Sunday, January 31, 2010
VanDrunen made a great point about how that we must be careful not to equate the civil kingdom with the state and thereby collapse into the state all other civil endeavors or concerns. States can be oppressive and tyrannical, he argued, and there needs to be a sufficient decentralization of power in order to guarantee some sovereignty to things like education and the arts.
One point that VanDrunen was careful to make was that the state, though a post-fall phenomenon, is nonetheless a legitimate institution and sword-wielder. Quoting Calvin, he insisted that “tyranny is better than anarchy.” (Just a quibble, but I am not convinced of how helpful this point is, since the term “anarchism,” when used today, inevitably evokes the idea of chaos while ignoring its political and economic definition, which is basically synonymous with “libertarianism” or “socialism,” properly understood.)
The issue of civil disobedience also came up. VanDrunen argues that it is never proper for a believer to seek to fight against religious persecution by means of the carnal weaponry of the state or its courts. If memory serves, he believes the same rules apply in the civil realm as well, meaning that it any form of civil disobedience to lawfully ordained magistrates is wrong, unless they compel us to disobey God’s law.
To tip my hat to the just-deceased Howard Zinn, I would respectfully disagree here. While I do think a Christian should never resist religious persecution but rather endure it as an example of Christ-like cross-bearing, I do think it’s legitimate for the believer to fight against injustices that arise for non-religious reasons (such as during the civil rights movement), as long as such resistance (1) is non-violent, and (2) doesn’t violate the Westminster Confession and invoke our spiritual liberty as a reason to resist civil oppression (I wrote about this topic here, here, and here).
OK, discuss away....
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I used to get in quite a few arguments about it with this boy who lived down the corridor, Arthur Childs. Old Childs was a Quaker and all, and he read the Bible all the time. He was a nice kid, and I liked him, but I could never see eye to eye with him on a lot of stuff in the Bible, especially the Disciples. He kept telling me if I didn’t like the Disciples, then I didn’t like Jesus and all. He said that because Jesus picked the Disciples, you were supposed to like them. I said I knew He picked them, but that He picked them at random. I said He didn’t have time to go around analyzing everybody. I said I wasn’t blaming Jesus or anything. It wasn’t His fault He didn’t have any time.
Anyway, when I was in bed I couldn’t pray worth a damn....
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
"The kingdom of God proper is the fully consummated new heavens and new earth inhabited by the redeemed, resurrected saints in glory and incorruptibility where the triune God—including the incarnate Son—triumphantly rules supreme."
Then the king turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. And he said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father.... Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. And there I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt."
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
[Paul's] point now is not so much to bring out into the open a charge that [Israel is] sinful like the rest.... The point here is that Israel should have been--had been called to be--the divine answer to the world's problem; and that, instead, Israel is itself fatally compromised with the very same problem. Israel's sinfulness is at the heart of the charge, but the charge itself is that the doctor, instead of healing the sick, has become infected with the disease.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Professor Robert Godfrey opened and closed the conference. In his opening address he pointed out the difficulty of trying to fit any of the various Reformed views on Christ and culture into a nice, tidy slogan. If one insisted on a bumper sticker, however, the only phrase he would suggest would be “Every Square Inch,” for regardless of whether one identifies himself as a Two-Kingdoms advocate or a Kuyperian (or some other option), we can surely agree that Christ rules all of the created order.
In his closing address Godfrey drew our attention to Kuyper’s idea of sphere sovereignty, which says that God rules his church, but he also rules various other institutions such as the state, the school, the family, and so on. With this emphasis, Godfrey said, we don’t need to speak of two kingdoms only, but we can speak of many.
This issue came up again in the Q&A session, at which time Dr. VanDrunen insisted that as Reformed believers we should be able to have our cake and eat it too, holding to both a two-kingdoms model as well as retaining sphere sovereignty. If we adopt the former only, we can end up collapsing the entire cultural kingdom into a one all-embracing category like the state (with its tendency toward tyranny). On the other hand, if we propound a sphere-sovereignty approach only, we can fall into the error of seeing the church as simply one of many institutions through which Christ exercises kingship, thus trivializing the sacred order. But if we embrace each concept we can have the best of both worlds, with the civil kingdom being understood to be much broader than merely the state, but also including the arts and sciences, sports, and education.
There was an interesting moment during the Q&A in which Horton challenged Godfrey’s prior statement about how quote-unquote progressive Kuyper’s cultural agenda was (he pointed out that Kuyper not only sowed the seeds of apartheid, but also opposed women’s suffrage and the rights of workers to strike). Apparently, whether one’s politics are progressive pretty much depends on whether they stand to your left, or to your right.
All in all, two great lectures from Godfrey. The man can work a room.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
I think the Westminster Confession is helpful here. We read in xxviii.6:
The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwith-standing, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost....
Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life....Baptism, then, is a seal to the believer of his union with Christ, his regeneration, and the forgiveness of his sins. Now the whole point of a “seal” is that it provides some sort of confirmation or authentication of something. In this case, the seal is baptism, which is meant to function for the believer as that which confirms his participation in the blessings of the entire covenant of grace.
Now here’s the kicker: If the Confession says that the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration, it stands to reason that there is a “moment” to which it is OK to “tie the efficacy of baptism.” Now, we would all agree that that moment is when we exercise saving faith. It follows, therefore, that it is perfectly valid for the believer (who has exercised saving faith), seeing his baptism as the seal of his regeneration, union with Christ, and forgiveness of sins, to attribute to that sacrament the blessings of the covenant of grace. In other words, he can say, “I have been united with Christ through baptism,” or “I have been forgiven of all my sins because I have been baptized.”
To deny this not only demonstrates a person’s suspicion of the language of confessional Reformed theology, but it also leaves him with little to say in response to the sacramental language of Scripture.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Consider these exerpts from Calvin's Strasbourg and Geneva catechisms:
Question: How do you know yourself to be a son of God in fact as well as in name?
Answer: Because I am baptized in the name of God the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Question: Is baptism nothing more than a mere symbol [i.e., picture] of cleansing?
Answer: I think it to be such a symbol that the reality is attached to it. For God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts. Hence, both pardon of sins and newness of life are certainly offered and received by us in baptism.
How, then, are we to talk about the efficacy of baptism?
I maintain that the answer is found in properly relating the sign to the thing signified. If we can remember to carefully distinguish the outward sign whereby water is sprinkled on a person's head, and the inward reality of the sinner being cleansed by the blood of Christ, then we can go ahead and speak of the one as if it is the other.
There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other (WCF xxvii.2).Think of the sign and the thing signified like you would twins: It's only after you've learned to tell them apart that it becomes safe to put them together.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
The pressing of this duty [of mortification] immediately on any other [than believers] is a notable fruit of that superstition and self-righteousness that the world is full of--the great work and design of devout men ignorant of the gospel.... Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.