Friday, October 31, 2014

Dr. Ron Gleason and Reformation Day 2014

In the following video, taken at the Talbot School of Theology on the occassion of Reformation Day 2012, Dr. Ron Gleason (author of Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian) gives a good and solid lecture on the basic tenets that undergirded the Reformation.

However, what impressed me the most was what he said at the 7:15 mark:

"In 1980, the Lord called me to take the casket of my 4-month old son and put it into the ground as my last earthly duty as his father. And I recall going back to our home in the Netherlands, to a little village in Kampen, and literally just falling back on the bed and wiping the tears, and that verse came to my mind and I said, 'This, too, Lord?' And he said, 'Yes, this, too. This will mold you and shape you into a better person, a better Christian. This will conform you more to the image of Christ. You will be able to comfort others with the comfort with which I am going to comfort you.'"

I was reminded of an old post:

"John Calvin lost his wife and son.

John Owen had eleven children. All died in early youth, except one daughter.

Francis Turretin had four children. Only one survived."
(Underdog Theology: Personal Tragedy to Apostasy, Oct. 29, 2012)

Monday, October 27, 2014

H vs. H on the Imitatio Christi

"Michael Horton so wants his readers to focus on Christ instead of imitation that he encourages an emphasis on the wickedness of characters, running them through Romans 3. This is an important aspect of Christian interpretation, but it is not the only way in which the New Testament uses characters (indeed, a majority of references are not concerned to show 'all have sinned'). To fit the biblical data to his interpretation, Horton tries to downplay this emphasis in his interpretation of the more famous passages illustrating the use of characters as examples: 'The so-called ‘Hall of Heroes’ in Hebrews 11 is misnamed. The writer consistently mentions that they overcame by faith in Christ, not by their works.'[34] But faith is never pitted against works. Rather, Abraham and Rahab (to take two) are commendable because they had the sort of faith that worked. Their appearance in Hebrews parallels their appearance in James, where they are commended neither simply for what they believed, nor for what they did apart from faith, but for what was done on the basis of belief (Jas 2:14-16), since faith without works is worthless. Contra Horton, the heroes are held out as examples precisely because they acted in obedience and faithfulness on the basis of God’s character and in response to his promises and commands. These characters overcame and persevered by faith and by works.

We can contrast the biblical emphasis on finding Jesus and examples within Scripture with Horton’s puzzling comments that appear to limit the imitation of Old Testament characters to mere belief in Jesus and God’s promises. '[Abraham’s] willingness to sacrifice Isaac was not an example for us, but was an occasion for God to foreshadow Christ as the ram caught in the thicket so that Isaac—and the rest of us—could go free.'[35] Horton sets up a false dichotomy between two approaches to interpretation: the passage either points to Christ, or the passage shows us a faithful model. But what if the New Testament takes Genesis 22 in both directions? Should we not follow the New Testament’s approach? We certainly do not imitate Abraham by sacrificing our children. But as we have seen, imitation is not rote, indiscriminate mimicry, but 'creative imitation' informed by Scripture.[36] The New Testament authors use Abraham as a model of faith and obedience (not least in Gen 18:17-19; 22:1-24; Heb 11:17; Jas 2:14-26). Abraham does not merely believe. Trusting God to raise the dead, he acts in obedience (Heb 11:19).[37] What’s more, Abraham’s obedience is crucial to the original meaning of the text, given the role that it plays in describing the covenant relationship between himself and God (Gen 22:1, 16-17)." (Jason Hood, Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern)

[34] Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), pp. 149-50. He adds on pp. 142-43, “The Old Testament saints were not heroes of faith and obedience but sinners who, despite their own wavering, were given the faith to cling to God’s promise.” Faith is a gift, but Horton’s approach veers in the direction of a monergistic approach to interpretation, where God’s work is all that counts and human work is downplayed, irrelevant or entirely negative.
[35] Ibid., p. 149.
[36] Vanhoozer, Drama of Doctrine, and Jimmy Agan, “Toward a Hermeneutic of Imitation: The Imitation of Christ in the Didascalia Apostolorum,” Presbyterion 37 (2011): 42-43.
[37] Michael Allen, “Imitating Jesus,” Modern Reformation 18, no. 2 (2009): 27-30, correctly sees that in Heb 11, saints from Abel to Jesus have their obedience “described in multiple ways. They are to be imitated as those whose belief impelled radical obedience (11:6).” Both Horton and his Westminster Seminary California colleague S. M. Baugh deny that characters in Heb 11 function as exemplars in any respect save for faith in a saving God; see Baugh, “The Cloud of Witnesses in Hebrews 11,” Westminster Theological Journal 68, no. 1 (2002): 132. Contrast Calvin on Hebrews 11, Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews, trans. William B. Johnston (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), p. 187. I owe the Baugh and Calvin references and analysis to R. Michael Allen, The Christ’s Faith: A Dogmatic Account (New York: T & T Clark, 2009), p. 324 n. 794, who identifies Baugh’s argument as a “reductionistic” account that “creates fissures where none need exist.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tiptonian Recapitulation vs. Meritorious Republication (And the Effectiveness of Gesticular Pedagogy)

I would liken Dr. Lane Tipton's lecture (entitled "Redemptive History, Merit, and the Sons of God") at the 2014 Reformed Forum conference to Dream Theater's stint at the Budokan—technical, precise, and O, so nice!

He invoked nuanced readings of portions of Meredith Kline's last published work, "God, Heaven, and Har Magedon," to bring home the point that Israel's role in the Mosaic administration of the Covenant of Grace as the typological son of God (contrasted with Adam as protological and Christ as eschatological) was not grounded on a republication of a meritorious Covenant of Works but a recapitulation of Adam's sin, fall, and exile, acting pedagogically to further manifest the utter necessity of the appearance of the eschatological Son of God!

"There's a distinction between the recapitulation of the sin-fall-exile of Adam on the one side and the republication of a merit principle for maintaining the land in Canaan on the other side...The problem with Israel was not that it violated a republished Covenant of Works that was given to Adam, nor was it that Israel violated a covenantal arrangement totally devoid of grace at the national level. The problem lies in the fact that Israel reenacts the sin and fall and exile of Adam by apostasy from the Covenant of Grace." (Lane Tipton, 'Redemptive History, Merit, and the Sons of God')

Abraham typified Christ positively by virtue of the reward of a holy people on account of the former's evangelical obedience.

Israel typified Christ negatively by virtue of the forfeiture of the holy land on account of the former's lack of evangelical obedience.

As the substance, Christ's person and work merited a holy people and a holy land, i.e., the glorified elect living in a New Earth.

What does all of this mean to me, this side of Christ's resurrection and ascension? It does highlight the fact that evangelical obedience, as incumbent upon the people of God and far from being an affront to the all-sufficiency of Christ's person and work, is actually a natural outworking of my union with Him.

It also means that when D. G. Hart mockingly refers to the "Obedience Boys," he actually honors them. Hehehe.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Zwingli the Flattener

"The death of Adam is not only a bodily death, even though that also came with time, for the passage 'then you will certainly die' means the following: the loss of the grace and friendship of God, the loss of the indwelling, ruling or leading of the spirit of God, the loss of the perfect order of human nature, and the fall into sin." (Huldrych Zwingli, Short Christian Instruction [1523], emphasis mine)

You can't lose what you didn't have prior.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Grace in Turretin's CoW

Dr. J. Mark Beach of Mid-America Reformed Seminary, in his PhD dissertation (undersigned by Dr. Richard A. Muller) presented to Calvin Theological Seminary, finds grace in Francis Turretin's conception of the Covenant of Works.

What now??!! LOL.

Christ and the Covenant: Francis Turretin's Federal Theology As a Defense of the Doctrine of Grace, pp. 86-90

Prelapsarian Grace in the CoW—A No Tread Zone?

Was there an element of grace in the CoW? If, as John Owen states, Adam had the Holy Spirit, was not this an indication of grace? Does this view constitute a "flattening of the COW and COG [that] will actually get you somewhere... where Christians should never tread"? What if divine grace was actually part of God's essential attributes? Should Christians really not go there?

Let's allow Dr. Richard A. Muller to provide some precision here:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Do Calvin, Owen, and Hodge Have in Common Regarding Hair-Trigger Schism?

They are all against it!

"Our indulgence ought to extend much farther in tolerating imperfection of conduct. Here there is great danger of falling, and Satan employs all his machinations to ensnare us. For there always have been persons who, imbued with a false persuasion of absolute holiness, as if they had already become a kind of aerial spirits—as if they had bean some angels of Paradise, spurn the society of all in whom they see that something human still remains. Such of old were the Cathari and the Donatists, who were similarly infatuated. Such in the present day are some of the Anabaptists, who would be thought to have made superior progress. Others, again, sin in this respect, not so much from that insane pride as from inconsiderate zeal. Seeing that among those to whom the gospel is preached, the fruit produced is not in accordance with the doctrine, they forthwith conclude that there no church exists. The offence is indeed well founded, and it is one to which in this most unhappy age we give far too much occasion. It is impossible to excuse our accursed sluggishness, which the Lord will not leave unpunished, as he is already beginning sharply to chastise us. Woe then to us who, by our dissolute licence of wickedness, cause weak consciences to be wounded! Still those of whom we have spoken sin in their turn, by not knowing how to set bounds to their offence. For where the Lord requires mercy they omit it, and give themselves up to immoderate severity. Thinking there is no church where there is not complete purity and integrity of conduct, they, through hatred of wickedness, withdraw from a genuine church, while they think they are shunning the company of the ungodly. They allege that the Church of God is holy. But that they may at the same time understand that it contains a mixture of good and bad, let them hear from the lips of our Saviour that parable in which he compares the Church to a net in which all kinds of fishes are taken, but not separated until they are brought ashore. Let them hear it compared to a field which, planted with good seed, is by the fraud of an enemy mingled with tares, and is not freed of them until the harvest is brought into the barn. Let them hear, in fine, that it is a thrashing-floor in which the collected wheat lies concealed under the chaff, until, cleansed by the fanners and the sieve, it is at length laid up in the granary. If the Lord declares that the Church will labour under the defect of being burdened with a multitude of wicked until the day of judgment, it is in vain to look for a church altogether free from blemish (Mt. 13)." (Institutes 4.1.13)

"And, to speak plainly, among all the churches in the world which are free from idolatry and persecution, it is not different opinions, or a difference in judgment about revealed truths, nor a different practice in sacred administrations, but pride, self-interest, love of honour, reputation, and dominion, with the influence of civil or political intrigues and considerations, that are the true cause of that defect of evangelical unity that is at this day amongst them; for set them aside, and the real differences which would remain may be so managed, in love, gentleness, and meekness, as not to interfere with that unity which Christ requireth them to preserve." (A Discourse Concerning Evangelical Love, Church Peace, and Unity)

Charles Hodge on Conscience

Friday, June 6, 2014

Gaffin and Marshall Give MJ the High Five

I realize the dust has settled on the recent so-called "sanctification debate," and it is not my intention to cause further ripples in already placid waters. What I'd like to do is just post a couple of quotes that I hope would tend to the appreciation that Dr. Mark Jones' position on sanctification, as it relates to final salvation, is actually of rich, Reformed pedigree (if this has not been proven already!).

Friday, May 23, 2014

The "The Puritans Are Not the Bible" Card

"If someone could point me to one passage in the Bible that says...AND DON'T POINT TO SOME OBSCURE PURITAN WHO GOT IT WRONG, OK?!...that actually says explicitly that the Law itself generates love for God and neighbor, I will listen." (Tullian Tchividjian, Chris Rosebrough Interview)

I think this was in reaction to this:

"But what of Tchividjian's claim that these false teachers assume 'that the law (in all of its uses) [has] the power to produce what it demands'? Would anyone argue such nonsense? Well, I do know of some ministers - in fact, even some who were responsible for crafting the Westminster Confession of Faith - who have argued that after Adam's fall, 'God therefore set forth a copy of his law in his word, which is the means of sanctifying us; and sanctification itself is but a writing of that law in the heart' (Thomas Goodwin). Likewise, Anthony Burgess argued that God's commands not only inform us of our duty, but are also 'practical and operative means appointed by God, to work, at least in some degree, that which is commanded.' Samuel Rutherford said essentially the same thing in his disputes against the antinomians because they denied that the law was a true instrument of sanctification.

We all know that apart from the Holy Spirit we can do nothing. And we all know that God's commandments do not have the power, in the abstract, to 'produce what they demand.' (In fact, even announcements of God's saving power in Christ have no effect apart from the Spirit's application.) But, it should be noted, the faithful preaching of God's commands in the context of a faithful gospel ministry can produce real change in a sinner's life because God has ordained his commandments to work, 'at least in some degree, that which is commanded.' In other words, failing to preach God's commandments robs Christ's sheep of a true means of sanctification, and thus they may be - ahem! - less holy as a result. We preach God's commandments to God's people because God has promised to bless such preaching with the Holy Spirit." (Mark Jones, Tullian's Trench)

I had a hunch that TT would be pulling out the "The Puritans are not the Bible" card in the event the proposed debate with Mark Jones materializes. The quote above was a foretaste. At any rate, MJ's explanation of how the Law—as blessed by the work of the Holy Spirit and not taken abstractly—is indeed a means of sanctification pretty much lays that point by TT to rest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Confused About the Tullian Tchividjian Thingy?

If so, the following couple of resources should serve to enlighten you on what the so-called "Contemporary Grace Movement" is and why many of the Reformed servants of the Lord have taken up arms, as it were, against TT's take on sanctification and why he got ejected, ironically, from the "Gospel Coalition."

A brief, critical explanation by Ligon Duncan:

A more thorough and passionate explication by Rev. James Barnes:

Alternative link: Critique of the Contemporary Grace Movement

Monday, May 19, 2014

Goodwin and Owen on Christ's Pity and Patience

"There is comfort concerning such infirmities, in that your very sins move him to pity more than to anger. This text is plain for it, for he suffers with us under our infirmities, and by infirmities are meant sins, as well as other miseries, as was proved; whilst therefore you look on them as infirmities, as God here looks upon them, and speaks of them in his own, and as your disease, and complain to Christ of them, and do cry out, ‘miserable man that I am, who shall deliver me?’ so long fear not. Christ he takes part with you, and is so far from being provoked against you, as all his anger is turned upon your sin to ruin it; yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that has some loathsome disease, or as one is to a member of his body that has the leprosy, he hates not the member, for it is his flesh, but the disease, and that provokes him to pity the part affected the more. What shall not make for us, when our sins, that are both against Christ and us, shall be turned as motives to him to pity us the more? The object of pity is one in misery whom we love; and the greater the misery is, the more is the pity when the party is beloved. Now of all miseries, sin is the greatest; and whilst yourselves look at it as such, Christ will look upon it as such only also in you. And he, loving your persons, and hating only the sin, his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his bowels shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not, ‘What shall separate us from Christ’s love?’" (Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ Towards Sinners on Earth)

"A soul acquainted with the gospel knows that there is no property of Christ rendered more glorious therein than that of his patience." (John Owen, Overcoming Sin & Temptation, eds. Kelly Kapic & Justin Taylor [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2006], 204)

What a glorious and comforting picture of one of the reasons why the Eternal Son of God had to assume human nature upon Himself, i.e., "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:14-18).

Monday, May 12, 2014

Van Til and His Rollie

"When I think what an aid tobacco is to friendship and Christian patience, I have sometimes regretted that I never began to smoke." (J. Gresham Machen)

Seems Cornelius Van Til didn't suffer through such a regret.

(click to enlarge)

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