Saturday, June 07, 2008

Psalm 50 - John Brown's Notes

John Brown of Haddington writes regarding Psalm 50 (on which I blogged moments ago):

This psalm may be considered as a rebuke to the carnal Jews who rested in, and boasted of their external ceremonies in worship, to the neglect of the weightier matters of the law mercy, judgment, and faith; or as a prediction of the coming of Christ, to abolish the ceremonial worship, eject the Jews from his church, and establish a more pure and spiritual form of worship under the gospel: or, in fine, as a representation of the last judgment; in which Christ shall come, to render to every man according to his deeds.


  • (1.) The awful appearance of God our Redeemer, in the flesh, in power, or in the clouds; with the gathering of the people to him, ver. 1-6.

  • (2.) An engaging admonition to improve God's new-covenant grant of himself to be our God, as an excitement to exchange legal ceremonies into prayer, thanksgiving and holy obedience; or, at least, to give a remarkable preference to the latter, ver. 7-15.

  • (3.) A terrible charge of hypocrisy, slander, contempt of God's word, and of atheistical imaginations concerning God, laid against the wicked, with a fearful sentence of condemnation founded thereon, ver. 16-22.

  • (4.) An alarming warning of danger to the forgetters of God, and an encouraging promise to such as study to glorify him by a holy conversation, ver. 22-23.
John Brown also provides the following advice for singing this particular psalm (that's a primary reason why Asaph wrote the psalm after all, to be sung):

Sing this, my soul, with solemn awe, assisted before the great Searcher of hearts, and as by faith beholding Jesus in my nature, sitting on his great white throne, gathering the nations to his bar, opening the books, and judging mankind out of the things found written therein.

Praise be to our Awesome and Majestic God!


The Mighty God Will Not Remain Silent Forever

Psalm 50 - Metrical Version (Scottish Metrical Psalter)

(Meter: SMD and the words are well set to the tune Diademata, which I promise you sounds much better sung in 4 parts than midi'd, though that's the only "instrumental" form I could find)

1    The mighty God, the Lord,
hath spoken, and did call
The earth, from rising of the sun,
to where he hath his fall.

2 From out of Sion hill,
which of excellency
And beauty the perfection is,
God shined gloriously.

3 Our God shall surely come,
keep silence shall not he:
Before him fire shall waste, great storms
shall round about him be.

4 Unto the heavens clear
he from above shall call,
And to the earth likewise, that he
may judge his people all.

5 Together let my saints
unto me gather'd be,
Those that by sacrifice have made
a covenant with me.

6 And then the heavens shall
his righteousness declare:
Because the Lord himself is he
by whom men judged are.

7 My people Isr'el hear,
speak will I from on high,
Against thee I will testify;
God, ev'n thy God, am I.

8 I for thy sacrifice
no blame will on thee lay,
Nor for burnt-off 'rings, which to me
thou offer'dst ev'ry day.

9 I'll take no calf nor goats
from house or fold of thine:
10 For beasts of forests, cattle all
on thousand hills, are mine.

11 The fowls on mountains high
are all to me well known;
Wild beasts which in the fields do lie,
ev'n they are all mine own.

12 Then, if I hungry were,
I would not tell it thee;
Because the world, and fulness all
thereof, belongs to me.

13 Will I eat flesh of bulls?
or goats' blood drink will I?
14 Thanks offer thou to God, and pay
thy vows to the most High.

15 And call upon me when
in trouble thou shalt be;
I will deliver thee, and thou
my name shalt glorify.

16 But to the wicked man
God saith, My laws and truth
Should'st thou declare? how dar'st thou take
my cov'nant in thy mouth?

17 Sith thou instruction hat'st,
which should thy ways direct;
And sith my words behind thy back
thou cast'st, and dost reject.

18 When thou a thief didst see,
with him thou didst consent;
And with the vile adulterers
partaker on thou went.

19 Thou giv'st thy mouth to ill,
thy tongue deceit doth frame;
20 Thou sitt'st, and 'gainst thy brother speak'st,
thy mother's son dost shame.

21 Because I silence kept,
while thou these things hast wrought;
That I was altogether like
thyself, hath been thy thought;

Yet I will thee reprove,
and set before thine eyes,
In order ranked, thy misdeeds
and thine iniquities.

22 Now, ye that God forget,
this carefully consider;
Lest I in pieces tear you all,
and none can you deliver.

23 Whoso doth offer praise
me glorifies; and I
Will shew him God's salvation,
that orders right his way.
The whole psalm is rich with gospel call, but today, as I read through, verse 21 especially struck me.

Verse 21 is talking about mankind's tendency to confuse longsuffering with apathy. God endures the heinous sins of men, not because he doesn't care about sinfulness, but for his own higher reasons. But we, like any two year old, imagine that if God doesn't punish us immediately for our sins, it means he doesn't really care: he's not really offended by them or perhaps they don't bother him that much.

How wrong we are to think that way.

Judgment is delayed, but it is coming.

You can liken our life of sin as taking items off a grocery shelf and eating them, thinking that the grocer doesn't see us. But guess what: the checkout line is coming, and there is going to be a tally of everything that was taken off the shelf. A mere grocer might miss kumquat here or there, but God will have a full list of everything we have done wrong.

Moreover, as a dear Christian brother pointed out to me, while I was discussing this with him, we can turn to verse 22 to see what happens next.


There will be punishment for those who sin, and yet that we may not be the recipients of the punishment due our sins. Now, while you have time, repent of your sins and trust in Christ. As 14-15 exhort, call on God in this, your time of trouble, and beg him for mercy. For there is no one more merciful than God. Thus, be one of those in verse 23 who praise and glorify God, to whom God grants salvation.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Internet Anonymity Series

David Anderson at More than Words has provided an interesting series on Internet anonymity. While I don't fully agree with him (otherwise I wouldn't post pseudonymously) he has a number of thought-provoking posts on the issue:
Ultimately, my own commentary on this issue is as follows: if you are posting anonymously, pseudonymously, or even simply un-disciplinably, consider your motivations. I believe that there can be proper motivations for doing so, but there can also be very improper motivations for doing so.

A few critical observations:

* Paul's example is all very well, but Paul was also - at another time - let down by a basket from the city walls.

* I strongly object to the claim, "Anonymity removes the messenger from the message, which is a move without any Biblical approval." There are plenty of anonymous books of the Bible. While it is clear there that the underlying author is God, a properly motivated anonymous or pseudonymous Christian seeks to point the reader to the Word of God, not the message of man.

* People can be pseudonymous and still be accountable to their family, friends, and elders.

* Anonymous and Pseudonymous dialog has an important purpose, especially in a society in which Christian behaviors such as proselytizing, spanking one's children, and denouncing sin are prohibited, restricted, or at risk of being prohibited or restricted.

* Anonymity/Pseudonymity can provide a layer of prudential protection to Christian evangelists. I cannot think of any good reason, for example, to insist that a Chinese evangelist would have to give everyone his full name and the name of his elders, and their mailing address, in order to satisfy any kind of Christian obligation.

Thus, on the whole, I believe that Mr. Anderson's posts are interesting and thought-provoking, but ultimately not persuasive (at least not for this pseudonymous blogger).


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sad Books News

I regret to inform my readers that Live Search Books (and Microsoft's digitization project that went with it) has been aborted. This is a huge loss, as it was the closest competitor to Google Books. It had a better interface than its competitor and sometimes had content available that was not available via Google Books. It is really a loss for everyone who uses the Internet.

Let's hope that Google doesn't similarly pull the plug on Google Books.


Sola Scriptura Debate - Errata

I seem to have conflated Wycliffe and Tyndale in my opening post. (Image of Wycliffe's Bible shown at right.)

I wrote: "The first English Bible was not published until the time of Wycliffe in the 14th century. Wycliffe received martyrdom for his troubles, and the papist authorities sought to destroy the copies of the Bible that he printed."

The Wycliffe Bible was hunted by authorities, but while the papists dug up Wycliffe's bones and burnt them, it was technically Wycliffe's assistant Purvey (who completed the work) who ended up being martyred, Wycliffe himself dying apparently of natural causes (1384). Printed is also not be quite the right word. For, you see, the Wycliffe Bible had to be published by handwriting. Printed suggests mechanical reproduction.

Tyndale, on the other hand, provided the first truly printed English Bible. He was martyred in 1536 by strangling. His body was then, like that of Wycliffe his predecessor, burnt (in the case of Tyndale it was burnt at a stake).

The followers of Wycliffe, known as the Lollards, are a fascinating case study for those who vainly imagine that reformation of the Western church started in 1517 with a German monk complaining about abuse of indulgences.

Nevertheless, I somehow managed mentally to conflate Wycliffe and Tyndale in my opening post, much to my shame, and so I hereby publicly retract that erroneous passage in favor of:

"The first English Bible was not published until the time of Wycliffe/Purvey in the 14th century. WycliffePurvey received martyrdom for his troubles, and the papist authorities sought to destroy the copies of the Bible that he printedpublished."

I'm not sure whether Mr. Bellisario will permit correction of my opening post, the deadline having past. Nevertheless, I hope he will, for I have no interest in spreading further the unsubstantiated claim that Wycliffe was martyred or the misleading claim that the Wycliffe Bible was mechanically printed (when, in fact, it was copied by hand).

One reader also noted that I had made the following simpler typo (shown corrected):

Usually the objection is more practical, though: how can we convince someone of hethe canonicity of Esther (for example)?

Mr. Bellisario has approved correction of that error, and so I have updated the post accordingly. These things go to show that, even with the aid of a computer, I am fallible. Thus, no one should trust what I have to say. The Scriptures, on the other hand, being the Word of God are infallible and inerrant. Therefore, we properly use them as our rule (canon).


Sunday, June 01, 2008

First Post of the First Round of Sola Scriptura Debate Posted

The post may be found here (link). I have titled the debate “Sola Scriptura vs. Roman Catholicism,” not because I am unaware of the different rites that exist within what calls itself “Catholicism,” but because I must deny (with all non-“Roman Catholic” Christians) that the church headed by the Pope is the universal church. Thus, without animosity or without intent to disparage, you may find reference in the debate to the church that confesses, as its earthly head, Benedict XVI, variously as the “Roman Catholic” (RC) church, the Romanist church, or the papists. I don’t mean to use those terms jeeringly, and I hope no unnecessary offense will be taken at them. I recognize that papists prefer the term “Catholic,” but that term is misleading and inaccurate – and putting it in quotation marks in every instance would seem to be at least as much a distraction as using the descriptive term “papist” to describe those who hold to the supposed infallibility of the Roman pontiff, or “Romanist” to describe those who view Rome as being the seat of government of the entire Church of God. In any event, I trust that the learned reader who is himself a Roman Catholic, whether of Latin rite, Byzantine rite, or Chaldean rite, will look past the labels involved and search the Scriptures to see whether their church is in error. (link to first round affirmative post)


With Man it is Impossible - A Further Response to GodIsMyJudge

This is a response to a post (link) from Godismyjudge (Dan) responding to my earlier post here (link).

Dan's response doesn't seem to consist of much.

1) Dan seems to think that God self-determining is significant. In fact he says, "Please just let me enjoy the moment." As demonstrated previously, though, self-determining does not equate to LFW, so this is not as significant as Dan seems to think.

2) Dan commits a dichotomy fallacy by asserting, "This is nothing short of an affirmation of agent causation and denial of event causation on Tfan’s part." In fact, it is simply an affirmation of the fact that God is the first cause.

3) Dan continues by compounding this dichotomy fallacy with a straw man by asserting: "Normally, determinists wouldn’t say call something inactive a cause." (a) God was not inactive in Creation; (b) God was not necessarily inactive before Creation - we simply have no information about any activity of his before Creation; (c) the activity/inactivity distinction (whether employed by "determinists" or not) seems intrinsically false, if activity means movement - since we recognize that a keystone is a cause of stability in an arch without motion; and (d) we call the state of man's heart, and more generally man's nature causes of man's choices - why that being the case for God would be significant is elusive.

4) Dan then oddly comments, "But if TF is willing to call agents causes, then the answer to TF’s 2nd question is the agent." My second question was, "Can we meaningfully speak of reasons for choices, reasons that explain the choices?" How "the agent" is an answer to that question is hard to follow. Dan seems to be engage in a combined form of composition and equivocation. Namely, that if man's sinful nature is an explanation, than "man" in general is the explanation. While man certainly is part of the explanation for man's actions, but it is not the entirety of the explanation.

5) Dan's jump from Divine causality to "agent" causality is also an example of a generalization fallacy. Dan's own title partial reference, (i.e. to the phrase "with God all things are possible") is part of a larger whole, "With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Ironically, it's quite a Calvinist verse, because it is explaining the possibility of man obtaining salvation - thereby laying the foundation for salvation by grace alone. But that is an aside. Man and God are not automatically convertable. Just because something is possible for God does not make it categorically possible.

6) Dan then poses, in the most interesting part of his post the following puzzle. Dan insists that "There doesn’t seem like much of a point in getting into the rest of Tfan’s post without resolving this." Here goes:
Now then, let’s get to the controversial part. It rained this afternoon. Was it absolutely impossible for God to create a world which didn’t include rain this afternoon? Seems to me that unless Tfan says yes, God has LFW. Again, unless God was unable to have the slightest detail in the universe be any different that it was, is or will be, God had LFW.
I answer:

Let's leave aside the obvious out of the inconsistency of this statement with Dan's futile "in the beginning" argument in his previous post and turn to the substance.

Dan asks: "Was it absolutely impossible for God to create a world which didn’t include rain this afternoon?"

1) What Dan means by "absolutely impossible" needs to be clarified. For example, it is absolutely impossible for God to change his mind. Scripture explains that to us. On the other hand, it is very easy for God to withhold rain. Thus, we need Dan to explain to us what he means by absolutely impossible. Furthermore, let us consider God in the logical order before free knowledge.

2) Ultimately, I think I can guess why Dan is asking the question. We know that God is going to do what is best. Dan seems to want to know whether God's actual decree of Providence is the absolutely best plan for history, or whether one of at least two equally good best plans could have been made. I don't think Scripture speaks clearly to that question. The bottom line is that God himself determined what the plan would be. It's really not important to the compatibilist how God did so - either by picking the best possible plan or by picking one plan among several alternative equally best possible plans. Or intuition suggests the former, since precise equality is so hard to find. I can throw up my shoulders here and say, I think the former, but I don't particularly care - it doesn't change anything else. If Dan could somehow prove the latter, it might be significant, but I don't see how he could hope to do so (which is perhaps why he asked the question rather than responding).

3) Saying that God had LFW with respect to some detail of the universe, per Dan's proposed fork, seems equivalent to saying that God acted arbitrarily in selecting this universe as opposed to that one. Yet God does not act arbitrarily, but wisely. Perhaps that is the solution to Dan's dilemma - if indeed it means that God would have had to have chosen arbitrarily, then we can reject that theory on the grounds that God is not an arbitrary God.

In any event, I await Dan's clarification of his puzzle as well as any answer's Dan may have to the remainder of the refutations already presented.