How do we choose?

Jonathan Edwards has this to say on the human will:

The choice of the mind never departs from that which, at that time, and with respect to the direct and immediate objects of that decision of the mind, appears most agreeable and pleasing, all things considered (Freedom of the Will, in the Yale Edwards, volume 1, p. 147).

​What follows from this is that the believer needs to take care that what he finds most agreeable and pleasing is God’s will. We must love what God loves and hate what God hates.

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Fear does what?

Ran across this good little gem in reading Pilgrim’s Progress this morning. It is actually a comment by Cheever on the Slough of Despond, so it is not Bunyan himself, but one of his commentators:

Now this is often just the operation of fear; it sets the threatenings against the promises, when it ought simply to direct the soul from the threatenings to the promises (emphasis original, BoT edition of Pilgrim’s Progress, volume 3 of Bunyan’s works, p. 92).

Covington High School Situation, a Few Thoughts

The most ridiculous news story I have seen in a while took place over last weekend. It was ridiculous because it really shouldn’t have even been a story. No one got hurt, only words were exchanged. That didn’t stop the main-stream media (hereinafter MSM) from blowing the story so out of proportion that Salvator Dali would have to bow in defeat.

I have some thoughts. Firstly, MSM is completely and utterly incapable of telling unbiased news. Conservatives have known this for a long time. MSM allowed prejudice to blind them to the fundamental fact of interpretation: context is king. Context makes things more complex than first glances can fathom. MSM reporters are obviously either not being trained in elementary interpretation, or they are forgetting what they were taught. It doesn’t matter at this point whether the boys were perfect in their behavior. They almost certainly were not. Why, however, are the MSM and all those spewing out hate speech against these boys forgetting that these are teenage boys? Considering the fact that a hate group was spewing out filth against them, I thought they behaved with rather admirable restraint. When I was a teenager I had all the emotional empathy of a wooden block. While these boys may not have done the most admirable thing (but what would that have been, do pray tell?), they certainly did nothing worthy of the hate speech that has been spewed against them by intolerant, prejudiced MSM and others. If we were in the position of the boys, what would we have done? The boys couldn’t flee, since they were waiting for a bus. They didn’t want to hear the hate speech, so they started chanting their school song. They made no moves of physical aggression against anyone. All in all, pretty good discipline for teenage boys! Maybe one or two of them committed a micro-aggression. Why is that worse than what some of the people in the video were doing to them?

The MSM have forgotten (for a long time now) that there is always more than one side to a story. Since conservatives are no longer human, no longer to be given the benefit of human treatment, the conservative side of any story is ignored in the MSM. I don’t care about the MSM. I haven’t watched it in years. But I do care about the boys at Covington. And I do care about civil discourse in the nation. And the MSM still have the power to ruin people’s lives because they simply don’t care. More than that, they are guilty of far more hatred than Covington High School boys are.

I pity the MSM, actually. As the saying goes, there is no one so blind but the blind person who thinks he sees. And if there is any group of people who thinks it sees today, that group is MSM. If there is any group that simply does not see how much it is contributing to the hate in America, it is the MSM.

Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology Considered Again

We will take as our starting point the following well-known quotation from Vos’s Biblical Theology:

The fact is that Biblical Theology just as much as Systematic Theology makes the material undergo a transformation. the sole difference is in the principle on which the transformation is conducted. In the case of Biblical Theology this is historical, in the case of Systematic Theology it is of a logical nature. Each of these two is necessary, and there is no occasion for a sense of superiority in either. (Biblical Theology, p. 14).

What can plausibly be laid against this claim by Vos is that the Bible is more inherently historical than logical, and that therefore BT is a “better fit” than ST. Even if didactic portions of Scripture are acknowledged to be less historically organized than other portions (Proverbs comes to mind), the historical framework of the Bible still remains in place. What I wish to do is to answer this plausible objection.

Firstly, it is clear that certain portions of Scripture are less historically organized than others. Proverbs, for instance, is better organized topically than historically. It has been shown in some recent scholarship that Proverbs presupposes the historical covenants. Fair enough. I agree that Proverbs is not “secular” wisdom, but holy wisdom, however much certain parts of it might resemble Amenemope. However, the organization of the text itself is still better done topically. This means that making Proverbs undergo an historical transformation in order to fit BT categories would require a greater transformation than an ST treatment would.

What this means for the broader question is just this: BT might be a smaller transformation of historically organized texts than an ST treatment would represent. However, an ST treatment of other texts, like Proverbs, would represent a smaller transformation than BT would. In other words, genre differences are a factor in how much transformation a given text would undergo in BT or ST guise.

Secondly, ST is not somehow incapable of assimilating historical change into a logical locus. Surely, ST treats the locus of covenant theology with reference to the historical progression of the various iterations of the covenants! As Dr. Richard Gaffin once said, ST is like a plot analysis of a novel, and BT is like a plot summary. BT cannot ignore the logical relations entirely. Nor can ST ignore the historical progression of revelation. Each has to take the other into account. As a result, BT and ST must be completely interdependent, even while they can be distinguished.

Theocracy and Typology

Geerhardus Vos had an insight into the typological significance of the Old Testament theocracy that I would like to share and expand vis-a-vis the discussion of theonomy. Vos writes:

The significance of the unique organization of Israel can be rightly measured only by remembering that the theocracy typified nothing short of the perfected kingdom of god, the consummate state of Heaven. In this ideal state there will be no longer any place for the distinction between church and state. The former will have absorbed the latter. (Biblical Theology, p. 126).

While the critics of theonomy have correctly pointed out that the modern church and state are distinct, what they often fail to do is tie back in the significance of the theocracy for the future. In other words, the present state of distinction between church and state is a parenthesis. One day in the future, a perfect theocracy (with no possibility of the people’s apostasy) will come into being in its fully ineradicable, eschatologically perfect state.

More can be said, however, since Reformed theology has traditionally also seen a subordinate, imperfect typological relationship between theocratic Israel and the New Testament church. Which aspects of theocratic Israel carry over typologically into the church has been up for debate for many centuries. However, assuming that some sort of relationship along these lines is appropriately biblical, what we wind up with is a double typology: theocratic Israel points forward to the church, and points still further away to the consummated state.

One last point must be made: this typology only works with the person and work of Jesus Christ being the hinge on which all the typology turns. What turns the type into the anti-type? No mere human can do this. Only the God-man can do it. Both transitions from type to antitype hinge, then, on the first and second comings of Jesus Christ, respectively. The typology of theocratic Israel turning into antitypical church promises comes into existence at the first coming of Christ, while the greater typological turn into the new heavens and new earth happens at the second coming.

Confessional Presbyterian Journal, Volume 14

Why Feminism Is Opposed to the Bible

Not only outside the church, but also inside the church, feminism has made itself felt. In most circles, it has completely taken over. Indeed, there are few intellectual movements in history that have triumphed in so short a time so completely. Move over baseball. The national pastime is no longer baseball, but man-hating. Many feminists will object already and say, “That’s not what feminism is about. Feminism is about equality for women.” Undoubtedly, there are many feminists out there who genuinely care about equality. However, that is not what drives the anger of the feminist movement. Feminism got its steam from grievances concerning the way women have been treated for millennia. Men have supposedly systemically oppressed women, and now it’s time for payback. The traditional roles of women as wives and mothers running their households well came to be seen, particular by Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan (two women largely credited with the founding of the modern feminist movement, and many women have followed them since in their opinions) as oppressive. They wanted freedom from that traditional role, freedom to take their place alongside men in the work force. They even went so far as to label traditional wife/mother roles as bad for women. Incidentally, this is why abortion is so important to the feminist worldview: abortion represents reproductive rights that free women from the traditional role as mother. With abortion, they can control their own destiny. Never mind that the women’s consciences are being sacrificed on the altar of a supposed reproductive freedom.

The Bible cuts across all of these feminist worldview standpoints. Contrary to the feminist revision of history, the Bible reports that the role of wife/mother at home is the natural place for her. Titus 2 is quite clear on this point. Of course, that doesn’t mean that women cannot work in the work force. Widows will naturally work. Single women will naturally work. But a growing amount of scholarship is recognizing (again, contrary to feminist theories), that it is not possible to have a full-time job and be a good mother (of small children particularly) at the same time, at least not in most cases. This creates a situation of extreme guilt: nature tells women to be good mothers and wives, and to embrace that life at home. Feminism tells them to discard those roles as inappropriate, or else try to juggle everything in the air at the same time. Then, because that is impossible, women get hammered with guilt from both directions. If they fail at being fully in the work place, then feminism blames them. If they fail at home, then nature and conscience assault them. Depression is quite common in these types of situations, and oftentimes women don’t even know why they feel so depressed.

The Bible reinforces the natural revelation inherent in human nature and in nature at large. Look at animals. In the animal kingdom, mothers nurture their children and stick to them like glue. Yes, they are protective, and yes they feed the children, which involves work on their part. No one ever said that staying at home was easy (that pesky sin problem makes everything difficult, doesn’t it?). They don’t usually stray very far from home. And to let another animal be a surrogate mother is quite rare. That only usually happens if the biological mother dies.

Situations are very complicated in life, and undoubtedly, I have written generalizations. I am writing in this post about the large trends, not the exceptions. The large trends show that the Bible is opposed to feminism. It is not opposed to women. Of course, the sooner that people realize that opposing feminism is not the same thing as opposing women or hating women, the better. Feminism does NOT speak for all women at all. In fact, some of the most militant and eloquent opponents of feminism I have ever seen are women (Janice Fiamengo, Christina Hoff Sommers, Phyllis Schlafly come to mind). These women are not opposed to equality of women. Some of them would even own the title “feminist.” They are, however, opposed to gender feminists, and the actual war against men that has been carried on for some time now.

Super Excited to See This…

I have been hoping that this commentary would get an update to reflect changing discussion on the NPP (and discussion that now attempt to move beyond that), as well as a maturer mind that now accepts imputation as a vitally important part of justification. That revision will be on the way shortly.

Well, That’s Your Interpretation…

Used to crush any attempt at the utmost hubris of audacity that someone might actually understand a text from the Bible, the real intent of this excuse is usually to evade the plain meaning of the text. I am reminded of a story that my father used to tell of Francis Schaeffer. He was having tea with a young man who kept on saying, “I do not think we are communicating.” Finally, Schaeffer, in some irritation, blasted out, “POUR ME SOME TEA!!” The young man, somewhat shell-shocked, said, “Okay, okay.” Thereupon Schaeffer said, “I think we are communicating.”

There is another, deeper problem with this excuse, however. In implying that the text of Scripture never has only one interpretation, the postmodern is actually imposing his own monolithic multi-valency on the text. To put it another way, is not the postmodern imposing just as much of a uniformity of interpretation on the text (by saying that every text is a wax nose) as the person who claims that there is only one correct interpretation? Furthermore, is not the postmodern claiming that there is only one correct interpretation of any biblical text (“the only correct interpretation of the biblical text is that there are always an almost infinite number of equally valid interpretations”) just as much as the person who does not claim multi-valency?

Fortunately, even most postmoderns have a bit more common sense than this, and do not try to argue for an infinite range of possible interpretations for every text. Even the postmodern does not usually try to interpret “You shall not murder” to mean “You shall murder.”

I have no wish to deny that there are difficult texts in Scripture that admit of more than one possible interpretation that fits the analogy of faith. The “spirits in prison” passage in 1 Peter 3 comes to mind. However, that is still a far cry from saying that all interpretations of the biblical text are equally valid. While there may be more than one possibility for interpreting 1 Peter 3, there is still only one correct interpretation, even if we may not be as certain as we would like which interpretation is the correct one.

The Tragedy of Misunderstanding

Great tragedy can result from misunderstanding. Most people can probably point to times in which other people have misunderstood what they said or did. However, we are still so, so confident that we know exactly what other people mean by their words or actions. Other people need to be careful, but we do not. Shouldn’t it rather be the other way around, in a sense? By that I mean (lest I be misunderstood!) that we should make every effort to be crystal clear in our own communication, and yet be very cautious about what other people say and do? Should we not make every effort to prevent misunderstanding by clarity in our own words? And yet shouldn’t we also be very generous (or at the very least patient!) in how we read other people’s actions and words? Yet we live today in a society that tends to encourage people to put the onus of responsibility on other people: it’s their fault for misunderstanding us, not our fault for being unclear. We tend to assume that our own words were clear, and that it is other people’s fault for misunderstanding.

The other problem we have is that postmodernism has put the location of meaning within the reader instead of the author, or at the very least unbalanced the relationship between reader and author. If past generations ignored the reader, today’s people almost ignore the author.

Should we not always ask this question: what don’t I know about what I just heard? Should we not always ask: what extenuating circumstances might there be? Should we not always ask: have I heard both sides of the story? I do not get the impression that very many people are asking these sorts of self-diagnostic questions about their own interpretive procedures. Could this be one component of why America is so very, very angry today? We hear one side of an issue, and we rush to a judgment. How about slowing down a bit and listening, especially listening hard to those people we don’t agree with? We might even want to listen MORE carefully, not less, to the people we “despise.” If we don’t, then we run the risk of letting our emotions cloud our judgment of what was even said, done, meant, etc. High emotions are not conducive to understanding. They aren’t bad, but if our goal is to understand, then they can get in the way if we are not careful. Of course, many people simply don’t want to listen anymore. That is the real tragedy of misunderstanding.

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