Thursday, November 24, 2011

Robert Letham: Union with Christ: In Scripture, History, and Theology

Book Review: Robert Letham, Union with Christ: In Scripture, History, and Theology

Excerpt from review:

The second insight is Letham’s much-appreciated stress on the soteriological import of the incarnation of the Word of God, reminding us that the very theo-logic of salvation is wrapped up in the mystery of the incarnate God-man. The incarnation shows us in the clearest possible way that God’s redemptive intention is to join us to himself through the life-giving humanity of Jesus Christ. The incarnation, in Letham’s words, “is the indispensable basis for our union with Christ. Since Christ has united himself to us in the incarnation, we can be united to him by the Holy Spirit” (40). When evangelical theology loses sight of the saving significance of the incarnation, it is bound to myopically stress forensic, substitutionary understandings of salvation at the expense of the personal, participatory reality that undergirds them. Marcus Johnson (Ph.D. St. Michaels College, University of Toronto) is assistant professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Created Time?

It is argued from “time to time” that if time was not created then history could never have reached any point in time. In other words, if there has always been time then an infinite amount of time must elapse in order to reach any point in time, which is seemingly impossible to us. Defenders of the Cosmological argument often use this argument to avoid a problem of infinite regress. Apologists who don’t employ Thomistic arguments do so as well.

Although I believe time is part of creation, I think such a defense of the creation of time could possibly undermine God’s infinite attributes, such as omniscience, or at the very least require that we think about omniscience a bit differently. After all, isn’t such a defense for the creation of time predicated upon the premise that nothing infinite can be exhausted by God? Yet wouldn’t that mean God has not thought every number? Does omniscience imply that he has and if so, then can’t God place creation in “the middle” of time, which would imply that infinite time has elapsed?

I don’t believe that time is self-existent nor do I believe it to be a divine attribute. Also, I have no reason to believe that God has eternally willed that he always be accompanied by time (i.e. “prior” to the first day). I believe time is created, but I’m not terribly comfortable with the argument that is used from “time to time."

My books are all in boxes because I'm relocating my study, but if memory serves John Frame in "The Doctrine of God" makes a passing comment on this created-time argument to which I refer and although he finds it somewhat persuasive, I believe he had a reservation or two, maybe that the argument goes beyond the bounds of Scripture alone. If someone reading along can locate the quote, please post what you find.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A most excellent wife...

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31:10-31

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Federal Vision and Its Use of the Objective (A Road to Rome)

It would seem that Federal Vision has a view of common operations of the Spirit that allows for the non-elect to experience existential union with Christ, which in turn leaves no place to ground assurance of salvation in the experience of the elect who are converted. There becomes no place to ground assurance for the converted if any person with the Spirit can fall away from the faith.

If one can have assurance of final salvation, then those texts pertaining to common operations of the Spirit must imply something less than what FV suggests. If one can know that he will make it to glory in the end, then the assuring witness of the Holy Spirit must not accompany those sorts of operations of the Spirit in the non-elect. Will FV proponents at least agree on that? Will they affirm that the Spirit does not confirm present salvation in those not elected to final salvation since the divine granted assurance of final adoption is predicated upon assurance of present salvation? If so, then what work of the Spirit do they (the FV) suppose is lacking in those of whom such texts speak? Do they have union, just not assurance of union?!

I find it most curious why FV has gotten themselves into this obvious bind. What I think FV might have done in part is taken the objective criteria that the church must employ to regard one as God’s child and has collapsed it into the individual’s criteria to judge himself whether he is truly in Christ, leaving the individual needing more for assurance – God’s internal witness of adoption granted by the Spirit to the individual, which FV cannot affirm as something to look to given their view of Spirit-wrought union that can be supposedly received by the non-elect.

Sadly, the truly converted under FV standards is left with zero assurance of salvation (not unlike Rome's doctrine of assurance) because (i) those with the Spirit may fall away and (ii) the objective standard the church must work with to judge one’s salvation status is not enough for someone to gain personal assurance of actual salvation, for the church is to regard closet case unbelievers as saved as long as (for instance) they have received Christian baptism and if old enough have improved upon it with a credible testimony, {which of course may not be denied (i.e. found incongruous) by personal doctrine or lifestyle}. In other words, people who rightly should be on church roles by sound ecclesiastical standards can prove themselves in time as not being truly of us, but given no clear theological distinction between the visible and the invisible church that is consistent with an internal witness by the Spirit of adoption that only comes to the converted, the implications are (i) some people actually lose their salvation and (ii) nobody can know they will arrive at final salvation, which in turn presents another problem for FV, this time regarding salvation by works, the very thing they would like to on...

It seems to me that FV makes persevering faith a work that distinguishes one man from another – i.e., one will persevere if he keeps himself in the faith. In other words, it seems as though FV allows for elect and non-elect persons to receive the same measure of the Spirit and union, which seems to suggest that what distinguishes one man from another must be man, not God. Again, if both receive the Spirit, then man is deciding factor on final adoption, hence the lack of assurance available to those who are actually decreed to final adoption. Under FV, those decreed to final adoption have no more of Christ than those who are supposedly regenerate but not decreed to final adoption.

At the end of the day, collapsing ecclesiology into soteriology like the FV does is in my opinion no worse than Rome’s error of confounding justification with sanctification.

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