Thursday, December 15, 2011

Clement of Alexandria: Real Men Are Scruffy

It pleases me to read of an eminent Early Church Father echoing my very same sentiments. :-)

To such an extent, then, has luxury advanced, that not only are the female sex deranged about this frivolous pursuit, but men also are infected with the disease. For not being free of the love of finery, they are not in health; but inclining to voluptuousness, they become effeminate, cutting their hair in an ungentlemanlike and meretricious way, clothed in fine and transparent garments, chewing mastich, smelling of perfume. What can one say on seeing them? Like one who judges people by their foreheads, he will divine them to be adulterers and effeminate, addicted to both kinds of venery, haters of hair, destitute of hair, detesting the bloom of manliness, and adorning their locks like women. "Living for unholy acts of audacity, these fickle wretches do reckless and nefarious deeds," says the Sibyl. For their service the towns are full of those who take out hair by pitch-plasters, shave, and pluck out hairs from these womanish creatures. And shops are erected and opened everywhere; and adepts at this meretricious fornication make a deal of money openly by those who plaster themselves, and give their hair to be pulled out in all ways by those who make it their trade, feeling no shame before the onlookers or those who approach, nor before themselves, being men. Such are those addicted to base passions, whose whole body is made smooth by the violent tuggings of pitch-plasters. It is utterly impossible to get beyond such effrontery. If nothing is left undone by them, neither shall anything be left unspoken by me. Diogenes, when he was being sold, chiding like a teacher one of these degenerate creatures, said very manfully, "Come, youngster, buy for yourself a man," chastising his meretriciousness by an ambiguous speech. But for those who are men to shave and smooth themselves, how ignoble! As for dyeing of hair, and anointing of grey locks, and dyeing them yellow, these are practices of abandoned effeminates; and their feminine combing of themselves is a thing to be let alone. For they think, that like serpents they divest themselves of the old age of their head by painting and renovating themselves. But though they do doctor the hair cleverly, they will not escape wrinkles, nor will they elude death by tricking time. For it is not dreadful, it is not dreadful to appear old, when you are not able to shut your eyes to the fact that you are so.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Consumes You?

It's been a while since my last post and I have an inkling (as far as my knowledge of my own heart is concerned) as to the reason. You see, I recently acquired an iPod touch 4G and I haven't been able to put it down. It seems that Apple's reputation is indeed well-deserved! There's just something about the look, feel, and functionality of these gadgets that make you want to incessantly poke at them. LOL.

With that said, I want things to go back to the way they were. I want to get back to the raw and organic. To the shuffling of paper on my fingers, the digging deep into the thoughts of the Reformed thinkers whom I esteem, and to the reflection on the insights gained through the former via this blog.

These words by John Owen helped me rekindle the flames:

"The souls of men do naturally seek something to rest and repose themselves upon, — something to satiate and delight themselves withal, with which they [may] hold communion; and there are two ways whereby men proceed in the pursuit of what they so aim at. Some set before them some certain end, — perhaps pleasure, profit, or, in religion itself, acceptance with God; others seek after some end, but without any certainty, pleasing themselves now with one path, now with another, with various thoughts and ways, like them, Isa. lvii. 10 — because something comes in by the life of the hand, they give not over though weary. In what condition soever you may be (either in greediness pursuing some certain end, be it secular or religious; or wandering away in your own imaginations, wearying yourselves in the largeness of your ways), compare a little what you aim at, or what you do, with what you have already heard of Jesus Christ: if any thing you design be like to him, if any thing you desire be equal to him, let him be rejected as one that has neither form nor comeliness in him; but if, indeed, all your ways be but vanity and vexation of spirit, in comparison of him, why do you spend your 'money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not?'

You that are yet in the flower of your days, full of health and strength, and, with all the vigour of your spirits, do pursue some one thing, some another, consider, I pray, what are all your beloveds to this Beloved? What have you gotten by them? Let us see the peace, quietness, assurance of everlasting blessedness that they have given you? Their paths are crooked paths, whoever goes in them shall not know peace. Behold here a fit object for your choicest affections, — one in whom you may find rest to your souls, — one in whom there is nothing will grieve and trouble you to eternity. Behold, he stands at the door of your souls, and knocks: O reject him not, lest you seek him and find him not! Pray study him a little; you love him not, because you know him not. Why does one of you spend his time in idleness and folly, and wasting of precious time, perhaps debauchedly? Why does another associate and assemble himself with them that scoff at religion and the things of God? Merely because you know not our dear Lord Jesus. Oh, when he shall reveal himself to you, and tell you he is Jesus whom you have slighted and refused, how will it break your hearts, and make you mourn like a dove, that you have neglected him! and if you never come to know him, it had been better you had never been. Whilst it is called Today, then, harden not your hearts.

You that are, perhaps, seeking earnestly after a righteousness, and are religious persons, consider a little with yourselves, — has Christ his due place in your hearts? is he your all? does he dwell in your thoughts? do you know him in his excellency and desirableness? do you indeed account all things 'loss and dung' for his exceeding excellency? or rather, do you prefer almost any thing in the world before it? But more of these things afterward." (Of Communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Calvin and the American Shorthair

I recently got myself an American Shorthair. describes it as "a natural breed of cat that is as American as baseball and apple pie."

The impetus behind the acquisition is rats! We've been seeing rat activity, and though our home is kept quite clean, still these pesky rodents always seem to manage to rear their ugly heads. The ASH is the perfect breed for the job. Originally bred as ratters, they are the consummate "working cat."

I got my male at 2 months old, and though he won't be doing rat-murdering any time soon, the fact that my wife and kids absolutely adore him now makes the waiting all worthwhile. Tom the Terrible also functions in the way John Calvin describes in the ff:

"It is evident that all creatures, from those in the firmament to those which are in the center of the earth, are able to act as witnesses and messengers of his glory to all men; to draw them to seek God, and after having found him, to meditate upon him and to render him the homage befitting his dignity as so good, so mighty, so wise a Lord who is eternal; yea, they are even capable of aiding every man wherever he is in this quest. For the little birds that sing, sing of God; the beasts clamor for him; the elements dread him, the mountains echo him, the fountains and flowing waters cast their glances at him, and the grass and flowers laugh before him. Truly there is no need for long searching, since everyone could find him in himself, because every one of us is sustained and preserved by his power which is in us." (Preface to Pierre Robert Olivetan's New Testament [1534], 59-60)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

John Owen on the Priority of Justification

The following by John Owen, in his work entitled The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, has been cited as proof of his holding to the priority of mystical/existential union as over and against the priority of justification:

"The foundation of the imputation asserted is union. Hereof there are many grounds and causes, as has been declared; but that which we have immediate respect unto, as the foundation of this imputation, is that whereby the Lord Christ and believers do actually coalesce into one mystical person. This is by the Holy Spirit inhabiting in him as the head of the church in all fullness, and in all believers according to their measure, whereby they become members of his mystical body. That there is such a union between Christ and believers is the faith of the catholic church, and has been so in all ages. Those who seem in our days to deny it, or question it, either know not what they say, or their minds are influenced by their doctrine who deny the divine persons of the Son and of the Spirit. Upon supposition of this union, reason will grant the imputation pleaded for to be reasonable; at least, that there is such a peculiar ground for it as is not to be exemplified in any things natural or political among men."

It is sound to consider the mention of imputation as referring to justification, as Francis Turretin himself states:

"Thus the imputation of righteousness is the foundation and meritorious cause of justification" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, II.16.4.5).

But a preceding passage has Owen clarifying as to what aspect of union with Christ he was actually referring to:

"The first spring or cause of this union, and of all the other causes of it, lies in that eternal compact that was between the Father and the Son concerning the recovery and salvation of fallen mankind. Herein, among other things, as the effects thereof, the assumption of our nature (the foundation of this union) was designed. The nature and terms of this compact, counsel, and agreement, I have declared elsewhere; and therefore must not here again insist upon it. But the relation between Christ and the church, proceeding from hence, and so being an effect of infinite wisdom, in the counsel of the Father and Son, to be made effectual by the Holy Spirit, must be distinguished from all other unions or relations whatever."

In other words, Owen was stating that justification and its attendant benefits are the Christian's by virtue of their antecedent decretal (pactum salutis) and federal (historia salutis) union with Christ. He was really not referring to mystical/existential union, which is predicated upon justification by faith.

In another place on the same work, Owen further prioritizes justification:

"The plain truth is, the apostle speaks not one word of the necessity of our sanctification, or regeneration, or renovation by the Holy Ghost, antecedently unto our justification; a supposition whereof contains the whole force of this argument. Indeed he assigns our regeneration, renovation, and justification, all the means of our salvation, all equally unto grace and mercy, in opposition unto any works of our own; which we shall afterwards make use of. Nor is there intimated by him any order of precedency or connection between the things that he mentions, but only between justification and adoption, justification having the priority in order of nature: 'That, being justified by his grace, we should be heirs according to the hope of eternal life.' All the things he mentions are inseparable. No man is regenerate or renewed by the Holy Ghost, but withal he is justified; — no man is justified, but withal he is renewed by the Holy Ghost. And they are all of them equally of sovereign grace in God, in opposition unto any works of righteousness that we have wrought. And we plead for the freedom of God’s grace in sanctification no less than in justification. But that it is necessary that we should be sanctified, that we may be justified before God, who justifies the ungodly, the apostle says not in this place, nor any thing to that purpose; neither yet, if he did so, would it at all prove that the signification of that expression 'to be justified,' is 'to be sanctified,' or to have inherent holiness and righteousness wrought in us: and these testimonies would not have been produced to prove it, wherein these things are so expressly distinguished, but that there are none to be found of more force or evidence."

Michael Horton adds regarding the relationship of union with Christ to justification:

"Union with Christ is not to be understood as a 'moment' in the application of salvation to believers. Rather, it is a way of speaking about the way in which believers share in Christ in eternity (by election), in past history (by redemption), in the present (by effectual calling, justification, and sanctification), and in the future (by glorification). Nevertheless, our subjective inclusion in Christ occurs when the Spirit calls us effectually to Christ and gives us the faith to cling to him for all of his riches...Establishing the legal basis of this new relationship, union with Christ is first of all forensic...Taking root in the forensic soil of justification, from which it derives its effective power as well as its legal basis, union with Christ produces the life of Christ within believers, which bears the fruit of righteousness." (The Christian Faith, 587, 597)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Vos on the Priority of Justification in Mystical Union

Couldn't be more black and white:

"Naturally the problem becomes most accentuated where it touches the center of Paul's teaching. This, we may still insist, is the doctrine of justification. Recent attempts to dislodge it from this position, and to make the mystical aspect of the believer's relation to Christ, as mediated by the Spirit, entirely coordinated with it—so that each of the two covers the entire range of religious experience, and becomes in reality a duplicate of the other in a different sphere—we cannot recognize as correct from the apostle's own point of view. In our opinion Paul consciously and consistently subordinated the mystical aspect of the relation to Christ to the forensic one. Paul's mind was to such an extent forensically oriented that he regarded the entire complex of subjective spiritual changes that take place in the believer and of subjective spiritual blessings enjoyed by the believer as the direct outcome of the forensic work of Christ applied in justification. The mystical is based on the forensic, not the forensic on the mystical" (Geerhardus Vos, The Alleged Legalism in Paul's Doctrine of Justification, The Princeton Theological Review 1:161-179 [1903]).

Francis Turretin basically echoes Vos here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Intrusion Ethics

The Decalogue is Moral Law (henceforth, "Law"). It is the expression of God's moral will and is binding on every human being by virtue of the Covenant of Creation. When the reprobate is judged on the Last Day, he will be judged by virtue of his inability and failure to keep the Law perfectly, whereas the elect will be judged as righteous (keeper of the Covenant) by virtue of his union with Christ (the One who obeyed the Law perfectly for the elect and bore the penalty of their failure to keep it in the same way).

Given the binding nature of the Law (as an agent of damnation for the reprobate and as the means of manifesting existentially one's union with Christ through obedience for the elect), the particular instances in the Old Testament of seeming contraventions to it may cause confusion to some. What of the Canaanite genocide? Rahab's lie? Etc. Aren't these instances of the Law being broken, with God giving approval? This is where Meredith Kline's notion of "intrusion ethics" comes into play.

Developing on Geerhardus Vos' biblical theology (notably its deeply eschatological character) and Cornelius Van Til's ethics (notably "common grace"), Kline proposes that these instances of seeming law-breaking in the O.T. were actually in-breakings of the consummation (future kingdom) in the context of redemptive history that was functioning typologically.

So, in fact, the massacre of the Canaanites was a type of the future judgment and destruction of all the reprobate in hell.

Dr. Jeong Koo Jeon, in his essay entitled Covenant Theology and Old Testament Ethics: Meredith G. Kline's Intrusion Ethics, explains :

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Reformation Day Review: The Quest for Comfort (The Story of the Heidelberg Catehchism)

First and foremost, I would like to offer my sincerest thanks to the author, William Boekestein, for being generous enough to send his little book to a virtual stranger like myself, pro bono. We've only known each other through the Internet for a short while, and I am both humbled and honored by his good gesture.

The thing about the book that hit me like a freight train was the new information that I received from it. I have indeed gone through the Heidelberg Catechism, and have been unanimously edified by the Gospel truths contained in it. However, I was not very well acquainted with its three authors, and this little biographical book has shown me that, once again (!), God has proved Himself to favor the Underdogs when it comes to the carrying out of the work of the Gospel! The Heidleberg Catechism was forged by Underdogs Caspar Olevianus, Zacharias Ursinus, and Frederick III.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Underdog Scales and Plumbs

Simplicity has often been associated with humility, and this is not without viable cause. However, in the area of the Scriptures and its study, this same criterion has paved the way for much disguised pride.

There is overweening hubris in the distaste for deep, theological reflection. The proud man contents himself with the simplicity of "moralistic, therapeutic, deistic" chaff, whereas the Underdog, with profound affection for God and His revelation, seeks to scale the heights and plumb the depths of the wheat of His Word.

Francis Turretin observes:

For we unhesitatingly confess that the Scriptures have their adyta ("heights") and bathe ("depths") which we cannot enter or sound and which God so ordered on purpose to excite the study of believers and increase their diligence; to humble the pride of man and to remove from them the contempt which might arise from too great plainness. (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, I.2.7.4)

So humility, in fact, is not manifest in the resignation to ignorance but in the passionate pursuit of the knowledge of God, which gives us an antithesis: the proud stupid and the humble knowledgeable.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Luther's Underdogism

Martin Luther first made mention of the theology of the cross (theologia crucis) in the Heidelberg Disputation. In it, he listed the following theses:

1. The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.

2. Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.

3. Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.

4. Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.

5. The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works that apparently are good), as though they were crimes.

6. The works of God (those he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.

7. The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

8. By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.

9. To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.

10. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.

11. Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.

12. In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.

13. Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.

14. Free will, after the fall, has power to do good only in a passive capacity, but it can do evil in an active capacity.

15. Nor could the free will endure in a state of innocence, much less do good, in an active capacity, but only in a passive capacity.

16. The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

17. Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.

19.That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things that have actually happened.

20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

21. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the things what it actually is.

22. That wisdom that sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

23. The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ.

24. Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.

25. He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.

26. The law says "Do this", and it is never done. Grace says, "believe in this" and everything is already done.

27.Actually one should call the work of Christ an acting work and our work an accomplished work, and thus an accomplished work pleasing to God by the grace of the acting work.

28. The love of God does not find, but creates, what is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through what is pleasing to it.

Carl Trueman offers some edifying insights on the foregoing, which I see as the theology of the cross speaking to the three main legs of philosophy, namely: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.

Monday, October 24, 2011

To the 2-Yr. Old Chinese Girl Left Without a Neighbor

I didn't watch the video. I couldn't bear the heartache. My knowledge of the incident is second-hand, delivered by this blog post by my pastor.

At any rate, I dedicate this Neal Morse song to her, and to all the little children who have been left without a neighbor.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani's Epistle

A letter, translated from Farsi, sent by Yousef Nadarkhani to his flock:

Dear brothers and sisters, Salam

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am continuously seeking grace and mercy to you, that you remember me and those who are bearing efforts for his name in your prayers. Your loyalty to God is the cause of my strength and encouragement. For I know well that you will be rewarded; as it's stated: blessed is the one who has faith, for what has been said to him by God, will be carried out. As we believe, heaven and earth will fade but his word will still remain.

Dear beloved ones, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few verses, although you might know them, So that in everything, you give more effort than the past, both to prove your election, and for the sake of Gospel that is to be preached to the entire world as well.

I know that not all of us are granted to keep this word, but to those who are granted this power and this revelation, I announce the same as Jude, earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Refreshment for the Weary

The Lord's Day assembly is the day, the place and time, when the Christian hears from the Lord, "You are in My favor, My child. My Son, your Lord and Savior, has satisfied My covenant requirements. Be comforted, and live in the benefits that He has purchased for you through His fulfillment of the mission that I had placed upon Him. Walk in My ways for therein is life, and life truly."

Sadly, one would be hard-pressed to find such an announcement coming from the pulpits of most churches today.

J. Gresham Machen observed:

Whatever the solution there may be, one thing is clear. There must be somewhere groups of redeemed men and women who can gather together humbly in the name of Christ, to give thanks to Him for his unspeakable gift and to worship the Father through Him. Such groups alone can satisfy the needs of the soul. At the present time, there is one longing of the human heart which is often forgotten — it is the deep, pathetic longing of the Christian for fellowship with his brethren. One hears much, it is true, about Christian union and harmony and co-operation. But the union that is meant is often a union with the world against the Lord, or at best a forced union of machinery and tyrannical committees. How different is the true unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! Sometimes, it is true, the longing for Christian fellowship is satisfied. There are congregations, even in the present age of conflict, that are really gathered around the table of the crucified Lord; there are pastors that are pastors indeed. But such congregations, in many cities, are difficult to find. Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes into the Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one finds only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of meditation and power, not with the authority of God's Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861, which are to be found in the back part of the hymnals. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God. And sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus' name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world. (Christianity and Liberalism [1923], 180-81)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Priests of Success Don't Sleep

"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep" (Psalm 127:2).

Modernism and the industrial revolution have left us not only with conveniences that have made life much easier but, as I've argued elsewhere, an unthinking breed of men. Another offshoot of this is the undue quality of virtue that has been stamped upon workaholism. Wide-eyed adulation is heaped upon the man (or woman) who can work long hours, who has the mettle to forego personal relationships and amusements, all on the altar of the workbench.

Enter SAP India CEO, Ranjan Das. By all accounts, the SAP India head honcho was a health nut. He ate right, exercised regularly, and was even an avid marathoner. But at the unripe, young age of 42, Das drops dead of a massive heart attack. The reason? Sleep deprivation!

Ranjan Das was a poster boy for modernism and industry. He was one of its priests, and he sacrificed his life for sacred success.

I don't know about you, but that's certainly no way to live! Nor die.

John Calvin has some words to say on the matter:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Moses the Meekest

"Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3)

It does seem oxymoronic for Moses to refer to himself as the humblest human being in the world. But there is more here than meets the eye.

Firstly, Moses does seem to be possessed of an inherently underdog nature. Reared in the royal courts of Pharaoh, Moses could've lived life in the lap of luxury. He had the American dream down. But when he saw a fellow Israelite being bullied by an Egyptian, he didn't think pragmatically, counting his set life as a deterrent to doing the noble thing. He shed Egyptian blood and left easy street for a life of obscurity in the desert, becoming a good son-in-law in the tending of sheep. Imagine the lowliness of mind and self-estimation required for such a transition!

Also, Moses appears to have been afflicted with stuttering. As a stutterer myself, I know firsthand how humbling that can be!

Secondly—and this is perhaps the weightier point in the understanding of the passage—"meek" here can mean "miserable" or "burdened." God's call upon him signaled the beginning of a life of carrying the burden of the people of God. So when Moses refers to himself as the meekest man on the planet, what he's really saying is that his role in redemptive history is such that the weight of care and trouble that this mandate brings far exceeds that of anyone else's "stresses." Considering the fact that Moses is a type or shadow of Christ, it does make perfect sense.

A fuller discussion here and here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Van Til on Driscoll

Mark Driscoll's rejection of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God (declared in ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions) is discussed here (Part 1), here (Part 2), here (Part 3), and here (Part 4).

It appears Cornelius Van Til was on the mark once again when he said:

It is sometimes contended that ministers need not be trained in systematic theology if only they know their Bibles. But "Bible-trained" instead of systematically trained preachers frequently preach error. They may mean ever so well and be ever so true to the gospel on certain points; nevertheless, they often preach error. There are many "orthodox" preachers today whose study of Scripture has been so limited to what it says about soteriology that they could not protect the fold of God against heresies on the person of Christ. Oftentimes they themselves even entertain definitely heretical notions on the person of Christ, though perfectly unaware of the fact. (An Introduction to Systematic Theology [New Jersey: P & R, 2007], ed. William Edgar, 22)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Some Big Van Tillian Words

(Bahnsen = Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1998).

Frame = John M. Frame, Cornelius Van Til: an Analysis of His Thought (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1995).

VT= Van Til

Absolute Personality: VT's basic characterization of God. Unlike any non-Christian view, the biblical God is both absolute (a se, self-existent, selfsufficient, self-contained) and personal (thinking, speaking, acting, loving, judging). See Frame, 51ff.

Ad hominem: Argument that exposes deficiencies in the arguer rather than deficiencies in the proposition under discussion. Thus, a logical fallacy. But often ad hominem argument is appropriate. See Bahnsen, 116ff, 468, 492, Frame, 153.

All-conditioner: VT's characterization of God in "Why I Believe in God" (see Bahnsen, 121-143). God is the one who ultimately influences all reality, including our own thinking and reasoning about him.

Analogy, analogical reasoning: (1) (Aquinas) Thinking in language that is neither literally true (univocal), nor unrelated to the subject matter (equivocal), but which bears a genuine resemblance to that subject matter. (2) (VT) Thinking in subjection to God's revelation and therefore thinking God's thoughts after him.

Antithesis: The opposition between Christian and non-Christian thought. See Frame, 187ff.

Apologetics: That branch of theology that gives reasons for our hope. VT saw it as involving proof, defense, and offense.

A priori: Knowledge acquired prior to experience, used to interpret and evaluate experience. Contrasted with a posteriori knowledge, knowledge arising out of experience. See Bahnsen, 107n, 177.

Authority of the expert: Submission to the knowledge of someone better informed, rather than absolute submission to God as the very criterion of truth. To VT, this is the only kind of authority the unbeliever will accept.

Autonomy: The attempt to live apart from any law external to the self. To VT, this is the paradigm attitude of unbelief. See Bahnsen 109, n.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Pagan Roots of Homosexuality

First order of business: definition of terms.

What is paganism?

"I would suggest that the essence of paganism can be usefully described as monism, the belief that one principle defines and unites all of reality. Thus all is one, humanity is one divine reality, and all religions are ultimately many expressions of the one monistic truth. At the heart of this theoretical religious paganism lies a particular and powerful mystical experience of oneness. Indeed, it is often claimed in today’s syncretistic age that at the core of all religions, beyond and behind their distinctive doctrines, is the same mystical encounter." (Peter Jones, Androgyny: The Pagan Sexual Ideal, JETS 43/3 [September 2000], 446)

What is the historical association of paganism and homosexuality?

"Throughout time and across space, the pagan cultus consistently, though not exclusively, holds out as its sexual representative the emasculated, androgynous priest." (ibid., 448)

Pagan religion, with virtual unanimity, "believed that homosexuals 'were vocationally mediums.' They also, with a certain logical consistency, held that heterosexual intercourse impaired the mediumistic talent" (ibid., 454).

However, "this is not to suggest some scarlet, conspiratorial thread connecting the dots. The connection is logical, theological, and inevitable. A monistic view of existence will work itself out in all the domains of human life, and especially in the domain of sexuality" (ibid., 457).

What is the religious significance between paganism and homosexuality?

"Therefore homosexuals are—though some unconsciously or only partially—true pagan monists, who have succeeded in translating spiritual theory into physical reality." (ibid., 462)
"The physico-theological mechanism seems to function as follows: androgynous persons, whether homosexual or bi-sexual, are able to express within themselves both sexual roles and identities. In the sex act they engage both as male and female, equally as penetrator and penetrated, the 'hard' and the 'soft'—and thus taste in some form or other both physical and spiritual androgyny." (ibid., 463)

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs Was Both Right and Wrong

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it." (Steve Jobs, Commencement Address at Stanford University [June 12, 2005])

The statement above by the late, great Steve Jobs is both true and false.

It is true in the sense that physical death was never part of man's telos as indicated by the fact that the everlasting life that is the heritage of the saints is a physical life to be lived out in a physical New Earth, and arguably, the damned shall be tormented in hell in a state of physicality as well.

But it is also false in the sense intimated by Paul in the following verses:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better (Philippians 1:21-23).

Steve Jobs had the best medical treatment that money could buy, and yet here we are now mourning his passing.

The message that is crystal clear is that not a single one of us holds our lives in our own hands, in an ultimate sense, regardless of the size of our pocketbooks. This is cause for fear and consternation on the part of the rebel, but comfort and solace for the humble in Christ:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:28-31).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: G. I. Williamson on the Offices in the Church

After meticulous consideration, he favors the 3-office view.

I want to begin this article by frankly admitting that I've long hesitated on this issue. The fact that Paul only speaks of elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 has always seemed to me to have some weight in favor of the two-office view. At the same time, however, I've always thought that 1 Timothy 5:17 clearly proves that—in the established churches of the Apostolic age—there was a marked division of labor among those who were called elders. All elders ruled, but there were some elders who, in addition to ruling, were especially marked out to "labor in word and doctrine" and this undeniable fact always seemed to me to lend some weight to the arguments of those in favor of the three-office view.

I've read just about everything that I could put my hands on to resolve my hesitation, but never seemed to quite get beyond a two and-a-half-office view. But then one day it 'hit' me. Now I wonder why I never thought of it before. I'm even more astonished that no one else seems to have thought of it either (at least I am not aware of any, and I've been looking into this issue for the past 40 years). So here I am tentatively setting forth what seems to me to be the amazingly simple solution to this difficulty.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Pastor: What He Is and What He Is Not

The news of Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor facing possible execution, has made the headlines. A good treatment of his case can be found here.

Now compare him with the brash and insolent Perry Noble:

Noble, who claims to be a pastor, doesn't want to spend time with the people of his pasture (they make him uncomfortable) and abhors the idea of doing hospital visitations while the sick person is still alive (he might agree to visit when they're dead!).

Square that with the words of the Lord Jesus Christ (the One Noble claims to serve!):

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matt. 25:31-40)

Can you come to grips with the idea of Noble being willing to die for his faith? I certainly cannot by any stretch of the imagination! If mere association with Christ's sheep rubs him wrong, then to claim love for the sheep owner is a blatant lie. In fact, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20).

By now it must be pretty obvious what a real pastor is, and that Perry Noble does not measure up (not even an inch). If not, then the following lectures from Sinclair Ferguson should bring home the point pretty well, i.e., the pastor is called to give his life for his Master's sheep.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mere Christianity: The Appeal to a Heterodox Past

It is often lamented that modern (or postmodern) evangelicalism does not look to the past for the foundations of its faith and practice. While this is certainly true in a strict sense, there is no escaping the universal truth expressed in Ecclesiates 1:9 and the fact that evangelicals today owe a lot to the legacies of those who've pandered a notion of mere Christianity in the past.

Claiming to get at the kernel and leaving behind the husk, these seemingly "radical" innovators are actually no more than current expressions of a rebellious individualism that has marked heretics of a bygone era. Tradition is stiff, "new measures" are where the Spirit's at, doctrine divides, and a host of other meaningless catch phrases comprise their rhetoric.

In fact, "Christian liberalism" is mere Christianity and this is what J. Gresham Machen fought against, not liberalism per se.

To C.S. Lewis fans this little snippet from Dr. Carl Trueman has much to say:

To Love Is to Know

To know in Scripture can entail the idea of factual knowledge or intimacy (often the marital kind). The latter mode is impossible without the former, and yet we often hear of "loving Jesus" divorced from the idea of theology. In such a case, the lover is infatuated with the idea of love rather than the object of love and is really quite in the throes of self-delusion.

Dr. Michael Horton has some words to say:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Where Have the Great Men Gone?

Scientific advancement and the industrial revolution have produced a new criterion for judging man as successful. A man is made when he has contributed significantly to industry, and a man who has thus contributed is rewarded handsomely in financial terms. Hence, the impetus for higher education has really not been the desire to know more about God, His creation, and the cultivation of the latter for the glory of the former, but the amassment of wealth. This phenomenon has produced dullards on a wholesale level.

J. Gresham Machen rightly observes:

"Scientific investigation, as has already been observed, has certainly accomplished much; it has in many respects produced a new world. But there is another aspect of the picture which should not be ignored. The modern world represents in some respects an enormous improvement over the world in which our ancestors lived; but in other respects it exhibits a lamentable decline. The improvement appears in the physical conditions of life, but in the spiritual realm there is a corresponding loss. The loss is clearest, perhaps, in the realm of art. Despite the mighty revolution which has been produced in the external conditions of life, no great poet is now living to celebrate the change; humanity has suddenly become dumb. Gone, too, are the great painters and the great musicians and the great sculptors. The art that still subsists is largely imitative, and where it is not imitative it is usually bizarre. Even the appreciation of the glories of the past is gradually being lost, under the influence of a utilitarian education that concerns itself only with the production of physical well-being." (Christianity and Liberalism, Introduction)

The solution? A Christianity that is integrally connected with the past.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pro-Choice Kebabs

This video production by Ray Comfort is worth the half hour:

What struck me off the bat was the sheer stupidity of the American youths interviewed. It could be argued that the sampling was too small to be indicative of the state of the American youngster. I sure do hope that that is the case. However, this inanity is something I see even in the local Filipino youth culture, which convinces me of a pandemic of stupidity among the younger generation.

Back to the point of this post and the video: the murder of human babies in the woman's womb. Meredith G. Kline has given treatment to this issue, and I've blogged about it in the past here.

It was from Kline's article where I first learned that the pagan Assyrians (with natural law coursing hot through their veins) had such a disgust for abortion that they made kebabs of the early, pro-choice, women's libbers among their ranks.

"As we observed at the outset, induced abortion was so abhorrent to the Israelite mind that it was not necessary to have a specific prohibition dealing with it in the Mosaic law. The Middle Assyrian laws attest to an abhorrence that was felt for this crime even in the midst of the heathendom around Israel, lacking though it did the illumination of special revelation. For in those laws a woman guilty of abortion was condemned to be impaled on stakes. Even if she managed to lose her own life in producing the abortion, she was still to be impaled and hung up in shame as an expression of the community's repudiation of such an abomination. It is hard to imagine a more damning commentary on what is taking place in enlightened America today than that provided by this legal witness out of the conscience of benighted ancient paganism!" (Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus).

Is there a place for giant-sized meat skewers in our day? I am inclined to answer in the affirmative.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pat Robertson: The Monster-Maker

I'm sure you're aware of the infamous "advice" that Pat Robertson gave this husband about the legitimacy of divorcing his "walking death" wife who suffers from Alzheimer's. See video below:

Square that with Paul's own "advice":

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8).

Got me thinking: What sort of being is actually worse than an unbeliever? Van Til's antithesis gives us only two kinds of human being, the believer and the unbeliever, so there must be something outside of this binary construct. Then it dawned on me: DEMONS.

John Calvin deemed this third kind to be MONSTERS:

He says that they who do not care about any of their relatives, and especially about their own house, have 'denied the faith.' And justly; for there is no piety towards God, when a person can thus lay aside the feelings of humanity. Would faith, which makes us the sons of God, render us worse than brute beasts? Such inhumanity, therefore, is open contempt of God, and denying of the faith.

Not content with this, Paul heightens the criminality of their conduct, by saying, that he who forgets his own is worse than an infidel This is true for two reasons. First, the further advanced any one is in the knowledge of God, the less is he excused; and therefore, they who shut their eyes against the clear light of God are worse than infidels. Secondly, this is a kind of duty which nature itself teaches; for they are natural affections. And if, by the mere guidance of nature, infidels are so prone to love their own, what must we think of those who are not moved by any such feeling? Do they not go even beyond the ungodly in brutality? If it be objected, that, among unbelievers, there are also many parents that are cruel and savage; the explanation is easy, that Paul is not speaking of any parents but those who, by the guidance and instruction of nature, take care of their own offspring; for, if any one have degenerated from that which is so perfectly natural, he ought to be regarded as a monster. (Commentary on 1 Tim. 5:8)

So Pat Robertson is actually asking us to become DEMONS and MONSTERS given the right circumstances. Can't get more ANTI-CHRISTIAN than that!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Beauty

In the following WTJ article, Dr. William Edgar discusses the role that beauty played, and still plays, in the intellectual developments of various contexts.

Noteworthy is the observation that scientific breakthroughs arose not chiefly out of utilitarian consideration but aesthetic.

A typical example is the work of Joe Rosen from the University of Tel Aviv. After explicating extraordinarily complex examples of broken charge symmetry and the like, he asks, 'What makes a theory beautiful?' The answer is something of a tautology: 'Most scientists are prejudiced in favor of (what they consider to be) beautiful theories and feel (albeit irrationally) that nature should be described by beautiful theories.' Far more popular assays by those proclaiming the parallels between theology, science, and cosmology can be cited. For example, there is the work of Jeffrey Sobosan, who argues that the very uselessness of the stars in heaven means they have an aesthetic purpose. We are free to contemplate their beauty, and to be jolted by that into recognizing the true goodness of the cosmos, and, behind that, of its Maker. The enigmatic Stephen Wolfram is currently working on a theory of order in complexity that may speak even more eloquently of intelligence behind the design of things.


Thomas Kuhn, of course, has worked with a similar notion since the mid twentieth century, noting that the paradigm shifts leading to scientific revolutions were often experienced because of aesthetics, not measurement. To be precise, it was in large part out of a sense of 'admirable symmetry,' that is, the 'clear bond of harmony in the motion and magnitude of the spheres,' that drove Copernicus to question the older, earth-centered astronomy and to suggest a sun-centered system. As Kuhn puts it, 'Copernicus’ arguments are not pragmatic. They appeal, if at all, not to the utilitarian sense of the practicing astronomer but to his aesthetic sense and to that alone.'

Commenting on the phenomenon of the seeming mass migration of individuals from modern evangelicalism to more "traditional" expressions of Christianity, Dr. Edgar notes:

A variety of factors have stimulated churches to rethink the issues of beauty. One of them is the relatively modest delivery of seeker-friendly worship. It is significant to note that many churches which had become 'post-traditional' in an attempt to adapt to contemporary tastes in order to reach outsiders are now reconsidering. They found they missed the mysterious, the prophetic, and the beautiful, especially the rich musical heritage of the church of the ages. Even advocates of 'blended' worship and other attempts to reach out to different social groups find themselves defending the importance of aesthetics and making disclaimers about selling-out. The exodus from Protestant Evangelicalism to the other major communions, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, is due in part to aesthetics. Among the top reasons given for former evangelicals who take the 'Canterbury trail' is the perceived dearth of artistic sensibility in the typical low-church culture.

I haven't finished going through the whole article and have yet to get to the really juicy parts. I will be posting more about these wonderful revelations in the coming days, God-willing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rage On!

In his trademark wit and humor, Dr. D. G. Hart responds to Justin Taylor's newest inveighing against "angry Calvinists" here (labeling Driscoll as clairvoyant was like fly on flypaper!).

***I had to take down the Heidelblog-derived content at the request of Dr. Clark***

Dr. Carl Trueman exhorts us to rage where rage is required:

And, while it may salve the surprisingly sensitive aesthetic consciences of some to convince themselves that our critiques are simply in bad taste, nothing more than the routine rants of rabid Reformed rottweilers, this is simply not the case.....Rather, we do what we do because we simply refuse to allow to go unchallenged the received mythology concerning the evils of Reformed Orthodoxy; we do what we do because we love the Reformed faith as much as we dislike shoddy historical writing; we do what we do to make our own small contribution to criticism of the bland aesthetic tastes of modern evangelical theology; and, above all, we do what we do because to remain silent at such a time as this would be to abdicate our moral responsibility to the church. In short, we do it because it is right for us to do so. The light may well be dying, but we will rage, rage against it; and be assured, we will never go gentle into that good night. (Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light, WTJ 70 [2008]: 18)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Great Minds Reject Univocity

Contra Gordon Clark, Carl Trueman, speaking of the archetypal/ectypal distinction in epistemology, indicates how the Reformed have always thought of this distinction:

"In Reformed theology, the distinction functions in such a way as to delimit human knowledge of God and to underline the fact that theology is utterly dependent upon God's act of condescending to reveal himself. This acknowledgement ensures that theological statements are only apprehensive, not comprehensive, of the truth as it is in God. Language can thus be referential, but there is no simple one-to-one correspondence between human words and divine realities as they exist in God himself. The presence and function of this distinction in, say, the Leiden Synopsis, or Francis Turretin or, later, in Herman Bavinck, denotes a theological sensitivity to the innate weakness of human language when talking of God; and it roots such God-talk not in any true rationalism but in the free, condescending, revelatory acts of God himself. Such language is still referential; and truth still has a non-negotiable objectivity; but it is not rationalism in any recognizable Enlightenment sense." (Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light, WTJ 70 [2008]: 10, 11)

I can imagine Trueman and Van Til sharing beer over this.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Is History Important? True, Man!

Dr. Carl Trueman makes the case here.

I haven't finished going through the whole piece, but what I've read thus far has convinced me of its blog-worthiness.

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