Follow by Email

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Truth, Delivery and Imperfect Ministers


"Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" Saint Paul

Imagine a man caught in the act of adultery by his wife and then responding more severely to the manner in which she reacted to his infidelity than to his own guilt. Even if the wife’s knee-jerk reaction were not to have taken into account her own sinfulness - is there a place for a husband to turn the tables on his wife without first dealing with the wretchedness of his own premeditated behavior? If the husband were to deal with the plank in his own eye, wouldn’t any perceived speck in his wife’s eye disappear, at least from his sight? Now imagine people “caught” in sin through the ordained preaching of the word and then becoming more disturbed, even outraged, by the manner in which the pastor delivered the message than their personal guilt before God. It seems to me that what is at work in both such cases is an avoidance of truth through a conveniently cultivated seared conscience. When feeling good about oneself (or at least the desire not to feel bad about oneself) takes precedence over a longing to be sanctified, there can be little chance of experiencing true contrition, the sine qua non of God-sent repentance. I have found that all too often mortification through the gospel-means of heart-felt, Spirit-wrought remorse is replaced by focusing on perceived imperfections in the messenger. One must question whether the evangelical graces of repentance, spiritual cleansing and biblical restoration can be present in such cases.

When subjective self-esteem becomes more important than developing objective Christian character, the crucified life becomes purely theoretical, an abstraction if you will. After all, wouldn’t one with a conscience that was laid bare before God be exceedingly more consumed with dealing truthfully and biblically with his own objective guilt than making an issue of any perceived flaw in the messenger’s bedside manner? Should not our first and greatest desire be to deal with our own sin before contemplating the imperfect instrument God is so often pleased to use to point it out? Indeed, would the manner in which the message was delivered be of any consequence whatsoever if we were in agreement with God and saw ourselves as we truly are, guilty before him? Not to belabor the point, but if the judge in the courtroom were even rude in the manner in which he interrogated a serial rapist, would we say the rapist "deserved" better? And assuming he did in some horizontal sense (i.e. creature to creature), would it not be true that if he were truly contrite he would not even notice - let alone complain about (!), the civility of the judge’s address? Of course not! If the guilty party were even in close proximity to thinking rightly about his sin, which is to say if he were dealing in reality, would he even notice any harshness at all, and if he did, would he not receive it as a divinely appointed, providential tempering of the justice deserved? If there were God-sent sorrow, would there even be any chance that the guilty party would become the messenger’s accuser? Sadly, in the church today this sort of thing has become all too common. When the Christian cloaks his guilt in the face of correction, the concealment is usually accompanied by the guilty party going on the offensive against God’s anointed; all in an effort try to extricate one’s own shame.

As David Wells rightly observes:


“To feel embarrassed because we were caught… deceiving, or (shamelessly)
self-promoting is an entirely good and healthy emotion! To argue, then, that we
need to be liberated from these uncomfortable feelings, that the ultimate
liberation is to become entirely shameless, is to sever our connection with the
moral law entirely.”
Unfortunately, all too often Christians are more concerned – even consumed, with ridding themselves - apart from any semblance of gospel formulation - of feeling shame. The objective reality of guilt is something that Christians are often pleased to live with as long as they don’t feel soiled. When shame is due to being found out by others, as opposed to agreeing with God’s objective verdict with a contrite heart, the cause of shame in the mind of the sinner is indexed to the messenger rather than to the holy demands of the Law-Giver. When one feels embarrassed and cloaks his guilt, the simple and obviously less painful solution becomes “kill the messenger!” The goal is to rid oneself from feeling bad. Contrition, something that is too often wrongly perceived as more Catholic than Protestant, is missing - otherwise the messenger would not be in danger!

I am aware of a pastor who (merely) stopped congregational singing in order to admonish the saints to sing out more loudly unto the Lord, as they were to have been engaged in the worship of the triune God. Yet sadly, there were some within the congregation who took great umbrage with the pastoral admonishment. Why was that? For those who were singing out as they ought, the correction obviously did not apply to them (other than being organically part of the whole congregation). However, for those who were not singing out, the correction was indeed appropriate. (I suppose if you throw a rock at a pack of dogs, the one who yelps the loudest is the one who gets hit most squarely.) Any number of examples could be cited. The general point is shouldn’t the guilty party be more concerned with receiving correction (and in this casing repenting of apathetic worship) than with the manner in which the pastor discharges correction? If a minister of God’s word dares to dare to speak the unvarnished truth, he better sugar-coat it and make sure to put the accent on his own need for grace. For a minister to reprove, rebuke or exhort without ensuring both in word and demeanor an acute understanding that he is the chief sinner, the one standing in need of admonishment might very well conjure up vain images (and assert them as dogma) of how far short the messenger falls from Jesus’ manner of conduct. Offense taken ends up being equated with an offense given, a monstrosity indeed. However, the ultimate deception results when the tables get turned, wherein the dismissal of guilt is exchanged for an attack on the messenger.

May God be pleased to protect his ministers and not allow them to cave into the pressures that would keep them from that part of their job description that requires them to be ready in season and out of season.

Ron

Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good Works in Christ, Imitation or Transformation?


Mark Garcia’s book Life in Christ has afforded me occasion to reflect more upon “union with Christ” in particular with respect to good works.

Scripture is clear that we are to be imitators of Paul (as he is of Christ), and of God. (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1) Yet for the believer it is not only true that we are to imitate Christ - we are indeed destined to do so. Moreover, not only is our imitation of Christ unavoidable (Ephesians 2:10) - it is no mere imitation but rather an actual fellowship in Christ’s suffering granted to all believers virtue of their spiritual union with Christ. As Mike Horton rightly noted (over ten years ago in his timely book “In The Face Of God”), “Christ’s cross was more than God’s method of saving us; it is our own cross, our own death, burial, and resurrection. We are united to Christ… Not only are we identified with his victory but are also destined to share in the ‘fellowship of his suffering.’”

We have an inheritance that is unshakable, which in a real sense serves as an impetus in the believer’s life toward the faithful reception of what the promise of final adoption contemplates. It is our unalterable union with Christ that not only ensures the eschatological reality that awaits all believers - it also defines the very path by which we must enter into that glory. That foreordained path is none other than Christ’s path of faith-wrought works and suffering. Just as we have been foreordained unto good works (Ephesians 2:10), we have also been predestined to become conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29) However, being an imitator and becoming like must be distinguished but can never be separated in the life of the believer. For one thing, the former can be the product of hypocrisy whereas the latter is unique to the believer and in one sense the very telos of our salvation. The believer’s obedience, which will be evidenced in this life and openly acknowledged on the last day in all who love the Lord, is not merely an imitation of Christ’s obedience but rather a divinely appointed fruit of being baptized into the once suffering - now glorified - Savior of men. It is part of our salvation and as such should be embraced through faith and certainly not avoided (not that it can be). Moreover, just as the believer’s alien righteousness is more near than far (to paraphrase Richard Gaffin), our obedience through suffering is granted within the orbit of a reality of intimate union with Christ’s "historical-experience", as opposed to being experienced in the context of mere imitation through vastly different circumstances that have little or nothing to do with the righteousness of Christ's gospel.
As we received Christ, so too are we to walk in him, and so we shall. We did not find Christ but rather he us. So too will our trials come in Christ, when we least expect them. We need not seek them out, let alone work for them. Our task, as we try to live peaceable lives in Christ, is to receive such trials and in turn respond in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit in a manner well pleasing to the Father through Christ.

To be saved from our sin is not only to follow Christ’s example by walking in his steps (1 Peter 2:21), it also entails a true participation in Christ’s sufferings to the end that we might be “overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) From the believer’s vantage point we imitate Christ by grace because he first loved us. But we have another perspective that we do well to reckon as fact, especially if we are to think Christ’s thoughts after him as we endeavor to imitate him as we ought: All things are divinely appointed and working together in order to conform believers not into mere imitators of Christ but into the very image of him in whom they are united so that he might be the firstborn of many brethren who share not only in his suffering but through that union-suffering, his glory. This suffering, which to our shame we too often so desperately try to avoid, is no less a gift than the faith through which our God-appointed suffering is to be interpreted. (Philippians 1:29) Being a gift, it is not something to be shunned but rather accepted in its proper season - if we are to desire and experience a more intimate fellowship with Christ.

Ron

Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Rudy's Praise of McCain Went a Bit Too Far


Last night Rudy Giuliani with his eminent flare delivered some of the most quotable lines of both conventions in his repudiation of Barack O’Biden and endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket.

For instance:

“Then [Obama] ran for the state legislature and he got elected. And nearly 130 times, he couldn't make a decision. He couldn't figure out whether to vote "yes" or "no." It was too tough. He voted -- he voted "present."… You have to make a decision.”

“He is the least experienced candidate for president of the United States in at least the last 100 years. Not a personal attack, a statement of fact. Barack Obama has never led anything, nothing, nada. Nada, nothing.”

“Well, I'll tell you, if I were Joe Biden, I'd want to get that V.P. thing in writing.”

“So -- so he changed his position again, and he put out a statement exactly like the statement of John McCain's three days earlier. I have some advice for Senator Obama: Next time, call John McCain.”
But how many of us who listened to the speech were struck by this:

“And we can trust [McCain] to deal with anything, anything that nature throws our way, anything that terrorists do to us.”

The last thing I was looking for in any of the speeches was a mistake, let alone a near-blasphemy. What does it mean, after all, that John McCain can deal with anything – again anything (!) – that “nature throws our way”? My immediate thought was, “Oh my, this man is challenging God, most unwittingly.” Hyper-sensitivity on my part? Well, maybe, but then I must ask, could one who was living in close proximity to Coram Deo make such boast? Would we have been O.K. had Rudy said that Senator McCain can deal with anything that God (not nature) throws his way? If not, then why does the word “nature” soften the claim? Isn’t what nature can throw our way equivalent to what God can throw our way?

Now some might respond with “Then why not qualify every statement of what you plan to do in the future with ‘if God so wills’”? In other words, is it not equally presumptuous to think that anything can be accomplished apart from God’s grace. Accordingly, if we don’t speak that way with respect to running an errand, then why need we take such care with our words when dealing with anything “nature” might throw our way? The difference, as I see it, is that when someone states “I’ll see you tomorrow” a claim of self-sufficiency in the face of adverse providence is not necessarily being purported, let alone promulgated. Accordingly, to add “if God so wills” to “I’ll see you tomorrow” need not alter or undermine the sentiment since it does not so much promote self-sufficiency as it does communicate a mere intention. In other words, leaving out “if God so wills” does not imply that the intention can be fulfilled apart from God’s will; whereas Rudy’s comment was aimed not at promoting a man’s intention but his moral fiber. Therefore, to have said that Senator McCain can deal with anything nature throws his way - if God so wills, does not make Rudy’s point at all! Instead, such a qualifier would actually eclipse his very point because given such a qualifier it could equally be said of Obama, and even the weakest of men.

In a last-ditch effort to save Rudy from his own words, we might be inclined to render his meaning as “McCain is so obviously full of grace, it’s unimaginable that God would not sustain him through anything he can dish out.” That, however, would be to overstate the grace God has bestowed upon this man (affording a frothy basis to anticipate extraordinary future-grace), while underestimating what God could bring upon him. Let's get hold of the fact that Katrina was less than the finger of God and that no man is to be compared to lesser men but to Christ. A healthy view of God's omnipotence and sober view of the fraility of man and his need for grace prohibts such sentiments as Giuliani expressed in his address. Obviously when put this way, Mr. Giuliani could not have meant what he actually said. But that's the point, isn't it? He wasn't even conscious of what he was actually saying. Autonomy got the best of him. His unthinking praise was grossly overstated and more importantly, highly offensive.

At the very least, in the realm of judgment in crisis, make no mistake that we are often preserved and kept from despair, even disgrace, because God prevents us from being exposed to more than we've been trained to handle. For anyone to presume that even the godliest saint will endure under any unprecedented disaster that will challenge judgment in unimaginable ways implicitly denies that we can be challenged beyond our understanding and experiences.

Ron
Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

"Developing a Trinitarian Mind" - Sound Observations & Advice from Robert Letham


In the August-September 2008 issue of Ordained Servant, a publication of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Dr. Robert Letham had these brief yet worthy words for the church of Jesus Christ, especially its ministers, to reflect upon and put into practice.

Developing a Trinitarian Mind

Robert Letham

In one of the chapters of my book, The Holy Trinity, I describe at some length how the worship of the Western Church has been truncated by the comparative neglect of the doctrine of the Trinity. For most Christians—and I include members of Reformed churches—the Trinity is merely an abstruse mathematical puzzle, remote from experience. Despite our reservations about many aspects of the Eastern Church, Orthodoxy in contrast has maintained a pronounced Trinitarian focus to its worship through its liturgy, which has roots in the fourth century. This is no incidental matter; worship is right at the heart of what it means to be Christian and what the church should be doing. The sole object of worship is God. The God whom we worship has revealed himself to be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three distinct persons in indivisible union. I have argued elsewhere that this is his New Covenant name (Matt. 28:19-20). It follows that our worship in the Christian church is to be distinctively Trinitarian. Yet if we were to thumb through any hymnbook, we would be hard pressed to find many hymns that contain clearly Trinitarian expressions, while many of our favorites could equally be sung by Unitarians—think of "Immortal, invisible" or "My God, how wonderful thou art." As for the average person in the pew, why not try a random survey next Sunday—ask a haphazard selection of half a dozen people what the Trinity means to them on a daily basis, and see what results you get? Then compare your findings with the words of Gregory of Nazianzus, who wrote of "my Trinity" and "when I say God, I mean the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

If this problem is as real as is generally recognized but yet as important as I have presented it, how do we go about seeking to redress it? There are no easy, slick solutions. This is not a matter to be resolved by a quick twelve-step program or in an adult Sunday school class. It will take much thought, careful teaching, and a concerted plan to put right what has for so long been askew—since I argue this has been a problem for centuries, with notable exceptions, at least since Aquinas. What is needed is to instill in our congregations a mindset directed, as of second nature, to think of God as triune. From there will come ripple effects on the way we think of the world around us, and of the people with whom we mix. What we need is to develop a thoroughly Christian view of God, the world, the church, ourselves, and others.

The first, and indispensable, steppingstone is ourselves as leaders of the church, and in particular those who are ministers of the Word. It is of the utmost importance that we saturate our minds with reflection and meditation on God, for we stand in the pulpit as no less than his representatives in speaking his Word. It means our consistently contemplating God in Trinitarian terms. John Stott has been accustomed to begin each day with a threefold greeting to the Holy Trinity; how far are your own prayers and thoughts of God shaped in this way? It takes disciplined thought and prayer, consistently day in, day out deliberately to think of God biblically, theologically, and ecclesially as triune. As leaders of the church you are called by God to do this. You cannot expect the congregation committed to your charge to follow suit unless you are leading the way. It means your being shaped and driven not by some man-made purpose or by the concoctions of management gurus but by the truth of the triune God himself drawing and molding you.

There are definite and particular ways in which your congregation can be taught to develop its grasp of the Trinity. The first such avenue is in your preaching and teaching. How often have you preached on the Trinity? The Church of England, in following the church year, has Trinity Sunday the week after Pentecost; this can provide an opportunity to draw attention to the Trinity at least once a year, as Advent is a reminder of the incarnation, Good Friday of the atonement, Easter Sunday of the resurrection, and Pentecost of the coming of the Holy Spirit. However, this is a bare minimum—just about starvation rations. Perhaps a short series may help, providing it is not something that is forgotten as you move on to other things. Much better is, on top of that, to refer consistently to God not always as "God" or "the Lord" but as "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," always bearing in mind that he is three in indivisible union.

The same principles apply to praying as to preaching. You may not be able to preach on the Trinity every week—it would be unbalanced if you did!—but you can pray every week. When you pray, pray "Our Father in heaven." What an amazing way to address God! It means that we, through Christ the Son, have been granted by adoption the same relationship to the Father that he has by nature! It immediately throws us into the context of prayer to the Father by the Holy Spirit (see Rom. 8:26-27) through the mediation of Christ the Son. We should bring this to expression regularly in our public prayers. We should show the congregation that this is the way we pray. We should show them that in prayer we are saturated in a Trinitarian atmosphere, given to share in communion with the triune God. We should impress upon our people that in the Holy Spirit, God the Trinity has come to dwell with us, indwelling—better, saturating—us and making his permanent residence with us (John 14:23).

This leads us to the nature of church worship and the structure of the service. In all the works of God he takes the initiative. He created in accordance with his free and sovereign will; no one was there to advise him. In grace, the Son became incarnate "for us and our salvation"; this too was the result purely of the grace of God, undeserved, unprompted. In our own experience, God himself brought us to new life by his Spirit; our faith and repentance is a response to his prior grace. We love him because he first loved us. Is it any different in worship? Is that primarily something we do? No, first of all God goes before us. He has called his church to himself. He is there to greet us. As we gather, it is to meet with him, but first he has drawn us. Moreover, our acts of worship are accepted because they are offered in union with Christ. He, in our nature, is at the Father's right hand. From this it follows that the elements of worship are a dialog in which the holy Trinity takes the initiative. Through his ordained servant, the Father through his Son by the Holy Spirit calls us to worship. He speaks to us in his Word read and proclaimed. He receives our praise and prayers. He communes with us in the sacrament. In the benediction he dismisses us with his blessing—which is far from a pious wish or prayer that such things might be, if it is the will of God. Rather, the benediction is a declaration of a real state of affairs, undergirded by his covenant promises. This is a dynamic view of worship, one that follows squarely in the Reformed tradition and is rooted in biblical teaching. Our congregations need to hear it, they need to understand it, they need to imbibe it and be permeated by it. At my previous church, our regular bulletin expressed this. Periodically we would draw everyone's attention to it and sometimes produce a written two-page memo explaining it, so as to keep it fresh in mind.

The call to worship is a good place to begin. I often use a congregational response to the call. It is based on Ephesians 2:18, where Paul says "For through him [Christ] we ... have access by one Spirit to the Father." These words impress on the mind the point that our worship can only be Trinitarian. So too does the famous passage in John 4:21-24, where Jesus says that those who worship the Father must worship in spirit and in truth. Every occurrence of πνεῦμα (pneuma, spirit) in John, except two, is a reference to the Holy Spirit, while the truth is consistently a reference to Jesus (John 1:9, 14, 17, 14:6). Hence, acceptable worship of the Father is in the Holy Spirit and in Christ, the Son. It is important that this is stamped upon the service right from the start. Christian worship is worship of the holy Trinity, nothing less.

The church where we now attend has, immediately after the call to worship, a short Trinitarian doxology which the congregation sings in response; it is varied from time-to-time so as not to get monotonous. Then the first hymn is very often, if not invariably, Trinitarian, a practice I have come to use myself as often as I can. Calvin thought this was the most appropriate way to begin too, so we are in good company. However, as I remarked, there is a considerable lack of explicitly Trinitarian hymns. Many from the ancient and medieval church have this focus. Our former music director in Delaware, Peter Merio—a graduate of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki who also taught there—brilliantly arranged one gem from the fifth century that we dug up from the English Hymnal, edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1933; but there are very few in Reformed circles with his capabilities. Some recent favorites try hard but fall into heresy—an ever-present danger in this area. The hymn "There is a redeemer," which I have heard sung in the OPC, is generally excellent but has a refrain, "Thank you, O our Father for giving us your Son, and leaving your Spirit till the work on earth is done." The Father does not leave the Holy Spirit; the Eastern and Western Churches divided over arguably less.

We have looked at preaching and teaching, prayers, the call to worship and benediction, hymns; there remain the sacraments. Baptism is into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Dare anyone say the Trinity is a recondite matter for advanced philosophers when every single member of the Christian church has the name of the Trinity pronounced over him or her? According to Matthew 28:18-20 it is the foundation for Christian discipleship. Similarly, in the Lord's Supper we receive and feed on Christ really and spiritually; this is by the Holy Spirit who makes the sacraments efficacious. Moreover, since the works of the Trinity are indivisible, in feeding on Christ by the gracious enabling of the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the Father in the unity of the undivided Trinity.

In short, every aspect of Christian worship is an engagement with the Trinity or, rather, a way in which the Trinity engages us. As leaders of Christ's church, we have the indescribable privilege of leading his people into the realization of something of what this entails. It is a task far beyond our capacities; we are utterly ill-equipped to deal in such transcendent matters. The Bible records that, when given a revelation of the veiled glory of God, human beings are brought to their knees, overcome, broken (e.g., Isa. 6:1-5, Ezek. 1:1-3:15, Acts 9:1-9, Rev. 1:9-18). Yet in his grace our God has admitted us to fellowship, communion, and union with him as his adopted children, so that we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another by the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). The Father and the Son have made their permanent residence with us in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-23). As ministers of the Word, we have been co-opted as instruments by which the flock of Christ are changed into his image by the Spirit so that Christ will be the first-born among many brothers. Doesn't that thrill you? Doesn't it make you want to know him better? Doesn't it impel you to develop a mind shaped by the knowledge of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and to lead your congregation on to that goal too?

Robert Letham, a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, teaches Systematic and Historical Theology at Wales Evangelical School of Theology. Ordained Servant, August-September 2008.
Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Apologies With No Content


How many times have we heard “If I did x-and-so, I am truly sorry and ask your forgiveness”? Maybe we have said it ourselves. But what does it even mean after all? The “apology” is predicated upon an “if”, which suggests that the one extending the apology is not sorry for some actual offence but rather for an offence that is not believed was committed; and worse, as demonstrated by modus tollens, an offence that is believed was not committed! Given the “if”, the apology is disingenuous because the sorrow is as non-existent as the transgression is hypothetical.
Maybe look at it this way:

P1. If I sinned against you, then I’m sorry for sinning against you
P2. I sinned against you
Conlcusion: I’m sorry for sinning against you

The one offering the conditional apology says that premise 1 is true. Premise 2 is not deemed true by the one offering the alleged apology. Consequently, the truth of the conclusion is not established. Therefore, it does not follow that the person is sorry for having sinned against the other person.

Applying modus tollens, things become a bit more glaring:

p1. If I sinned against you, then I’m sorry for sinning against you
p2. I’m not sorry for (actually) sinning against you
Conclusion: It is false that I sinned against you

In the second way at looking at this, both premise 1 and 2 are deemed true by the one offering the alleged apology. Accordingly, not only is the person not sorry (premise 2), he must also believe it is false that he sinned against the other person because the negation of the consequent of P1, which is P2, necessitates the negation of the antecedent of P1, which is the conclusion of no sin against the other person. In other words, the one offering such a contingent apology implies that sorrow is a necessary condition for having sinned against the other person. Accordingly, if there is no sorrow, then the person is actually communicating that he did not sin against the person who believes he has been offended! By saying without having sorrow for actual sin: "If I sinned against you, then I'm sorry" does not imply that the person thinks he might have sinned. Rather, the statement actually underscores that the apology is being rendered by one who thinks he is innocent!
The moral of the story is, don't extend contingent apologies and don't receive them for what they truly communicate. It does nobody any real good. At best, one might mean by such an apology that he would not want to hurt someone else unnecessarily and that had he believed he was wrong, then he would be sorry and apologize. But even that communicates that there is disagreement over the question of whether an offence was actually given or just received (without warrant). So, why not just admit in the Lord, without any confusion, that there is disagreement and then seek to agree to disagree rather than offer some hypothetical apology for an hypothetical transgression?
Ron

Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Theonomy - Second Verse, Same As The First


If God’s Old Testament case law ought to be exchanged for God’s natural law, then the necessary implication is that God’s natural law somewhere along the line became at odds with – contradicted - God’s Old Testament case law. More specifically, since we know that the Old Testament case law has not been altered, we must conclude that if any law has changed then it must be natural law. But isn’t natural law, being law, universal and invariant? If so, then why should we believe that it now contradicts Old Testament case law if it didn’t 3,000 years ago? Now someone might wish to argue that the ceremonial law now contradicts the finished work of Christ; so why can’t God’s case law now be at odds with natural law? The simple answer is that the ceremonial law and the finished work of Christ were not operative at the same time; so the latter may supplant the former without contradiction. In the case of natural law, it was from creation and was operative during the time of Moses, unlike the work of the cross. Accordingly, there is no reason to believe that natural law is superior and contrary to the case law today if it was not under Moses. The simple reality is that natural law does not contradict Old Testament case law; nor were these laws ever functionally equivalent.

Natural law affirms to all men, at all times and in all places that each sin against God’s moral law deserves God’s wrath, but God’s ministers of justice are not always to punish evil doers to the fullest extent humanly possible. Natural law is known by all men everywhere, but it cannot be justified in any philosophically sound way apart from special revelation. What revelatory authority would one appeal to after all? Accordingly, if the state were to strive to follow natural law with a pure heart with respect to penal sanction – as if that were even possible, all men would be put to death, even for the least of all transgresssions, by unjustified tyrants who are left to employ autonomous and, therefore, arbitrary reasoning. Apart from a theonomic appeal to a law that is self-attesting, the state is left to grasp from its shelf a volume of natural law that does not exist.

At the very least, how might a Dispensationalist, or Klinean for that matter – same thing really with respect to this subject, argue that the general equity of the civil case law is not still relevant and binding today? The non-theonomic thesis, which promotes a religion of pluralism that denies that all kings are to offer homage to the Son, really reduces to a secular philosophy that implies that any law may be legislated as long as it is not God’s law, justified by his word! The anti-theonomist may of course support capital punishment for some sins he deems criminal but only when it satisfies his personal sense of justice, apart from God's written law informing him.

The relevance of God’s law as it pertains to the nations is that we are to be governed according to God’s revelation to Moses as the promise to Abraham is fulfilled. The two-kingdom social theory is simply an unworkable principle and, frankly, a gross affront on the kingship of Christ and the fullness of the great commission.

Ron

Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sometimes We Do Agree...


Not often enough do opposing views come together in agreement but I did experience such a phenomenon w/ some strangers from Drexel while on vacation - in between reading Mark Garcia's book and tooling around Martha's Vineyard with the family.

For those who enjoy probability and like to see resolution to apparent disagreements, read on.

Date: 07/24/2008 at 09:28:28
From:  Ron DiGiacomo
To: dr.math@mathforum.org
Subject: Boy Girl probability

[Question]
I have a problem w/ this formulation (link below) in which you conclude that if a boy is selected from a family of two children that the probability of the remaining child being a girl is 2/3 http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/52186.html

[Difficulty]
In your solution you note four possible combinations of siblings and eliminate one of the possibilities (gg) because a boy was selected. That much is correct. The conclusion, however, would seem to ignore the fact that two of three remaining combinations are mutually exclusive, making one of them as impossible as set (gg), which was eliminated. In other words, given two mutually exclusive remaining sets of children, one is false and is also to be eliminated. See my solution below:

[Thoughts]
You correctly note that the set of (gg) is to be eliminated upon a boy being selected. That leaves three possible groups from which the boy was selected:

(1)bb
(2)gb
(3)bg

Although we don't know the age of the selected boy relative to his sibling (i.e. whether he's older or younger), we do know that the selected boy is *either* older or younger. If older, then (2) is eliminated. If younger, then (3) is eliminated. Consequently, from the entire sample of three possible combinations of siblings (even without knowing whether the selected boy is an older or younger sibling), one of the boy-girl combinations is to be eliminated because it *must* be false. That would make the probability ½ of the other sibling being a girl given a selected boy.

Somewhere in the thread it is correctly noted that more information can change the probability. What is missed, however, is that one need not know whether the the sibling is older or younger in order to know that it he must be older or younger. That he must be older or younger is information-enough to change the sample.

Ron

________________________________________
Date: 07/24/2008 at 13:15:11
From: Doctor Anthony
To: xxxx@comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
Subject: Re: Boy Girl probability

I don't follow your objection because 2 of the 3 combinations
remaining MUST be wrong. That doesn't mean that we know which two. Instead of reasoning in the manner you described from the archive consider the following argument:

We have a population of 2-child families and one such family is questioned. The information is that AT LEAST one child is a boy.

The sample space = 1 - Prob(2 girls)

= 1 - (1/2 x 1/2)

= 3/4

1/2 x 1/2 1/4
Prob(2 boys1 child is a boy) = ---------- = -----
3/4 3/4

= 1/3

and the probability of anything else is 2/3

- Doctor Anthony, The Math Forum


The Math Forum @ Drexel is a research and educational enterprise
of the Drexel School of Education:

________________________________________
Date: 07/24/2008 at 18:42:48
From: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
To: dr.math@mathforum.org
Subject: Boy Girl probability

We started with four combinations of siblings (let’s assume all
sitting in a room). Those combinations can be written as follows:

(1)bb
(2)gb
(3)bg
(4)gg

Then one child was randomly selected and it turned out to be a boy.

Consequently, we know that selected sibling did not come from sibling - set #4.

We now know that the three possible combinations of siblings, given the impossibility of ‘gg’ due to a boy having been already randomly selected, are as follows:

(1)bb
(2)gb
(3)bg

The randomly selected boy is one of the boys found within the three sets listed above.

To simplify matters we may rewrite the three possible sets as follows:

(1) Bob, Bill
(2) Gayle, Brian
(3) Bart, Gabriella


NOTE: With the same probably of 25%, the randomly selected boy can either be: Bob, Bill, Brian, or Bart. In other words, given the already randomly selected boy (who must be either: Bob, Bill, Brian, Bart), there are four equally possible sibling outcomes that can obtain:

(A) Given Bob, then 100% chance that sibling Boy-Bill obtains
(B) Given Bill, then 100% chance that sibling Boy-Bob obtains
(C) Given Brian, then 100% chance that sibling Girl-Gayle obtains
(D) Given Bart, then 100% chance that sibling Girl-Gabriella obtains

There is a 25% chance that any one of those four outcomes obtains.

Consequently, there is a 25% chance of the second sibling being one of either: Bill, Bob, Gayle or Gabriella – which reduces to a 50% chance that given a selected-boy, the remaining sibling would too be a boy.

If the above reasoning is sound, then your solution must be false because it contradicts the above solution. But rather than leaving you to find the error in your position, please let me try to perform an internal critique of it. You noted that 1 minus the probability of two girls in a family of two children is 75%. Of course that is true. Accordingly, as you noted, the probability of having at least one boy within a family of two children is 75%. That would be relevant if the question were: “Given two children, what is the probability of having
at least one boy?” which is 75%, of course. However, the question that we are to be concerning ourselves with is: “Given a randomly selected boy with a sibling, what is the probability that his sibling is also a boy?” – which is different question entirely. With respect to the problem we are to be solving, the “given” is the randomly selected boy - which can be the first *or* second child of the two children! The sample space that you concerned yourself with, (which gets you off on the wrong track I’m afraid), ignored the relevant statistic that from a two-boy family the randomly selected boy can be either the first or second boy.

From a sample space consideration, the problem is to be viewed thusly:

Girl sibling, randomly selected boy
Randomly selected boy, girl sibling
Randomly selected boy, boy sibling
Boy sibling, randomly selected boy

As I noted in my first post, we know that the randomly selected boy is either older or younger than his sibling. Accordingly, if he has a girl sibling, then there are two, not one, ways in which he might fall within that order. That statistic *is* implied in your reasoning. To be consistent, however, we must also recognize that there are two, not one, ways in which the *already* randomly selected boy with a boy sibling can fall within the order of his family. That statistic is *not* implied by the probability of there being at least one boy in a family of two children!

To simplify this even more, we might consider that there is a
randomly selected boy sitting in a room who has only one sibling:

That boy may have:

(a) An older brother
(b) A younger brother
(c) An older sister
(d) A younger sister

If the randomly selected boy is older than his sibling, then the
probability of (a) and (c) can be eliminated, leaving a 50% chance of his having brother. If the randomly selected boy is younger than his sibling, then the probability of (b) and (d) can be eliminated, leaving also a 50% chance of his having a brother. Added to that, the randomly selected boy has a 50% chance of being older than his sibling, and a 50 chance of being younger than his sibling. Consequently, it the statistically irrelevant whether the randomly selected boy is older or younger than his sibling because the probability of his sibling being a boy is the same 50% no matter whether the randomly selected boy is older or younger, and the
randomly selected boy has the same chance of being older than his sibling as he does being younger than his sibling. Therefore, we need not know the age of the randomly selected boy to know that the probability of his sibling being a boy is 50%.

Finally, we can demonstrate this empirically with playing cards. Let red cards stand for girl and black cards for boys. If a boy is randomly selected, then we can discard the two red 2s.

Red 2, Red 2
Black 3, Red 3
Red 4, Black 4
Black 5, Black 5

The remaining cards are now:

Black 3, Red 3
Red 4, Black 4
Black 5, Black 5

Now place the two red cards, which represent sibling girls, aside and keep the four black cards in your hand. Shuffle the black cards and draw a card at random. If you draw either of the black 5s, then the corresponding sibling would be a boy. If you draw a black 3 or black 4, then the corresponding sibling would be a red card, which represents a sibling-girl.

Probability of drawing a black 3 is ¼ or 25%, corresponding to girl- sibling

Probability of drawing a black 4 is ¼ or 25%, corresponding to a girl- sibling

Probability of drawing a black 5 is 2/4 or 50%, corresponding to a boy-sibling

Ron

________________________________________
Date: 07/25/2008 at 16:28:26
From: Doctor Garramone
To: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
Subject: Re: Boy Girl probability

Good day Ron

This is a Bayesian problem (posterior probability given the sample).

The 2/3 answer is right, by Bayes' Rule.

Probability of a girl given that you picked a boy = the probability of picking a boy-girl set from the three possible sets (b-b, b-g, g-g) is the probability of picking a b-g set (which is 1/2).

Pr(b-b) = 1/4 this part is not germane to this problem

Pr(b-g) = 1/2 1/2 1/2 2
------------ = --- = ---
Pr(g-g) = 1/4 1/2 + 1/4 3/4 3

Here's a brain teaser:

If there are 3 doors and behind one is a Corvette and you are told to pick one door which you then call out.

A pretty hostess will open a door that is not the door you chose nor will it be the one which has the car.

Now, you are allowed to switch your choice from your original choice to the other closed door or to stay with the first choice.

Which would afford the greatest probability of winning - to stay with your original choice or to switch to the other door?

Why?

- Doctor Garramone, The Math Forum


The Math Forum @ Drexel is a research and educational enterprise
of the Drexel School of Education:


________________________________________
Date: 07/25/2008 at 17:54:47
From: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
To: dr.math@mathforum.org
Subject: Boy Girl probability

Hi Doc. Anthony,

The Monty Problem has really nothing to do with this. But for what it’s worth, I’d switch doors given the problem *properly* stated. Also, I’m familiar with Bayes, but we mustn’t apply any formula to a problem that still defies definitive terms. SO, let me state the problem two ways to illustrate the semantic difficulty of this problem. I'm really hopeful we'll come to terms.

Problem 1:

In order to find a family, you randomly select a father of only two children, at least one of which is a boy. Therefore, it is equally probable that any of the three families below is the family indexed to the father.

BG
GB
BB

Consequently, there is a 2/3 probability that the family indexed to the randomly selected father has a girl. That is the way in which you have interpreted the problem.

Problem 2:

In order to find a family, you randomly select a *boy* from a set of families with only two children, at least one of which is a boy.

The boy can live within one of three type families:

BG
GB
BB

NOTE: Since 50% of all boys from families with only two children have a brother, there is a 50% chance that the randomly selected boy has a brother. With that in mind we can more easily find the confusion.

Wherein the confusion lies: Although 2/3 of all 2 children households with at least one boy have a girl, only ½ of randomly selected boys from such households have a sister and ½ don’t. Therefore, when the family in question is indexed to a randomly selected boy, the probability of a two child family with at least one son having a girl is only 50%. I must believe you will agree with that. With that in mind, let’s look at how the problem is usually stated: “If a family has two children and at least one of them is a boy, what is the probability that the family also contains a girl? Given the problem as stated, we need to know how we came across this
family in question before we begin to solve the problem. Is the family in question that has two children, with at least one of whom is a boy, indexed to a randomly selected boy who has a 50% chance of having a brother? Or is the family indexed to a randomly selected father?

Cheers,

Ron

________________________________________
Date: 07/27/2008 at 11:01:19
From: Doctor Garramone
To: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
Subject: Re: Boy Girl probability

Hi Ron,

The original supposition is that the families with two children are randomly produced and the distribution of these sets of two would be 1:2:1 according to the binomial distribution. That would lead to the Bayesian calculation of 2/3 which has been discussed in prior threads on this subject.

Looking at boys alone (from two children families) and then looking at the sibling, there is twice much chance of picking up a boy from a 2-boy family than from a boy-girl family EXCEPT that in the random population there are twice as many boy-girl families as there are boy-boy families. So the probability is even or 2:2 or 1:1, however you want to call it. This goes along with the intuition that if you meet a person who has a sib, what is the probability on the gender of the sib? 50-50 of course.

Language is NEVER as precise as mathematical equations. That's one reasons discussions like this one keep occurring.

You are right about switching the choice on the car but it took me a long time thinking about it as to why. The other similar problem is the three chest gold-silver coin problem. This is a classic one.

You have three chests, each with 2 drawers. One has a gold coin in each drawer, the next has a gold coin one drawer and a silver coin in the other, and the third has a silver coin in each drawer. If one chooses a draw at random (there are six drawers to choose from) and one finds a silver coin, what is the probability of finding a silver coin in the second drawer of that same chest?

It took me forever to figure that one out, too. Note that here your set distribution {S, S} {S, G} {G, G} is 1:1:1, not the 1:2:1 as with with gender problem.

- Doctor Garramone, The Math Forum


The Math Forum @ Drexel is a research and educational enterprise
of the Drexel School of Education:

________________________________________
Date: 07/27/2008 at 23:12:30
From: Doctor Peterson
To: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
Subject: Re: Boy Girl probability

Hi, Ron.

I've been watching this exchange, and want to make sure you have seen that we have dealt with the issue you are concerned about, namely the wording of the problem, both in the page you cite and elsewhere.

Have you see this page, linked from our FAQ on the problem?

Family or Child First?
http://www.mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.boygirl.choose.html
That emphasizes that the wording makes a big difference, specifically because you must be able to determine from the wording that the family is chosen first, not the child, in order to make the answer of 2/3 valid.

Note that in your first message, you presented the problem as
if a boy is selected from a family of two children that
the probability of the remaining child being a girl is 2/3.

This wording pretty clearly says that the family is selected first, though it could be improved. The page you refer to is explicitly focused on the issue of wording, and shows how different ways of stating the problem change the result. But you, in apparently trying to argue that there is no version of the problem in which the answer is 2/3, keep rephrasing the problem to focus on choosing a child, rather than choosing a family:

Then one child was randomly selected and it turned out to be a boy.

and

However, the question that we are to be concerning ourselves with is: “Given a randomly selected boy with a sibling, what is the probability that his sibling is also a boy?” – which is different question entirely.

I think we agree that if the child is selected, the answer is 1/2. Do you agree, however, that the answer to the following version (from the FAQ) is 2/3?

From the set of all families with two children, a family is
selected at random and is found to have a boy. What is the
probability that the other child of the family is a girl?


- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum


The Math Forum @ Drexel is a research and educational enterprise
of the Drexel School of Education:

________________________________________
Date: 07/28/2008 at 07:05:49
From: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
To: dr.math@mathforum.org
Subject: Boy Girl probability

Dr. Peterson,

If we word the problem as "if a boy is selected from a family of two children that the probability of the remaining child being a girl is 2/3" then the conclusion of 2/3 comes from at best an ambiguous question, or the answer is false. It is not true, as you wrote below that "This wording pretty clearly says that the family is selected first". At best the wording is ambiguous. Why is a boy *selected*? Was it because a randomly selected father referred to a son? If so, then the probability is 50%. Also, what is the semantic difference between a boy being selected from a family and a boy being selected from a set of boys all of whom come from such families described in
the problem?

W/ respect to the question: "From the set of all families with two children, a family is selected at random and is found to have a boy. What is theprobability that the other child of the family is a girl?"

How is the family "found to have a boy?" Does it come up in verbal discourse? The way the problem should be worded to conclude a 2/3 probability is: "A family is randomly selected among a set of families all having at least one boy. What is the probability that there is at least one girl?" When we get into the child being "found" or "selected" we are asking another question.

I have not read the link you supplied; I'll do so later.

I'll get back to Dr. Garramone later.

Thanks!

Ron

________________________________________
Date: 07/28/2008 at 07:16:35
From: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
To: dr.math@mathforum.org
Subject: Boy Girl probability

Dr. Peterson,

I should clarify that it's not an issue of whether the family was
selected first. The confusion lies within the boy be "selected" (even after). There's an increase probabilty of *no* daughter if the father of such a family refers to one of his children as being a son. This is no different than a random selection of a boy from the set of all families with at least one son.

Ron
________________________________________
Date: 07/28/2008 at 12:08:36
From: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
To: dr.math@mathforum.org
Subject: Boy Girl probability

I looked at the link. The way the two child with at least one boy family is selected is fine. In that case, yes, the probability of the woman having a girl is 2/3. That problem does not entail a child being 'found out' by any means that would entail an increase of probability of any remaining outcome. You are stricly eliminating two- girl families with the inquiry of the mother. It's quite another thing to set the problem up in such a way that entails a discovery of a boy by remembering that one child was a boy. Why would a boy have been remembered? Did the mother refer to a *particular* son? If that were the case, then a particular son would be the *first* child referred to. Accordingly, the prossibilities would be reduced to:

First Son referred to; Second daughter

First Son referred to; Second son

Cheers,

Ron
________________________________________
Date: 07/28/2008 at 23:53:10
From: Doctor Peterson
To: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
Subject: Re: Boy Girl probability

Hi, Ron.


Now I think we're on the same page; I wanted to make sure you saw at least some way of stating the problem in which 2/3 is the right answer, because your initial messages gave the impression you were using some nonstandard reasoning that would never yield that answer.

I fully agree that this problem is quite often presented in ways that do not really yield the supposed answer of 2/3 -- perhaps even on our site. Very likely some teachers or authors see the problem as a good one to share students up, but when they present it they either don't quite understand it themselves, or they are trying to oversimplify it, and the result is that they convince a lot of students that math is nonsense.

I just recently answered a question that put it this way, presumably quoted directly from a text:

While shopping in a supermarket you see a woman shopping with her daughter. You are told the woman has two children. What is the probability that the woman has two daughters?

I responded by first pointing out that the question was a little
ambiguous and rephrasing it in a way that was "presumably intended", then solving that; then I showed why the problem as stated was bad:

Are you equally likely to pick any family from the population of all two-child families with at least one daughter (which is the assumption of the solution you were shown)? Or are you equally likely to pick any daughter from such a family (which gives the result you think is more natural)? That is, is the focus on the mother or the daughter? I can't tell!

In reality, in fact, you are simply choosing at random from all
families with two children, at least one of whom is a daughter,
AND in which the mother is shopping with ONE daughter at this moment. That may increase the probability that a one-daughter family is chosen, since a mother with two daughters might often choose to take both shopping. So I think the problem is not stated in its clearest form. We try to state it better in our FAQ.

It may be that some of the versions you find us answering are bad questions that we are trying to make the best of, not always correcting the statement of the problem as we really should. Maybe we just hope that the student misquoted and the book said it better.

I don't want to answer what you've said here, because I'm not sure which version you are referring to. Just to make sure we're talking about the same thing, perhaps you can quote word for word a version or two for which you don't think the answer should be 2/3, but which we or someone else answer in that way, and we can discuss whether it is wrongly worded. We probably won't always agree on the meaning of the
English (English works that way!), but at least we can try to find the best ways to say it that we CAN agree on.


- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum


The Math Forum @ Drexel is a research and educational enterprise
of the Drexel School of Education:

________________________________________
Date: 07/29/2008 at 08:16:21
From: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
To: dr.math@mathforum.org
Subject: Boy Girl probability

Dr. Peterson,

TWE does fine. It's Dr. Anthony, in my estimation that has not been as rigorous as he might have been in answering people. Even when I pointed out some of the ambiguities, he seemed to give no credence to what you and TWE see as a misleading representation of the problem. In turn he would continue to address the problem as (at best) he thought it was intended to be worded. Or (at worst) he didn't recognize the nuance (my issue) that you so obviously picked up on.

For what it's worth, I think that *most* of the time the problem is worded incorrectly *if* the wording is supposed to imply an answer of 2/3. The way the problem is typically worded in my experience demands a 50% answer. I encountered the Monty Hall problem this way too the
first time I heard it (not on your site). My suggestion would be, that we not answer the question according to how it is thought that it was probably intended. Rather, we should take the opportunity to show the problem in two forms and then get into why they yield different answers.

Yours,

Ron


________________________________________
Date: 07/29/2008 at 09:01:27
From: Doctor Peterson
To: @comcast.net (Ron DiGiacomo)
Subject: Re: Boy Girl probability

Hi, Ron.

Exactly.

I concur completely. The main point in any discussion of this
problem, or Monty Hall, should be the translation from English to math, not just the math.


- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum


The Math Forum @ Drexel is a research and educational enterprise
of the Drexel School of Education:


Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hurray! Westminster Seminary California Not Guilty of Opposing Application - (a minor point at such a time)

"One of the more frequent false claims about Westminster Seminary
California
which I hear from prospective students and others is
that "you don't believe in application in preaching." The short answer is:
nonsense."
R. S. Clark / Professor WSC

It is my experience that WSC is many things (proud for instance?), but I would not say that they don't believe in preaching application. Of course believing that application should be preached and endeavoring to apply sound preaching (assuming sound preaching) are different matters.

I have read through my share of ministerial applications and although I believe I never conclusively prejudged one who went to WSC (and certainly never prejudged one as having no regard for application in preaching), one’s attending that institution in the last ten years does not in and of itself leave me with a favorable impression. In fact, specific red flags go up when I learn that someone studied at WSC anytime since the late nineties. These are red flags mind you and although they might be enormous and radiant, they are merely flags and no more (and they have nothing to do with application in preaching). I am not inclined to elaborate on those red flags, at least not here. They are obvious enough. Suffice it to say, when profound Reformed thinkers cannot be respected, there are serious problems that must transcend doctrine into manner of life.

I do believe that one who thinks for himself and is successful in resisting movement mentalities can escape WSC in relatively fine shape, if not even theologically prepared for gospel ministry. In fact, I can imagine (with a little effort) one so full of grace that he could be better off for having gone to WSC. Similarly, I suppose I can imagine that attending a Roman Catholic high school or serving a life sentence in prison could be a means of obtaining a keener Christian world and life view. No doubt – God is sovereign over what might appear to us as meager means.

Ron
Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Mind Matters


Apart from saturating one’s mind with the persons and works of God, how does one expect to live his life in accordance with who God is and what he has done for us in Christ? Certainly one with less understanding can be more sanctified than another with more, but how is grace bestowed an excuse for theological complacency?

Free Website Counter

Monday, July 07, 2008

Clark on Gaffin, Insufferable



Recently I paid a visit to Professor R. Scott Clark’s site in an effort to set straight a misrepresentation of Dr. Richard Gaffin’s view of water baptism. Below is the thread. My last response, which is included in the thread below, has been deleted from Professor Clark’s site. Dr. Gaffin did not weigh in. The first post labeled “Gaffin:” is I believe an accurate quote of his, supplied by a Christian named Sean.

The reason I am posting the thread is the Escondido crowd is quite influential. Obviously they influence their students. Should their students end up in pulpits they will influence the church even exponentially. So, why not play a small part in putting out a word of caution on their insupportable assertions?

I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the courage and integrity of WTS in Philadelphia. Our prayers are with you as you navigate through the roads ahead.

Gaffin: “Baptism signifies and seals a transition in the experience of the recipient, a transition from being (existentially) apart from Christ to being (existentially) joined to him. Galatians 3:27 is even more graphic: “Those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” . . .Consequently, the transition described in [Ephesians 2] verses 5f. as being an object of God’s wrath(v.3) to experiencing his love (v.4). takes place at the point of being joined (existentially) to Christ [50_51].”

Sean: The way of salvation proposed by Gaffin in R&R is through the water of baptism and existential union with Christ – not by mere belief alone in truth of Scripture and the message of the Gospel.

Ron to Sean:

Dear Sean,

Dr. Gaffin clearly notes that he’s speaking of what baptism signifies and seals in the experience of the believer. [Actually, he's speaking of that which baptism signifies and seals in the experience of all persons who receive water, as they are God's signs and seals regardless of their efficacy. Being God's signs and seals and not man's testimony of what God has actually done, the sign and seal need not convey the reality of actual conversion.] He goes to greater pains than the apostle to flesh out that he’s not speaking of a Romish working of the works, or anything of the sort. Even a cursory reading of his writing bears this out. You’re willing to read the apostle in light of the Westminster standards (and rightly so), where it states: “There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other” Yet for some reason you are unwilling to render to Dr. Gaffin the same measure of charity, even when he actually prefaces his statement by referring to signs and seals.

I see this sort of thing quite often from you Sean. I hope you will wrestle with whether you don’t have the acumen to deal fairly with your opponents, or whether you are willing to bear false witness intentionally.

Ron

Dr. Clark to Ron:

Hi Ron,

I don’t think it’s quite fair to ask us to treat Paul and Dick Gaffin in the same way. In the case of Scripture we’re interpreting ad hoc letters and drawing inferences etc. In the case of any contemporary theologian we’re reading a text in the light of 2000 years of Christian reflection on Scripture. Further, in the case of a confessional Reformed theologian we’re dealing with a person writing in an established tradition with an established set of categories and a fixed vocabulary for addressing basic questions such as union with Christ and justification. Further, in the case that Dick defended Norm for most of thirty years we’re entitled to read what he says in that light and all the more when he is not absolutely clear about the doctrine of the standing or falling of the church. For example, as late as 2003 Dick was still speaking (I don’t know what he says today) of a two-stage justification or an already and not yet aspect to justification. This is just wrong. There is no “not yet” aspect to justification. There is a “not-yet” aspect to our vindication, indeed, our vindication at the judgment is entirely “not yet.” Had Dick not pressed justification into the “already/not yet” scheme, we could have avoided misunderstanding.

The older Reformed theologians did not speak of a “not yet” aspect to justification because they understood that was what the entire Reformation was about! Rome said, justification has been initiated but not consummated. I realize Dick meant something else by it but we already had language for the distinction he was trying to make.

So, reading Paul is one thing, reading Dick Gaffin is another.

Ron to Dr. Clark:

Dear Scott,

I don’t see the relevance of Dr. Gaffin’s support of Norman Shepherd or his already-not-yet paradigm as it pertains to justification since we were to be considering Dr. Gaffin’s words as they pertain to Galatians 3:27 and Ephesians 2:5. All Dr. Gaffin (following Murray) has noted in that particular snippet supplied by Sean is that in the application of redemption, signed and sealed in baptism, a real transition occurs from being a child of wrath to that of recipient of love and grace in Christ. That reality occurs through the existential union in Christ as opposed to at the cross (or in the eternal election-identity one has in Christ). It would seem that Sean would have us believe that Dr. Gaffin attributes the elect’s existential union to a magical working-of-the-works, which you will be hard pressed to find in any of Dr. Gaffin’s writings given his unequivocal repudiation of Romish baptism. Consequently, your appeal to Dr. Gaffin’s support of Shepherd and a two-stage paradigm of justification fails to support Sean’s claim regarding Dr. Gaffin’s alleged view of water baptism.

Having said all that, I am not here to support Dr. Gaffin’s view of justification, even as it is put forth in his most recent essay Justification and Eschatology. In fact, I find much of what Dr. Gaffin wrote unclear, if not troubling. Notwithstanding, I’m not about to give up union-with-Christ language (as some are so quick to do); nor will I allow it to eclipse the Reformed theology of imputation, alien righteousness and the final open-vindication of our justification (by grace through faith), which I think Dr. Gaffin is also jealous to guard.

Some of my problems with Dr. Gaffin are:

1. Dr. Gaffin denies that a person is partially justified according to a process of justification. (That much is good.) Yet he affirms that justification unfolds in two steps. I see that as taking away with one hand that which is granted with the other. The two-stages would seem like a process that is merely separated by the time that extends from conversion to the Day of Judgment. I would have less of a problem if he fleshed out a significant difference between the two justifications, like if he noted that the second does not include the forgiveness of sins. If he’s done that, I’ve missed it.

2. Dr. Gaffin asserts that one is not justified [openly] in the first justification anymore than he is resurrected bodily at that time. But is the reason this is so due to God not yet gathering all mankind before him, or is it because we have not yet been glorified in the body? I sense from Dr. Gaffin’s writings that it’s because men have not been changed ontologically, which if so would mean that our justification is incomplete (implying process) due to a change that must still occur in us, a problem indeed. If one’s reasoning were that we await a second justification before a watching world, then I could more easily attribute that (second) justification to that of a public vindication. That, however, is not Dr. Gaffin’s view as I understand it because he clearly affirms a forensic aspect to the second justification similar to that of the first.

With those concerns in view, I wish that men would begin to substitute “justification” with “forgiveness of sins and considered righteous before God for Christ’s sake” in every theological discussion of this sort. I think it might then become exceedingly glaring that if we’re justified (i.e. forgiven, etc.) now, then there can be no justification of that sort to come later. For how can one be irrevocably forgiven and declared righteous once and for all, and then once again?

As wisdom is vindicated in her children, so will our forgiveness be vindicated by our deeds wrought in Christ by the Spirit on the last day. To call that “justification” in a discussion such as this is equivocal at best. I’m concerned that Dr. Gaffin means a bit more than that.

To bring this full circle, I hope you can appreciate my narrow concern as put forth in my first post. I don’t think it is helpful (let alone truthful) to impugn Dr. Gaffin’s doctrine of baptism when his writings on that matter have been clearly Reformed and uncontroversial.

Ron

Dr. Clark to Ron:

Hi Ron,

As I’ve said many times (e.g. on the PB) I see no warrant for speaking of a two-stage justification or already/not-yet aspects to justification. As far as I know the only aspects are already and forever. The distinction is between justification which includes both the forgiveness of sins (the negative) and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (the positive). I think Paul says something about “having been justified…”

Glorification is not justification but a consequence of it. What we should say is “vindication” relative to the judgment.

As to baptism I’ve written a good deal about it and I can’t accept Dick’s language. See the pamphlet on baptism and the article on baptism or the Exposition of the Nine Points.
Baptism is a sign and seal but creates no more existential union with Christ than circumcision did. Esau was a member of the visible covenant community. That’s all.

Murray could and did err. By his own testimony he set out to revise Reformed covenant theology. It was an experiment that didn’t work. We’re all fallible. Having rejected the visible/invisible distinction or the internal/external distinction folks are bound to get into all sorts of unnecessary tangles.

Ron to Dr: Clark

“Baptism is a sign and seal but creates no more existential union with Christ than circumcision did. Esau was a member of the visible covenant community. That’s all.”

Dear Scott,

Dr. Gaffin never stated nor implied that baptism creates existential union. He merely stated that “baptism signifies and seals a transition in the experience of the recipient.” [Whether the recipient is a believer or not is of no consequence since the sign and seal is God's testimony to the world, the church and the converted.] It was Sean and now you who wish to impose upon Dr. Gaffin a theology that would have the existential experience indexed to the washing of water. That rendering is not supportable by any of Dr. Gaffin’s writings. If it was, then one could find it on the Trinity Foundation website! :)

As for your remarks on Murray, we’re not talking about whether the Mosaic covenant was purely an administration of the one Covenant of Grace (a position I affirm and you don’t). My reference to Murray had to do with his view that a transition occurs when one who is eternally identified in Christ as elect becomes united to Christ existentially. That existential union is signed and sealed in baptism, which is not the same thing as saying that it is created by baptism - the doctrine you dare to impugn Dr. Gaffin with.

Moreover, it is simply absurd to think that Gaffin or Murray somehow missed the visible / invisible church distinction. Clearly they understand / understood that the one covenant of grace was established with the single Seed of Abraham (Christ as the second Adam), and in him with all the elect. Genesis 17; Galatians 3; WLC, Q&A31 Whereas it is to be administered to those who profess the true religion along with their households.

I’m pleased to let this matter rest, Scott. It’s clear to me after two tries that you are not going to engage my point. I’m not even sure you have understood it.

In His grace,

Ron

Dr. Clark to Ron:

Ron,

Murray explicitly rejected the visible/invisible distinction. Check it out. It’s in his collected writings. I don’t know what Dick thinks about it. We’ve never discussed it, but Murray’s criticism of it helped create the pre-conditions for the FV nonsense.

Baptism is a sign and seal of what is true of those who believe. Why make it more complicated?

Ron to Dr. Clark:

Dear Dr. Clark, (please forgive me for not extending you that courtesy before)

When I said you can have the last word, I was speaking of your willingness to impugn Dr. Gaffin with a view of water baptism to which he does not subscribe. Now you’ve claimed a source for Murray’s alleged misunderstanding and total rejection of the visible-invisible church distinction.

Murray understood the theological distinction all to well, which is why he made the practical observations he did. My Brother - did you actually read Murray’s article in Volume One, or did you just read the title of chapter 31 and assume his meaning in haste? I sincerely have to wonder given what you’ve now said, which by the way pales insignificant in my estimation to the allegations levied against Dr. Gaffin regarding water baptism.

With respect to Murray, he was merely jealous to guard against the abuses that readily come with the view toward an invisible church, such as what he called the overlooking and suppression of corporate responsibility, noting that “[Invisible] is a term that is liable to be loaded with misconceptions… and tends to support the abuses incident thereto…” Indeed, Murray noted that “there are those aspects pertaining to the church that may be characterized as invisible. But it is to ‘the church’ those aspects pertain…” Accordingly, Murray recognized the term “invisible” – he just was careful to regulate the term within the context of the Christian’s responsibility to, and the grace found within, the institutional visible-church. In a word, Murray was guarding against the putting asunder of that which God had joined in his word, the invisible aspects of the church to Christ’s visible institution. Murray was merely dealing with a problem of his day, which is only more evident in ours.

I’m afraid that the mission, no crusade, of Escondido will not be stopped with reason. I sincerely hope that God will be merciful to those who so carelessly misrepresent saints for whom Christ died.

In the bonds of Christ,

Ron
Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Evidence, Apologetics & the Resurrection


Induction, the basis for all scientific inference, presupposes the uniformity of nature, which is to say it operates under the principle of the future being like the past; yet the resurrection of Christ from the dead is contra-uniform since it does not comport with past experience. Our experience is that people die and are not raised three days later. Also, we’ve all met plenty of liars and those deceived into embracing false beliefs (even dying for false beliefs!) but we have never observed a single resurrection of the body. Accordingly, the lives and martyrdom of zealots need not lead us to conclude that Christ has risen. Consequently, drawing an inference based upon past experience as it pertains to the question of the empty tomb is not very useful. Evidentialism indeed fails as an apologetic. After all, given only the uniformity of nature coupled with personal experience, a more probable explanation for the empty tomb is a hoax put on by liars rather than a miracle put on by God. The same reasoning applies all the more to the virgin birth I would think.

The fact of the matter is that we do not come to know that our Savior lives by examining the evidence according to some alleged neutral posture, for the facts do not demand the conclusion that Christ has risen. The facts are indeed consistent with the resurrection but the facts do not speak for themselves let alone lead us to the Christian conclusion, which is no conclusion at all but rather a starting point! God speaks in order that we might interpret the facts aright. The fact of the empty tomb, therefore, is not what leads us to the "conclusion" of the resurrection but rather the empty tomb corroborates what we already know from God, that Christ is resurrected.

Similarly, we read in Scripture that a man named Saul who once opposed Christ became the chief apologist for the Christian faith. The way in which one will interpret the transformation of Saul to Paul will be consistent with one’s pre-commitment(s). Christians take the fanaticism of the apostle as corroborating what they already know to be true about the resurrection. The fanaticism of the apostle no more “proves” the resurrection of Christ than does the empty tomb. Moreover, neither the empty tomb nor the life of Paul proves the resurrection any more than it can disprove it by proving that a conspiracy to overthrow ancient Judaism took place evidenced by the hoax of the resurrection. The point is simply this. Naturalists will find their explanation for the apostle’s transformation and the empty tomb elsewhere, outside of the Christian resurrection interpretation. Similarly, the way in which one interprets the facts surrounding Joseph Smith will be according to one’s pre-commitment(s). If one is committed to a closed canon, then the claims of Mormonism will be deemed false.

Of course the tomb is empty, for Christ has risen. Of course the apostle Paul preached the resurrection of Christ with all his heart, soul and strength, for Christ has risen. Of course the Mormon religion is a cult, for Jesus is God and the canon is closed. Do we come to believe these things by evaluating supposed brute particulars in an alleged neutral fashion or are our beliefs already marshaled according to our pre-commitment to God’s word in general and the resurrection in particular? Do the “facts” speak for themselves or has God already exegeted the facts for us?

The reason one believes that Christ has risen from the grave is because God has revealed the truth of the resurrection. In fact, we don’t just believe God’s word on the matter, we actually know God is telling the truth. Yet, unwittingly, often times Christians do not speak the truth with respect to why they believe in the resurrection. Too often Christians will say that they believe in the resurrection because of such evidence, which if true would reduce one’s confidence in God’s say-so to speculation based upon supposed brute facts that (would) readily lend themselves to suspicion (when God’s word is not presupposed as reliable, true and one's ultimate authority). Christians need to lay hold of the fact that the “Word of God” is God’s word, and God cannot lie.

The former days of ignorance are gone; so our belief in the truth couldn’t be more justified since our justification comes from the self-attesting Christ of Scripture working in accordance with the internal witness of the Holy Ghost. We do not come to know Jesus lives by drawing inferences from uninterpreted facts in the light of past experiences but rather by believing with maximal warrant the word of truth. Indeed, we have a more sure word of knowledge.

Ron

Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Passive or Obedient Faith, Justification, Gospel Propositions and Baptism


It is quite popular in Reformed circles today to take a position on whether justifying faith is obedience or not. What I find possibly most amusing in this intramural debate is that so many who would affirm that infants can be justified through the seed of faith are quick to call faith obedience. Whereas those who do not allow for infants to have justifying faith often want to call faith passive!

Closely related to this discussion is the discussion over the logical order of sanctification and justification. One might think that among Reformed Christians it would be obvious that definitive sanctification precedes justification if for no other reason than regeneration precedes faith. After all, are there any who are regenerate who are not definitively sanctified by virtue of regeneration? Or is it man who generates justifying faith from an unsanctified / unregenerate posture? Moreover, those who think that faith must be exercised by embracing gospel propositions in order for there to be justifying faith (leaving infants no way to be justified by faith) should have little problem appreciating that the process of sanctification must precede justification. After all, given such a theology that does not allow infants to be justified through the seed of faith, not only would sanctification precede justification logically speaking, it would also precede justification in a temporal sense (since regenerate infants would have to wait until they comprehended the gospel) making the order of sanctification preceding justification even more pronounced.

With respect to justifying faith being an obedient response to the gospel call - it should first be observed that a sinner who tries to obey the command to flee the wrath to come does so either with a regenerate heart or out of enlightened self-interest. When the latter occurs, obviously no justifying faith is present, obedient or otherwise. When the former occurs, the one obeying is already justified by grace through faith, hence the action to obey with a believing heart with respect to the warning of death and promise of life. When one truly turns, it is because his heart is subdued and we must maintain that there is no temporal order in the application of redemption with respect to effectual call, regeneration, definitive sanctification, repentance and faith, and justification. Without a temporal order to these salvific gifts, we maintain that whoever is alive in Christ is justified through faith, even the seed of faith (see below). Accordingly, the fruit of obedience to the commands and / or warnings of Christ indeed must follow only in a temporal sense from the gift of life, which is always simultaneously accompanied by justifying faith. In a word, although it may appear as if men are obedient in their response to the call upon their lives, a faith that is imparted effectually by God does not obey at the logical moment it is granted anymore than Lazarus obeyed the Lord when coming forth from the grave.

Another strand of the discussion has to do with whether those who are incapable of comprehending gospel propositions can be justified at all let alone by faith. I’ve come to believe that justification has simply become a word in a theological puzzle as opposed to retaining its actual meaning. After all, when we keep the meaning of justification in the forefront of our minds, it is hard to imagine anyone thinking that one can be baptized into the finished work of Christ apart from receiving full pardon of sins. What is it, after all, to be united to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? Does the Holy Spirit unite to the Savior in baptism anyone who does not also receive full remission of sins and Christ’s righteousness? Aren’t those who are baptized into Christ united to his very work on behalf of sinners? Doesn’t all that Christ have become the sinner’s own upon existential union?

We do well to remember that the grace promised in baptism is not merely offered and exhibited in the sacrament but also conferred by the Holy Ghost (to those whether of age or infants) according to the counsel of God’s own will, at his appointed time. Consequently, infants (and those incapable of ever coming to a literal understanding of the gospel) can receive what baptism signifies, even in infancy, should God so will. Accordingly, this would mean that such a one who has received the reality of being engrafted into Christ (one of the benefits of effectual baptism) would also receive the remission of sins. No place in Scripture or the Westminster Confession of Faith will one find a justification to put asunder all that is entailed in the reality of Spirit baptism. Regeneration is never separated out from remission of sins with respect to baptism into Christ; yet many Reformed Christians plainly deny this. As a defense, they often quote verses that when taken alone might imply that justifying faith always entails belief in propositions; yet this doesn’t relieve the tension. At best all it can do is introduce another one! The tension these Reformed brothers introduce is relieved by noting that in the case of those who can believe gospel propositions, faith is part-and-parcel with belief. Faith and the exercise of faith are inexorably tied to together in the case of those capable of embracing Christ as he is offered in the gospel. Accordingly, the call to repentance and faith, which is only given to those who can understand, should and must be couched in such a way as to elicit a response even though faith is first effectually granted, accomplishing justification, so that a response can be made.

Many rightly acknowledge that regenerate wrought faith can be present within those incapable of comprehending the gospel. Unfortunately, too many who correctly affirm the seed of faith can be present in infants deny that such can be justified through that seed of faith because they posit that faith must be exercised in gospel propositions for it to be the instrumental cause of justification. They forget that justification is by faith so that it might be by grace. Unwittingly, they make justification out to be not by faith alone but by exercised faith alone.

Now for those who would affirm that infants baptized into Christ are indeed justified but apart from the unexercised seed of faith or any faith seed at all, then what occurs upon the exercise of faith or the first time implantation of faith? Does one become re-justified? Or are only infants who die in infancy pardoned for their sins prior to exercising faith or apart from any faith at all, and all other regenerate infants are simply sanctified in Christ but not yet justified?
Does one have faith before it is exercised? Does one have faith when he is sleeping, after all? Must faith be in a perpetual state of work for one to remain in a state of "justified"? Must a baby exercise faith by believing gospel propositions in order for him to be justified by that faith?

Ron
Counter since: 9/6/2006
Free Website Counter

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Muddled Musings & Flip Wilson's Geraldine


{Click on the title to see what I'm talking about.}

Somewhat of a mantra (or at least a reoccurring theme) on this site has been “inclinations are never chosen” for if they were (and if choices are always according to inclinations) then it stands to reason that any choice would require an infinite regress of choices and inclinations. Paralyses would set in before anyone ever chose anything!

When Misty Irons states that “the homosexual orientation [is] a fallen and yet unchosen condition…” what distinction is she trying to draw? After all, are any of our fallen inclinations chosen? Does the married man, for instance, who is bent on lusting after strange women (or strange animals for that matter), choose such an inclination? Of course not for our inclinations are never chosen. Notwithstanding, most certainly our present inclinations and subsequent choices flow from the font of past inclinations acted upon. The man who acts in such a way as to sear his conscience will be able to act in that same manner with much less resistance the next time similar temptation comes to bear. Conversely, the man who exercises himself unto godliness, gaining increasingly greater mastery over his members, is able to resist the devil with less effort when temptation should come through the hand of divine providence moving the pawn-tempter. So, although we don’t choose our inclinations directly, our choices certainly impact our future inclinations and subsequent choices. The world is rational after all and our choices do have consequences for which we are responsible.

So why is it that the sin of lusting after the same sex should gain some special status of consideration as opposed to the acts of thievery, serial killing or bestiality for that matter? All of these transgressions proceed from inclinations that are in accordance with a “fallen and yet unchosen condition” do they not? Now obviously lusting after the same sex is unnatural in a way that other sinful desires are not. Desiring shelter in a storm, for instance, is natural even though such a natural desire could become sinful when the shelter gained is against the owner’s wishes. So, at least in some sense, the inclination to lay down with the same sex is more deviant than otherwise lawful desires that are desired unlawfully. However, does even a severe step-change in abnormality give us occasion to question whether one is less culpable for his transgression, or give us any more occasion to pause and reconsider the simple remedy for sin, which is a persistence in heart felt confession, true repentance and genuine faith in God? Is the fact that our fallen nature is not chosen any reason at all to cause us to approach the more deviant behaviors with a different antidote, or more sympathetically than God does? (Even a non-nouthetic counselor should agree.)

Let me now substitute “axe murderers” for “gay men” and “homosexual” in Mrs. Irons’s quote:
“But it's not enough to present abstract doctrines and theological definitions. I also read from the testimonies of two axe murderers who were professing Christians who talked about what it was like to grow up with the dawning awareness that they were axe murderers. To me this was the centerpiece of the class, because if you haven't heard people describe it for themselves, you can never fully appreciate what people mean when they say, ‘I didn't choose this.’ I don't know how people in the class felt about those testimonies, but everyone listened in a respectful silence.”
Now I can almost hear the sound of well meaning Christians saying “Come on Ron. Certainly you see the difference between being an axe murderer and a homosexual.” Well, not really – at least not in any consequential sense when God’s word as opposed to autonomous reason becomes our standard. God does not draw a relevant distinction between the two transgressions, other than that the latter one is often a sign of reprobation! (Romans1:27, 28) Special revelation would have us believe that God’s abhorrence often precedes the abominable practice of homosexuality and not the reverse. God’s wrath already abides upon the homosexual and his sin is just a foretaste of what is to come if he doesn’t repent. The transgressions are indeed equal in that those who would engage in the abominable practices of murder and homosexuality are to be punished by death (Exodus. 21:12; Leviticus 20:13) and await God’s eternal damnation. (1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 21:8) The fact of the matter remains, the acts of murder and homosexuality proceed from the very same “unchosen condition” that has not been buffeted and brought under subjection.

At the end of the day, Mrs. Irons is for some reason impressed by the lame testimonies of a certain category of transgressor that reduce to no more than Geraldine's quip “the devil made me do it.” That the human condition, whether fallen or remade, and its associated inclinations are not chosen is as irrelevant for the homosexual as it is for the common punk-thief, Flip Wilson's Geraldine (pictured above), and the sinner whose heart has been subdued by grace. Men are responsible for their inclinations and choices because God says so. Some men get justice and others get grace. Nobody gets injustice from the hand of God.

What is most terrifying is that Mrs. Irons is teaching in a PCA church, if I am to believe her Blog entry. What is more alarming is her observation that “No one [in her class] was hostile, everyone was trying to think and understand. Maybe the reason it all went so well was because our church is very young. The vast majority of members are in their 20's and 30's.” Would these 20 and 30 year old Christians sympathize with the testimony of a self-deceived axe murderer, rapist, thief, or whoremonger who would dare justify himself with: “I didn’t choose this..."?

What an insidious approach of Satan’s it is to use a former minister’s wife who claims to be Reformed to legitimize in any respect a practice that in then end will bring eternal torment to those who would indulge themselves, even according to an “unchosen condition.” To the secularist, Mrs. Irons appears more loving than your run of the mill Reformed Christian. Yet one need not be a profound exegete or an acute logician to navigate through the muddled musings of Mrs. Irons. One simply needs to be committed to Scripture over feelings, that’s all. But again, and with all sincerity, what should we expect from those whose primary form of revelation on such matters is “natural” and not “special”?

Ron

Free Website Counter