Peter and the Amils

There came to Peter some amillenialists who deny there is progress through death and Resurrection by God in any sense in history, or human flourishing, and many other like things they deny. And they asked him a question, saying

“Teacher, Usrinus wrote for us that a church can only be known by the marks of pure preaching of the gospel, pure administration of the sacraments, and discipline. Now a man was a member of the lutheran organization, but they taught baptismal regeneration so he left them and joined the baptist assembly, but they didn’t baptize his children so he joined the eastern orthodox group. But when they venerated icons he left and met with some pentecostals, and then 2 other sects, and finally the man himself was tossed out by the Plymouth Brethren. in this “Future Reformed Catholic Unity church” you claim is coming, since this man was never a member of a legitimate church, shall he be baptized into it or not?”

And Peter answered them “the sons of this period of broken history know churches are pure and less pure but those that are considered worthy to attain to the Future Reformed Catholic unity and the to the Resurrection of the church neither unchurch less pure churches or assume that unity is impossible for God. They fear not the end of the direct application of the protestant confessions anymore because they are Sons of God, being sons of the father of the risen Christ. But that future unity is possible, even Ezekiel showed, in the passage about the two sticks of israel and judah being rejoined.”

And some of the people said: “I don’t see how that is humanly possible.”

And Peter said “Yep” 

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Mark Jones on Lutheran v Reformed

I’m reading Mark Jones new book on antinomianism, and he makes the point that many many orthodox people “affirm” the third use of the law but they practically never use it their preaching in such a way, and that this is characteristic of Lutheranism.

He quotes Muller “the law, for Lutheranism, can never become the ultimate norm for Christian living, but instead, must always lead to Christ who alone is righteousness. This difference between the Lutherans and the Reformed arises out of the dialectical relationship of law and gospel in Lutheranism as opposed to the simple distinction of law and gospel within the one foedus gratiae held among the Reformed”

That seems like a useful response to this

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Baptismal Regeneration and the WCF

p duggie:

reblogged. He makes a fair point about Burgess at the end. It might still be amenable to the idea that the intended bad roman idea is that baptism will stop working once you sin. I think Cornelius Burgess has a good point though, and if he’s right, so much the worse for the WCF.

O, and this is a funny quote i found elsewhere, (but not from Ramsey) “The degree of linguistic gymnastics Presbyterians admittedly engage in to avoid the charge of teaching baptismal regeneration is equally as necessary to exegete Scripture as it is to exegete the Confessional statements on baptism”

Originally posted on Patrick's Pensees:

The following article was originally published in The Confessional Presbyterian Journal 4 (2008); available here.

Baptismal Regeneration and the Westminster Confession of Faith


D. Patrick Ramsey



What does baptism do?  Unfortunately, a common answer will not be found among the different branches of Christianity.  At one end of the spectrum are those who make much of baptism in that it is a converting ordinance.  At the other end are those who claim that baptism is a mere sign of our salvation and profession of faith.

In a stimulating essay, the late evangelical Patristic and Reformation scholar, David F. Wright asserted that the Westminster Confession of Faith, which according to Benjamin Warfield holds the preeminence among the Reformed Confessions,[1] teaches that baptism conveys converting grace.[2] Thus, for Wright, there is at least a strand, indeed a significant strand, of Reformed thought at one end of…

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Why I became, and will stay, some kind of Christian Transformationalist

Because it’s what’s happened anyway! From James B. Jordan’s Through New Eyes, final chapter.

The Growth of the Kingdom in Church History

Since we live in an age of setback, it is not always apparent to us that the Kingdom has, in fact, grown. But, if we take a look at the Kingdom in the year 300, we find it suffering in preConstantinian tribulation. A few centuries later, the Church was wrestling the tribes of Northern Europe into the Kingdom; while in the East, Christianity experienced a real golden age, and what we call “Nestorian” Christians had influence throughout India and China. A few centuries later, after the high “Middle” ages and the Protestant Reformation, Christianity greatly discipled the European countries, spread to the Americas, and gave birth to the printing press, university education, technology, and many other benefits. During the last century, Christianity extended all over the globe as a result of the missionary movement and almost eradicated slavery (though slavery still exists in some Islamic countries, and behind the iron curtain).

The history of the Church is not a history of smooth advances, however. From what we have seen of Biblical history, we should expect periods of setback. We should expect that an old establishment wears thin, and declines into stultification and error, only to be replaced by a new establishment that does fuller justice to the faith. Each new establishment takes up the strengths of the previous one, but transforms it into something new and more powerful, more glorious.

For instance, after a couple of centuries of tribulation, God gave Constantine to the Church. Constantine is much criticized by ignorant persons today; but there can be no doubt that his conversion was a welcome change for the thousands of maimed, crippled, and raped Christians of his day. The Constantinian Establishment may not measure up by today’s standards, but it was glorious in its time. It gave peace to the Kingdom, and enabled Christianity to blossom in the East, bringing the Gospel to many peoples and bringing about tremendous blessings.

In the West, the Constantinian Establishment did not last. It
was, after all, imperfect. After several centuries of strife and disorder, God brought to pass the Papal Establishment in the West. Protestants like me find it easy to find fault with the Papacy, but we should remember that the firm hand of strong godly Popes helped bring the unruly tribes of Europe into the Kingdom. Just because the Popes of Luther’s day were bad does not mean they always had been. In their day, the tribes of Europe were in a state of continual warfare. By outlawing war during Lent, on Sunday, and at such times as the Peace of God and the Truce of God, the Papacy eventually brought about a condition of continual peace. Wars were declared, fought, and ended. Peace was normal. The Popes and godly emperors brought this about, using the rod of excommunication.

The Papal Establishment, however, was imperfect, It led to abuses, and the Christians of Northern Europe did not like being dominated by Italians. So, God gave the Reformation. The Reformation functioned differently in various countries, but it did bring a new and better “covenant.” The Reformation brought freedom of the press, literacy, university education, and technology. But the Reformation Establishments were imperfect also. They were too closely tied to the various nations, and in the United States to separate denominations. The sense of true catholicity in Christendom was lost.

The Growth of the Kingdom in the Future
So, what is next? From our study of the Bible, we can say that when God is pleased to give us a New Establishment, it will take up the best of all the previous ones; but it will transform them into something new. The future cannot be envisioned. For me, the period of Samuel is a close analogy to our present situation. In Samuel’s day, the Ark was located at Kiriath-jearim, the Tabernacle at Nob, and the High Priest out in the field with David. An evil, demonized king was on the throne. I imagine that the priests at Kiriath-jearim insisted that the Ark was the most important thing. I imagine that the priests at Nob emphasized the Tabernacle and its importance. I imagine David’s troops felt that the dynamic presence of the High Priest and his ephod was the most important thing. Theologians of the day doubtless speculated on how to get all this back together, but they had no idea of what was really going to happen. The New Establishment was something they could never have imagined. 

Compare our situation today, We have the discipleship wing of the charismatic movement, which is composed of devout, God-fearing people who pray and work for reform. Many of them think that the best thing would be if we all joined up with them. We also have the revival in Eastern Orthodoxy, signaled by the writings of Alexander Schmemann. Of course, Orthodox theologians believe that we all need to pack up and join Orthodoxy! Then there is the strong revival in Reformational churches, centered on the profound thought of Cornelius Van Til. Many of these people go by the name “Christian Reconstruction ,“ and wish that everyone else would join the Reconstructionist movement. As we continue our survey, we find the neo-Puritan movement in Presbyterian and Baptist churches. These earnest people call us back to the best of our forefathers, but all too often think that this is all we need.

Now, I don’t want to leave anyone out, but I’m sure I will. Time will fail me if I tell of the revival of evangelical belief in Roman Catholicism, the renewal of Psalm-singing in mainline churches, the deepening theological endeavors of various parachurch organizations, and the like. I have been involved with many of these, and in each case, those with the Ark think it is most important; those with the Tabernacle think it is most important; and those with the ephod think it is most important. Christendom today is scattered.

The future, though, cannot be envisioned. It is no good if we all join the neo-Puritans, or the Reconstructionists, or the renewed Orthodox, or the discipleship Charismatic. God has taken hold of Christendom and He has torn it apart. He intends to put it back together again in a new Kingdom establishment. We cannot advance His timetable, or presume upon His designs.

What then? Our present duties remain the same as ever. The Christian is not called to play God and manipulate history, but to serve God in his calling. And this pulls us back to basics: Bible study, prayer, the sacraments, godly home life, public worship, faithful work on the job.

For the pastor, it means that whatever camp we are in, our
duties remain the same. Let worship be a true covenant renewal, with the rite of covenant renewal restored (see Chapter 10). Let us return to God’s hymnal, the Psalter, as the foundation of our hymns (not excluding the other great hymns of the Church). Let Bible study and Biblical exposition be foremost in our teaching and preaching. In this way, we lay a foundation, we build up the saints, we prepare the way for the New Establishment to come. Who knows just how wonderful it will be?

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Extraspective Clair Davis

p duggie:

Clair Davis on the extraspective

“No wonder that our Reformation fathers and mothers liked extraspective so much, since everyone else looked at themselves way too much, and they were determined to look only to Jesus. Lutherans specialized in that, better than anyone else. Reformed people believed it, but also kept checking out their hearts and lives, always desiring more Christ-likeness. See what the Westminster Confession says about our assurance of salvation. The beginning is encouraging, what an amazing gift the Lord gives us, to know that we belong to him and he to us. But then out of nowhere come those ‘sudden and vehement temptations.’ Take me, when I’m preaching away with my heart set on Jesus and his glory—but then I spot all those folks leaning forward in their chairs looking up at me. My focus on Jesus gets dulled by noticing that my sermon is working. It’s one thing when ordinary people aren’t extraspective, but when the preacher isn’t—now that’s terrible. I could tell you of more ordinary ‘sudden and vehement’ ones I have, but the preacher one is the worst. So of course then God ‘withdraws the light of his countenance’: I’m telling people to glorify God but I’m really happy that they’re glorifying me—what in the world must the Lord be thinking of me? The Confession goes on to describe what a life like that is really like, and concludes on the note that at least it’s not characterized by ‘utter despair.’ To me that doesn’t sound like much of a climax. Doesn’t the Confession really need another paragraph, beginning with ‘Nevertheless?’ Now there you can see what Reformed looks like, and that it’s not as simple as Lutheran. But isn’t that a true picture of life, after all? Just when we think that our joy in Jesus is so gripping, isn’t it then that our daydreams are so putrid?”

Originally posted on TheEcclesialCalvinist:

[Editor’s Note: This post was written by my good friend and seminary professor Dr. Clair Davis.  In it he offers some well-informed and insightful reflections on the unity of salvation in Christ, and on the difficulties we in the conservative Reformed world have encountered as we have sought to understand and express this great truth.]


I think about the grace of God in Jesus Christ as a package.  We get so much from Jesus right from the beginning, all together.  Why is that so hard to grasp?  Mostly because we’re used to thinking about our sanctification as a kind of response to God’s grace in justification.  But how do the two relate?  No doubt church history gets me confused—it’s easy to think that the job of the theologian is to fix the bad answers that have been given so far.  But what if they all answer questions that God and…

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Thomas Manton on temporal enemies of Christ


“First, his temporal enemies are such as oppose his cause and servants, and seek to suppress his interest in the world. The Jews despitefully used him and his messengers, and they had their doom; wrath came upon them to the uttermost, It is supposed they are intended: Mat xvi. 28… In a few years the city, temple, and whole polity of the Jews was destroyed, for the erection of the gospel kingdom. The Romans were the next enemy, who endeavored the extirpation of christianity by several persecutions; these were next made the footstool of the King of kings, and after some years that vast empire was destroyed by the inundation of barbarous nations, and the residue marched under the banner of Christ. Within a little time, all these nations which oppose Christ’s interest, and persecute his servants, are subdued under him, and either broken in pieces by sundry plagues and judgments, or else are brought to submit their necks to Christ’s blessed yoke”

(sermon on Romans 8:34)

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Amos Yong: Race and Racialization

One of the commendable features of the book Bradley edited is that he has not just a ethnically “tribal” (his term) diversity of contributors, but a theological tribal diversity as well. Amos Yong is not only an Asian American, he’s a progressive Pentecostal evangelical.

Yong’s primary issue is racialization, or the devaluing or erasure of nonwhite ethnicity and culture to a dominant white regime. Yong was raised by first-generation [intriguing term, no?] converts of malaysian chinese ethnicity who became Assembly of God missionaries to the United States. In seeking to understand his own identity, his father communicated what became a racialized approach of downplaying ethnicity “I did not have to worry about cultural aspects of my identity; since we were Christians, we were culturally Christian,” but Yong claims (without going into details) that the North American cultural habits of the missionaries were tacitly communicated as that which was to be embraced as that Christian cultural identity.

After a brief paragraph about his fitting a model-minority stereotype and the unfairness of that stereotype for three reasons (which I could say more about later: i thought he ignored any discussion of the intended role of that stereotype in white consciousness), Yong gives about three and a half pages of his personal educational biography (as several other of the contributors do), with an emphasis on how much he was taught (at white institutions) that seemed to be centered on the concerns of whites and a white “form of life”

Interestingly, Yong mentions that in his theology position at Bethel University he found himself “thrust into a set of discussions, even debates, carried out mostly by exercised white evangelicals” In his footnote, it appears that this debate was over Open Theism, and he mentions that there are those who consider themselves ‘guardians of the camp’ of evangelicals who regard his commitments to evangelicalism questionable. So Bradley has found an interesting representative to discuss evangelical race consciousness from an asian perspective.

I do wonder what Yong is trying to say about those debates however. Why is it really relevant that the participant were mostly white? What does saying they were “exercised” about the topic mean? Why not ‘passionate’ or ‘energized’?

After his biographical details, Yong turns to proposals for “moving forward” towards post-racist Evangelicalism. This looks at Evangelical culture, churches, and theological education. Yong writes

“Although American culture is not monolithic, there is a strong pressure on people of color to assimilate to the American way of life. Yet this overlooks the forces of globalization and transnationalization that impinge upon all Americans, especially [!] on Asian-Americans and their communities”

Post-1965 immigration means “more and more Asian-Americans, including citizens, have a global consciousness. American evangelical culture needs to awaken to the dynamic, global, and transnational character of evangelicalism”

Yong’s mention of pressure to conform is a theme several writers in the book mention, but, to me, these claims lack very much specificity. What specific aspects of their culture do Asians feel pressured to drop for americanism? What form does the pressure take? I also wonder about Yong’s claim that any pressure to assimilate “overlooks” how transnational things are. Rather, is it not the case that as transnationalism and globalization impinge upon all Americans, these pressures are increased as a result? So much globalization and rapid national change is seen and felt in its not-entirely-painless character, not overlooked; pressure to conform may very well be the “immune” response of the dominant culture, and intended.

This is not to say that these pressures are good. Yong is correct to point out the need for NA Evangelicals to ‘conscientize’ (his term) over those pressures and processes and resist them, since they seem to often involve negative value judgements about other cultures and practices. Though Yong will later agree that “Asian hierarchicalism, authoritarianism and patriarchalism” need to be challenged by “relevant biblical norms retrieved during and since the Enlightenment” (!)

Yong’s vagueness on this point is frustrating to me as a reader. He seems to recognize this problem when he says if he spoke “more intentionally about racism and racialization” he may find less acceptance at the largely white institution at which he teaches currently.

Yong is willing to accept challenges to non-progressive asian values, and also says (as do several other authors in this volume) that the shift in the demographics of world christianity to the global south *necessitates* diversifying theological education ethnically. But will a change in ethnic perspective really change things in core theology? Is that desirable if it does happen? Yong says:

“The problem, though, is that evangelicalism has understood itself largely as a theologically conservative, rather than progressive, movement. This means that the historical canon, norms, and traditions are privileged. In a global context, however, such Western and even Anglo-American perspectives may be neither as translatable nor as portable across cultures as we might think. They may not even be theologically viable”

It seems to me that Yong pulls his punches here. One, as I will note elsewhere, there is a lack of specificity to the kind of historic norms and traditions that are problematic. Also,  Yong isn’t willing to state this problem as a certainty. There “may” be problems with translatability or even viability (!). But why? what traditions need to be jettisoned and which ones need to be jettisoned because they are not viable in a global context? He says the very “foundations” of white evangelical theology may inhibit globally relevant evangelicalism.

To be sure, Yong offloads some of the lifting he doesn’t do in the essay to footnoted references. I’d like to explore his recommendations to  J Kamerons Carter’s Race: a Theological Account or his own essay “The Im/Migrant Spirit: De/Constructing a Pentecostal Theology of Migration”

Positively Yong proposed the most detailed (somewhat) plan to “Transform Evangelical Theological Education” he proposes forming asian-american seminaries to focus on developing asian-american leadership, and developing multicultural programs of study in existing white institutions. Third he proposed alliances of these institutions with similar ones in Asia. One question I have, considering the general focus on the other writers in this volume with the issue of the lack of development of a minority feed-line in evangelical scholarship is if these proposals won’t clash in some way. If asian-american seminaries are robust, will there be sufficient representation in the multicultural programs?

PS: my “(!)” comments scattered throughout are my way of saying “Wow, really?”

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