Saturday, February 23, 2008

Redundancy in James?

In the King James Version, the James 5:16 seems to contain a little redundancy and/or truism:

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

The redundancy is "effectual" and "availeth much." If it is effectual (in modern usage) then it means it works.

The apparent redundancy is a result of a slight semantic shift and an attempt to convey a Greek word in English.

The underlying Greek is:

Jas 5:16 εξομολογεισθε αλληλοις τα παραπτωματα και ευχεσθε υπερ αλληλων οπως ιαθητε πολυ ισχυει δεησις δικαιου ενεργουμενη

In this, the phrase in question is: "πολυ ισχυει δεησις δικαιου ενεργουμενη"

πολυ => greatly
ισχυει => enables/has force
δεησις => (a / the) prayer
δικαιου => righteous
ενεργουμενη => [(the thing that) is (itself) empowering]

The tricky word, as you can guess, is the last one - it is a present middle participle, which is a bit challenging to express in English. The KJV translators tried to express its meaning using the phrase "effectual fervent." The point of the passage is that we should pray for one another, and that we should have confidence to pray for one another on the basis that an empowered prayer by a righteous man can accomplish great things, both as to physical healing and also conversion: with Elias' prayers for and against rain provided as an example.

Pray to God and pray boldly, for if God gives your prayer power, you may save a soul by prayer!


Friday, February 22, 2008

Heart and Ear Circumcision

I happened to be reading and came across this gem:


He saith also again concerning our ears how he hath circumcised our heart. The Lord saith in the prophet, They have hearkened unto me with the hearing of their ears; and again, he saith, They that are afar off shall hear with their ears; they shall know what I have done; and be ye circumcised, saith the Lord, in your heart; and again, Hear, O Israel, for thus saith the Lord thy God; and again the Spirit of the Lord prophesied, Who is he that wisheth to live for ever? let him hearken unto the voice of my Son.

And again he saith, Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken these things for a testimony. And again he saith, Hearken unto the voice of the Lord, ye rulers of this people. And again he saith, Hearken ye children unto the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

To this end, therefore, hath he circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe; for the circumcision in which they trust is done away with.

For he hath said that circumcision is not that which was made in the flesh; but they have transgressed, for an evil angel hath deluded them. He saith unto them, These things saith the Lord your God, —here I find a new commandment—Sow not among thorns, but be ye circumcised unto your Lord. And what saith he? Circumcise the hardness of your hearts, and harden not your neck. And again, Behold, saith the Lord, all the Gentiles are uncircumcised in their foreskin, but this people is uncircumcised in their hearts.


Who is this Calvinistic writer? Who is it that believes that God circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe? The answer is the author of the Epistle of Barnabas (usually thought not actually to be written by the companion of Paul).

Our knowledge of the content of the book is largely thanks to its inclusion in the Codex Sinaiticus, and has been dated to the first or second century (generally between A.D. 70 - 150).

The translation above is Charles Hoole's (I have not verified its accuracy against the Greek) and is available via Google Books here (link).

Praise be to God for the Irresistable grace of Circumcision of heart, mind, eyes, and ears,


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Remember this guy?

Do you remember Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf? He was the Iraqi official who reported on the very brief Iraq invasion in terms that were extremely favorable to the Iraqi ruling regime.

One example of his lines:

"Now even the American command is under siege. We are hitting it from the north, east, south and west. We chase them here and they chase us there. But at the end we are the people who are laying siege to them. And it is not them who are besieging us."

Many more here (link). In a somewhat macabre pun he was labelled "Comical Ali."

Then I read this similarly comical balderdash:

"Protestants run from or mock Catholic presentations, rather than interact with them; let alone try to refute them. There appears to be a crisis of confidence in Protestant circles."

Meanwhile, when asked by one of his Catholic supporters to address a Protestant article, he turns tail:

"I'm trying to get away from replying to anti-Catholics. "

I had to laugh out loud. His position has been crushed from every side, and is cut off more and more each day, but he announces that the matter is just the oppsite. He fails to respond to critique after critique of his own work, but the bluster comes hard and thick.

This guy actually is so brazen as to claim: "But these guys are all petrified of discussing it with me "live", with everyone watching."

Not even his Catholic supporters buy it any more. I would be surprised if even one of the people whom he "challenged" was even the slightest bit worried, much less afraid, and certainly none were petrified of discussing the matter with him "live" with people watching.

As one of the people falsely charged, I can testify that this guy's fear-sensing ability is as good as his exegetical abilities.

One can almost hear the immortal words of Comical Ali:

"They fled. The American louts fled. Indeed, concerning the fighting waged by the heroes of the Arab Socialist Baath Party yesterday, one amazing thing really is the cowardice of the American soldiers. we had not anticipated this."

May God pour out his mercy on those in the Catholic church, and particular on her propagandists,


UPDATE: Reginald has noted that I did not ask his opinion before posting this. (link) Specifically, he found the line: "Not even his Catholic supporters buy it any more," overstretched, I think. Obviously, I guess I should add that perhaps some of his supporters may actually think that the people Dave "challenged" are quaking in their boots with fear of Dave. From comments I've seen by Catholics on this, though, I believe that many realize that Dave's imagination has gotten the better of him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Samuel Miller on Fasting

One of my readers recently pointed out that Samuel Miller's work on fasting is apparently available in reprint. Here's a link to a very readable web version (link). Even more significantly, here is a link to an older (and one would think, copyright free) copy of Miller's Sermons (there are two back-to-back) beginning at page 145 (the first page of the link) of an edition of the National Preacher and continuing to page 160 (link to article from the National Preacher).

Note that since the journal is available as a Google Book, you can download the book in PDF form or page by page in text form, for reading off-line or printing.


Numerology is Silly And Self-Defeating

Go here (link) and try e-Calculator. I mean in the e-Calculator they provide, enter the letters: "E" "C" "A" "L" "C" "U" "L" "A" "T" "O" "R". There's your proof.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Revelation 14:1 - How Many Greek Texts Match the TR?

I recently heard a radio interview in which the person advocating the position against the KJV-only position, asserted that none of the Greek manuscripts match the Textus Receptus in omitting "his name and" in Revelation 14:1. The KJV, however, follows the Textus Receptus precisely in this place and omits the "his name and" from the text.

I thought this was interesting, so I checked the UBS4 and the NA27. Neither even makes reference to the variant reading. Perhaps that is the reason that the person on the radio assumed that there was no Greek manuscript support for the omission.

However, Tischendorf's 8th Edition identifies at least two manuscripts (P and 1) that omit the phrase. It also appears that the Slavonic version omits the phrase.

Using standard modern textual critical techniques, one would expect that the shorter reading would be preferred, and the longer reading would be dismissed as interpolation. Surprisingly, that's not the case. Instead, the longer reading is preferred by the critical text.

I'm inclined to favor the longer reading myself, because it is easier for me to imagine how the phrase could be omitted than inserted. I find the internal evidence uncompelling. The phrase doesn't have any immediate connection to the remainder of the text.

Revelation 3:12 seems to slightly support the longer reading. Some of the later parts of Revelation also seem to support the longer reading, in that God and the Lamb are clearly united (Revelation 22:1-2). Furthermore, I reject the conventional view that scribes are more likely to add than omit, in fact I tend to believe scribes more likely to accidentally omit. Here there is a reasonable explanation for how P and 1 (and others?) could have omitted the phrase, the Greek phrase is:

τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ
the name his and the name the father his

Notice how the two phrases begin with the same two words, and even end with the same word (although that last word may be the subject for another time). This kind of scenario would make it very easy for a scribe to accidentally lose his place and pick up from the wrong spot in copying out the text, thereby inadvertently omitting the phrase from the copy. This would seem to be a relatively easy explanation for manuscripts P and 1 that would account for the presence of the phrase in the major version (Latin) and the majority of the Greek manuscripts.

Incidentally, one does not find the omitted phrase in any of the TR Bibles, starting with the Tyndale Bible. One does, however, find the phrase in the older Wycliffe Bibles, which were translated from the Vulgate.

What is the bottom line? The person making the claim on the radio was probably wrong. A few Greek manuscripts do contain the variant reading. Nevertheless, the point that the person was trying to make, namely that the support for the variant is weak (miniscule, we'd say, if we were trying to amuse), is correct. Revelation 14:1 represents a verse at which it seems that the KJV might be capable of improvement, which was the guy's point.


Public Solemn Fasting according to the Directory for Public Worship

Concerning Public Solemn Fasting.
WHEN some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people, or apparently imminent, or by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved; as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained, public solemn fasting (which is to continue the whole day) is a duty that God expects from that nation or people.

A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint,) but also from all worldly labor, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights, and such like, (although at other times lawful,) rich apparel, ornaments, and such like, during the fast; and much more from whatever is in the nature or use scandalous and offensive, as gaudy attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which we recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to reprove, as at other times, so especially at a fast, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.

Before the public meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.
So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in public reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty: but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect:

"Giving glory to the great Majesty of God, the Creator, Preserver, and supreme Ruler of all the world, the better to affect us thereby with an holy reverence and awe of him; acknowledging his manifold, great, and tender mercies, especially to the church and nation, the more effectually to soften and abase our hearts before him; humbly confessing of sins of all sorts, with their several aggravations; justifying God's righteous judgments, as being far less than our sins do deserve; yet humbly and earnestly imploring his mercy and grace for ourselves, the church and nation, for our king, and all in authority, and for all others for whom we are bound to pray, (according as the present exigent requires,) with more special importunity and enlargement than at other times; applying by faith the promises and goodness of God for pardon, help, and deliverance from the evils felt, feared, or deserved; and for obtaining the blessings which we need and expect; together with a giving up of ourselves wholly and for ever unto the Lord."

In all these, the ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, ought so to speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and their people may be much affected, and even melted thereby, especially with sorrow for their sins; that it may be indeed a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul.

Special choice is to be made of such scriptures to be read, and of such tests for preaching, as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance: insisting most on those particulars which each minister's observation and experience tells him are most conducing to the edification and reformation of that congregation to which he preaches.

Before the close of the public duties, the minister is, in his own and the people's name, to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord's, with professed purpose and resolution to reform whatever is amiss among them, and more particularly such sins as they have been more remarkably guilty of; and to draw near unto God, and to walk more closely and faithfully with him in new obedience, than ever before.

He is also to admonish the people, with all importunity, that the work of that day doth not end with the public duties of it, but that they are so to improve the remainder of the day, and of their whole life, in reinforcing upon themselves and their families in private all those godly affections and resolutions which they professed in public, as that they may be settled in their hearts for ever, and themselves may more sensibly find that God hath smelt a sweet savor in Christ from their performances, and is pacified towards them, by answers of grace, in pardoning of sin, in removing of judgments, in averting or preventing of plagues, and in conferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people, by Jesus Christ.

Besides solemn and general fasts enjoined by authority, we judge that, at other times, congregations may keep days of fasting, as divine providence shall administer unto them special occasion; and also that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they do belong is to meet for fasting, or other public duties of worship.

(spelling modernized by TurretinFan - original by the Westminster Assembly)

Note what set forth in the second paragraph as to how a fast is to be observed. No eating, except for medical necessity. No "bodily delights." No jewels, no fancy clothes. No working, and no thoughts about work. The whole day is to be consumed with worship and especially prayer. Yet this is not something to be done according to a calendar, but when a special cause arises that provokes the people of God to publicly entreat his mercy and grace.


Federal Vision Joint Statement - Critique

The first "item" of the Federal Vision Joint Statement is:

Our Triune God We affirm that the triune God is the archetype of all covenantal relations. All faithful theology and life is conducted in union with and imitation of the way God eternally is, and so we seek to understand all that the Bible teaches—on covenant, on law, on gospel, on predestination, on sacraments, on the Church—in the light of an explicit Trinitarian understanding. We deny that a mere formal adherence to the doctrine of the Trinity is sufficient to keep the very common polytheistic and unitarian temptations of unbelieving thought at bay.
I respond:
The Trinity (the triune God) is not the archtype of all covenantal relations. This is something close to the Eastern Orthodox error of theosis ("God became man, so that man could become god(s)"). The relation between God and man is other and unlike the relation among the persons of the trinity. It is not an analogy, it is simply other. Marriage, slavery, monarchy, and the like are typical of the relation of the church and Christ. Adoption is typical of the relation of the church and the Father.

The idea that "all faithful theology and life is conducted in union with and imitation of the way God eternally is," is both vague and imprecise. Knowledge of God is a logical prerequisite for a faithful life and (obviously) of theology, but to mention "union and imitation" is simply to invite imprecise thinking.

Keeping the nature of God (as Trinity, but also as Infinite, Eternal, and Unchangeable in his Being, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, Justice, Goodness, and Truth) in mind is important when understanding theology (especially theology proper).

Obviously mere formal subscription to Trinitarianism is insufficient to ensure proper thinking in theology. Unless there is something behind the denial presented, it is simply trivial.

The second item is:

As the Waters Cover the Sea We affirm that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but rather so that the world through Him would be saved. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world—He is the Savior of the world. All the nations shall stream to Him, and His resting place shall be glorious. We affirm that prior to the second coming of our Lord Jesus, the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

We deny that eschatological views are to be a test of fellowship between orthodox believers, but at the same time we hold that an orientation of faith with regard to the gospel’s triumph in history is extremely important. We deny that it is wise to imitate Abraham in his exercise of faith while declining to believe the content of what he believed—that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed, and that his descendants would be like the stars in number.

The title of this section is based on:

Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

The claim that the prophecy of Isaiah 11:9 precedes the second coming would seem to contradict the context of the verse:

Isaiah 11:4-8
4But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. 9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

Smiting the earth with a rod of iron and slaying the wicked with the breath of his lips would seem to be a reference to the final judgment at the second coming. What follows would seem to be a description of heaven.

The context of Habakkuk 2:14 is slightly less clear, yet:

Habakkuk 2:2-20
2And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. 4Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. 5Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people: 6Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay! 7Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them? 8Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. 9Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil! 10Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul. 11For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it. 12Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! 13Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? 14For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. 15Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! 16Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD'S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory. 17For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid, because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. 18What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? 19Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it. 20But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

This as well would seem primarily to point forward to heaven.

It's good that they do not make their eschatological view (presumably post-millenial?) a test of orthodoxy, but their assertion that "we hold that an orientation of faith with regard to the gospel’s triumph in history is extremely important" coupled with the fact that they included an eschatological position in their joint statement seems to betray a different position. Furthermore, I'm not sure that the statement "extremely important" can be substantiated exegetically.

"We deny that it is wise to ... declin[e] to believe the content of what he believed—that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed, and that his descendants would be like the stars in number."

The thing of which Abraham believed that was of greater significance was the Messiah. The "all nations being blessed" was fulfilled principally in Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. We will not bear Messiahs. Abraham is the father of the faithful, we are not. There are some similes between us and Abraham, but we should not believe the "full content" of what he believed, because not all the promises made to him are made to us.

The Next Christendom
We affirm that Jesus Christ is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. We believe that the Church cannot be a faithful witness to His authority without calling all nations to submit themselves to Him through baptism, accepting their responsibility to obediently learn all that He has commanded us. We affirm therefore that the Christian faith is a public faith, encompassing every realm of human endeavor. The fulfillment of the Great Commission therefore requires the establishment of a global Christendom.
We deny that neutrality is possible in any realm, and this includes the realm of “secular”
politics. We believe that the lordship of Jesus Christ has authoritative ramifications for every aspect of human existence, and that growth up into a godly maturity requires us to discover what those ramifications are in order to implement them. Jesus Christ has established a new way of being human, and it is our responsibility to grow up into it.

The main point of this section (that it is impossible to be neutral with respect to Christianity in virtually any sphere of endeavor: politics included) is correct, but it is also important to remember Christ's own words, that his kingdom is not of this world, for if it were, he would not be crucified. Also, "Jesus Christ has established a new of being human," is just wrong. There's no basis for that claim. Furthermore, the emphasis on baptism is odd. They are chiefly called to submission in the form of repentance and faith: baptism is primarily a sign.

Scripture Cannot Be Broken We affirm that the Bible in its entirety, from Genesis to Revelation, is the infallible Word of God, and is our only ultimate rule for faith and practice. Scripture alone is the infallible and ultimate standard for Christians. We affirm further that Scripture is to be our guide in learning how to interpret Scripture, and this means we must imitate the apostolic handling of the Old Testament, paying close attention to language, syntax, context, narrative flow, literary styles, and typology—all of it integrated in Jesus Christ Himself. We deny that the Bible can be rightly understood by any hermeneutical grid not derived from the Scriptures themselves.

Scripture, of course, cannot be broken: meaning that prophecy cannot fail to be fulfilled. Furthermore, the positive statement of Sola Scriptura is generally accurate. The denial is a bit of an overstatement: after all, even a blind squirrel can occasionally find a nut. The fact that a hermeneutic is erroneous does not ensure error, at least not uniformly so.

The Proclamation of the Word We affirm that God's Spirit has chosen the best ways to express the revelation of God and reality, and that the divine rhetoric found in Holy Scripture is designed to strike the richest of all chords in the hearers of the Word of God. For this reason, we believe that it is pastorally best to use biblical language and phrasing in the preaching and teaching of the Bible in the Church.
We deny that it necessarily unprofitable to “translate” biblical language into more “philosophical” or “scholastic” languages in order to deal with certain problems and issues that arise in the history of the Church. At the same time, we do deny that such translations are superior to or equal to the rhetoric employed by the Spirit in the text, and we believe that the employment of such hyper-specialized terminology in the regular teaching and preaching of the Church has the unfortunate effect of confusing the saints and of estranging them from contact with the biblical use of the same language. For this reason we reject the tendency to privilege the confessional and/or scholastic use of words and phrases over the way the same words and phrases are used in the Bible itself.
This condemnation of specialized language is a bit silly, particularly when the writers have already employed such scholastic terms as triune and hermenuetic(al) in their statement. Preachers have the duty, according to Scripture, of explaining the sense. It is lawful, and it may be expedient, to use "hyper-specialized" terminology to do so. From time to time Scripture itself employs specialized terminology, such as when it makes reference to difficult issues such as God's love of the elect before their existence ("foreknowledge") and the like.

The Scriptures were not written in English, and the Old Testament Scriptures were not written in Hebrew. While a faithful translation (note the lack of quotation marks) is important, it is less important to maintain the precise expressions than to convey the sense. A skilled pastor having provided the precise expressions in the reading of the Word, will also provide the sense, which may involve words and phrases that are not used in the Bible itself: including words like "triune" and "hermeneutic" and even "grid."

Creeds and Confessions
We affirm that all who subscribe to creeds and confessions should do so with a clean conscience and honest interpretation, in accordance with the plain meaning of words and the original intent of the authors, as can best be determined.
We deny that confessional commitments in any way require us to avoid using the categories and terms of Scripture, even when the confessional use of such words is necessarily more narrow and circumscribed. We deny that creedal or systematic understandings of scriptural truth can ever be given a place of parity with Scripture, or primacy over Scripture. In line with this, we continue to honor and hold to the creeds of the ancient Church and the confessions of the reformational Church.

The term "reformational" is clearly wrong; whether intentionally wrong or not, I'm unsure. The word should be "Reformed." Other than that, the statement itself is innocuous, although (in view of the previous item) the reason for its inclusion begins to be suspect.

The Divine Decrees We affirm that the triune God is exhaustively sovereign over all things, working out all things according to the counsel of His will. Because this necessarily includes our redemption in Christ, God alone receives all the glory for our salvation. Before all worlds, God the Father chose a great host of those who would be saved, and the number of those so chosen cannot be increased or diminished. In due time, Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross, and in that sacrifice He secured the salvation of all those chosen for salvation by the Father. And at some time in the earthly life of each person so chosen, the Holy Spirit brings that person to life, and enables him to persevere in holiness to the end. Those covenant members who are not elect in the decretal sense enjoy the common operations of the Spirit in varying degrees, but not in the same way that those who are elect do.
We deny that the unchangeable nature of these decrees prevents us from using the same language in covenantal ways as we describe our salvation from within that covenant. We further deny this covenantal usage is “pretend” language, even where the language and terminology sometimes overlaps with the language of the decrees. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children, that we may keep the words of this law. We affirm the reality of the decrees, but deny that the decrees “trump” the covenant. We do not set them against each other, but expect them to harmonize perfectly as God works out all things in accordance with His will.
The comment "Those covenant members who are not elect in the decretal sense enjoy the common operations of the Spirit in varying degrees, but not in the same way that those who are elect do," is the odd comment. It is simply unclear what the FVists mean by "common operations of the Spirit." The non-elect members of the covenant do not receive any different inward working of the Spirit than those outside the covenant. The proof is the Pharisees.

The denial is pejorative. Outward membership in the covenant is not "pretend" and the decrees do not "trump" the covenant in the conventional sense. Thus, it's not clear what precisely the FVists are trying to say here.

We suspect something because of the comments of the FVists in other places in the statement, but we'll address those things in their proper places.

The Church
We affirm that membership in the one true Christian Church is visible and objective, and is the possession of everyone who has been baptized in the triune name and who has not been excommunicated by a lawful disciplinary action of the Church. We affirm one holy, catholic and apostolic church, the house and family of God, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. In establishing the Church, God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham and established the Regeneration of all things. God has established this Regeneration through Christ—in Him we have the renewal of life in the fulness of life in the new age of the kingdom of God.
We deny that membership in the Christian Church in history is an infallible indicator or guarantee of final salvation. Those who are faithless to their baptismal obligations incur a stricter judgment because of it.

There are a number of oddities to this statement. The baptism need not be "lawful," but the disciplinary action must be. There is no room for post-excommunication reconciliation in the poorly-worded statement.

"The Regeneration of all things," is also a bit of an odd statement. It's not clear what the FVists mean by it, or how it connects with conventional regeneration. The "new age of the kingdom of God" seems to be based on a misunderstanding (possibly eschatological) about what the kingdom of God is. The kingdom of God is salvation from sins. There is a sense in which the New Testament era is a "new age," but it is not the primary "age" to which we look forward: that is heaven.

Those who apostatize after sitting under the preaching of the word, the sacraments, and so forth receive a greater punishment, because they were given more outward blessings.

Membership, however, in the one true Christian Church is invisible and spiritual. Union with visible church is necessarily union with unbelievers, because there are and will be unbelievers amidst the believers in the visible church.

The Visible and Invisible Church
We affirm that there is only one true Church, and that this Church can legitimately be considered under various descriptions, including the aspects of visible and invisible. We further affirm that the visible Church is the true Church of Christ, and not an “approximate” Church.
We deny that such a distinction excludes other helpful distinctions, such as the historical church and eschatological church. The historical Church generally corresponds to the visible Church—all those who profess the true religion, together with their children—and the eschatological Church should be understood as the full number of God’s chosen as they will be seen on the day of resurrection.

This is a very odd way of expressing the matter. The visible church is an approximation of the invisible church. Thus, while the visible church is a church of Christ, it is only approximate to the true, spiritual church of Christ: the church redeemed by the blood of Christ.

Unless the FVists mean something non-traditional by "invisible church," then "invisible church" and "eschatalogical church" are one and the same thing. I suppose we might make one exception. That is to say, the eschatological church includes the elect that do not known exist, whereas - one might argue - the invisible church only (so far) includes the elect that exist and have been justified already.

Likewise, the historical church (unless the FVists are using the term "visible church" non-traditionally) is essentially equivalent to the visible church. Again, one exception may be permitted. That is to say, the historical church might be said to include those who have now died, and who died professing the faith, or as children of those professing the faith.

But the truly strange part of the statement is the assertion that there is "only one true Church" as the lead-in to the discussion. The one true Church is the Catholic, invisible church - which will be complete on the day of judgment.

Reformed Catholicity We affirm that justification is through faith in Jesus Christ, and not through works of the law, whether those works were revealed to us by God, or manufactured by man. Because we are justified through faith in Jesus alone, we believe that we have an obligation to be in fellowship with everyone that God has received into fellowship with Himself. We deny that correct formulations of the doctrine of sola fide can be substituted for genuine faith in Jesus, or that such correct formulations can be taken as infallible indicators of a true faith in Jesus.

The first sentence of this statement is orthodox. The second sentence is disjoint and borderline incoherent. It is disjoint because our manner of justification (to wit, by faith alone) does not directly relate to our duty of fellowship to the brethren. Thus, the "because" seems to be misplaced.

The statement is borderline incoherent, because we do not know the number of the elect: we do not know "everyone that God has received into fellowship with Himself." Thus, we cannot do as the FVists ask. Now, we may presume (from the context) that the FVists mean to suggest that all members of the visible church are those "that God has received into fellowship with Himself." Now, it is generally the case that we ought to have fellowship with the brethren, the members of the visible church. If that is all that the sentence means, then it conveys an orthodox sentiment.

The denial in this section is a rhetorical truism.
The Covenant of Life We affirm that Adam was in a covenant of life with the triune God in the Garden of Eden, in which arrangement Adam was required to obey God completely, from the heart. We hold further that all such obedience, had it occurred, would have been rendered from a heart of faith alone, in a spirit of loving trust. Adam was created to progress from immature glory to mature glory, but that glorification too would have been a gift of grace, received by faith alone. We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements. In line with this, we affirm that until the expulsion from the Garden, Adam was free to eat from the tree of life. We deny that Adam had to earn or merit righteousness, life, glorification, or anything else.

The first two sentences of the statement are unobjectionable. The next sentence is clearly mistaken: "Adam was created to progress from immature glory to mature glory, but that glorification too would have been a gift of grace, received by faith alone." Adam was created to fall. That was always God's plan. If Adam had eaten of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, even after the fall. Thus, he was cast out of the garden, and the garden was guarded by an angel bearing a flaming sword.

The next sentence is just strange: "We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered." The covenant was: do this and live. Thus, the wage of obedience was life. Of course, perhaps the reference is not to mere life but to some completely speculative "glorification" that the FVists appear to have added into Scripture.

The following sentence is similarly strange: "Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements." Again, the covenant was simple: do this and live. No gift of glorification is mentioned, nor was any such glorification planned (since God had decreed the fall). Adam's continued life in the garden was based on Adam's obedience via moral exertion/achievement.

The strangeness continues in the next sentence: "In line with this, we affirm that until the expulsion from the Garden, Adam was free to eat from the tree of life." Adam could have eaten from the tree of life at any time and lived forever. Before the fall, God permitted man to eat from that tree, if man liked. However, after the fall, God prevented many from eating from that tree.

The final sentence is erroneous: "We deny that Adam had to earn or merit righteousness, life, glorification, or anything else." Adam initially received life as a gift from God. Adam, however, was placed under the covenant of life, in which Adam had to obey in order to merit continued life. If Adam had obeyed the command not to eat the forbidden fruit, God would not have been just in punishing Adam with death.
The Sacrament of Baptism We affirm that God formally unites a person to Christ and to His covenant people through baptism into the triune Name, and that this baptism obligates such a one to lifelong covenant loyalty to the triune God, each baptized person repenting of his sins and trusting in Christ alone for his salvation. Baptism formally engrafts a person into the Church, which means that baptism is into the Regeneration, that time when the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne (Matt. 19:28). We deny that baptism automatically guarantees that the baptized will share in the eschatological Church. We deny the common misunderstanding of baptismal regeneration—i.e. that an “effectual call” rebirth is automatically wrought in the one baptized. Baptism apart from a growing and living faith is not saving, but rather damning. But we deny that trusting God's promise through baptism elevates baptism to a human work. God gives baptism as assurance of His grace to us personally, as our names are spoken when we are baptized.

The first few sentences of the section are orthodox. Then comes the sentence: "Baptism formally engrafts a person into the Church, which means that baptism is into the Regeneration, that time when the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne (Matt. 19:28)." The first phrase of this sentence is accurate (if "the Church" is understood as the visible church). The explanation is bizarre. Baptism is a symbol of regeneration.

It's unclear what the FVists are trying to assert here. They speak of Regeneration as though it were an event in the life of Christ, but (oddly) not to Christ's resurrection (a regenerative event). Christ is now seated on the right hand of God the Father, but baptism is not "into" a time. The explanation is not really coherent.

Aside from the obviously FVist nomenclature employed (e.g. eschatological church), the paragraph of denials seems generally sound. There is one quite odd turn of phrase: "we deny that trusting ... elevates Baptism to a human work." Baptism is a human work. It is something a minister of the gospel performs, and a person (either a believer or a child of a believer) receives. I'm not sure how something being a human work "elevates" it in any sense. How can it be something less than a human work? It is not an accident.

The final statement is also odd: "God gives baptism as assurance of His grace to us personally, as our names are spoken when we are baptized." Baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace. There is no Biblical reason a person's name has to be spoken during the baptismal rite. Presbyterian churches name the person's name because that is in the book of church order, not because of a Scriptural requirement. Although it is traditional to name the person, the important name is the triune name of God. Furthermore, many people are baptized as infants, and consequently ought not to have "assurance of grace" (in the sense of assurance of saving grace) simply on account of being baptized. Of course, it is not even clear whether the FVists are speaking of saving grace, common grace, or some other category of grace of their own making.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper We affirm that by faithful use of the humble but glorious elements of bread and wine (remaining such), we are being grown up into a perfect unity with our Head, the Lord Jesus. Unless there has been lawful disciplinary action by the Church, we affirm that any baptized person, children included, should be welcome at the Table. We deny that the Supper is merely symbolic, but we also deny that any metaphysical changes are wrought in the bread or wine. We believe in the real presence of Christ with His people in the Supper, but we deny the local presence of Christ in the elements.
This section does not start out well. There is an eternal union between Christ and the elect. Furthermore, the forensic union between Christ and the elect occurs at justification. There is nothing imperfect about either of those unions. What believers grow in is in sanctification: in imitation of Christ.

This section also does not continue well: children who cannot discern the Lord's body ought not to be welcome at the Table. Likewise, those people who are rebels, outside any body of discipline ought not to be welcomed to the table. Furthermore, those who are members in good standing of bodies that notoriously do not exercise Godly discipline (or who are faultlessly not currently under Godly discipline) ought not to be unconditionally welcomed to the table. Ministers of the word have a duty to the fence the table.

The second paragraph is poorly worded, though it seems to be headed in the right direction. The sacrament is not merely symbolic, and yet the elements are physically unchanged (both as to their essence and substance). Christ is really, spiritually present. Christ's body, however, is in heaven. I don't think the FVists are trying to affirm (via denial) anything other than that.

Union with Christ and Imputation We affirm Christ is all in all for us, and that His perfect sinless life, His suffering on the cross, and His glorious resurrection are all credited to us. Christ is the new Adam, obeying God where the first Adam did not obey God. And Christ as the new Israel was baptized as the old Israel was, was tempted for 40 days as Israel was for 40 years, and as the greater Joshua He conquered the land of Canaan in the course of His ministry. This means that through Jesus, on our behalf, Israel has finally obeyed God and has been accepted by Him. We affirm not only that Christ is our full obedience, but also that through our union with Him we partake of the benefits of His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at the right hand of God the Father. We deny that faithfulness to the gospel message requires any particular doctrinal formulation of the “imputation of the active obedience of Christ.” What matters is that we confess that our salvation is all of Christ, and not from us.

The positive side of this section seems mostly correct. One error exists: Christ's resurrection is not credited to us. It was not act of Christ, but of the Father. The Father raised Christ.

The negative side of this section appears to be essentially aimed at anti-intellectualism. However, the cynical person might argue that this denial section is aimed adopting the errors of Norman Shepherd with respect to denial of the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's active obedience. (Compare this defense of the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's active imputation.) Indeed, sometimes Norman Shepherd is blamed for the FVist heresy (FVist leader James Jordan, for example, apparently studied under Norman Shepherd).

Law and Gospel We affirm that those in rebellion against God are condemned both by His law, which they disobey, and His gospel, which they also disobey. When they have been brought to the point of repentance by the Holy Spirit, we affirm that the gracious nature of all God’s words becomes evident to them. At the same time, we affirm that it is appropriate to speak of law and gospel as having a redemptive and historical thrust, with the time of the law being the old covenant era and the time of the gospel being the time when we enter our maturity as God’s people. We further affirm that those who are first coming to faith in Christ frequently experience the law as an adversary and the gospel as deliverance from that adversary, meaning that traditional evangelistic applications of law and gospel are certainly scriptural and appropriate.
We deny that law and gospel should be considered as a hermeneutics, or treated as such.
We believe that any passage, whether indicative or imperative, can be heard by the faithful as good news, and that any passage, whether containing gospel promises or not, will be heard by the rebellious as intolerable demand. The fundamental division is not in the text, but rather in the human heart.

This is an interesting section. The key potential source of controversy is the statement: "We deny that law and gospel should be considered as a hermeneutics, or treated as such." Hermeneutic means:
HERMENEU'TICS, n. The art of finding the meaning of an author's words and phrases, and of explaining it to others. (source)

Paul pretty clearly explains that the law is a schoolmaster. It is hard to see how the law and the gospel could not be used in hermeneutics. Of course, what they may mean to say is something else, such as that the law and the gospel should not be used to rigidly carve up the text into verses in red highlighting (law verses) and blue highlighting (gospel verses) or the dispensational error of throwing out the Old Testament as "law" in favor of the New Testament "gospel." Who knows what they meant ... they don't manage to communicate themselves clearly.

The phrase, "
The fundamental division is not in the text, but rather in the human heart," is a nice sentiment, but doesn't really convey any useful information. We assume the FVists do not mean that the law/gospel distinction is entirely subjective, although that is one possible understanding of this phrase. If they did mean that, then we would reject it as erroneous.

Justification by Faith Alone We affirm we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. Faith alone is the hand which is given to us by God so that we may receive the offered grace of God. Justification is God’s forensic declaration that we are counted as righteous, with our sins forgiven, for the sake of Jesus Christ alone.
We deny that the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as anything other than the only kind of faith which God gives, which is to say, a living, active and personally loyal faith. Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer. We deny that faith is ever alone, even at the moment of the effectual call.

The first sentence is clearly orthodox. The second sentence is generally orthodox, and appears to be borrowed from Cyril Lucar or a similar theologian (ironically, the "faith is a hand" metaphor is not a Biblical metaphor). The third sentence is also clearly orthodox.
The remaining sentences are mostly orthodox. The idea that "faith is [not] ever alone, even at the moment of the effectual call" is a bit odd. It is not necessarily the case that at that moment there will already be works to testify to the faith, which is the normal sense in which we speak of faith that is not alone. Nevertheless, since the effectual call is a work of the Spirit, therefore, inherently faith at the time of the effectual call is not alone, in the sense that it is accompanied by God's grace.

Assurance of Salvation We affirm that those who have been justified by God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are saved to the uttermost and will spend eternity with Christ and his saints in glory forever. We affirm also that though salvation is granted through the instrument of faith alone, those who have been justified will live progressively more and more sanctified lives until they go to be with God. Those believers for whom this is true look to Christ for their assurance—in the Word, in the sacraments, in their fellow believers, and in their own participation in that life by faith.
We deny that anyone who claims to have faith but who lives in open rebellion against God and against his Christ has any reason to believe that he will be saved on the last day.

This section appears to be generally orthodox.

Apostasy We affirm that apostasy is a terrifying reality for many baptized Christians. All who are baptized into the triune Name are united with Christ in His covenantal life, and so those who fall from that position of grace are indeed falling from grace. The branches that are cut away from Christ are genuinely cut away from someone, cut out of a living covenant body. The connection that an apostate has to Christ is not merely external.
We deny that any person who is chosen by God for final salvation before the foundation of the world can fall away and be finally lost. The decretally elect cannot apostatize.

This statement is erroneous and objectionable for several reasons:

A) "Final Salvation"

Salvation is binary. There are different kinds of salvation to be sure, but salvation from hell is an either/or proposition. Christ saves "to the uttermost" not just for a time. To distinguish the salvation of one's soul into "final" and "something else" is to confuse salvation. Salvation is deliverance. There remains no condemnation to anyone who is justified, who has put on Christ's righteousness.

B) "The connection that an apostate has to Christ is not merely external."

1) Yes, it is merely external. The church is an external body. Union with the body of Christ via baptism provides external union: baptism of the Spirit (regeneration) is necessary for more than merely external union. They went out from us, because they were not of us. The apostate were only ever part of Christ outwardly and formally, not inwardly and really. Thus, apostacy is demonstration of a lack of real union with Christ.

2) Additionally, the verb tense is surely wrong. It should state "had."

In other words, surely the writers of the FV JS made a typographic error in stating that apostates presently have a connection to Christ. Even according only to the remainder of the paragraph, it should be clear that the connection that they had was cut off.

C) "Indeed falling from grace"

This terminology "fallen from grace" appears to be taken from:

Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

There it is used to convey the effect that those who seek justification from works are out of God's favor (grace), and Christ is of no use to such a person:

Galatians 5:2-3
2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

It seems, however, that the FVists have misunderstood Galatians 5:4 as suggesting some sort of fall from a state of saving (or perhaps prevenient?) grace.

D) "Apostasy is a terrifying reality for many baptized Christians"

The term "baptized Christians" is one loaded with potential for error. A Christian is one that is one inwardly, and the baptism that matters is of the heart. Apostasy may be a legitimate concern for a weak Christian struggling with sin, but it is not a "terrifying reality." Christians (true Christians) do not apostatize, and just because someone is baptized does not make him a Christian.

The present author has been enjoying Hoeksema's "Righteous by Faith Alone" (link). His commentary on Romans 2 applies marvellously to defeat the FV error with respect to the effect of baptism.

To paraphrase Romans 2:

Romans 2:26-29 (modified to substitute baptism for circumcision)
26Therefore if the [unbaptized man] keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his [lack of baptism] be counted for [baptism]? 27And shall not [lack of baptism] which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and [baptism] dost transgress the law? 28For he is not a [Christian], which is one outwardly; neither is that [baptism], which is outward in the flesh: 29But he is a [Christian], which is one inwardly; and [baptism] is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant. My Baptist brethren err by denying that sign to unregenerate children of believers, while my FV brethren err by asserting that the sign ipse actually provides grace to the children (though whether that is alleged to be the grace of regeneration, I cannot discern from the FV's joint statement).

(see my original post on this particular section - here)

Some Points of Intramural Disagreement The “Federal Vision” is not a monolithic movement. It has been variously described as a conversation, a broad school of thought, a series of similar questions, and so on. As the statements above would indicate, there are a number of common themes held by those who signed this statement.
But there are also important areas of disagreement or ongoing discussion among those who are identified as “Federal Vision” advocates. Some of these areas would include, but not be limited to whether or not the imputation of the active obedience of Christ (as traditionally understood) is to be affirmed in its classic form. Some of us affirm this and some do not. Another difference is whether or not personal regeneration represents a change of nature in the person so regenerated. Some of us say yes while others question whether we actually have such an “essence” that can be changed. All of us would affirm that we should have a high view of covenant renewal liturgy, but this does not necessarily mean that we all agree on how “high” the liturgy should actually be. Some of us are comfortable using the language of justification to describe the “deliverdict” of the last day, while others would prefer to describe it in other ways. That said, we are all agreed that no one is justified at any time because they personally have earned or merited anything. Some of us robustly affirm Christ's unique merit in His person and work as the answer to our demerit. Others think there are better words to describe the value and worthiness of Christ's sacrifice without recourse to the term "merit" because it is not biblical language and its use in the history of the church and currently shows that it can cause confusion.
Any doctrine mentioned in the sections before this one can be fairly represented as part of the Federal Vision. Issues in this last section cannot be fairly represented as the view of the whole. Our prayer is that this statement will help to bring clarity to a subject that been confused because of the noise of controversy. “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace . . .” (Eph. 4:3).

The last line is the most offensive aspect of the document, precisely because the FV movement is not endeavoring to keep unity, but is actually dividing.

Leaving that aside, the disclaimer is useful. Some FVists are further from the truth than others. Having this statement, as poorly worded and - in places - as vague as it is, is helpful. It helps to provide a basis to decide whether something is or is not "Federal Vision" per se. It also makes it possible to identify some of the critical errors in FVism, although we suspect that there may still be FV distinctives lurking behind the statement.

For those concerned about the accuracy of the quotations from the statement, here's a link (link to fvstatement (pdf)). The men who signed this statement were originally:

John Barach (minister, CREC)
Randy Booth (minister, CREC)
Tim Gallant (minister, CREC)
Rich Lusk (minister, CREC)
Ralph Smith (minister, CREC)
Douglas Wilson (minister, CREC)
Jim Jordan (member CREC)
Peter Leithart (minister, PCA - serving in a CREC church now)(Pacific Northwest Presbytery)
Steve Wilkins (minister, was PCA when he signed, now CREC)
Mark Horne (minister, PCA) (Missouri Presbytery)
Jeff Meyers (minister, PCA) (Missouri Presbytery)

One really wonders whether the PCA will turn next to the Missouri Presbytery to address Ministers Horne and Meyers. The Missouri Presbytery's report seems generally sound, but it does not seem to really address the Federal Vision problem, or the issues identified above (here is a link to the MO Presbytery report on Federal Vision in (pdf)).


Matthew Poole on John 3:16

In the following passage, extracted from the abbreviated form of his exhaustive commentaries, the noted commentator Matthew Poole expounds on John 3:16.

John 3:16
For God the Father, who is the Lord of all, debtor to none, sufficient to himself, so loved the world, that is, Gentiles as well as Jews. There is a great contest about the signification of the term, betwixt those who contend for or against the point of universal redemption; but certain it is, that from this term no more can be solidly concluded, than from the terms all and every, which in multitudes of places are taken in a restrained sense for many, or all of such a nation or kind. As this term sometimes signifies all persons, so, in 1 John 2:21, the Gentiles in opposition to the Jews. Nor, admitting that the world should signify here every living soul in the place called the world, will any thing follow from it. It is proper enough to say, A man loved such a family to such a degree that he gave his estate to it, though he never intended such a thing to every child or branch of it. So as what is truth in that so vexed a question cannot be determined from any of these universal terms; which must, when all is said that can be said, be expounded by what follows them, and by their reconcilableness to other doctrines of faith. God so loved the world that he gave his Son to die for a sacrifice for their sins, to die in their stead, and give a satisfaction for them to his justice. And this Son was not any of his sons by adoption, but his only begotten Son; not so called (as Socinians would have it) because of his singular generation of the virgin without help of man, but from his eternal generation, in whom the Gentiles should trust, Psalm 2:12, which none ought to do, but in God alone, Deuteronomy 6:13; Jeremiah 17:5. That whosoever, etc.: the term all is spoken to above; these words restrain the universal term world, and all, to let us know that Christ only died for some in the world, viz. such as should believe in him. Some judge, not improbably, that Christ useth the term world in this verse in the same sense as in 1 John 2:2. Our evangelist useth to take down the pride of the Jews, who dreamed that the Messiah came only for the benefit of the seed of Abraham, not for the nations of the world, he only came to destroy them; which notion also very well fitteth what we have in the next verse.


UPDATE: Andrew Meyers informs us that the above passage, while in Poole's commentary, is actually a posthumous addition by Collinges. Mr. Meyers is associated with (part of?) the Matthew Poole Project, so we're willing to take his word for it.

John Murray on Pictures of Christ

As John Murray explains:
The question of the propriety of pictorial representations of the Saviour is one that merits examination. It must be granted that the worship of Christ is central in our holy faith, and the thought of the Saviour must in every instance be accompanied with that reverence which belongs to his worship. We cannot think of him without the apprehension of the majesty that is his. If we do not entertain the sense of his majesty, then we are guilty of impiety and we dishonor him.

It will also be granted that the only purpose that could properly be served by a pictorial representation is that it would convey to us some thought or lesson representing him, consonant with truth and promotive of worship. Hence the question is inescapable: is a pictorial representation a legitimate way of conveying truth regarding him and of contributing to the worship which this truth should evoke?
Find out Murray's answer and explanation and reasons in this well-written article provided by Sherman Isbell, and originally printed in the Reformed Herald (link to article).


Monday, February 18, 2008

The real Turretin on: Imputation vs. Infusion

Turretin, on the topic of whether Justification is by imputation or infusion writes:

"Unde colligitur vocem hanc esse forensem quae non est intelligenda physice de infusione justitiae sed judicialiter et relative de gratuita acceptione in judicio dei."

Turretin's Works, Edinburgh edit., vol. ii., p. 570.

Which, being interpreted is:

"Whence it may be inferred that this word (to impute) is not to be understood physically of the infusion of righteousness (or unrighteousness), but judicially and relatively regarding gratuitous acceptance in the judgment of God."



The real Turretin on: Verbal Inspiration

On the topic of verbal inspiration, Francis Turretin had the following comments:

"Quaeritur . . . an in scribendo ita acti et inspirati fuerint, a Spiritu Sancto, et quoad res ipsas et quoad verba, ut ab omni errore immunes fuerint, et scripta ipsorum vere sint authentica et divina? Adversarii negant; Nos affirmamus."

Turrettin's Works, Edin. edit., vol. i., p. 60.

Which, being translated, is:

"It is a matter of inquiry whether in writing they (the sacred writers) were so influenced and inspired by the Holy Spirit, both as to the things themselves and as to the words, as that they were free from all error, and that their writings are truly authentic and divine. Our adversaries deny this; we affirm it."

Again, in another place:
"Nec facile credi potest, Deum, qui omnia et singula verba viris θεοπνευστοις dictavit et inspiravit, de omnibus conservandis non curasse."

Ibid, vol. i., p. 67. "

Which, being translated, is:

"Nor can it be easily believed that God, who, to men divinely inspired, dictated and inspired all and every several word, has not taken care for the preservation of them all."


Sunday, February 17, 2008

As Wise as Sheep

Sheep are not wise. It is no great compliment to be called a sheep. Nevertheless, in Chapter 10 of John's Gospel, Christ proclaimed the parable of the Shepherd and the sheepfold, in which he compared us to sheep, and Himself to the Shepherd.

John 9:35-10:29
35Jesus heard that they had cast him [the man who was born blind, whom Jesus miraculously healed] out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
39And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. 1Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
6This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. 17Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
19There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. 20And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
21Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
22And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. 23And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. 24Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
25Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. 26But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

There are many things that can be gleaned from the passage. One is the fact that Jesus is divine. If we were going to emphasize that, we'd continue down the passage, for Jesus is shortly afterward explicitly accused of blasphemy.

In this post, though, we are going to focus on the soteriological aspects of the passage. The sheep are the elect, those who will be saved from judgment on judgment day. We know this because Christ says "I give unto them eternal life."

1. Once a Sheep, Always a Sheep

This would seem to be an obvious fact from the nature of things. Sheep do not change their species. Sheep do not become goats, they do not become wolves, they do not become dogs. A wolf may slip in disguised as a sheep or a goat may get caught up in a sheep stampede. But a sheep is a sheep, and a non-sheep is not a sheep. There is no more saddening condemnation to hear than to hear: "ye are not of my sheep" from the mouth of God. On the other hand, to know that one is a sheep is the most encouraging thing we can know. We know that the sheep will never stop being a sheep, because Christ says: "they shall never perish."

2. Once a Sheep of Christ's, Always a Sheep of Christ's

Again, this would seem to be an obvious fact. Christ is God. He cannot be robbed by thieves. No one is stronger than God to be able wrestle sheep away from him. Furthermore, sheep are not self-determiners of their ownership. No one asks a sheep for his permission to own the sheep. A sheep cannot decide to become someone else's sheep. A sheep can wander off from the flock, but the Shepherd will bring him back. Furthermore, Christ explains this in the passage above: "neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." (and likewise, "My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all.")

3. The Sheep Come Because they are Sheep

Some people have suggested that people become sheep because they come. This is absurd. Sheep are sheep before they come. A lost sheep is a sheep. A sheep cannot hear his master's voice, unless he is a sheep. This also leads us to the second suggestion we sometimes hear: that a sheep become's Christ's by hearing his voice.

But that is not how ownership of sheep works. Furthermore, that's not how the matter is described in the passage. Instead, the passage states: "the sheep follow him: for they know his voice, and a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." You see, there is a reason why the sheep follow the shepherd and not a stranger, it is because they know his voice. They follow the shepherd because they are his sheep, not the other way around.

4. The Sheep are Called Particularly

It is often overlooked that the sheep are not called en masse. One sees people discussing the passage as though the Shepherd is standing out in a huge field of sheep yelling, "Here Sheep!" That fits with the mistaken view above that sheep become sheep (or Christ's sheep) by coming. That's not the picture here. The picture here is Christ calling his sheep particularly, individually, by name: "he calleth his own sheep by name," "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep."

5. The Sheep will be Saved

There is no doubt, no uncertainty about sheep of Christ's that are still outside the fold. Christ declares the certainty of their salvation. This conflicts both with an open theistic view of God, and with a universalistic intent theory of the atonement. Christ aim is to save the sheep ("My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all") and he will save the sheep ("other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice").

6. The Sheep are Given to the Shepherd and the Shepherd for the Sheep

The Shepherd's duty is to save the sheep. Christ states: "Them also I must bring." Likewise, He states "My Father, which gave them to me." They are his sheep, with Him leading the way: "when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him." And furthermore, "I lay down my life for the sheep." We can also see the same thing negatively put here: "But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not."

7. The Sheep are the Blind that Now See, the Others Think they See, but do not

Recall how this passage begins. The man born blind is healed, so that he sees and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. The Pharisees do not see, and mockingly ask whether they are blind. Jesus tells them in essence that if they realized they were blind, they would be given sight, but since they think they see, they remain dead in sins.

8. What do the Sheep do right?

- the sheep hear his voice
- the sheep follow him: for they know his voice
- a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
- the sheep did not hear them.
- they shall hear my voice;
- My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me

9. Why don't others do the same?

"But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep."

10. Conclusion

That's the simple truth of monergistic salvation. The sheep do hear and follow, but they do so because they are the sheep. The others do not, because they are not Christ's sheep. Christ is our Good Shepherd, who was prophesied by Jacob:

Genesis 49:24 "...from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:"

David also prophesied of Jesus in Psalm 23:

Psalm 23:1 (A Psalm of David.) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

(Its worth noting as an aside against the Ebionites that this is Jesus being referred to as Jehovah.)

Asaph likewise prophesied of Jesus in Psalm 80:

Psalm 80:1 (To the chief Musician upon Shoshannimeduth, A Psalm of Asaph.) Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

Isaiah, that great prophet of God, likewise prophesied:

Isaiah 40:10-11
10Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 11He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

(again, Jesus is identified with Jehovah)

The weeping prophet, Jeremiah prophesied the same thing:

Jeremiah 31:10 Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.

Ezekiel also:

Ezekiel 34:12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

It is this Shepherd whom John and the other evangelists preach to you, and which confirmed by the other Scriptures:

Hebrews 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Let us give thanks unto the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the Sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant,


The real Turretin on: the Misery of that Estate whereunto man Fell

Standing Solus Christus has kindly transcribed a very brief (three paragraphs or so) portion of the real Turretin's thoughts on the misery of fallen man (link). Those who have been catechized in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC) will recall the important difference between the sinfulness and misery of fallen man.

I read it on the Internet

I put in Disney's website (link) and got this result:
blog readability test

I put in Centuri0n's blog (link) and got this result:
blog readability test

I put in Dr. James White's blog (link) and got this result:

blog readability test

I put in the present blog (link) and got this result:

blog readability test

So, anyways, since I (and now you) read it on the internet, it must be true.

Or, more likely, it just goes to show the weakness of computer-based techniques.


PCUSA Draws the Line

Apparently, although the PCUSA will continue to permit women to be ordained, they have drawn the line at allowing practicing homosexuals from being ordained. (link) This is a defeat for the ultra-liberals in the PCUSA. I wonder whether this will bring a welcome split within the PCUSA that would extract the most extreme liberal elements within that church.