Review: Gillespie, Aaron’s Rod Blossoming

Argument of Book: there exists a religious tribunal distinct from that of the civil magistrate.  This tribunal has the power of excommunication. In fact, Gillespie’s overall argument is quite simple, despite the learned discussions in the book.  Erastianism isn’t necessarily an outward threat to the church by the state (such as the IRS’s domination of the American church). It’s simply the state’s prerogative to control church discipline.Image result for george gillespie

I’m not going to spend too much time reviewing the arguments that the Jewish church had an ecclesial body distinct from the civil magistrate.  That’s not where the battle is being fought today.

Church and State, the Civil Magistrate

There is a distinction between magistracy and ministry; as such, there offices are also distinct (80).  Magistrates and ministers differ in their causes:

  1. The efficient cause: The king of nations hath instituted civil power; the king of saints ecclesial (86).
  2. Material: civil magistracy is punitive.  The magistrate has the sword, the minister the keys.
  3. Formal: the power of magistracy is architectonic and despotic and is immediately subordinate to God.  The ecclesial is diakonike and subordinate to Jesus as King of the Church.
  4. Final: magistracy is only for the glory of God as king of nations.  And while the magistrate ought to be a Christian, he is not participating as Christ’s sub-mediator.

Of the Twofold Kingdom

Jesus has dominion over all things as Son of God, but his special kingdom is the church, of which he is mediator. We are not separating the Person of Christ, but simply making distinctions.  Arguments proving it:

  1. Does Jesus reign over devils by his mediatorial work or by his divine power?  Obviously the latter. Therefore, it is a separate kingdom.
  2. His being the ‘heir of all things,’ receiving the heathen, relates to the church (94).
  3. In Scripture pagan civil governments are recognized as legitimate, even if they aren’t under Christ.

The Christian Magistrate

He may govern “in the church” but he may not govern the church. He governs not qua the church, but qua the commonwealth. For example, the magistrate must not have the power of church censures, but he ought to punish like sins with like punishments.  But he cannot do that if he has church censures, for the heathen must be punished civilly but the believer with church discipline (115).

Christ’s Visible Kingdom

Christ’s visible kingdom, distinct from his invisible one, is proved from Matt. 26.28, which cannot refer to his coming in glory, “for all that were then hearing Christ have tasted death” (137).

Good discussion of “cutting off” (26ff).  Gillespie argues that it usually means “removal from the sanctuary/holy people.”

Sacraments not converting ordinances

Gillespie on conversion: can be distinguished between habitual conversion and subsequent works of grace. Habitual conversion is the first infusion of life and habits of grace.

(1) That which is an instituted sign is not an operating cause whereby it makes that which is signified present where it is not (236).

(2) That which necessarily supposeth conversion and faith is not that which works conversion of and faith.  Smoke presupposes fire but it does not cause fire.

(4) If an ordinance is instituted for believers only (Lord’s Supper), then it isn’t a converting but a sealing ordinance.

(7) Those who come to the Lord’s Wedding Feast must have a wedding garment, but the unconverted do not have this.

(10) The prohibition against eating and drinking unworthily necessarily excludes the unconverted.

Extra: how can it be a pledge of union and communion with Christ when such a one is far off from Christ?

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Outline of Turretin, Topics 1 and 2

I read through Turretin a few years ago.  Now I have time to do a more thorough study.Image result for francis turretin

On Natural Theology

It is partly innate (derived from conscience) and partly acquired (I.3).

God (and divine things) is the object of theology: he is not to be considered exclusively under the relation of deity (per Aquinas), but as he is our God (i.e., covenanted in Christ as he has revealed himself; Turretin, I.5.IV).

Purpose of reason for theology: it has a ministerial function.

  • Truth of propositions: axiomatic judgment
  • Truth of conclusions: discursus

Faith perceives the consequent, reason the consequences (I.8.11).

The Judgment of Contradiction:

  1. Reason judging: the reason in question is that which is restored and enlightened by the Holy Spirit (I.10.1).
  2. The principle from which the judgment is formed: axioms which are drawn from Scripture
  3. Rule of consequence::

Scriptural proofs for this principle: Matt. 7:15; 16:6; Col. 2:8; 1 Thess. 5:21.

In the 11th Question Turretin affirms the use of the senses.  This allows him to reject transubstantiation.

Second Topic: The Holy Scriptures

First Question: Was Verbal Revelation Necessary?  We affirm. It must also have been committed to writing because of the need to preserve and propagate the word.

  1. Although the church before Moses didn’t have the word, and the early church didn’t have all of it, it does not logically follow that the word is inferior.

Sixth Question: From what source does the divine authority of the Scriptures depend?

Turretin points out that the “authority belongs to the genus of things ek ton pros ti….[and] should not be considered absolutely but relatively.  Therefore, Scripture cannot be authentic in itself without being so for us” (II.6.3).

The Bible on its own account is the objective cause of why I believe it.  The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause. The Church is the instrumental cause.  We can give the three-fold reply on account that threefold causes can be granted for the manifestation of anything (section 6).

Twentieth Question: What is the Supreme Judge, Scripture or the Pope?

We prove it is Scripture by:

  1. God himself: he sends the judge and we must obey him (Dt 17:10). Christ says to obey and judge by Moses and the Prophets (Lk. 16:29).
  2. When Christ sends people to the church to hear, the church is not speaking of matters of faith but of scandal (Matt. 18:17).
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Horton on Radical Orthodoxy

Horton, Michael.  Covenant and Salvation.

Covenantal Ontology: The pactum salutis is the intra-Trinitarian covenant made in eternity. It is realized in the biblical covenants. See also pp. 182-186.

Horton notes that Radical Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism presuppose something along the following lines: overcoming estrangement. By this he means a paradigm that promises enlightenment and a liberation of nature beyond itself (155).

EXCURSUS: A RESULT OF A PLATONIC SWALLOWING-UP?
Several times throughout this book Horton advances a critique of Platonic Divine Simplicity, but never calls it such. He has a section on John Milbank and offers a full-orbed convincing critique of Milbank. As readers of Milbank know, he is strongly committed to the neo-Platonic doctrine of absolute divine simplicity. To put the matter briefly, such a view of simplicity negates or mutes distinctions. Horton then goes on to say, “As speculative metaphysics (specifically ontological participation) swallows up the horizon, Christology is swallowed by ecclesiology, and redemptive mediation has to do with overcoming metaphysical binaries (finite/infinite,  spiritual,invisible/visible, corporeal/incorporeal, temporal/eternal, and so forth) rather than ethical and eschatological ones (sin/grace, death/life, condemnation/justification…this age/age to come” (165. /END EXCURSUS)

The book ends with placing the traditional Reformed ordo in a communicative context. Horton wants to avoid some of the hang-ups the Reformed scholastics had when they used medieval categories to challenge Rome. Instead, Horton argues we should use communicative categories, which makes sense since Christ is the Word. Horton suggests we should see effectual calling as a speech-act whereby God creates a new reality. This isn’t that bad a suggestion, since it mutes the charge that Calvinism forces a God who forces the unbeliever’s will. God does no such thing. Rather, he creates a situation, renewing the will (does renewal = violence? I hope not, 223). Throughout Scripture we see the Spirit “bringing things to life, into existence” (Ezekiel 37). Is it so hard to imagine he can do this to the human will?
Nota Bene: I know longer hold to Horton’s speech-act model, though the criticisms of radical orthodoxy obtain.

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Witsius, Notes: Vol 1

This is mainly Books 1-3 of The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man (Reformation Heritage reprint)Image result for herman witsius economy of the covenants

Book 1

Chapter 1: Covenants in General

Generally, covenants signify a mutual agreement between parties, with respect to something (43).  A covenant of God, furthermore, “is an agreement between God and man, about the way of obtaining consummate happiness,” including sanctions (45).  This covenant comprises three things: a) Promise; b) condition; c) sanction.

While it is a free agreement between God and man, man really couldn’t say no.  Not to desire God’s promises is to refuse the goodness of God, which is sin.

Covenant of Works: in the covenant of works there is no mediator (49).

Chapter 2: Of the contracting parties of the covenant of works

The CoW = natural law = covenant of nature (50).  Witsius notes that there was supernatural revelation in this covenant (53).

Image of God

The imago dei has knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (54).

Chapter 3: Of the Law, or Condition, of the Covenant of Works

The law of nature: the rule of good and evil inscribed on man’s conscience.  Further, it is identical with the substance of the decalogue (62).

Witsius views the CoW as probationary, yet Adam wouldn’t have “earned” the reward per any intrinsic merit.  The reward is rooted in God’s covenant, not in man’s merit.

Chapter 4: Of the Promises of the Covenant of Works

Man’s natural conscience teaches him that God desires not to be served in vain (71).

Chapter 5: Of the Penal Sanction

Nature of the soul: a spiritual substance endowed with understanding and will (89).  Witsius notes that the soul is conscious of itself, which modern philosophers like JP Moreland call “self-presenting.”

Aquinas and the majesty of God: Adam’s disobedience, no matter how small, is divine treason–it is not honoring and infinite majesty as it deserves. God’s holiness is such that he cannot admit a sinner to communion without satisfaction first made to his justice (94).

Chapter 7: Of the First Sabbath

Contra Turretin, Witsius doesn’t think Adam fell on the first day (126).

Chapter 8: Of the Violation of the Covenant of Works on the Part of Man

Witsius suggests that Satan’s suggestion to Eve that she can disobey God and not die, which is a venial sin, is functionally equivalent to Rome’s definition of venial sin (138).

Foreknowledge and Predestination: God’s knowledge of future things cannot be conceived apart from his decreeing them (141).  The creature acts in concurrence with God’s action. All things come from God. There is only one first cause (I.8.15). If something could act besides having God as its cause, then there would be multiple first Causes, which is polytheism.

God and sin.  If all beings come from God, and even though sin is privation of being, it, too, is a kind of entity, then it also arises from God’s plan (para 22).

Chapter 9: Of the Abrogation of the Covenant of Works

The covenant of law demands a merit of perfect obedience, otherwise Christ would have been under no necessity to submit to this covenant (158).

Book II.

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Covenant of Grace

Definition: a compact or agreement between God and the elect sinner, God on his part declaring his free good-will concerning eternal salvation, and every thing relative thereto, freely to be given to those in covenant, by, and for the mediator Christ; and man on his part consenting to that goodwill by a sincere faith (2.1.5).

Chapter 2: Of the Covenant between God the Father and Son

The covenant of redemption is between God and the Mediator. The will of the Father, giving the Son to be the Head and Redeemer of the elect; and the will of the Son, presenting himself as a Sponsor or Surety for them (2.2.2). Christ’s suretyship consists in his willingness to undertake to perform that condition (2.2.4).

The exegetical foundation is in Zech. 6.13.  There is a counsel of Peace between God and the Branch. 

Covenant and Justification: God the Father, through Christ’s use of the sacraments, sealed the federal promise concerning justification (para 11).  Christ’s baptism illustrates the sealing of the covenant from both sides.

Chapter 3: The nature of the covenant between the Father and the Son more fully explained

Lines of argument:  Christ was foreordained (1 Peter i.20).

Rejects the idea of liberty of will = indifference (p. 187).

The reward the Son was to obtain:

  1. Highest degree of glory (John 17.1).
  2. Christ’s obedience is the cause of the rewards.

Chapter 4: Of the Person of the Surety

4 things necessary for a surety: true man;  holy man; true God; unity of person.

Chapter 7: Of the Efficacy of Christ’s Satisfaction

The proximate effect of redemption and payment of ransom is setting the captives free, and not a bare possibility of liberty (235).

Chapter 9: Of the Persons for whom Christ engaged and satisfied

Key point: those “all for whom” (2 Cor. 5.15) Christ died are those who are also dead to the old man (257).

Chapter 10: After What manner Christ used the sacraments

Key point: Christ used the sacraments of the old covenant to show them as signs and seals of the covenant, whereby mutual contracting parties are sealed (273). The promsies made to Christ as mediator were principally sealed to him by the sacraments.

BOOK III

Chapter 1: Of the Covenant of God with the Elect

The contracting parties are God and the elect (281). The son is not only mediator but testator, who ratified the covenant with his death. Are there conditions in the covenant of Grace?  Earlier divines like Rutherford spoke a qualified “yes,” though Witsius removes himself from that language. Condition: that action which gives a man a right to the reward (284).

Chapter 12: Sanctification

Witsius gives a warm and pastoral chapter on mortifying the flesh.

Concerning body, soul, spirit:

  1. Spirit is the mind, or the leading faculty of man (II.17).
  2. Soul denotes the inferior faculties.
  3. Yet spirit and soul aren’t two different substances.

God is the author and the efficient cause of sanctification (18).

Chapter 13: Of Conservation, or the manner by which God preserves us

God conserves us internally by the Spirit and externally by the means he hath appointed (55).  This is otherwise known as “P” in the unfortunately-named “TULIP.” Our security is guaranteed because of God’s covenant, not only with us, but between the members of the Trinity (62ff).

Chapter 14: Of Glorification

Df. = that act of God whereby he translates his chosen and redeemed people to the next life.

Nature of the Soul

The soul must continue after death because the righteous who die in the Lord are considered “blessed,” yet how can someone be blessed without knowledge or feeling?

Paradise and the thief on the cross:

It makes no sense to say that the “today, I say to you” refers to when Christ spoke.  The thief already knows that Christ is speaking on that day (p. 95). The thief was asking a “when” question, and Christ gives him a “when” answer.

 

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Review: Waverly (Sir Walter Scott)

“Under which king, Benvolio? Speak or die!”

Edward Waverly might not be the most complex character, and it seems too cheap to say he is “relatable” because of his flaws.  Rather, it might be the case that his youth and zeal for romance make him someone we can at least understand. We’ve many of us longed for heroic (if necessarily doomed) causes.   And yet Walter Scott never ridicules him. In fact, he paints him in a compelling light.Image result for waverly oxford world classics

Edward Waverly, raised on horseback riding and romance novels, joins the military and does a tour in Scotland, and then falls in with Highlanders while on furlough.  Through it all he meets several women, one complicated, one noble, and must navigate the political machinations of the Pretender, rival clans, and the English Army.

Analysis

This book has all the strengths and weaknesses of a Scott novel.  There is skilled poetry, intrigue, and complex (and sometimes hilarious) characters.  Unfortunately, like many Scott novels, there is a lot of “filler” and it has the feel of being episodic.  

Could we call the Waverly novels  “Wisdom Literature?”  Perhaps.  Scott often writes in the 2nd person and makes poignant remarks about the human character.

Further, while Scott ridiculed Presbyterians and Covenanters, he didn’t pull cheap shots. It’s like Flannery O’Connor’s fundamentalist protestants.  They are actually quite fun to watch.

The story is interesting, however, and this is definitely one of Scott’s finest.

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Review: Calvin and the Calvinists (Paul Helm)

Overview:  early summary of the Calvin vs the Calvinists debate but excluding the Barth factor.

Application for today:  Good early rebuttal against some Federal Visionists who sometimes tend to pit Calvin against Calvinists.

This is an early response to the line of argument that said Calvin taught the sweet doctrines of the Reformation until the Puritans came along and ruined it. Paul Helm responds to RT Kendall’s book on Calvinism. While Helm vindicates Calvin, that is secondary in my opinion. The book is a fine, short read and gives helpful ways of thinking about Christ’s work.

Unity of Christ’s work of intercession and death. 

The question of the hour: Did Calvin teach Limited Atonement? Kendall takes Calvin’s silence as a “no.” Helm rebuts by showing what the atonement actually means for Calvin. It produces actual remission (Helm 13).

We are going to jump ahead and examine a claim by Kendall: Christ died for all but intercedes for the elect. Helm points out that such a view means Christ’s death wasn’t enough. The efficacy had to be completed by his intercession. But this is not what Calvin said: Christ discharged all satisfaction by his death (Inst. II.xvi.6). If that’s true, then what remains to be accomplished by his intercession (Helm 43)?

The Christian and Conversion

Kendall said that Calvin saw faith as God’s act; it is passive. The Puritans saw faith as man’s act, and Kendall quotes Inst. III.13.5 for proof of the former. Helm, however, shows that Kendall moves too quickly. Calvin said in that passage that faith as regards justification is passive, but not faith simpliciter.

The final problem Kendall has with the Puritans is their emphasis on “preparationism.” He sees them as proto-Arminians, as though man can prepare himself to be saved. But this isn’t what the Puritans meant. They denied man could prepare himself, but they affirmed that man could find himself in a state of being prepared (that is, by using means such as hearing the Word, etc.).

Conclusion

I read this book in about an hour. It is short and clear. Highly recommended

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Outline of Calvin’s Institutes, Book 1

Outline and Notes.

Knowledge of God

Calvin placed intuitive knowledge on a more direct footing.  We have direct knowledge of an actually present object:  Intuitive knowledge arises under the direct impact of the divine Being.

    1. Calvin: We know God through his speaking to us in his Word (Word, being Logos, inheres in the divine being).
      1. There is a compulsion of Veritas on our minds.
      2. Knowledge of God, like all true knowledge, is determined by the nature of what is known (86).
        1. arises out of our obedience.
        2. evidence: evidence of ultimate reality, which means it is self-evident.
      3. Our intuitive knowledge is in and through God’s Word.
        1. it is reached by hearing, not seeing.
        2. The Word of God we hear in Scripture reposes in the divine Being. That is the objective ground in our knowledge of God.
  1. Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self, since God is the standard of knowledge.
    1. Knowledge of God involves trust and reverence (1.2.2).
      1. Knowledge of God, hence, involves obedience.
      2. The object of knowledge, in this case, partially determines how we know God.
    2. Implanted in the minds of men (1.3-4)
    3. Scripture is needed if we are to have true knowledge (1.6-8)
      1. The church itself is grounded in Scripture. Eph. 2.20.
      2. Witness of the Holy Spirit..  God is a fit witness of himself. Isaiah 59.20-21.
    4. Contra fanatical knowledge (1.9).
      1. The Holy Spirit agrees with Scripture.
      2. Word and Spirit belong together.
    5. Contra superstition (1.10-11).
      1. No visible form of God.
      2. Dulia/latria collapses.
        1. It is harder to serve a being than to reverence it (1.11.11).
        2. Scripture itself blurs this distinction (1.12.2). Gal. 4.8.
  2. The Being of God and the Trinity
    1. The Father has made his hypostasis visible in the Son (1.13.2).

Book I.V.13-15

“No pure and approved religion founded on common understanding alone.” 1 Cor. 2.8.

Chapter VI: Scripture Necessary

Knowledge of God in Scripture

True understanding emerges when we reverently embrace what pleases God (I.VI.2). This might be what Torrance has in mind when he says true scientific knowledge is when the knower submits to the structures of the object known.  “Right knowledge of God is born of obedience” (Omnis recta cognito Dei ab obedientia nascitur)

Chapter VII: Scripture must be confirmed by the Spirit

(Chapters 7-9 form an excursus on biblical authority)

“Scriptures obtain full authority among believers only when men regard them as having sprung from heaven, as if there the were living words of God were heard (7.1).  Is Calvin saying the bible becomes authoritative as we assent to its authority?  Maybe.  This is very close to what Barth says about Scripture’s becoming the Word of God in us when we submit to it.

*The highest proof of Scripture comes from God, since Scripture comes from God.  God himself is a “fit witness” for his Word.

Inward testimony of the Spirit

The Spirit must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us of Scripture (VII.4).  Is. 59.21.

Hilary of Poitiers: “For he whom we can know only through his utterances is a fitting witness concerning himself” (De Trin. I.18).

Calvin: “It is not right to subject Scripture to proof and reasoning.”  Proofs only work when the Spirit seals them on our hearts. The only true faith is that which the Spirit seals on our hearts.

Chapter 10.2

Uses language of God in himself, but goes on to say that “Experiences teaches us to find God as he is in his Word.”

Chapter 11: Impropriety of Images

section 1.  “God himself is the sole and proper witness of himself” (cf. Hilary, De Trin. I.8).

sect. 2: How can spirit be analogous to a material object?

Epistemology and Icons

The problem with the dulia/latria distinction.

  • Scripture doesn’t use that distinction (Mt. 4:10; Rev. 19:10, Acts 10:25).
  • Common sense logic says that one who is enslaved/under service to a greater necessarily gives honor to the greater (pp. 118-119).

DOCTRINE OF GOD, PROPERLY SPEAKING

Chapter 13

Divine simplicity on p. 122.

  • The Father’s hypostasis is visible in Jesus (p. 123).

Definition of Person (p.128).

  • better spoken of as “subsistence.”
  • Persons are distinguished by an incommunicable quality
  • John 1:1–Word could not be God without residing in the Father, hence the idea of subsistence emerges.

Distribution or economy in God has no effect on the unity of the essence.

Christology

Calvin summarizes the basic arguments for the deity of Christ.  Not much new here.  However, some points:

  • If apart from God there is no salvation, no righteousness et al, yet Christ contains all of these.  Then Christ is God.
  • The name of a Jehovah is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe.  Yet the name of Christ is invoked for salvation.  Therefore, Christ is on the same level as Jehovah.

Deity of the Holy Spirit (I.XIII.14-15)

*The Spirit is author of regeneration by his very own energy.

*Through him we come into communion with God, so that in a way we feel his life-giving power toward us.

Distinction and Unity of the Three Persons (I.XIII.16-20).

Fairly standard stuff.  Includes Calvin’s famous quote of Gregory of Nazianzus (p.141).

*Father is attributed the beginning of the activity and the fountain of all things; the Son, wisdom, counsel, and the ordered disposition of all things; but to the spirit is assigned the power and efficacy of all that activity (sec. 18).

*For in each hypostasis is the whole divine nature understood

Chapter 14: Creation

Standard textbook material.  Rebuts Pseudo-Dionysius on angels.  Calvin is aware of the dearth of evidence for some conclusions and refuses to go beyond it.

Chapter 15: Creation of Man

Basic substance dualism, though Calvin is heavier on the Platonic line.  Rebuts the idea that there is a difference between image and likeness.

Human soul consists of two faculties–understanding and will (sec. 7).  Calvin places himself in the intellectualist tradition by seeing that the will follows the understanding.  He is not a voluntarist.

Chapter 16: Providence

“Fortune and chance are pagan terms” (quoting Basil, Homilies on the Psalms).

Chapter 17: How We May apply this doctrine to our greatest benefit

(1) God’s providence sometimes works through an intermediary (p.210).

(2) God’s Hidden Will: Calvin isn’t actually positing two wills in God, bu notes that it appears manifold to us (sec. 3)

 

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