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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Strict Justice vs Pactum Justice

I've been considering afresh the relationship of pactum justice with respect to Adam in the CoW and how that relates to strict justice in redemption. With Adam the reward would've been disproportionate to the work. The justice would not have been according to strict justice but rather according to an agreement to over pay Adam, a pactum justice if you will. The value of the work would not have intrinsic value. No problem there I trust. 

I do find that in redemption our reward though received by grace alone is according to strict justice. The passive obedience part that deals with our demerit is more obvious perhaps, but I think some who focus on active obedience have no place to ground strict justice with respect to our right standing before God. Let me frame the dilemma and then try to solve it, but before that I'll try to address the easier part having to do with strict justice as it relates to our demerit. 

The one time sacrifice was sufficient payment to satisfy God’s strict  justice. The divine nature was required so that satisfaction could be actually intrinsic to the work. Our demerit needed the incarnate Son of God to pay for the sins of His people, for one thing to keep his human nature from sinking under God's infinite wrath. Christ being God could render God propitious and truly provide full satisfaction, a strict just payment for our sins. That's the more obvious part. No issues I trust.

The dilemma:

The Son assumed the terms of the covenant that offered a disproportionate reward for works done as a human being. So, regarding the active obedience part, I don’t see how pactum justice can be avoided and strict justice obtained if our positive merit is predicated solely on Christ fulfilling the original terms of the covenant and we grant that those original terms were according to pactum justice. I think that’s the necessary implication of a position that limits our positive standing to that which we receive only by the active obedience of Christ. If the Son took on the terms of the original covenant and if those terms offered disproportionate reward via pactum, then it stands to reason that our right standing is not according to strict justice. 

We should look at this from another angle:

Although the required work was essentially* (footnote) the same for both Adams and, therefore, disproportional to the reward, in our receiving of the whole person of Christ and not merely His obedience in the economy of redemption we do find strict justice. In other words, by union with Christ we are by grace rightful co-heirs to the heavenly Jerusalem etc. Not by His work only but by our union with the architect himself. I think if we want to speak of our reward of all things in Christ being strictly just, then I think we need to abandon the notion of merely obedient-merit imputed and start thinking in terms of Christ’s perfection being imputed in union. I fear this is eclipsed in certain quarters. Where do we ground strict justice if all Christ did for us was obey as the Second Adam in our stead as opposed to taking us into union with Himself? We have by grace what the Son has by nature and we receive that in union with Christ. I think some constructs that emphasize active obedience fail to do justice to the implications of union with the perfections of Christ – the whole Christ, which includes yet exceeds his work of obedience. There's not a strict parallel to Adam, nor is there one in Romans 5.


*Of course Christ had a harder task. Adam had to be obedient in a world with the serpent but not in world with human disciples of the serpent. 

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Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Blind Followers, Inconsistencies, Double Standards and More Confusion

Roman Catholics often assert that Protestantism operates under the principle that Scripture is open to private interpretation because Protestants deny the need for an infallible magisterium to interpret Scripture. Is historic Protestantism really a religion of "me and my Bible?" Do the tenets of historical Protestantism really deny 2 Peter 1:20, which informs that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation?

An honest and informed Roman Catholic understands that Protestants do not think that Scripture has no need for an interpreter.
1. An honest and informed Roman Catholic understands and will gladly concede that historic Protestantism affirms that Scripture is the interpreter of Scripture. This is often referred to as the analogy of Scripture.
2. Even for the Roman Catholic, Scripture interprets Scripture with respect to the magisterium's basis for Christian doctrine. In turn the magisterium is to relay its interpretation of Scripture to the laity. Even Marian doctrines are alleged to be derived from Scripture.
3. Even when a Roman Catholic lay person offers an argument from Scripture, say to reconcile James with Paul, they too operate under the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture. At the very least, won’t a Roman Catholic appeal to Scripture’s interpretation of Scripture to derive and offer proof of Rome's doctrine for an infallible magisterium?  Rarely does one find a Roman Catholic assert “the pope has said so and that settles it.”
Roman Catholics not only often impugn Protestantism unjustly; they maintain a double standard in the process. I am not suggesting ill intent. I'm just pointing out what is commonplace.
More inconsistencies, double standards and confusion
Another common objection levied against the perspicuity and sufficiency of Scripture is that since there are so many denominations that hold conflicting views we simply cannot know what Scripture teaches without an infallible magisterium.  An easy refutation of this argument is that Christ held the Jews responsible to know the Scriptures even in spite of the error of the teaching magisterium of his day. Moreover, there is no Old Testament precedent for the need or establishment of an infallible magisterium. In fact, those that would set themselves above Scripture were often to be disregarded utterly and completely. If the New Testament abrogates this principle then it should be demonstrable from Scripture, which of course would undermine the absolute need for an infallible magisterium. In any case, allowing for the premise that Peter was the first pope (and all that entails), how does one reach the grand conclusion of an unbroken lineage of infallible popes that would reside in Rome?
Indeed, the doctrines that exist within the entire set of Protestant denominations cannot all be correct given that contradictory doctrines exist within Protestantism. Yet that’s a far cry from  substantiating the need for an infallible magisterium, especially in light of Old Testament precedence as noted above. Nor do conflicting Protestant denominations imply that Rome has true doctrine.
A Fresh Polemic?

Although in one sense Rome has a greater chance of being correct than any given set of conflicting doctrines, Roman Catholics are not able to argue successfully that Roman Catholicism has any more chance of being correct than any particular denomination that has not contradicted itself. Rome likes to compare herself with the whole of Protestantism rather than with a single Confession that is internally consistent with itself, like the Westminster standards.
Coming at this from a non-Trinitarian unbelieving perspective, we can just as easily lump Roman Catholicism in with all other Trinitarian denominations making the set even more inclusive. Given such a cataloging of Trinitarian denominations and by employing the Roman Catholic's way of reasoning, one may just as easily ask in the spirit of Roman Catholic skepticism how truth can be known given all the opposing doctrines within Trinitarian theology (Roman Catholicism included). In other words, Roman Catholic apologists often point to conflicting doctrines within the whole of Protestantism to create need for Romanism, the supposed arbiter of truth. Yet if we lump Rome in with all the rest of Christianity (and apply her reasoning) then her disagreements with the Westminster standards, for instance, makes her doctrine as questionable as all the Protestant denominations she would cast doubt upon. In response to this Roman Catholics might say that Rome claims infallibility whereas Protestant denominations don't. But how does the claim of infallibility establish actual infallibility any more than it points to absolute delusion?!

In Conclusion

If Scripture does not inform the Roman Catholic magisterium about what Scripture has to say, then who or what does? To deny that the popes affirm the analogy of Scripture for the magisterium is to reduce Scripture to brute particulars that have no  discernible coherence, which would mean that the magisterium with respect to interpreting Scripture must be making things up as they go along and that any appeal to Scripture is disingenuous at best. Therefore, it’s not that Rome so much denies the intelligibility of Scripture. Rather, Rome would have us believe that Scripture is only intelligible to the magisterium. Consequently, individual Roman Catholics should not appeal to Scripture to justify the Roman Catholic communion and the church's need for the popes. Rather, Roman Catholics should be consistent by simply pointing to the authority of the popes to defend the claims of the popes. That, however, is an admission of being a blind follower of something other than Scripture, which is an embarrassment for Roman Catholics yet a necessary implication of their view of the church and Scripture.

As soon as a Roman Catholic argues from Scripture he denies the need for an infallible magisterium. Once he points to Rome apart from Scripture, he shows himself to be a blind follower of Rome in the face of Scripture.
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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Deduction, Induction, TAG and Certainty

Deduction as a construct does not bring forth certainty any more than induction. Inductivists try to move from what might be thought to be known, or considered most probably the case, to what is not yet believed with the same veracity. Induction is “open ended” we might say, because induction as a process is never fully exhaustive. Rather, it comes to an end once one is satisfied with his personal pursuit. To put it another way, once cognitive satisfaction has been achieved the inductive pursuit is over, but it always stops short of philosophical certainty due to the nature of induction.

The deductive process on the other hand often leaves people with the impression that as a construct deduction brings forth knowledge. This would only be true, that deduction yields knowledge, if epistemic certainly was only a matter of construct, which it is not. Indeed, if the deductive process is valid, then the conclusion certainly follows from the premises. Whether the premises are reliable, however, is another matter altogether that requires further investigation having nothing to do with the deduction at hand. Deduction itself does not bring forth knowledge because for one to know the conclusion for what it truly is, he would first have to justify the premises that lead to the conclusion, which the immediate deduction in view does not achieve. That does not mean that deduction cannot aid in obtaining knowledge. The justification of many propositions that can be known comes by way of deduction.

Akin to those common errors, people often require a "philosophically certain" proof. I understand what epistemic certainty is, and appreciate what people mean by psychological certainty. I also understand what constitutes a valid and invalid argument, and what distinguishes those types of arguments from sound and unsound arguments. But what is a “philosophically certain argument”? People are certain, not arguments. Whether sound arguments will persuade someone to any degree of certainty is the job of the Holy Spirit, not the apologist.

Deduction is not a sufficient condition for knowledge. First, there is the "garbage in garbage out" consideration. The conclusion of a valid deduction need not be true; it only needs to follow from the premises. Accordingly, further investigation into the truth of the premises must occur for there to be the possibility of knowledge; yet that lies beyond the scope of the deduction at hand. Added to that, the Holy Spirit must grant justification for beliefs, which truth and structure alone cannot produce. Finally, the Holy Spirit must grant the knowledge that a valid deduction is reliable given true premises, which deduction cannot do. In short, God produces knowledge. He might even use weak inductive inferences in the process, but when knowledge is attained, the justification for what is believed to be true is through the illuminating power of God. Knowledge does not rely upon the induction or deduction that might have been employed in the process, but rather when one knows he has been taught by God.

A word or two might be in order regarding transcendental arguments (TAG in particular). TAG has a distinctly inductive aspect to it because with TAG the Christian investigates what must be true in order for some experience to be intelligible. Such explorations are inductive in emphasis. Notwithstanding, the manner of the investigation is not "open ended" because the premises within TAG do not merely support the conclusion, they ensure it. That point is missed by those who think TAG is inductive: The aspect of "closure", where the premises ensure the conclusion, is unique to deduction, not induction. Moreover, the conclusion from TAG is not a mere hypothesis, but rather a sound conclusion derived through a deductive process that justifies its premises authoritatively. Finally, TAG falls short of being fully inductive because there is no asserting the consequent with TAG, as there is with all scientific inference, the playground for induction. Nonetheless, TAG has an inductive aspect to it because of the exploratory nature of TAG.

Of course TAG is deductive, but it is unlike all other deductive arguments. What sets TAG apart from garden variety deduction is that with the latter we begin with some truths (or inferences) and reason to others - but that to which we reason is not presupposed as a necessary precondition for the intelligible experience of the original fact of experience. More on that here:

As Bahnsen often quipped, "The proof of God's existence is that without Him one could not prove anything." That is nothing other than "Proof presupposes God" (or "If Proof, then God" since God is a necessary precondition for proof). Bahnsen's deduction and a defense of it can be found here:

(Given the inductive and deductive aspects of TAG, we shouldn't find it at all strange that Van Til said that in what he called the "Christian method" of apologetics, we find "elements of both induction and of deduction in it, if these terms are understood in a Christian sense.”)

Pastorally it should be said that we do not come to know the truth through cleverly devised proofs. Nothing could be further from the truth. We know God by nature (through revelation and conscience), and we must justify that knowledge by Scripture, the Christian's ultimate authority. I know my Savior lives because God has revealed that to me in His word. That is not my defense of the Christian worldview, but it's certainly a defensible fact. In other words, we don't "reason" ourselves to God, but our belief in God is indeed reasonable. In fact, it is not just reasonable; it is justifiable and true, which is to say it constitutes as knowledge.

Apologetically speaking, belief in God is the only reasonable position to hold if for no other reason, it is unreasonable to argue against God's existence because to do so one must first presuppose those tools of argumentation that only are defensible given God's existence. The precondition of intelligible experience is God. The justification for the precondition of intelligible experience is God’s word. An elaboration of that distinction is for another day.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Bahnsen, One Misunderstood Servant of The Lord

“A transcendental argument begins with any item of experience or belief whatsoever and proceeds, by critical analysis, to ask what conditions (or what other beliefs) would need to be true in order for that original experience or belief to make sense, be meaningful, or be intelligible to us. Now then, if we should go back and negate the statement of that original belief (or consider a contrary experience), the transcendental analysis (if originally cogent or sound) would nevertheless reach the very same conclusion.” (Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 501-502.)

That quote by Bahnsen has been misunderstood, abused and hijacked by those who would claim Bahnsen and those who would have nothing to do with his apologetic.
Let’s take this quote of Bahnsen’s step by step.

1. “A transcendental argument begins with any item of experience or belief whatsoever”
Let’s assume as our belief that there is causality. That it is intelligible.

2. “…and proceeds, by critical analysis, to ask what conditions (or what other beliefs) would need to be true in order for that original experience or belief to make sense, be meaningful, or be intelligible to us.”

Let’s assume that what must be the necessary precondition needed to make sense of causality is God’s existence. We are now left with: If Causality, then God.

3. “Now then, if we should go back and negate the statement of that original belief (or consider a contrary experience), the transcendental analysis (if originally cogent or sound) would nevertheless reach the very same conclusion.”
Now let’s do as Bahnsen suggests and “negate the statement of that original belief”. In other words, let’s negate causality (the statement of that original belief) and see if we reach the same conclusion.

At this juncture we have two choices. The first one is a bit strange but let’s run with it and see where it takes us. (A) We can first interpret the instruction in such a manner as to introduce a minor premise thereby denying the antecedent of the major premise while affirming the consequent in the conclusion. Does Bahnsen mean this?

If Causality, then God (because causality presupposes God)
Therefore, God.
What is the problem with such a rendering of Bahnens’s words? To argue as above is to draw a conclusion that does not follow from the premises in any logical sense! The argument is invalid (and no appeal to transcendental arguments can save a formal fallacy.) Whenever possible, we should not interpret someone’s words in such a way that makes him out to look foolish or inept.

Therefore, let’s consider another way to heed the instruction to “negate the statement of that original belief”. (B) Let's interpret the instruction in such a manner as to deny the statement of that original belief not in the minor premise but in the major premise. Again, we are told to go back and negate the statement of that original belief in order to see if both the first belief and its denial lead to the same transcendental conclusion. When we do that, we are left with two different major premises that both are to lead to the same conclusion. We're left with the original premise (or belief): If Causality, then God; but also we’re left to consider the negation of that original belief with another premise: If ~Causality, then God. That rendering with respect to form is consistent with Don Collett's rendering of CVT and TAG in the WTJ: 
C presupposes G if and only if both 1 & 2:
1. If C then God exists
2. If ~C then God exists 
Whether we predicate: If Causality, then God (or) If ~Causality, then God the same conclusion, God, obtains. In other words, God is the necessary precondition for all predication. Or to put it in Bahnsen’s terms, whether we affirm or deny the original belief, the transcendental analysis nevertheless reaches the very same conclusion given both premises. {NOTE WELL: We are not negating the metaphysicality of causality but rather the truth value of the predication of the metaphysicality of causality! In other words: ~causality (which is chaos) does not presuppose God(!), but indeed the belief or assertion of ~causality does! In other words, the concept of non-causality presupposes God.} 
The second way ought to be considered the most reasonable way in which we ought to interpret the instruction. There are two reasons for this. First, the second way is not an invalid argument as is the first way; and if we are able to interpret someone’s words in a way that is cogent rather than foolish, then we should. Secondly, it has not been shown that the author of the quote ever demonstrated in his many lectures and debates a single instance of fallaciously denying the antecedent while affirming the consequent. Yet on many occasions he labored the point that to argue against the Christian worldview, the Christian worldview must first be presupposed. And that is to argue both:

If sound argumentation, then God (since sound argumentation presupposes God)
If unsound argumentation, then God (since unsound argumentation... God) 
When we work these arguments through, we find:

If sound arguments, then God...
Therefore, no sound argument... but there are sound arguments, therefore, God


If unsound arguments, then God...
Therefore, no unsound arguments... but there are unsound arguments, therefore, God
Accordingly, whether we affirm sound arguments "or go back and negate" sound arguments, the same transcendental conclusion obtains - God!


If sound or unsound arguments, then God
Therefore, no sound or unsound arguments (but there as such arguments, therefore, God)

The deductive argument, which is transcendental in nature, establishes God as the necessary precondition for both sound and unsound arguments. TAG, however, must be distinguised from garden variety deduction, as I show here:

Finally, TAG and Bahnsen has nothing to do with anything so silly as:

If sound argument, then God
Not sound argument
Therefore, God
In the final analyses, Bahnsen’s statement need not lead us into fallacious reasoning, as some who would like to claim Bahnsen do. Added to that, it is only when we interpret Bahnen’s statement in such a manner as not to be fallacious are we able to reconcile his summary statement with his many demonstrations of what the statement contemplates. Why not, therefore, let Bahnsen not be fallacious, especially if it allows him to be consistent with himself?

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Question Begging From Another Radical 2 Kingdom Proponent

I'm publishing this piece again because I've been reminded of late that the Escondido crowd remains loud and a problematic force against the reasonableness of Reformed epistemology and morals.

More question begging from the Radical 2 Kingdom camp, this time by Darryl Hart.

Indeed, one can have a justification for x while not being able to offer it. So, to use Darryl Hart’s example, one can have a justification for discerning curves from fastballs while being incapable of articulating that justification. In such cases what one lacks is the ability to articulate a justification - he does not lack having a justification. Notwithstanding, we ought not to think that because one can know something apart from being able to articulate a justification that, therefore, giving a justification is superfluous, or that those true beliefs that are not self-consciously justified must be as credible as those that are self-consciously justified. Let's not pretend that the ability to justify a belief is morally irrelevant, or that a robust justification lends no force to a rational defense of a belief.

The article leaps from (a) the premise that people do know things they aren't prepared to justify to (b) the grand implication that offering a robust justification for beliefs is of little use if only we can muddle through without having to give one. In the final analysis, the article begs the question of whether there actually exists an epistemic justification for laws in general and civil laws in particular and whether that justification is available to us, let alone useful for society. So, once again, R2K confounds the ability of societies to function apart from Scripture with the question of whether there is a moral imperative to apply Scripture to society whenever possible. In essence, R2Kers reason in the same fashion we see in the comic above. They have a preconceived conclusion that they'll arrive at any which way they can.

I might as well mention here that the Bahnsen reference employed by Darryl Hart is terribly misapplied. Bahnsen (with Van Til) thought that men know things that they are unwilling, even incapable of justifying. Accordingly, the reference with respect to one being reduced to absurdity does not speak to the question of whether men know how to count, or whether men know there should be degrees of punishment for transgressions. Nor does it pertain to the reasonableness of men holding to such beliefs they aren't prepared to justify. Certainly Bahnsen did not count it foolish for secular governments to dish out harsher punishments for rape than driving five miles over the speed limit. Not at all, for there is nothing contained in Bahnsen's theonomic thesis that would have prevented him from appreciating that societies can and do function apart from any sort of self-conscious epistemic warrant. What Bahnsen deemed foolish was not the implementation of law by unbelievers but rather the mindset that would abandon any hope in the only ultimate justification of such abstract entities. His issue was with the arbitrary and inconsistent manner in which unbelievers oppose themselves in their reasoning. The Bahnsen reference pertains to men not giving an account (an articulated justification) for their counting - it does not imply that men, unaided by Scripture, do not know how to count or aren't justified in their counting.

R2K might be the most unifying movement today within the Reformed tradition. Non-theonomists and theonomists alike oppose R2K. It reminds me of Dwarves and Elves uniting against Orcs.

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Monday, July 06, 2015

Demeanor toward homosexuality

From the Aquila Report :

We must also respond with love. Even as we articulate the truth of marriage we must take great care to do so with the right demeanor. A counter-cultural message will not be compelling without a counter-cultural tone. We must not be condescending or resentful in the face of the cultural shift going on around us. We must extend the very same patient grace that God has extended to us. When Jesus saw the lostness of the crowds around Him, it moved Him to compassion, not hectoring. 

The above quote has to do with our response toward homosexuals and homosexuality. It’s a common sentiment. I’m OK with the sentiment if what is meant by “demeanor” is in some ways really no different than the God-honoring demeanor we ought to show toward ax murders, wife beaters and child molesters.

We are always to speak the truth in love, as self-conscious redeemed sinners. Maybe some might be surprised to see the correct, humble and loving “demeanor” toward an ax murder – or just maybe, some might be surprised to know what a loving demeanor toward a homosexual would truly look like. In all such cases, there should be no coddling. A sense of urgency must pervade all counsel, which should look more like a clarion call to repentance than a carefully constructed argument for why homosexuality is sin. Or, have we bought into the culture’s invention that this matter of homosexuality is somehow trickier than old fashioned, premeditated acts of sin and rebellion? How did these waters become so difficult to navigate in such a relatively short span of time? I don't know. But, I do think the church adopted a demeanor that was not in accord with the truth she should have been striving to convey all along.

The article goes on to address the supposed thorny question of whether one should attend an illegitimate marriage between two of the same sex. Thankfully, the article came down on the right side of the issue, but what I think the article does not convey is that the answer to that question is really no different than the question of whether one should attend or lend legitimacy to any of the aforementioned acts.

I’m finding a growing fear within the church that we might lose this particular battle if we don’t cultivate a certain kind of demeanor. (Maybe it's a good time to remind ourselves that the battle belongs to the Lord; our task is to obey in word and deed). That said, I can go along with that notion as long as we have the correct demeanor in mind. That is to say, as long as the demeanor is the same loving demeanor that should emanate whenever dealing with the most heinous sins imaginable – yet with one crucial caveat…this sin is in many ways worse! Most blatant acts of sin are not misconstrued as an expression of "love"! This one is different. This one is more insidious. This one is celebrated by liberal protestants and is practiced by Roman Catholic clergymen. (Though at least Roman Catholicism is still "on record" as being ashamed of the sin, unlike the Episcopal Church and PCUSA who have jettisoned such truth altogether.) Let's worry about demeanor once we've internalized what we're even talking about! Read on...

Those in a position to minister in these areas are to speak the entire truth in love, which means both (i) cultivating a demeanor suitable to the transgression and (ii) distinguishing the transgression from other transgressions. In both cases, if we don’t sound like Jesus, they won’t hear Jesus. We must strive to influence in word and deed; so, not just with pure demeanor but also with true doctrine. Key point: the latter will inform the former, indeed it must - for our demeanor must be consistent with the truth we hope to convey (lest we eclipse the truth). What we believe to be true about a particular sin will dictate how we behave toward those who practice such things! We must recognize not just the fall of humanity in Adam, but also its ensuing downward trajectory, manifested in the outright rejection of the gospel leading unto full blown apostasy that would eventually culminate in repudiation of the created order. In a word, what we are witnessing is deep seated enmity without guise. What we're also witnessing is a church that is not being normed by God's word.

Regarding the truth, we are under obligation to declare two things on the authority of God. First off, this particular sin is on a different order all together, for it is unnatural. It is unique in its degeneration. Secondly, this sin very often constitutes a turning over - an abandonment by God - (something the average evangelical has not considered I'm afraid). Exchanging the natural use of the created order in this way is not just sin but judicial consequence for persistent rebellion against the light of nature. Get this Christian. Homosexuality is not to be thought of in terms of that which might beget punishment. Rather, it is to been seen as divinely appointed punishment. Homosexuality is a nation’s judicial recompense for racing toward idolatry and glorying in overt, fist-shaking rebellion against God our Maker. Nothing less than willful heathenism can provoke God to render such justice against a nation. This must be said without apology, but first it must be understood and believed. Once we get that right, our demeanor will at least have a chance of looking "godly".

So, yes indeed, we must not just speak the truth… “We must also respond with love. Even as we articulate the truth of marriage we must take great care to do so with the right demeanor.” Let’s just make sure we bring our demeanor in line with the full-orbed implications of the transgression we hope to address. There are those who are angry and militant in their practice; whereas there are others who are dabbling in confusion and falling deeper into the clutches of sin. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all with respect to demeanor, but it does with the truth that must be declared on the authority of God. As Calvin reminds, “He, who is ashamed, is yet healable…” Yet our leaders along with many who have been photographed in "victory" take pleasure in this evil– even calling it a gift from God. Let that too inform our demeanor. But before chiding our elected officials and judges, maybe we might begin by rebuking, with an informed demeanor, the liberal "clergy" that promote such evils.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

God is not mocked...the fool is confounded once again

Easily, less than five percent of the U.S. population is homosexual. So, why is it that being pro-homosexual is advantageous for one seeking public office? I think the answer is simple. The average person is autonomous in his reasoning and is, therefore, easy prey.

Although all men know by nature that homosexuality is sin, it’s only through Scripture that one can prove in any robust, epistemic sense that it is sin. (All over this site I draw the distinction between knowledge and the justification of knowledge.) Since most Americans are autonomous in their reasoning, then it stands to reason that most Americans are incapable of justifying any moral claim they even know to be true. Recognizing that something is abnormal, even unnatural, doesn’t make it immoral, let alone something that should be deemed illegal. And if not illegal, then worthy of government protection.

Although many straight people still find homosexuality unnatural - unnatural does not imply moral deviance. God’s general revelation of sin has grown dim in the minds of most Americans, but even when it was shining more brightly, it was never to be interpreted apart from special revelation, God’s word. With the rejection of the Bible, Americans are left to grope in the dark. Christians can rejoice in at least this: God is not mocked!

Apart from invoking Scripture one is left with two unhappy alternatives. Rather than appear arbitrary and hateful toward someone who is merely different than us, the "open minded" (to everything but God's word!) are left to defend deviant behavior even when “it’s not my cup a tea.” The more noble must even fight for it! Apart from a commitment to Scripture, the only way to avoid arbitrariness and bigoted rejection of such a perversion (that comes to us under the guise of "love" and "equality" no less) is to accept it - even defend it. Apart from Scripture one is left either approving, at least tacitly, ungodly behavior or else undergoing the self-inflicted guilt of arbitrary hatred toward a practice one simply doesn't prefer. Righteous disapproval is not available to us apart from values informed by Scripture. The fool (one who rejects God's word) is confounded once again.

It takes God’s word to justify the premise that homosexuality is sin, absolutely. Yet even among those who see this plainly in God’s word, it’s only a minority who see that the practice of homosexuality should be deemed illegal.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sanctification and Moralism

Sanctification is too often only thought of in terms of that process whereby a converted sinner is gradually transformed in mind and affections  according to the preceptive-will of God and consequently into the image of Christ.  At best, too often sanctification is merely seen in terms of becoming truly Christ-like, and if truly Christ-like then truly human (since Christ is the perfect image of God in man). Yet when speaking of sanctification the New Testament speaks more in terms of a one-time break with sin, a definitive act of sanctification.  In this light, sanctification is more akin to effectual calling, justification and adoption - a one-time act never to be repeated or undone.  Indeed, that God will complete a progressive sanctifying work in all his children should be  a source of confidence and joy for every believer.  Notwithstanding, we should expect that the degree of understanding of God’s finished work of definitive sanctification in the life of the believer will, to some extent, influence the attainment of progressive sanctification in the experience of the believer.  After all, to think Christ’s thoughts after him, as we walk in him, includes thinking true thoughts about God’s work of definitive sanctification. Moreover, to think wrongly about sanctification is to “obey” in our sanctification not according to the truth of our sanctification.
At the very heart of sanctification is life from the dead. The believer is delivered once and for all from the bondage of sin and raised to walk in newness of life. In that great familiar hymn, Charles Wesley put it this way: Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee...”  

Is it not true that he that is dead is freed from sin? Hasn’t the believer truly died with Christ? Accordingly, as dead and raised in union with Christ, isn’t the believer freed from sin and, therefore, no longer under its bondage and dominion? Isn’t it true that the believer has been crucified with Christ and it is no longer the believer who lives but Christ who lives in and through the believer?  Isn’t the very imperative not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies premised upon the incongruity of what the contrary contemplates, sin having reign over the believer’s body? Doesn’t the incongruity presuppose the reality of resurrected life in union with Christ?  Sure, sin indwells every believer, but the truth of the matter is the believer is no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit; so it is as the Westminster Divines rightly wrote, “…the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.” Indwelling sin is not enslaving sin, for the Christian is a slave to Christ.

Falling into the error of perfectionism is hardly a danger in Reformed circles, but what is at risk is building a doctrine of sanctification upon personal experience, observation and Christian testimony. I fear that sentimental fundamentalism along with moralism has made its way into Reformed churches.  “Being saved” is understood primarily in terms of justification, which is all that God does; and we must do the rest. After being justified, the believer must respond by living a moral life in gratitude for God’s saving work in Christ, or so it is often told without remainder.  To whip up devotion to God and his ways by exciting gratitude for Christ’s atoning work on the cross, (even pity for the Savior in Romanist and many Fundamentalist circles), is often what is preached as the impetus for living the Christian life. Obligation to obey because of the Savior's sin bearing, life giving death upon the cross is all we have to move us. The very fact that every believer is a new creation in Christ and as such actually desires to run in the ways of the Lord is not a reality that is preached - if it is not also denied, at least implicitly. Devotion ends up becoming a work of the flesh, a dead moralism as it were. It even can become that which ultimately must cause one to differ from another, as there is little expectation that the Spirit will cause every believer both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure as he so determines.  God actually inclining the wills of his subjects so that they desire to participate in his foreordination of good works in the orbit of family, work, community and church is no longer in view. Sadly, it's exchanged for man, in the flesh, determining the good works that God has somehow mysteriously foreordained man to walk in through obligation, not sovereign transformation. In the end, it is we who determine our sanctification, and lip-service is given to biblical Calvinism as it relates to the divine initiative and subduing grace.

When sheep are taught over and over again that they are slaves to sin and under its bondage, as little children they lose the joy of salvation and begin to believe there is no hope other than through the arm of the flesh. Moralism and legalism begin to set in, and eventually the weary are tempted to give up. This is not good news. The self-effort and "good works" that once plagued the new convert, having been a source of robbing him of the joy, wonder, awe and sheer profundity of his justification through faith alone, becomes an hindrance to enjoying and participating in God’s saving work in sanctification. Justification and sanctification have been rent asunder as God is portrayed as being operative in the former, leaving the latter a matter of self-effort alone - a kind of saved by grace, kept by works - a despairing thought indeed. Have I gone too far? Well, note well that if God does not take the divine initiative of causing the believer both to will and do of his good pleasure and, also, fulfill his promise of completing a work of grace until the day of Jesus Christ, then the Christian is as alone in his sanctification as he possibly can be. What must be grasped is that anything short of pure Reformed theology in this regard is not the teaching of biblical sanctification. The message of grace should be so abundant - appear so one sided, that onlookers will mistake the truth for license to sin! "Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"

So, where do we go from here? Well, I think these are some starting points that the Christian church might begin to regain in emphasis as opposed to what is widely found in the evangelical church today…
1. More preaching and teaching on union with Christ in election, incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and ascension must take center stage.
2. A realized eschatology – (e.g. God made us alive with Christ; God raised us with Christ; God seated us in heavenly places with Christ -> i.e. “we have been saved”)
3. The divine intention to sum up all things (in heaven and earth) in Christ (i.e. the eschatological and cosmic dimensions of God’s plan for the ages…)
4. Salvation, not merely justification and conversion
5. Ministers must preach to the church, those in union with in Christ, not the supposed lost that might be members or attending.
6. Inauguration & consummation (i.e. already not yet paradigm)
7. The relationship of the imperative to the indicative must be regained, with the indicative taking priority and laying the foundation for the imperative. (e.g. Behave this way, because you are this person in Christ; the unity of the Spirit exists, therefore, maintain it… as opposed to: create peace because Jesus died for you…)

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Saturday, April 04, 2015

Matthew Slick / CARM on Theonomy

“This movement rose out of Calvinism. It is an extremist Christian movement, not held by very many people. The concern is that when a religiously dominated society has control of family, moral, and governmental regulations, who is to govern the governors?” Matt Slick 

Aside from mistakenly equating Reconstructionism with Theonomy, with respect to Matt Slick's superficial question certainly another question comes to mind - or at least to the mind of any minimally discerning reader: "Who is to govern the governors” in an increasingly secular society? More specifically, who currently governs our irreligious God-hating, would-be autonomous governors? If Slick says, "God", then why not the same answer for a "religiously denominated society"? If Slick says "no one", then according to his view of things, he places secular government in the same boat as "religiously dominated" government. Either way, Slick's question doesn't bolster Slick's position. It only shows that Slick is not terribly concerned with consistency, which gives me hope that he (and others like him) will see how bad their arguments are - even if they don't end up agreeing with the theonomic thesis.

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