Turretin vol. 2, review

Turretin, Francis.  Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol 2.

Hard to know where to start. Turretin is simply majestic. He was the greatest Reformed theologian of all time. Ideally, this review would give an indepth analysis of all of Turretin’s key points. Sadly, such a review would span many pages. Instead, I’ll give a brief outline of the loci and focus on his high points.

He begins with an exposition of the Ten Commandments. Of particular importance are his takes on the 2nd and 7th Commandments. He then moves into the Covenant of Grace. I thought this section could have been fleshed out more. Perhaps that is where Witsius comes in. He then moves to the Person of Christ and this is where he shines. He mightily vindicates the Reformed Christology, presupposing the “finiti non capax infinitum.” From here he moves to the Offices of Christ. THis is in particular contrast to the Socinians. There is a very strong section on the Priestly office of Christ.

From there he moves to Calling and Faith. He gives a rather thorough, if somewhat laborious, justification of effectual calling. I think his later disciple Charles Hodge did a better job of summarizing this. The section on justification was particularly good.

The book is not perfect, but it comes very close. There are about 7 to 10 areas with which I disagree with Turretin, but that’s only natural.

Messiah: Governor of the Nations

Messiah: Governor of the Nations of the Earth by Alexander McLeod, D.D.

This is a lengthy pamphlet outlining the basic Covenanter (and Reformed) view of Christ the Mediator and what this doctrine entails for the civil magistrate.  It is no small encouragement to see McLeod’s book back in print. His writing style is simple and forceful and never tedious. The essay is divided into three parts: Messiah as Mediator, the acts of the Mediator, and Objections Answered.

He begins the first part surveying the texts which prove that the Ascended Christ is the Lord of the nations. There is no point in this review to survey all of the texts—there are just too many. It is remarkable that McLeod so artfully weaves these texts into his argument in a way that doesn’t tire the reader.

Having established that Messiah is ruler of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5), McLeod, ever taking his cue from Scripture, examines the ways in which Messiah executes his mediation. This section is interesting and future Reformed reflection should develop this thought even further. We know that God the Father has ordained whatsoever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11ff). Further, we Reformed folk do not simply believe in predestination in the abstract. Rather, we hold that predestination and election are actions that are in Christ (Ephesians 1:4) Therefore, we posit that Christ the Princely Mediator executes the decrees of the Father. More specifically and relevant to our purpose, he executes the decrees as they relate to the nations on earth.

The last section considers objections to this doctrine. Interestingly, McLeod does not consider unbelieving objections, which are likely tautologous, but rather he considers Christian objections. In many ways this section is logically unnecessary. If McLeod has demonstrated that the Bible teaches Christ is ruler of the nations on earth (Revelation 1:5), which he has and which it does, then there are no serious objections the Christian can advance against this doctrine. Granted, there are difficulties in our own spiritual life this may raise, and McLeod touches upon these, but there are no real logical objections by this point in the narrative.

The book can be read in an hour. It is short and pastorally written. As Spurgeon said of Bunyan, so may we say of McLeod’s book, “Prick him. He bleeds Bibline.” This book can likely be purchased in bulk for very cheap. It deserves widest possible dissemination.

A Faith Worth Teaching (notes)

This book was given to me courtesy of a dear friend.

Image result for a faith worth teaching

The historical essays are interesting but nothing earth-shattering.  The true “money” is in the doctrinal essays, especially the ones by Horton and Jones.  

Washed from my sins

Standard stuff on signs and seals, though with one pertinent observation on the presumptive regeneration debate:  presuming regeneration robs the baptism of the future promise.

As certainly as I see and taste

Good historical overview on how the HC doctrine served to sideline Gnesio-Lutheranism (112).  There are several values preserved in the HC (and Westminster) view of the Lord’s supper:  its function as a sign/seal of God’s promise and the rebutting of Lutheran ubiquity, which would entail a robust doctrine of the Ascension.

  1. Christ continues in heaven until he comes to judge the quick and the dead (116ff).
  2. Although the two natures are inseparable, only the divine nature is omnipresent.
  3. Jesus and the benefits of redemption are truly communicated to His people, but his body remains at God’s right hand (118).

Gathered, Protected, and Preserved (Horton)

  1. The Ascension opens the space for a pneumatological community, the Church.
    1. The Spirit unites us to Christ as we are seated in the heavenlies.
    2. This moment in redemptive history is a “productive intermission” that yields repentance and faith.
  2. Spoken and Gathered
    1. “The church does not gather itself; it is gathered by another” (130).
    2. The invisible church:  not a Platonic dualism but an eschatological one of this age/age to come
      Visible :: already
      Invisible :: not yet

    3. “The Spirit gives birth to the church through the gospel at this precarious intersection between the death-dealing powers of this present age and the life-giving powers of the age to come” (138).

Grace and Gratitude (Venema)

This is Venema’s defense of justification and sanctification.  There isn’t much new here, save his insight that sanctification is rooted not in a legalistic obligation but in the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.

Christology of the HC (Mark Jones)

This is the second most important essay of the book. Jones highlights what was new about the Reformation’s Christology:  the person of Christ can’t be separated from his work (167).

  1. Christ was not the natural son of God according to his humanity because his humanity was not begotten of the essence of the Father (169).
  2. Christ’s human nature possessed real limitations; “hence there is a real possibility for Christ to move from humiliation to exaltation.”
  3. The Reformed communication of properties also includes the communication of operations (171).
    1. Rome says that Christ can only be anointed in his humanity and so is prophet/priest/king only as man.  We rebut this by saying that the anointing of the Spirit does not simply refer to the gifts Christ’s received in his human nature but also to Christ’s ordination to the office of mediator, which involved his whole person” (172).
    2. What is attributed to one nature is attributed to the whole person.
    3. Totus Christus, not totum Christi.
  4. The Pneumatological Christ
    1. The ascension “Threw open the realm of pneumatology” (177).
    2. Ascension and outpouring of the Spirit brings Christ present to the elect in a way  not hitherto possible” (Clark).

Review of Preus Post-Reformation Lutheranism

Like Richard Muller in the Reformed tradition, Robert Preus shows how theological prolegomena orders the rest of one’s theology. While as a Reformed Christian I will disagree with both some of his conclusions and method, I appreciate the rigor and candor in which he approaches his topic. Of first importance for the Lutheran scholastics was the purity of doctrine. Purity of the Doctrina Evangelii: doctrine serves the gospel.

preus

The middle sections of the book are the most important, as there Preus treats us to the ordering principle of Archetypal and Ectypal theology. Prolegomena as Christology: scholastics such as Calov shows how one’s presuppositions about theological method determine one’s conclusions in Christology. The Lutheran position: All personal propositions made regarding the person of Christ can be predicated to either nature. Hence, the human nature of Christ has archetypal theology. Archetypal theology is important because it grounds our theology in God. There is an original, archetypal theology in Christ, and that according also to his Human nature, again because of the personal union (167).

The final section on Scripture reads as a summary of the age-old inerrancy debate, even if it is called by a different name. Throughout one can see the backdrop of the LCMS’s war against liberalism.

The recons flee defeated on Christology

Here’s the context behind my recent post on Rushdoony.  I participated on a facebook thread where several kinist-reconstructionists were attacking Eastern Orthodoxy.  That put me in an odd decision, for I, too, have criticized EO.  But their arguments were just bad.  Like if people used these in a debate with a formidable EO apologist, they would get massacred and people would probably leave (rightly) for EO.

So I went to play Devil’s Advocate.  I did this for several reasons. Outside of selected texts from Rushdoony and Van Til, recons read little to nothing outside their own tradition. And also given the current evangelical debacle on the Trinity, I want to show that we should spend more time on Patristics questions than getting angry about big gubbment. So I asked the question:

Isn’t Rushdoony a Nestorian because he separated the flesh of Christ from the worship due to the Divine Person?

Correct Answer: Yes.  Rushdoony said that and Ephesus condemned that.

And this point there answers revolved around several charges:

  1. You are a monophysite for accusing us of nestorianism.
  2. Rushdoony didn’t say there were two dudes in Jesus.
  3. Nestorius didn’t really believe that because Harold OJ Brown said he didn’t.
  4. If you disagree with (3) then that’s just your opinion.

I’m just glad it was me and not Jay Dyer or Perry Robinson.  It would have been a massacre of colossal proportions.  So let’s look at the charges.

~1. I asked them repeatedly to prove where I mixed the two natures of Christ.  No answer.
~2. Never said he did, but that’s not the problem with Nestorianism. Until John Robbins and Gordon Clark, no one thought Nestorius posited two dudes in Jesus.
~3. Brown was a great guy and a fine ethicist.  He just wasn’t a patristic scholar and the guys I referenced (McGuckin et al) have read the original texts from Nestorius and Theodore of Mopsuestia.  Nestorianism posits two acting agents in Jesus.  Not two dudes in Jesus.  It also separates the Person of Jesus, which is what Cyril condemned and what Rushdoony did.
~4. So I asked them to show where my reading of Nestorian sources was wrong and why a non-specialist has them right.  No answer.

So here is what the debate looked like:

Jacob Aitken Okay, tired of defense. Now on the offense: Did Rushdoony worship Nestorian Jesus?

Recon 1: No. Jesus died in His Manhood, not His Godhood. Just like He slept in His Manhood, but not in Godhood.

Jacob Aitken But did not Rushdoony say that you must separate the flesh of Christ from his deity? He writes,

 

<<But the Council made it clear that only God could be worshipped; not even Christ’s humanity could be worshipped, but only His deity. The humanity of Christ is not nor ever could be deified” (Foundations, 41).>>

 

This is precisely what the 3rd Council rejected, as Cyril notes., “he Only-begotten Son, to be honored with one-adoration together with his own flesh.”” Rushdoony unwittingly quoted this on p. 40. But even Berkhof cndemns Rushdoony (not by name) on this point. This means that the human nature of Christ, from the very first moment of its existence, was adorned with all kinds of rich gifts, as for instance…the grace and glory of being united to the dinive nature of the Logos, also called the gratia emenentiae, by which the human nature is elevated high above all creatures, and even becomes an object of adoration…[that’s deification, as we say] (p. 324)

Recon 2.. have you read Harold O. J. Brown’s “Heresies?” He offers a different take on Nestorianism.

Jacob Aitken. Long ago. Prof Brown was my ethics prof. I understand what he is getting at, but the modern understanding of what Nestorius taught is fairly well established. He believed in two-acting subjects in the incarnation. Cyril and the Christian faith believed in one acting agent.

Recon 1. Did Jesus sleep in His Godhood?

Jacob Aitken Question doesn’t make sense. The divine person slept. You can’t abstract the natures, which is what Rushdoony did. And for what it is worth, that’s also Reformed Christology, too.

Recon 2: I think charges of Nestorianism are going to be forever the complaint of those who nestle in Eutychianism.  And Brown tells us that Nestorious was falsely charged though some of his followers may have been guilty of the charge.

Jacob Aitken And with all due respect to my professor, he is incorrect. Nestorius taught two acting agents in the Incarnation. He held that the hypostasis was the synthesis of two prosopa.

Recon 2: Says you. I’ll stick with Brown’s assessment.

Me: Well, it is what every scholar on NEstorius and Cyril says. I don’t know what else to tell you. Brown was a genius at ethics but he is no Patristics scholar. That doesn’t mean the scholars are right. But if someone labors hard in Syriac and such,t hen they probably are.

Recon 2Shrug ^ … you don’t come to truth by counting “scholar” noses.

Jacob Aitken No, but by examining the documents, which is what McGuckin et al have done.

Recon 2: Come on … I shouldn’t even have to type this. Scholars differ and disagree upon examining the texts. It’s why this game is so fun.

Jacob And if you can point out where McGuckin and Fairbairn interpreted the texts incorrectly, and where Brown interpreted the same texts correctly, then I’m open to revision.

Recon 2 I’ll get right on that. Nothing else on my calendar except to rescue a facebook thread.

Jacob: rescue the thread or don’t. You are the one that asserted something. You can back it up or not.

Recon 3:  Jacob: aye, but there is a direct correlation in your wavering between Eutychianism and Reformed theology. Perhaps you can’t perceive it, but it is there. Has much learning made thee mad?

MeWEll, then point it out to me. Because I don’t see you really keeping up with te arguments. Where have I posited a mixing of the natures? Be specific.

Recon 3You might be surprised, but this thread isn’t all I had planned for today. Trying to multitask a bit here. Hyperfocused individuals aren’t the most productive ones, I’ve noticed.

MeYou are the one that accused me of flirting with a heresy.

Recon 3Yeah, well, reading 1,000 books a month, a body has a tendency to float in between doctrines. Ever read Lovecraft? Most of his protagonists were destroyed by their lust for knowledge as well.

Jacob Aitken So I take it you can’t back up your insinuations?

Recon 3Hey, you were the one who came on this thread as an EO apologist, Jacob. If the shoe fits…

JacobSo, no, then?

The rest of the debate is glossing WCF 8, but doesn’t add anything new to the discussion.

Barth and Ramsey on Political Power

This is a summary of Oliver O’Donovan’s essay of similar title, found in Bonds of Imperfection.  What’s important is not so much the conclusions reached, but how they are reached.

Ramsey: The crux of the difference between pacifists and justifiable-war Christians turns on the person and work of Christ (Ramsey, Speak up for Just War or Pacifism 111, quoted in O’Donovan 247).

  • While this sounds pious and truistic, it has a very precise meaning for both thinkers.
  • For Barth it concerns the proper location of the political order within the covenant of Reconciliation between God and man (OO 251).
  • For Ramsey it means that Christ assumed one common humanity: there is no ontological disjunction between homo politicus and any other kind of man/order.

 

O’Donovan summarizes Barth’s ethics in several stages:

    1. Despite some of Barth’s shifts on election, there is a stable stream of ethical reflection–grudgingly acknowledging the state’s right of force but noting the abnormality of it.

 

  • Romerbrief may be discounted as “anarchist” and “backwater” (O’Donovan 249).

 

  1. Barth’s wartime writings veered closer towards a realist use of the State’s force.  His later writings veered towards a more anabaptist view.
  2. This is because of a dialectic within Barth’s thought that is never fully settled.
  3. This is partly the case because Barth doesn’t (will not?) imagine the possibility of both a peace-state and war-state within the same framework.

Here is where possible confusion arises:  Ramsey will critique “liberals” on pacifism and note they follow Barth.  What does he mean by “liberals?”  I don’t think it is simply “those who reject the Bible.”  I think he has in mind Niebuhrian liberalism.

Paul Ramsey

Key Point: The Legitimate Use of Power

  1. The use of power, including the use of force, is of the esse of politics
  2. The use of power is inseparable from the bene esse of politics.

As a foil, Ramsey will have Barth say:

B3: War should not be seen as a normal, fixed, or necessary part of a just state (CD III/4, p. 456).

Back to Ramsey’s theses.  We may add another

R4: The use of power implies the possible use of force.

Ramsey’s argument presupposes a proper ordo of politics, the connections of iustitia, lex, and ordo.

  • Ordo = the disposition of power.

R5: The cross casts a shadow over politics, not pure light (OO 259).  

Politics, community, and the cross should meet in that area where light and shadow meet.  

R6: “The task of politics is to be a sign of the rule of Christ, disclosing right, preserving community and determining the basis of community in right” (259).

Political reflection based on the gospels should not begin with the Advent, as important as it is, but with the fact that Christ has come in history.  O’Donovan: “He [Messiah] has reached for the crown which will allow no rival crowns beside it.  Because he has come, history has divided into two, its back broken on this outcrop of rock which it cannot negotiate” (260).

Corollary: There is a disjunction within the community of election (visible/invisible church), not in the works of God as such.  

Problems with Barth’s Political Ethics

For Ramsey, God accepts Christ’s regnant new humanity.  For Barth, God rejects the old humanity.  This seems to mean that God also rejects extra-ecclesial orders as such.  When Barth comes to war as such, he does not interact with Just War reasoning but simply lists the evils of the Second World War.

Ramsey can point to “monuments of grace” in such a horror, even to legitimate uses of State force.  Barth can only suggest a delaying action (CD III/4, p. 456).  As a result, notes O’Donovan, Barth “ends up precisely in the place he intended to bypass, in a politics that can only be viewed soberly and not with evangelical faith or hope” (O’Donovan 264).

A Way Forward With Ramsey

Ramsey has what Barth needs: a way to bridge the gap between homo politicus which is redeemed in Christ and homo politicus that is in need of redemption. We are back with the distinction between esse and bene esse.  The latter terms also suggests something along the lines of goal or end. Ramsey is speaking of true political activity.  

Is Barth an Apollinarian?

Ramsey offers a model in which political power is both used appropriately and judged:  the Incarnation, homo assumptus.  This means that Christ takes on the fallen order, including homo politicus.  There is no radical “Other” realm to which Christ has no access.  As O’Donovan notes, “Only so can the homo politicus that is redeemed be the same homo politicus that was in need of redemption” (266).

Barth will not grant this.  But in not granting it, he is partitioning off a section of man’s redemption.  To be fair, Barth resists this temptation in Christology but not in politics.

Who is Ramsey’s “Liberal?”

A liberal for Ramsey is one who splits politics and military doctrine.

Liberalism for O’Donovan: the inadequacy of every human attempt to render justice.  A magistrate’s power should be limited.    Therefore, power is suspect but necessary (270).

What does Ramsey mean by Just War and International Politics?  So, O’Donovan: “The international sphere was a constitutional vacuum, but by no means a moral or political vacuum” 271). Ramsey suspects there is a continuum that links violent with nonviolent resistance. Indeed, is not democracy justum bellum (Ramsey, War and the Christian Conscience, 126)?  Jesus never said to resist evil by ballot boxes.

 

Patristic Age and Politics

From the O’Donovans’ From Irenaeus to Grotius. These are summary points of the introductions to each section.

Outline on Irenaeus to Grotius

  1. Baptismal rules treated military as a problematic profession.
  2. There were Christians in the armed forces.
  3. The difficulty explained
    1. The military oath had quasi-religious connotations.
    2. Then there was the responsibility of bloodshed.
  4. Christian opinion changed imperceptibly between Tertullian and Basil.

There was a subtle difference in how West and East approached rule.  The former was a res publica and the latter a Basileus.

East

Moses as law-giver
Nomos subsumed under Logos

West

  • The line b/t political imagination and Christology was formed by the narratives of Christ’s confrontations with power and the reality of future judgment.