Friday, September 17, 2010

Missing Blogger Comments and URI too Big

James Swan has helpfully explained where the missing blog comments have gone (link to his explanation). The bad news is - there is no way to turn off the feature that is causing these comments to disappear, at this time. The good news is that out of about 12,000 published comments, there appear to be only about 24 that have been "disappeared" by blogger's anti-spam software (on this blog at least) so far.

If your comment disappears, please let me know, and I'll try to rescue it from the spam folder. If you simply try reposting it, the spam filter will probably think that it was right, and you're just spamming ("Hey, that's the 15th identical comment: DELETE!").

There's another "known issue" that has been affecting Blogger blogs, including this one. Sometimes, when you try to publish your comment, you may get a "URI too big" warning. That does not mean your comment didn't publish. It just means that the URI that blogger has generated to get you back to the blog is too long for either your browser or some other piece of the Internet architecture. Don't worry about it. The comment probably did publish. Go back to the page you were on and check (use the browser "back" to get there).

-TurretinFan

A Series of Unfortunate Arguments for R2K

Darryl G. Hart is continuing to attempt to defend R2K in the comment box at GreenBaggins. His arguments, however, are getting less and less Biblical - less and less Confessional - and less and less rational. Let me provide some examples:

DGH wrote (source):
Here’s the thing, how many citizens of the U.S. make killing a matter of conscience? ... unless a religion exists that practices human sacrifice, most people are fairly content with the restrictions of the second table.
There are several important rejoinders:
1) No, people are not "fairly content" with the restrictions of the second table. Fornication is rampant in the U.S. Some states are even willing not only to countenance homosexual fornication, but to give legal privileges to those who engage in it, on account of their engaging in it! And, of course, people being content with following the second table is no more significant than people being content to follow the first table.

2) The fact that there are few American Hindus that practice Sati, or few followers of Manson, or few Muslims jihadists, or few followers of the Aztec or religion, or few who follow after Molech is not relevant to the question of whether it is proper for the civil magistrate to prevent them from following the dictates of their very warped and seared consciences and killing people.

DGH wrote (source):
That doesn’t mean that looking to Scripture for cultural guidance is wrong. But it can look downright foolish if the search for guidance on ethics, aesthetics and politics only goes to the Bible and leaves aside Aristotle.
The only infallible rule for faith and life is the Scriptures. That doesn't mean we can't hope to glean insights from pagan philosophers like Aristotle, but where Aristotle and the Bible differ, we favor the Bible.

DGH wrote (source):
if the magistrate does not protect the freedoms of all men you may end up with St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. So it may be more prudent to protect both Roman Catholics and Protestants rather than letting each side slaughter the other depending on who’s in power.
a) This is really a non-argument. It's just two speculative claims placed back to back.

b) This non-argument presents a false dichotomy: there is a lot of middle ground between "slaughter each other" and R2k. The classical Reformed position that DGH rejects lies in that middle ground.

c) It's absurd to imagine that governmental rules of one regime can control those of another. In other words, the Hugenots could not have prevented their own massacre simply through imposing rules on the French nation. The massacre itself was in violation of the existing laws.

DGH wrote (same source):
I don’t think it’s possible for the magistrate to uphold the first table and protect the freedoms of Roman Catholics, Mormons, Reformed Protestants, and Muslims. If you know a way to do that, I’m all eyes.
So what? Some "freedoms" (like the freedom to blaspheme the Lord or the freedom to work on the Lord's day) might not be protected. That's the nature of having laws. Laws restrict liberty.

The question is: which restrictions on freedom/liberty are just and right? The way to answer that question authoritatively is by turning to the Scriptures. You can turn to Aristotle (or Sun Tzu or Machiavelli, whoever you want) but you have to recognize that those other sources are fallible and sinful sources. They may have good things to say, but what they say needs to be taken with a grain of salt. When they disagree with Scripture, they are wrong.

-TurretinFan

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The American Revisions to Chapter 23 of the Westminster Confession of Faith

Daryl G. Hart has alleged that:
But at least we have a disagreement by two church synods on what the Bible requires of magistrates. One says the magistrate should abolish false religion. The other says the magistrate should protect the freedoms of all people, including those who hold false religions.
I don't agree with Hart. I think he's misreading the American Revisions.

Let's take a look at the American Revisions in contrast to the original Westminster Confession of Faith:

Original:
Chapter XXIII
Of the Civil Magistrate

III. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.


American Revisions:
Chapter 23
Of the Civil Magistrate

3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.
Let's break down the American Revisions by sentence:

(1) Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith.


The bold item is an addition. The original confession does not list interfering in matters of faith as a duty of the civil magistrate. Of course, "interfering" is pejorative ... but let's not digress.

(2) Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger.


This sentence speaks particularly to the duty of the civil magistrate to protect Christian churches without giving denominational preference. Nothing in the original confession required the civil magistrate to give a denominational preference, and otherwise the idea of protecting the church is something that is consistent with the original confession.

(3) And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief.


This sentence speaks to the fact that the civil magistrate should not interfere with the free practice of religion among Christians. Again, there's nothing here that explicitly contradicts the original Confession, nor vice versa.

(4) It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

This sentence, considered alone, does not specify that the protections provided are to be provided only to Christians. The reference to "religion" is probably best understood to refer to the Christian religion, and "religious and ecclesiastical assemblies" to Christian ones. Nevertheless, even if we view it broadly, it still does not contradict the original Westminster Confession for this key reason that men like Hart seem to be overlooking.

The sentence states: "no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever ... ." The revised confession does not say that the civil magistrate may not criminally punish anyone. The revised confession is limited to the civil magistrate preventing individuals from being little Gideons and taking the law into their own hands. The final phrase about assemblies not being molested should be understood as an extension of the phrase about people going after one another - likewise the civil magistrate shouldn't (says the revised confession) let little Gideons go break up someone else's worship services.

Now, I am aware that some (perhaps many) of the folks behind the revisions were opposed to the original WCF view. However, it appears that they did the politically expedient thing and set forth a new chapter that both supporters and opposers of the original WCF could affirm. That's not surprising, since a lot of presbyterian ministers who were still alive during the time of the revision had subscribed in good faith to the original standards.

I realize that this absence of direct contradiction is not what the R2K crowd will want to hear, but shouldn't they be happy? While they may be out of line with the American Revisions, they are less out of line than they would have been under the original Westminster Confession of Faith.

I'll grant one further point. There's an indirect contradiction between the very active role that the civil magistrate should play with respect to the Christian religion in the original WCF and the relatively "hands off" approach that the civil magistrate should have with respect to the Christian religion in the revised standards. However, the words chosen (words like "interfere") prevent there from being an direct contradiction.

-TurretinFan

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quick Reply to "Mary is Jesus' Mother, So He'll Listen to her"

There's a rather popular Roman Catholic argument that goes something like this: "Mary is Jesus' mother. Jesus never sinned. The Fifth (fourth for RCs) Commandment is 'Honor thy father and thy mother.' Therefore, if Mary asks Jesus to do something for her, He'll do it out of obedience to his mother."

But consider this: the Church is the bride of Christ. Those of us who are believers, we're part of that church. Now, if we're going to apply metaphorical language, who is in a better position to get a "yes" from a man: his mother or his wife? Maybe I'm overly romantic, but I think that generally the flesh of one's flesh gets top priority.

But let's not rely on that metaphor. Jesus so loved us that he laid down his life for us. Is he really going to deny us any good thing?

And God as for God the Father:

Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

So, no one should think that it is either good or necessary to appeal to someone other than God in prayer. Pray to God, not to Mary, saints, or angels. If you are His child, he'll hear you.

Luke 11:11-13
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

- TurretinFan

Thanks to My Facebook Fans

My friend Matthew Lankford who runs the unofficial fan page for me on facebook has informed me that there are 500 fans (i.e. over 500 people "liked" it). I'm amazed by and appreciative of the interest. Please pray that God will use that page (which, as I understand, aggregates my posts from my various blogs and so forth) to the edification of the brethren and the conversion of many of our lost neighbors across the world. (link to page)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Smoking Books?

Some Brisbane atheist has made himself a minor celebrity by smoking homemade cigarettes using pages from the Bible and the Koran as the rolling papers (link to article).

It seems like a dumb and unhealthy move. It is also a violation of the 3rd commandment to show a lack of reverence for God's word. Obviously, I'm opposed to his actions.

I wonder whether Christians agree with me? Is it no big deal, or is this something that we should be upset about? Also, for those upset that Christians were going to burn Korans, does this atheist's actions also fall within your criticism (he's not trying to evangelize the Muslims, after all - so are his actions indifferent)?

- TurretinFan

Monday, September 13, 2010

Does the Bible Bind the Civil Magistrate?

Kurt A. Scharping posed a couple of propositions to one member of the radical two kingdoms group (I'm hesitant to name him, lest I embarass him). The propositions were these:

1. The Scripture says things that bind the civil magistrate.

2. The Church can proclaim those things that bind the civil magistrate.

He then asked one of the proponents of a strain of R2K to indicate whether he affirms or denies these propositions. The proponent appears to have answered in the negative, which (if it were really the case) would leave that proponent outside the confessional boundaries.

Even the American Revisions to the Westminster Confession of Faith teach that the Scripture says things that bind the civil magistrate, and the inclusion of these in the public document of the standards shows that the standards believe it is proper for churches to proclaim those things that bind the civil magistrate.

My point in raising this issue is not to tar everyone who calls themselves "two kingdoms" with a broad brush. My point is that even those who call themselves "two kingdoms" eventually have to moderate their tendency to separate church and state. The Bible may not say what form of government is the best, but it does provide teachings that bind the civil magistrate.

We would hope that even the most radical R2K proponent would think that the wall of separation between church and state is something that Scripture itself mandates. As such, it does not seem that any proponent of R2k, even the most radical, could deny the two propositions that Kurt has identified.

-TurretinFan

ISI September 2, 2010, Recording

A handful of folks were wondering what happened to the recording of my September 2, 2010, discussion on Iron Sharpens Iron. Apparently there were some recording difficulties. Despite those difficulties, most of the program was rescued from a backup recording, and is now available (link to mp3). In the discussion, I talked about Dr. White's recent debate with Christopher Ferrara regarding Mary's alleged Immaculate conception and answered one call that dealt with Harold Camping and specifically the objection about the number of people in Moses' family (short answer: God caused the Israelites to multiply greatly).

-TurretinFan

Radical Two Kingdoms - Both Anti-Biblical and Worthless

Jason Stellman wrote an article (link) in which he suggested that preachers preaching against the sins of the nation is somehow improper. I can't imagine an article that would be more universally dismissed by not only all the Reformers but also by all the Presbyterians and Puritans from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Even the Reformed Baptists from that period would likely share the same assessment of this article, despite their stronger view of separation of church and state.

Preaching against sin is not some sort of optional aspect of the gospel ministry. Nor is it proper to draw the dichotomy that Stellman draws, when he writes:
Just admit it: the fact that you’re angry with me right now and want to engage me in political debate in the combox only proves how much you benefit from a two-kingdoms ministry each Sunday, one that refuses to oppress and wound your consciences and insists rather on preaching sermons to you about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection on the third day. I mean, if things get a bit out of hand on this blog after a post such as this, imagine how violent things would become after church if our ministers pulled stunts like this from the pulpit?
Yeah, yeah - we know. People don't like being told that they are in sin, or that their nation is dishonoring God by having unjust laws or unjust policies. They might even leave the church, if the pastor preaches against the horrors of abortion or against injustices in war.

But that's one of the duties of the gospel minister. Preaching sermons about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection on the third day are great, and there is nothing wrong with them, but ... ministers must preach the whole counsel and that includes convicting sinners of their sins. Mr. Stellman may not like doing it, it may not fit nicely in his radical version of two kingdoms theology ("radical" as opposed to the classical version of Calvin, Knox, Turretin, and John the Baptist, who had no problem speaking out against the sins of their contemporary political regime). Nevertheless, if Mr. Stellman is to be faithful to God's word, he must address sins from the pulpit.

But the Radical Two-Kingdoms (R2K) notions that Stellman is promoting are not just anti-Biblical, in that they suggest that ministers may not properly preach against the sins of the nation, they are worthless as can be seen from this:
Since my goal is not to engage specifically the Baylies' main point, I will say this: abortion is a horrific evil, and though I have no idea what should be done about it from a political standpoint, I see it as a sin for which those who participate in it will be held accountable if they do not repent. (In fact, I know of no 2K proponent who would take any other position than this, which makes it kind of weird that I feel the need to say it.)
Even if someone were to say that we should just throw away the Old Testament and ignore the sentence of God against those who take human lives unjustly (Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.), still one would think that R2K would be able to use the light of nature to get some idea of how to handle such matters. If, however, upon throwing away Scripture, the R2K proponent has "no idea what should be done" by the civil magistrate about such a heinous sin as infanticide, what earthy good is R2K?

Perhaps Stellman will not listen to me (and why should he - I'm just some pseudonymous guy), but perhaps he'll consider listening to Paul's inspired counsel to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-2
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

-TurretinFan