Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Turk-ey Affair

If you haven't been aware of the recent rave in the "Reformed blogosphere" then allow me to give you a heads up: Frank Turk of the famed blog, Pyromaniacs—a John MacArthurian, Baptist blog—has written an open letter to Dr. Michael Horton of the White Horse Inn, decrying his and his gang's seeming overemphasis on the indicative and imperative paradigm, in effect neglecting to admonish their supporters to "desire" the manifestation of "fruit" in their lives.

The following responses have been adequate in putting Turk in his rightful place:

Jason Hood, Frank Turk, Dane Ortlund, Mike Horton, and Antinomianism (UPDATE 3)

The Fear of Antinomianism

A Response to Frank Turk's Open Letter

The following thread also exists in the Puritan Board where this issue is discussed: Open Letter to Michael Horton Pyromaniacs

I wrote the following comments in the said thread:
The Frank Turk guy's main argument hinges on his "subjunctive" mood treatment, which he sees has been left out in the Horton Gang's emphasis on the imperative and the indicative. It's basically a straw man, since the indicative is precisely why the subjunctive fuels the implementation of the imperative. Turk would do well to heed a fellow, though much informed, Baptist, D.A. Carson: Underdog Theology: D.A. Carson on a Species of Perfectionism

What does Calvin say about grounding the assurance of salvation on one's good works?
"Now if we ask in what way the conscience can be made quiet before God, we shall find the only way to be that unmerited righteousness be conferred upon us as a gift of God. Let us ever bear in mind Solomon's question: "Who will say, 'I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin'?" [Prov. 20:9]. Surely there is no one who is not sunken in infinite filth! Let even the most perfect man descend into his conscience and call his deeds to account, what then will be the outcome for him? Will he sweetly rest as if all things were well composed between him and God and not, rather, be torn by dire torments, since if he judged by works, he will feel grounds for condemnation within himself? The conscience, if it looks to God, must either have sure peace with his judgment or be besieged by the terrors of hell. Therefore we profit nothing in discussing righteousness unless we establish a righteousness so steadfast that it can support our soul in the judgment of God....For no one can ever confidently trust in it [one's obedience—M.H.] because no one will ever come to be really convinced in his own mind that he has satisfied the law, as surely no one ever fully satisfied it through works....First, then, doubt would enter the minds of all men, and at length despair, while each one reckoned for himself how great a weight of debt still pressed upon him, and how far away he was from the condition laid down for him. See faith already oppressed and extinguished!...Therefore, on this point [assurance—M.H.] we must establish, and as it were, deeply fix all our hope, paying no regard to our works, to seek any help from them...For, as regards justification, faith is something merely passive, bringing nothing of ours [not even repentance and a determination of the will to obey—M.H.] to the recovering of God's favor but receiving from Christ that which we lack" (Institutes, 3.13.3—5, cited in Michael Horton, Christ the Lord, p. 52—53).
Turk may indeed believe that [i.e., justification by faith], but he adds the qualifier that the justified must necessarily bear fruit, so therefore the assurance of one's salvation, for him, must be buttressed by the presence of good works. I think this is the meat of his argument, for which he criticizes Horton, i.e. Horton and the Gang's lack of emphasis on "fruits." But then even Calvin (see quote above) sees the precarious nature of basing one's assurance of salvation on the presence of good works since the manifestation of good works is prone to ebb and flow (Romans 7).

I think Turk's weakness is his appeal to an abstraction of what the justified must possess in terms of attributes and properties for the label to stick.

Whereas, the Reformed consensus is that the "just shall live by faith," with faith defined as noticia + assensus + fiducia (no works there), Turk seems to prefer the following, "the just shall live by faith and prove their faith by good works." But then how much good works is enough to prove a state of justification?

The soundness of the indicative + imperative paradigm is that the knowledge of who you are in Christ as founded upon His person and work (indicative) is precisely the gratitude-producing impetus to obedience (imperative).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Some Reflections on Divine Providence

What better way to start off my blog this year than with some reflections on divine providence, and what better source of Scripture's teaching on the subject as understood by the Reformed consensus than the fifth chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith?

As the father of a 6 yr. old daughter and a 2 1/2 yr. old son—with another child in its 8th week of brewing who I hope will  be a boy so that I could name him "Cauvin Paul"—providence has weighed heavily upon my mind these days. I must also confess that I am of the sort that is not endowed with a measure of imperviousness to anxiety and worry, especially as pertaining to the welfare of my family, so reviewing Scripture's teachings on this subject has been a tremendous comfort to my soul.
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