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.

Related Posts with Thumbnails