Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Spitting Kobra

The chat rooms are still ablaze after Paul McCain turned his flamethrower on Calvinism.

You have to wonder where all this seething resentment is coming from. Who would have known that all this anger was just under the surface, waiting to well up and explode at the slightest perceived provocation?

If Reformed bloggers had been churning out a steady stream of fiery broadsides against Lutheran theology, you could understand this volcanic reaction. But Lutheran theology is not a regular target of Reformed bloggers, is it?

With all due respect, I’m tempting to suspect that this reflects a festering inferiority complex. Gene Veith recently blogged on the “invisibility” of Lutherans on the cultural horizon. Is it that some Lutherans envy and resent the visibility of the Calvinist contingent?

But Lutherans are free to be as visible as they please. Has anyone of note in the Reformed arena tried to muzzle Lutheran freedom of expression?

***QUOTE***

Calvinist theology rests on the abstract principle of Sovereignty, and the rest of the system is constructed on top of it. On the contrary, Lutherans construct their system on the incarnate Christ. Afterall, he is the very explanation of God. To place the former before the latter is to place the cart before the horse.

http://www.haloscan.com/comments/fishstik45/113375228687870850/

***END-QUOTE***

So Reformed theology is constructed from the abstract principle of Sovereignty? And where do you suppose that “Kobra” got that idea? Was it from reading a number of Reformed theologians?

No, he simply lifted this form of words from Paul McCain. Is there some reason that Kobra can’t go back to the primary sources and think for himself?

BTW, there is more than one way to systematize the theology of Scripture. Morton Smith runs through the “Trinitarian” method, “analytical” method, “covenantal” method, “Christological” method, “synthetic” method, and “kingdom” idea. To this one could also add the redemptive-historical method.

Since, by definition, any systematic theology will reorganize the contents of Scripture, no method is more scriptural than another. It’s just a matter of emphasis.

***QUOTE***

I'm not skipping class to argue with some Baptist about predestination. Some things aren't worth my time.

***END-QUOTE***

In other words, Lutherans and Reformed Baptist shouldn’t even be on speaking terms. Once again, where is all this hostility coming from, Josh?

***QUOTE***

Gadfly, Pieper didn't put sovereignty before incarnation. You are apparently unaware that Volume II (which treated the Gospel and the doctrine of Christ) was written and published before Volume I (which treated the doctrines of Scripture, Creation, and God), which says loads more about which was more prominent in his thought. In fact, in nearly every chapter of Christliche Dogmatik, Christ and the Gospel are emphasized.

***END-QUOTE***

Isn’t this a lovely piece of special pleading? If Pieper had intended the order of publication to reflect his theological priorities, then why didn’t he just renumber his systematic theology so that Volume II became Volume I and vice versa?

There is a reason, isn’t there, that he distributed the content of his systematic theology in the sequence he did, isn’t there? Doesn’t that reflect his authorial intent and overall design for the final product? When you buy the set, it’s in a numerical order.

The reason he followed this format is because he was following a fairly stereotypical format which, with minor variations, goes back to Aquinas. The order of presentation is not fundamentally different from a Reformed theology.

And while we’re on the subject, it’s not as if the average Reformed theology has nothing to say about Christ and the Gospel until it arrives at those particular loci. It its doctrine of God, it talks about the Trinity, which involves the person of Christ. In its doctrine of the decree, it talks about the covenant of redemption and/or the covenant of grace, which involves the work of Christ.

***QUOTE***

And I don't know which Formula of Concord you're reading, but my copy isn't a systematic theology constructed on the abstract principle of divine sovereignty.

***END-QUOTE***

So Reformed theology is constructed from the abstract principle of Sovereignty? And where do you suppose that Josh got that idea? Was it from reading a number of Reformed theologians?

No, Josh is parroting “Kobra,” who is parroting McCain. “Poly want a cracker?”

Unfortunately, these guys have put their brains in “sleep” mode. Like a tape-recorder on playback, they simply repeat what they’ve heard.

If this represents the quality of their educational experience, then they’d do well to skip class and spend more time in the library instead of coasting through school on autopilot.

***QUOTE***

It's responses to a few specific controversies of the time. The bulk of it, of course, is spent on the Incarnation, the Sacraments, and the Gospel. The section on predestination uses the Gospel as a controlling hermeneutic and sets the tone for the next four centuries of orthodox Lutheran theology.

***END-QUOTE***

Now Josh is trying to change the subject. The reason I originally brought up Pieper and the Formula of Concord was to answer McCain on his own terms. He was the one who made such a big deal about the order of presentation, about how long it supposedly takes for Reformed theology to get around to Jesus.

Why is it that he and Dr. McCain lack the common honesty to admit that McCain spoke a little too precipitously on this issue, ignoring some rather glaring counter-examples within his own tradition?

Theologians like Chemnitz, Quenstedt, and Calovius knew how to reason. Is this a dying art in McCain’s generation?

6 comments:

  1. "Gadfly, Pieper didn't put sovereignty before incarnation. You are apparently unaware that Volume II..."

    1) Josh seems to falsely assume that systematic theologians order their doctrinal topics according to ontological importance.

    2) I have my John Theodore Muller's Christian Dogmatics in front of me (a condensation of Pieper's) and he, as well, lists the same conventional order as Calvinist systematic theologies (starting with “The nature of theology/revelation of God” and ending with “Last Things”): Grudem, Reymond, Bavink, Buswell, Hodge, and even Calvin.

    4) I would even argue that formally placing the doctrine of Christ first in a systematic theology would MINIMIZE the doctrine of Christ! There are those doctrines that should be taught first that would only highlight and thus culminate in the glorious nature and work of Christ (e.g. the spiritual deadness of man contrasted with the work of grace on the cross; and the transcendence of God contrasted with the “God with us” incarnate Christ.

    5) So, maybe Josh is the one who is not giving full glory and centeredness to the doctrine of the incarnate Christ because he is averse to stressing those realities and conditions that make the doctrine of Christ so glorious in the first place.

    6) It is a fact in the history of Calvinism, that the sovereignty of God is stressed in the pinnacle of Christ's work on the cross. Lutherans who deny this are simply ignorant. In fact, many of the criticisms thrown at Calvinism is precisely because our understanding of God's sovereign work on the cross.

    7) “You have to wonder where all this seething resentment is coming from.”

    My suspicion is that different traditions vent their detest toward the freedom of God in various ways, and this strain of Lutheranism has manifested their version of late (but it would not hurt that the hotheads Josh, Cobra, and McCain should take a brief blogoleave of absence to give their blood a chance to move up to the brain).

    Cheers,
    Alan

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  2. All the hostility comes from the constant bullying, whining, and grandstanding of James White, Phil Johnson, a handful of others, and their fanboys as the paragons of True Reformed Orthodoxy. And frankly, I don't consider Baptists legitimate members of the "Reformed" discussion. If I want to argue about Baptistry, I'll call a Baptist. I don't have any interest in the theology, so I'm not going to.

    I'm not parroting Kobra. I don't even like Kobra.

    Steve, what part of election being the last major theological heading in the Formula of Concord did you not understand? Did you notice that the FC doesn't even have a "Doctrine of God" section? What penultimate chapter in Pieper's Christliche Dogmatik flew by you? Predestination in Lutheran theology isn't part of the doctrine of God; it's the cap on the doctrine of the Gospel. But you would know that if you had actually read Pieper's Dogmatics or the Formula of Concord instead of just noticing that both talked about election sometime, somewhere. I don't even need special pleading here. All I need is for you to raise your own personal theological literary awareness.

    Of course, reading whoknowswhat into the ordering of the chapters of one's systematic theology is a lot different than straight-up listing what your priorities are, especially when your only mention of Jesus is to mention him as a modifier on irresistable grace. Face it, White listed his theological priorities, and Jesus really wasn't one of them.

    By the way, the conventional ordering of systematic theologies doesn't come from Calvinism. The structure is based around the articles of the Creed and in Protestantism was first seen in Melanchthon's Loci Communes.

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  3. Josh is a buttnugget.

    Hating Josh, Kobra ;)

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  4. Triablog: "With all due respect, I’m tempted to suspect that this reflects a festering inferiority complex. Gene Veith recently blogged on the “invisibility” of Lutherans on the cultural horizon. Is it that some Lutherans envy and resent the visibility of the Calvinist contingent?"

    Spitting-Kobra: How is it that you do the very things your "side" has opined about while remaining blind to it? Don't you see the ad hominem shooting from your mouth? Don't you see the broad brush with which you paint people you don't know?

    You've charged Envy, Covetousness, and Hate to our "side." That is a heavy charge to level especially when only a few on our "side" have engaged anyone on these issues.

    Triablog: "So Reformed theology is constructed from the abstract principle of Sovereignty? And where do you suppose that “Kobra” got that idea? Was it from reading a number of Reformed theologians?"

    Spitting-Kobra: Yes, it is. I learned this by trying to be Reformed for some time. I read Boettner and Berkhof. I listened to and read R.C. Sproul and his mentor John Gerstner. Lastly, I was very familiar with and respected the teaching of Dr. James White. I still have a shoe box of his tapes and a number of his books on my shelf. So, I do understand Reformed theology enough to have this discussion with you.

    Triablog: "No, he simply lifted this form of words from Paul McCain. Is there some reason that Kobra can’t go back to the primary sources and think for himself?"

    Spitting-Kobra: Slow down now, bro. What's this all about? Have you ever talked to me? You never asked me why I say what I say. Why are you saying something like this?

    Triablog: "So Reformed theology is constructed from the abstract principle of Sovereignty? And where do you suppose that Josh got that idea? Was it from reading a number of Reformed theologians?

    No, Josh is parroting “Kobra,” who is parroting McCain. “Poly want a cracker?”"

    Spitting-Kobra: Thankfully you have decided to claim the high ground here. I find no mockery, slander, or anything else born of sin. Yet, I do believe that you are just being careless. I'll do my best to think the best of you and give you the benefit of the doubt. Isn't that condescending of me?

    Triablog: "Unfortunately, these guys have put their brains in “sleep” mode. Like a tape-recorder on playback, they simply repeat what they’ve heard."

    Spitting-Kobra: Bro, I don't recall our conversation. When did we talk? When did you ask me about why I believe what I do? We can arrange that sometime if you wish. It's late here.

    Hating Josh, Spitting-Kobra

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  5. "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." --Nietzsche

    Kobra

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  6. As to your point #4: I would even argue that formally placing the  
    doctrine of Christ first in a systematic theology would MINIMIZE the  
    doctrine of Christ!


    God is with us, certainly --- but how is that good news unless we know that God is for us? Without knowing that God is on our side, knowing that God is with us can only terrify us. And where does this knowledge of God for us come from? "No one comes to the Father except through me", says our Lord.

    Evangelism, sharing the  
    Good News of Jesus Christ, does not begin by first demonstrating the  
    inerrancy of Scripture, the investigation of God's various attributes, &c., &c.,  
    but rather by proclaiming Christ.  We can have no true knowledge of  
    God for us apart from Christ; I can thus think of no better  
    place to start a systematic approach to theology than to start with  
    Christ Jesus.

    Unless faith is worked in our hearts by the Spirit through the hearing of the Word --- the Word that always points to and speaks of the Word Himself (John 5:39) --- we cannot believe; one does not and cannot come  
    to faith by knowing all about God except for the One who came For  
    us.  He is the first and He is the last; let Him be so in our  
    teaching --- and aiding those who teach and preach Christ is the point of a systematic approach to  
    theology.  If it isn't, then trees died for no good reason.

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