Thursday, December 31, 2009

Atonement and Anthropology

I was just perusing this, where Peter comments that the controversy about God loving man by killing Jesus is a Trinitarian discussion (pp.56-57), and it seemed to me at that moment that the only way to resolve the tension between the Father and the Son was to understand man as essentially the prototype for the Incarnation. (Which is to agree with Zizioulas and Knight and countless others - though certainly not everyone.) This is because, in making Adam the prototype of the Incarnation, we can understand that the Father's wrath (which is really only a jealous love anyway) is poured out on the Son as failed Adam rather than the Son as God. In doing so, the Father's wrath is the purging of the Incarnate Son's failure as the first Adam, leaving behind only the victorious history of the new Adam, paving the way for men everywhere to share in this victory, aiming to renew all men to become Sons of God.

At least, that's what I thought at the time. Could be completely off-base. I'll delete this whole thing if I need to.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Which We are Deeply Moved by Danny DeVito


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pneumatology and Ecclesiology

It's true that the Church as "the Body of Christ" is, in some ways, a continuation of the Incarnation. It's also true that salvation is only possible through union with the Incarnate King of Heaven and Earth, Jesus.

Some churches argue from these two premises that, because the Church is the Incarnation and one must be united to the Incarnation to be saved, therefore one must be united to the Church to be saved. This really is a collapsing of soteriology into ecclesiology, and some acknowledge this unapologetically. But it's pretty much wrong.

But if we said it differently it could be pretty much right.

It's true that Christ's Body is really present as the Church as much as Christ's Body is really present as eucharistic bread. But the Gospel of Luke teaches that Christ's Body is really present as Jesus of Nazareth by the work of the Spirit (Luke i, 35). The Incarnation was (and is) the work of the Spirit. Likewise, it's the work of the Spirit that presents Jesus as the Christ. (Though we all still know it's not the Incarnation itself that saves, simply by being Incarnate, but the work accomplished by the Incarnation that saves.)

Further, the Spirit not only brought about the Flesh of our Lord, but it is also the Spirit who baptized our Lord (or more accurately, the Father baptized the Son with the Spirit), making him a fit candidate for the mission to the Cross (John i, 32-34). It was the Spirit who sent him there, who carried him along all the way until death. And it was the Spirit who raised him up on the third day (Romans viii, 11). And finally, we are united to the Son, and thus reconciled to the Father, but that unity is one accomplished by the Spirit (Romans 8, 12-17).

We say all this to say, the importance of Calvin's Cyprianism notwithstanding, Christian ecclesiology must proceed from pneumatology, for the Church proceeds from the Spirit and not vice versa.

mewithoutYou - A Disco-Videography

Pretty neat to watch the progression over the years, starting off with their post-hardcore, angst-rock, and finishing off with folk-laden melodies:

First this: Bullet to Binary
Then these: January 1979, Disaster Tourism, and Paper Hanger
Next this: Nice and Blue (Pt. 2)
And finally (for now) this: The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gaffin is Great

popPerspectives on Pentecost is one of those books that deserve frequent re-printings. Thirty years old now, the slim little beast has all appearances of being a lite, devotional-esque essay on the spirituality of New Testament Christianity - that, or an obnoxiously polemical little text against speaking in tongues and the charismatic movement. But it's just not that kind of book - and I'm loving it.

One of the first things I noticed about it was how deceitfully short it is. At 120 pages, one might expect it to be the sort of book one could stroll through in a couple of days. But it's just not that kind of book. I'm finding myself only making it through about 10-12 pages an hour, and not because of awkward prose or unintelligible jargon. Gaffin simply writes in a style that loads every sentence with a pointedness and depth of biblico-theological insight that turns out something not much different than wine, a thing to be carefully sipped and savored.

I do find it somewhat humourous, though, that the book supposedly was written with hopes of reaching a popular audience (this, at least, is why Gaffin said he dropped the footnotes). Only twenty five pages into it, between the untransliterated greek and a couple latin theological quips, along with a host of distinctively Vos-ian and Kline-ian (and Ridderbos-ian) (and thus, esoteric) assumptions, I'm fairly convinced that Gaffin was a little bit naïve.

Still, not even through the first chapter yet, I haven't found a paragraph that wasn't worth quoting yet, so I figured that demanded a wholesale endorsement to anyone vaguely interested in a biblico-theological approach to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Active" and "Passive" Obedience

What about "Adamic" and "Paschal" obedience instead? I think it works. It's at least more biblical terminology.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beautiful Disease

Oh dear reader, you're in for a treat. Once again, I can't sleep so here comes the midnight rant...
Currently, thoughts have been swirling about less "eternal" things, such that I've given up on bedtime after trying for the past hour-and-a-half.

Seems the work I do requires me, well, to work - and hard, at that. And certainly that offers little basis for whining, which I don't think I'm planning on, but it does occasionally put me in a stress of sorts that's rather out of sorts with my normal demeanor. The situation is this:

My district has a program, a program titled "Standards Based Promotion." This program is kind of a second chance of sorts, a chance for kids and the like that have gotten in over their heads with being held back a couple years or so. The idea is that the students can be promoted one grade level to help them get back on their feet and give them a little incentive to continuing pressing on (rather than ultimately dropping out). They're fully responsible for the material of both the new grade level and the one that they're being promoted from, which means extra work and all, but still. They get a shot at not being 2 or 3 years older than every one of their classmates and they tend to like that so it's kind of a good deal for them.

The problem is (and there are definitely problems with this arrangement) these students tend to be of a certain stripe. Whatever you want to say, it's a fact that there is a strong correlation academic performance and behavior (because all knowledge is related to virtue). This is to say, the students that typically receive this special promotion tend to be students that are simultaneously lacking in knowledge and social niceties. SBP kids are often (though not always) tough kids.

This is all well and good. It's my job to work with adolescents of diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. There will always be hard kids and easy kids. It's my job as a teacher to do far more than simply convey data. Anyone who's ever actually been in primary and secondary education knows that among other duties, the teacher is responsible for managing souls that are still learning proper behavior, which means we've got to manage a classroom much as a captain would manage his crew, with rituals, routines, and high levels of discipline. Some students will require very little guidance in with these subjects and some will require much more.

But still...

There is, even for public schools (that whipping boy among those fond of whipping), a limit to what is acceptable and understandable given the learning curve for that age group. There are often 12-year-olds who act like 10-year-olds. With a little correction these can quickly be reminded of who they are and what they need to change. But there are also those occasional - special - students who are twelve, thirteen, or fourteen who act like they are six. As it turns out (big surprise), some of my SBP kids are pretty durn special. And I get to deal with all their specialness on a daily basis.

Now I'm still a fairly young and inexperienced teacher and, while I've made huge strides this year, I still struggle to perfectly "steer the ship" as it were. This means, occasionally, I get a little bit stressed because I kind of have a hard time with some of the more challenging kids. Today, however, pushed me harder than I've been pushed in a long time.

One of my SBP students stands out as being especially challenging to motivate and control. There are good days, to be sure, but today was not one of them. Today, my student - oh dear - my student, wholly unprovoked, for reasons I cannot fathom, came into my room and decided the thing he most wanted to do was knock various items away from their proper place. He decided it would be fortuitous to go ahead and hit something off my desk - just for the fun of it? - and then walked toward the front of my room and decided to shove my overhead projector to the ground - ya know, cause Why not?

It's a real struggle, this student, because I know that I'm not going to be getting rid of him anytime soon. But I am simply at a loss. This student - who is clearly well on his way to sociopathy - is under my care for a couple of hours a day. And everything inside me wants to punish the hell out of him. But there's a part of me that knows better, or at least knows myself well enough to know that I just want to lash out at him for all the stress he's causing me. I take all this very personally. And, to me, I think there's something very right about that, but my mind can't rest because of it all. I feel responsible.

This may be the root of many criticisms of public education, but there is a sense in which it is very true that my job is to takeover for a parent for about 7-8 hours a day. For better or worse, I'm responsible for the well-being of other people's offspring in a way for which I'm held highly accountable. Silly as this sounds, I'm "dad" for those kids on a daily basis. (For some of those kids, there is a sense in which I am the only "dad" they know.)

This is hard for me, as I don't have experience as a father. I am only getting a glimmer of the struggles that true parents have, the utter befuddlement that their children can cause with their most radical failures in obedience and maturity. And it's hard. I'm aware of some of the circumstances behind this student's behavior, and there's a sense in which his actions are totally to be expected. But I'm wrestling with what strategies I can employ to teach that child that those circumstances aren't acceptable excuses. The trick, I think, is finding how to be simultaneously firm and encouraging to the lad - and figuring out how much firmness he needs and how much encouragement he needs - which is always the question, isn't it?

Friday, November 20, 2009

In Which We Consider Why We Haven't Migrated to Moscow, Idaho


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bavinck on the Spirit

Taking a break from this, I thought I'd take a look at what Bavinck might have to say about the third person of Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Pulling Volume 4 of Reformed Dogmatics, "The Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation", I began searching the Table of Contents for a chapter specifically about said trinitarian person only to find that the entire volume (all 944 pages) is Bavinck's Pneumatology. There was no place that could be described as a simple theology proper. Rather, Bavinck's work on the Spirit is found only amidst chapters on the the Church, Sacraments, Resurrection, and Eschatology.

Instructive, methinks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Plan

Dropped this [pdf]. (Way too much pointless writing.)

Registering for this [pdf] ASAP. (I've already started reading for it.)

I went ahead and registered for this [pdf]. (I'll be taking a week off from work and staying at the Hutchison's with Berek and Jason.)

And that leaves 1 credit hour that I'm planning on filling by reading this alongside this. (I just need to find a professor to coax into sponsoring it.)

Hopefully, all goes according to plan. (Though it never does.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Towards a Christian Ecclesiology - or - Those united to Christ also commune with Christ, do they not?

I'm constantly battling not to turn into Stanley Hauerwas.


Ill-related (or is it?):
Additionally, I'm not gonna lie: I take great personal offense to the positions of the Romanists, the Byzantines, and the Lutherans for their anti-christian approach to communion.

A pastor's wife recently told me that "the doors to the Church should be no narrower than the requirements of entering the Kingdom of God." And she's absolutely correct. To fail to see this is to fail to see that the Church is the place where our King Jesus reigns - that is to say, the Church is God's Kingdom. Those outside of the dominion of our Lord cannot legitimately claim to be in "the shadow of the wings" of Yahweh. (Psalm 17) And that is why there is no hope outside of it. To be outside the Church is to be outside of the care of our god and king - and as there is no salvation outside of God, there is likewise no salvation outside of his reign: his Church.

Of course, this brings to the fore the ever-pressing question, who then consists of God's Church? That is, Who are his people? For only for them may we expect redemption and forgiveness of sins. And we all desire redemption and forgiveness of sins, don't we?

And so it begins, the quest for the True Church. We may begin with a process of elimination, wisely excising the heretics from the orthodox, chopping off first the Gnostics, then the Arians, later the Donatists... and eventually we become aware of the monophysites, and even the franciscans and the liberals. And once we have found the one Church faithful to the apostolic witness, we aim to take refuge in its doors alone, leaving behind the various apostates as so much dross and a sad collection of sadder stories.

That is one way, at least. Myself, I can't stomach the method.

I can't stomach it because it's, to my mind, so plainly disinterested in our Lord Christ and his Gospel. Were I to be in search of which church to repair to (Indeed, I am!) I would start with the right question: Rather than "Where are those who are faithful to Christ?" I would ask "Where is Christ?"
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [John x, 27]
In my more introspective days, I used to struggle (rather deeply!) with whether or not I was really, really, really one of His sheep. At some point I realized, however, that this question wasn't for me to discern. Belief that oneself is truly one of the Redeemed is just as much an article of faith as the Incarnation or the Resurrection or the Real Presence - implicit in Christian belief is the belief that one is in fact, just that, a Christian. (This isn't really that novel - it's implied by the first word of the Nicene Creed: credo. HT:Berek)

Having given up trying to peer into the depths of my own heart (Jeremiah xvii, 9), I've taken instead the path of greater faith, taking Christ at his word (or at least attempting to), and setting aside the entire question of Who are truly of the Faith?, trusting that Christ himself will sort all that out at the End. Instead, I've decided instead to make the Son of Man my food and drink (or at least try to) (John vi, 50-59). This is the sum of the entire Christian calling and as such it is the sum of the calling of the Church. And the Church, our mother (Galatians iv, 26), has a single calling:
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” [John ii, 5]
Her calling is to call us, her baptized children, to do the will of the Father which is to feast with our whole being upon the Son in the (de)light of the Spirit.

The Church is our mother and she is ours if we have been united to the Christ whom she serves. Her service to Christ is to serve (offer) Christ, his body and and blood, before our tired and parched and hungry souls, that we may take and eat in faith. But with the visible Church always being a mixture of purity and impurity, from time to time, she acts harshly.

It's a fact that there are a number of Christian sectarians (and this is where Rome, the Orthodox, and the Luderans come up), who will openly confess that those outside their doors are truly united to Christ, whilst (especially in the the case of Rome and the East) confessing to be the single body in full continuity with that "one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" we all confess. The end of result of this is that I, personally, am told that while I am not outside of Christ, I'm forbidden from his Table. While it's true that I've been united to Christ, that's not sufficient for allowing me to share in Christ's life - or at least this is what I'm being told. Union with Christ isn't sufficient - something more is required. (Mere faith is insufficient, we must also be circumcised and keep Torah if we want full privileges of fellowship.) (Galatians iv, 17)

It's here that I commend the Presbyterians, the Anglicans, and the Evangelicals for their fairly Christian approach to communion, properly guarding the Eucharist from those outside of Christ, while not requiring more for than baptized participation in the Gospel to eat the bread and drink the wine as True Brethren.

While Communion proceeds from Union, Union is sustained by Communion. Therefore, preaching Union whilst forbidding Communion is to preach a damned Union, which is to preach damnation, which is to preach no gospel at all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oh, Prophecy - or - We Keep Talking and Talking and Don't Know What We Talkin' 'Bout

25 years ago, the character Egon Spengler (from Ghostbusters) commented, "Print is dead."

Mind you, that's before the internet revolution, before YouTube, before Wikipedia, before Google, before blogs, and Kindle. Heck, that's before there was a computer in every house, before iPods and netbooks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

RE: The Orthodox Church

Not that I'll ever convert to Orthodoxy or anything, but aside from the Joel Osteen sermon, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was rad.

Oh, Homily

One curiosity that I've discovered over the last few years is that there is no necessary correlation between denominational affiliation and theological insight. It was men with extraordinarily bright theological minds that led me to appreciate liturgy, tradition, and the sacraments in such a way that really opened my eyes to the sheer breadth of Christ's Church, teaching me how narrow my own theological outlook was. As a result, I had come to expect that the higher church denominations would be bastions of homiletic richness. It came much to my surprise, then, that many Anglicans, Catholics, and Orthodox are no more naturally blessed in biblical exposition than a non-denominational preacher in a small country church. The sermons in the "high traditions" are just as rife with moralism and pious platitudes as those of any other tradition.

Of course, the merit of those higher church traditions is that the Ministry of the Word is not reduced to the homily. The Word is fed to the people by means of several lectionary readings, psalm chantings, and creedal recitations in addition to the sermon. Much more, the written prayers are shot-through with biblical language such that, even if the present minister is a shoddy exegete (or is disinterested in exegesis altogether), the gospel can still be proclaimed. In fact, these churches have the virtue of decentralizing the role of a single man in their worship, preventing the frequent problem of churches built around celebrity preachers (personality cults).

I know where to go for brilliant homiletics, I think. But a mere sermon does not Christian worship make. It's part of it, to be sure - but only that.

This is how we do it - in exile

8AM - here.
10AM - here.
6PM - here.

And next Sunday: here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Almost Home

A decent review of the new Evergreen Terrace album, Almost Home pretty much sums up my own thoughts:
Evergreen Terrace is [a] band that sticks to what they know. What they know is fun, melodic hardcore with breakdowns galore. They do this better than anyone else...

At times [the new album] is angrier than anything they have ever done, and at times Evergreen Terrace reaches a level of melody that they never previously reached. [source]

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Another addition to our collection:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lewis on Church Membership

Here, one devil writes to another:
My dear Wormwood,

You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realize that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that 'suits' him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.

The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction. In the second place, the search for a 'suitable' church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil. What He wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise - does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going. (You see how grovelling, how unspiritual, how irredeemably vulgar He is!) This attitude, especially during sermons, creates the condition (most hostile to our whole policy) in which platitudes can become really audible to a human soul. There is hardly any sermon, or any book, which may not be dangerous to us if it is received in this temper. So pray bestir yourself and send this fool the round of the neighboring churches as soon as possible. Your record up to date has given us much satisfaction...

Your affectionate uncle
Screwtape [pp. 81-82]
There's something here for all of us.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Role Models

Dr. Perry Cox is, without a question, the character I most revere and aim to emulate as I grow and mature as a leader of America's youth:
Of course, I've got a long way to go.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Not Kidding

Having moved on to The Screwtape Letters, I'm continually impressed by Lewis' (we'll call it) "extrinsicism" - that is, Lewis' emphasis on the "externals" of religion.

Very frequently Lewis rails against introspective religion (that is, that self-centered piety that consists of heavy doses of self-examination). In his biography, I read a letter in which he believed that abstaining from introspection was the key to avoiding insanity in one's later life. In Mere Christianity, he virtually identifies humility as the opposite of introspection. And in The Screwtape Letters he has more or less identified that sort of piety as the subtlest form of idolatry, one of the demons' key tactics in causing apostasy.

(This is not even to mention his oft-quoted discussion on the sacramental nature of matter and spirituality, in which he points out that "God likes matter. He invented it.")

In retrospect, it's pretty obvious that my early encounters with Lewis' cleared the way for Peter Leithart's later iconoclastic tract, Against Christianity. (And this is all to say that the entirety of the Federal Vision controversy can be summed up in the question: Was C.S. Lewis Reformed?)

Friday, October 2, 2009

¿Dónde está mi chica puertorriqueña?

On Monday, the powers-that-be transferred my little Puerto Rican girl to a team with more Spanish speaking teachers. Sad, but probably for the best for her. Today, however, she came by and handed me a brown bag filled with chocolates and a card from her mom:
Hi, Mr. Schultz,

I wish to thank you so much... and [the little Puerto Rican girl] as well!

For us, you are a great teacher and a human being. I am sorry that you will not be [the little Puerto Rican girl]'s math teacher anymore but I am sure she will never forget you. Good luck in all aspects of your life and keep up the good work! You realy got a positive result out of [the little Puerto Rican girl].

It's nice for lots of reasons, not least because it was the first spontaneous gift I've ever received from a parent.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Sweet New Ride

bikee [source]

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I'm pretty proud of today's lesson. It was the first time I designed a fully student-directed lesson. We're learning some laws of exponents, laws like what you can do when they've got common bases, or if you've got an exponent on an exponent:
3^5 * 3^2 = 3^7
3^5 / 3^2 = 3^3
(3^2)^5 = 3^10
for example. And I think the students really got it.

I broke them into groups of threes and fours and gave them three different problems that, in being worked out, hint at the above listed laws. It was great to see them working together, debating their answers, enthusiastically sharing their discoveries with each other, and doing all those synergistic things that you can generate in student-led, group-structured activities. (I'm also starting to see a lot of that in their work with integer operations, and especially on last Friday's lesson on the various effects of negative signs on exponents.) Being early into my second year teaching, I know I'm still pretty much a novice at the whole thing, but it's good to see that I'm on the right track to really mature pedagogy.


I've been reading a lot of Jack lately and I will be for the next couple months. It's really refreshing in a "getting back to the basics" sort of way. Finished a really worthwhile biography on Mr. Lewis last weekend, and I've started reading through Mere Christianity for probably my fourth time. It's interesting, on a personal level, to see how I've matured intellectually over the past six years since my first taste of Lewis. Whereas I once honestly (innocently) considered whether or not C.S. Lewis' work might be inspired in a way not much different than the Bible, I find now I have a healthy critical distance between Lewis' beliefs and my own. Much more, I'm able to map out the weaknesses and strengths of Lewis' arguments in ways that previously escaped the weaker reasoning of my freshman/sophomore years.

I'm finding some new angles and questions for Lewis, too. For example, What is the compatibility of Lewis' logic with the twenty-first century man in light of the linguistic turn in contemporary philosophy to which he was rather self-consciously immune? And, Might it be valuable for Covenant Theologians to import Lewis' description of the "Law of Nature" (as he calls it) and use such language in elaborating the principals of the Covenant of Works? Further, Lewis' dealings with Christian dogma, especially with regards to theories of atonement, share a curious similarity to remarks made my men of FV/NPP sorts. Is this something we can attribute to the common influence of Anglicanism? Or is it a coincidence?

Anyway, I'll be (re-)reading through a lot of the Lewissian corpus over the next few months, and honestly, I'm pretty happy about it. Lewis, Wright, and Leithart being my three favorite authors, being forced to spend time with works I cherish and have long cherished is hardly a school assignment I'll be complaining about.


Unrelated: That last post wasn't intended to be about anyone but me, nor should it be read as about anything but my own shameful spiritual struggles. Just in case there was any question about that. Also, it was written (with great intention) rather vaguely. Be careful about assuming you get the point. There's none but myself who should take offense to what was written there.


Additionally unrelated: I've been meaning to make it a comment somewhere that all reductio ad absurdem arguments are (strictly speaking) inherently "reductionistic." Hence, the "reductio." So let's all be much more careful about what we mean by pointing out an interlocutor's "reductionistic" reasoning as if it were clearly a flaw. To illustrate that, when you strip away (i.e., "reduce") the pomp and trite argumentative garb of another's position to its plain and simple absurdity, you are not failing to be reasonable. Your opponent is simply failing to be honest.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How's it going?

Well, for starters, the work is so much easier this year. I've got a significantly larger bit of control over the classroom, coupled with a better group of kids. I know a bit more about what I need to teach and how to get it done. I know how to keep the kids moving and I'm really enjoying it.

Also, the students are really enjoying it. Many of my students are coming to class with focus and even a bit of zeal. I've gotten so comfortable with what I'm doing that I'm able to entertain the kids a bit, laying on pretty thickly a split-personality of militaristic discipline and haphazard, sarcastic rambling.

Additionally, I'm no longer teaching just Pre-Algebra (which is the advanced curriculum for 7th grade), but I'm additionally teaching a standard Math 2 course, and an Intensive (read: remedial) Math course. This means that instead of planning for one class, I plan for three. I don't prefer this, but it's really not that overwhelming and, professionally, I'm sure it's good for me to be stretched. (Additionally, I've got the added challenge of a Puerto Rican girl who speaks very little English.)

I've taken on some extra duties. I'm now the person responsible for organizing and maintinaing data on my team and I represent us at a shared decision making committee called "Senate." Further, I've been appointed by the principal to lead an "Action Team" that deals with schoolwide concerns over the way data is collected, shared, and utilized at our school.

It's been fun. Also, my classroom looks pretty awesome this year. I get lots of compliments. (I've even worked in some Wendell Berry and Vern Poythress posters - shhh! Don't tell.)


Cathleen and I have visited all the churches that we are currently considering joining and we are now making second round visits. We've eliminated at least one choice from our list of six. So in about six weeks we will be making a choice about which church we'd like to start visiting on a regular basis. If it goes well, we could have a church home by Thanksgiving, or at the very latest, Christmas - which would be nice.

Ideally, I think I would really enjoy it if we ended up at a high-church ACNA Cathedral with a large population with a diverse demographic make-up. Alas - no such church seems to exist in Jacksonville. So no matter where we end up, there will always be something for me to whine about. Oh well.

Settling though I will be - actually, no matter what, both Cathleen and I will be settling for something - I really am looking forward to normalizing my religious life. Frankly, and to the point, I feel like over the past couple years, I've become increasingly malnourished, spiritually speaking. It's not a good thing either. I've come to hate pietism so much, that I have additionally grown to resent "piety" as well. I feel as though much of the confidence and (for lack of a better word) obsession I've had with Christianity and such has waned for want of not being so publically abrasive. This is in part due to a personal lack of courage on my part, combined with a cautious bit of indifference stirred by my own simple-mindedness mixed with a saturation of learning.

But what I really mean to say is that, I truly do miss those days, those nine months or so I spent at an Anglo-Catholic APA Cathedral, wherein such time I grew more as a believer than I think I ever have. Circumstances beyond my control ripped me from that situation, but I still remember the height of my faith in those days: I remember how, for the first time in my life, I would be thinking all Saturday evening, while I'm closing up a Starbucks, mopping floors at midnight, thinking with actual joy in my heart about the goodness to come when I wake in the morning. I still remember (I remember this whenever I take a bike ride) the Sunday morning bike rides to church, listening to Aaron Weiss guide me with his sad, sad songs, all the way to the House of the Lord. Much more, I remember the pleasantry of hearing week after week that my sins were forgiven and I, dog that I am, have been made welcome to sup with the Lord. I remember how it would nearly bring me to tears to sing hymns as the Holy Gospel would interrupt our song to tell us of our Lord Christ, only to be followed by the second half of our song. And I certainly - most certainly - remember the soaring of my baptized heart as we would, on high occassions, not merely confess, but sing the Nicene Creed, genuflecting at the appropriate parts. Never before in my life did everything I had been studying come together so harmoniously, suddenly making sense of all the things that previously had been mere abstractions to me. There was no longer any division in my heart between liturgy and life, and the worship of the Lord so stirred my passions that I would sing the various anthems of Christian worship all week long, unashamed to chant "It is very meet, right and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto thee. O Lord, Holy Father..." while making lattes and washing dishes.

But Judaizers stripped me of that one glimmer of the Holy Spirit in my twenty-something years, and I ended up instead spending the next two years under the scrutiny of those less interested in the visio beata than myself. (This is too harsh, but bear with me dear reader, as I am only ranting.)

The bottom line is, I was in heaven for a time, and it's been my mission ever since to get back there. But until such a time, if I truly make the Lord my food and drink, then I truly must starve without him. My hope is that, in our quest for a church, I can find once again that sustenance.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Video Meditation on the Lord's Supper

This is why one of the primary criteria Cathleen and I have chosen for our next church is, at the very least, bi-weekly communion:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Hospitality of Abraham

Forgot to mention that, less than a couple hours after visiting an OPC church, Cathleen and I stopped by here and purchased a copy of this for our bedroom:
Holy Three
There is irony here. We visited an iconoclastic church in the morning only to purchase an icon in the evening.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Schedule of churches we will be/have been visiting:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Credo - Baptism

I'm going to go ahead and post this for several reasons. One, cause I can't sleep right now - not sure why. Two, because I'm not in the least ashamed of its contents (save for its imprecision). Three, because I want to be very open about a thing which has been unnecessarily taboo.

This document was originally written about a month ago with two intentions. First, I wanted to give the elders of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church a statement of my beliefs on the doctrine of Christian Baptism. Second, I wanted to demonstrate that there is nothing I believe that cannot easily be found within the confessions of the Reformed Protestant Tradition.

While there are Scripture prooftexts cited for each statement, I should admit that many of the prooftexts were drawn from the Reformed confessions themselves. This was only to further illustrate the harmony of my own beliefs, even in how Scripture is to be read, with the Reformed Tradition.

So, the Scripture prooftexts are not heavily employed here to prove anything. This is not an argument, much less is it an argument from Scripture. It's a confession, a coming clean of sorts.

For those unaware, the most widely adopted confessions of the Reformed Tradition can be divided into two categories: The Westminster Standards (The Westminster Confession of Faith, The Westminster Larger Catechism, and The Westminster Smaller Catechism) and The Three Forms of Unity (The Belgic Confession of Faith, the Canons of Dort, and The Heidelberg Catechism). The observant reader will note that I draw from both of these systems of doctrine, as much as possible, for many of the statements, but that there is perhaps a slight emphasis on the Westminster Standards. This is because the Westminster Standards are more broadly accepted here in the States, and should my beliefs need examination by a Reformed communion in the States, I would like as much as possible to emphasize my preference for those documents (though they are not without their faults). For the reader's interest, I have also cited The Nicene Creed and The London Confession of Baptist Faith where appropriate.

Additionally, I should mention that in my holding to these doctrines, I have cost my wife and myself a great deal. These are not doctrines that I rejoice in believing, but one's to which I am soberly bound by conscience to assert. God save me from error.

Finally, important as these doctrines are to Christian faith and practice, I should like to mention that I do not hold that agreement or disagreement with these named doctrines represent the bounds of the Gospel of Christ by which all Christians are bound together. Requiring that my brother or sister believe these things in order to share in Christ's Church alongside myself would be idolatry. Christ accepts his members in all their weaknesses, insofar as they have him as their head. That is to say, it would be sin for me to require more of my brothers and sisters than God requires.

What is baptism?
Baptism is a sacrament of the New Covenant. (Matthew 28:18-20; WCF 27.4, 28.1; WLC Q165; WSC Q94; BCF 33, 34; HC Q68; LCBF 29.1)

What does it mean for baptism to be a “sacrament”?
As a sacrament, baptism is both a sign and a seal of the work of God. (Romans 4:11; WCF 27.1; WLC Q163, Q165; WSC Q94; BCF 33, 34; HC Q65, Q66; LCBF 29.1)

What does it mean for baptism to be a “sign”?
As a sign, baptism symbolizes the work of God.

What does it mean for baptism to be a “seal”?
As a seal, baptism guarantees God’s promise.

What is signed and sealed in baptism?
Baptism signifies and seals the covenant of grace, ingrafting into Christ, regeneration, remission of sins, and being given up to God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. (Romans 4:11, Colossians 2:11-12, Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:5, John 3:5, Titus 3:5, Mark 1:4, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Rom. 6:3-4; NC; WCF 28.1; WLC Q165; WSC Q94; HC Q66, Q69, Q71; LCBF 29.1)

What else is signified and sealed in baptism?
Baptism symbolizes many other things such as anointing, resurrection, judgment, deliverance, purification, and glorification. In being baptized, one is assured that these things belong to him by faith alone. In short, baptism signifies many, if not all of the virtues of the covenant of grace. (Exodus 40, I Corinthians 15:29, Romans 6:5, Psalm 69, Exodus 14, I Corinthians 10:1-2, Hebrews 9:13-14, Revelation 21; BCF 34)

What is the relationship between sacramental signs and what they signify?
There is a spiritual union between the sign and the thing signified, such that when these things happen, the one is to be attributed to the other. Additionally, it should be noted that there may be a variance in order, and even a span of time between the two things. (Romans 4:11, Genesis 17:4, Matthew 26:27-28; WCF 27.2, 28.6; WLC Q167; BCF 33, 34; HC Q71, Q73)

What does the baptismal rite entail?
Baptism entails the application of water to a person in such a way that the ritual symbolism reflects what is signed and sealed in the sacrament. Whether this involves immersion, effusion, or sprinkling depends on which element of baptismal imagery one wishes to highlight. Immersion well symbolizes death and resurrection. Effusion well symbolizes the eschatological pouring out of the Spirit. Sprinkling well symbolizes the sprinkling of Christ’s blood upon our filthy souls.

Regardless of which baptismal imagery one emphasizes in baptism, Christian baptism is performed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. If one understands Jesus to be the Second Person of the Trinity, then it is acceptable to baptize in the name of Jesus alone. (Acts 8:36, 38, Acts 10:47, Matthew 28:19, Hebrews 9:10, 13, 19, 21, Mark 7:2-4, Luke 11:38; WCF 28.2, 28.3; WLC Q165; WSC Q94; BCF 34; HC Q69, Q71)

Who should baptize?
Normally, baptism should be administered by an officer of the Gospel, duly appointed. (Matthew 28:18; WCF 28.2; BCF 34)

Who should receive the sacrament of baptism, the sign and seal of the covenant of grace?
All who repent and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ should receive the sacrament of the covenant of grace. Because baptism is a covenantal sacrament, and because covenantal sacraments are applied to entire houses, the sacrament should be applied to the children of covenant members. (Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12-13; Acts 16:14-15, Genesis 17:7-14, Galatians 3:9, 14, Colossians 2:11-12, Acts 2:38-39, Romans 4:11-12, Matthew 19:13, Matthew 28:19, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17, I Corinthians 7:14; WCF 28.4; WLC Q166; WSC Q95; BCF 34; HC Q74)

What is the role of baptism in salvation?
Baptism is an ordinary means of God’s redemptive work. While the Spirit of the Risen Christ is the primary cause of salvation, the Spirit ordinarily works through the baptismal promise, in addition to the preaching of the Word, to accomplish his will. Inasmuch as it can be said that the Spirit ordinarily uses the preaching of the Word to save, so can it be said that the Spirit uses baptism, in conjunction with the preached Word, to bring about faith, and thus to save.

It should be made clear, however, that while God ordinarily works through his ordinary means, God is free to make exceptions. That is to say, salvation is not necessarily withheld from the unbaptized. (Acts 2:38-40, 1 Peter 3:21-22; WCF 28.1, 28.5; WLC Q161; WSC Q85, Q91; BCF 33, 34; HC Q71)

What is the relationship between baptism and church membership?
Baptism is the initiatory rite of membership in the visible church. (I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27-28; NC; WCF 28.1; WLC Q165)

Why is it proper that baptism be related to church membership?
Baptism corresponds to church membership because baptism is a covenantal sign. As membership in the visible church is to be understood as membership in a covenantal community, so it is proper that we view membership in the church according to baptism.

How many times should a person be baptized?
Once. For Christ himself was baptized once – that is to say, he suffered unto death once and for all. Additionally, God’s promises need only be issued once to be true. (Romans 6:3-7; NC; WCF28.7; BCF 34)

NC = Nicene Creed
WCF = Westminster Confession of Faith
WLC = Westminster Larger Catechism
WSC = Westminster Shorter Catechism
BCF = Belgic Confession of Faith
HC = Heidelberg Catechism
LCBF = London Confession of Baptist Faith

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dever-Hart Talk

Thought it was cool to hear Mark Dever say at about 16:10:
I think many modern American Christians understand the importance of novelty - and there is importance to novelty, "sing a new song" - I mean, there is importance to novelty. But they don't understand the importance of repetition.

Our children, now, they want to hear the same stories again and again. When we're on our death beds, we're not singing a brand new song, usually - we're singing a hymn that we've known from childhood or early in life.

American evangelicals are pretty bad at understanding the importance of repetition. [source]
And at 17:19:
I repeat things a lot here, my congregation is very tolerant. I repeat the same wedding sermon at every wedding.We use the same vows, we use Calvin's vows from Geneva. I use basically Cranmer's form for the Lord's Supper. And I've done the exact same thing for fifteen years here. [source]
I can actually testify to that bit about Cranmer as I actually attended a worship service at his church once.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Whilst perusing our local organic grocer yesterday, Cathleen and I stumbled upon this little gem:
The Jews have done it again. Additionally, note that this particular brew, Messiah Bold, is described as "The Beer You've Been Waiting For!"

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Bending

Apropos commentary on recent events:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jenson on the Theology of the Church

Robert Jenson's Systematic Theology (p. vii):
Systematic Theology ITheology is the church's enterprise of thought, and the only church conceivably in question is the unique and unitary church of the creeds. Therefore theology may be impossible in the situation of a divided church, its proper agent not being extant - unless, of course, one is willing to say that a particular confessional or jurisdictional body simply is the one church. To live as the church in the situation of a divided church - if this can happen at all - must at least mean that we live in radical self-contradiction and that by every churchly act we contradict that contradiction. Also theology must make this double contradiction at and by every step of its way.

We commonly speak of such things as "Roman Catholic" or "Baptist" or "Lutheran" theology. Such labels can be used in a harmless historically descriptive sense, as one can say that "Orthodox theology" tends to a Cyrillean Christology. They may be used in a somewhat more ominous descriptive sense, as someone might say that "Reformed theology" cannot accept certain ways of asserting papal primacy. But a theologian who described her or his own works as "Lutheran" or "Reformed" or whatever such, and meant by that label to identify the church the work was to serve, would either deny the name of the church to all but his or her own allegiance or desecrate the theological enterprise. [source]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Again, Let the Reader Understand

Psalm lxix:
To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. Of David.

Save me, O God!
    For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
    where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
    and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
    my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
    with waiting for my God.

More in number than the hairs of my head
    are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
    those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
    must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
    the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
    O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
    O God of Israel.
For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
    that dishonor has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my brothers,
    an alien to my mother's sons.

For zeal for your house has consumed me,
    and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting,
    it became my reproach.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
    I became a byword to them.
I am the talk of those who sit in the gate,
    and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
    At an acceptable time, O God,
    in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
Deliver me
    from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
    and from the deep waters.
Let not the flood sweep over me,
    or the deep swallow me up,
    or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
    according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Hide not your face from your servant;
    for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
    ransom me because of my enemies!

You know my reproach,
    and my shame and my dishonor;
    my foes are all known to you.
Reproaches have broken my heart,
    so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none,
    and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
    and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

Let their own table before them become a snare;
    and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see,
    and make their loins tremble continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them,
    and let your burning anger overtake them.
May their camp be a desolation;
    let no one dwell in their tents.
For they persecute him whom you have struck down,
    and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.
Add to them punishment upon punishment;
    may they have no acquittal from you.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
    let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

But I am afflicted and in pain;
    let your salvation, O God, set me on high!

I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs.
When the humble see it they will be glad;
    you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy
    and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
    the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
    and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;
    the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
    and those who love his name shall dwell in it. [source]

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Vos at his spunkiest ("Christian Faith and Truthfulness of Bible History" from Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, p. 460):
I think we are all to some extent conscious of how much more interesting and congenial it is to study the Bible from the point of view of the human experience of the people of God than from that of divine procedure of redemption and revelation. [source]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Radner, Briefly

Via facebook, Dan Brinkmann, the good man who married Cathleen and I, noticed my posted copy of Ephraim Radner's comments on the nature of biblical types. He thought to probe a bit, asking:
Can you sum this up in your own words?
And what does it mean to you personally?
How does it impact you emotionally?
How do you apply it practically?
All worthwhile questions, I took a little time between building legos and grocery shopping to give him a fairly lengthy answer.
In my own words, what Radner is addressing is a very popular, well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided approach to typological interpretation of the Old Testament. I share in his frustration as it becomes very tiresome to hear over and over that each sort of sacrifice in Leviticus ultimately pictures "the wretchedness of sin" or "its bloody consequences" or "the wrath of God that Christ suffered on the Cross for us." It's not that these things are wrong, per se; but it makes reading the vague figures of the Old Testament rather redundant in light of the relative clarity of the New Testament. Even the most bizarre typological readings of Leviticus (Radner gives us some good examples) stem from the same interpretive principle: That the Old Testament says in shadowy images what the New Testament says quite clearly. Ultimately, this makes it fairly challenging to defend spending much time reading the Old Testament literature, save for the possible historical material it may provide.

Radner's point is that, while it is certainly defensible to inform our readings of Leviticus by the events of the Gospel Narratives, it is equally important for us to read our Gospels in light of the details of Leviticus (though this obviously applies to far more than just the book of Leviticus). There is a complex interplay between the themes and content of the Old Testament and the themes and content of the New Testament. While it is encouraging to see people eager to see Christ in the pages of the Old Testament, it would be even more exciting to see a people eager to see things like Exodus patterns, Paschal imagery, and Tabernacle-Temple allusions in the New. Understanding the Exodus, for example, (and its various repetitions throughout the Old Testament!) teaches us important things about Baptism. Things like this are what Radner's after.

Personally, it means a lot. For one, seeing it in publication by a reputable publisher is encouraging because it affirms sentiments that I have already been persuaded by. Also, applying what Radner says to my own Bible reading forces me to really slow down. I spend a lot more time attending to every detail of OT narrative, knowing full well that, with every reading, there is something I haven't seen yet. It assures me that reading the Bible is hardly something I can do lazily.

Additionally, I should note that seeking to find harmony between the Old and the New Testament has been a quest of mine for many years now. It's something that has played a significant role in preventing my apostasy during the university years, and it's something that, as a result of its importance to my faith, has had a great deal to do with my theological and spiritual development. (The details are boring.)

Emotionally, in addition to the warm feelings of affirmation, it has made Bible study something that I get very excited about. Practically, I do this by, well, doing it. I try my darndest to be fair to Scripture, making a very concerted effort to hear it on its own terms rather than importing what are often unhelpful (unhelpful because they mask more than they reveal) biases into the text. This may from time to time leave me unsatisfied with a passage. I have come across things before that, for the life of me, I could not make sense of in a way that cohered with the fullness of the context - but I'm thankful for these times. I'd rather walk away from Scripture befuddled by it than do violence to it for the sake of making my life easier.

Hope I fairly answered your questions, Dan. I'd love to hear some feedback.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Radner on Typology

This is a fantastic excerpt from Ephraim Radner's commentary on Leviticus (pp. 57-59). It's the preface to the chapter on Leviticus iv, 1 - v, 13. For all you lazy/busy folks out there, I'll embolden the part that most sums up the whole (but you really should read it all if you can, especially since I spent an hour typing it up - with one hand - in a dimly lit room!):
levThe sacrifices of Lev. 1-3 are given generally. They lay out the form of human history that is gathered up in and by Christ, but they do so with a sweep that universalizes the character of that history of redemption. As the next chapters unfold, we are taken to a more concrete plane, one in which the forms of history are particularized in the actions and consequences of individuals or groups in time. The sacrifices enjoined in this section will take the form of those outlined already - for example, the sin offering of Lev. 4 explicitly partakes of the forms of both the peace offering (Lev. 4:10) and the burnt offering (4:4, 12). They are sacrifices, then, that specify, that elaborate, that engage in the particular stories of the larger history. But they do not alter it or provide alternatives.

The Christian tradition has therefore to tended to read these details almost, in musical terms, as improvisations upon the central themes of the types of Christ's death that were seen as originally laid out in the first chapters. As already noted, Origen was explicit in this claim, and when he comes to these chapters he uses it to bolster his summarizing exposition: "Almost every victim is that is offered partakes of some aspect of the image of Christ, for in him every sacrifice is 'recapitulated'" (Homilies on Leviticus 3.5). This is temporally proved, he says, by the historical fact that, once Jesus died upon the cross, all these particular sacrifices "ceased" (at least for the church).

Origen is well aware of the redundancy this may create in Christian interpretation of a book like Leviticus: everything will inevitably sound the same theme, over and over again. In response, the Christian reader of the book's details will engage in a kind of jouissance, to use Roland Barthe's description, of interpretive experiment, so long as it remains tethered within the central christic figuration that the text exposes. The sacrifices are, in each case, the same offering of himself, but seen from the perspectives of redeemed and fallen flesh respectively. (And this accounts, therefore, for the different treatment of and emphasis upon the fleshly details of skin and excrement in Lev. 4 in contrast to Lev. 1 and Lev. 3.) Similarly, and on a more specific basis, Origen will take up the differing aspects of a particular sacrifice, as in 4:1-12, and relate each to elements of Christ's own self and mission: the kidneys that are burnt refer to Christ's freedom from carnal perturbation; the seven sprinklings of blood by the priest represent the seven gifts of the Spirit; the four horns of the altar that are touched by blood are tied to the four-gospel renditions of the passion; the lobe of the liver stands for human rage, consumed at the altar; and the blood that is poured at the base of the altar points to the final grace of Israel's conversion, which takes place after all the nations are brought in by the church (Homilies on Leviticus 3.5).

In all this, history is explicated and fills out the core meaning of the sacrifice as being Christ's. Still, we might wonder if this history has already been somehow circumscribed by the tight typological fit given it, and in the unidirectional fashion with which is applied, so that Leviticus itself ceases to elucidate in its own right even the figure of Christ, by the time of the Reformation (e.g., Calvin 1996: 2.345).

By the time we reach Calvin, we see something of this pinched character emerge more clearly. If the sacrifices of Leviticus exist for the purpose of indicating Jesus, on what basis do they offer any divine sustenance today for those who know Christ clearly and therefore need no further signs drawn from the obscure reaches of the past? The pedagogical theory - the law as training wheels for the infantile Jews - is dusted off, and the clear sacraments of Christ are retrojected into the Israelites' life as a kind of image staring out from the murky depths of time, but the details of the text - the kinds of animals, the actions taken, the parts of the bodies cut - are important only because they demand care in worship, and of course all people must be careful in their devotion to God. It is a good lesson to bear in mind.

There is an incipient, and understandable, hermeneutic at work in Calvin, comparable to the contemporary practice of engaging foreign culture on the basis of some purported and radically shared existential experience. The Israelites did things so strange to us that we are left trying to find some basic, if only general, bridge by which to make any sense of it (e.g., just like us in our best moments, they tried to be scrupulous in their devotion, they were held to an external account for their behavior, they recognized a God beyond their own manipulation, and so on). The irony is that this kind of fallback on a putative species of common human religiosity derives from a tenacious Christocentricity. The problem, however, is not with the typological framework itself that Calvin uses, which is both inevitable and necessary, but with the historical meaning of its linkages. Not only should the character of the sacrifices be elucidated by the figure of Christ; but, if the subjecting and formative power of the word at work and visible in the Scriptures is to be honored, the figure of Christ ought to be, in a sense, explicated by the sacrifices.

In this case, the movement into the sin offering, and its peculiar character in Lev. 4, represents not simply a restatement of the central dogma of atonement, but rather a detailing of sin's shape as it is engaged by Jesus. And thus, the contours of the Christ are here clarified in a way that would be impossible apart from the fullness of the Scriptures given in this book in particular. Christ's ingathering journey goes through this landscape nor only contingently, but essentially. [source]
This has been said much more simply (though by highlighting a different aspect of biblical interpretation) by the long-hidden Dennis Hou as:
[T]here is the temptation to swallow up the uniqueness of every person and event by typological categories. Everyone is a new Adam, or Moses, or Israel; everything is a new creation, or exodus, or tabernacle. Yes, Joseph is a type of Christ, but so is every other human being that ever was, is, or will be. God makes these categorial cups run over with glory in each individual's life, for life is repetition with difference, so we must never flatten redemptive history into a line or rob particulars of their particularity. How is Joseph a type of Christ in a way that Benjamin isn't? If Solomon is a new Adam, what makes him greater than Adam? Christ recapitulates Adam and Israel, but in fulfilling these roles, does He not also exceed and redefine them? [source]

The Mighty Burden

A mysterious excerpt from a hidden manuscript written by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named:
With Rieff, we can well ask, Where are the priests? Who is manning the boundaries?

And the answer is that this dimension of pastoral ministry has all but evaporated. Pastors see themselves as proponents of Christianity, teaching "religious" things or assisting people on their personal spiritual journeys. Pastors have lost any sense that they are overseers of a new city and that they thererfore have responsibilities for governance.

In part, this is an effect of the degeneration of the pastoral vocation. If the tension between duty and desire has lost its existential edge in the twenty-first century, it is not because desire has become more vigorous. Instead, the tension has eased because duty has been collapsed into desire. Since Hume, moderns have been forbidden to derive an "ought" from an "is," but it has become second nature to derive an "ought" from a "feels." The consequences lie strewn on the surface of today's social landscape, too obvious to require enumeration.

Historically, a pastoral candidate's desires often had little to do with the Church's call to service in pastoral office. Far from seeking out positions of leadership, the greatest of the church fathers resisted with all their strength. Augustine had to be dragged into the cathedral for his ordination to the bishopric of Hippo. When he was a deacon, John Chrysostom made a pact with a friend that they would enter the priesthood together, but when the friend went forward John was nowhere to be found. Martin of Tours was carried from his cell and conducted to his ordination under guard. Gregory the Great, so we are told by his earliest biographer, fled from Rome to hide in the woods when rumours began to circulate that he was being considered for bishop. A humble anchorite saw in a vision where Gregory was hiding, and the Romans trooped out to bring him back for ordination. Calvin was persuaded to remain in Geneva only because Farel's warnings made leaving even more terrifying than staying. So common was such resistance to ordination that as late as the nineteenth century the patriarchs-elect of Alexandria were led to their ordination wearing shackles.

In the modern church, calling has been reduced to little more than a strong desire to hold position of ecclesiastical leadership. The terror of responsibility for the Church described by many of the leading pastoral writers if earlier centuries is seldom expressed during ordination exams. Candidates with even slight reservations about entering into the ministry are treated with more than a little suspicion.

This dramatic shift in the Church's understanding of calling is part and parcel of what David F. Wells has identified as the professionalization of the clergy, the reduction of the ministry to technical and managerial competence. Pastoral ministry, Wells charges, has been detached from its theological moorings, and has become another career option for the upwardly mobile "helping professional." One might well recoil from a duty imposed by divine vocation; but one aggressively markets oneself for a career. It is no accident that so many pastors disdain the clerical collar, which is, after all, the collar of the slave.

The Church will find herself in a healthier, if more intense and serious, condition when pastoral candidates begin again to appear for their ordination exams wearing chains.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vos on the Distinction between the Reformed and the Lutherans

Read this in a really interesting essay on the "Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology" from Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation (pp. 246-247). The paragraph is long, and Vos' prose can be tedious at times, but for what it's worth, it does seem to highlight an important advantage the Reformed have over the Lutherans (though I'd be interested to hear some Lutheran feedback on the issue).
VosLet us now consider how the requirement of God's honor is reckoned with in this doctrine of the covenant of redemption. After the fall man will never again be able to work in a manner pleasing to God except a completed work of God be performed on his behalf. Earning eternal life has forever been taken out of his hands. Everything that subjectively happens within him can only be a principle and phenomenon of eternal life itself and in no way a prerequisite for eternal life. The obtaining of eternal life thus comes to lie in God, as a work that is His alone, in which His glory shines and of which nothing, without detracting from that glory, can be attributed to the creature. On this point the entire Reformation, both Lutheran and Calvinist, took exception to Rome, which failed to appreciate this fundamental truth. Yet the reasons which had driven both sides to this protest were different. With Luther it was the thirst for peace and stability for a restless conscience which could find no tranquility in Rome's salvation by works. As long as the sinner himself has to do something for his acquittal, his work remains unstable. Thus the sola fide became the shibboleth of the German Reformation, justification, its principle doctrine. One will agree that, despite all the purity with which this doctrine develops and in which, in developed form, it is given anew to the church, the highest point is still not reached, namely that point from which the Scripture itself views the matter when, in the words of Paul, it sees the heart of Abraham's faith in his "giving God the glory" (Romans 4:20). Even in its doctrine of justification Lutheranism did not catch hold of this idea in its fulness. Not a purely theological, but a partly anthropological motif ran through it. It was different with the Reformed. They, too, felt the same necessity to leave the waves of Rome's salvation by works and once again stand on solid ground. But beside and behind this necessity there lay a deeper longing: a thirst for the glory of God that did non primarily meditate on its own peace. When the Reformed takes the obtaining of salvation completely out of man's hands, he does this so that the glory which God gets from it might be uncurtailed. What is more important for him is the realization that God glorifies Himself in the salvation of sinners, whereas the Lutheran is satisfied when it merely becomes evident that man brings nothing of his own instability into the picture. For the Reformed the center of gravity does not lie in justification as such, but in the principle by which the latter is to be judged and which the Scripture everywhere applies when it teaches us to regard the work of salvation in its totality as being exclusively a work of God. [source]

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Parable Explained

The Eucharist, being that moment when the Word heard becomes the Word embodied and consumed, that moment of feasting together upon the Body of Christ (under the form of Bread and Wine) as the Body of Christ gathered to give thanks, that moment when the Holy Communion of Saints gather to partake in Holy Communion, that moment when the Lord's People gather on the Lord's Day to partake of the Lord's Supper, is the consummation of Christian Liturgy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

34.2 Miles

This is what Nick and I did today.
And hardly without incident, too. I snapped the brake line to my front tire and my rear brake barely worked at all, so we had to stop at a bike shop on the way home (so as to keep me from getting hit by a car). They fixed me up pretty good, after giving me a good shaming for letting the poor girl really let herself go over the past fifteen years or so.

Friday, July 3, 2009

MJ/WH Intertextuality

Am I the only person in the world who noticed that
I have the stuff that you want; I am the thing that you need
from "Dirty Diana" shows up five years later as
I've got the stuff that you want; I've got the thing that you need
in "Queen of the Night"?

I mean, quibble if you want with the slight differences between the two, but the rhythmic similarities and common aural tone really betray some sort of intentional link (conscious or otherwise).

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Time

Well, as of June 9th, I haven't been required to go into work, and won't be required to go in until some time mid-August. It's been nice - and busy, much busier than I anticipated. Cathleen and I went up to South Carolina for a few days, went to Orlando for five days, and then back to South Carolina for two more days. Only yesterday were we able to regroup a bit before Cathleen went back to work.

Orlando was great. We stayed here; went here with Matt and Berek; went here with Berek (it was good times); went here as well; had a wonderful time here and here with Berek, Jason, Jonathan, Sandra (and Company), Tallie, The Generous Mr. Hutchison, and Kazu; went here, where Cathleen kindly let me purchase a bag from here; and finally visited here, where I met with Dr. Swain to discuss a directed study that I started last summer, and here, where Cathleen, again, kindly let me purchase this, this, and this.

Just finished the fantastic tale of The Boy Who Lived, and with that done, and with life stabilizing for the next month, I'm going to finish up this and read this so I can finish what I started last summer. And that should leave me with exactly only this, this, and a one-credit directed study (1,350 pages of reading on somebody or something - and maybe a paper) to finally get my degree (and hopefully a raise) by May 2010.

And on a completely unrelated note, I read a lengthy post by Brother Wedgeworth this weekend on "The Federal Vision and Reformed Theology" and quite, quite enjoyed it. Not only does Steven give a helpful explanation of what the Federal Vision is, he also offers some real insight into the nature of the controversy. The pinnacle, for me, I think, is in the conclusion:
So where does that leave one? Where can you go if you just want to be "Reformed," all the while maintaining an outward looking mission and a flexible posture for the future? In other words, what should the normal people do?

I believe the answer is to simply stay put. You can do what you need to do without anything drastic at all. Know ahead of time that many so-called authorities are simply posturing. Discount the noise they make and continue with true ministry. Serve your local church in effective ways and handle all of this other stuff on your own time, if you can do it and remain sane. If not, then forget it and do your real job. Catholicity is a spirit. Promote it. [source]
I don't love this because it's profound, but because it's so simple and so right. It matches my own heart in the matter almost perfectly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Waters on Wright on Justification

Waters here identifies one of Tom Wright's chief weaknesses:
Wright's discussion of good works and final justification merits two observations. First, some of Wright's critics may indeed deny a final judgment according to works. His Reformed critics do not. They deny a final judgment on the basis of works, but they do not deny a final judgment according to works. In other words, the believer's conduct is not the basis upon which he will sustain God's final judgment. Instead, his conduct will publicly show the Christian to be who he already is: a person justified solely on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ, received through faith. If Wright understands the Reformational doctrine of justification by faith alone to necessitate much less to permit a denial of final judgment according to works, then he has been misinformed. Reformed readers' do not object to Wright's insistence that there shall be a final judgment of the believer at the Day of Judgment. They have objected to what he claims are the place or role of the believer's works in final justification. [source]
I've long believed that, for all his good, Wright does himself, his work, and the Church a great disservice by failing to actually know what he is talking about when discussing Reformed theology - and I wouldn't be surprised if he has failed as much with the Lutherans. One of the first things I noticed when I first read Ridderbos, was how remarkably similar his work was to Wright's (though with some obvious differences as well). A scholar as accomplished as Wright should simply know better - and really, all the grief he's gotten from Reformed folk is really what he deserves for not taking the time to first become well-read in Reformed systematics and biblical theology before attempting to make corrections to it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Good Times

This is the only thing we caught all day.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Up: A Christian Reading in Miniature

Not overly difficult, methinks.

The entire movie is about an ark-house exodus. Much more, the ark-house is planted on top of a mountain with a river flowing out of the side of it.

And don't even get me started about the resurrection of our hero in which the old creation/ark-house plummets into Sheol, defeating the Villain, and inheriting a newer, more glorious ark-house (in which dwell gentile-dogs!).


And for the record, because we are sinful and refuse to name the Creation the way God would have us, we call people "alcoholics" when they have been given over to the drink they worship. The bible calls such people "drunkards" - and with good reason, I think.

Alcohol is used very frequently in Scripture as a symbol of God's judgment and wrath. When people regularly receive God's mark of drunkenness, we undermine the authority of God in two ways by naming those people "alcoholics." First, we are wrong to give them an excuse, identifying their willful sin as an unwilled condition. Second, we are wrong to bar them from true repentance: one can stop himself from getting trashed all the time, but an alcoholic - being one who is, body and soul, addicted to alcohol - is an alcoholic for life, dry or wet.

A Psalmic Reflection

Since discovering the Genevan Psalter, I went ahead and burnt all 150 psalms to four CDs and have been making my way through them while I drive. It's been great. There are lots of things about the experience that could be commented on, but the one thing that I keep noticing is this: The Psalms are thoroughly militaristic.

Now, I never noticed this about the biblical psalmody before, and this is mostly for two reasons: 1) I've never straight read through the book of Psalms, and 2) I've never just listened to the Psalms. But doing this, I find there's a lot I've been missing out on, not least about the nature of Hebrew worship. Given that the Psalms more or less represent the Jewish hymnal, and comparing the trends of their hymnody to much of what passes for Christian worship songs presently, I see a significant difference between the two. Where as many "spiritual songs" bask in the existential experience of salvation, meditating deeply on the soul-penetrating effects of being forgiven, the songs written in Scripture are shot through instead with themes of warfare. (I finally understand what is implied by the slogan "Worship is Warfare" - much more, I see how biblical it is, too. Also, it makes far more sense to describe the temporal/visible Church as "the church militant.")

Now, seeing this, I have to wonder about the silliness involved in questioning whether or not it is right to sing "imprecatory" psalms - that is, Psalms which call for God to justly inflict harm on our enemies. Christians certainly have a responsibility to explain how this relates to the call to "love our enemies," but if one takes this to mean that we no longer should sing imprecatory psalms, then it's really not a stretch to say that Christians shouldn't sing any of the Psalms. 'Cause honestly, I don't think I've found a Psalm yet that doesn't have at least some level of imprecation involved. They may not each talk about dashing the heads of infants on the rocks (Psalm cxxxvii), but almost every Psalm I've been listening to has brought to worship the matter of "enemies" and "evildoers" and "the wicked" who are constantly posing a threat to the righteous. Even psalms that don't explicitly use such words can be easily read in light of the context of all the others.

So, the Book of Psalms is a collection of Hebrew War Poetry. Enlightening stuff, this.

P.S. This is why the "Lord's Day" is the "Day of the Lord."

The Potent Novetly of Christian Mythology

Been meaning to share this for a few days now. Josh the Liar has some really great things to say about the foolishness of Christ. Here's but a snippet, but the whole thing is really worth review:
For the Greeks, death separated the gods from the mortals. Death was not a threshold the gods could ever cross, thus death was an impediment between mortals and immortals ever knowing one another. It is strange that Jesus comes preaching a "knowledge" of God by men, or a "knowledge" of men by God. When the Greeks heard of a God who would ultimately claim to know some men and not others, they had no hook to set such claims. Further, the Eschaton, the End of Things, is curiously absent from Hesiod's work. The concept of the Eschaton must have been bizarre to the Greeks, who seem to assume the eternality of this earth, the eternality of war, the cyclical nature of all things. We take The End for granted today, but there was a time when The End Of All Things was pure revolution. [source]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Let the Reader Understand

Douglas Jones' "The Art of Pettiness" is one of my all-time favorite Credenda/Agenda articles:
Simplicity Reigns — Life is always simple. We are monotheists. Only relativists and perverts believe that there's more than one way to see things. The universe is orderly, edged, and snaps together at the joints. The simple is the true. Other people try to hide their disorderliness by claiming complexity. Words have only one meaning. People can only mean what they explicitly say. Coins have only two sides. She's either blond or not. You can't be a little bit decapitated. Don't trust anyone who can't give you a precise definition. Definitions snap together like a good plastic car model. If it doesn't click, it doesn't fit. God gives us definitions so that we might be free. [source]
Please, no arguments. Just follow the link and read the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mighty Arms

Oh geez. This is too amazing not to post. HT to Rich:
As a Christian pastor I believe that without a deep-seeded belief in God and firearms that this country would not be here... [source]
Seriously, you could write a book about all the things implied by that fragment of a sentence.

Monday, June 8, 2009

WCF on Good Works

Passages like this make the Westminster Confession of Faith look hot:
Chapter XVI
Of Good Works

I. Good works are only such as God has commanded in His holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention.

II. These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

IV. They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possibly in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.

V. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit, and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment.

VI. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God's sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

VII. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God. [source]
Hope y'all got that. The Reformed teaching on good works is that, while unable to merit forgiveness, and while plagued with weakness and imperfection, they are still accepted by God. Much more, it pleases God to accept and reward them.