Trinity and the Covenant?

One of the criticisms of some Kuyperians is that they read Covenantal relations into the Trinity, and if that’s true, then there is historical development in the Trinity. Obviously, that’s wrong.

But of course there are covenantal relations in the Trinity. What’s the Covenant of Redemption all about, anyway?  I don’t think that’s the problem.  The problem seems to be the claim that the Trinity is the pattern for Covenantal thinking.  Well, why wouldn’t it be?  The Trinity is the source of all good theology.  Think about it: if the Trinity isn’t the source of all good theology, then where did covenantal relations come from?  We are now on the edge of ontological dualism.

Dominion Files, no. 1 (the break up of the recons)

I did theonomy files on my old blog and it did help some make headway of the movement. It was more focused on why I didn’t agree with theonomy, yet why most of the Reformed responses to it were incompetent.  This will focus on the actual strengths of the old Reconstruction movement and what the church can expect from them today.

But let’s get to the main part:  why did it seem to not go anywhere?  The movement was never really organized, and it never had support from any of the churches.  That doomed it to parachurch status, always a terrible situation.  I can identify at least three different strands of the Reconstructionist movement

  1. The Tyler Group
  2. The Bahnsen Group
  3. The Rushdoony gruop

The Tyler Group

While it had its own nuttiness at times, the damage was never long-term. After Chilton fell ill and died, and Jordan moved to Florida, and Sutton became Anglican, I think Gary North just put an end to it.  And while North may have lost some credibility on Y2K, he has done productive work at the Mises Institute.

The Bahnsen Group

This is Gentry and a few others who either stayed in the OPC or stayed relatively good churchmen.  The irony is that while they were violently rejected among bourgeois Presbyterians, they voted Republican and did strict grammatical-historical exegesis.  In other words, they were normal where it mattered.  These guys are more interested in theonomy as a sub-discipline of ethics.  In other words, whether or not theonomy is true doesn’t depend (nor does it cause) postmillennialism or Christian Reconstruction.

The Rushdoony group

Sure.  Rushdoony is a great speaker and his early output is impressive.  In fact, I think he wrote one of the better books on Van Til the theologian.  But where he went wrong, he went wrong.  It’s not so much the dietary laws that bother me.  It’s the over-emphasis on the family.  Today when feminists accuse someone of patriarchy, they mean any male who hasn’t committed suicide.  But in Rushdoony’s case, it really is patriarchy.  I think Gary North refuted him here.

And after the mid 1970s his literary output wasn’t of the same quality as before.  You just don’t see books on the same level as The One and the Many (probably his best book).   And I think North is right:  God put judicial sanctions on Rushdoony because R. began giving himself the Lord’s Supper.

And his disciples haven’t done much today.  Doug Phillips started a movement, but it has (praise be to thee, O Christ) collapsed do to his fornicating on one of his servant-maids. Faith for all of Life runs the same rotation of articles–gubmint bad, beware of statism, etc.  All good points, mind you, but we need to move to the level of analysis.

Yes, I hear you say, but what about the Federal Vision guys?  Here is where it gets interesting.  James Jordan, the godfather of FV, represented only one branch of the early Recons.  And the FVers today who venerate Rushdoony only do that because they recognize his influence.  The Young Turk FVers do not care, if they aren’t openly hostile. And as an aside, I don’t think Jordan’s typological method necessitates Federal Vision.

So where do I fit in?  I don’t know.  I reject FV.  I like the 5 Point Covenant Model.  I’m not much enamored of current calls to “Reconstruct the Republic.”  Maybe they will work.  I hope they do.  But they won’t work as long as the FED is still up and George Soros is calling the shots.  I don’t consider myself a theonomist, though most of the criticisms of theonomy are bad.  I don’t know if I am postmil.  I don’t think I am.  Right now I am a tentative partial-preterist.

Wealth and Poverty: Four Christian Views

Ed. by Robert Clouse (IVP)

I understand why IVP pulled this book after a year of successful selling.  North publicly destroyed everyone in it.  That wouldn’t work with IVP’s “proto-SJW turn.” Gary North offers the free-market view.  William Diehl offers a mostly free-market view, with a little govt thrown in. Art Gish offers the hippie commune.  John Gladwin is a Communist.

Aside from North, only Diehl actually shows some knowledge of economics. (And despite Diehl’s antipathy towards the Old Testament, his essay and most of his responses were quite good).  All of the responders attacked North on his insistence that the Bible gives a blueprint to stuff like law, politics, and economics.  Admittedly, OT law is a hard sell to hippie evangelicals, but North’s comeback is unanswerable: what good does it do to speak of “Christian guidelines” if you don’t fill in the content?

Art Gish’s essay on decentralist economics should be interesting today, given the current Benedict Option fad.  It’s the standard “Let’s live in community, man” and “God liberates the poor.”  North gives a wise response:

“The Bible also does not teach that “God intervenes in history to liberate the oppressed poor” (p. 135). What the Bible does teach is that God intervenes in history to liberate the righteous oppressed, whether rich or poor. Did God liberate the poor who lived in Canaan? No. He had his people exterminate them. There were wicked poor people in Canaan, after all. They lived under the domination of “unrighteous structures,” to use a popular phrase. God destroyed both Canaan’s oppressed and Canaan’s “unrighteous structures” when Joshua and the Israelites invaded the land (163).”

It does no good to say “Let’s look to Jesus” if we divorce Jesus from the Bible he read.  Diehl moves in for the finishing blow:

but to advocate a nonsystem seems irresponsible. Koinonia, on a global scale, without any blueprint, is a nonsystem. Because it is a nonsystem it can hardly be called a “New Testament economic program.” Utopia it is; an economic program it is not” (Diehl 173).

Gladwin’s essay is pure Communism, so no need to refute it here.  The book is a let-down.  Don’t pay money for it.  Read it here.

The Babel Answer Man

Perry and I have had our disagreements, but I appreciate his diligence in this regard. (Also see this post:

Long story short, the fangirl apologetics sites like Orthodox Bridge are going to have egg on their faces when this stuff comes to light.  OB doesn’t know anything about epistemology or metaphysics; they do not go beyond standard pop questions like “Oh yeah, wise guy, how do you know which books of the canon belong?”

Perry is a caliber above me.  I don’t deny that.  I have learned much from him, both in content and in debating style.  I just want to quote some of his words and more or less endorse them: (sorry for the formatting.  Most of these quotes are from Perry but wordpress didn’t quote them)

What is more, all the calls to the BAM show are screened. Hank gets those questions that he can answer and b y and large those he can’t are screened out. This is why, if you listen to the BAM show long enough, you hear the same questions over and over again with little diversity. And this is why the show tends to stay at a very low level of apologetic sophistication.


The Lutherans.  LOL.


And of course, Hank has no real field experience talking to cultic or aberrant groups on his own (let alone taking on university professors). When you have a JW at your door or you are taking on three JW elders and an overseer by yourself for four hours straight, you don’t get to screen out questions. (I once went over 9 hours with JW apologist Greg Stafford when I lived in Garden Grove, CA. My Lutheran neighbors used to sit out on their lawn chairs in the front yard to listen  whenever the JW’s came around.)

This next quote is the cream of the crop:


Just ask yourself, do you really think Hank could answer questions and hold a sustained conversation about the Kalaam argument in relation to whether actual infinities are possible or not? How about the technical details of New Testament Greek? Or maybe questions on the communicatio idiomatum in Chalcedonian Christology compared with say Assyrian Christology? How about Gettier Counter examples or Contextualism in Epistemology? How about the principle of Double Effect? Uhuh, exactly. While I have my theological issues with Bill Craig, Hank is no Bill Craig.

The next quote echoes something Kevin Johnson told me.  I like to do book reviews but I try to keep them relatively short.


But because Hank thinks of education as memorizing and arranging discrete facts, he tends to use language like an undergraduate to embellish the delivery. If you have ever graded undergraduate papers, you know of what I speak. Undergraduates do not understand that the purpose of technical language is not only precision, but to say more with less


Energetic Procession

Haven’t you heard? Hank Hanegraaff has become Orthodox! Well, yes I have heard. The noise Scan0001.jpgproduced by the collective freak out at one end of the theological spectrum from the Pauper and Pooper blog representing the bottom of the barrel of Protestantism and the unquestioning adulation of Orthodox fangirls and bloggers rushing headlong to his defense is rather difficult to miss. But I sit here poised to wish a pox on both houses, as it were. As most of you know, I am Orthodox and have been for about 17 years. And as a few of you may know, I worked for the Christian Research Institute (CRI) from 1990-1992.  (That’s yours truly, bottom left, right next to Hank!) So I have a somewhat unique perspective to offer on the whole affair. In the posts that follow I explain why this is probably not a good thing for anyone, maybe not even…

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On not being a Barthian

I get asked this every now and then.  I’m not a Barthian.  The most notable problem is his view of Scripture (at least that’s what alarms evangelicals the most).  Thomas McCall gives a fine presentation and critique of Barth’s view of Scripture.

The Classical View: Scripture has divine properties (holiness, etc) in addition to those properties it has in virtue of having human authors (McCall 171).

Barth’s Actualist Doctrine

“As Hunsinger describes it, actualism ‘at the most general level…means that (Barth) thinks primarily in terms of events and relationships rather than monadic or self-contained substances’.10 Characteristic of Barth’s theology is his repeated (and forceful) insistence that ‘God’s being is in his act and his act in his being.’ (173).

For Barth Scripture has its being in becoming.    But McCall notes some problems with this:

“ Barth wants to say that scripture truly is the Word of God while still insisting on the primacy of divine action, but his actualism actually appears to hurt him here. Taken as a claim to the sober truth, it makes little sense to talk about scripture becoming what it already is, and it makes even less sense to speak of scripture not being or not becoming what it truly is. At best it is both mysterious and opaque” (175).

McCall says this resembles occasionalism, which he defines as one of the following two options (176):

(O1) For any state of affairs p and time t, if (i) there is any substance that causally contributes to p’s obtaining at t and (ii) no created substance is a free cause of p at t, then God is a strong active cause of p at t.

(O2) No material substance has any active or passive causal power at all.

(O2) seems to obtain for Barth, at least in points.  For him the Bible doesn’t have any active power, since God is the acting agent.  And it doesn’t have any passive power, and I am not sure what that would look like.  But there is another problem lurking: Barth’s view of Scripture has parallels to his Christology, and what does occasionalism do to his Christology?  McCall notes:

“The revealed Word is never without flesh, it is never separated from the humanity of the man Jesus. But, on Barth’s account, the written Word sometimes is separated from the humanity of the Bible, for sometimes the Bible does not ‘become’ what it ‘is’. If this is so, then Barth again loses his ability to appeal to the ‘threefold form of the Word’. Moreover, according to Barth’s own Christology, in Jesus Christ the revealed Word the human nature indeed is causally active, for the Word of God is seen in the ‘humanity of God’.28 If the humanity of the God-man is not causally active, then Barth loses his claim to ‘Chalcedonian’ Christology.29 On the other hand, if the humanity of the God-man is causally active while the humanity of scripture is not, then Barth loses traction in his argument for the threefold form of the Word” (177).

Barth wants to avoid saying that the Bible has divine properties. This means the Word of God would be in the “possession” of men and women.

However, Barth’s own Christology cuts him off at the pass:  if God has sovereignly limited himself in human flesh, then who are we to say that God can’t do so in the Bible?  

False Assumptions in Cessationism, part 1

I haven’t done a real blog post in a while, mainly book reviews.  And this post is from a book, but to include it in a formal review will make it unwieldy.  Note, in saying these are false assumptions in cessationist arguments I do not imply that cessationism is necessarily false.  I think it is, but that’s not the argument in question.

Deere’s most important chapter is “The Real Reason Christians Do not believe in the miraculous Gifts” and in it he undoes a number of cessationist non-arguments.

False Assumption 1: NT Healing was “Automatic,” meaning the NT Christian could heal anyone at anytime.  But the NT never claims this and makes statements that are quite odd if true: “And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick” (Luke 5.17, quoted in Deere, 59). If Jesus could heal “any place, any time,” then why did Scripture mention the power of the Lord being present?

Why at some places does Jesus heal all yet at Bethesda he only heals one person?  In fact, at Nazareth Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matt. 13.58).

Finally, the answer is that the NT does not see spiritual power as “automatic.”  Jesus gave the apostles all authority over demons and sickness (Matt. 10.1; Luke 9.1), yet they could not heal a demonized boy (Matt 17.16).  What gives?  I thought healing power was automatic?  Obviously, the cessationist is wrong.

Rich Christians Age of Hunger (Sider)

If there is one book that summarizes the cultural ethos and failed nerve of Christianity Today and InterVarsityPress, it would be Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  First, I will highlight some good points, then I will say a few really ugly remarks, then I will critique the book.

Some Good Points

He has a fairly decent take on the Sabbatical year (83ff).  I don’t think he realizes that his master, The United Nations, isn’t that concerned with biblical law.  Further, I like how he notes that Scripture “prescribes justice” (83; cf. Dt 15:9-10).  Sider even approaches (and at times affirms) the godly principle that “sinful persons and societies will always produce poor people” (83).  Amen, and amen.   I have to ask though, if Sider can name some societies in the 20th century that adopted his principles and if they were sinful and produced poor people.  One such society had four letters in its abbreviation.

Sider has some surprisingly astute comments on interest and he realizes that Christendom’s painful back-and-forth on interest wasn’t pretty and so we shouldn’t generalize (85).

He further notes that Marxists and Capitalists worship the same god: Economic forces (105).  Of course, Sider himself labours (pun) for world revolutionary forces, so he can’t be taken all that seriously.  Further, he rightly criticises the business model that has infected churches today (107).

He has an excellent section on asceticism (111ff) and its false ontology/anthropology.  He writes, “Christian asceticism has a long history, but Jesus’s life undermines its basic assumptions” (112).  Of course, a lot of the biblical examples Sider cites assume that one can legitimately spend one’s wealth on grain, alcohol, or feasts without feeling guilty by socialist agitators.

Ugly Remarks

David Chilton has correctly pointed out that this book is a guilt trip.  But that’s not why I am mad.  Religious people of various denominations have been trying to guilt trip me over silly stuff for years. I’m largely immune to it.  But when he projects “guilt-psychoses” onto godly, hard-working Christians who have made cuts in their lifestyles and to hear “they have earned hell-fire” because they didn’t meet Sider’s arbitrary “line of essentials.”  To quote Chris Rock,

Shut the f%$k up


Hidden assumptions

Sider makes routine comments like “And justice, as we have seen, means things like the Jubilee and sabbatical remission of debts” (115; statements like these are throughout the book). It raises the obvious question:  Who will enforce this?  Laws without sanctions are no different than PCA “recommendations.”


Holier than God?

Sider has modified his tone from his first edition where he was adding to the gospel (yea, preaching another gospel).  Still, he makes comments like “It is sinful abomination for one part of the world’s Christians to grow richer year by year while our brothers and sisters in the third world suffer” (98).  This would be a true statement if a number of other conditions were met.  Are North American Christians causing other Christians to suffer?  If they are, Sider has given us no argument nor shown any evidence.  Further, would he have N.A. Christians be just as poor?  If so, then how could they help?  If they didn’t have any wealth, then how could Sider’s globalist masters take it from them?  He hasn’t thought these things through.

Vague Terminology

He notes that conservative pastors speak on “personal sins” but rarely on “structural sins” (119).  He does cite some texts trying to prove the existence of “structural sins,” but the texts mention sophisticated personal sins (ala Amos 2:6-7).  If there is such a category of structural sins–by which he seems to mean a certain way of society in which participation is sinful–they usually appear as a complex of personal sins in a social setting.  It’s hard to really talk about structural evils outside of presupposing Marx.

The institutional evils that Sider does criticize are in fact evil.  I just worry about using a Marxist term to categorize it.  But are the evils perversions of goods (private property) or are they embedded in the nature of things (private property, discipline use of scarce resources)?  Sider has elsewhere affirmed private property, so it isn’t clear exactly what he has to say here.

To be fair, Sider does define what he means by structural evils:  “Initial injustices, unless corrected, mushroom” (127).  This is actually insightful, but he never disentangles his rhetoric from Marxist terminology.  Marx saw society as inherently violent and could only progress by historical dialectic, which itself would probably be violent.

Plainly Misreads Texts

The most glaring misreading of texts is his appeal to the Jubilee principle (80ff).  While he correctly notes that the text says “all land should be returned to original owners,” and that “it was the poor person’s right to receive back his inheritance” (81).  While he doesn’t draw the conclusion, this is a brilliant argument against the evil and satanic practice of Federal inheritance taxes.

He does correctly note that Yahweh says “The Land is mine” (Lev. 25:23), but what principle should we draw from that?   Only the dominum can thus distribute the land.   This is the same dominion economics that Wyclif argued.  Well and good, but one suspects that Sider has another dominum in mind: The State.

I don’t know how he thinks his model will work.  He says “the specific provisions of the Jubilee year aren’t binding today” (85).  I agree with him, so how does he apply it?  Why is this law binding today but the ones about stoning sodomites and idolaters not?  He gives us no answer.

External Contradictions with Scripture

Sider’s most notorious point is the graduated tithe.  I just want to point out one Scriptural difficulty with it. The Bible tells us that a godly man leaves an inheritance for his seed (Prov. 13:22).  Yet, if Sider has his way it’s hard to see how this could happen.  There would be no inheritance.  It would all have been given away!

Internal Contradictions with Logic

Sider’s book is riddle with inconsistencies.  He notes (rightly) that “the right of each person to have means to earn his own way takes precedence over a purchaser’s property rights” (81).  Absolutely.  But when the state is interfering with regulations, how can he seriously claim the above?

Further, if Sider complains about world debt (and I don’t really disagree with him) yet he presupposes structures like the World Bank and the United Nations (which, ironically, are structural evils!), then his problem shouldn’t be with right-wing Christians but with his own statist overlords.

He complains about LDC (limited developing countries) “protein deficiency,” yet he ignores a concrete solution to the problem.  A country like India with such a deficiency has a lot of cattle.  Unfortunately, they worship the cows instead of eating them.  Idolatry and economic devastation are connected.  Sider doesn’t seem to see it.

Keynes or Smith?

Sider urges us not to make an idol of private property nor seek the advice of “that deist Adam Smith” (102).  In the next paragraph he praises the Keynesian revolution.  If we are going to make irrelevant comments about Adam Smith’s religious views, is now the time to mention that Keynes liked to molest little black Tunisian boys?

Fat Cat Corporations

I won’t address the sections on corporatism.   A lot has changed in 30 years (both good and bad) and neither Sider nor I am really competent to speak on these matters.  I would simply challenge him that his beloved World Bank is probably culpable in a lot of these international corporate schemes.


There is a lot of America-bashing in this book.  For all of America’s evils, real or supposed, I do suspect that if America were to disappear, millions more would die.

Our Reaction

Am I guilty?

Jesus asked, “Is your eye evil because mine is good?”  I refuse to let socialist agitators make me hate God’s blessings.   Still, per Sider’s recommendations, I really don’t eat all that much beef (for reasons other than guilt-trips), both of my cars were made in the last millennium (and breaking now, for what it’s worth), both churches I was a member of in the last ten years contributed to concrete, local charities that actually made a difference.

Sider’s Recommendations

Graduated tithe:  he realizes he can’t make this binding on Christians today, so I will ignore it.

Communal Living:  This is almost funny.  One should study the history of communal living in America.  Besides a nigh-100% failure rate, they more often than not end up being sex orgies.  In any case, the agrarian in me does gravitate towards simplicity, but not because of Sider’s guilt trips.

How should we live in response to Sider?  For one, who are these cozy, fat-cat, presumably white and conservative Christians that are so callous to the poor?  He doesn’t list any names.  Further, I am not aware of conservative churches that don’t give money to charities (who are better able to manage it than some bureaucrat in Washington).

The danger isn’t that my feelings are hurt because Sider shamelessly libeled his brothers in Christ.  No, he isn’t stupid.  He is against charitable giving.  Therefore, the only solution is the Government.  But even here we have a problem.   At least in theory, America’s government is democratic.  Those white males don’t elect socialists.  That’s no problem, though, for Sider has a stronger play:  The United Nations.

Sider is long on saying governments should adopt biblical principles (79, 144, 194) but I get the sneaky suspicion that this is merely suppressing fire for a globalist order.  He says America and Russia have biblical obligations to give their resources to poorer countries (194), yet he lists no bible verses proving these obligations.

He says this is not a call for a violent revolution (194).  Okay, how will you enforce it then?  What if I say no to your demands.  What are you going to do then?  At this point Sider has two options:  something like PCA recommendations or the point of a bayonet.

Because I love my country, I won’t take up arms against the Government (unless I am led by a godly lesser magistrate; then I would be on the front line).   I will fight to the death any bureaucrat from Brussels or Paris or London or wherever).