Orthodox Bridge’s End of Protestantism

I haven’t dealt with Orthodox Bridge in a while.   But sometimes they come across a decent review or article that deserves outside notice.  Their article highlights a number of weaknesses in the CREC, but does nothing to touch magisterial Protestantism.

I am glad they reviewed Leithart’s End of Protestantism.   It shows the naievety of “everyone’s adopting liturgical CREC worship in the postmillennial glory.”  However, I think there are some weak spots in Arakaki’s analysis.  

Note:  I am only dealing with his analysis of Leithart.  As is always the case, Arakaki ends his article by saying, “Wouldn’t St Ignatius feel more at home in an Orthodox Church?”  Even if that is true, who cares? That’s not a logical argument.  Now onto the review:

RA: This future-oriented ecumenicism is not new.  Gabriel Fackre – Andover Newton Theological School’s Samuel Abbott Professor of Christian Theology Emeritus – in an essay written in 1990 describes the United Church of Christ’s ecumenicism which anticipates Rev. Leithart’s future oriented vision of church unity.

Here is where I think Arakaki hits a weak point.  First of all.  The United Church of Christ is not Reformed.  It is an apostate denomination that is quickly “dying the death.”  But on to the substantial point:

RA: Pastor Leithart has an evolutionary understanding of the Church in which doctrine, practice, and worship evolve over time.

Maybe he does.  I’m not sure, though.  Is development the same as evolution?  We don’t see an argument that it is.  Ephesians 4 talks about the church “growing into the body of Christ.”  That’s development language.

RA: One weakness of Protestantism has been its wholesale neglect of church history, especially the first 1,000 years.

This is false.  I’ve refuted and rebutted these guys so often on this point that I give up.

RA: Readers of Leithart’s book should be aware of the high cost that comes with Leithart’s proposed solution: broken fellowship with the early Church.

Two points:
1) Assertion
2) So what?

RA: This is evident in his flat out refusal to subject the Protestant Reformation to critical scrutiny.

I’ll take RA’s word for it, not having read the book myself.  But that charge is kind of ironic, since Orthodox Bridge has never subjected itself to scrutiny, nor will they, nor will they allow anyone like myself to do so.

RA: How many modern day Evangelicals and Protestants would be welcome at the Eucharist in Luther, Calvin, and Bucer’s church?  

None would be welcome in Luther’s church, given our rejection of a corporeal, capernaitic eating of Christ.  Calvin and Bucer?  Probably quite a few, given the recent interest in Psalmody.  But I wonder if Arakaki really wanted an answer, anyway.

RA:  The discrepancy between Protestantism and early Christianity is something that Protestants must give account for.

We’ve done this so many times.  I’m not going to answer the challenge, though, since doing so would grant that Arakaki’s church is identical to a given point in early church history.  That is to be proven, not assumed.

RA: The future church which Pastor Leithart described with moving eloquence in Chapter 3 sounds much like the mild liberalism of the UCC in the 1950s and the 1960s.  In line with the title of his book, Rev. Leithart calls for Protestant denominations and churches to “die,” that is, to cease to exist in their present forms in order for new forms to emerge.

This is probably a good point.  It also shows one fatal weakness in Leithart’s analysis.  Unless Leithart is going to base the unity on justification and the glory and sovereignty of God, then more and more CREC Turks will end up going Tiber/Constantinople.

RA: For those who grew up in the provincial sub-culture of Evangelicalism all this might sound daring but for those who grew up in mainline Protestantism this is familiar territory.  Within a matter of a few decades the UCC’s inclusive ecumenism degenerated into radical liberalism.

Again, a very good point.  However, the only people taking Leithart seriously are CREC members, and they are more likely to swing towards a cultic conservatism rather than liberalism.

RA: Many Evangelicals are unaware of how insulated they are.  They hold in high esteem teachers and pastors for their “unique” and “brilliant” insights into Scripture not knowing that much has been borrowed from others.  What seem to be bold and innovative teachings are often drawn from one of the early Church Fathers or, worse yet, a revived heresy.  This is why knowledge of church history is so important for sound theology.

I am sorry.  This is just silly.  This might be true of Independent Fundamental Baptists, but not of anyone else.  

RA: The Evangelical subculture in many ways is a closed off, provincial religious ghetto

To quote the greatest politician in American history: “Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!”

wrong

Arakaki ends by quoting the Fathers on unity.  Well, I could respond but that assumes a lot of presuppositions (on both sides), and that brings us into questions about ontology and logic.

Turretin vs. Doug Wilson on Calling

I do not know if Wilson has since gotten a legitimate calling and ordination from an established church body.  But he explains in his own words.  (I thank Rachel Miller for finding this.  Even though she unfriended me on Facebook because I said Saddam was better than ISIS).

I also recommend this post by Rev. Lane Keister.

Having written this book, I must now apologize, at least in part, for how the book came to be written by someone like, as the Victorians used to say, the present writer. At the time of writing, I have been a minister of the Word for twenty-three years. But how that came about contains more than a few ecclesiastical irregularities.

I came to the University of Idaho in the fall of 1975, fresh out of the Navy, and ready to study philosophy. My intention was to study various unbelieving philosophies and to then get involved in some kind of evangelistic literature ministry in a university town somewhere. Right around the same time, a church was being planted in our town by an Evangelical Free Church in a nearby community. The fellowship was successfully planted, but this new church never affiliated with the Free Church. This was not due to any doctrinal or personal differences; it was due mostly to the fact that it was the seventies. I was at the organizing meeting for this church and wound up as one of the guitar-playing songleaders. The best way to describe this would be to say that it was some kind of “Jesus people” operation.

After about a year and a half of meeting, the man who had been doing the preaching (ordained by a Baptist denomination) announced that he had gotten a job elsewhere and that he was moving. We were on our own the following Sunday. As I said, it was the seventies. The idea of going into pastoral ministry had not occurred to me, but when it did, I didn’t like it very much. Nevertheless, as things turned out, I was up in front with the guitar. That was my call to the ministry; I knew all the chords. I began to preach.

Our church had been planted by an established denomination, but we had no constitution, no doctrinal standards, no established leadership. I started what we called a “responsible brothers” meeting to fill the void of leadership — ad hoc elders. We knew from the Scriptures that we needed to be governed by elders, but we didn’t have any. We received some teaching on elder qualifications from the pastor of the Evangelical Free church that had established our church, and as a result different men among the responsible brothers removed themselves from consideration. In this situation, I presented myself to the congregation and asked them to bring forward any objections to my holding office of elder within the next few weeks. If no one did, then I would assume the office. As it turned out, no one did, and I have been working with this congregation of faithful and longsuffering saints ever since.

All this, as I said earlier, was highly irregular, and I would rather be dead in a ditch than to go back to that way of doing ecclesiastical business. . . . (Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk [Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001] 267–268)

To be fair to Wilson, a calling is not a necessary condition for a true church. However, as Francis Turretin notes, if one doesn’t have a proper call from a true church (word, sacraments, discipline), then that is because there is no true church from which to receive a call.

Was the Calling of the Reformers legitimate?

If ministers ought to be called, and we reject the Anabaptists who reject this, then were the Reformers legitimate ministers since they did not receive their call from an ordained ministry (in this case, the Roman Catholic Church)?  Turretin makes a distinction between a church constituted and a church to be constituted (III: 239).  In a constituted church, we expect a call because we want to maintain good order.  However, if we find ourselves in an area with no constituted church, granted it is an extreme example, no call is needed.

Here is the problem for Doug Wilson fans:  were there no true churches?  Were there no Reformed churches?  What was wrong with joining the OPC or PCA, both of whom had witnesses in that area of America?  If Presbyterian government is true, and I think it is, and it is really important, as I think it is, then surely there is no harm in seeking out proper order.

For Turretin the only way to justify this situation is that there are no other witnesses around.  In other words, all of the other churches are fornicating, preaching false doctrine, and openly persecuting the true faith with the sword.  Obviously, this wasn’t the case in the Pacific Northwest.

Therefore, I cannot in good conscience call Wilson a pastor, nor can I affirm that Christ Kirk (Moscow) is a true church.  At best it is an irregular gathering.

Charlie Daniels and the CREC Scandal

Read this and weep.

If you still support Doug Wilson, then repent.  Something about Jesus saying if you cause these little ones to stumble, then go to hell.

Charlie Daniels had said that the lowest form of animal life on this planet is a child molester. The second lowest is church leaders who protect them.

“As far as I’m concerned there ain’t excuse
For the rapin and the killin and the child abuse
I got a way to put an end to all that fast.
Just take them rascals out in the swamp
Put em on their knees and tie em to a stump
And Let the rattlers and the bugs and the alligators do the rest.”

 

And this is also the most perfect example of Southern “swamp” music.

Repost: Against the Neo-Jovinians

Repost, but certain events brought it to mind.  I’ve come across passages in some Canon Press books.  We know that Doug Wilson’s people demean women.  That’s a self-evident truth.  But it’s always jarring to see new evidence to the effect. It’s especially worse when it is by a woman.  It is by someone with the last name “Wilson.”

says the wife’s identity is found (only) in the husband. The husband *is* her.  (p. 62).

she also says that a woman before she got married didn’t have the depth of character and she was so boring.

Those are more or less word-for-word quotes, but given the Canon Press method of citing sources, no need to get too picky.

Jovinian was an intellectual in the ancient Christian world who scandalized everyone by suggesting marital relations and celibate virginity were on the same level.  Jerome responded.  And what a powerful, if hilariously wrong, response it was.  

 

Now, I believe Jovinian had the better exegesis.  To quote Kelly, when Jerome has a useful card he overplays it, and when he doesn’t have any evidence, he engages in the wildest reasoning (Kelly 186).  Further, I reject a lot of the metaphysical and ethical assumptions behind Jerome’s defense of celibacy.  (Ironically, however, Jovinian’s view of baptismal regeneration was much closer to later Catholicism than Jerome’s view).  

 

Still, there is something Jerome can teach us.  Sex and feasting don’t exist for themselves.  Even if one doesn’t hold the view that sex is only for reproduction, that doesn’t mean sex is for sex’s sake.  It’s for the uniting and binding together of husband and wife.

 

We can add another point.  Sex isn’t a panacea for mental illnesses.  This brings us back to the CREC scandal.  The Wilsonistas are wrong to think that:

 

(1)   “marrying” him off will provide a safe outlet for one’s urges.

 

I think many critics of medieval celibacy used to think that.  Sadly, this is not the case.  If it were, one could save a lot of people heartache by simply introducing these people to their right hands.  Crude, yes, and some could argue that such an act is immoral, but at least no children are harmed.

 

Therefore, we have to add another line of reasoning:

 

(2)  The problem is not built-up sexual tension, but mental-spiritual.  

 

If it is true that pedophiles are “wired” differently, then it is hard to see how (1) will solve the problem.  

 

Is the “fallen” (defined as someone who committed a terrible sin but has repented) Christian guaranteed equal access to the marriage/family life?  

 

Many “Wilsonistas” say it yes.  They assert it but never argue it.  This doesn’t appear to be the Apostle Paul’s position.  The Wilsonistas say, “If you can, and why can’t you?, by all means get married.”  Paul said if you aren’t married now, then you might not need to get married (1 Cor. 7:7-8, 26-28).   We can now add another premise;

 

(3) There are many good reasons for staying single.
(3*) The Church is not obligated to provide you with a family.

 

The Wilsonistas will say that married sex provides a legitimate outlet for sexual passion.  That is true in normal cases.   But psychology and counseling have shown that men/women who are addicted to porn do not become unaddicted because they get married.  The problem is still there, even if there is an “outlet” for it.  And the outlet does not solve the problem.

 

This is also true if the spouse is a convicted pedophile.  Where is the wisdom in his “outlet” providing him with more victims?   Wilsonistas will respond, “Would you deny him the opportunity for a family?”

 

Yes.

 

There are alternatives.  None of them fun, but they are noble and workable.  He can join a monastery in the desert and spend the next 30 years denying himself.  Surround himself with a handful of elderly, cantankerous men who do not put up with nonsense.  And who knows, he might be able to find peace and stillness in a way that he wouldn’t in Moscow, ID.

 

Ensoulment, the CREC, and abortion

While it might look like I am attacking Botkin, that is certainly not the case.  I strongly applaud her precisioned take-down of Wilson’s theology and pray more posts come.

Kate Botkin’s most recent post, while most of it was an excellent critique of Wilson’s deranged practices, offered a troubling piece of argumentation.  Note, she isn’t endorsing abortion (at least not in this post) but she is advancing the argument that a man who’s molested dozens of children isn’t a better human being than a woman who gets an abortion at 8 weeks.  I think some kind of rebuttal like this was inevitable, given that Wilson immediately deflects to abortion whenever he gets in trouble.

I won’t enter that line of debate.  What did intrigue me was her following suggestion:

You don’t have to agree that abortion is Ok to understand that some women do not view early abortion as evil, based on biology and the belief that the soul enters a child along with consciousness, or at a certain stage of development.

So, does a unborn baby gain a soul at consciousness or at conception?  Most pro-life Christians want to say at conception, but since they lack a coherent doctrine of the soul they really struggle with this point.  Part of the difficulty is that consciousness is a faculty of the soul and so Botkin’s suggestion isn’t entirely in left field.  I think she is wrong but for different reasons.

Maybe this isn’t even Botkin’s position.  I’ll grant that.  I know what she is doing.  Every time Wilson begins to feel the heat, he deflects the issue back to abortion:  “Gee golly, I know shielding pedophiles is bad, but it’s not as bad as abortion.”  Well, you’re just saying that because you can’t answer the question.  Botkin then takes you up on your point and since you guys have an anemic doctrine of the soul, you can’t answer her.

I think I can.  Let’s rephrase her argument:

(And I am using “soul” and “person” as more or less synonymous.  There are some nuances but most Christians think along these lines).

P1: An unborn baby gains a soul/becomes a person at the gaining of consciousness

P1*:  Consciousness is what makes a soul/person.

P1’: Body and soul aren’t the same thing.

I think that is a fair summary.  Here is why I think it is wrong.    With J. P. Moreland I would say

P2: “the soul is an individuated essence that makes the body a human body” (Moreland 202).  

Botkin would agree so fair. P1’ and P2 make the same point.   I add another premise:

P3: The soul has capacities.  Capacities come in hierarchies.

P3 is important in the euthanasia debate.  I can have a capacity for something yet not be exercising it.  At the moment I have the capacity for speaking Russian.  This is called a 2nd-order capacity.  Sadly, I cannot speak Russian right now, thus I do not have a 1st-order capacity.

Souls also have faculties.  

P4:  a faculty is a compartment of the soul that contains a natural family of related capacities (204).  Mind, will, and spirit.  And consciousness.  

The problem with the ensoulment argument (P1) is that it identifies the soul/person with actualized capacities.   Therefore, when the person is no longer exercising an actualized capacity like consciousness, then he is no longer a person.  Like when you are under anesthesia.  

There is another, albeit more technical, problem with ensoulment.  If consciousness is the sine qua non of what it means to be a person/soul, but if I’ve established that consciousness is rather a capacity of the soul’s faculties, then the following reductio obtains:

P5:  An unborn gains a soul at the gaining of a soul (1, 1*).

True, but not very helpful.    The difficulty is that advocates of ensoulment are defining a soul by what the soul could do.  Defining by function is always dangerous.  A person under general anesthesia cannot function.  Does he cease to be a person?  Why not?  As Rae notes, “To appeal to some higher-order capacities as determinate of personhood” cannot be done without acknowledging that personhood is not dependent on lower-order capacities (Moreland and Rae 251).  These higher-order capacities are latent, just as they are with the unborn.