Testament church, including the seeing of EP as too restrictive (as noted above), this makes sense and needs to be explored further.

    2. On this next point I may not be grasping the blatant point, at least as it was presented. As noted, “Pipa’s article is on the issue of images.” This line is then quoted: “By forbidding us to worship him according to our imagination, God requires us to worship him according to his revelation” (p. 273). On the surface this makes the obvious point. But it is unhelpful and leaves a strange and strained impression. It easily dies the death of many qualifications when we start exploring how the sanctified human imagination operates in reconstructing events of Scripture within revelation. To pit revelation against imagination is not obvious or helpful at all when one begins to think of what all is involved, for instance, in putting together a SS lesson or sermon and proclaiming it meaningfully as the word of God. (We could look at the way the apostles in Acts put together sermons which when applying OT citings or elusion obviously used their own sanctified imagination in reconstructing what happened for the purposes of their witness. They were not words mechanically dictated to by the Holy Spirit, but applied by human creativity, one could say in the best sense imaginatively).

    We, too, do not just read Scripture off the top and present that as our prepared sermon via revelation. We rather PREPARE a sermon and thus preach an interpretated message. That takes the application of imagination. We interpret texts with sound principles and guarded imagination as we apply its truths in ways that can be understood and appreciated for its meaning back then and its relevance today.

    Thus, as its stands, Pipa’s absolutist language about forbiding imagination, pitted against revelation, I suggest is frankly, in my view, bald and reflects an unnecessary degree of rationalism. As we hear and think of what life and belief in Bible days must have been like, OT and NT, and how it was conveyed, humans minds start imagining all kinds of scenarios in order to appreciate it (and be corrected). That is how we come to understand things be it with Jesus Himself, or Paul, or any event with the saints of old where the revelation of law and gospel are applied in new, creative settings under the purposes of God. Can you really have a law – even revealed law – that outlaws imaginative thinking, when such thinking is an inherent part of our method understanding what reality is like – spiritually or otherwise? I mean Pipa no disrespect, but we need more insight when pitting the natural process of imagination against formed and fixed revelation without qualification – yes?

  2. greenbaggins said,

    October 22, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    E.C., on your point 1, I agree, but with one qualification. I don’t necessarily like the word “expansionist” principle, as that might sound as if we can invent our own principles, as long as it lies within the trajectory of the expansion. The expansion ends with the NT.

    With regard to point 2, I think it is fairly clear that Pipa means “imagination” (when he rejects it in worship) in the sense of dreaming up something new to put in worship, not “imagination” in the sense of creative preaching. I would certainly never dream of interpreting Pipa as saying that our sermons should be unimaginative. Are you saying that the WCF (which is precisely the same as Pipa’s position) is rationalist?

  3. Jason Schuiling said,

    October 23, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Where’s my comment?

  4. E.C. Hock said,

    October 25, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Lane, as long as “expansionist” is in accord with NT boundaries of expansion, as in the Book of Acts and NT generally, it remains for me a healthy and necessarily provocative term. The gospel is expansionst beyond the NT, though not beyond what is canonical. It is also eschatological, meaning forward-looking to kingdom consummation. It is important that the RPW be fitted into that setting of reality, which is what Dominic’s essay tries to bring out. It is that kind of thinking that lifts us beyond arguments about exclusive psalmody. Can you see largely Gentile churches in Rome or Asia Minor conforming so strictly to OT Psalms as presented today? Surely Paul would have exhorted them in such forms of singing if it were demanded, but his view here was expansionist in its best sense.

    You’re probably right with Pipa. But sometimes we give the wrong impression to those we lead on what imaginative is, be it in good or harmful ways. We thus give the impression that it is ok to err on the side of being pedestrian stodgy, wooden or archaic in worship all in the name of refraining from being imaginative. That can be more a matter of fear than of faith. God can be equally offended with “just play it safe” worship. Being renewed in the image of God will make a person a more imaginative and creative worshiper beyond what he once was as an old creation under sin. Joy in the Lord unlocks this in good ways. How that applies to worship of course needs to be monitored, guided and, for some, restrained. When creativity becomes man-focused and an end in itself then the heart of worship is obscured or lost.


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