Introducing Arianwyn Sylvie Keister

Born at 6:23 PM, weighing 8lb 1oz, 20 1/2 inches. Mother and baby are both doing well so far.

2k – Affirmations & Denials (3 of 3)

This is the third of three of Dr. Darryl Hart’s affirmations and denials on the 2K topic. Remember, please read the other two (theological, vocation) before posting comments. Thanks.

(Reed DePace)

Affirmations on Ethics

1) Affirmation: Christians have an obligation to submit to God’s laws as they are found in general and special revelation.
Denial: persons cannot obey God’s law truly apart from regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
Denial: non-Christians may not please God in their external observance of God’s law.
Denial: even if non-Christians may not please God, their civic virtue is crucial to a peaceful and orderly society.

2) Affirmation: Christians please God in their good works thanks to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Denial: the good works of Christians are not free from pollution (i.e. they are filthy rags).

3) Affirmation: the state and families have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.
Denial: the church does not have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.

4) Affirmation: church members have a duty to obey the laws of civil magistrates.
Denial: church members may not rebel against or disobey the magistrate.
Denial: church members must not obey the magistrate rather than God.

5) Affirmation: God has established a pluriformity of institutions (e.g. civil society) for the sake of social order.
Denial: the church has no calling to establish social order but will have an indirect influence on peace and order by encouraging godliness in her members.


2k – Affirmations & Denials (2 of 3)

This is the second of three of Dr. Darryl Hart’s affirmations and denials on the 2K topic. Remember, please read the other two (theological, ethics) before posting comments. Thanks.

(Reed DePace)

Affirmations about Vocation

1) Affirmation: the church is called to gather and perfect saints through word, sacrament and discipline.
Denial: the church is not called to meddle in civil affairs.

2) Affirmation: the Christian family is called to nurture and oversee children in both religious and secular matters.
Denial: Christian families will not all look the same but have liberty to rear children according to Scripture and the light of nature.
Denial: non-Christian families do not rear children in godliness or holiness but still have legitimate responsibility for rearing their children.

3) Affirmation: the state is called to punish wickedness, reward goodness, and promote peace and order.
Denial: the state does not hold the keys of the kingdom.

4) Affirmation: A Christian is called to use his talents and gifts to serve God and assist his neighbor.
Denial: some Christians are not called to engage in civil affairs.
Denial: the responsibilities attending one Christian’s vocation may not be the standard for other Christians.


2k – Affirmations & Denials (1 of 3)

I thought it might be helpful in the 2K discussions if there were a list of principles with which we could interact. Since he has been such a prominent voice on this subject, I asked Dr. Darryl Hart if he might be willing to provide such a list. He graciously agreed to do so.

The list provides fifteen 2k principles in the form of Affirmations, coupled with corresponding denials. Following Dr. Hart’s formatting of these principles, this post contains the first six theologicalaffirmations. Two additional posts will include vocation affirmations (four) and ethics affirmations (five).

For the sake of the flow of Dr. Hart’s argument, please read all three posts first. Then post comments and questions where appropriate (corresponding to the affirmation(s) and/or denial(s) you’re commenting upon.)

I want to thank Dr. Hart for the work he put into this list and allowing us to post and discuss this here. Please remember to treat each other with the Christian civility that marks your profession of faith in Christ and your commitment to love your brother. Thanks!

(Reed DePace)

Theological Affirmations

1) Affirmation: Jesus is Lord
Denial: Jesus is not Lord over everyone in the same way; he rules the covenant community differently than those outside the covenant.

2) Affirmation: the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ
Denial: Outside the visible church is not part of the redemptive rule of Christ (even though Christ is still sovereign).

3) Affirmation: the Bible is the only rule for the visible church (in matters of conscience).
Denial: Scripture does not reveal everything but only that which is necessary for salvation.

4) Affirmation: Christ alone is lord of conscience
Denial: Christians have liberty where Scripture is silent.
Denial: the pious advice and opinions of Christians is not binding.

5) Affirmation: the visible church has real power (spiritual and moral, ministerial and declarative, the keys of the kingdom) in ministering the word of God.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences apart from Scripture.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences on the basis of one minister’s or believer’s interpretation but must do so corporately through the deliberations of sessions, presbyterians, and assemblies.

6) Affirmation: Christ’s righteousness alone satisfies God’s holy demands for righteousness, and believers receive this righteousness through faith alone (i.e., justification).
Denial: believer’s good works, much less unbelievers’ external obedience to the law, do not satisfy God’s holiness but are filthy rags.


Sailhamer’s Meaning of the Pentateuch, Take Four

(Posted by Paige Britton)

In case you want to catch up, here’s where we’ve been so far with this ongoing review:

An introduction to John Sailhamer is here

Notes about Sailhamer’s Introduction are here

A sketch of Chapter One (“The Nature & Goal of OT Theology”) is here

Chapter Two: Finding the Author’s Verbal Meaning

In order to prepare us for his intensely “text-immanent” approach to determining the meaning of the Pentateuch, Sailhamer spends considerable time in this chapter tracing the history of biblical interpretation from Augustine to the present. His point is that, thanks to Augustine’s distinction between the words (verba) of Scripture and the things (res) to which those words point, the church has ended up (in several different ways) going astray from the words and concentrating on the “things” – especially, in the case of evangelicalism, historical events. More on this below.

Again in this chapter, Sailhamer is quite clear that he believes the Scriptures were verbally inspired by God – hence his desire to pay close attention to the very words of the biblical texts. He would like to invite other believers to do this, too, but first he needs to convince them that they are generally working with an interpretive model that values the inspired words only as a means to get beyond the text to the historical events the words refer to. Sailhamer writes,

Simply put, if the words of the Bible are inspired, their meaning is of central importance. This puts the emphasis in the right place: on the meaning of the words as a part of the language of the Bible. To ask why the author wrote the Pentateuch is a valid historical question, but that question should not be construed as an answer to the question of the meaning of the Pentateuch. One finds the meaning and message of the Pentateuch not in asking why it was written or how, but in asking what was written as the book itself. (73f., my emphasis)

Here’s a quick summary (the speed-set version) of how Augustine’s view of words and things “played itself out fully in medieval biblical interpretation and provided the foundation of most modern ‘historical’ approaches to the Bible”(77):

Beginning with Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, many Christian thinkers began to prize what they called the “spiritual sense,” rather than the “literal sense,” of the biblical texts. That is to say, in order to understand the words, they appealed more and more to what the words stood for (i.e., the theological realities beyond the text). This was especially true when reading OT passages:

Reading the Bible (OT) came to be a process of watching for the things that words pointed to. This meant, if need be, that the meaning of Scripture could, as easily as not, be investigated apart from the meaning of the words of Scripture. (80)

Having loosened their interpretive moorings from the words of the Bible itself, “Augustine, and those who followed in his steps, turned increasingly to the authority of the church” as the final arbiter of the spiritual meaning of the biblical texts (80). Enter the Tradition! …And that about covers the Middle Ages.

Although the Reformation brought renewed attention to the original languages and a rejection of extrabiblical Tradition, a second wave of post-textual thinking was waiting just around the corner, this time in the area of biblical history. With the Enlightenment came biblical realism and historicism, often without any entailments of spiritual meaning at all: “biblical words pointed to real events in history (biblical realism), not to spiritual truth as such” (81).

In reaction, evangelicals in the 18th and 19th centuries, who naturally wanted to preserve the doctrine of Scripture’s inspiration and inerrancy, began increasingly to look beyond the text to affirm the biblical realities that had played out in history, paying less attention to the way those realities were recorded by the biblical authors. In other words, the Bible came (by Charles Hodge’s time) to be regarded as

a brute fact containing many smaller facts, all in need of brilliant explanation…The validity of one’s explanation rests not on how well it explains the text, but on how well it explains the facts that come incrementally out of the text as bits and pieces of unassembled history. (98)

Thus evangelicals have come to know about historical realities through a text, but the text is really only valued as a witness to those historical events (and as a historical event itself!) rather than as a made thing, crafted in a certain way to convey an author’s mind.

John Sailhamer hopes to call believing readers’ attention back to the text as text. “My purpose,” he writes,

is to argue that if evangelicalism is to remain true to its rich biblical heritage, the goal of an evangelical biblical theology must be refocused on the meaning of the Scriptures themselves (sola Scriptura). What do the words of Scripture tell us about the “things” to which they point? I am not suggesting that the Scriptures are not about real things. I believe that they are. What I am suggesting is that the theological meaning of the Scriptures lies in the meaning of its words as parts of sentences, paragraphs, and whole texts. (87)

…So, you who have read this far, what do you think of Sailhamer’s evaluation of evangelical biblical interpretation as having moved beyond the text of Scripture, in that it is more concerned with historical realities described by the inspired text than with the words and literary structure of the text itself? Is this a valid insight? Is it a significant one?

Is Your Best Good Enough?

I have asked the EE (Evangelism Explosion) question to a number of people. For those who don’t know what this question is, it goes like this: “If you were to die tonight and appear before God in heaven, and He were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?” I dare say that if anyone were to poll most Americans on this question, the number one answer would be, “I’ve done my best.” This answer has a certain appeal about it. It implies that the person is really thinking about his eternal destiny. It also implies that the God who hears this answer is a loving and gracious God, willing to accept “partial credit” as if it were full credit. It implies that God is not someone who will be quick to consign anyone to Hell. In short, it appeals very much to our postmodern culture. However, it is woefully inadequate as an answer to God.

The first challenge to issue to this answer is this: how do you know whether your best is good enough? What standard will you use in order to make this judgment? How do you know that the standard you are using is the same standard that God is using? Will you use other people as your standard? God does not judge according to that standard. God uses His own character as the standard against which all must be measured. Will you use the idea of a “curve” in your understanding of God’s judgment? Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God grades on a curve.

The law requires perfection, not our best. The Scripture says “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all the things of the law, to do them” (Galatians 3:10). If this is true, then the law is our enemy if we seek to gain heaven by doing our best.

The fact is that God is a loving and gracious God, but this does not cancel out His justice. His grace and mercy are shown in providing us with a perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ. His righteousness is reckoned to be ours when we come to faith in Him. It is not about us doing our best. It is about Jesus Christ doing everything, which He has already accomplished. God does not accept partial credit. He only accepts full credit. But He provides that full credit in Jesus Christ.

The other, more serious problem, is this: good deeds do not cancel out sin. Therefore, what are you going to do with your sin and guilt? Not even a lifetime of good works will ever cancel out one sin, since all our good works are owed to God anyway. In the death of Jesus Christ, God has provided an answer for this as well. For at the cross, Jesus Christ takes the burden of our guilt on Himself, if we believe in Him. He takes away the guilt of sin before God, so that all our sins, past, present, and future, are eliminated.

It is only as we surrender our own righteousness, which is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), that we can receive by pure grace the righteousness of another. Only then can we know that we have an answer to give to God when we appear before Him, an answer we know is acceptable. Our answer is then, “Lord God, I know that I have never done enough in my lifetime to deserve entrance into heaven. I can never plead my own righteousness before God. But I can plead the righteousness of Christ, which is perfect. It is because I trust in Him that His righteousness is reckoned to me as if I had done it. It covers over all my sin, and all my imperfect righteousness. He is all my plea.”

FV: Faith = Faithfulness?

(Reed DePace)

If you’ve read Green Baggins for a while you may remember posts dealing with the FV issues of faithfulness. Wanted to draw your attention to a good summary of this issue Wes White has posted at his blog, Sola Fide or Sola Fidelity?

Wes has provided a very helpful and focused post on a critical FV problem with this issue. Is faith = faithfulness? Does the FV make faith = faithfulness? How those questions are answered make all the difference in the world.

If Wes is right in his observations (I tend to think he is) then the FV does commit a fatal error. It introduces into justification what is exclusive to sanctification. In doing so it ends up with a confused doctrine of justification, one which is synergistic not monergistic.

(Reed DePace)

2k – 2nd Table Only – Another Biblical Argument

(Reed DePace)

In a previous thread I presented a biblically based argument for the 2K proposition: in the new covenant era the civil magistrate’s duties are limited to the 2nd Table of the Ten Commandments (from honor to parents to no coveting of neighbor’s possessions). A number sought to challenge that argument by referencing Psalm 2, verses 10-12 in particular.

Some prayerful reflection on that passage led to a few observations, which when taken together, I believe present another biblically based argument in support of this Reformed 2K proposition. While you’re reading Psalm 2, go ahead and read Rom. 13:1-5 and also Heb. 13:17.

To begin, let’s note the context of Psalm 2:10-12. For the sake of the discussion here, let’s ignore the initial audience, the pagan civil magistrate under the Old Covenant era. (Although there appears to be an additional huge supporting biblical argument from reflections in that direction – maybe later).

Surely, given the reference in v. 6 (Zion) in part in view in Psalm 2 is Christ’s rule over His Church (2K terminology: the Sacred Kingdom). Yet it is also clear that the primary focus of the Psalm is Christ’s rule over the pagan nations of the world (2K terminology: the Secular Kingdom). In this context, the commands in Ps. 2:10-12 can only be understood as a direct command applicable to the pagan civil magistrates in the New Covenant era.

At the very least, it is a command for these civil magistrates to recognize from Whom they have their authority, and thus to Whom they are accountable for its use. Even more we could say the Psalm promise judgment to these civil magistrates for the failure to rightly use their God-given authority. Jesus is the Great King Who will demand an accounting of the civil reigning “in his name” as it were.

So now imagine the pagan civil magistrate who hears this warning? What’s the first question he is going to ask? “O.k., how do I rightly use this authority?” In the New Covenant era, the passage that best answers that question is Rom. 13:1-5. Here we see Psalm 2’s divine ordination of civil authority picked up and explained in practical terms. Again, tracking with the previous thread’s arguments, at the very least the civil magistrate would conclude he is responsible to use his authority with reference to 2nd Table issues, those dealing with man’s relationship with man.

But what about the 1st Table issues? Where in the New Covenant might I find insight into whether or not the civil magistrate’s authority includes these issues, man’s interaction with God? Hmm …

Turn to Heb. 13:17 and notice the some interesting comparisons and contrasts with Rom. 13:1-5. In both there is mention of a God-ordained authority. In both there is the notion of accountability for the exercise of that authority. Yet there are two critical differences between these passages. In the Hebrews passage, the ordained authority is the elders of the Church, not the civil magistrate. Further it is an authority that involves 1st Table matters, man’s relationship with God.

The parallels are pretty clear: both passages have in view the authority of the Great King Jesus, delegated to an ordained human authority, who will be held accountable for his use of that authority.

The differences are pretty clear as well: 2nd Table authority is delegated to the civil magistrate, and 1st Table authority is delegated to the church elder.

To be sure, these aren’t the only considerations for the authority of the church via its elders (i.e., they do exercise 2nd Table authority, but only spiritually, not materially). Nevertheless, the parallel/contrast does support the 2K argument that the civil magistrate is given authority only over 2nd Table issues.

I’m drawn to the hermeneutical principle that the unclear in Scripture is to be understood in light of the clear. This particularly applies from OT to NT. Psalm 2 is best understood in light of NT passages that inform its subject matter, such as the two here. This comparison/contrast between Rom 13:1-5 and Heb 13:17, coupled with the contextual considerations outlined in the previous thread, given me strong reason to believe the 2K proposition is right here: 2nd Table only for the civil magistrate.

(Reed DePace)

New book unlocks Reformed history

Posted by Wes White

The Westminster Standards and the Reformed Confessions in general are the product of what is commonly called “Reformed scholasticism.” Reformed scholasticism is simply the name for the academic theology of the pastors and theologians of the Reformed Church in the 16th–18th centuries. After the Reformers separated from Rome, the “Reformed scholastics” sought to codify the insights of the Reformation and integrate them with the whole classical Christian tradition. In the post-Reformation era, these theologians defended the truths of the Reformation against powerful opponents and applied the insights of the Reformation into all areas of church and social life. Sadly, this area of church history has been woefully neglected, especially in the English language. Reformation Heritage Books has filled the gap with its forthcoming Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism by Willem van Asselt, et al., a translation of a book originally written in Dutch by the same title. This book fills a real gap in our theological literature, as Carl Trueman writes concerning this book, “This work supplies a long-standing need in the field of early modern studies by providing a basic introduction to Reformed Scholasticism.”

To understand how important this book is, recognize that Reformed scholasticism has received a very negative evaluation from much modern scholarship. Those who have rejected inerrancy, for example, have accused the Reformed scholastics of imposing their “mechanical” views of inspiration on the dynamic views of the Reformers. The Federal Vision was in large part born out of a negative evaluation of Reformed scholasticism. They were simply taking a common view of the Reformed scholastics that they coldly imposed their logic on Scripture, cutting off whatever did not agree with their “system,” who presented lengthy philosophical arguments and polemics in their sermons to impoverished congregations. Men like Willem van Asselt, professor of theology in Belgium and the Netherlands, and Richard Muller, professor of theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, have demonstrated that this is a totally false picture. This book will give you the tools you need to counter the common misrepresentations of the 17th century theologians.

More importantly, this book will serve a positive purpose. It will help you understand the classical Christian context of Reformed theology. It will give you a greater appreciation for our heritage and its catholic nature. You will understand much more clearly how our forefathers came to the conclusions that they enshrined in our confessions. Even if you believe the confessions need to be changed, this will give you a greater appreciation for how they came into being and a better context for your own critique. I do not recommend a lot of modern books, but this is one modern book that everyone who is interested in studying Reformed theology should read. As Richard Muller said in the forward, “It is not merely an introductory survey. It is a significant guide for the further study of the era.” Martin Klauber, a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School said, “This work is especially recommended for seminary students and for all who have interest in the development of Reformed theology.”

You can pre-order a copy here. If you would like to sample it before you buy a copy, you can download the introduction here.

Posted by Wes White

Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura

Keith Mathison has written an answer to Bryan Cross and Neil Judisch. It is a very thoughtful and helpful discussion that does not fail to deal at the presuppositional level.

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