Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sale on Turretin's Institutes

Reformation Heritage Books has a sale on Turretin's Institutes (link). I'm not sure how long the sale lasts, but $70 for the set (new) is one of the better deals I've seen.

If you don't already own a copy, this might be a good chance to pick one up.

"The God of Calvinism" - Chapter 1

Louis Ruggiero's book, "The God of Calvinism," begins with a chapter on the Trinity. The stated purpose is "to establish common ground between Calvinists and non-Calvinists as a solid foundation and common frame of reference for further reasoned discussion." (p. 3) Much of the chapter is not particularly controversial.

Perhaps the only remarkable point to comment on is Mr. Ruggiero's claim that the following is a one of "two critical points" that it is "important to understand":
According to John 1:18, John 6:46 and Colossians 1:15 it was the LORD, the pre-incarnate Word of God, who is Christ, who spoke and interacted with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. And it has always been this same person of God who has communicated with and reached out to humanity.
First of all, none of the passages in question mention the garden of Eden, and none of them suggest that it is always and only the person of Christ who have reached out to and communicated to God's people.

Here are the verses.

John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 6:46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Perhaps we could go back and forth about what these verses imply if we had only these verses. However, if we compare Scripture with Scripture we see that they must not imply that every communication from God to man has been specifically through the person of Christ.


Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

And in case you imagine that this was not the Father, recall that Peter tells us:

2 Peter 1:17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Moreover, there is more reason to think that the Father was communicating to Adam in the garden. Recall that when Adam sinned God pronounced a curse on the serpent, on the woman, and on Adam, but with some hope for us in there.

Genesis 3:14-15
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Notice that "her seed" is expressed referred to in the third person. This suggests that it is not the same person as the speaker. From this, as from the other examples, we may infer that it was God the Father (or perhaps God the Holy Spirit) who spoke to Adam in the garden.

Even if I'm mistaken, it's unclear why Mr. Ruggiero thinks that this inference is "critical," but perhaps we'll discover the reason for its alleged criticality as we proceed through the book.


Open Letter to Frank Turk

Dear Centuri0n,

What's the deal with all the open letters? (such as this one)(and this one)(and this one)(and this one)(and this one)(and this one)(and this one) Have you forgotten how to write regular letters?

Yours truly,


Repentance and Family Radio

An alert reader noticed that in yesterday's post asking for prayer for the regular listeners to Family Radio's Harold Camping (or is it the other way 'round?), I had neglected to specify that his listeners need to repent.

Those who have broken fellowship with the church do need to repent. Forsaking the fellowship of the brethren and departing from the rule of the elders (without a proper justification, of course) is essentially the sin of schism. It's a serious sin and repentance is needed.

I hope no one took my post as suggesting that those who departed from us should be welcomed back as though nothing had happened. No, they need to repent of their sin. Of course, how this is handled will be the domain of the various churches to which they are restored.

Nevertheless, we hope that churches will be prepared to deal with these folks who have been, for lack of a better word, religiously abused by Mr. Camping. They have been assured by him that the second coming is May 21, 2011. If the Lord tarries, they will hopefully see this and realize that they have been led astray.

My reader thinks that churches will be so eager to have the people back that they will forget to insist on repentance. I hope my reader is mistaken, but apparently something like that happened after September, 1994, when Mr. Camping's prior prediction failed.

In any event, this post is designed both to encourage any Family Radio listeners who are reading to be prepared to repent, as well as to encourage churches to exhort these folks in their communities (many of whom we know, since they were formerly in our churches) to repent. Seize the day, May 22, 2011, to reach out to these people and bring them back to the fold.


Some Thoughts on Divorce

Ronald W. Di Giacomo has some very well-reasoned thoughts on the topic of divorce, and particularly the ground of desertion (link to post). It's an unpleasant topic in general, but Di Giacomo identifies some of the important issues and answers them in a persuasive manner.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Prayer for Family Radio Folks

As you may know, in three months (May 22, 2011) if the Lord tarries, there will be a lot of folks associated with Harold Camping and Family Radio that will be disappointed to discover that Camping's prognostications haven't panned out.

Currently, the folks who have believed his teachings have left the churches. Please pray that God would restore these people to the churches, help them to realize that the grammatical-historical hermeneutic is superior to any eschatologically driven hermeneutic, and bring them into greater obedience with the command not to forsake the assembly of the brethren.

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.


Just Give us the Identity of TurretinFan!

I am ... T U R R E T I N F A N

Thanks, my fellow slaves!

(cue single tear running down my cheek)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Can't Do it Perfectly, So I Won't Even Try!

One of the obstacles to becoming free from Rome's power is a refusal to think critically about Rome's claims. This refusal to think critically can be dressed up in pious clothes. What it amounts to is the adoption of a sola ecclesia position in which the person hands over their judgment to their church, or at least does so whenever it matters. The following provides an example of this anti-intellectualism in pious garb.

"Deacon Bryan," in the comment box at Called to Communion, quoted this from a commenter named "Brent" (source):
The beauty of the Church is that Truth is not subject to my weak intellect, sinfulness and pride. So, even when my “gut” or “head” or “heart” tells me birth control is “a-ok”, I’m wrong. Ah, I’m free! (Jn 8:32). Free from my weak intellect, sinfulness, and pride to reject my “gut, head, or heart” from telling me that Jesus is 50% God, baptism is a symbol, or Mary sinned.
The problem, of course, is that implicit faith in the Roman church also "frees" one to reject Scripture from telling one that Christ is the only head of the church and that Mary was a sinner in need of a savior.

Deacon Bryan then added:
Excellent! In matters of doctrine, God truly has set us free from our darkened intellect by using the Bible and and His Church to preach the truth to the poor. It strikes me as interesting that it is those involved in this discussion who believe our intellect has been destroyed, as I understand the reformers to have taught, who are the ones who think that the human mind is capable of formulating true doctrine on its own and without the need of God's continued work in the Church. Of course, many protestants might label that a straw man, however until it is proven that there is a principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura that is simply going to be the way I will continue to see it.
Except, of course, whenever one sees a difference between what the Bible says and what Rome says, the person with implicit faith in Rome accepts Rome and rejects the Bible. So, it's not really "the Bible and [Rome]" but rather "Rome and the Bible, as long is it doesn't contradict Rome."

Moreover, Calvin and the Reformers didn't teach that the intellect of regenerate man is "destroyed." Calvin actually wrote: "To charge the intellect with perpetual blindness, so as to leave it no intelligence of any description whatever, is repugnant not only to the Word of God, but to common experience." Institutes, Book 2, Chapter 2, Section 12. So yes, it is a straw man.

Furthermore, the Reformed position is not so much that "the human mind is capable of formulating true doctrine on its own and without the need of God's continued work in the Church," but rather that God can communicate true doctrine to his people using the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, as well as a fallible church.


It may sound pious to say that one recognizes the weakness of one's own intellect. Moreover, there is truth in the fact that one's intellect is weak. The solution, however, is not implicit trust in men. If a man said that because his arms are weak, he plans not to use them, we'd either laugh at him, or criticize him as a sluggard.

When a Christian says that his intellect is weak, and therefore he will simply hand over his reasoning power to the elders of his church (whether he is an apostate church or a sound church), we ought to have a similar reaction.

The solution instead is continued study of Scripture (listening to what God says) and prayer to God for wisdom (speaking to God), as well as qualified reliance on the fallible means at our disposal, including our own intellect and the counsel of the church. Through this God-appointed means, we can seek the truth. There is no guarantee that we will get all of our doctrines perfectly correct. After all, God does not promise to remove the weakness of our intellect fully in this life.

Nevertheless, we can and should make use of the intellect that God has given us in pursuit of the truth. The Scripture commends the Bereans for this, and commends no one for implicit faith in the church - for refusing to investigate teachings and to compare them to Scripture.

A man who refuses to wash himself because he knows he can't get himself perfectly clean is a lazy slob who is making an excuse. The man who refuses to search the Scriptures because he realizes his own fallibility is much more abominable.


A Desert Father on Original Sin

We are sometimes told that the doctrine of original sin is exclusively a Western idea. The primary basis of this claim is that it is Augustine who primarily popularized the term "original sin," and his influence was mostly felt in the West. The secondary basis is that most Eastern Orthodox folks today seem to reject the idea of original sin. In the following discussion, one can see one of the desert fathers speaking about original sin, but - of course - without using the term "original sin." Thanks to Roger Pearse for making this translation available.

Isidore of Pelusium (died about A.D. 449), Letter 100 — to Syros the Reader (Against the Novatians)(translated by Clive Sweeting)
Say to the disciple of Novatian’s pride: why are you foolishly boasting as if [you were] clean? Why are you pretending that you are sinless? Why deny the (fault) common to nature? Isaiah declares himself unclean; David knows that every man is a liar and that all were conceived and carried in the womb in sin. God Himself knows that human beings are devotedly attached to evil and require only the mercy of divine kindness- and do you arrogantly boast of being clean? Either then give over lying or from what you are doing be exposed as a laughing-stock or indeed mightily shameful.

I think the expression "common to nature" is particularly interesting, since the opponents of original sin seem to be fond of allegedly that man's nature was not affected by Adam's sin. I should point out further that the source of this nature is not explained in this short letter. So, it would be a stretch to conclude from this short letter that Isidore of Pelusium had as well-developed an idea of original sin as Augustine did. Still, the statements are interesting, particularly as an expression of Eastern rejection of Pelagian errors.