Bob Godfrey’s Address

This address is entitled “We Don’t Need No Education.” How has anti-intellectualism affected the church?

1 Corinthians 8:1 is a very misused text. It is often used to oppose intellectualism. Jerome wrestled with the question, “How do I relate my learning to my faith?” Augustine said it is possible to have much wisdom without knowledge, and vice versa. So why bother with the knowledge? Some Christians have therefore rejected the pursuit of knowledge. But Paul is talking about knowledge that has been distorted and misused, not true knowledge. God does want us to love Him with all of our minds. Anti-intellectualism became very prominent in the nineteenth century. The democritization of our nation fueled revolts against doctors, lawyers, and therefore ministers. The heart of religion was experience, not knowledge. This made an educated ministry unnecessary. However, Christianity is capable of a vigorous, intellectual defense and propagation, despite what the 19th century attacks on Christianity (and what the second Great Awakening and all its subsidiary theological tenets) would say. The problem with saying that we live in a post-Christian world is that it allows us to have the cop-out “It is so old-fashioned, we don’t even need to think about it.”

Religion is up, but theology is down. We don’t have an absence of theology. We have, rather, lots and lots of bad theology. Many churches are personality-driven, and so are institutionally weak.

Education, as being relative, will not examine the Bible as to its truth value. So, it always relegates the Bible to literature.

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Sproul Sr.’s Opening Address

The title of Sproul’s address is “Have You Lost Your Mind?” All comments are summaries of Sproul, unless marked by ‘LK.’

We are living in the most anti-intellectual climate in the history of the Christian church.

I. The relationship between the mind and the body. This is a very mysterious connection, especially the way in which the mental relates to the physical. Behaviorism reduced all thought to mere material reactions (a la B.F. Skinner). Skinner argued that freedom and dignity are simply an illusion. If our opinions are due to what we eat, then how can he hope to convince anyone else of his opinions? Sproul argues that if Skinner is correct, then we can’t help what we think. Who is Skinner to try to convince us otherwise? I (LK) would add that Skinner’s own opinions, then, are due to his own influences. So he has no basis on which to try to convince me. Back to Sproul, the chief place where we live, and who we are, is what we think. Descartes believed that everything material has extension. Everything mental, however does not have extension. Extension has characteristics related to space and time. This, of course, raises the question of how the non-extended (the mental) can give rise to the extended. Descartes used the idea of the mathematical point, which has aspects of both extension and non-extension. Descartes’s followers said that there was not enough God in this. God is the primary cause, but there are secondary causes for things. God established the relationship between mind and matter. Hume, of course, thought that the entire discussion of trying to determine this relationship is a fool’s errand. As a man thinks, so he is.

II. The relationship between the mind and the will. Jonathan Edwards said that the will is the mind choosing. For him, then, the will is a function of the mind. Edwards says that we always choose whatever we are most inclined to do at a particular moment. Does this mean that we are determined? Yes, but it is self-determination. And this is the very essence of freedom. In order for the decision to change, the inclination has to change. What makes a person a person is intentionality (Husserl).

III. The relationship between the mind and the heart. The heart is primary. God looks at the heart. But there cannot be anything in the heart that is not in the mind. So, for the heart to be changed, the mind has to be changed.

Chris Larsen’s Opening Remarks

Christianity has abandoned the field of the mind to the enemy. We have retreated into our Christian ghettos, happy with mediocrity. Instead, we should meditate on Psalm 72. Our God is the Lord of the mind.

Sproul Q and A

Right now (10:30 AM), Sproul, Sr. was asked about the election year, and whether Ligonier is talking about theological issues this year: Sproul is talking about the separation of church and state. He argues that the church does not have the power of the sword, and the government does not have the power to administer the sacraments. However, he also argues that the separation of church and state has been changed to mean a godless state. Abortion is a similar issue to slavery. He says that abortion is the greatest moral issue this country has ever faced. Slavery was rightly condemned. Therefore, abortion should be all the more so. The church has the duty to tell the state what it believes about the issue.

Next question: Is there a series on the book of Revelation? Sproul jokes that his mind has changed about 50 times on it, so his series is not generally distributed!

Next question: Does God ordain or cause sin? Sproul answers that God does ordain whatsoever comes to pass, and yet does not cause sin. God ordains evil for a good purpose (for punishing sin and for manifesting His mercy). Through concurrence, God can work through people’s sin to His own glory without being tainted by sin itself.

Next question: what is the greatest issue that the next generation will have to face? Sproul answers by starting to talk about classical education, and then says that issues about the person and work of Christ will be the biggest issues in the next generation.

Live Blogging Ligonier Conference 2012

I’ve never done any live blogging before, so this should be fun. The conference starts at 1 PM today. Fortunately, my normally pokey-slow internet connection is lightning fast down here in Orlando. I even have 4G speed on my mi-fi device. I don’t plan on saying absolutely everything that the speakers do. I plan on concentrating on things that I find helpful, and perhaps adding some of my own thoughts. The theme of the conference is “The Christian Mind.” For more information, go here. An additional point of interest for my readers is that Michael Horton and Bob Godfrey are both speaking at the conference.

Chapter 1 Part One: The Law-Gospel Distinction

In the first chapter, Frame attempts to describe what the Escondido Theology is. This chapter is certainly a bit closer to the mark than the bullet points in the Preface. However, as we will see, some of the same caricatures are present.

He argues that WSC does not teach a mere generic Calvinism: “Rather, in addition to standard Calvinism, it teaches an innovative set of doctrines upon which the Reformed tradition has never agreed” (p. 1). A couple of thoughts are in order here. How can this “set of doctrines” be innovative if the Reformed tradition has never agreed upon it? If the Reformed tradition has never agreed upon it, that means that the doctrines in question have been around for at least a while.

The first doctrine he talks about is the law-gospel distinction. This is hardly innovative. And, as these posts (part 1, part 2, part 3) show, it is hardly only Lutheran. The Reformed tradition had more than a sliver of it believing in the law-gospel distinction as a hermeneutical tool.

Frame writes, “The Escondido theologians are offended by the degree to which present day churches neglect justification and focus on other things” (p. 1). I am not sure what Frame means to imply by this sentence. Is he implying that WSC theologians are personally offended by this? Is this intended to be a negative judgment?

Frame goes on to say, “They are also motivated by a desire to oppose what they regard as theological corruptions of the Reformation doctrine, particularly the views of N.T. Wright, Norman Shepherd, and the movement called Federal Vision.” I would be a whole lot more comfortable with this sentence had Frame struck out the words “what they regard as.” These distancing words would seem to imply that Frame does not regard Wright, Shepherd, and the FV to be corruptions of the Reformation doctrine. Also, I would think a more charitable way of phrasing this motivation would be that the WSC theologians are motivated by a desire to defend the truth (are they really motivated by opposition, or are they motivated by the truth?).

Frame, of course, rejects the law-gospel distinction himself. He rejects it in his Doctrine of the Christian Life, and he rejects it here. This paragraph is worth quoting in full, as it contains his arguments against the law-gospel distinction:

It certainly makes sense to say that we must not confuse God’s demands with his promises. Nevertheless, the kind of sharp distinction Luther proposed is not biblical. For one thing, biblical proclamations of gospel include commands, particularly commands to repent and believe (Mark 1:15, Acts 2:28). And God gave his law to Israel in a context of gospel: he had delivered them out of Egypt, and because of this gracious act they should keep his law (Exo. 20:2-17). The law is a gift of God’s grace (Psa. 119:29). Evidently the relation between law and gospel is more complicated than Luther thought (p. 2).

First of all, the commands to believe are usually called evangelical obedience, rather than law-obedience (Thomas Boston would go this direction, for instance). Secondly, if one reads John Colquhoun’s treatise, one realizes that a passage can be law, or gospel, or both. Thirdly, in the Ten Commandments, it is freely acknowledged by law-gospel advocates that the Ten Commandments come in a context of grace. I’m not sure why that would be an impediment to the law-gospel distinction. WSC folks would probably respond by saying that the preface to the Ten Commandments is gospel, and the law is law. Fourthly, as to Psalm 119:29, of course the law is a gift of grace. That does not turn the law into gospel. For the pedagogical use of the law (which use is itself gracious!) drives us to Christ. God gave us the law for several reasons, one of which is to drive us to Christ. It is certainly grace to drive us to Christ. But that is different from saying that the law is itself gospel. Evidently, the relation between law and gospel in the theology of the law-gospel advocates is more complicated than Frame thinks it is.

Frame notes what he thinks are two failures of the WSC theologians: 1. They fail to notice the problems with the law-gospel distinction. 2. They “fail to understand that the law is not only a terrifying set of commands to drive us to Christ, but is also the gentle voice of the Lord, showing his people that the best blessings of this life come from following his will” (p. 2). WSC theologians fail to notice the problems that Frame points out because they are not problems for the law-gospel distinction. Advocates have noted these objections before and answered them. As to the second point, Frame seems to be accusing the WSC theologians of denying the third use of the law. Whether this is an accurate assessment of Frame’s charge here or not, Frame is off the mark. WSC theologians do not deny the third use of the law any more than Lutherans do (there is an entire section in the Augsburg Confession devoted to the third use of the law). Let us be clear on what we do mean and what we do not mean by the law-gospel distinction. The law is opposed to the gospel only in the matter of justification. But think of it as a “good cop-bad cop” situation. The “bad cop” is the law, which makes threats such that the prisoner hears the “good cop” of the gospel and knows that grace is necessary. However, after the prisoner has been freed from the law of sin and death, his relationship to the law changes completely, and the law is now his friend, being a wise guide to the Christian life. Now, the pedagogical use of the law still exists for the Christian, but not in any sort of conflict with the third use of the law. I can’t imagine any WSC theologian having a problem with what I have just written. And it answers all the points raised by Frame on the Law-Gospel distinction. We’ll be spending a bit of time on this chapter, and less time on the succeeding chapters.

Recent History of the Deaconess Issue in the PCA

As I said earlier, I plan on writing a response to TE Sam Wheatley’s historical arguments for women deacons. In the meantime, I would highly recommend TE Wes White’s timeline on how the PCA has dealt with this issue over the past five years. Read it here.

The Author’s Preface

Most of the rest of my review will not be as negatively phrased as the initial post was. Some of the chapters have some very thoughtful interaction with the WSC folks, and are less full of vitriol. I will acknowledge that, and take those chapters more seriously.

I am not actually going to write a long blog post on the author’s preface. WSC has already responded to these bullet points (pp. xxxvii-xxxix) by saying that they agree with none of the bullet points except one as a fair description of their positions, and even in that one case, it has to be understood correctly. Now, it is possible for a person to say that they are being misunderstood, when in fact they are being understood very well (the FV comes to mind). The Ninth Commandment can be just as much abused by the supposed victim as by the supposed offender. The question is this: is that what is happening here?

Take the first bullet point, for instance: “It is wrong to try to make the gospel relevant to its hearers.” As we will see when we get to the appropriate place, this claim involves equivocation on the word “relevant.” As I read Horton when he attacks “relevance,” what he means by “relevance” is an attempt to water down the Gospel in order to communicate it. As Frame himself notes, Horton is trying very hard to make the Gospel relevant in the other sense of simply trying to communicate the Gospel clearly and effectively. Frame is not clear as to which definition of “relevance” he is dealing with, or that Horton is using.

Take another bullet point, “The Gospel is entirely objective and not at all subjective.” Now, maybe this is just my subjective (!) view of what is going on in the WSC writers, but it seems to me that WSC writers have a specific target: an over-subjectivising tendency in modern evangelicalism, a sort of navel-gazing, which it cannot be denied does in fact exist. Surely, WSC folks would not claim that all evangelicalism does this. But are WSC folks really saying that there are no subjective aspects of the Gospel at all? I find that really hard to believe. Would WSC folks really deny that regeneration, for instance, is a Holy Spirit-induced change in the person’s heart? I have never seen them deny this.

The bullet points seem to be much more extremely worded than any WSC professor would himself express. Furthermore, the things that are typically taught at WSC seem to be either missing or only tangentially mentioned. Where is the Law-Gospel distinction in this list? Where is an explicit mention of the Two Kingdoms doctrine? The 26th bullet point hints at it, but does not come out and say it. Where is the Framework Hypothesis? Where is the Klinean definition of grace? Where is republication? This does not appear to be an exceptionally accurate list of what WSC actually teaches. This leads me to believe that the seminary is right in its estimation of the bullet points: they are off the mark.

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