Speaking of the Federal Vision, Peter Leithart sums up what the bruhaha is all about here. He gets to the heart of the issue, calling it a Presbyterian identity crisis.
Archive for February, 2007
I lurk around a number of blogs, like you probably do. I have been watching the goings on concerning the Federal Vision (FV) controversy for some time, especially at Blog and Mablog, Green Baggins, Heidelblog, and Mark Horne. It seems that there are certainly varying degrees of civility (or lack of it) in this tussle that has headlined in the Reformed world for several years now.
I think this whole debate is something worth following and understanding. It is substantive and important. I think that the FV men have some very significant things to say that correct some areas of inadequacy in contemporary Reformed theology. They are speaking to theological, ecclesiological, and pastoral issues that go beyond the typical Reformed confessional boundaries but that are vital nonetheless. After all, the confessions do not exhaust everything we should be saying as we proclaim the whole counsel of God.
Now, do I agree with everything being said by every FV man? No, no more than I agree with everything being said by, say, the OPC men or the PCA men or the URC men, or any other group of men in the Reformed world. Do a man’s teachings line up with the Word of God? That takes hard work, careful listening, and a generous spirit to answer. You need to know the Scriptures, understand the creeds and confessions, and be acquainted with history. That’s no easy task. But it must be done. And it can be done even while you love the truth and reject heresy.
I recently went to a local PCA pastor to invite him to join us in the wordlview conference we recently hosted. The theme was covenant succession — something I (naively) assumed was Presbyterian bread and butter that would be impossible to decline. Yet here is this pastor apologizing because we had two CREC pastors speaking, who had FV radioactivity clinging to them because of their contact with FV isotopes such as Doug Wilson, and though this pastor had never read FV men or listened to FV men, the men this pastor respect (i.e., Ligon Duncan, Rick Phillips, et. al.) fear the radioactivity of the FV men’s heterodoxy and have filled the air with suspicion and charges of heterodoxy. So this PCA pastor looks me in the eye and says, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I was floored really. He refused to join with fellow Reformed believers because of something he had heard about what we might be associated with that could be confusing to his people that he should probably avoid. I appreciate this brother’s caution and care for his flock. But really, that’s just not good enough.
No wonder the Reformed church is marginalized in our culture. In this kind of air of suspicion that is really the product of a caricature of 1 Timothy 4:16 and Jude 3 (to mix my metaphors), it is hard to have any kind of meaningful theological discussion, much less any unity and cultural impact for the gospel.
My wife (O precious saint!) and I have learned over the years that when we have a disagreement, two issues very quickly emerge: the issue we are disagreeing over, and the way we are disagreeing. In this FV controversy there are two issues: the FV issues and the way the Reformed church is disagreeing over it.
The church needs to kiss and make up, like my wife and I always do. The children are watching.
In this whole global warming – I mean climate change – debate there are a determined few who would like to set energy policy for our grandchildren. You know, tell them how much oil they can use, carbon they can pump into the atmosphere etc. Here is something that caught my eye: National Review Online… The author, Climatologist Patrick J. Michaels, asks us to “Imagine, as a thought experiment, if the Senate of 1925 were to dictate our energy policy for today.”
Let’s see, there were price wars over gasoline in 1925. In some places it was as low as 18 cents a gallon ($1.30 in 1994 dollars). In Time Magazine in October of 1925 the merits of steam turbine vs. diesel engines were being discussed. Steam turbine propulsion was less than 30 years old at the time. The Time article ends with this paragraph:
Until the introduction of the oil-combustion motors, no power unit approached the steam turbine for efficiency, economy, and simplicity of operation. Lately the trend has been toward Diesel type motors for all but the largest of ships. The Denny experimental ship, plying as a ferry on the River Clyde, will be closely observed to see if steam has caught up with its rival.
We are a prideful people aren’t we? Could the smartest people in 1925 extend their vision out 25 years to peer at ships using steam turbine engines driven by nuclear power? We look at ourselves and see the pinnacle of humanity. We look into the future and we see ourselves – only in shinny, biodegradable clothing and possibly bigger brains.
It has been awhile since I read the (short) novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, but the bombardiers’ predicament reminds me of the situation Intelligent Design theorist, Dr. Stephen Meyer, found himself in back in 2004.
In Catch-22 Heller nails the death of modernism and the futility of reason in the face of bureaucratic chaos. The main character, Yossarian, comes to realize that the authorities over him do not posses anything close to the truth.The regulation they use to keep him flying dangerous bombing missions (Catch-22) does not even exist, though everyone believes it does. It is a post-modern novel if ever there was one.
Back in August of 2004 an article authored by Dr. Meyer appeared in the online edition of Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. This article had been peer reviewed and thought worthy of publication by the editors of that somewhat eclectic periodical. It was only read by a handful of folks though and very few knew of its existence.
After it was converted to bits and bytes though… Katie bar the door. The scientific community was aghast when it hit the Internet. In their eyes the collective IQ of the nation was in danger of steep decline through a challenge to the status quo. This could not be happening, could it? I.D. papers being peer reviewed AND published? What next? Interspecies reproduction?
Here is the catch-22… The ‘scientific’ community requires peer review and publication of theories in order for one to be respected in the community. To get respect you have to be “published” in a professional journal. The ‘scientific’ community controls the professional journals and refuses (by and large) to publish papers from the I.D. camp. This is from a recent article at Discovery.org, “The Darwinist case for opposing public consideration of Intelligent Design amounts to saying that “You have to publish in the professional journals before taking the theory to the public, and we have a rule that doesn’t allow you to publish in the professional literature.” “Life is good if you are the practitioner of the “accepted” flat earth science of your day. Not so good if you happen to be the guy pointing out the curve of the horizon.
Go read the article at Discovery.org…
I like Johnny Cash… bunches. Does anyone know if he would have approved of his song being tied to war footage?
This brings up one of my pet peeves too… Why are evangelicals in America so prone to mixing the worship of God Almighty with patriotic themes of American domination or flag waving? I wish it were different.
Well… I think we can take away a few things away from this recording…
1. Angels love 1970’s praise choruses.
2. Angels really do have harps
3. They also like a little funk, since there are bass guitars in heaven.
4. Soloists in heaven are just as out of place as they are in church worship services.
Materialists and humanists love math. (Personal note here. My wife is a wonderful math teacher at The Best Christian School in Pensacola, Florida. So don’t take this where I don’t.) They do not love it as an expression Trinitarian order in the universe of course. They are enamored with the subject because they believe it gives them an objective basis for science. Science is knowledge and knowledge rocks the world in their “worldview.”
Now, somewhere in the 19th century (maybe earlier) the word science took on mystical powers. The word science now works ex opere operato, giving mathematic viability to dubious conclusions.
Note how Engels, of Communist Manifesto fame, describes his social theory:
“The Manifesto has had a history of its own. Greeted with enthusiasm, at the time of its appearance, by the not at all numerous vanguard of scientific socialism (as is proved by the translations mentioned in the first place…)” 1890 Forward to the German edition of the Communist Manifesto – Engels (e.d the rest of the sentence is overly long and difficult – much like the manifesto itself.)
Scientific Socialism? Huh?
The Albert & Vera Weisbord Archives contain what amounts to a definition of scientific socialism, sort of:
“In the works of Karl Marx and of Frederick Engels the interests of the working class found their best expression. In their life activities they symbolize the best of German philosophy, French politics, and British economics, synthesizing all three elements to bring forth ‘Scientific Socialism.'”
You see socialism by itself has no power in the material world. But a science of socialism can recreate life as we know it. We can reengineer it. Interesting that the term social engineering was coined (at least as far as I can tell) in the same century that brought us Marx and Engels. Social engineering has a math ring to it and sounds much more “scientific” than say, “screwing up the God pleasing order of things.”
What does the Bible say about knowledge? Plenty it turns out. Knowledge is not an end in and of itself. Just knowing stuff does not make you wise any more than adding the word ‘scientific’ to your pet theory makes it divisible by pi. The end of knowledge ought to be the glory of God. Knowledge for its own sake or to prove man’s inviolability is foolishness.
One of the more interesting things I have come across in my Bible reading of late has to do with a conversation Jesus had with the lawyers of His day. In Luke 11 Jesus ends with some strong words to the scribes:
Luke 11:45One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” ESV
Hoarding and twisting knowledge prevents people from entering into the sanctuary of their God. That is what Engel’s science (and the accompanying liberalism of 19th century Christianity) does; it keeps people away from the rest of God. It has them doing “new math” in their head, figuring ways count up their own righteousness.
Real knowledge does not puff up. Real knowledge humbles and points the possessor of that knowledge to the Creator of all things. Including pi.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
EXTRA EXTRA As I was finishing this up I read Frank Turk’s blog. He is answering some blog-o-questions about Karl Barth, a theologian who came on the scene after the theology of liberalism and the philosophy of Marx worked itself out into two world wars. Check it out and send him your love for Valentine’s Day.
I just just read this article in World Magazine. The Utah house has passed the nation’s first statewide school voucher program. Utah’s Senate is expected to pass it, the Governor has said he will sign it and “state PTA president Carmen Snow informed reporters, “I just want to cry.'”
If the PTA were still selling cupcakes and organizing playground clean ups I would feel bad for Ms. Snow. But she is crying for all the wrong reasons. In November of 2000 the Utah PTA passed a resolution that said int part “It is the opinion of the Utah PTA that vouchers and similar systems would undermine public education and weaken a very effective system providing quality education for all Utah children.” The PTA exists to support the public (read government) education system, becoming just another lobby for the status quo in Utah children’s education.
1. Your tax dollars are already going to support the religious indoctrination of children in your state. The religion is humanism and its alters still accept sacrificial victims.
2. This would save money while not short-changing the government schools. The way Utah’s bill works is that students receive a voucher for $500.00 – $3000.00. This money attaches to the student and where ever he or she decided to go the money follows. If the local, state and federal governments were spending $10,000 per student that would mean at least a $7,000 net gain, per student, for the school. At least initially.
3. It would encourage charity, helping to ensure the poor students receive as excellent an education as the wealthy. Under the government education system the poorer students perform far below the wealthier students. When it really becomes a community school the community will care.
4. It opens up a veritable smorgasbord of educational choices to the public. Does your child display an exceptional aptitude for math? Enroll her in the Classical School of Mathematics. Looking for a liberal arts education? Enroll in the Classical School for the Exceptionally Well Read.
5. Lastly, It will may help the PTA get back to baking cupcakes instead of lobbying for a state funded Pre-K program. Mmmmm… cupcakes. I will soon post why Christians should be wary of voucher programs…
Update: The Governor signed it, using real quiet pen…
“Pale death knocks with impartial foot at poor men’s hovels and king’s palaces.” –Horace
Death is one of two great equalizers…
There is a website (www.deathclock.com) that purports to be able to predict the time of your death. The site takes into account when you were born, your attitude toward life and your body mass index. There is nothing in there about physics. Nothing about whether a bus and your body can occupy the same space at the same time. Here was the date predicted for my departure from this earth and the number of seconds I had left as of a few of days ago.
Sunday, October 31, 2049
Seconds left to live…
The good news is I get to die on Reformation Sunday! The bad news is this is bunch of hooey. I hope you know that even if the site had taken into account the physics of my life its prediction would be meaningless.
There is one who knows the hour of my death, and it could be tomorrow or Reformation Sunday, 2049 . The date and time are not important. The surety of the event is.
Hebrews 9:27 -28 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
I love that word “appointed.” My death will not be a tragic correspondence of chance and time. My Father is in control of even that event in my life and the same God who set a time for His Son’s death set mine as well.
Acts 2:22-24 22“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know– 23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Check out the deathclock then go to Saint Anne’s Public House. There you will find an excellent audio magazine hosted by Joost Nixon. Their latest pour is titled “Death.”
Death is not the greatest equalizer though… There is one greater still.
Gal 3:28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Trust in Christ alone! For though death comes to all eternal life is given only to those who believe.
1. Who are we? We are the people of God in Christ, indwelt by the Spirit. We are the renewed Israel, the people of the new covenant. We are those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead. And this defines us over against those who worship other gods, and other lords.
2. Where are we? We are in God’s good creation — citizens now not of a particular country so much as of the world that God is going to make, where we shall share the rule of the Lord Jesus. We are living, as it were, in a house that is being rebuilt around us, though there is yet to come a final moment of on a scale hitherto unimaginable. We are part of the Jewish movement designed by God to spread to the ends of the earth. Our location is defined not by Caesar’s empire but by God’s creation and covenant.
3. What’s wrong? Though Jesus’ resurrection has ushered in the new creation, we live between that event and the redemption still awaited by ourselves and the rest of the world; and, since most of the world still does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord, we are persecuted. We ourselves, too, are not yet perfect, but live in the tension between what we are already, in Christ and by the Spirit, and what we shall be when Jesus appears again and when his work in us is complete. Caesar still rules the world, despite Jesus’ enthronement as its rightful Lord.
4. What’s the solution? The work of the Spirit, in the present and the future, will put into practice, for us and for the whole cosmos, what has been accomplished in Christ. God will put the world to rights, achieving at last what Caesar claimed to have done.
5. What time is it? We live in the overlap of the ages: the age to come has already broken in in Jesus, but the present age still continues… [N]obody knows when, Jesus will reappear, when God finally remakes the cosmos. The Roman world is tottering; only God’s kingdom will last.
from “Paul and Caesar: A New Reading of Romans” by N.T. Wright