I’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks, so posting has been a bit spotty. My family and I went to sunny southern California. It was a fantastic vacation, full of rest and relaxation. We’re on the way home right now, and will be home on Monday night. Of course, next week, I have to go to the CRC classis meeting on Wed-Thur. So, no rest for the weary. Well, I’m not that weary.
February 24, 2009 at 3:01 pm (Uncategorized)
Some REALLY nice updates have been added to WordPress which will make reading the comments on my blog a whole lot easier. First of all, WordPress has added threaded comments. This means that you can reply to a specific comment (the word “reply” is at the bottom of anyone’s comment: just click on that and your comment will appear as a reply to that comment). Secondly, WordPress has also added a feature of breaking the comments into pages. I have set the default at 50 comments per page with the oldest comment on the top. If people really beg me, I might switch and put the newest comment on the top. At any rate, these changes are a real boon to this blog, where there are often more than 100 comments on a post, and it becomes difficult to follow who is responding to whom, and it is also difficult to scroll down all the way to the bottom to get to the 300th comment. I’m really excited, as these changes will really help ease of communication around here.
February 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm (Church)
Talks are continuing apace between the two churches concerning the merger of Coral Ridge with New City Church. Tullian is providing regular updates on his blog. There are a few concerns I have about this whole process that I think will be rather important.
1. What will be the new worship style at CRPC? Will it turn seeker-sensitive? The purpose of worship is to glorify God, not to minister to felt needs. CRPC never needed seeker-sensitive worship to attract the people. What attracted the people was the pure Gospel preached week in and week out. Tullian seems to me to be a Gospel preacher. But what about the music? Seeker-sensitive music is usually a code-word for “me-centered” worship. I don’t know if that would happen. I merely raise the question. This is vitally important, I believe. The hymns chosen need to be deeply doctrinal in nature for people to grow. They need to be orthodox, and the music needs to fit the words. Lament is not popular in seeker-sensitive worship. However, Lamentations is in the Bible so that churches can lament their sin while they turn from it to Jesus.
2. I understand that most of the ministerial staff are not really involved in the process of the merger. Is this wise? I’m sure most of the specifics will need to be taken care of by those who really know the law (I understand there are some capable lawyers on the session). However, the more doctrinal issues need to be hammered out by the theologians. There is one very important doctrinal difference between the EPC and the PCA, and that is the role of women in the church. How will this be handled?
3. How transparent are the actual details going to be to the congregation? I realize that if everyone has their say in the matter, the issue could get ugly. However, there are many vital concerns that the congregation needs to be able to make judgments about before the merger happens and before they can make an informed vote. This is especially true, if, as I understand, the congregation will only be able to hear Tullian once, and will then be required to vote.
If you desire to comment, please be informed that first-time commenters’ comments are held in the moderation queue. After that, they are not held (if your comment is approved), unless they have three or more links in the comment. I would especially invite members of CRPC to comment on these issues.
February 18, 2009 at 8:58 am (Books (reviews and recommendations))
This book is now in at WTS bookstore. Along with Van Til, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in reading Barth fairly and critically, and seeing what he has to offer, and what is dangerous. I will be reviewing this book in the near future.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. The man will say, “I can’t believe how illogical that woman is. She can’t see one single step in the argument.” The woman will reply, “I can’t believe that he is so slow that he can’t see what is so blindingly obvious to ANYONE who could put two and two together.” To quote someone famous, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
Men think in a line, step by step, usually. Of course, everything in this post is pretty general, and has lots of exceptions. But men are, in general, linear thinkers. They like things spelled out in order. Skipping steps usually makes them uneasy, not to say discombobulated.
Women, on the other hand, are usually more intuitive. They don’t have a problem skipping steps in the argument, and jumping right to the conclusion. They couldn’t always tell you how they got there, but they often come up with these amazing leaps that seem almost superhuman to most males. Sometimes men call this a sixth sense, or a woman’s intuition.
Men need to realize that a woman is not necessarily being illogical when she makes the leaps. It is merely that the woman doesn’t feel she needs to spell out all the steps by which she arrived at her conclusion. Of course, sometimes the woman jumps to the wrong conclusions because she left out a few key distinctions/steps/factors that might have changed the conclusion. This is where the man can patiently explain to the woman how to reach the proper conclusion.
Women, by contrast, can help men increase the speed of reaching the conclusions, because sometimes it is important to reach a conclusion quickly, and spelling out all of the steps is not always necessary or desirable. Women also need to understand that men may not be slow and stupid just because they can’t move at the dizzying pace of intuition that the woman can.
The difference is probably due at least in part to the way the brains are set up. In the womb, the boy receives a washing of testosterone that disconnects parts of the brain from one another, making intuitive leaps more difficult. The girl in the womb does not receive this, and so the connections are much more instantaneous. God’s marvelous design is evident here, because men and women therefore complement each other very well. Sometimes the linear thinking of the male is more helpful (for instance, in engineering, where 98% of engineers are male). One does not want steps left out of the process in building a bridge! On the other hand, intuition is often extremely helpful in relationships, where one often needs the ability to read between the lines to be able to put oneself in the other person’s shoes. Women are often much better at this than men, who often can’t seem to put 2 and 2 together fast enough to be able to make the necessary leaps. So, men and women, rather than calling each other stupid, simply need to realize that there is often a different kind of logic at work, neither better or worse than the other, but often suited better to different tasks. Men and women, if they realized this better, would be better able to communicate with each other, and help each other in the areas where they are stronger.
February 12, 2009 at 12:12 pm (Uncategorized)
Dr. Harold Hoehner passed away today at the age of 74. Read Dallas Theological Seminary’s tribute to him here. He put the church permanently in his debt with the publication of his massive, conservative (he thoroughly trounced liberal arguments against Pauline authorship) commentary on Ephesians. At any rate, he certainly put me in his debt.
February 12, 2009 at 11:58 am (Bible)
I have often thought about the difference in the order of the books of the Old Testament. What we have in the English Bible does not follow the order of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible follows the order of Torah (law), Nebiim (prophets early and late), and Ketubim (writings). The two distinct orders of the OT books can be clearly seen side by side here. In the same post, Greg references a very stimulating argument by Jim Hamilton (a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) that English Bibles should follow the order of the Hebrew Bible. He even answers the argument from the Septuagint, saying that there is no uniform Septuagintal order of books. Therefore, if we followed the Hebrew Bible in discerning which books were part of the canon, rejecting the Septuagintal extra books of the Apocrypha, then why not follow the Hebrew Bible’s ordering of books? As Hamilton notes, David Noel Freedman has argued that Ezra and Nehemiah were responsible for the ordering of the Hebrew canon. Hamilton also notes that certain New Testament passages seem to assume the TNK ordering of the OT books. Very stimulating. Maybe the ESV will consider printing such a Bible. It would certainly take some getting used to!
In today’s world, the question will naturally arise, though not in the minds of many Reformed theologians, of the nature of Reformed theology and belief in a world where Christianity is shifting to the South and the East. There are many more Christians now in Africa and Asia than in the West. What was representative for Christianity used to be Western, American or European. However, now the picture is different. What does that mean for the Reformed faith? Questions arise concerning the whole approach to theology as well as the confessions.
Certainly, it is necessary for the Reformed world to wake up to this reality. For instance, the Presbyterian Church in Brazil has many more members than the PCA. Even the PCA (which is the largest English-speaking Reformed denomination in the world) is only middlin when it comes to Reformed churches in the world.
One of the main concerns that I have whenever I see attempts to address this question is that social concerns are in danger of swamping the Gospel message. For instance, when people address the Reformed Gospel’s progress in Africa, it tends to be related closely to things like apartheid. Now, the Reformed Gospel has very important ramifications for something like apartheid. However, the Gospel is not to be made equivalent to any particular position with regard to apartheid. Racial reconciliation is a result of the Gospel, not a component of it.
Similarly, is the Westminster Confession of Faith too narrow, too precise, and just too British for the South and the East? Not at all. If we really believe that it is a summary of biblical teaching, then it has no racial or cultural boundaries, anymore than the Gospel itself does. For if we confess that the Westminster Standards contain THE system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture (and not just A system), then we must equate our understanding of the Gospel with the Standards. The Standards are intended to be our confession of what the Gospel is. As such, it addresses the whole human race, and the human sin problem. The solution for sin is the same no matter what race a person is.
February 9, 2009 at 3:18 pm (Books (reviews and recommendations))
So a lot of people want to know what is the big deal about Karl Barth. Why is he so amazingly influential? And most people want answers to this question without having to read Barth’s mammoth 14 volume Church Dogmatics. Well, there is a book coming out soon that will answer that question from an evangelical point of view. It will simultaneously tell us why we should still engage Barth’s theology (since it is still so influential), as well as point out some of the pitfalls. Recommended for anyone who has had a yen to learn more about Barth, but doesn’t know where to start, and wants something from an evangelical standpoint.
February 6, 2009 at 10:19 am (Federal Vision)
Doug is in England right now. If he does reply to this post, it will probably be a bit. Just a heads up to folks. His last post in reply to me is located here. I will let him have the last word if he so desires.
First point (corresponding to Doug’s first three paragraphs) regarding imputation. Some FV writers affirm imputation, and others do not. But it does not seem to me that any FV writer, Doug included, views imputation as essential to the Protestant doctrine of justification. Doug thinks that if someone believes in the marriage analogy rather than imputation, that still does not mean that someone is un-Protestant. It is just here that the problem arises. For every single major confession of the Reformed churches (except maybe the Canons of Dordt, which were not addressing the issue of justification) affirms imputation in no uncertain terms. If the confessions define what being Reformed is (as I believe they should), then imputation is a non-negotiable of being Reformed. To use one of Doug’s own funny analogies, it takes at least 7 years of grad school, or of FV environment to think otherwise. So, to be clear, the issue is not whether imputation is inherent or not inherent to the FV position. I agree that some FV writers hold to imputation. The issue is the view as to whether imputation is essential to being Reformed. This is part and parcel of the larger issue concerning the definition of the word “Reformed.” Should not the Reformed church through its confessions define the word “Reformed?” If imputation is not essential, then it is redundant. And, by the way, I hold to the marriage analogy as well. I merely hold to it in a way that emphasizes the importance of imputation rather than being somehow held in tension or contradiction to imputation. The marriage of Christ to the believer prevents imputation from being a legal fiction. But, as I have said before, Christ and the believer remain two distinct people (however closely they are united in marriage) such that the transfer of Christ’s righteousness from Christ to the believer in imputation is still necessary. Christ not only needs to pay the debt of His bride, but also needs to pay her way to her eternal home. Looking at the church’s relationship to the law is where you will find “what the bride got in her bags,” as Doug might put it.
Second point, I reject utterly Doug’s reading of WCF 7. Doug seems to have forgotten that the administration of the covenant of grace is different from OT to NT. It is in this administration of the covenant of grace that the overlay of the covenant of works comes into play with the Adamic repetition of “do this and live.” For more details, and far better argumentation than I could provide, and for full answers to Doug’s points (not explicitly but implicitly), see the new book edited by Fesko, Van Drunen, and Estelle entitled The Law Is Not of Faith. So, if the administration is different, then there is absolutely no warrant for saying that the entire apparatus of the Mosaic economy was of the covenant of grace, as Doug says. If the administration was different than the new covenant (which WCF 7.5 explicitly says: “This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come”), then, at the very least, the administration of the Mosaic economy was not of the covenant of grace. So, Doug’s reading of this chapter does not comport with the terms of the chapter itself. I would really encourage all readers to take a look at the Fesko/VanDrunen/Estelle book. It is a very timely exposition of all these matters. I should forestall a possible objection here. One might object and say that both differing administrations were part of the covenant of grace. The difficulty with this is that it is the substance which is said to be the covenant of grace (see the last part of section 6), not the administration in the various dispensations. With regard to the differing dispensations (WCF’s word), that is not the substance of the covenant of grace. The contrast then, is between the time of the law (section 5) and the time of the gospel (section 6). For any further points on this, I will simply refer the reader to Fesko/VanDrunen/Estelle on this.
Furthermore, my distinctions regarding the covenant of works and covenant of grace in the Mosaic economy are irrelevant to the question of whether Wilkins actually holds to a distinction between the elect and the non-elect in the church. Saying that I need to have clearer distinctions concerning the Mosaic economy is no answer whatsoever to whether Wilkins has made adequate distinctions regarding a far more central point. The point here is that Wilkins is not willing to say that the difference is between those who are regenerated and those who are not. Now that would be a very clear distinction between the non-elect visible church member and the elect covenant member. It is precisely this that Wilkins does not want to say. Because of his view of baptism, he wants to say that the non-decretally elect members of the visible church are regenerated in some sense. The qualification “in some sense” is always the problem with the FV, because they can never define “in some sense” in a way that allays the fears of the critics that the FV is Arminian with regard to these non-decretally elect (again, the issue of the decretally elect is not on the table here).
I will try one last time to make the point about the living nature of faith and its relation to justification. We both agree that justifying faith is alive. The WCF says this: “is no dead faith” (WCF 11.2). Contrary to the criticisms of FV proponents (especially in the horrible caricatures in the book A Faith That Is Never Alone), I know of NO Reformed scholar who says that we are justified by a dead faith. I know of no Reformed scholar who even hints at this. I know of dozens of Reformed scholars who say the aliveness of faith is not what justifies us. The best way I can put this is to say that the aliveness of faith is a sine qua non, but is not part of the inherent structure of justification. Of course the person who stretches out his arm to catch a ball has to be alive to do that. But his being alive is not an action inherent in stretching out his arm. Maybe I can put it this way: states of being are distinct from actions, just like verbs of being are distinct from verbs of action. We must distinguish then between the state of being alive and the verb of action of what faith does in laying hold of Christ’s righteousness. To put it another way, our aliveness can have no object. It is inherently reflexive. But faith’s action in justification takes a direct object: the righteousness of Christ. I really think this is as clear as I can be. I don’t see any reason why Doug should disagree with this, either. I suppose I will have to enact a qualification of this, nevertheless, lest people think I am making faith active. When I am referring to “faith’s action” I do not mean that we are doing a work. I mean only that faith is doing something in justification. And this is what it is doing: it is “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification” (WCF 14.2).
To answer the question about Augustine: to use categories that were developed later in church history to describe earlier church fathers is anachronistic. Therefore, whatever Augustine believed about the losability of regeneration could not be called Arminian, since it is anachronistic and speculative. However, if one wanted to speculate in a different direction, I could answer the question: if Augustine had been alive in the time of the Reformation and the debates at Dordt, which side would he have chosen? Without hesitation, I would answer that he would have chosen the side of the orthodox.