All over again

I’ve enjoyed Mark Jones work since I heard about his Antinomianism book. He’s now posting on Reformation21, and making the case for two things that re old bugaboo debates: the faith of Christ, the graciousness of the Adamic covenant, and confessional language.

I have some thoughts, mostly leftover questions from the last rounds of these debates that I feel never were competently addressed.

1. Adam, Moses, and Christ: I think a compelling case has been made that the confession portrays that mosaic covenant as part of the covenant of grace, one where legality is emphasized, but still part of grace. The presentation of an absolute contrast between Moses and Christ in some scriptures is a rhetorical highlighting of an actual relative contrast. Moses and Christ present the same way of salvation, even if Paul says the Jews of his day misunderstood it.

But Kline & Co have made a compelling comparison of Adam’s situation (placed in a garden, and loss of the garden and life though sin) and Israel’s under Moses (placed in a land, and loss of the land through sin). While deploying the term ‘typological’ to stay ‘confessional’ sometimes the similarity is made to seem substantial.

Can we acknowledge the analogy Kline has pointed to? If we do, does that change our understanding of the WCFs assertion that the Mosaic is the one covenant of grace? It has seemed to me the FV is an attempt to follow Kline in seeing the analogy, but also the WCF, and then saying the analogy means there is more strong analogy that disanalogy between the covenant of grace and “covenant of works/creation/initiation/immaturity”

2. Since nobody claims to like neonomianism, but neonomianism as I understand, arose withing the confessional church really quickly, and anti-neonomians were found by presbyteries to be unconfessional, is it possible the confessions contains irreconcilable conflicts that will not be resolvable by the confessions? Are there loopholes in the confession that a Shepherd could drive a flock of sheep through? Two suggested loopholes below.

a. Faith in Christ as Savior being a commanded duty under the first commandment. Thus, faith in Jesus is obedience to one of the commands of Moses. (though with the caveat that it is not the character of faith as a dutiful obedience that renders it useful in justification, but it’s extraspective character of dependence on Christ. Make the prior point though and “everyone looses their minds”

b. though some define ‘works covenants’ as any of those with specified consequences for obedience and disobedience, we find WCF 19 stating that working to keep the law (imperfectly) because the law promises rewards and threatens punishments sweetly complies with the gospel.

c. The well documented fact (at this point) that the confession was written to conform to the scruples of a few divines who favored the imputation of passive obedience only in justification.

3. The emphasis on Christ’s performance of the law as our substitute is true and good. But when we emphasize the equally true and good points of Christ as chief moral example (particularly in terms of humility, not glory-seeking) and Christ as exemplar of faith (depending on his Father to raise him from his obedience unto death, even when the law was cursing him for hanging on a tree, and made no promise of resurrection) is there a risk of undermining the latter?

3a. Lack of faith in God’s word was at the root of Adam’s disobedience and his curse of death. Faith in God’s word to raise Jesus from the dead was at the root of Jesus obedience unto death and his justifying resurrection. Faith in God’s word that Jesus life, death, and resurrection is for the sinner is justifying and at the root of our obedience. Is noting this is something all three have in common dangerous?

4. Is the crucial distinction of the Adamic covenant and the Covenant of grace not that Jesus is the surety of the covenant of grace, and Adam had none. Is that more crucial a bicovenantal distinction than the role of works? If that is affirmed can we still go wrong?

5. How should Adam’s status as ‘son of God’ color our understanding of his state? If he had a duty to obey God, is it a servile duty where any reward is counted as his due? Or is it a filial duty where any reward is subservient to the ongoing status of sonship? Why is the filial nature of Adam’s situation seemingly obscured by the works principle.

6. Claiming that Adam and believers stand by faith and obedience in the exact same way is disconcerting because Adam fell from his position, which threatens believers assurance. But since lack of faith was the root of Adam’s disobedience, is this actually a feature, not a bug, since we stand by faith in Christ as well? Also, since Adam had no surety but believers do, the analogy between them still stands mutatis mutandis (I love saying mutatis mutandis)

7. Why is it so hard to get people to consider analogies between Adam and believers and Christ and believers that are admitted to contain bicovenantal disanalogies. Why does anyone making any such analogy get accused on monocovenantalism?

8. If there were loopholes as I ask in 1) above, and we live post-Shepherd, is it necessary to clarify or revise the confession to rule out that which the reformed have virtually all taught, that there was grace in Adam’s situation? What would we loose with such a revision? How could it be accomplished?

9. Augustine expresses the place of a person dependent on grace thusly “give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt”. Was adam in such a place, or would he not need such a dependent expression of faith?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Revising my Peter and The Amils post

New version

“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, and also daughters of heavenly Jerusalem, which comes down to us from above not merely and only at the end of history, but rather is a present reality that men may even now enter into it But that future unity is possible, even Ezekiel showed, in the passage about the two sticks of israel and judah being rejoined.””

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Alan Hooker won’t post this, so here it is

this was a comment I left on Alan Hooker’s queer theology site. I think its respectful and to the point, so rather disappointed that Hooker is unwilling to engage such criticism

ah, actually I think your work on genesis 1 failed to show that metonymic reading was plausible. Why can’t the text tell us that humans teem in kinds? because the text doesn’t use those terms to refer to humans. So there is no textual basis for the claim.

Likewise I was bemused to see you approach saying that “man was made for the Sabbath” that the creation of the Sabbath after man points to some kind of dethroning of man from the pinacle of creation. (Since sabbath is described in the text as the day god rested from creating, it really isn’t proper to speak of it as a thing God ‘makes’ after man. He blesses and hallows it, but it’s not a new work of creation. Its rest from work. In any case, Jesus likes to tell us “the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath” so man is over sabbath in Jesus teaching anyway.

I don’t think the assertion that the Alpha is to man as Omega is to woman really works. Yes, alpha is an extremity to omega, with a bunch of stuff inbetween

But the narrative of genesis presents woman being drawn out of man with nothing in-between. Likewise, waters above are separated from waters beneath by a raquia. And that picture is consistently drawn through into the book of revelation. So, nowadays, yes, we can’t touch the sky, and the soviet cosmonauts who went up and mocked the idea of heaven being ‘up’ had a point. but the biblical picture actually IS that of a clear dividing line between heaven and earth.

Sure, a beach is a border zone, but a border zone between two huge normative zones that are binaries, and the bible constantly portrays God the creator as having determined that boundary and policing that boundary: this far and no further.

God’s creative work IS making of binaries.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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” 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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…

View original 6,876 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment