A justification musing

We often say that if you aren’t being accused of antinomianism, then you aren’t preaching justification rightly.  True, but something else struck me:  in Galatians Paul links his doctrine of justification as opposed to the physics of the old creation (stoichea).  Galatians 5:

 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

 

Dominion Files (3) Recon world in meltdown

Every now and then the Christian Reconstructionist world goes crazy on whether Bojiday Marinov is a false teacher (he is) and a danger to the church (he is).  I never could figure out why Recons defend him.  His articles about God’s law and Christendom aren’t really unique.  Recons write on little else, so it’s hard to see what makes him special.  He doesn’t have leadership qualities, as he blocks anyone who might disagree with him. So why does everyone rally behind him?  And this isn’t just the average facebooker.  Established institutions like American Vision not only have not condemned him and warned the faithful, they still promote his articles.

And then it dawned on me.  There is no visible leadership in the Recon world, and that is important.  Recons need a few strong figures to keep the group from splitting every six years.  There just isn’t someone on the level of Bahnsen or North or Rushdoony (and Rushdoony, being under God’s judicial sanctions, hadn’t written anything of note after 1980).  Yes, Gary Demar has written good books. But I’m talking about the younger generation.  You will see a few primers published, and they might even be good, but that’s not on the level of the earlier generation. (To be fair, it isn’t intended to be).

They have to defend Marinov because there is no one else.

DKG Questions 3 (Language)

  1. While wanting to avoid “anti-abstractionism” in theology, theologians shouldmake use of one of the most important theological words there is–merely. While God is a God of mercy, he is also a God of justice. He is not merely a loving God, but also a just One.

 

  1. The dualism critique often becomes…a word-level rather than a sentence-level critique. Critiques of dualism usually are arbitrary critiques of terminology that an author does not himself employ. If the critique is engaged on the sentence-level and is forced to deal with the content of the propositions then the possibility of arbitrary critiques is lessened. In other words, it is a critique of the author’s vocabulary and not of his ideas.

 

  1. How are non-orthodox positions “systematically vague?” Can you give a example? Non-orthodox (and non-Christian, for that matter) positions cannot balance or account for truths or doctrines that do not fit their own paradigm. For example, non-orthodox positions cannot simultaneously account for transcendence/immanence and in honing in on one, they miss the other. Practically speaking, this means that if the positions takes an immanence view of God, for example, they will take a rationalistic view of the world. In doing so, they cannot account for patterns or facts that do not fit their own (usually arbitrary) paradigms.

 

  1. Discuss values, dangers in labeling. Labels allow one to state a position succinctly. Theologians do not always have the time to outline the uniqueness of x position. If we understand that labels are descriptive nouns then our very act of describing this theological position or that theologian’s beliefs is “labeling.” However, labeling can often degenerate into judging a theologian on the merits of what others in his “group” rather than in what he is saying. Furthermore, labeling often does not do justice to one’s position. One might be a “fundamentalist,” broadly defined, but there is more to the position that was not said, etc.

 

  1. Thus we may think we have a clear idea of the meaning of the term, when all we really have is a feeling.” Discuss, Try to think of an example. We often make judgments based on what we think a word or phrase means without knowing its proper biblical and historical context. Words and phrases, furthermore, have “fuzzy boundaries.” Placed in context a doctrine x certainly sounds wrong, but the doctrine x is not always wrong. Orthodox theologians wince at God repenting, but seen in the covenantal context at Sinai it is then biblically correct to say that in a way God did repent. We rightly feel that making this an absolute truth about God’s immutability is wrong, but if we see the biblical and covenantal context that it is in, then it is correct.

 

  1. What methods will help us to recognize ambiguities? Young theological students are encouraged to make theological lists of what a word or phrase can and cannot mean. This will help interpret the author fairly if one examines all that a phrase can mean and then decide, in the best light, what the author probably means by it. Then, one must point out what that language is not air-tight. As language is not air-tight, the systems that are made up of language are not air-tight, either. A sentence is not necessarily always true or false. Knowing this will keep the theologian from passing judgment until he has seen the best of what could be meant by a phrase.

 

  1. Why the linguistic turn in recent philosophy and theology? As philosophy continues to search the deep questions of life, it will (most likely) keep asking the same questions, with little progress. To counteract this weariness, philosophers have begun to wonder if their lack of progress is due to a lack of clarity in language. Many philosophers are seeing language as the key to reality. This is true, but it is not the only key. However, language does describe the world and the better the use of language, generally, the more useful one will be in describing reality.

 

  1. Language is an indispensable element of the image of God. Expound. God communicates to man by his word. God created the world by “word of his power.” Jesus is the Word of God. Man’s cultural mandate involves the use of language to describe and dominate reality. Conversely, sins of the tongue are sternly warned against in the Bible.

DKG questions: 2 (Precision and Metaphor)

  1. “We should not seek to impose upon church officers a form of creedal subscription intended to be maximally precise.”

Again, Scripture’s vagueness disallows ultimate maximum precision and secondarily, it makes unwise to force subscription to a document that implicitly seeks to be more precise than the standards God Himself set. Thirdly, such maximum precision and subscription unconsciously makes the Confession irreformable and canonical.

  1. Sometimes, metaphors come to our rescue in theology.

 

Metaphors, especially controlling ones, state thorny theological concepts in a s ccinct manner. This presupposes, of course, that vagueness is not only in Scripture, but vague statements about Scriptural truths are allowed. For example, how does one view the relationship between Adam’s sin and the human race? The best example, although one in need of qualification, is the “Federal Headship” of Adam. Adam represented the human race as a Federal head.

 

  1. Often, in fact, figurative language says more, and says it more clearly, than corresponding literal language would do.

 

Figurative language allows one to use popular concepts on the lay level to express truths. For example, it is clearer to say “God is like a mountain, unmoved” than to say “God is immutable.” The latter is more precise, whereas the former is able to communicate the same truth on the lay level.

 

  1. Use of a metaphor may be helpful in one context, misleading in another. Discuss, using examples.

 

Frame suggests that it is best not to use metaphor unless its purposes can be clearly expressed and limited. An example is the Dooyeweerdian definition of law as the boundary between God and the Cosmos. This is good in one sense but raises the question as to what degree does law limit or not limit God. In what sense, then, it is a boundary?

 

  1. Discuss possible cases in which there is danger in using metaphors when more literal language is necessary.

 

Either certain metaphors must be “unpacked” or more technical terms must be used. In other words, uninterpreted metaphors must not be used in philosophical, legal, or scientific discourse.

  1. Everything is comparable to God. Compare

 

Everything is analogous to God to the degree that all creation bears God’s imprint on it. God is like a “fire,” “wind,” “Lion of Judah,” “king,” “love,” etc. But for every analogy there is a disanalogy. God is analogous to evil men (or rather, they to him being created imago dei) but not in the same way that he is analogous to righteous men. That is, there are degrees of analogy between God and creation.

 

  1. Do we need special technical terms to refer to God’s transcendence? Discuss.

 

Technical terminologies concerning God’s transcendence are helpful but their uses ought not to be pressed. It is helpful to know the “qualitative difference” between God and men, for example. The same principle applies to God’s omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. These terms are true as far as they go, but Scripture does not describe God in this way, preferring human referents: Lord, King, Saviour.

 

  1. The History of Doctrine, too, has progressed very largely by negation. Explain

 

Many doctrines have been formulated by way of contrast with heresies. Negation, like Scripture, seeks to contrast truth with error. Many doctrines, such as creation ex nihilo, seem to be most meaningful as an exclusion of contrary heretical positions. The nature of negation in theological formulation, however, is limited. Negation seeks only to show why or for what purpose doctrine x serves. Examples are, as Frame points out, the Reformation Confessions against sectarianism and Romanism, Nicene Trinitarianism against Sabellianism and Arianism, etc.

 

  1. …some doctrines have very little meaning except for their negative function of exclusion.

 

The denial of various heresies constitutes the meaning of a said doctrine. Given tough, philosophically vague concepts like substance, nothingness, hypostasis, it is difficult for the theologian to state a doctrine positively from Scripture. However, a Scriptural case can be built inferentially from negation.

 

  1. Everything is a matter of everything else. Discuss.

 

We must be aware of using “historical disjunctions” to deny other theological truths. For example, while doctrine x is true, it does not necessarily follow that doctrine y must be false. There are degrees to which each doctrine is related and not related to the other doctrine, to be sure, and these degrees of relation ought to form a framework in which to evaluate those doctrines.

The North-Rushdoony Split on Church Membership (Dominion Files: 2)

My good friend Kevin Johnson correctly challenged some reconstructionists on church membership.  They are devotees of Rushdoony, accepting even the worst aspects of his position.  That reminded me of an old North book, Westminster’s Confession, where he identified the basis of the split in Christian Reconstructionist circles.

Mr. Rushdoony always gave me a nearly free hand regarding what went into it. Here is what really happened. I submitted to his Chalcedon Report my monthly essay. It relied on an insight regarding biblical symbolism in James Jordan’s 1981 Westminster Seminary master’s thesis. My essay discussed the background symbolism of the Passover.  Rushdoony sent it back and insisted that I rewrite it, saying that it was heretical, and even worse. I refused to rewrite it. I did not insist that he publish it; I just refused to rewrite it. He…had rejected one other article of mine in the past, so I was not too concerned.
He refused to let the matter rest. He challenged me to make my theological position clear, to prove to him that it was not heretical. I then wrote an extended defense. He still said it was heretical. He then said thatJordan and I would have to recant in writing, and also agree in writing never to publish our essays in any form, before he would agree that we were no longer heretical. When we refused, he submitted a protest to our church elders informing them of our heresy, and asking them to discipline us both. When the church sent the essay (and my extended defense of it) to other theologians, including Westminster Seminary’s John Frame, they replied that it was somewhat peculiar but certainly not heretical. The then elders asked Mr. Rushdoony to submit formal charges against us regarding the specific heresy involved. He refused. They also reminded him that he was not a member of any local congregation, and therefore was not subject to discipline himself should his accusations prove false. He blew up when challenged on this. He then publicly fired me and Jordan from Chalcedon, announcing our dismissal without explanation in the Chalcedon Report. This surprised Jordan, since he was not
even aware he was employed by Chalcedon, not having received money from Chalcedon in years.
My full essay, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb,” was later published in Geneva  Ministries’ Christianity and Civilization, No.4 (1985), and sank without a trace. I have never received a single letter about it, pro or con. The “crisis ofthe essay” was clearly a tempest in a teapot. But it points to the underlying tension which Mr. Clapp refers to. What is this disagreement all about? It is Tyler’s disagreement with Mr. Rushdoony about the requirement of local church attendance and taking the Lord’s Supper. We think all
Christians need to do both. The Tyler church practices weekly communion. In contrast, Mr. Rushdoony has refused to take Holy Communion for well over a decade, nor does he belong to or attend a local church. This underlying difference of opinion finally exploded over a totally peripheral issue (334-336).

 

 

Live, Hellenization thesis–live!

I am not going to cite any specific article (it’s at Calvinist International), for if I do my email inbox will be filled with “why did you misrepresent us?”  What is the Hellenization Thesis?  I think it is the claim that “Greek philosophy corrupted Hebraic forms of thought.”  Well, if that’s what it is then it is wrong.  I think Harnack and later liberals claimed that.  I don’t think anyone is claiming that today.

When I read these CI articles, I get a long quote by some scholar (whom I’ve no intention of reading) and very little analysis of said scholar.

But still–we can identify “Greekness” and note how it is opposed to Hebraic thought-patterns.

  • Contrast Methodius of Olympus’s view of sex with Proverbs 5.
  • Does definition = limit?
  • Euthyphro
  • Being vs. Becoming
  • Derrida’s comments on writing
  • Priority of heaving over seeing (faith is always contrasted with sight; not knowledge.  Even the Greek words for obedience and seeing testify to this, though I don’t want to read too much into the etymology). The Word of God we hear in Scripture reposes in the divine Being. That is the objective ground in our knowledge of God.
  • Is there a Philonic aisthetos cosmos/noetos cosmos distnction?
  • Name one Greek church father that praised marital, messy sexual intercourse?

Some more questions:

Which culture did Paul primarily have in mind when he wrote Romans 1:18-23?  Yes, I realize it is universally applicable, but I think the answer is somewhat close to home…

 

DKG: Opening Questions 1a

This is taken from Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. It’s a prolegomena to apologetics.

  1. There are many possible ways to refer to the world by means of language.

Languages differ from one another not only by using different words to refer to the same thing, but also in the things the language is supposed to distinguish. No language is able to capture all the nuances of a said definiens. Furthermore, language uses symbols. Different languages use different symbols. However, different languages can describe the same reality.

  1. Is it always legitimate to demand a definition?

It is not always necessary to demand a definition. There is always a necessary vagueness to language. While at the outset it may seem to give greater precision, it alwasy assumes that the more precise and technical a term is, the more clarity it gains. However, it is quite the opposite. For instance, if one were to define Augustine’s view of time, most would not understand and the definition itself would be used in a non-ordinary way. Similarly, discussing “time” without defining it does allow for communication of the term.

  1. Is Scripture ever vague?

If language is vague–as I believe can be at times–and Scripture is communicated via language, then Scripture itself is not exempt from vagueness. Scripture is vague at times, and helpfully so, if its primary purpose from God is not always to communicate necessary precision, but to communicate truth as God intends it. This allows for imprecise quotations, rounded numbers, varied (though not contradictory) accounts without compromising its integrity. How so? This can be maintained if we allow Scripture to set its own standards of historiography and lexicography.

  1. Discuss the values, limitations, of the use of technical terms.

Technical terms, while not often biblical in origin, are useful and even necessary to the task of theology. If theology is the reflection upon and the application of God’s word to contemporary issues, then it must at times use non-biblical (but not un-biblical) language. The task of theology recognizes the at-times vagueness of Scripture and the necessity of technical terms to apply the vague areas of Scripture to concrete situations. However, technical terminology is not without its limits. A technical term by definition limits full biblical expression of the term (i.e.,regeneration). The danger then happens when the theologian uses one term as a b lanket statement for all of the scriptural usages. In other words, theologians are often faced with the danger of pulling terms out of the biblical context.

  1. Never use technical terms from non-Christian histories.

If this is the case, then we will not be able to use much terminology at all. Propositions are not to be judged faulty by the words they use, but on what are they are saying.

  1. Don’t confuse technical definitions with biblical usages. Describe the danger here.

Technical definitions are useful due the degree that they are precise in scope. Their greatest strength is their greatest weakness–precision. Technical terminology limits the use of a biblical expression or term and applies it, hopefully, within a proper context with a view towards application. The danger comes when assuming that because term x means y in this situation, it must always mean x.

  1. There is no one right set of technical definitions? Why? Evaluate.

Given that biblical terminology is often richer than technical terminology, it follows that no one theologian or theological school can exhaust a doctrine in one formulation. No theological system is free from the necessity of making qualifications.

  1. Some technical definitions can actually mislead us. For example, if one uses enlightenment, rationalistic terminology and applies it to the supernatural, then the Christian Theologian is immediately pressed to defend his faith using the opposition’s weapons. He is, in effect, fighting a losing battle from the start. Given the insights stated above, he must allow the Bible to be its own standard (this would require its own prolegomena) and define its own terms.

 

  1. Describe and discuss the liberal distortion of Scripture through an illegitimate development of technical terminology. Liberal theology takes biblical terminology out of its context and then imports

humanistic, romantic, or existentialist meaning upon the terms. Liberals take the concept of God’s love, strip it of its transcendence, and place it into metaphysical categories. Socialistic Christians (liberation theologians) take Christ’s concern for the poor and despised and draw the illogical conclusion that Christ primarily came for the socially outcast and was at war with those who were not themselves socially outcast. Barth saw divine transcendence as God’s own freedom divorced from the restraints God places upon himself.

  1. Discuss the danger of trying too hard to eliminate vagueness from theology.

Simply put, aiming for maximum precision at all times leads one to be more precise than God himself! Theologians must come to grips that God did not clearly outline many issues in His word: Supralapsarianism/infralapsarianism, traducianism, etc. An attempt to eliminate vagueness in theology leads