Response to Mika Edmondson

Mika Edmondson writes a well written and moving post on Black Lives Matter for TGC. Below is a response I sent to the comments.

Thank you for this. As a Presbyterian, I take to heart your exhortations from the Catechism, and agree with them. And arguing that way is sadly something that there is less of in Presbyterianism than there ought to be.

On the other hand, I can’t escape what my own ‘careful study’ brings me to. And people may arrive at different conclusions after careful study, or the results may still be disputable. I recall an argument in my OPC Sunday School over whether motorcycle driving violated the 6th commandment. Clearly they are riskier than cars. The owners of motorcycles in our congregation seemed disturbed that this was even a debate. Clearly matters of criminal and civil justice are more weighty though.

My ‘knee jerk” reaction, if I can even call it that, to my awareness of the news of Trayvon Martin’s killing were actually towards solidarity, and that this perhaps would be good evidence that a seemingly well intentioned law like Stand Your Ground was actually causing mayhem. To imagine a man killed for carrying skittles and tea, as it was framed heavily with activists for Martin displaying skittles and tea far and wide.

I stayed aware of the case, and followed discussions from both advocates for Martin and detractors. I wanted ‘solidarity’ with the oppressed to give me the right answer, as was implied by the advocates of solidarity. But I could not shake the turn, what was eventually found to be the case at the trial: that Zimmerman’s use of force was justified. Martin’s death remains tragic, and mournable, and mourned though. Is that wildly inconsistent? Have I not studied enough? Have I put aside my ‘passions’ sufficiently? Perhaps I have, particularly a passion for solidarity.

I have differing reactions to different cases: Rice and Garner are very sad and unjust cases. I want police to be held accountable. Brown? perhaps not.

I’m moved by your remarks about the risks you face going to Walmart at night. But I wonder how one might go about evaluating and deciding (what careful study) would be required to determine if your evaluation of your risk is accurate. My wife often perceives risks at a higher threshold that i do. Sometimes she’s right. sometimes she’s amazingly off-kilter. Her situation may have something to do with it: she knew a kid growing up who drowned. Her evaluation of hazards relating to water is shaped by her experiences, but even she would admit it doesn’t give her special insight into the actual level of risk she faces.

This is not to undermine or dismiss your point. I would guess your evaluation of risk is accurate. But careful study may lead to different conclusions. What then?

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POEM: Fungal Females

The mushrooms of Plath
Push out from the lath
Emerge from domestic walls
And trouble the mighty in halls
Of power

The fungi of Dickinson
Amuse and tickle some.
But the fairly odd plant
She describes in her chant
As a creature unloved and unwanted
By Nature — and nature’s God —
In whose presence she’s eerily haunted.

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POEM: Tomorrow’s Work Undone

I. Tomorrow’s Work Undone

Over Appalachian hills of devonian coal

     Spread glowing beams of dusklight,

A fading glow on the half-harvested valley,

     Westward light lingers.

Her fingers ache; her hands leave work


She returns home for the night.


Anna drifts in dreams to the sheep:

     rams, ewes, lambs long grown

past shearing days and rooing times;

     Dreams to a young son’s spring sadness

The town boys taking, cutting short

     his lamb’s life, rocks mocking

Stones of wanton wreckage.

     It was slain down by the old foundation

Behind the new school.


Awoken, alone, Anna rises in darkness,

     halts past her sleeping child’s room

And passes to the porch and outside under

     A black sky aglow with stars

Spread as bright seed in firm earth.


How long,

     How long this night?

Fast fallen now,

     or are these deeper middle hours,

     or will an unseen horizon

Promise dawn?


II. On a Day after Tomorrow.


We walk together through

Fruits strewn on the orchard floor,

Autumn flesh split open

     Revealing the seed reserved

     For days yet to come

But I see the tree with one

     Left aloft and pick it for Anna

     since it is for the present time.


Stand again

     Axe-felled trees

Lift up again,

     age-worn mountains laid low,

Sprout again,

     fruitful grains of frost-burned wheat

Rise again,

     you who lie in the dust of the death.

Rise, for your maker is risen again.

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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?

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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.””

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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.

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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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