Saturday, June 11, 2005

Deja-vu all over again


A very influential stream of Catholic apologetics in the 1st half of the [20th] century took the form of a critique of modern culture. It maintained that the modern West in rejecting the divine authority of the Church was ineluctably plunging toward the abyss of nihilism and despair. This approach is especially evidence in works by converts seeking to win others to the Catholic faith.

The majority of the converts, both in England and the United States, came from the broad and liberal types of Protestantism. They had become convinced that civilization would fall apart without a strong religious authority such as Catholicism alone offer. Zealous laymen such as David Goldstein and Frank Sheed, as well as highly apostolic priests such as Fulton Sheen, Martin Scott, and John A. O’Brien, swelled the volume of Catholic apologetical writing.

The themes of the convert literature show little variety. Outside the Catholic Church religions was rapidly declining; dogma was evanescing, Church membership was shrinking (Knox), “Protestantism was splintered into a myriad of groups” (Murray Ballantyne). The Protestant churches were in utter bewilderment on moral questions such as birth control, divorce, and spiritualism; only the Catholic church consistently dared to speak up against the spirit of the times and with accents of authority (Chesterton). Western civilization was still living off the accumulated capital of the ages of faith; but it was illusory to suppose that “it is possible to conserve all of positive and constructive value in the Christian order while removing from it belief in God” (Rosalind Hoffman). To become a Catholic was to assume a part in “an Armageddon-fight between the old culture in which Europe was cradled, and the sharply defined materialistic forces of today” (Knox). “The craving for unity, for consistency, for certainty…can be satisfied only where the principle of authority, established by Christ, stands like the rock of Gibraltar against the shifting winds of private fancy” (John A. O’Brien). “The cold clear light of reason is all the guidance a man needs to find his way to the Church” (Lunn).

The spirit of the convert literature is reflected in some of the titles: Rebuilding a Lost Faith (John L. Stoddard), Restoration (Ross Hoffman), The Good Pagan’s Failure (Rosalind Murray), The Flight from Reason and Now I See (Arnold Lunn), I Had to Know (Gladys Baker), All or Nothing (Murray Ballantyne)—and even by Thomas Merton’s Dantesque title, The Seven Story Mountain. The mood was at once rationalist and authoritarian, and on both counts restorationist. The world could save itself only by going back to The Thirteenth, The Greatest Centuries (James J. Walsh).

Converts from English-speaking Protestantism were in general very negative toward the Church they had left. They often took the position that Protestantism as a faith was dead. Their arguments ere directed toward men who loved civilization and reason rather than to firm Protestant believers.

A. Dulles, A History of Apologetics (Wipf and Stock Publishers 1999), 218-19.


If you compare this generation of convert literature with the current crop, you can readily see that present-day converts to Catholicism are recycling the same old arguments.

One can also see, from our historical distance, that rumors of the demise of Protestantism were greatly exaggerated.

True, there’s a certain amount of dead wood in contemporary Protestant scene, but then, there has always been a certain amount of dead wood in Protestantism. A measure of nominal faith and worldly wisdom is a perennial feature of religious landscape. You can retroject that all the way back into the NT church, and before then, to the OT church.

So that hasn’t changed. There is no downward trend in the fortunes of Evangelicalism. There is the same combination of green growth and dry rot there’s always been to one degree or another. This undergoes certain fluctuations—with seasons of drought followed by seasons of revival. Yet the pattern is cyclical.

But if the arguments haven’t changed, and if the church they left behind hasn’t changed, what has changed is the church into which they have taken refuge.

The image of the Catholic church as the rock of Gibraltar, the bedrock of unity, certainty, and consistency, was rather more plausible for the former generation. These were converts to the church of Trent and Vatican I. These were converts to a church in which tradition was frozen for all time by the unanimous consent of the fathers. These were converts to the church of the anti-Modernist measures of Pius IX and Leo XIII.

But the paradox of the contemporary convert is that is he repeating the same old arguments for an institution which is no longer the same old institution. The arguments for the church of Rome remain the same even though the church of Rome has not remained the same.

No readjustment has been made to adapt the old arguments to the new reality. And that is because the appeal of Roman Catholicism is to the ideal, and not to the real Roman Catholicism. Like a doctrinaire Marxist, the convert to Catholicism has such a felt need for the illusion to be true that no amount of dissonant evidence can burst the bubble of a starry-eyed faith.

Bonehead English 101

<< Hays has chimed in, completely missing the point, as usual. This guy is amazingly obtuse, or else he is purposely provocative (probably a little of both).

Pray for him. Someone who has to continually rely on lies about other belief-systems in his apologetic. >>

I challenge Armstrong to document my “lies” about other belief-systems. Let’s see if he has the guts to back up his charge.

<< not to mention, pejorative terminology. >>

<< Undaunted by either common courtesy >>

In this thread alone, here are a few choice examples of Armstrong’s customary courtesy:

“Asinine ,” “downright idiotic,” “amazingly obtuse.”

Sounds pretty pejorative to me.

Why does Armstrong resort to pejorative usage if he disapproves of it himself?

<< The fallacies in Hays' pseudo-linguistic defense are obvious (I wouldn't even trouble myself to point them out, except for the fact that he doesn't get it) >>

Translation: whenever Armstrong is beaten at his own game, he changes the rules or moves the goal-post.

<< If the Bible is to Protestantism what the pope is to Catholicism (infallible authority), then if Catholicism is "popish", Protestantism must be "Biblish," right? But of course no one uses such an idiotic title. It's left to our anti-Catholic Protestrant brethren to come up with "Popish."

If following the pope as an authority is "popery", then following the Bible as an authority (i.e., within the sola Scriptura paradigm, etc. -- Catholics, too, accept the Bible as an inspired authority) must be "Biblery." >>

Once again, Armstrong is struggling with rudimentary English grammar. We already have linguistic forms to express these relations:

“Biblicist,” “Biblicism.”

It’s simply that in forming adjectives from nouns, different sorts of words take different suffixes.

<< Baptists believe in the authority of local congregations only (strictly speaking). So again, if Catholicism amounts to "popery" and "popish" religion, then congregationalism must be "elderish" or "pastorish" or "elder-ery" or "pastor-ery" religion. If one is a Presbyterian, by this "logic" they are both "Biblish" and "presbyterish" or practice a faith which should be called "Presbyter-ery" or "Presbyterish Christianity".

Hey, Lutherans refer to themselves by use of their founder's name. So it stands to reason that they ought to also legitimately be called "Lutherish" or "Luther-ery" or "Lutherist" or "Lutheranist".

This is not about “logic,” this is about linguistic conventions for forming adjectives from nouns. Another word-group is formed from the “-an” suffix, viz., Anglican, Arian, Aristotelian, Augustinian, Bavarian, Calvinian, Colossian, Corinthian, Darwinian, Dominican, Ephesian, Franciscan, Gregorian, Iranian, latitudinarian, Marian, millenarian, Mohammaedan, Philippian, predestinarian, Roman, Sabbatarian, Sabellian, seminarian, supralapsarian, Thessalonian, Trinitarian, ubiquitarian, Unitarian, &c.

I didn’t invent the English language. English grammar doesn’t follow the laws of logic. This is simply a matter of historical usage, with its own sociolinguistic principles of morphology.

Words like “Romanist,” “popery,” and “papist,” as well as variations thereon, represent established historical English usage, with exactly the same etymological pedigree as other proper adjectives formed from proper nouns, including place names and proper names, according to whichever suffix linguistic convention assigns to the morphology of that particular word-group.

It's time to come out of the jungle, Dave. We won, Japan lost.

Societas Hypocritiana


This is a little something aimed at a certain sub-group of Semi-Augustinian Particular Baptists (sometimes erroneously called "Reformed Baptists"), who are this week complaining across several blogs about how others treat them when all they really want to do is constantly yell about how much more faithful to The Plain Meaning of Scripture they are than anyone else. Why do people have to persecute them so? Is it some kind of crime to so obviously love Truth and the Gospel more than the next guy? They really don't get where all this unreasonable opposition to their program is coming from, it seems.

Fortunately, not all Baptists are like these loud, charity-challenged war-mongers--indeed, most Baptists that I have known in real life (especially those closest to me, such as my mother and grandmother) have been fairly well-adjusted individuals who have shown far more Christlikeness than I could ever hope to have myself. Thankfully, amongst our Baptist brethren the real below-the-belt troublemakers are few and far between. But, because these self-willed few and inordinately proud members are so loud, I felt that this tale from the Synod of Arras in the year of the Lord's incarnation 1025 would be a nice counterpoint. It goes to show that sometimes the divisive and unstable people actually learn something and repent and help the unity and peace of the Body to be restored.

One word of clarification: obviously not every position attributed to these eleventh century malcontents is attributable to the aforementioned sub-group of Semi-Augustinian Particular Baptists, but there are enough similarities to make the account interesting nonetheless. Some of these folks today have serious (but quite unrecognized by them) historical roots in Medieval-era Marcionite, Manichaean, and Pelagian tendencies, so this makes their screechy perfectionistic ranting about everyone else's "compromises" more than a little bit "speck / log"-like.

In the following account, note especially the running themes of (1) denial of physical means of grace, (2) denial of authority outside of their own sect's understanding of Scripture, (3) a rigorist-perfectionism that results in tolerance only for people who think exactly like they do about a very narrow set of issues, (4) the radical dichotomizing of Scripture, and (5) the quite plainly works-righteousness mentality that excludes children from the sign and seal of baptism.


One of the disturbing things about this scurrilous attack on Reformed Baptists is that, unless I’m gravely mistaken, Enloe is, along with a number of his cobelligerents, a member of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals (CREC)?

Now, if you go to their official website, notice what you find:


What confession does the CREC subscribe to?
• Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)
• American Westminster Confession of Faith (1788)
• The Three Forms of Unity:
_ Belgic Confession (1561)
_ Heidelberg Catechism (1563)
_ Canons of Dort (1619)
• The London Baptist Confession (1689)
• The Savoy Declaration (1658)
• The Reformed Evangelical Confession (see Article XII)

Why does the CREC allow both Baptist and Paedobaptist churches to become members of the denomination? Aren’t the two schools of thought based on different scriptural paradigms?

The topic of baptism of infants has been a topic of much discussion and debate in the history of the Christian Church. Although we embrace and support gracious faithful discussions and debate, we also recognize that this particular topic is one which we hope maintains the unity of the Spirit and pursues unity of the mind with like-minded faithful churches. The paradigm difference you mention is part of the larger debate. But within the CREC we share a covenantal paradigm.


For someone who plays up submission to ministerial authority, Tim betrays a brazenly insubordinate and utterly disdainful attitude towards the official position of his own denomination regarding Reformed Baptist theology. What accounts for this highly compartmentalized morality? Did he take his membership vows with his fingers crossed behind his back? You really have to wonder what passes for church discipline in the CREC.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Covenant theology 101

1.The governing principle in covenant theology is that, in addition to dealing with human beings on a one-to-one basis, God also, or even primarily, deals with human beings on a one-to-many basis.

2.This generates a triadic relationship. On the one side is God. On the other side is a federal head (e.g., Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Christ), who is, in turn, the representative for a larger people-group (e.g., Adamites, Israelites, Christians).


3.And this, in turn, generates another set of distinctions and internal relations. How, exactly, are the many related to their one federal head? And how is he related to God? What conditions must be met to establish and sustain membership in the covenant community? What are the consequences, for good or ill, weal or woe, that flow from this relationship?

How are OT covenants related to each other? And how are they related to the New Covenant?

1.For example, Reformed theology speaks of a covenant of grace. This is a theological construct. It is not identical with any particular covenant in Scripture, but a number of Biblical covenants exemplify the covenant of grace, to one degree or another.

Covenant of grace>historic covenants (e.g., Abrahamic, Mosaic, New Covenant)

The parties to the covenant of grace are Christ and Christians.

2.Traditionally, Reformed theology also distinguishes a covenant of redemption. The parties to the covenant of redemption are the persons of the godhead (Father, Son, & Spirit).

The covenant of grace is logically embedded in the covenant of redemption. Christ dies for the elect, and the work of Christ merits the work of the Spirit in the renewal of the elect. The covenant of redemption is, in effect, the Father’s commissioning of Christ and the Spirit in the work of redemption (Jn 10; 14-17).

Covenant of redemption>covenant of grace

It is also important not to make the mistake, to which infras are prone, of treating the covenant of grace as Plan B after Plan A (the covenant of works) falls through.

3.Customarily, Reformed theology also distinguishes a covenant of works. This, indeed, has attained confessional status (e.g., WCF 7:2). It is identified with an implicit covenant between God and unfallen Adam (cf. Gen 2:16-17; 3:22; Rom 5:12-14; Gal 3:10-12).

Despite its confessional status, this designation has become rather controversial. At issue is not whether God had a covenant with unfallen Adam, but whether this can be characterized as a covenant of works. On the one hand, it can be regarded as a covenant of works insofar as Adam could (and did) fail to comply with the terms of the covenant, whereas the members of covenant of grace cannot fall away.

On the other hand, the term “works” is, in the conflict with Rome, identified with meritorious, supererogatory works, and the idea that Adam could merit the Lord’s blessing is rightly regarded as improperly synergistic.

The Mosaic covenant is sometimes described as a covenant of works, but this is grossly simplistic.

Every Calvinist must subscribe to the following elements of covenant theology:

1.God deals with human beings, not only as individual units, but as social units, under the headship of his appointed representatives.

God>federal head>covenant community

2.God is the principal party: God initiates the covenant, stipulates its conditions and consequences, and ensures the satisfaction of those conditions and attendant consequences in the case of the elect.

This general schema does not prejudge the answer to many detailed questions. And it is these open questions in Reformed theology which are answered differently by the Baptist and Presbyterian strands of the Reformed tradition.

Depending on the particular strand, there are ascending degrees of discontinuity between the OT and the NT:

Theonomic Pres>non-theonomic Pres>non-NCT RB>NCT RB

There are even some Christians with a Reformed soteriology, but a “progressive” dispensational eschatology (e.g., the late S. Lewis Johnson).

Hence, none of the Reformed traditions has a monopoly on covenant continuity. For example, a non-theonomic Presbyterian accentuates Intertestamental continuity when positioning himself in relation to a Reformed Baptist, but accentuates Intertestamental discontinuity when positioning himself in relation to a theonomist.

On the role of the Mosaic law in the life of the church, I’ve expressed myself on that score in my essays on “The 4-Door Labyrinth” and “Four forms of Christian ethics.”

Much of the debate swirls around the question of whether children are automatically party to this one-to-many relation. In Presbyterian theology, you have a kind of two-tiered system of federal headship, where a believing mother or father is the federal head of the child, while the mediator of the covenant (e.g., Abraham, Moses, Christ) is the head of the mother or father:

Federal head>parent>child

It is analogous to the concentric social structure of a tribal culture, where the husband is the head-of-household, but the chieftain is the head of clan, in which the husband is a clansman.

This understanding introduces a further distinction into the covenant of grace—a distinction between external and internal membership:

“The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed” (WLC 31).

“Infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized” (WLC 166).

Whether this is a principled distinction or a merely makeshift distinction to ground infant baptism is, of course, one of the points of dispute between Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians.

That distinction is, in turn, analogous to the difference between the visible and invisible church. Both Baptists and Presbyterians grant such a distinction, although it is, for Baptists, a necessary evil.

In Reformed Baptist theology, you don’t have a two-tiered system of federal headship. Elect children and elect adults alike have Christ as their only federal head. The parent is not a surrogate federal head:

i) Federal head>elect parent

ii) Federal head>elect child

The New Covenant has two covenant signs: (i) baptism (the sign of incorporation into the body of Christ), and (ii) communion (the sign of covenant renewal). Some Calvinists add Sabbath-keeping as another covenant sign.

Regeneration is not, itself, a sign. A sign is a visible thing. That’s what makes it a “sign.”

Baptism is often regarded as a sign of regeneration. Even if it signified regeneration, that does not, of itself, make it a means of grace. And this, too ranges along an ascending spectrum of sacramental intensity:

An “ordinance, but not a means of grace (Zwingli/Bullinger; RBs)
>a sacramental means of grace for the elect only (Calvin)
>an ex opere operato means of grace (Lutheranism; Catholicism; Anglo-Catholicism; Orthodoxy)

The case for baptismal regeneration also assumes that Johannine imagery (Jn 3-4,7) is allusive of Christian baptism, yet it is arguable that the imagery is allusive, instead, of the water-from-the-rock motif--which would signify the work of Christ rather than the work of the Spirit. Even if the Spirit is the agent, what is signified is the work of Christ.

Circumcision is to baptism as the Passover is to communion. Both Baptists and Presbyterians grant that comparison, although they differ over the degree of contrast or disanalogy inherent in this analogy.

Presbyterians argue from infant circumcision to infant baptism, as well as the wider and deeper principle of federal headship.

Contrariwise, Reformed Baptists argue that circumcision was a type of Christ’s circumcision, as the seed of promise, which is why it was discontinued with the coming of Christ--while baptism is a type of Christ’s baptism. Circumcision is prospective, while baptism is retrospective.

I’d add those who identify communion with the “real presence” are implicitly drawing a quite different parallel. On this view, communion is the analogue, not of the Passover, but of the temple/tabernacle—as the “tent of meeting,” where we enter into the divine presence. Yet this association is clearly a mismatch.

In terms of eschatology, theonomic postmils regard the benedictory/maledictory scheme of the Mosaic Law as applicable to nations today: covenant-keeping nations will be blessed while covenant-breaking nations will be cursed. This carries with it the extension of Exod 20:5-6 to contemporary church/state relations.

There is no official view within Calvinism on the fate of all those who die in infancy. All elect infants who die in infancy are saved, but the question is whether all infants who die are, in fact, elect.

Within the Reformed tradition, Warfield identifies no fewer than five different schools of thought on this sensitive issue (cf. Works, 9:431-34).

It’s a particular problem for the sacramentalist. The traditional reason for infant baptism was to wash away the guilt of original sin, without which a baby would die in a state of mortal sin and thereby be damned.

Over the centuries, Catholicism has tried to soften this consequence by postulating a baptism of desire (only applicable to adults) or an exempt class of unbelievers through no fault of their own. This, however, cuts against the grain of the whole sacerdotal system.

Turning-points in Catholic dogma

One of the ironic challenges of countercult ministry is that oftentimes a Christian apologist must first educate the target-audience in its own theological tradition before he can knock it down.

Both Trent and Vatican I affirm the plenary inspiration of Scripture. But when we get to Vatican II, certain caveats are introduced. Inspiration is limited to what the Bible writers are said to “assert” or “affirm,” while inerrancy is limited to the saving articles of the faith. Does this represent a contraction and retraction of traditional Catholic dogma? Has Vatican II traded plenary inspiration for partial inspiration?

If you study, not only the wording of the text itself, but also the conciliar deliberations which were going on behind-the-scenes, and even in open session, you will find that this is exactly what the bishops had in mind.

Any memory of old theories of verbal inspiration was to be omitted, and hence any form of an impersonal, mechanistic interpretation of the origin of Scripture… But this little word veritas that intruded here proved to be a living cell that continued to grow. But what did it mean? Only, "religious" or even "secular7' truth, to use the language of the 1962 schema? This was the real problem that now had to be taken up with full force both inside and outside the conciliar discussion. This did not happen, and new suggestions for the solution of the inerrancy question, as modem research posed it, could be made only hesitantly.

Form F was worked out in the third session of the Council. The first change that strikes us is in the title of Article 11: "Statuitur factum inspirationis et veritatis S. Scripturae." Inerrantia is replaced by the positive term veritas, which is notably extended in the text. In the course of the discussion on the schema in the autumn of 1964, various fathers from the Eastern and the Western Churches made important speeches on the necessity of an interpretation of the inerrancy of Scripture that would be in harmony with the latest findings of exegesis. It was variously pointed out that the doctrine of inerrancy received its particular and narrower formulation in the 19th century, at a time when the means of secular historical research and criticism were used to investigate the secular historical accuracy of Scripture, and this was more or less denied - which had inevitable consequences for its theological validity. The teaching office of the Church sought to concentrate its defense at the point of immediate attack: i.e. to defend the inerrancy of Scripture even in the veritates profanae generally defending the claim of the Bible and of Christianity to be revelation. To defend scriptural inerrancy in this sphere of secular truths various theories were employed which sought to prove the absolute inerrancy of Scripture on the basis of these conditions and attitudes. Because of the apologetical viewpoint from which they started, they were in danger of producing a narrowness and a false accentuation7 in the doctrine of inerrancy. Also in the area of the interpretation of Scripture and the rules pertaining to this we can see a similar phenomenon, which the Council observed in different spheres of theology and endeavoured to nullify: namely, the tendency to an apologetical isolation and the claim to absolutism of a partial view. With this kind of motivation for the defense of the inerrancy of Scripture in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, there was a weakening of the awareness that Scripture as the inspired, written word of God is supposed above all to serve the preservation and expansion of the saving revelation and reality given through Christ in the world. Of course it was always realized that this was the real purpose of Scripture. In the question of inerrancy, however, the emphasis was placed on the one-sided and isolated - accentuation of the veritates profanae. This tended to create uncertainty rather than a joyful confidence that God's truth and salvation remain present in the world in an unfalsified and permanent form--namely through the inspired word. It was necessary to reawaken this awareness. The doctrine of inerrancy needed its own centre and the right accentuation.

In this respect the most important contribution was undoubtedly the speech by Cardinal Koenig on 2 October 1964. Several other fathers who took part in the discussion from 2 to 6 October either verbally or in writing came back to this point. The Cardinal first of all pointed out the new situation that exists in relation to the question of inerrancy. As a result of intensive Oriental studies our picture of the veritas historica and the fides historica of Scripture has been clarified. Many of the 19th century objections to the Old Testament in particular and its reliability as an account of historical fact are now irrelevant But Oriental studies have also produced another finding: “ . . . laudata scientia rerum orientalium insuper demonstrat in Bibliis Sacris notitias historicas et notitias scientiae naturalis a veritate quandoque deficere." Thus Cardinal Koenig admitted that not all the difficulties could be solved. On the contrary, in certain cases they have an urgency that is borne out by scientific research. His speech mentioned a few examples: according to Mk 2: 26 David had entered the house of God under the high priest Abiathar and eaten the bread of the Presence. In fact, however, according to 1 Sam 21: l ff. it was not under Abiathar, but under his father Abimelech. In Mt 27:9 we read that in the fate of Judas a prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled. In fact it is Zech 11: 12f. that is quoted. In Dan 1: 1 we read that King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in the third year of King Jehoiakim, i.e. 607 B.C., but from the authentic chronicle of King Nebuchadnezzar that has been discovered we know that the siege can only have taken place three years later. Other geographical and chronological points could be quoted in this connection.

The fact that this speech could be held in a plenary session without any protest being made is surely significant… Thus Cardinal Koenig implicitly gives up that premise that comes from the aprioristic and unhistorical thinking that has dominated teaching on inerrancy since the age of the Fathers: if one admits that a sacred writer has made a mistake, then one is necessarily admitting that God has made a mistake with the human author. The actual aim of inspiration allows us to find a better solution: one can still maintain the true influence of God on the human authors without making him responsible for their weaknesses. These relate only to the form or the outer garment of the Gospel, and not the latter itself, however much the two might be inwardly connected- indeed, without this genuine humanity, with all its limitations, Scripture would appear like a foreign body in our world. But God speaks to us in this way, in our language, from out of our midst.

A number of Council fathers followed the example of Cardinal Koenig and refer to him as an authority: others, admittedly in the minority, produced the traditional statements, without, however, dealing with the new points raised by Cardinal Koenig.

H. Vorgrimler, ed. Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (Herder & Herder, 1969), 3:204-207.


It is not my immediate aim to address these objections to the inerrancy of Scripture, but to merely point out that the Catholic church is now allows for error in the secular subject-matter of Scripture, and--in so doing—has also backed down from prior Catholic dogma.

This is not only the case with respect to the Tridentine doctrine of Scripture, reaffirmed in Vatican I, but the Tridentine doctrine of sacred tradition well, which was also reaffirmed at Vatican I; for there, sacred tradition was identified with the unanimous consent of the church fathers. Hence, a repudiation of the patristic doctrine of Scripture is, at one and the same time, a repudiation of the Tridentine doctrine of Scripture and sacred tradition alike.

As Hans Kung wryly observes, “Paradoxically, one can talk more openly about the infallibility of the Bible than one can about that of the pope, although this in turn is said to be grounded in the Bible,” My Struggle For Freedom (Eerdmans 2003), 366.

On Dan 1:1, the reader should consult G. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan 1982), 284-85; J. Baldwin: Daniel IVP 1978), 20,77-78; D. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon (Oxford, 1991), 23; D. Wiseman, ed., Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel (Tyndale, 1965), 16-18.

On Mt 27:9, seems to be a conflate allusion to Jer 18-19,32 and Zech 11:12-13. As such, it’s hardly a misquotation. This practice is not unexampled (cf. Mk 1:2). Before chapter and verse division, locating a quote was necessarily imprecise (cf. Heb 2:6; 4:4). This verse represents a typical understanding of the OT—which is characteristic of Matthew. The persecution faced by faithful prophets like Jeremiah and Zechariah, and its impact on the life of the nation, is taken to parallel and presage the experience of Christ. One should keep in mind that Jeremiah’s action was allegorical to begin with. So that dimension was already present in the original context. And Zechariah is consciously typical (cf. 3:8). It is not, then, as though Jesus (or Matthew) were twisting Scripture to his own ends. To classify this as a misquotation, as if merely Matthew slipped up, is insensitive to the internal hermeneutical framework of this Gospel, with its subtextual allusions and intertextual associations.

As one scholar remarks,
“Matthew quotes Zechariah 11:13 as if yosher (“potter”) could be read ‘osher (“treasury”), revocalizing to provide a new interpretation, as we know later Jewish interpreters often did…By appealing to “Jeremiah” rather than Zechariah, Matthew makes clear that he intends his biblically literate audience to link an analogous passage in Jeremiah (32:6-14) and to interpret them together,” C. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans, 1999), 657.

Keener adds that “given his ability to retranslate the entire Hebrew text based on revocalization…it is unlikely that Matthew simply got his attribution wrong” (ibid., 657, n.140).

On Mk 2:26, another scholar concludes, on the basis of comparative cross-referential methods (e.g., Mt 23:35; Mk 2:26; Lk 11:51, the superscript to Ps 34, and other Jewish literature), that nominal substitutions were an accepted literary convention, trading on a type of free association. Cf. R. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Eerdmans, 1986), 212-220,229-233.

Popestant or Protestant?

<< I Love the Word "Popish"
. . . along with Romanist, Romish, Popery, and Papist. Not because it is a legitimate word, with proper etymological pedigree, mind you, but because it is so patently ridiculous and, well, downright idiotic (would anyone say "fatherish" or "fatherist"?). Just when you think no Protestant is silly enough to actually use this linguistic monstrosity (along with the others in the anti-Catholic catalogue), sure enough, Reformed Baptist apologist Steve Hays (the guy who thinks Catholicism is officially as liberal as American Episcopalianism is), brings it back from retirement.

He has (quite predictably) used the other similar words, too:

Both Romanist and popery.



I never knew that Dave Armstrong learned English as a second language, but then, it’s always a full moon over at Cor ad cor loquitur, so one comes to expect the unexpected.

Okay, I guess I have to give Mr. Armstrong a mini-course in remedial English. Using the “–ish” suffix to turn nouns into adjectives is a grammatically unimpeachable feature of standard English, viz., Amish, British, childish, Danish, English, Finnish, Israelitish, Jewish, Polish, priggish, Rhemish, Scottish, Spanish, &c.

Likewise, use of the “–ist” suffix serves a similar adjectival function, viz., Adventist, alchemist, Baptist, Buddhist, Calvinist, classicist, Congregationalist, coreligionist, cultist, deist, Donatist, evangelist, Hellenist, humanist, Jansenist, liturgist, Latinist, Marxist, Methodist, Molinist, monotheist, Novatianist, Occamist, polygamist, polytheist, psalmist, Redemptorist, Satanist, Scotist, Talmudist, theist, Thomist, Trappist, tsarist, Vedantist, &c.

The late JP2 was fond of these sorts of coinages as well, to wit: Yahwist, Elohist.

It would be best, therefore, if Armstrong avoided words like “idiotic,” as these are apt to recoil on the head of the disputant.

No, we don’t employ “fatherish” or “fatherist.” But we do employ “paternal” and “paternalistic” to express the same relation. It’s just that in that particular case, English usage favors Latin derivatives over Anglo-Saxon.

I suppose a Roman Catholic would object to “Romanist” or “Papist” on the same grounds as a Muslim to “Mohammedan.” Just as a Muslim will protest that he is a follower of Allah, not of Muhammad, a Roman Catholic will protest that he is a follower of Christ, not of the Pope—I guess. But isn’t the Pope the vicar of Christ?

In any case, I reserve the right to use designations which reflect my theological viewpoint, and not the outlook of my theological opponent.

A Romanist is someone who adheres to the primacy of Rome. A papist is someone who adheres to the primacy of the Pope. And so forth.

Since a Calvinist takes no offense at being denominated a Calvinist, I don't see why a Catholic should take offense at being denominated a papist or Romanist.

Hence, I will continue to opine on the papistical popery of papistically papizing papists in the thrall of papistry and popedom.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Reformed Baptists and other Devil-worshipers

I confess that I find it mighty hard to recognize a Reformed Baptist in the hornéd, pointy-tailed, sulfur-breathing, cloven-footed creatures of the night described by “Reformed Catholics” as typical representatives of Reformed Baptist theology.

Until fairly recently, most-all of the best theologians have been Presbyterian. The only Baptist theologian of comparable stature was the learned and redoubtable John Gill. But the times they are a-changin’.

I used to own Roger Nicole’s taped series on systematic theology before I gave it away to a former pastor of mine. You can also take the measure of Nicole from such books as Our Sovereign Savior and Standing Forth. As I recall, Nicole has two earned PhDs (one from Harvard), and enjoys a magisterial command of European theology in the original languages.

Others whom I read and appreciate are D. A Carson, Jonathan Rainbow, and Thomas Schreiner. Rainbow is into historical theology, while Schreiner and Carson are first-rate NT scholars.

Then there are the men I’ve privileged to know on personal basis, such as Paul Helm (our greatest living Reformed philosopher), Greg Welty (a seminary prof. in the phil. dept.), Michael Sudduth (who’s held numerous professorships in philosophy), James Anderson (a double PhD in computer science and philosophical theology), and Phil Marshall (a PhD candidate in LXX studies). All of them are better men than I, and all them keep their Mephistophelian genes well-concealed. Tail pinned back. Horns sanded down. Cloven feet discretely shod. Sulfuric breath scented with Listerine.

Then there are epologists like James White and Eric Svendsen. With his public-speaking skills, White could easily “trade up” to be the star preacher of a megachurch—another Rick Warren or Bruce Wilkinson--but he has, instead, given his life to countercult ministry—a ministry guaranteed to make you ten enemies for every friend. Likewise, Svendsen could easily teach at some SBC institution, but he, too, has devoted his exegetical talents to countercult ministry.

More often than not, the critic of a Reformed Baptist seems to feel that he has discharged his intellectual debts once he classifies a Reformed Baptist as an heir of the Radical Reformation. No need for further argument. The label does all the heavy-lifting.

There has always been some hostility in some Presbyterian circles towards their Reformed Baptist kin, and this seems to have rubbed off on the “Reformed Catholics.” Why, if I didn’t know better, I’d almost suspect that “Reformed Catholics” are trying to prove their own Reformed paternity by joining with the Presbyterians in ganging up on the Baptist end of the Calvinist continuum.

But another reason, I surmise, for the intensified animosity, is that the Reformed Baptists are rapidly gaining on the Presbyterians, if not overtaking them. In the past it was easy for a Presbyterian to treat a Reformed Baptist as the kid brother—a nuisance to have around when big brother goes out on a date, but still no threat to Presbyterian primogeniture.

Nowadays, however, Reformed Baptists are giving the firstborn some serious competition. In addition to high-profile preachers like John MacArthur and John Piper, the Reformed Baptist contingent is achieving ever-increasing representation in the SBC. And when you hitch up Reformed theology to the raw horsepower of the SBC, the potential is there to leave the OPC, URC, or PCA coughing and trailing in the dust. Is envy the twin brother of enmity?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Federal Vision

Enloe said:

<< Steve, sure the process of appeal is bottom-up and there's nothing wrong with you pointing out examples of a condemnatory direction in many appellate motions. Nevertheless, you seemed to be saying in your post that the PCA and OPC had already formally as denominations condemned FVism. But given the conciliarist context of the Presbyterian form of government and the fact that this theology has been placed into the stream of decision ultimately culminating in a publicly-binding ministerial decision by the GA, it ain't over until the GA decides. If I misread you, I apologize.

I'm not ducking any question about what the adherents of FVism will do if their respective GAs condemn it. As I said, I belong to neither the PCA nor the OPC, so I won't have to face that decision. I pray for those who will, for it will no doubt be a very hard day, if it happens.

Your comparison of Trent nuancing Tetzel as an analogy for FVism nuancing some other "damnable error" is really over the top, as is your statement "There is no honest way of squaring FVism with the Reformed doctrine of justification and its logical corollaries." First of all we'd have to know what YOU mean by "FVism" (there is a great deal of confusion out there about it), for what you mean may not be what any given FV leader means. The position has several different varieties, some of which may be problematic but some of which clearly are not. Rich Lusk, for instance, has overwhelmingly, I think, documented that the actual real-live Reformed tradition about baptismal efficacy is far broader and nuanced than the very narrow tradition being unreasonably promoted by most of the FV critics as "the" Reformed view of baptism. And are you sure you want to label other aspects of the position, such as Wilson's quite biblical "To a thousand generations" view of covenant children is a "damnable error"?

You mention justification, but again I'd wonder where you're getting your information from and how you understand "the FV view" of it. I have yet to hear a single person involved in any capacity with things FVish deny that justification is by faith alone in the sense that the Reformation defined the term "justification." Rather, what I hear from many of them is that the term "justification" is not in Scripture itself limited to the theological usage of the Reformed Confessions, and that this means it is biblically possible (and orthodox) to speak of justification in ANOTHER sense than the Confessional one. It is not, in other words, that the Confessional sense is wrong (again, I've heard no one say that), but only that it does not exhaust the biblical data. I find it hard to imagine that an argument like this ought to be summarily dismissed as "damnable error", especially when the exegesis of Romans and Galatians that supports such an absolute black / white judgment is so shallow when set next to the exegesis of, say, Wright or even Ridderbos. I will tell you what I see in my own personal experience with FV critics, and it is this. Most of the loudest, angriest individuals denouncing FVism are essentially Radical Baptists (including many who pretend to be Presbyterians) whose "Reformed" Faith is little more than an unbalanced attachment to TULIP (i.e., "unbalanced" as if that was the sum total of biblical teaching on salvation), some half-understood, Christologically-contextless slogans about monergism, and, really the most important thing, an absolutely fanatical obsession with demonizing "Romanism" and pretending to see a creeping slide toward it under every mode of thinking that requires them to do a little bit of hard thinking outside the restrictive boxes they learned in seminary.

I'm not sure of your own objections to FVism (or, again, what you take "FVism" to be), but based on what I know of it and of what I've seen of your views on baptism and ecclesiology here on your blog, I cannot help but say that your judgments of it as "damnable error" strike me as over-confident and over-hasty. I wonder if in your zeal for destroying "damnable error" you realize that in many respects you might wind up lopping off whole branches of the Reformed Faith in the name of presenting only one very narrow branch of it as being the whole thing. >>

Hi Tim,

These are all good questions. Since I’m facing down a deadline at the moment, I can’t respond to all of them at the moment. I probably won’t get around to some of them for a couple of weeks or so. For the time being, I’ll address the ones I have time for.

1.Since you have your sources, and I have mine, and since you think your sources are better than mine, it would be more efficient, all around, if you just give me the names and links to the material you think puts the best face on FVism. That way I’ll be arguing on your own turf. Otherwise, we’ll just end up talking at cross-purposes, “for what you mean may not be what any given FV leader means. The position has several different varieties…”

2.Deut 7:9 (cf. Exod 20:6) is hyperbolic. Is God more likely to place the elect within families? Yes. Does this general policy justify a favorable presumption in any particular case? No, because we know there are exceptions, but we don’t know where they are in advance of the fact. The OT gives many examples of reprobate sons of elect fathers and elect sons of reprobate fathers—not to mention the larger phenomenon of Israel’s national apostasy. Likewise, we have the historical example of Presbyterian denominations going over to the Unitarians. Likewise, we have current examples of liberal or liberalizing (one-time) Reformed denominations like the CRC, RCA, and PC-USA.

3. Baptismal justification (a la Owen) is incompatible with sola fide. That doesn’t make it right or wrong (although I think it’s dead wrong), but sola fide it isn’t. The fact that one can find both in Luther (to take Owen’s example) just goes to show that Luther is trying to ride two different horses. I’m not Lutheran.

4.The Pauline doctrine of justification isn’t limited to the occurrence of that particular word-group. True. Likewise, the Reformed doctrine of justification is a theological construct. It derives from more than merely Pauline usage of that word-group. Rather, it derives from the Pauline flow of argument. Dogmatic usage is generally more specialized than Scriptural usage.

Whether, therefore, the Westminster version follows the contours of the Biblical paradigm can only be determined at a conceptual equivalence level rather than a lexical equivalence level.

5.Since to say that the Westminster Confession is simply wrong, especially on a central plank like justification, is an open invitation to be defrocked, I’d hardly expect church officers in the OPC or PCA or other suchlike to be so tactless.

6.The new perspective is contra-confessional. This shouldn’t even be an issue. You bring up Wright. There’s no question that Wright regards the new perspective as a revolutionary reinterpretation of Paul which overturns the Lutheran-cum-Calvinist reading of Paul.

7.The real question, then, is whether Calvin and the Westminster Divines got it right, or whether their interpretation represents an understandable, but culture-bound mistake.

If the Westminster reading of Paul is systematically misguided, as Wright would have it, then the Confession needs to be revised.

8.Ridderbos is not a Calvinist. He is, of course, a product of the Dutch-Reformed tradition, but he, like Berkouwer, left that behind many many years ago. And Wright has never been a Calvinist. Indeed, he’s openly hostile to Calvinism.

That doesn’t automatically mean that their exegesis is wrong. But if they’re right, then Calvinism is wrong.

9.One could argue that insofar as sola fide is something which Calvinism shares in common with certain other theological traditions, it is not a Reformed distinctive. However, I’d have to qualify that, for sola fide is consistent with Reformed theology in a way that is not the case with other traditions which nevertheless embrace it.

10.And even if it were not a Reformed distinctive, it is a Reformed essential, just as an orthodox Christology, while not a Reformed distinctive, is a Reformed essential.

11.BTW, which work of Ridderbos are you alluding to? His Paul: An Outline of His Theology? At those points where his exegesis departs from traditional Reformed exegesis, I find him unpersuasive.

Prescinding his premillennialism, Schreiner’s Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory is Christ is a far superior overview of Pauline theology.

12.As to Wright, one could say many things:

i) It is unclear to me why Wright is the darling of FV-types rather than other representatives of the new perspective such as Sanders, Esler, and Dunn.

I suspect it’s because Wright’s frequent broadsides against members of the Jesus Seminar has given him a conservative reputation which, in turn, allows his “Reformed” followers to take safe cover under that the shadow of his stalwart image.

Liberal and conservative are relative terms. Wright is a conservative in a liberal denomination, which makes him a moderate in a conservative denomination.

ii) I own a number of his books. He’s the sort of writer I alternately agree and disagree with from one paragraph to the next.

I’ve written a lengthy negative review of his What St. Paul Really Said (entitled “Reinventing Paul”).

His commentary on Romans, by turns, good and bad.

I readily grant that the conflict with Rome is not simply a repeat performance of Paul and the Judaizers. However, as I also point out in my essay “Of anathemas: Pauline & Tridentine,” the Reformed argument was always an argument from analogy, not identity, so Owen’s best efforts to rehabilitate the image of Rome seriously misses the mark.

13.I agree that there’s more to Calvinism that TULIP. But at least until fairly recently, most Reformed Baptist seminarians have attended Presbyterian seminaries—although that may be changing as Calvinism enjoys a resurgence in the SBC.

Hence, I hardly think that what you ascribe to “Radical Baptists” and “pretend Presbyterians” (whatever you may mean by those designations) can be attributed to their seminary education.

I’d add that “demonizing” Rome is a deeply entrenched and widely attested Presbyterian tradition. If you deem that to in error, then you deem the Presbyterian tradition to be in error at this point. That’s your prerogative.

But I observe you and other “Reformed Catholics” constantly playing both sides of the fence here. On the one hand, I see “Reformed Catholics” incessantly bashing the Reformed Baptists as less than truly Reformed because they broke with Calvin over the sacraments; on the other hand, I see them playing up the diversity of the Reformed tradition to make allowance for their own break with Calvin or the Confession when it serves their purpose.

14.What you mean by “demonizing” Romanism, or my “immoderately” anti-Catholic stance I don’t know, since you don’t explain yourself.

Rome is far and away the largest church in Christendom. This means that if Rome obscures the true Gospel, then this presents a huge impediment to the salvation of hundreds of millions of human beings.

That’s why I, and better men than myself, make Rome one of our polemical priorities.

To put a sharper point on things, Rome is both better and worse than Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism. Like the other three, it holds a major share in the religious affiliations of mankind. Unlike the other three, it is possible for a Roman Catholic to be saved. But also unlike the other three, folks are taken in by a false gospel who would never be taken in by an open adversary of the faith. That’s why, let us say, Gnosticism was a much more serious threat to the church than someone like Marcion.

15. It is true that a Presbyterian is, in a sense, predisposed to accept FVism whereas a Reformed Baptist is predisposed to reject FVism. And it’s also true that since I’m closer to the RB end of the spectrum, that’s an additional reason for me to characterize FVism as heretical.

However, I reference William Young’s article to show that FVism is firmly at odds with Old School Presbyterian theology as well.

16.Remember, too, that I’m not a card-carrying Reformed Baptist. My position on the sacraments is somewhere between Zwingli/Bullinger and the Baptist/Anabaptist segment of the theological spectrum.

17. And this brings us to another point. There are many different ways of grounding infant baptism. There is no logically or historically necessary relation between paedobaptism and sacramental efficacy. Besides the RB package and the Presbyterian package, there is also the Zwingli/Bullinger package, whose Reformed and Reformational pedigree is impeccable.

Or, let’s take yet another package: what about someone like John Owen or Jonathan Edwards whose ecclesiology is essentially Baptist, but whose sacramentology is essentially Presbyterian?

Who is lopping branches off the tree? You or me?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The ignoble savage

by Bernard Weinraub
Special to The New York Times

At a restaurant near his home, he sat down wearing a heavy wind- breaker, polished off his lunch in 15 minutes, then absently removed the coat. He relaxed slowly and discussed A Clockwork Orange, which was taken from the chilling novel by Anthony Burgess.

"I was excited by everything about it, the plot, the ideas, the characters and, of course, the language. Added to which, the story was of manageable size in terms of adapting it for films."

The film itself is a merciless vision of the near-future. Roving gangs rape, kill, maim and steal. Citizens live in a vandalized pop art culture, gaudy, icy and filthy. Politicians and the police are vicious. The film's central character, Alex (Malcolm McDowell), is transformed by scientists from an underworld tough to a defenseless model citizen only to be resurrected, at the end, to his savage original state by the "good" forces.

"The story functions, of course, on several levels, political, sociological, philosophical and, what's most important, on a kind of dreamlike psychological-symbolic level," Mr. Kubrick said.

"Alex is a character who by every logical and rational consideration should be completely unsympathetic, and possibly even abhorrent to the audience," he went on. "And yet in the same way that Richard III gradually undermines your disapproval of his evil ways, Alex does the same thing and draws the audience into his own vision of life. This is the phenomenon of the story that produces the most enjoyable and surprising artistic illumination in the minds of an audience."

"I think an audience watching a film or a play is in a state very similar to dreaming, and that the dramatic experience becomes a kind of controlled dream," he said. "But the important point here is that the film communicates on a subconscious level, and the audience responds to the basic shape of the story on a subconscious level, as it responds to a dream."

Man in Natural State

"On this level, Alex symbolizes man in his natural state, the way he would be if society did not impose its 'civilizing' processes upon him.

"What we respond to subconsciously is Alex's guiltless sense of freedom to kill and rape, and to be our savage natural selves, and it is in this glimpse of the true nature of man that the power of the story derives."

As an artist, Mr. Kubrick has a point of view that is undeniably bleak. "One of the most dangerous fallacies which has influenced a great deal of political and philosophical thinking is that man is essentially good, and that it is society which makes him bad," he said. "Rousseau transferred original sin from man to society, and this view has importantly contributed to what I believe has become a crucially incorrect premise on which to base moral and political philosophy.

by Craig McGregor

"Man isn't a noble savage, he's an ignoble savage," says Kubrick, reaching for the iced water. "He is irrational, brutal, weak, silly, unable to be objective about anything where his own interests are involved - that about sums it up. I'm interested in the brutal and violent nature of man because it's a true picture of him. And any attempt to create social institutions on a false view of the nature of man is probably doomed to failure."

Like what? "Well, many aspects of liberal mythology are coming to grief now -- but I don't want to give any examples or I'm going to sound like William Buckley...."

Kubrick's vision of society is just as bleak -- it can make man even worse than he naturally is. "The idea that social restraints are all bad is based on a utopian and unrealistic vision of man," he says. "But in this movie you have an example of social institutions gone a bit berserk. Obviously social institutions faced with the law-and-order problem might choose to become grotesquely oppressive. The movie poses two extremes: it shows Alex in his precivilized state, and society committing a worse evil in attempting to cure him."

Though A Clockwork Orange is ostensibly about the future, Kubrick thinks it is of immediate relevance to cities in the United States. "New York City, for example, is the sort of place where people feel very unsafe. Nearly everyone seems to know someone who's been mugged. All you have to do is add in that a little economic disappointment, and the increasingly trendy view that politics are a waste of time and problems have to be solved instantly, and I could see very serious social unrest in the United States which would probably be resolved by a very authoritarian government.

"And then you could only hope you would have a benevolent despot -- rather than a Stalin of the Right."

In A Clockwork Orange, then, Kubrick feels he is satirizing both Man and Society. The trouble is, for most of the film, it's impossible to tell from what standpoint the satire is being made; Kubrick has deliberately changed Anthony Burgess's novel to make all the victims of Alex's aggression even more detestable than Alex himself. Such values as appear to exist are shifting, ambiguous, perverse: satire is a moral act, but Kubrick's film ends by being glitteringly amoral.

The closest it gets to a point of view is the prison chaplain's thunderous proclamation of the need for choice, which has the weight of Kubrick's own deeply held belief behind it: "It's the only non- satirical view in the film, I mean he's right!" says Kubrick. But the film's ending which also celebrates free will, is "obviously satirical -- you couldn't take it seriously." We (and Alex) are back to where we started.

Given his despairing view of man and society, it's hardly surprising that Kubrick has turned away from the contemporary world. He immerses himself in his work. His last three movies have been set in the future, his next will be set in the past. And in recent years he has moved into his own private form of transcendentalism.

"2001 would give a little insight into my metaphysical interests," he explains. "I'd be very surprised if the universe wasn't full of an intelligence of an order that to us would seem God-like. I find it very exciting to have a semi-logical belief that there's a great deal to the universe we don't understand, and that there is an intelligence of an incredible magnitude outside the earth. It's something I've become more and more interested in. I find it a very exciting and satisfying hope."


"Well, I mean, one would hate to think that this was it."

How did Kubrick come to such a pessimistic view of mankind? "From observation," he replies laconically. "Knowing what has happened in the world, seeing the people around me." He says it has nothing to do with anything that's happened to him personally, nor with his Jewish background. "I mean, it's essentially Christian theology anyway, that view of man."

God is truth

Enloe said:
<< Not all revealed truth is propositional and abstract. Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, is not a proposition nor an abstraction. But that's an easy one that nobody would even think of disputing. For more examples of non-propositional, non-abstract revealed truth, see the historical and poetical books of the Old Testament, or the apocalyptic of the prophetic books. There are propositions contained in these books, but the form of the revelation in these books is not itself propositional. I.e., narrative and verse are not propositions. In the world that God made (as opposed to the world that the Greeks wished the gods had made) "truth" simply is not confined to propositions, but takes all kinds of other forms as well. In particular, it takes forms that relate to beauty and goodness, and the trio thus make up "the three faces of culture." >>

I don't know if our disagreement here is merely semantic or goes deeper than that. You seem to be confounding truth itself with a mode or medium of communication.

Yes, Jesus Christ, as God incarnate, is also truth incarnate. Jesus is, to that extent, a concrete object.

But as an object of faith--as an epistemic rather than ontological object--we know him by description rather than acquaintance. To believe in Christ is to believe in certain revealed propositions about Christ.

To contrast propositional revelation with a variety of literary genres is a false dichotomy. Figurative usage is still propositional. There is, first of all, the meaning of the figurative usage itself. Then there's the literal referent for which it stands. At both levels it is asserting something to be the case. The language remains referential and assertoric. The same can be said of narrative theology.

<< Many times we act out of trust or lack of trust of people. Even if or when the basis of authority is an abstract proposition (which is not always, as I've said) it is acted on by people. Proposition as cannot be RIGIDLY separated from people. This is an implied endorsement of gnosticism in the sense of the elevation of "more important mind" (or "spirit") over "mere matter." That's the problem with all the proposition-talk in Reformish circles: it's not that there are no propositions in Christianity and that they aren't important, it's just that Christianity isn't REDUCIBLE to propositions. >>

I don’t know who you’re shadowboxing with when you set things up this way. Who is saying that propositions can be “rigidly” separated from people? Who is saying that Christianity is “reducible” to propositions?

Except for hyper-Clarkians, I don’t know anyone in the Reformed community who takes such an extreme view.

Yes, there’s more to faith than bare belief or sheer knowledge. There is also the element of trust. But trust in what? What is the relation between belief and trust? Trust is the measure of my confidence in the truth of what I believe. Otherwise, I would not be acting on it.

<< In fact, against your friends James White and Eric Svendsen I have often deployed Warfield's illustration of revelation being like light poured through stained-glass windows as proof that their rather odd concept that mediating factors on our thinking such as history and culture make knowing truth and doing exegesis impossible. >>

Well, I can’t speak for White or Svendsen, yet I agree with you that Cartesian exegesis is impossible. But whoever denied the role of “mediating factors” like history and culture? Does anyone of worth on the opposing side deny that general proposition? Doesn’t the issue come down to the precise nature of the relation, and not the existence of the relation itself?

Isn’t Svendsen, for one, conversant with the history of interpretation? Doesn’t he take that into account when he exegetes Scripture? Isn’t Svendsen conversant with the life-situation of Scripture? Doesn’t he take that into account when he exegetes Scripture?

At the same time, there can be a conflict between the original setting and the history of interpretation. We cannot absolutize history and culture to the point where they trumps original intent or substitute a situational context alien to the original setting.

Scripture must be in a position to correct church history and correct social conditioning. We are not enslaved to our social conditioning. We can become self-aware of the mediating factors that shape our outlook. And that enables us to compare and contrast our historical viewpoint with the viewpoint Scripture, which--in turn--enables us to bring our sociological perspective in line with the word of God. So I’m still unclear on what you find fault with in the opposing position.

Coffee stains

Before proceeding, let us briefly review how we got here. Kevin said the following:

<< What?!? Note here the one who downplays the importance of the Confession on the issue of inerrancy of Scripture! This is no small point. In short, the Reformed faith and here the Westminster Confession in this seminary student’s point of view (as if it was a point of view worth listening to) is somehow inadequate to answer the claims of skeptics and others today regarding the inerrancy of Scripture.

I find that absolutely astounding and ridiculous. >>

Notice that Kevin flags my status as a seminarian. It is absolutely astounding and ridiculous that someone like myself, who is affiliated with a Reformed seminary, would stake out this position.

I then responded by merely pointing out that my seminary, as well as three other leading Reformed seminaries, also go above and beyond the Westminster Standards in what they require of their faculty. So there's nothing incongruous about my position.

Note that I framed my reply in the very same terms as Kevin chose to frame his objection. He is the one who chose to single out my seminary connection as his point of reference. So how does he react when I respond in kind?

<< So what?!? Since when do “the four leading Reformed seminaries in America” represent the bastion of Reformed orthodoxy? >>

Hear the grating, grinding gear-shifting? He suddenly retracts his original point of reference. So was his original standard of comparison sincere, but sincerely wrong--or was it insincere from the get-go? I report, you decide.

But that isn’t the limit of his duplicity. He now hustles in a new criterion:

<< Besides, it is the confessional churches, not her seminaries, that have any authority in this matter anyways. >>

Okay, so how long does his stick with this yardstick?

<< Of course, Mr. NiceTry will next point to the ordination vows in the OPC and the PCA as if that proved anything else in regards to what I have already said. >>

Aren’t the OPC and PCA confessional churches? So doesn’t the authority lie with them—according to Kevin’s aforesaid standard?

But, no, that doesn’t prove anything either.

So the pattern seems to be that whenever Kevin gets into a bind of his own making, he extricates himself by talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Kevin also doesn’t like what I said about the Federal Vision:

<< Speaking of the theology that was presented at the Auburn Avenue conferences over the last few years as “heresy” is just absolutely out-of-bounds. Why is it that those who profess to be the absolute ultra-orthodox among us seem to throw this word around AS IF it meant almost nothing? If only those who thought along these lines considered the Ninth Commandment as seriously as they considered their precious little propositional statements. Of course, Mr. NiceTry doesn’t demonstrate that the theology in question is heresy. He merely makes the claim. This is just such an old and tired approach by those who disagree with the likes of Wilkins, Wilson, Schlissel, Barach, and others.

Furthermore, charging so-called Reformed Catholics with “hyper-covenantalism” is also completely unjustified. Let him take the reins here and actually provide substantiation for his remarks.

There is a fair amount of theological diversity in Presbyterianism that allows for differences of opinion on these issues. >>

i) To begin with, I already referred the reader to William Young’s article, which surveys the historical background of hypercovenantalism.

ii) In addition, the case against the Auburnite heresy has already been presented in a number of different venues, so I hardly need to reinvent the wheel here. The New Southern Presbyterian Review, available online, is one place to start.

iii) Even more to the point from Kevin’s stated ecclesiology, are the actions of the OPC and PCA in relation to the Federal Vision.

For instance, just consider the preliminary action of the OPC:

<< The Assembly erected a study committee of seven “to critique the teachings of the New Perspective on Paul, Federal Vision, and other like teachings concerning the doctrine of justification and other related doctrines, as they are related to the Word of God and our subordinate standards, with a view to giving a clear statement to the presbyteries, sessions, and seminaries, and report back to the 72nd GA.”,,PTID323422%7CCHID670978%7CCIID1971108,00.html

Pay close attention to the verb. The GA didn’t appoint a committee to merely “investigate” the Federal Vision and cognate positions. No, it appointed a committee to “critique” the Federal vision and other suchlike. So the GA of the OPC has already rendered a summary judgment against the Federal Vision.

What is more, the Federal Vision is also in the cross-hairs of the PCA:

<< Several Presbyteries in the PCA, including Central Carolina, have formed special committees to study “the Federal Vision.” Already, Central Carolina Presbytery has formally asked Louisiana to investigate the theological commitments of men within its bounds who are associated with “the Federal Vision.” Mississippi Valley has adopted a report detailing several “new formulations” of “the Federal Vision” and other related perspectives.

Their report states: "We do believe that many of the positions being advocated by proponents of the NPP [New Perspectives on Paul], AAT [Auburn Avenue Theology], and FV [Federal Vision] are confusing, unbiblical, and contra-confessional. As such, we are ready to declare some of these distinctive teachings to be outside the bounds of acceptable diversity in this presbytery, and we trust also, in the PCA. Among these are their specific departures from our Confession's presentation of the Bible's teaching on election, covenant membership, individual regeneration, justification, imputation, and perseverance. We believe our Confession to be more faithful to the Scriptures than are these new formulations.",,PTID323422%7CCHID664024%7CCIID1993764,00.html

The same article goes on to note that:

<< In 2004 the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary in California condemned these new paradigms and affirmed the commitment of WTS-West to the historic doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. And the 2004 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology featured seminars by Rick Phillips and Sinclair Ferguson that were critical of the New Perspectives. >>

When you consider that a number of the WSC faculty, including its president (Bob Godfrey), are affiliated with the URC, this is an ominous turn of events for the future of Auburnism in that body as well.

I would simply pose the following question to Kevin and his cohorts. If the ruling bodies of these confessional churches take disciplinary action against adherents of the Federal Vision, are they prepared to submit to the ministerial authority of those duly constituted churches? Or will they react in a schismatic and insubordinate fashion?

Remember, these are the guys who constantly play up catholicity, conciliarism, and ministerial authority. They draw invidious comparisons between their high church polity and the heirs of the Radical Reformation. What will they do if convicted by their own putative authorities?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Decaf theology

In response to my claim that the Westminster Confession does not afford an adequate statement on the inerrancy of Scripture to address modern-day liberals, Kevin has this to say:

<< What?!? Note here the one who downplays the importance of the Confession on the issue of inerrancy of Scripture! This is no small point. In short, the Reformed faith and here the Westminster Confession in this seminary student’s point of view (as if it was a point of view worth listening to) is somehow inadequate to answer the claims of skeptics and others today regarding the inerrancy of Scripture.

I find that absolutely astounding and ridiculous. >>

But my claim is only “astounding and ridiculous” because Kevin, as a “Reformed-Catholic,” is so out of touch with the real Reformed community that he has no idea what’s going on.

Let us take RTS, Westminster Theological Seminary, Westminster Seminary California, and Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. These are probably the four leading Reformed seminaries in America. All four seminaries require their faculty to swear by the Westminster Standards. But that is not all. Above and beyond the Westminster Standard, all four seminaries have a separate and auxiliary statement of faith on the inerrancy of Scripture to which their faculty must also swear.

Consider, for example, what Greenville has to say:

<< Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is passionately committed to the authority of Scripture. GPTS has maintained its identity as an Old School Presbyterian seminary.

While both "Old School" and "New School" Presbyterianism claim to hold to the full authority of Scripture, it was the Old School theologians of old Princeton who further developed the original concept of the inerrancy of Scripture. This doctrine has become a part of the ordination vows of the Presbyterian Church of America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

GPTS is unequivocally committed to the inerrancy of Scripture as its foundational theological principle. The broad evangelicalism that often arises within Reformed churches points to a failure of her leaders to grasp fully the implications of this foundational doctrine. At GPTS we seek to work out this great doctrine in every area of our instruction.

Notice that this additional development is not only a requirement of Greenville faculty, but of ordinands in the OPC and PCA.

Or take the supplementary statement of faith for faculty of Westminster Seminary California:

<< Concerning the Inerrancy of Scripture we believe:

THAT THE SCRIPTURE is the very Word of God written. Since God can neither lie, be mistaken, nor change, his Word cannot contain error. Therefore, Scripture is inerrant.

THAT SCRIPTURE'S AUTHORITY extends to all that it actually teaches. The careful study of Scripture will sometimes require us to correct our traditional views of what it says. But once the actual teachings of Scripture are ascertained, they bind our consciences, our theories, and our behavior. They take precedence over any rival claims to knowledge.

THAT GOD'S SPECIAL REVELATION IN THE BIBLE is compatible in every respect with his general revelation in nature. Human interpretations of general revelation, however, must submit to the authority of special revelation.

THAT SCRIPTURE'S PRIMARY SUBJECT is the message of redemption from sin through Jesus Christ. But all Scripture's subject matter is God's Word and always true. When Scripture speaks to matters of history, science, ethics, or anything else, it is true and authoritative, and it governs our thinking in these areas.

THAT THE INFALLIBILITY OF SCRIPTURE necessarily implies the inerrancy of Scripture. - top

And while we’re on the subject of Presbyterian theology, “Reformed-Catholics” are fond of marginalizing Reformed Baptists, but the hyper-covenantalism of “Reformed Catholicism” and the whole Auburnite heresy is just as contrary to traditional Presbyterian theology. For a primer on the background to this theological innovation and aberration, cf. W. Young, “Historic Calvinism and Neo-Calvinism,” WTJ 36 (1973-74), 48-64, 156-173.

Concerning the Chicago statement, this is what Kevin has to say:

<< But let’s talk about the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. It is notably one-sided, short-sighted, framed in the language of a hyperactive fundamentalist modernist approach to the issues of inerrancy and infallibility, and most certainly does not represent the whole or entire tradition of the Church over the last two thousand years. In effect, it represents a tradition that has not only winked at tradition but kept its eyes forcibly scrunched closed and its ears covered at what Christians have been up to over the last two thousand years all the while screaming “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” >>

Kevin is quite right about this. The Chicago Statement does not represent the whole of historical theology. It doesn’t represent the views of Briggs and Bultmann and Barr and Fosdick and Rahner and Spong, or Colenso, Loisy, and Wellhausen--to name a few.

Kevin also refers the reader to the following:

<< By the way, N.T. Wright has some excellent comments here on inerrancy. Of course, they won’t satisfy the “truly Reformed”…but who really cares? >>

And just what are some of these “excellent” comments of Wright?

<< A lot of that debate has happened within modernity, within post-Western-Enlightenment modernity, makes me worried because often, then, you get modernist categories about certainty and objectivity dumped on Scripture which really don’t do it justice and really don’t do what needs to be done.

If I say that I believe X but that the Bible says Y which is different, then chances are I’m making a mistake somewhere…

I know what the people who say inerrancy are trying to say, and broadly I want to affirm something like what they’re trying to affirm. >>

“Chances are” I’m making a mistake. I want to affirm “something like” that.

Yep, that doesn’t satisfy me. If I believe one thing, but the Bible says another, there’s more than a “chance” that I’m the one in the wrong. It’s a dead certainty. But, of course, Kevin, like Wright, doesn’t approve of words like “certainty.”

Likewise, I want to affirm much more than “something like” inerrancy. I affirm the plenary inspiration of Scripture.

Also, in my reading of history, it’s the attacks on the inerrancy of Scripture which were the result of Enlightenment modernity, and not the doctrine itself. But clearly I’m in bondage to my “hyperactivist fundamentalist modernist approach.”

Finally, as to the question of my “uncharitable” tone—Mt 3:1-12 is not distinguished by its charitable tone. Neither is Mt 23. Neither is the Letter to the Galatians, or the Book of Revelation. Scriptural illustrations could be multiplied.

Charity can be abused. Kevin never passes up an opportunity to pass up an opportunity to set the record straight. Although I’ve repeatedly pointed out that Enloe was the one who introduced the Chicago statement as his point of reference, Kevin continues to accuse me of imposing that standard on Enloe.

When a theological opponent repeatedly resists correction, even when he’s demonstrably in the wrong, he is not entitled to either charity or respect.

As to my own conduct; I’m more than happy to leave that verdict to the impartial judgment of others better than myself.

Of persons & propositions

Enloe said:

<< You're asking the question about ministerial authority the wrong way. Ministerial authority (even when in an ancient document) is personal, not abstract, and we don't deal with persons like we deal with geometry textbooks. There is no way to give you a "detailed theory" of when a person should heed and when a person should reject ministerial authority. There are, to be sure, historical examples from which we can draw instruction, as e.g., Athanasius vs. the Arians, Luther vs. the popes of his day, and Machen vs. Liberalism. But all of these things were personal conflicts dealing with incarnated reality, not abstract propositions residing in books. Flesh-and-blood reality cannot be reduced to propositions, much less to axioms, so your question is misconceived. Submission is more of a wisdom issue than a logic issue. >>

This is a half-truth. Ministerial authority may be personal, but revealed truth is propositional and abstract.

Luther, Machen, and Athanasius were acting on their understanding of certain abstract propositions revealed in Scripture. They were opposing true propositions to false propositions.

Either they were right, or they were wrong. Either their beliefs were true, or they were false.

They were persons acting on propositions. So truth is prior to belief, and belief is prior to behavior.

Yes, submission is a question of personal discretion, but that, in turn, is a question of where we think the truth lies. We act on our understanding, or misunderstanding, of the truth.

No, there is no algorithm for how or when to apply the rule of faith (sola Scriptura). But that is distinct from the rule of faith itself. Our rule of faith is susceptible to a “detailed theory.”

<< I continue to deny your demand that I provide some kind of explanation or alternative theory to the 1982 Chicago Statement. That Statement is simply not the necessary benchmark for orthodoxy that you seem to take it to be, so it's not incumbent on me to provide you with a detailed counter-theory. Christians were faithfully confessing the inerrancy of the Scriptures for many centuries before the rise of 19th century Presbyterian Baconianism that, through many twists and turns, gave birth to some of the categories that ultimately informed the Chicago Statement. Why can't I simply rest content in the corporate confession, without having a mechanical theory? The burden of proof is actually on you to explain why I OUGHT to have a mechanical theory. >>

i) To repeat myself ad nauseum, you were the one who originally introduced the Chicago Statement as a point of reference, not me.

ii) You also seem to be giving different, and not entirely consistent, answers for why you won’t respond. One answer is that it’s been so long since you’ve studied this issue that you’re not prepared to venture an opinion.

But, then, in this latest reply, you present a very distinct point of disagreement. For you regard the Chicago Statement as heir to a “mechanical” theory of inspiration, which is, in turn, heir to a Baconian epistemology.

Other issues aside, I don’t know why you attribute a mechanical theory of inspiration to 19C Presbyterian theology. Warfield, for one, was a champion of the organic theory of inspiration. Do you not know that? The organic theory is also on display in article 8 of the Chicago Statement.

iii) In addition, the larger issue is not what causal model we posit for inspiration, in terms of the precise relation between the divine and human agents.

Rather, the larger issue is the effect of whatever causal model we posit. For example, does our theory affirm or deny the self-witness of Scripture?
Does our theory affirm or deny the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture? Does our theory affirm or deny the constantive character of Scripture? Does our theory affirm or deny the presence of historical and scientific errors in the teaching of Scripture?

<< As for how we subjectively enjoy access to "objective" reality, my basic answer is that we only enjoy that access subjectively. We are creatures. We cannot transcend created finitude and see things the way God does (i.e., timelessly). Our access to "objective" reality is always conditioned by our incarnated situation. Some sloppy thinkers like to claim that this makes "truth" impossible, but really all it does is uphold a facet of the Creator / creature distinction by reminding us of who and what we are. It doesn't make epistemology relativistic; it just makes epistemology messy. >>

This is a false antithesis, for the question is whether God has entered into our subjectivity. No, we cannot reproduce the divine mode of knowledge. But if Scripture is divine revelation, then Scripture does afford us a partial, God’s-eye glimpse of reality.

Likewise, the subjective dimension is not a God-free zone, but is under the same providential control as the objective dimension.

Tradition: Popish and Protestant

To his credit, Tim Enloe has made some effort towards actually responding to my questions. That’s progress. By way of reply, I’d say the following:

i) It is still left hanging in mid-air what his detailed position on inerrancy amounts to. Remember, what he said in the past is that while he continues to affirm inerrancy, he does not affirm the “form” of inerrancy espoused in the Chicago Statement.
From what I can tell, to judge by his latest statement, he doesn’t really have a considered position on the Chicago Statement because it’s been too long since he’s reviewed that question. So he can’t offer us his informed judgment. Very well. He’ll have to take a rain-check on that one. Since, however, he was the one who originally brought it up, he needs to revisit this issue and nail down the particulars of his position.

ii) He has clarified his position on Rom 11 and ecclesiastical reunion. From what I can tell, his claim is not as strong as Wilson’s.

iii) In answer to a related question, he doesn’t seem to have a theological benchmark against which progress towards catholicity (or declensions therefrom) would be measured. That answer clarifies one aspect of his position, but leaves another aspect in the dark--for without such a yardstick to supply the standard of comparison, catholicity is a goal without a goal-post.

iv) He offers a partial answer to the question of ministerial authority, but doesn’t address the fundamental question of the extent to which a layman should or should not submit to ministerial authority. Everything turns on the details.

v) With regard to “objective reality,” he says that I should define my terms. To the contrary, since this is Enloe’s usage, it is incumbent upon him to define his own terms.

But to meet him halfway, and refine my own question, I think we both agree on the existence of an extramental reality, viz., the sensible world (i.e. spacetime continuum) as well as the spiritual world (i.e., discarnate spirits). The general question, though, is how, in our subjectivity, we enjoy cognitive access to “objective” reality.

However, in the context of this particular debate, I’m less interested in his answer to that general question than in his answer to the more specific question of how, in his view, we enjoy cognitive access to propositional revelation. Tim plainly thinks there’s a wrong way to go about this, to judge by his attacks on the way in which some of us in the Reformed community prooftext Scripture for abstract theological propositions.

So the question is, what, then, is Tim’s alternative? What detailed epistemic model does he offer to solve the problem which he has posed for himself of the subject/object dichotomy in relation to our appropriation of divine revelation?

Finally, Kevin Johnson has chosen to pipe in. Enloe is not responsible for Kevin’s comments, so my remarks are directed to Kevin.

i) Kevin once again showcases his customary inattention to the actual record of my exchange with Enloe. I am not the one who introduced the Chicago statement as the point of reference. Tim did. I am simply framing my questions within the very framework provided by Tim. This is not the first time I’ve had to explain this point. Is Kevin really too dense to get it?

ii) Did I ever say that Tim ought to adhere to the Chicago Statement. We never got to that point. I simply asked him to clarify the extent to which he did or did not adhere to the Chicago statement. Again, is Kevin too lazy to go back and review the material on which he presumes to comment, or does he suffer from some mental block which hinders him from grasping what was actually said?

iii) Kevin has a blinkered view of tradition. The Chicago Statement is, itself, a part of theological tradition. Theological tradition isn’t frozen in the 17C. The old Princeton theology is a theological tradition. Old School Presbyterianism is a theological tradition. For better or worse, Vatican II is a part of theological tradition (in the very act of revising Sacred Tradition). The whole of historical theology is tradition.

This is different from Trent and Vatican I, where tradition is equated with the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

The real question is not what is tradition, but what traditions do we identify as our own tradition, and what selection-criteria to we apply?

iv) No, Kevin, the Westminster Confession does not afford an adequate statement on the inerrancy of Scripture. The major players in the conflict with Rome did not disagree on the inerrancy of Scripture. That issue had not assumed its present proportions.

Whenever you have a statement of faith, the liberals will figure out a new strategy to get around the old formulation. The very wording of a creed gives the liberal a new way to play semantic games and trump up fine-spun distinctions that escape the exact wording.

For example, if a clever liberal wants to deny the Resurrection or the Virgin Birth, he will not say that the Bible was in error. He could say that, and that’s what he really believes, but that would be way too tactless. Instead, he’ll say that Scripture never “intended” to teach a literal Resurrection or a literal Virgin Birth.

That’s why it is necessary for the community of faith to update its statement of faith. The Westminster Divines didn’t need to deal with 19-20C higher criticism. We do. That’s what the Chicago Statement is targeting.

If you spent less of your time laughing, and more of your time thinking, you would be in a better position to appreciate these practical and pastoral necessities.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Controversy in the Romanosphere

<< A TA at a Reformed Seminary recently claimed that I "owe the Christian community an explanation" for why I wrote a blog entry linking to another person's blog entry that questioned some of the assumptions of the 1982 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Whatever for, I have to ask. In light of the foregoing exposition of the complaint, and the questions raised about it, I think that whole mentality of "Laymen's blogs are dangerous to Truth and the Gospel! Somebody from the Approved Authority Bureaucracy better clamp down on them!" is just plain weird. You have to start wondering what the Approved Authorities are afraid of. >>

This is a completely dishonest characterization of our exchange. Remember how Enloe replied to my commentary?

<< (4) I want to know who you are, Steve, to pontificate about my supposedly needing to keep "doubts" private and not using blogs to "plant seeds of doubt in others minds." Good grief, man, get some perspective. I am not a leader in some movement, much less do I have any authority in the Church. I am just a guy with a blog. I am in lawful biblical submission to local elders, to whom I have made my internet activities known. They, and not you or any one else like you, have the care of my soul so I don't see why I should care about your opinions of what I am doing in the first place. Who are you to me?


Did I pull rank on Enloe? Did I object that he had no standing to say what he did? Did I fault him for making “unauthorized” statements? None of the above.

What I said is that, having criticized the Chicago Statement on inerrancy, he had an obligation to follow that up with a clarification of his position on inerrancy. This assumes, does it not, that I was, in fact, granting him the right to express himself?

Now notice how he’s twisted this all around. He accuses me of challenging his authority, although I did nothing of the kind. By contrast, if you read his original response, he was the one trying to pull that one on me. He was the one questioning my right to express myself.

<< When asked "simple" questions I frequently "stonewall" via name-or book title-dropping that tells no one anything except that I think I'm really something super special and don't have to make any arguments for my views. Once more into the breach and all that, but I really don't know how to respond to this. People who talk this way seem to me to fall into three classes. First, there are those who just flat do not seem to be acquainted with the very large amount of explanatory work that exists on my site (this site is far more than a blog; just look at the Website Menu on the sidebar), and who therefore seem to think that highly abbreviated presentations that appear in blog entries or comments boxes are all I have going for me…Third, there are those who seem to want only the "Cliff Notes" versions of complicated materials, but when they are given exactly that even the Cliff Notes appear to be so intimidating that they have no response but "You're just blustering."

The answer to the first group is to point out the explanatory materials that exist on this site and then make them assume the responsibility for becoming acquainted with the larger world that exists behind "mere" blog posts on this site or the "mere" comments made by me on other sites.

The answer to the third group is similar to the answer to the first group, but with the added qualifier that not every issue can be reduced to Cliff Notes because understanding some issues requires lots of reading and lots of hard thinking, no two ways about it. I can't help someone who, upon seeing me say in shorthand that Martin Luther's speech at the Diet of Worms should be set in the larger context of the 15th century conciliar movement's battle with papalism, finds himself so out of his depth and so threatened by the challenge to his Cliff Notes understanding of the Reformation that all he can say is "You're arrogant! How dare you challenge the caricature of the Reformation which I love!" The person who reads a short, clipped paragraph about the influence of D'Ailly and Gerson and Thomistic natural law theories upon the ecclesiological framework that most deeply influenced the Reformers should demonstrate some familiarity with the actual things in the paragraph before concluding I'm just blowing smoke and have no arguments. Again, there is an immense amount of explanatory material on this website. I've already read it. I don't think it's too much to ask my harsh critics to read it too. At least then they might have some kind of idea what I am talking about, and thus be able to issue intelligent criticisms rather than mere blustering denunciations.

Enough. >>

i) Tim once again disregards the elementary distinction between an answer and an explanation. It doesn’t take 300 pages to answer a “what” question

For example, Turk asked Tim a “what” question, not a “why” question. Turk asked Tim to state what he believed. This was Turk’s question—really two related questions: “(1) Who determines what law is “unjust”? What standard does he use?"

Was Turk asking Tim how the Magisterial Reformation arrived at its answer? No? Was Turk asking Tim why he took the position he did? No.

It should only take a few sentences or a paragraph or two to answer a “what” question. You state your basic position along with whatever caveats you wish to add.

ii) Now, having posted the above on his blog, Tim says, in the comments box of my own blog, that he could list the relevant articles. Fine. Why didn’t he do that all along?

iii) But let us review what my questions were:


Is Enloe’s denial of “objective” reality applicable to his own statement?

a) Enloe says there is no “objective” reality.
b) This statement is, itself, a statement about reality—to wit: there is no “objective” reality.
c) This statement, if true, is self-referential and therefore self-refuting.
d) Ergo, this statement, if true, is false.
e) Therefore, it is false.


In his debate with Lee Irons, Wilson seems to endorse a preterist version of postmillennialism—a la Bahnsen, Gentry.

i) Does Enloe share that view?

And does this mean that Wilson would preterize Rom 11 as well? If not, why not? If so, how does he harmonize preterism with futurism? In what sense, on a preterist version of postmillennialism, does Rom 11 await fulfillment?

ii) How does a postmil eschatology entail ecclesiastical reunion? If, even now, Christians can still be Christians although they represent different theological traditions exemplified in different visible denominations, then how would Christianizing the entire world automatically dissolve their theological differences?

iii) Finally, there's the question of which theological tradition, if any in particular, supplies the doctrinal template for reunion? What is the creed of the reunited church? Is it more Lutheran? Anglican? Presbyterian? Roman Catholic? Greek Orthodox?


The real question is whether we define “ministerial” authority as something over and above the application of Scripture itself.

Unless you happen to be Plymouth Brethren, most Evangelicals will grant that God has given teachers to the church. They will grant that there is such a think as church office in the NT.

That’s not the issue. The issue, rather, is whether ministerial authority is a limited, conditional authority--contingent on its fidelity to the truth of Scripture--or whether it’s something above and beyond a direct extension of Biblical authority. Is ministerial authority authorized by Scripture--authorized to that degree, and to that degree only, that it reproduces the teaching of Scripture itself? That’s the question.

Or is it a kind of implicit, proxy faith, in which the layman believes whatever the pastor believes? Is the pastor the official Christian? Is he deputized to believe on behalf of and instead of the layman, is the sense that the layman has delegated to the pastor the sole responsibility of interpreting God’s word? Can our spiritual duties be contracted out to a second party? Is Enloe recommending a return to blind ecclesiasticism? That’s the question.


If he no longer subscribes to the “Chicago” school of inerrancy, then what does his alternative, postmodern version look like? What does he affirm that the Chicago doctrine denies? And what does he deny that the Chicago doctrine affirms? Specifics, please!

In fact, Enloe seems to agree with Joel Hunter. Enloe tells us that he doesn’t reject inerrancy itself, but only “form” or version of inerrancy articulated in the Chicago statement.

So the remaining issue is: how much distance does he put between himself and the Chicago doctrine?

These are my four standing questions for Tim.