Saturday, March 24, 2012

An Additional Evidence Regarding the "Dictionary Definition" and Compatibilism

During my recent debate on Compatible Free Will as opposed to Libertarian Free Will, which was supposed to be about whether the Bible teaches Libertarian Free Will and ended up being about whether the word "choose" requires Libertarian Free Will, I omitted to provide an illustration that I think would be helpful.

My esteemed disputant has argued that "possibilities" in order to be "possible" must be possible in a libertarian sense.  This is certainly not the case, but I failed to provide one of the easiest and best illustrations of this point in the heat of the debate.

The illustration is simple: in common speech we use "possibilities" to refer to things that we know full well are mechanically deterministic.  Thus, for example, we speak about the possibility of drawing a "face card" as the next card in the deck, even though we know that it is already mechanically determined what card will be drawn next.

From our perspective, there are up to 52 possible next cards.  In reality, only the actual card sitting on top of the deck will be drawn.  The other 51 possibilities are not an illusion, they just reflect our ignorance.

The same kind of linguistic convention applies to our discussion about choice.  Even if our choices are determined, we don't know what has been determined.  Accordingly, from our perspective, there are alternative futures, although in reality God has already determined which of the two possibilities we will select.

This meshes well with my point in the debate that God takes as much credit for the outcome of "lots" (think dice, not real estate) and the choices of animals as God takes for human choices.  In fact, God emphasizes his sovereignty in the last category even more than the other two areas.

Ultimately, as I established in the debate, the question is resolved by the fact that God states both that we choose and that God determines what we choose.


"Call No Man 'Father' or 'Teacher'"

One reader of this blog (coming from a Roman perspective, I believe) wrote: "Never mind the fact that Jesus also commands His followers to abstain from calling men "teacher," yet Paul often refers to himself as such. Did the Spirit forget the instructions of the Son? You see, the Lord was not speaking literally. Imagine that!"

The problem with that response is that it only gets you half way.  The other half is, "what did Jesus mean by his saying?" One answer could be, Jesus meant not to have teachers endowed with the kind of authority that the Roman bishop claims for himself.

Same thing for "call no man Father."  One answer could be that Jesus meant we should not have someone that we treat the way that Roman Catholics treat their "Holy Father" in Rome.

In fact, of course, the kinds of abuses in 1st century Judea were probably far less grand than Rome's claims.  But certainly if anyone could violate the spirit of what Jesus' words mean, then Rome is it.  If Rome's treatment does not qualify, what possibly could?

Earlier in the thread, in response to a comment about not calling any man father, the same commenter had pointed to a tract published at the "Catholic Answers" site (link).  This tract makes the mistake of actually trying to go the rest of the way.

The tract is not far off when it states:
He was using hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point) to show the scribes and Pharisees how sinful and proud they were for not looking humbly to God as the source of all authority and fatherhood and teaching, and instead setting themselves up as the ultimate authorities, father figures, and teachers.

But which one of those scribes or Pharisees ever claimed to be the head of the whole church and father to all believers?  Which one of those scribes or Pharisees ever claimed to teach infallibly?  Their abuse pales in comparison to the abuse that Rome offers.  If what the scribes and Pharisees did is to be condemned, how much more what Rome has done and continues to do!


Hart's Responses to Frame

Darryl Hart has offered several responses to Frame's book. The first response I'll consider is one Hart titled, "More Than You Bargained For?" in which Hart responds to Frame's comment: "They are also motivated by a desire to oppose what they regard as theological corruptions of the Reformation doctrine, particularly the views of N.T. Wright, Norman Shepherd, and the movement called Federal Vision." Hart responds: "So I’m to imagine that using the law-gospel distinction in opposition to Shepherd, Wright, and the Federal Vision is extreme?" But this is a bizarre non sequitur. That is not what Frame wrote, nor is it a reasonable inference from what Frame wrote. Frame didn't say or imply that merely using the law-gospel distinction in those disputes is "extreme."  Even if Frame thinks the use is extreme, one certainly cannot conclude from Frame's line that he's saying that such extremity is due to the fact of who is being opposed or the tool that is being used to oppose.

While there is a lot more copy in Darryl's response, there is no other direct interaction with what Frame wrote.

That's rather the same as what we find in the next response we will consider, one titled: "Authors, Editors, and Readers."  In this post, Hart quotes Frame thus:
Too often, in ethical debate, Christians sound too much like unbelievers. They reason as if they and their opponents are both operating on the same principle: human rational autonomy. I believe they almost inevitably give this false impression when they are reasoning according to natural law alone. Only when the Christian goes beyond natural law and begins to talk about Jesus as the resurrected king of kings does his witness become distinctively Christian. At that point, of course, he is reasoning from Scripture, not from natural revelation alone.

Then, after providing an example of a few paragraphs from Leithart where Leithart does not mention Christ or the Scriptures, Hart states:

Now, the additional point is not that Leithart is a hypocrite or that Frame is selective in the writers whom he throws under the Lordship of Christ bus. It is instead that authors write for editors and audiences and need to couch their language and arguments in terms acceptable to the editors and plausible to the readers. This isn’t a matter of the right apologetic method or a consistent epistemology. It is a case of either getting published or not, of being understood or not. If Leithart had come to the editors of First Things with arguments in a distinctively neo-Calvinist idiom, they would likely not have published him.

Perhaps that means that Christians should not write for religiously, epistemologically, or the-politically mixed publications. Indeed, it does seem that Frame’s arguments run directly in the fundamentalist direction of not having anything to do with associations where a believer might have to hide his faith under a bushel (NO!). But if Christian authors, even neo-Calvinist inclined ones, are going to write for publications not edited by Andrew Sandel or Ken Gentry or the faculty of Dort College, they may need to use rhetoric and arguments that are not pedal-to-the-metal Christian.

For this reason, I am surprised that John Frame can’t appreciate why 2k writers sound the way they do, or appeal to natural law arguments the way they do.

But Frame is not expressing merely a lack of appreciation, but disapproval.  Hart's response that unless Christians reason as if they are both operating on the same principle, they will not get published or not be successful in persuading their opponents in the ethical debate.  For Hart, this pragmatic consideration trumps Frame's proposed principled consideration.  Hart provides no further justification for this trumping.  Indeed his comments are telling: "This isn’t a matter of the right apologetic method or a consistent epistemology. It is a case of either getting published or not, of being understood or not."  Thus, for Hart, the pragmatic of being published/understood trumps the principle of correct apologetics and epistemology.

It gets worse.  Hart identified his post, "The Grandaddy of Reformed Anti-Lutheranism," as one of his responses to Frame (here).  But that post begins by trying to address Norman Shepherd: "Before Shepherd, theologians like John Murray or Louis Berkhof would not have objected to the Lutheran doctrine of justification. But Shepherd did."  The way in which the Lutheran doctrine of justification differs from the Reformed doctrine lies in the scope of the atonement, and Reformed teachers have long criticized Lutheran views on the scope of the atonement.  If Shepherd objected to justification by faith alone, he was objecting to the Reformed doctrine, the Lutheran doctrine, and the doctrine of a variety of the fathers of the church.  He wasn't objecting to anything distinctively Lutheran.

Hart then essentially accuses Frame of preparing the way for Shepherd with his previous book:"John Frame’s book, Evangelical Reunion (for starters) would be ironically one example of that New School turn among conservative Presbyterians away from Old School practices and convictions."  No justification is provided for this accusation.

Hart then alleges that Frame endorses Shepherd: "I wonder if John Frame’s endorsement of Shepherd actually includes some recognition of the distance between him and Shepherd on the Reformed identity and militant character of the OPC, with Shepherd embodying one strand of Machen’s warrior children and Frame exhibiting boredom with fighting period."

But where is the argument?  There is none.  The whole point of the post is to try to tie Frame to the Norman Shepherd controversy, and to somehow suggest that Frame's criticism of Lutheran influence on Escondido thought is somehow contrary to justification by faith alone (which confirms point 28 of Frame's 32 points).

Things looked a little more hopeful in Hart's, "Is the Gospel Sufficient to GOVERN Culture?" but let's see what transpired.

Hart begins with the title of the chapter (which corresponds to this article) and even supplies some of Frame's 32 points. Hart then goes on to complain that it is odd to speak about "governing culture" essentially because culture seems to be organic. Hart considers "language" as an example of culture, and suggests that it cannot really be "governed." This is an odd choice on Hart's part, because it does not appear that Frame actually argues that language should be "governed."

In the next section, Hart characterizes Frame's view as being that "the Bible is a surer foundation for ethical reflection than general revelation" (and provides a quotation from Frame). But Hart provides no meaningful rebuttal to this point. Instead, Hart complains that "the Bible has prevented Presbyterians like himself from rejecting the regulative principle of worship" and asserts that "The Bible of the Puritans is not cogent for Frame." These points are both ad hominem and red herrings, and consequently doubly illegitimate. Frame's view on the RPW is a mistake, but it is not a mistake that is relevant to this argument. Only in the final sentence does Hart actually make a legitimate point: he observes that just because "natural law argumentation fails a test of logic does not prove that the Bible is sufficient to GOVERN culture." That's a true observation, but of course Frame argues for the Bible's sufficiency after pointing out general revelation's insufficiency. So, this would be a compelling criticism only if Frame said nothing more.

But Frame does say more, as Hart quotes (Hart removed the term "world view" but I'll present the whole quotation):
Cogent and persuasive ethical reasoning presupposes a world view and standards of judgment. It is not easy to argue these from nature alone. For Christians, these standards come from Scripture. So apart from Scripture ethical argument loses its cogency and often its persuasiveness. Nonbelievers, of course, won’t usually accept Scripture as authoritative. But they may at least respect an argument that is self-conscious about its epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions.
Hart's response?
I doubt it. Actually, I know such respect won’t be forthcoming since heaps of ridicule have been directed at evangelicals for the last thirty years for trying such w-wish arguments. Maybe Frame thinks a graduate seminar in philosophy is the context for these disputes. If so, he forgets the verb GOVERN. And when unbelievers confront people who want the GOVERNORS to implement religious teaching in politics and cultural standards, they get a little testy.
So that's it? Hart doubts that unbelievers "may at least respect an argument that is self-conscious about its epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions"? I think Hart has too low a view of conscience and the light of nature. It is the conscience and the light of nature that persuade people to grudgingly acknowledge, "at least he's consistent," even if they disagree with someone. The heaps of ridicule Hart identified are not directed at the arguments, but at the world view. Typical Americans do seem to have bought into an E2k view of radical separation of church and state (really, it is the other way around, E2k picked it up from the world), but even typical Americans may respect an an argument that is self-conscious about its epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions, even if they don't know what "epistemological," "metaphysical," or even "presuppositions" mean. Ordinary people get that inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.

Hart then departs on a tangent regarding something Leithart wrote and continues with another two paragraphs that lack any argument worth noting. Then we come to Hart's core argument:
So how sufficient is the Bible to govern a society composed of diverse religious adherents and non-believers? We already know that the Bible has not been sufficient to yield a unified church. Now it’s supposed to give us a platform for cultural and political cogency and coherence in a diverse and religiously free society?
First, I'm not sure whether a society ruled by the Bible would be as "religiously free" as Hart would like. In fact, I suspect that's a logical impossibility given Hart's view of religious freedom. Second, though, for Hart to deny that the Bible is sufficient to govern the church is simply for Hart to demonstrate how far outside the Westminster Standards his position is. Now, Hart's comment could be re-interpreted to mean that although Scripture does sufficiently govern the church, the result is not a unified church. But if that's the case, then what of it? One world government is neither God's will for the church or for the state.

Hart then asks: "How are those hostile to God going to submit to GOVERNMENT based on the Bible?" The answer should be obvious from Romans 13. The power of the sword is the way that those who are hostile to God submit to laws that come from God. Note that Hart casts his question in terms of the Bible, but the light of nature comes from God too. So, the question is one that Hart should have an answer for, yet he claims he's "still lacking a decent answer."

Hart next asks: "doesn’t a proposal for the Bible’s sufficiency as a rule for culture and society mean ultimately that only believers will GOVERN?" The answer to this question should be obvious too. Just look at Old Testament Israel. Very often the nation was ruled by unbelievers.

Hart makes an interesting argument. He claims: "And then they walk over the cliff of liberalism and deny that the Bible is first and foremost not a book of ethics but of redemption." Hart, however, has forgotten his catechism. What do the Scriptures principally teach? The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man (Shorter Catechism, Q/A 3 (and Larger Catechism Q/A 5 identically). Hart quotes Machen, but Machen was opposing liberals who wanted to excerpt from Scripture, to suggest that "the Bible contain any hope for humanity apart from" redemption through faith in the Son. So, Hart is misapplying Machen's comments.

Indeed, Hart states: "If the mere reading of Scripture could lead to such a conclusion, imagine appealing to the Bible for running a society that includes believers and non-believers." This does not follow, however, for Machen's objection was not simply to reading the Bible, but "reading of selected passages from the Bible, in which Jews and Catholics and Protestants and others can presumably agree."

Hart's conclusion is strange: "The lesson is that 2k (aka SCET) is really more faithful to Reformed teachings (which are biblical) than are 2k critics’ constant charges of infidelity and deficiency." Yet Hart's appeal to Machen was mistaken, and that was his only appeal to "Reformed teachings." Moreover, Hart didn't provide any demonstration that E2k views are biblical.

Hart attempts to establish his point through a false dichotomy: "Those who think the Bible sufficient to GOVERN culture or society must either form a political body comprised only of church members or they must cut and paste biblical teachings to make it fit a religiously mixed society." The latter proposal, though, is not on the table - and the former proposal (while it might be nice) is not necessary.

The final sentence is possibly the least helpful: "Either way (Massachusetts Bay or liberal Protestantism), we’ve been there and done that. Time for 2k’s critics to come up with their own proposals for GOVERNING and transforming culture that are not blinded to their own insufficiencies." But, of course, a specific proposal for governing is different from the general proposition that the Bible is sufficient to govern. This fact seems completely lost on Hart. Moreover, Hart's treatment of Massachusetts Bay colony is simply dismissive. It's clear he does not like that kind of regime, but his personal dislike for it (or for the kind of society it resulted in) is not a principled argument against it.

In short, while this post from Hart was better than some of the others in terms of at least providing some very general arguments, it still comes up dramatically short in terms of providing any kind of serious response to what Frame has written - addressing at most a couple of paragraphs of the chapter.

In a post titled, "Love that Bob," Hart continues the insubstantial critiques, sadly.  He has the chance to address the connection between Kline's views and those of E2k, but swings and misses.  First he observes that he himself personally has not read the whole "Kingdom Prologue," by Kline.  Yet one can be influenced by Kline's teachings without directly reading Kline (and certainly without reading that specific work by Kline).  Second, he claims that Westminster California's "real source" of "alleged uniqueness" comes from W. Robert Godfrey (whose response we've already addressed).  He then goes on to claim that Godfrey influenced the students of the seminary for good, in terms of getting them to go back to their roots.  There is no real interaction with Frame at all in the post, despite it being identified by Hart as one of the responses to Frame's book.

And that's not to mention the posts: "Rich but not Robust" (in which Hart dissed Frame for not getting a bigger publisher to publish his book) and "Speaking of Obscure Publishers" (in which he tries to tie Frame to Shepherd's errors, while again dissing Frame for not getting a famous enough publisher for "The Escondido Theology").  In fact, the latter strategy seems to be a theme for Hart.  Much more time is spent trying to associate Frame with Leithart or Shepherd than actually dealing with the arguments that Frame presents.  In the latter post, Hart seems mystified that someone like Frame would care about scholarship, given that Shepherd has serious errors.

There are a few other responses from Hart that were directed toward Frame, but they follow the general pattern laid out above.  Of course, if someone finds (anywhere) a response by Hart to Frame that is actually a serious set of arguments that aim to rebut or refute Frame's arguments, I would be glad to see them.

- TurretinFan

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thomas Adam on Idols and Idolatry

The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Thomas Adam:

Idols.—Idol, in Greek, signifies a resemblance or representation, and differs not from image in Latin; both at first taken in a good sense, but the corruption of times hath bred a corruption of words, and idol is now only taken for the image of a false god. Every idol is an image, but every image is not an idol; but every image made and used for religious purposes is an idol . The images of God are idols, wherewith Popery abounds. An old man, sitting in a chair, with a triple crown on his head, and pontifical robes on his back, a dove hanging at his beard, and a crucifix in his arms, is their image of the Trinity. This picture sometime serves them for a god in their churches, and sometime for a sign at their taphouses; so that it is a common saying in many of their cities, ' Such a gentleman lies at the Trinity, and his servants at God's Head.' This they seem to do as if they would in some sort requite their Maker: because God made man according to his image, therefore they, by way of recompense, will make God according to man's image. But this certainly they durst not do, without putting the second commandment out of their catechisms, and the whole decalogue out of their consciences.

I intend no polemical discourse of this point, by examining their arguments: that business is fitter for the school than the pulpit. And, O God ! that either school or pulpit in Christendom should be troubled about it!—that any man should dare to make that a question which the Lord hath so plainly and punctually forbidden! Beside the iniquity, how grievous is the absurdity! How is a body without a spirit like to a spirit without a body? a visible picture like an invisible nature? How would the king take it in scorn to have his picture made like a weasel or a hedge-hog! and yet the difference betwixt the greatest monarch and the least emmet is nothing to the distance betwixt a finite and an infinite. If they allege, with the Anthropomorphites, that the Scripture attributes to God hands and feet and eyes, why therefore may they not represent him in the same forma? But we say, the Scripture also speaks of his covering us with the shadow of his wings; why therefore do they not paint him like a bird with feathers? If they say that he appeared to Daniel in this form, because he is there called the 'Ancient of days;' we answer, that God's commandments, and not his apparitions, be rules to us: by the former we shall be judged, and not by the latter. It is mad religion to neglect what he bids us do, and to imitate what he hath done: as if we should despise his laws, and go about to counterfeit his thunder. God is too infinite for the comprehension of our souls, why should we then labour to bring him into the narrow compass of boards and stones? Certainly, that should not be imaged which cannot be imagined. But Christ was a man, why may not his image be made? Some answer, that no man can make an image of Christ without leaving out the chief part of him, which is his divinity. It was the Godhead united to the manhood that makes him Christ: sure this cannot be painted. But why should we make Christ's image without Christ's warrant? The Lord hath forbidden the making of any image, whether of things in heaven, where Christ is, or of things on earth, where Christ was, to worship them. Now, till God revoke that precept, what can authorise this practice?

(Thanks to Matthew Lankford for bringing this to my attention.)

It's not Personal ... therefore not Moral (from Zrim)

Zrim proposed the following interesting argument:
The only thing I can imagine is that you think to behave politically is to behave personally. But when I vote for or against something, or even abstain from any political involvement, I’m not behaving personally morally but politically (or apolitically as the case may be). This is the part where you conflate morality and politics, but do you really think that when I vote against a candidate I am behaving personally or morally against him in the same way I act against a man when I steal his money? On that reasoning there is no way to tell someone who I vote against it was nothing personal but a principled disagreement--everything is personal, which might explain you taking 2k push back so personally.
These sentiments seem to fit well with Frame's point 10 ("The Christian has no biblical mandate to seek changes in the social, cultural, or political order.") but what other way can one make sense of them. It really looks like Zrim is saying that politics is not behavior that is governed by morality. This would provide the explanation for point 10, but how can it possibly be justified? Surely there are matters of indifference in politics, as in any area of life, but politics tends to run into a lot more moral issues than something like plumbing (to pick an E2k favorite). Plumbing can run into moral issues: if someone asks you to tap into their neighbor's water pipe, for example, a godly plumber would decline. Yet, Politics runs into moral issues constantly. And it is because of the moral ramifications that one cannot affirm that Christians lack the law, which mandates that they, when it is in their power, seek to change the social, cultural, or even political order.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Negative Constructive


If you try to put a square peg in a round hole, you're asking for trouble.  Those two are not compatible shapes.  Their incompatibility can be seen just by looking at their shapes.  The incompatibility of things we can't see is often more difficult to determine.  For example, if we have a square peg and a hole that is "bread box" shaped, we don't know whether they are compatible, because we don't know what a "bread box" shape is.  How could we determine that they are compatible?  Well, if the assembly instructions say to put the square peg in the "bread box" shaped hole, that suggests that they are compatible.  There might be other ways to tell as well, such as if the instructions elsewhere say that a "bread box" shape is round.  We certainly could not just go through the assembly instructions and find all the places where it says the peg is square and stop there.

This is a debate about whether the Bible teaches libertarian free will.  My esteemed disputant alleges that the Bible does teach libertarian free will, and I maintain that the Bible teaches compatible free will.  In other words, I'm arguing that the Bible teaches compatible, not so-called "libertarian," free will.  That means that men choose what God has foreordained or determined that they will choose.  It's the kind of free will that Calvinists speak about, and it is the kind of free will that is referred to when the Scriptures speak about "Freewill offerings." (See, for example, Ezra 3:5 "And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.")

While technically the burden is on the affirmative to demonstrate that the Bible teaches libertarian free will, because of the way that the debate is framed, yet I will still provide good reasons and Biblical evidence for my own position, namely that the Bible teaches that men have wills that can be free, and that the exercise of their wills is foreordained by God.  Since the Bible teaches both, the two are compatible.

There will be seven parts of this speech, three main points for my own positive presentation and four soft spots in the affirmative case.

Since this is a negative speech, I will try to sharpen the focus of the debate by identifying the major areas of weakness in the affirmative case.  Unfortunately, the affirmative case has at least four serious deficiencies.

Main Argument
I. The first area of deficiency is the reliance on contemporary English dictionaries.
A. The first deficiency within this area is that not one of the dictionary definitions actually defines "choose" in such a way as to limit the term "choose" to libertarian freedom.
B. The second deficiency in this area is that if one has only the 20 definitions and nothing more, one should identify the semantic range of the term as encompassing the broadest range of the term, not the narrowest range.
C. The third deficiency in this area is that ultimately what matters when dealing with the usage of a word in an ancient writing is not the contemporary state of the English language but authorial intent of the original writing.
D. A fourth deficiency is that the wrong word has been looked up: instead of looking up just "choose," my esteemed disputant should have looked up "libertarian free will."  The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, edited by Robert Kane, explains that "libertarian theories of free will" are "those which affirm a free will that is incompatible with determinism."  This leads us to the second area of deficiency.

II. The second area of deficiency is that my esteemed disputant has not properly characterized libertarian free will.  He claims "The essence of Libertarian Free Will is the ability to choose something or not.  Imagine you’re in an ice cream shop.  The idea that you can choose chocolate or not is the core notion of  Libertarian Free Will."  The essence of Libertarian Free Will goes beyond merely the ability to choose (which compatibilists affirm as well) to the declaration of incompatibility with determinism.

III. The third area of deficiency is in the area of exegesis.  While the bulk of the verses cited are non-controversial verses that simply say that men deliberate and/or choose (which compatibilists affirm), there is the famous "what more could have been done" question.  One way of looking at this question is that God literally did everything that he could, but he could not have done more, and they still did not choose God.

But is that a credible interpretation?  No, for several reasons.
A. First, it is patently obvious that more could have been done.  Jesus could have personally come to them and raised the dead.  God could have sent even more dramatic signs and wonders.  God could have prolonged their lives like that of Methuselah. 
B. Second, it's not surprising that an inexact way of speaking is being employed, because of the genre.  This verse is found in a song. Songs can speak precisely, of course, but they are also places where poetic license can be more freely granted.
C. Third, it's a double whammy, because the song is recounting a parable.
D. Fourth, there is a far more plain sense of the expression.  The far more plain sense of the expression is that God had done a lot for them, more than they deserved, enough that they cannot complain that God was not generous with them.  That means interpreting the comment as hyperbole, but in this context, that is a reasonable conclusion to draw.

IV. The final area of deficiency is in the treatment of compatibility.  My esteemed disputant seems to refer to the Calvinist position as "compatibilist" up front but then puzzles in his conclusion over whether I will say that choosing is compatible with God's decree of providence, with literally no effort to establish the key point that distinguishes compatibilism from incompatibilism, namely whether choice is compatible with divine fore-ordination.

V. But (turning to my own positive points) choice is compatible with divine fore-ordination.  And here are some Scriptures that prove it.

Specifically the Scriptures show that God refers to himself as the cause of some human action, yet the action is still ascribed to humans.  Moreover in seven cases, the humans are blamed with the action, to wit:
  1. Pharaoh (Exodus 7:4 and 11:9); 
  2. Sihon, King of Heshbon (Deuteronomy 2:30); 
  3. Eli's sons (1 Samuel 2:25); 
  4. Absolom (2 Samuel 17:14); 
  5. Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:15); 
  6. Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:16 & 20); and
  7. The Third King (Daniel 11:36)
Perhaps the seventh item is the most illustrative:
Daniel 11:36 And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

On the one hand the king's actions are ascribed to his will, on the other it is alleged that these things are determined.  What would the Bible have to say more than that to establish that free will and determination are compatible?

VI. The fact of compatibility is confirmed from the teachings of exhaustive determination.

A. God takes credit even for random events.
Proverbs 16:33
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.

B. God takes credit for the acts of animals, such as the ostrich.
Job 39:16-17
She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not her's: her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

C. God takes credit for the decisions of kings.
Proverbs 21:1
The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

D. God takes credit for the decisions of armies/nations.
Amos 3:6
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

VII. The fact of compatibility is further shown from God's taking credit for free acts and ascribing divine purpose to them

A. God Said that He Intended the Selling of Joseph into Slavery
Genesis 50:20
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

B. Job Ascribes Satan's Temptation to God, and the Spirit Endorses Job's Description
Job 1:20-22
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,and said, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job 42:11
Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.

C. The Actions of the Sanhedrin are Ascribed to God's "Determinate Counsel"
Acts 2:23
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

We have seen that the Scriptures teach that God refers to himself as the cause of even bad and morally blameworthy acts of men, that God's determination of events is exhaustive, and that God takes credit for free acts and ascribes divine intent to them.  We have also seen that my esteemed disputant's reliance on contemporary English dictionaries is misplaced, that his characterization of libertarian free will is incomplete, that his exegesis is inaccurate, and that his treatment of compatibility vs. incompatibility is virtually non-existent.  He has provided a lot of evidence that the square peg is square, but not that the "bread box" shaped hole is round.  We, on the other hand, have identified several places in the instructions where they are put together.  So, we can conclude that free will as described by the Bible is compatible, not incompatible.


Some Verses Regarding Compatible Free Will

The Bible teaches compatible, not so-called "libertarian," free will.  That means that men choose what God has foreordained or determined that they will choose.  It's the kind of free will that Calvinists speak about, and it is the kind of free will that is referred to when the Scriptures speak about "Freewill offerings." (See, for example, Ezra 3:5 "And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.")

The verses that describe Calvinistic or compatible free will are almost too numerous to recite.  Here are some examples:

1 Samuel 2:25
If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.

2 Samuel 17:14
And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.

1 Kings 12:15
Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Exodus 7:4
But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.

Exodus 11:9
And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 2:30
But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.

2 Chronicles 25:20
But Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God, that he might deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought after the gods of Edom.

Romans 11:32
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

2 Chronicles 25:16
And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Art thou made of the king's counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel.

Daniel 11:36
And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

See also the book of Job.

I could go on and on, but these should do for now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Response to Todd Bordow on Capital Punishment for Blasphemy

Over at Greenbaggins, Todd Bordow provided an interesting comment. He wrote:
I think I was fairly clear earlier:
the Biblical answer to the injustices of the world and injustice of governments is the Second Coming, not a return to the punishments of the Mosaic Law (theonomy), or enforcing true religion by the sword (theocracy). And because a desire for the state to punish sinners in this life for not following our religion is in conflict with our calling to reach sinners with the gospel, by Biblical command the church’s only mandate concerning unbelievers....
As you are aware, in the Spanish Inquisition, the RC church and Spanish monarchy put what they considered blasphemers to death. I am saying that is wrong in itself, not just wrong when the wrong guys do it.
There are several responses:

a) If it is really wrong in itself, why was it not wrong for Old Testament Israel?
b) If as to (a) one appeals to an "intrusion ethic" that governed Israel, where does Scripture teach this?
c) How is punishing sinners for not "following our religion" (by the civil magistrate) in conflict with our calling to reach sinners with the gospel?
d) How is punishing sinners for not "following our religion" as to honoring God's name, title, attributes, ordinances, words and works in conflict with such a calling but punishing them for not "following our religion" as to honoring father and mother, not killing, not stealing, and not committing adultery not in conflict?


P.S. I should point out that earlier in the same thread, Todd had indeed relied on the Klinean intrusion ethic approach:
Why are we so dead set against the state enforcing the first Table? Our early forefathers notwithstanding, the Biblical answer to the injustices of the world and injustice of governments is the Second Coming, not a return to the punishments of the Mosaic Law, or enforcing true religion by the sword.
But this answer is patently false and contrary to Romans 13. Moreover, this argument on its own terms cannot differentiate between the first and second table. Finally, it remains unestablished that the Mosaic punishments represent an intrusion of the eschaton.

The Escondido Principle of Separation of Christianity and State - Reviewed

I was recently directed to this interesting review of Darryl Hart's book (The book is titled: "A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State"):
Hart thinks the root error of Christians who try to bring their faith into the arena of politics is the failure to understand that it just doesn't fit. Christianity is “essentially a spiritual and eternal faith.” It is “useless” for resolving “America's political disputes” and, because of its intolerance of other faiths, “impractical if not damaging to public life.” Christian evangelicals of both left and right come in for criticism in Hart's book, but the left—he includes Jimmy Carter and Jim Wallis in this category—gets blamed mainly for “lighting the fire of the culture wars,” thus legitimizing the right's crusade to bring its version of Christian values into the political arena.

We get the drift of Hart's own political orientation early on when he remarks that Sen. John Kerry, “an observant Roman Catholic,” was rejected by many voters because he “looked to be insufficiently devout.” That is a peculiar way of putting it. If looking to be devout were what Americans most wanted from politicians, Bill Clinton would have gotten 100 percent support in the 1992 election instead of the modest 43 percent he actually received. As for John Kerry, a number of polls have shown that the reason many people, not just Catholics, turned against him was not that he didn't look sufficiently devout but that he opposed all attempts to outlaw the physical act of [graphic depiction of the murder of an infant omitted by T-Fan].

But that gets us into religion, Hart might say, and religion should be kept out of politics. Religion belongs in church, and the purpose of churches is mercy; politics has to do with the state, and the state's purpose is justice. “To confuse the two is to misconstrue the bad cop (the state) and the good cop (the church).” Hart's church is one that would be hard to locate in Western history. It has an abstract quality, reflecting very little of the actual traditions of Christian people. In this country, as ­Tocqueville was not the first or last to observe, Americans have kept Christian denominations separate from the state, but not Christian morality or culture.
There is more at the link above.  I have yet to see Hart's response to this review. Doesn't the description in this review resemble items 10 and 23 of Frame's list

N.B. The credit line for the review was interesting: "George McKenna is professor emeritus of political science at City College of New York. His latest book is The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism (Yale)."  This should prevent (or at least alter) some of the ad hominem used by Hart against Frame for Frame's review.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Darryl Hart's Affirmations and Denials, Escondido Theology, and the Two Kingdoms

Darryl G. Hart has posted (well, Reed has posted for Darryl) some affirmations and denials on issues related to DGH's view of the Two Kingdoms, a view Darryl misleading refers to as "the two kingdoms view" but which departs significantly from the two kingdoms views of Calvin and the Westminster divines. I had originally drafted a response to these long ago, but I never published that response. However, Reed has requested that those of us who disagree with Darryl Hart identify our disagreement with reference to his post and Zrim has recently suggested that I look to this series of posts as being the "substance" of the Escondido view of the two kingdoms.

As a preliminary matter, I'm not sure that this exercise is necessarily the most profitable way of identifying the differences between the historic Reformed position and so-called "Escondido Two Kingdoms".

The reason I think it may not be the most profitable, is that I think Hart hasn't put all the cards on the table. There are still significant issues within the movement of which he is a part, which aren't directly addressed by his affirmations or denials. Those issues include things like the redefinition of "faith and life" to mean "faith and religious life" as fairly straightforwardly expressed in T. David Gordon's Insufficiency of Scripture, and the covenant theology connected with Meredith Kline and the excessive use of the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic via Vos, such as Kline's "intrusion ethic."

These points aren't really very directly addressed in Darryl Hart's affirmations and denials. We can only speculate as to why they aren't addressed directly. Perhaps he simply is unaware of where his views are distinctive from the historic Reformed tradition. Perhaps he is trying to emphasize his points of agreement, rather than his points of disagreement. There are many such possibilities, nevertheless, since Hart hasn't provided any explanation, we'll have to be content with our speculation.

It was these considerations that originally led me to simply shelve my response back when I originally wrote it. However, at Reed's request and in view of Zrim's exhortation, I have decided to edit and publish my response. Instead of rigidly following the order of the affirmations and denials provided in the original posts, I have attempted to categorize the affirmations and denials regarding their need for nuance. In point of fact, Hart's comments are generally vague enough that they could probably be accepted by most folks, even those who disagree most sharply with his view of the kingdoms.

As a sub-order within the categories, since there were three parts to the affirmation and denials: theology, vocation, and ethics, I'll address the affirmations and denials as grouped under those categories, identified by Hart.

I. Obvious Need for Nuance

Theological Topic
1) Affirmation: Jesus is Lord
Denial: Jesus is not Lord over everyone in the same way; he rules the covenant community differently than those outside the covenant
The Affirmation is obviously orthodox as written.  The denial can probably be understood in an orthodox sense. However, this denial can also be understood in an heterodox sense. For example, if the claim is that the moral law is different depending on whether or not one is in the covenant community, the assertion would be heterodox. In contrast, if the point is that Jesus' rule outside the covenant community is one of judgment only and not mercy (except predicated on entry into the covenant community) whereas Jesus' rule inside the covenant community is one of mercy, then the remarks could be understood in orthodox manner. We may, therefore, leave this matter as ambiguously worded, but not necessarily in itself wrong.
2) Affirmation: the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ
Denial: Outside the visible church is not part of the redemptive rule of Christ (even though Christ is still sovereign).
Actually, the invisible church is properly the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, outwardly the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth.

The Lord Jesus Christ is King and Lord over all, although he has a special relationship to the Church.  By way of the Noahic covenant, all mankind are under the redemptive rule of Christ as to their physical and temporal life.  By way of the covenant of grace, only the elect are under the redemptive rule of Christ.  The unregenerate elect are under the rule, but in a state of rebellion.  By way of the covenant God made with Israel when he redeemed them from Egypt, physical Israel is under the redemptive rule of Christ, but in a state of rebellion.
3) Affirmation: the Bible is the only rule for the visible church (in matters of conscience).
Denial: Scripture does not reveal everything but only that which is necessary for salvation.
No. The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and life. It is the only infallible rule for anyone. It is not the only rule. If it were, conscience itself would not be a rule.

Moreover, the Bible reveals all that is necessary for salvation but also reveals much that is not necessary for salvation.  Also, the Bible reveals many things about the way man ought to live and how man should act in various roles, including the roles of parents, slaves, masters, and civil rulers.

Furthermore, while the gospel teaches us to repent and believe, it is not by obedience to rules that we are saved, but by trust in the Savior that is identified to us in Scripture.
4) Affirmation: Christ alone is lord of conscience
Denial: Christians have liberty where Scripture is silent.
Denial: the pious advice and opinions of Christians is not binding.
The Word of God is binding on the conscience. Thus, when the brethren bring the Word of God to bear, our consciences are properly bound to follow the Word. Additionally, the Scriptures provide teachings that require us to obey (within bounds) the civil magistrate, our parents, our husbands, and so forth. Thus, there are additional restraints on Christian liberty that are, we might say, incorporated by reference.

There is a difference between obliging obedience and binding the conscience.  Parents can oblige the obedience of their children, but that is not the same as binding their consciences in the usual sense, except that children must honor their parents.
5) Affirmation: the visible church has real power (spiritual and moral, ministerial and declarative, the keys of the kingdom) in ministering the word of God.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences apart from Scripture.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences on the basis of one minister’s or believer’s interpretation but must do so corporately through the deliberations of sessions, presbyterians, and assemblies.
An evangelist binds the consciences of all his hearers - especially those outside the church, but also those within the church. He's one elder - but lay evangelism is also permitted and similarly binds the conscience of the hearers. In fact, any one of the brethren can bind another's conscience by bringing the Word of God to bear on a situation. He does not do so by his own authority, but the Word binds - the man declares.

The keys of the kingdom are best understood as the ministry of the gospel: the declaration of the person of Jesus Christ whose blood releases men from their sins. These keys are the keys of knowledge that the lawyers of Jesus day took away from the people (Luke 11:52). They allow people to see the way to heaven is through Jesus Christ, the righteous. As William Webster explains:
The keys ... are representative of the authority to exercise discipline in the Church and to proclaim the gospel, declaring the free forgiveness of sins in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a declaration opens the kingdom of God to men or, if they reject the message, closes it to them. The keys are not the possession of a single individual, for exactly the same authority which Christ promises to Peter he also grants to the other apostles in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:22-23. They are all given authority to bind or loose by declaring the forgiveness of sins through Christ. They are all equals under the authority of one head, the Lord Jesus. The authority they are given is a delegated, declarative authority, which is in Christ's name and comes from him who alone possesses the supreme authority to rule the Church.

This declarative power is something that DGH does not seem to understand. So instead he treats the "keys of the kingdom" in an almost Romanist way, as though they were a title to discretionary authority to gin up laws to bind the conscience, even while affirming that the visible church cannot bind the conscience apart from Scripture, a curious inconsistency - but a blessed one.

Of course, the elders do have authority of oversight, and this entails their doing things such as calling the brethren to worship. The brethren ought to obey them in these things, and consequently their consciences can be bound in this additional limited way that has nothing to do with the "keys of the kingdom" per se.

6) Affirmation: Christ’s righteousness alone satisfies God’s holy demands for righteousness, and believers receive this righteousness through faith alone (i.e., justification).
Denial: believer’s good works, much less unbelievers’ external obedience to the law, do not satisfy God’s holiness but are filthy rags.
I would only add that believers receive this righteousness by grace through faith.

Vocational Topic
1) Affirmation: the church is called to gather and perfect saints through word, sacrament and discipline.
Denial: the church is not called to meddle in civil affairs.
"Meddle" is a pejorative term. Just as sermons should not be "tedious," the preaching of the gospel should not "meddle." Nevertheless, the Bible speaks to many things and preachers should preach the full counsel, not holding back because certain topics have obtained political interest. Indeed, the advent of a political debate may make preaching on certain topics more timely and necessary. The fact that something has become of interest to the civil government does not mean it is taken away from the pulpit.

Moreover, the church is called to preach the gospel of repentance and the forgiveness of sins through faith in the name of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. 

2) Affirmation: the Christian family is called to nurture and oversee children in both religious and secular matters.
Denial: Christian families will not all look the same but have liberty to rear children according to Scripture and the light of nature.
Denial: non-Christian families do not rear children in godliness or holiness but still have legitimate responsibility for rearing their children.
Parents have the duty to provide for the physical and spiritual welfare of their children and to raise up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I say "parents" because the term "family" includes both parents and children. I don't add the term "Christian," because all parents have the same duty in God's sight, although non-Christian parents will necessarily fall even further short of their duty than Christian parents. Of course, some non-Christian parents may do a better job of providing for the physical or even the spiritual welfare of their children than some Christian parents.
3) Affirmation: the state is called to punish wickedness, reward goodness, and promote peace and order.
Denial: the state does not hold the keys of the kingdom.
Yes, but as the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) 23:3 indicates:
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.
That isn't meddling, when properly done, though it can be meddling when improperly done.

And likewise, as the American Revisions of the Westminster Confession of Faith explain:
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.
Although perhaps the American revisions lay too much emphasis on ecclesiastical autonomy and religious liberty, the duty of the civil magistrate to nurture the Church of God is clear even in this revision. That doesn't require the King to become an evangelist or an elder, but it does require him to recognize the Church of God.
4) Affirmation: A Christian is called to use his talents and gifts to serve God and assist his neighbor.
Denial: some Christians are not called to engage in civil affairs
Denial: the responsibilities attending one Christian’s vocation may not be the standard for other Christians.
Christians are not called to be entirely divorced from the affairs of this world. So, it would not be proper for Christians to avoid civic responsibility on the grounds that not all Christians are called to be politicians. Nevertheless, it is true that not all Christians are called to be in political office. Under certain regimes, the Christian's entire civil responsibility may be to submit to the government (such as under a totalitarian regime).

Ethical Topic
1) Affirmation: Christians have an obligation to submit to God’s laws as they are found in general and special revelation.
Denial: persons cannot obey God’s law truly apart from regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
Denial: non-Christians may not please God in their external observance of God’s law.
Denial: even if non-Christians may not please God, their civic virtue is crucial to a peaceful and orderly society.
Everyone, not only Christians, have an obligation to obey (not just "submit to") God's laws as they are found in both general and special revelation. All men imperfectly obey God's law. Both those inside and those outside the outward covenant can displease God with their works. External obedience to God's law is possible and can contribute to a peaceful and orderly society.
3) Affirmation: the state and families have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.
Denial: the church does not have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.
The church's primary functions of evangelism and edification would not and should not conflict with the establishment and maintenance of a godly society. Sometimes, however, they are in conflict with the laws of a nation (in Muslim nations for example). Other times, they may contribute to the establishment and maintenance of a godly society by exhorting men to live godly lives.

The church does not have the duty to exercise the power of the sword, but the civil magistrate does.  Moreover, the church has the obligation to preach the whole counsel of God, which will include preaching those parts of the Word that tell kings the right way to rule, not as to every detail of troop movement, but as to certain general principles.
4) Affirmation: church members have a duty to obey the laws of civil magistrates.
Denial: church members may not rebel against or disobey the magistrate.
Denial: church members must not obey the magistrate rather than God.
There is an obvious conflict amongst these affirmations/denials. Namely when obedience to God conflicts with obedience to the magistrate, everyone (not just "church members") must obey God.

There is a general rule that we should obey the King, i.e. the civil magistrate. There are times when it may be permissible or obligatory for us to disobey the King. The same morality applies whether a person is a "church member" or not.
5) Affirmation: God has established a pluriformity of institutions (e.g. civil society) for the sake of social order.
Denial: the church has no calling to establish social order but will have an indirect influence on peace and order by encouraging godliness in her members.
I'm not sure what his affirmation intends to say. It's rather vague to me.

The church doesn't just encourage godliness among her members but commands all men everywhere to repent.

II. No Obvious Need for Nuance

Ethical Topic
2) Affirmation: Christians please God in their good works thanks to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Denial: the good works of Christians are not free from pollution (i.e. they are filthy rags).

III. Conclusion 

The biggest problem is that Hart's affirmations could almost all, with some nuance, be adopted by someone who holds to the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646).  Yet, it is clear that one of the things that defines the Escondido Theology is an opinion that the WCF 1646 was not simply too narrow, but that it was wrong.  While there are some areas where Hart's affirmations and denials probably represent real differences, they are not presented in a way that actually highlights those differences.  Perhaps, however, this response will help  Hart to work on some updated affirmations/denials that will actually get to the substance of the disagreement.


Frame's Thirty-Two Point List ... and Dr. Godfrey's Response

These are the thirty-two points that Frame has identified as being associated with "Escondido Theology."
  1. It is wrong to try to make the gospel relevant to its hearers.
  2. Scripture teaches about Christ, his atonement, and our redemption from sin, but not about how to apply that salvation to our current problems.
  3. Those who try to show the application of Scripture to the daily problems of believers are headed toward a Christless Christianity.
  4. Anything we say about God is at best only an analogy of the truth and is therefore at least partly false.
  5. There is no immediate experience of God available to the believer.
  6. The only experience of God available to the believer is in public worship.
  7. Meetings of the church should be limited to the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments.
  8. In worship, we “receive” from God, but should not seek to “work” for God.
  9. The “cultural mandate” of Gen. 1:28 and 9:7 is no longer in effect.
  10. The Christian has no biblical mandate to seek changes in the social, cultural, or political order.
  11. Divine sovereignty typically eliminates the need for human responsibility.
  12. The gospel is entirely objective and not at all subjective.
  13. We should take no interest in our inner feelings or subjective life.
  14. Preaching should narrate the history of redemption, but should never appeal to Bible characters as moral or spiritual examples.
  15. Preaching “how tos” and principles of practical living is man-centered.
  16. To speak of a biblical worldview, or biblical principles for living, is to misuse the Bible.
  17. Nobody should be considered Reformed unless they agree with everything in the Reformed confessions and theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  18. We should not agree to discuss any theological topics except the ones discussed by Reformed thinkers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  19. Jonathan Edwards and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones were not Reformed.
  20. Theology is not the application of Scripture, but a historical investigation into Reformed traditions.
  21. There is no difference between being biblical and being Reformed.
  22. To study the Bible is to study it as the Reformed tradition has studied it.
  23. God’s principles for governing society are found, not in Scripture, but in natural law.
  24. Natural law is to be determined, not by Scripture, but by human reason and conscience.
  25. Scripture promises the believer no temporal blessings until the final judgment.
  26. We can do nothing to “advance” the Kingdom of God. The coming of the Kingdom, since the ascension of Christ, is wholly future.
  27. The Sabbath pertains only to worship, not to daily work. So worship should occur on the Lord’s Day, but work need not cease.
  28. Only those who accept these principles can consistently believe in justification by faith alone.
  29. Reformed believers must maintain an adversarial relationship with American evangelicals.
  30. Worship should be very traditional, without any influence of contemporary culture.
  31. Only those who accept these principles can be considered truly Reformed.
  32. These principles, however, represent only desirable “emphases.” There are exceptions.
Dr. Godfrey responded to the above list this way:
He introduces these bullet points by claiming: “Below are some assertions typical of, and widely accepted among, Escondido theologians.  Not all of them make all of these assertions, but all of them regard them with some sympathy” (p,xxxvii).  In response all of us on the WSC faculty wish to state clearly that we reject all of these thirty-two points as a fair or accurate presentation of our views.
At first glance, it looks like Dr. Godfrey is saying that each member of the faculty of WSC rejects each of the thirty-two points.  But Dr. Godfrey's qualification "as a fair or accurate presentation of our views," is key.  That characterization can mean that the objection is as trivial as "the list doesn't express the points the way we mean them."

So, for example, Dr. Godfrey continues:
We have the most sympathy with the bullet point which says “There is no difference between being biblical and being Reformed” (p. xxxviii). Yet we would state it differently: we are Reformed because we believe that the Bible is most faithfully understood and taught in Reformed Christianity. 
This seems like an actual affirmation of the point. But then how can "all" of the points be rejected as being unfair or inaccurate? Dr. Godfrey then asserts:
In relation to most of John’s bullet points we believe and teach the very opposite of what is attributed to us.
So, already we have moved from "all" to "most."  But which are the ones that the faculty teaches "the very opposite"?  We are left wondering, because Dr. Godfrey prefers to leave the reader guessing.  Dr. Godfrey does not even provide an example of a single point on which the faculty both believes and teaches "the very opposite."

Dr. Godfrey claimed that his purpose in writing a response was to set the record straight: " We do not wish to engage in a protracted discussion of these things with John, but we do find it necessary to set the record straight."  But what has been straightened or clarified?  Nothing except that point 21 is essentially on the money but just not worded the way that they would like.

Also, it is clear that the faculty of WSC does not appreciate criticism.  But love of criticism is a rare trait indeed.  One can hardly blame them for that.  In sum, Dr. Godfrey has swung and missed in his attempt to "set the record straight."  He has neither identified any errors in Frame's characterization, nor any errors in Frame's criticism itself.


P.S. Let me point out that I would agree with the WSC faculty about point 21, and even go a step further and say that one of the aims and strengths of Reformed theology is to be as biblical as possible.

What Should One Think About a Movement that says ...

1) There is no such movement;

2) The movement is not monolithic; and

3) No one in the movement believes what you just asserted about the movement.

My conclusion is that those in the movement are being pushed toward the light. There is a movement, albeit a rather amorphous one. It is not monolithic about every detail (what movement is?), but it certainly has some defining characteristics and some widely held ideas. And it must have some defining characteristics and some widely held ideas in order for one of its members to allege (3).

One thing I like about Frame's book, "Escondido Theology," is that it moves us from (1) and (2), to (3). The folks whom he has identified are free to say that he's wrong about them personally (i.e. about their views) or about the movement in general (as Horton has already said), but if they will take the approach of actually clarifying their views, there is hope to determine whether the views that they are expressing are simply reasonable points on which people can disagree, or not.

I do understand that some of the responses have been visceral, but hopefully the result of the book will be positive - one of clarifying, whether that means proving Frame right or whether that means proving Frame wrong.

One thing is certain: Frame should not be tarred and feathered or hung out to dry simply for opposing the Escondido magisterium. Such opposition can helpful and even positive. Opposition can drive error out, or can help to sharpen orthodoxy. If the Escondido Theology is right, it should benefit from the spotlight - if it is wrong, we should all benefit from that spotlight.

Thus, even before getting to the substance of "The Escondido Theology," Frame has done a world of good by publishing his book.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Putting Rome's Claims in Perspective ...

"Rome makes bold claims. If they are not true, they are heinous and very much anti-Christian." (John Bugay) This is a pretty key point that people need to realize. Rome's bold claims don't necessarily trickle down to every member (or even most members) of Rome's communion. That said, if Rome's claims to have universal jurisdiction over Christianity and the ability to define dogma de fide are false, then what could be more anti-Christian?