Why The PCA Will Lose Its Fight Against the Federal Vision


Admittedly, there are many reasons why the PCA will lose its fight against the Federal Vision.  I tried to outlined some of the major reasons in my book, Can the PCA be Saved? John Robbins outlined similar reasons pertaining to the OPC, lessons those in the PCA still need to learn, in his booklet, Can the OPC be Saved.   In both of these works we have tried to demonstrate how and why the unique epistemology of Cornelius Van Til provided the door through which the FV walked and why the position advanced by Gordon Clark is the antidote.  As James Jordan once noted in a rare sentient moment: “The FV controversy is the Clark controversy with feet on it.”

Of course, the failure in leadership is not restricted to just to followers of Van Til.  Dr. Robbins offered a rather stinging rebuke of his friend Cal Beisner in Why Heretics Win Battles. Reading that piece again I confess if it were directed at me I would be smarting.  I loved John Robbins but I would not want to be at the receiving end of one of his critiques (although, truth be told, I was once on the receiving end on a different issue that hit close to home and it did sting, even if I finally had to admit he was right).  So, long and short, there is certainly enough blame to go around.  I’m sure some could make the argument, and believe me some have, that I have contributed to the spread of the FV in that I’m not as irenic as I should be or that my opposition to this particular false gospel amounts to “bomb throwing” which might actually in some unintended way empower Christ’s enemies.  They might be right.

However, I want to focus on just one common misconception I think needs to be addressed again and that is the tendency of many to think that the battle over the FV is somehow an in-house fight or that it has to do with who is and who is not a real Presbyterian.

Recently PCA pastor, Andy Webb, commenting on the recent exoneration of FV pastor Jeff Meyers, and in repose to a tongue and cheek comment by someone who Webb evidently mistook as one of Meyers’ defenders, wrote:

For instance, I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t want presbyteries filled with Pentecostals, Congregationalists, and Baptists, regardless of the sincerity of their Christian profession or how nice they were.

Now, we’ve already condemned – as a denomination – the FV as an erroneous opinion, and insisted that a Presbytery discipline a TE (LA, Wilkins) because of it. So, either the MO presbytery is formally stating that they repudiate the official position of the PCA in regards to the FV or that they don’t believe Meyers own declarations regarding his FV allegiances.

The problem with statements like these, besides not being very helpful,  is that there is simply no parity between presbyteries filled with Pentecostals, Congregationalists, and Baptists and presbyteries currently protecting, defending, and exonerating Federal Visionists.  Despite their errors, and some are more serious than others, Pentecostals, Congregationalists, and Baptists are not by definition Christ denying heretics.  Sure, they are not Presbyterians and none of these folks have any place in any PCA presbytery, but last I checked Pentecostals, Congregationalists, and Baptists don’t by definition deny the truth of the Gospel, or the finished work Christ accomplished completely outside of us, or even that His finished work is applied or imputed to us by mere belief alone.   Now, some might do this, but denying the finished work of Christ is not a mark of any of these groups, however it is the mark of the Federal Vision.

That is why we simply have no reason to presume that Federal Visionists are our brother in Christ and it is certainly no act of charity, given what they themselves have written concerning the central truths of the Gospel, to presume that they are.   Now, some may be hypocrites, as in the example Paul gives us of Peter in the second chapter of Galatians.  However, as a signer of the Federal Vision Profession of Faith, PCA Pastor Jeff Meyers is no hypocrite.  Meyers signed the document because he believes it.  Meyers is not just going along to get along because he wants to drink beer with James Jordan and Doug Wilson or get invited to speak at Steve Wilkins’ Auburn Avenue FV pastors conferences.  Admittedly,  some might be going along to get along (after all, I think the Missouri presbytery would be a very uncomfortable place for any serious FV opponent, arguably even more hostile than, say, the Ohio, Siouxlands or the Pacific Northewest presbyteries), but I believe Meyers when he says that in order for faith to save it has to be “personally loyal” and “active.”  I believe him when he says that in order for a sinner to be righteous he must “do what the covenant requires of him.”  I believe him when he denies that righteousness in the bible refers to moral purity or conformity to a legal standard and that for him this is “the Lutheran mistake.”

I think when men like Andy Webb imply that ridding the PCA of FV men is similar to deposing Pentecostals, Congregationalists, or Baptists he is making a categorical error and one that the FV men are all too happy to see him make.  The goal of the FV men, particularly early on, was to convince men in the PCA and beyond that this fight was an intramural contest; a disagreement among Reformed brothers.  There can be no doubt that they have succeeded in accomplishing this and in spades.  Besides the PCA’s FV/NPP report which referred to “NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ,” we recently saw Sean Lucas, who was one of the committee men who drafted the PCA FV/NPP report, say of FV PCA pastor Peter Leithart on another blog:

I have little doubt that Dr. Leithart is a genuine believer in Jesus. I do not believe that he is a heretic (particularly because, in my understanding as a church historian, heresy would generally be associated with denying key Trinitarian or Christological truths).  And I do not believe that simply because one has a high baptismal theology that one is a heretic (if so, then Calvin was wrong to say that the Roman Catholic Church still had true baptism).

As a fellow signer of the Federal Vision Profession of Faith, Peter Leithart’s last problem is that he has a “high baptismal theology.”  Make no mistake, statements like these made by  Lucas and Webb, not to mention those found in the PCA’s FV/NPP report, are major concessions to the FV men and send a clear message to every TE and RE that all this squabbling is all much ado about nothing.

However, as R. C. Sproul said on the floor of the General Assembly that passed the FV/NPP report, “This is the Gospel people .”  Sproul was right.  If the FV is not about the Gospel, then it’s hardly worth fighting.

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286 Comments on “Why The PCA Will Lose Its Fight Against the Federal Vision”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    Mr Lucas,
    Calvin WAS wrong on RC baptism.
    Please see
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/horror_show.php?id=41
    and
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/horror_show.php?id=42
    and lastly,
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=228

    Sean,
    Amen, amen, amen, & amen.
    Judaizers in any camp are a threat to all.
    Hugh

  2. lawyertheologian Says:

    Sean,

    I think it is in the nature of things today that people can’t/don’t discern the gravity of incorrect thinking. BTW, though Pentoecostalists and General Baptists don’t explicitly deny the gospel, a lot of what they express/teach implicitly does. Often when a deviant teaching is carefully explored, there is a lot more than the tip of the iceberg that is seen. And there are those who want to accept just about everyone as Christians (Arminians, RC’s, Amyraldian Baptists, etc) if they confess something about believing in God, Christ, the Trinity, and they seem to be sincere people living a righteous life.

  3. lawyertheologian Says:

    Oh, and as Robbins pointed out in the linked article, there is the “worldview error.” “Broad commitments, concerns and postures are somehow more important or more fundamental than the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    Also, I might point out that educated men can be more difficult to discern, because they can follow in with the proper language. And once accepted into a Reformed church or seminary it is hard for people to believe they are not truly in the Reformed Faith. That seems to be where the critics like Beisner and others are/were at, until they are forced to see and accept what the FV heretics really teach and believe.


  4. Sean, how would you define the gospel, in one, maybe two, sentences?


  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tony Felich, junior. junior said: Sean Gerety: Why the PCA WIll Will Lose Its Fight Against the Federal Vision http://bit.ly/hhG4QS […]

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Daniel. I think 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 sums it up even if it is in more than two sentences (although this is still one).

  7. Montani Semper Liberi Says:

    Yes, as lawyertheologian mentions “there is the worldview error”, the reason I finally left my PCA church two years ago. Could someone please explain to this (former) PCA pew sitter if what someone on one of the blogs once called “Kuyperian-flavored transformationalism” is related to FV? These tangled threads of what I believe are “another gospel” boldly preached as the true gospel are really confusing to those of us with non-theology backgrounds. Quite frankly, I don’t know how some of these pastors sleep at night. I would be scared to death to mangle the gospel like these have done.

  8. Steve Matthews Says:

    “if so, then Calvin was wrong to say that the Roman Catholic Church still had true baptism” – Sean Lucas

    I guess Lucas never read Sacramental Sorcery. Here’s a relevant passage from the introduction by John Robbins,

    “One cannot help thinking that politics, not theology, was the driving ofrce requiring a certain conclusion, and that any argument whatever had to be marshalled in order to avoid admitting that the so-called Anabaptists (Clavin contemptuously called them Catabaptists) might have been right about anything, especially about Romanist baptism.

    As a Presbyterian and a Calvinist I admit that Calvin’s Catabaptists were right about Romanist baptism, and Calvin was wrong – Romanist bpatism is in fat not Christian baptism…”

  9. Hugh McCann Says:

    If anti-Romish baptism folk* are right (and we are), then it really isn’t a RE-baptism, is it?
    Calvin further erred in following the Pope’s church in libeling the Baptists as Ana(re-)baptizers at all.
    ~ Hugh
    * Such as Robbins, Thornwell, and the Baptists.

    From the Mennonites:

    Catabaptist, a name used for a time (1525 and following) for the Swiss Anabaptists by Zwingli and Oecolampadius in their Latin writings. It did not, however, succeed in displacing “Anabaptist,” which became the standard term. It is an original Greek word translated into Latin, not found in German or English.

    The exhaustive discussion of the meaning of the word by Fritz Blanke in the commentary to Zwingli’s In Catabaptistarum strophas elenchus (Huldreich Zwinglis sämtliche Werke VI, 21-22, Leipzig, 1935?) points out that Oecolampadius first proposed it in a letter of 12 October 1525 to Zwingli, taking it consciously from a fourth-century writing of Gregory of Nazianzus, recommending that it be used in place of “Anabaptist,” which had already come into use. The most prominent use of the word is in Zwingli’s 1527 Elenchus.

    The word is actually used in essentially the same meaning as “Anabaptist,” that is, rebaptizer, but carries the additional connotation of “anti-baptist,” that is, attempting to destroy the true baptism.

    Schijn considered “Catabaptists” the best designation for the Anabaptists, explaining that “kata” means to act in accord with true baptism; he approved it because the Anabaptists act according to Biblical doctrine, that is, they practice baptism Scripturally.

  10. Stephen Says:

    Sean, I am afraid you are right that the PCA will lose the battle against the FV. The PCA does not seem to be concerned about doctrinal integrity and we are seeing more of a movement away from Reformed distinctives. What would you suggest to PCA teaching elders who believe that the FV is heresy and should be opposed?

  11. Gus Gianello Says:

    Folks,
    There is no need to turn Calvin’s error in legitimizing Romanist sacraments into a discussion on the rightness or wrongness of the “Katabaptist” position. I thank God, as a thoroughly pursuaded infanct baptizer–a paedobaptist–for Bible believing Baptists. Better a Gospel believing Baptist, than and FV “Reformed Presbyterian”. Actually I think FVers should be called “Deformed Christians”–since they are not really Christians at all.

    The PCA will be defeated by heretics the same way that the OPC, and the BPC was defeated. They dont have the cojones to call heresy heresy. They call it a difference of opinion among “brothers”. In that case, why did we ever bother separating from the Mass–after all the Pope is our “brother”—he believes in Christ too.

    These churches have become the daughters of Babylon. How can any good Christian remain in such churches. I think what we need to discuss is the errors of the Nicolaitans.

    Gus Gianello

  12. Sean Gerety Says:

    Stephen, they should do what Wes White, Brian Carpenter and a handful of others are doing. File charges, charges & more charges and when they’re overturned by dead and apostate Presbyteries like the one in MO, appeal to the GA (SJC). Then if known FV men like Meyers or Leithart are cleared at that level, whether through some technicality or on substance, they should leave the PCA. Of course along the way they should make sure they continually educate and inform their congregations in the hope that they too will go with them when the leave. IMO too many pew sitters are oblivious about what is going on. They need to involved as well.

  13. Gus Gianello Says:

    In response to below
    _____________________________________________________

    Stephen Says:

    January 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm
    Sean, I am afraid you are right that the PCA will lose the battle against the FV. The PCA does not seem to be concerned about doctrinal integrity and we are seeing more of a movement away from Reformed distinctives. What would you suggest to PCA teaching elders who believe that the FV is heresy and should be opposed?

    _____________________________________________________

    I am not Sean, so please permit me to respond, as a former TE in the RPCGA–another “Reformed” cult. What I would suggest to the PCA TEs who oppose the FV is what Calvin would suggest…leave. BE a separtist. For the sake of the Gospel. But what if your pastor opposes FV? If he is in submission to a session, presbytery or synod or general assembly that does not OR/AND refuses to oppose it, he is deceived. I wont call him a liar, but he is deceived.

    A short story. I once knew a pastor in the Alliance who convinced his parishioners he was “Reformed”. He was VanTillian, postmil, calvinist, etc. That is until he got confronted by the leadership and the possibility of losing his pension. He survived the threatened censure. When his parishioners incredulously questioned him, by asking “But I thought you were Reformed”, he answered, “I am not Reformed never have been.” It seems that the pocket book is a reason for conversion and apostasy. Do you really think such a man is a Christian, let alone a pastor? TEs in the PCA who “oppose” FV are deceived if they think they can stay but silently oppose FV. If they voice their opposition they will quickly find themselves without a pension. If they oppose but do not leave they are not deceived, they are hypocrites and therefore lose the right to call themselves Christians, let alone pastors.

    By the way, if I remember correctly, Sean goes to a Calvinistic baptist church. Follow Sean’s example.

    Gus Gianello

  14. Sean Gerety Says:

    Correction Gus, I did attend a Calvinistic baptisic (they weren’t Reformed Baptist, but more like PCA with kind of a believers baptism stipulation). Lately, my family and I have been worshiping in the PCA (mainly for the opportunity to also see some old friends) although I don’t have any plans on rejoining any time soon. I guess I’m a sucker for lost causes. 😉

  15. Stephen Says:

    Thanks, Sean for your input. I agree that charges and more charges are the answer. It is easy to give up and leave, but the gospel is at stake and many people in the pews will fall prey to this heresy unless pastors defend the gospel.

  16. lawyertheologian Says:

    Not for anything, but maybe this shows the flaw is presbyterianism. What only matters to me is what the church I attend believes and pracices, not what the rest of the churches supposedly connected to it believe and practice. I’ve seen inconsistencies within the same presbytery where I would not worship in one but would the other (one having women teach an adult Sunday school with men).

  17. Sean Gerety Says:

    In politics we have a saying (and I’ve probably said this before); Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. Or, as someone else once said; If you ever find the perfect church don’t join it because you’ll ruin it.

  18. Mary Says:

    Gus,

    You made the statment “RPCGA–another “Reformed” cult” Would you please direct me to information as to why it is a cult? I keep thinking something is just not right but am struggling to see why.

    thanks.

  19. Michael Stephens Says:

    As a younger christian, and one still learning both the bible and my theological roots, I find the more I dig into the WCF, and Puritan writings the more depressed I become for the state of the church. It is interesting to note how a little thing here, and a little thing there, start to add up over a century or two.

    Whats worse is I feel like some sort of legalistic nit picker. What issues are worthing fighting over? What is worth mentioning? And what does it mean that I cant have a conversation with anyone in my church over even the tiniest issue.

    The would say: “Everything is about Grace and love, lets worry about feeding the poor, expanding the kingdom, let people work theology out for themselves, dont make it overly intellectual and hard.”

    Of course I know the spirit is what makes one wise, through scripture. And from spirit filled scripture reading we learn to pray, and then on and on….. but if we break the sabbath and don’t read the scriptures how will anyone grow? And what can I do to fix that short of starting my own church (not a likely proposition).

    I want to stand on a soap box outside my church and shout at them to stop worrying about everyone else and start worrying about their own walk with the lord, we need to be missionaries to ourselves and learn some REAL religion before we worry about “mercy and justice”. My church starts with the vision of culturual renovation and mercy and justice…. what poppy cock…. that is an outpooring of biblical teaching! AH!

  20. David Reece Says:

    Michael,

    I understand your frustration. I think it is your duty to press the biggest issues the loudest. However, every issue is worth fighting for. How is your church on the gospel and on the role of scripture?

  21. Hugh McCann Says:

    Michael,

    My 2 cents: I think D. Reece has a good question.

    If your elders are sound, stay the course as long as your conscience allows.

    If unbelief is rife in your clergy, that’s a no-brainer. Flee.

    If one is ordained, the call is different. That man must “press the biggest issues the loudest;” such is indeed his duty! Titus 1:9, etc.

    A layman has more leeway, I believe, since he has not vowed to feed & protect the flock.

    I also believe the degree to which heresy is imbedded dictates how soon to leave.

    To wit: I took exception to an OPC ruling elder who felt the fight there was useless, and fled his church, presbytery & the OPC.

    However, an Episcopal priest friend should have raised much more stink many years sooner, and either been kicked out or leave, IMO.

  22. David Reece Says:

    Hugh,

    Do you not think that it is the duty of every Christian to fight heresy? Is it not especially the case in times such as these when ministers of the Gospel are few and far between?

  23. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hi, David R.,

    Yes, I do. And a layman can do much. But only so much. An elder has much more responsibility for the flock in which the Spirit has placed him as overseer.

    Witness Luther & Calvin. Some would argue they stayed in too long, convinced that Rome was reformable.

    Eventually, one (clergy or lay) may have to follow 2Cor. 6:14-7:1, and flee Sodom, as in the Episcopalians’ case. Or be thrown out.

  24. David Reece Says:

    Hugh,

    I agree with everything you just said. There are times to fight and times to fight while leaving.

    Are you a part of a denomination right now?

  25. Hugh McCann Says:

    No, David R., currently I am not.

  26. David Reece Says:

    I was wondering because I am trying to figure out what to do myself. I am having a hard time dealing with the collapse of the reformed denominations, obviously. I am very sad about the whole mess. Right now I am in the opc but feel bad about staying, but I am not sure what to do.

  27. lawyertheologian Says:

    I’d say stay if your local congregation doesn’t teach heresy. I am.

  28. Hugh McCann Says:

    David R.,

    I agree with Counsel, if the denom is not either:
    1. rife with heretics enthroned (as is TEC), or, obviously,
    2. corrupting gospel truths in their doctrinal statements.

    As for 1., although ECUSA (now TEC) looked orthodox in their 39 Articles, no one abode by these. As for 2., few go this far that fast. They ordain gals & gays, Pikes & Spongs.

    Not to say there aren’t serious concerns in the PCA & OPC, as Sean alludes to above, but IMO, neither is even quite yet at 1. (Many will disagree with me here.)

    Not unlike TEC, these involve (lack of) discipline of baddies, not outright confessional editing.

    Anyone read _Crossed Fingers_ by Gary North?

    An OP pastor friend recommended it 10+ yrs ago, saying it served as a warning to the OPC. It’s about elders violating ordination vows in the UPC/ PCUSA.

  29. Brad Says:

    Would someone please tell me why differing visions regarding atonement are being written off as heresy? As long as one sees Christ’s work in terms of substitionary atonement, that ought to be satisfactory. To know that we are declared right because of what God has done – to know that we are forensically (judicially) justified ought to suffice. I see no reason why we can’t make space for all people under this umbrella.

  30. LJ Says:

    Hugh:
    I’m in the OPC. Gotta worship somewhere. There is much in the OPC and PCA that needs fixing, badly. But I agree that neither denomination is apostate. Our Session is a good one, even very good. I cannot think of another church in the LA area where I could attend in good conscience and not have to stay overnight in a hotel to worship on Sunday. Gotta worship somewhere … right?

  31. Brad Says:

    LJ:
    I think you are overly purist. I haven’t been to LA in quite some time, but a big city like that has to have numerous churches which you could attend in good conscience. Remember two things. First, fifteen hundred years went by without Presbyterianism. Second, many worshiped in the Catholic church because it was the only European church for most people throughout that time. So really, I don’t consider what’s occurring now to be apostasy in any way. It’s simply diversity within the Reformed tradition. And if you silence it, it will emerge elsewhere.

  32. Brad Says:

    I’m fully convinced we need to envision the church in a much broader sense. We’ve existed for two-thousand years in one form or another. We’ve manifested ourselves in many ways; our expressions have always been diverse. Some have been better than others. But we must accept all forms of the faith as nevertheless legitimate.

    Paul speaks of us as a body with many parts. Each part contributes in its own way toward the whole. I think of Dante’s vision in the Paradiso where he reaches the highest heaven. There he sees all creation in adoration of the Trinity. Then the epipheny is lost. But he embarks upon his return knowing that all things have their rightful place – that life is a dance. Holding onto that, he can return with a renewed appreciation for existence, no matter how disjointed the world may appear.

    If Christianity teaches us anything, it’s that our sin has been atoned for, that we and all creation have been restored. And such good news can only broaden our perspective. It can only cause us to see the entire world for the first time, and to accept it, to say that it’s all worthwhile even if quite a bit of pain and suffering are meanwhile experienced. To pull back from that vision is to return to the darkness. But we must embrace the light.

    I know only two things. That Christ died for us and that we can consequently affirm life.

    There may be misery in store for us, and God help us by his grace if there is, but our outcome is entirely comic – and so is the world.

    peace


  33. FWIW, I’m a Reformed Baptist who, Lord willing, beginning next month, will be driving 1hr 15min to church every Sunday to worship in a PCA congregation. The Pastor’s preaching there is the best I’ve ever heard.

    Some Presbys here may understand this to be a bad thing; that a PCA church has gotten so lax and inclusive that a Baptist feels comfortable. But this is not how I see it. I see it from my own point of view: that there is simply no Reformed congregation (Baptist or Presbyterian) in my area. I make that drive every week because I place the highest value on the most important doctrines: Untainted Justification by Faith Alone, along with the Doctrines of God’s Gracious Sovereignty.

    Perhaps it is because of my congregationalist (a la Owen & the Savoy Declaration) views of church government that I am able to look at this particular congregation apart (in a sense) from the PCA. I’m no fan of the PCA, generally, but I love this congregation dearly, and it is a privilege to worship with them.

  34. LJ Says:

    Brad and Patrick,
    I probably overstated my case and sounded more purist and, possibly, pessimistic than I really am. One of my best friends in our church is a reformed baptist and, if not for that particular belief, would undoubtedly be an elder. So, neither our church session nor I am that much of a purist and, by God’s grace, I see the Divine Comedy as God causing all things to, indeed, work out for good and ultimately for His glory … that ain’t all bad! I appreciate your thoughts. Now I must go see to my airplane for the flight from LA to Michigan for Sunday services.
    Cheers.

  35. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad,

    I’m not sure what you mean by different visions of the atonement, but the atonement itself must be viewed correctly else one is preaching a different gospel. We should all have a clear univocal view/vision of the atonement. Federal Visionists do not view the atonement correctly. It may start with asserting substitutionary atonement but end up denying it by their other teaching. Diversity as to what is the true Reformed faith isn’t possible without denying the gospel.

    The Medeival Church became apostate and came to be the present Roman Catholic Church. That church was and is not a proper form of the faith, not a legitimate faith to be a worshipper within.

    BTW all creation has not yet been restored.

  36. Brad Says:

    I think you missed what I’ve been trying to say: Christianity has taken on many forms throughout its history. Each tradition has something to offer the broader church. We must conceive of the church in the broadest sense possible. The church is not a math problem. It’s a living reality. Its teachings and practices will often times only approximate what they should be. At times the church will seem to manifest more accurately than at others. The church, however, is still the church. Hodge recognized this in relation to the Roman branch. We must understand this too. The Catholic church can experience restoration. We can be agents of restoration in churches that lose their way. To completely abandon every church that does not seem entirely correct would be innapropriate. We would then unnecessarily promote schism. Eventually, we would have to abandon ourselves too!

  37. Brad Says:

    The writings of Paul make one thing clear: Christ died for us so that we can be made alive – reconciled to God. And in this way all creation is transformed too. I don’t understand how it works. The moral imputation theory has been put forward to understand it. I find that view problematic as we don’t at least readily discern it in Paul’s polemic. What we find immediately is that we are declared right because of what God has done through Christ. Again, if we believe that God sent Messiah for us, we are declared right as when a judge pronounces a person not guilty. That does not mean they are innocent. It simply means the court has decided in their favor. And this seems to be what Paul says happens to the believer in Christ. We are declared right and we are reconciled. I think that is what substitutionary atonement is. Beyond that I can’t say anything.

    Now as C. S. Lewis pointed out in his classsic treatise, what is necessary for the Christian is some kind of understanding regarding the atonement. They must grasp a basic sense of what Paul is saying happened in Christ. As far as the process concerned and the details involved in that, I believe he considered that something to be left with the technical experts who will probably forever argue it. The mystery of God has been revealed. We know it. We needn’t dissect it.

  38. LJ Says:

    Brad, you wrote: The mystery of God has been revealed. We know it. We needn’t dissect it.

    But, respectfully, isn’t that what you just did? Dissect it that is?

    Isn’t that indicative of all systematic attempts to understand what the Bible teaches? Isn’t that what the Westminster theologians did?

    Is it all just a tempest in a tea pot? Was the schism with Rome really unnecessary after all?

    LJ

  39. LJ Says:

    Could someone explain why along with my email address the following shows up in the “website” window?

    http://DutchBoyBlues!

    I don’t know what that is and it’s certainly not my website since I’m neither a boy, dutch, or blue.

  40. Lauren Says:

    The MOP fiasco is all about financial political pragmatism. There is no evidence of a commitment to the truth of the Gospel. They have to politically placate both sides in order to maintain their financial base. If the presbytery angers the FV folks, they lose both professors and churches and the seminary could collapse. OTOH, if they anger the other side (which they obviously underestimated), they expose their vulnerability. Thus, we have both an exoneration and a complaint – a win-win situation supposedly. But in reality, they hurt and weaken the entire denomination.

    All the other “less important” presbyteries were able to squelch and get rid of the few who opposed the Federal Vision. They traded the truth of the Gospel for a comfortable retirement with the grand kids.

  41. Brad Says:

    What we learn from Paul is that God’s plan atones for our sin and reconciles us to him – we and creation are restored. Oftentimes people analyze this to no end, resulting in disagreement, heresy charges and schism. Let’s stay where we agree. We believe in atonement and we know what it means. It is at that level that we obviously have something recognizably substantial. Efforts to go into detail about how it all works lead us down unclear paths to dark places. It is there that we bicker and separate, you see. Christianity has always had a confessional tone erring on the side of orthodoxy. We do need to be clear regarding what all Christians see; this is our witness to the world – and they are watching. But it seems to me that disagreement among Christians reflects non-essentials, for if such things had been essential, we’d all clearly agree! I never got the impression that true Christians would fundamentally disagree on essentials. But I never got the impression we’d all agree on everything either. So let’s unite knowing we’ll occassionally have to agree to disagree. Those outside the circle of true Christianity are marked by their refusal of God’s atonement. Once again, no one said it better than Lewis when he penned his classic, Mere Christianity. All Christians should believe in atonement – this is our mark and our defining credential – that Messiah the Son of God came in the flesh to save us from our sin and to transform us and the world. He has become our Savior and our Lord and the Lord of all else. This served as a kind of creed, if you will, for the early church. Those who taught differently were avoided or should have been. The N.T. does not anticipate the theological development we’ve come to know in hindsight, just as it knew nothing of the new vision of Mary that would arise, or the view of merit that emerged later on. Such things represent tradition, and I classify tradition in three ways. There are those things that should be maintained. There are those things that can be maintained. There are those things that should not be maintained.

    There are the N.T. writings and the early chruch struggling to live that out, to order itself accordingly as we might say. Then there is the church down through time incarnating itself flexibly and creatively. Let’s be clear on something else here: Something may perhaps at one point be timely but nevertheless disposable in other contexts. Part of the semper reformanda tradition is to ever recall what is essential and foundational while relativizing all else. That is what spawned Protestantism and that is what will lead us to authentic and lively Christianity at all times.


  42. Brad, “We believe in atonement and we know what it means.”

    With all due respect, not all professing Christians know what atonement means. In my Introduction to Theology class at Washington Bible College, students studies 4 different views of “atonement”:
    Moral Government, Christus Victor, Ransom, and Penal Substitution. While there is some overlap in these views, their essentials are vastly different.

    C.S. Lewis held to the Ransom theory, that Christ’s death satisfied a debt owed to Satan in return for the souls of humans.

    The Penal Substitution view of the Reformers, on the other hand, hold that Christ’s death satisfied the righteous wrath of the Father. So who was satisfied? The Father? or Satan? This is a huge difference, with everlasting consequences.

    Or perhaps the Moral Government theory is correct, in which Jesus came to be a perfect sinless example to the rest of us, showing us that yes, we too can overcome sin in our own power!

    “Atonement” means nothing if it does not mean *something*. Even the name “Jesus” must be identified as the Jesus of the Bible, and not the Hispanic man 2 doors down. If we are trusting in Christ’s finished work, we must be clear about what that work actually was.

  43. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Christianity has taken on many forms throughout its history.”

    What do you mean by that? Christianity has always been the same, though the Church may have looked different in different times, believing and practicising different things not essential to its being the Church.

    Brad, a church is still a church in so far as it continues to show the marks of a Church. And all due respect to Hodge, but once what was once a true church becomes not a true church it is not a matter of restoration but a change back to what it once was.

    A broad sense of the Church tends to mean a broad view of what the gospel is, and yet the gospel is very narrow, very specific.

    Justification is based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us. It is actually more than being declared not (found)guilty, but being positively innocent, as if we had done no wrong.

    All creation awaits the redemption of the Sons of God for its final reconciliation: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it,in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

    C.S. Lewis never espoused a clear understanding or belief in the atonement. See “Did C. S. Lewis Go to Heaven?” http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=103 Again, the atonement isn’t subject to various views. You either view it correctly or you don’t.


  44. lawyertheologian, you’re probably more accurate concerning Lewis. My comment was based on the Ransom-type “atonement” theme present in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I know Lewis always insisted that it wasn’t a spiritual allegory, but frankly I don’t buy it 🙂

  45. Brad Says:

    I think what I would wish to get across here is that each view is necessary: They all contribute to a more complete understanding of what Christ did and its implications.

  46. lawyertheologian Says:

    I’m beginning to think that Brad is using terms like atonement and substitution with either a very broad or an unclear meaning.

    BTW Brad, you keep saying it was for “us.” I hope you mean by that “the elect” or “us believers.”

    And again, all of creation isn’t restored simply because an elect are restored.

  47. lawyertheologian Says:

    No Brad, the Moral Government view is just plain wrong, as is the payment to Satan view.

  48. lawyertheologian Says:

    Pat, Lewis may have held to a ransom to Satan view of the atonement, but its doubtful that he simply thought that such a view is not a necesaary understanding of the gospel. Also, his understanding seemed to be of a universal atonement: “Of course, you can express this in all sorts of different ways. You can say that Christ died for our sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You may say that Christ has defeated death. They are all true. If any of them do [sic] not appeal to you, leave it alone and get on with the formula that does. And, whatever you do, do not start quarreling with other people because they use a different formula from yours.”

    Mere Christianity, 156-157

    “Now these paragraphs are an attack on Christianity, not a defense of it. ” John Robbins.

  49. Brad Says:

    The Bible employs various metaphors to discuss what God accomplished in Christ. We must, however, be careful to remember that the terminology is just that, metaphorical. We find the lawcourt metaphor, we find the debt payment or ransoming metaphor, we find vindication terminology and so on. Different Christian traditions have often siezed on one metaphor for explanation. We find that the Greek Orthodox church holds to Christus Victor. The Catholic church, at least in one phase, had a penchant for the ransom theory. Then later on Catholics and Protestants gravitate toward the penal substitution view. The Wesleyan focus has been upon the government outlook. But none of these views by themselves make much sense. It’s only when we put them together that we get a fuller sense of what’s happening. Any one view is partial. Each affords insight. The totality of what happened may in fact elude us for now. But by examining all of the metaphors and keeping them in balance, we can get something of a general viewpoiint that’s much more satisfying.

    If Paul were around today, I don’t believe he would be saying OK, I’m a penal substitutionist, or OH, you see it as a ransom paid – Good! That’s the way we need to see it. I think he would say, Look! I’ve tried to get it all across to you – in fact my letters reveal this. I never tried to reduce it to one particular formula in line with one theme. I never had in mind only one metaphor or complex of terms. You haven’t been reading everything I’ve written. You’re trying desperately hard to simplify something that doesn’t admit for simplification! Now let’s get real and accept that there are many ways to discuss God’s plan. Yes, there are boundaries that cannot be crossed. But within those boundaries we have quite a bit of flexibility to discuss and communicate the great mystery of the ages. Yes, it’s disclosed. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we can sum it up in ten seconds flat. It doesn’t necessarily mean we can just stick to one metaphor and hammer it in every time. It may be comforting in the short run. But in the longterm it’s much more rewarding to draw on these different metaphors we’ve discussed to get a more well-rounded sense of things. I believe that’s how Paul and scripture in general speak their message.

  50. Brad Says:

    Each theory has seized solely on one metaphor or theme to explain God’s plan in Christ. No one theory has taken account of all themes and metaphors relating to Christ.

    The penal substitution view does not account for the ransom metaphors used by scripture. The ransom theory does not account for other metaphors equally employed by the Bible. Therefore it cannot do justice to the rest of scripture. The Christus Victor theme likewise only accounts for the terminology that falls under its own category. So we need to read the entire Bible and give equal weight to all these different themes and metaphors. Only then does a well-rounded view arise of what God has done in Jesus Christ.

    There always exists a great temptation to systematize. And in systematizing we invariably try to reduce things to simplicity. But the product is elusive, since the Bible is not simple. Actually, we lose a great deal of information and insight when we theologize. Much gets lost. And then we have a very one-sided viewpoint. Such is the nature of theology. It is for that reason that theology can at best help us from time to time. It can never replace careful reading of scripture and progressive understanding through life-long reflection. Only then does a balance begin to arise.


  51. Brad, those views are not even logically compatible. To hold that they are all true is nonsense.

  52. lawyertheologian Says:

    Oh, I missed the first of two paragraphs:

    “Humanity is already ‘saved’ in principle. We individuals have to appropriate that salvation. But the really tough work – the bit we could not have done for ourselves – has been done for us. We have not got to try to climb up into spiritual life by our own efforts; it has already come down into the human race. If we will only lay ourselves open to the one Man in whom it is fully present, and who, in spite of being God, is also a real man, he will do it in us and for us. Remember what I said about ‘good infection.’ One of our own race has this new life: if we get close to Him we shall catch it from Him. “

  53. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sounds a bit too ‘works-righteousy:’

    “the really tough work – the bit we could not have done for ourselves – has been done for us.”

    But, “We individuals have to appropriate that salvation…”

    So much for C.S.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Brad, please see http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=228 on Hodge. Less-than-discerning, it seems.

  54. Brad Says:

    There is logical incompatibility if we try to combine everything said by all those theories. What we really need to do is to extract all worthwhile insight from each. In my opinion, the Christus Victor paradigm accounts for much of what the Bible speaks. We then perhaps need to draw on a few other theories of the atonement in order to round that out. But significantly, the Christus Victor paradigm reveals that what God did first was to free creation from its bondage. We, God’s people, are ransomed too. But there was first a cosmic victory. Then as a part of that, we find ourselves free.

    Hope that helps!

  55. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hey, well-read gang, is Stott any better than Lewis on the atonement?

    I know his The Cross of Christ is lauded by some Reformed folk.

    I’m dubious, being a recovering Episcopalian.

  56. lawyertheologian Says:

    I would think so. “The Cross of Christ” I believe was an excellent book. I haven’t heard anything negative regarding it. Stott’s view have come into question I think mainly because he starting espousing anhilation.

    In any event, Lewis’ and Brad’s broad view of Chrisianity simply isn’t. Federal Vision and the New Perspectives on Paul are heresy.

  57. Hugh McCann Says:

    Anglicanism is broad, and what good is ‘substitution’ if it’s only potential?

    If Stott agrees with CSL, that, ‘the really tough work – the bit we could not have done for ourselves – has been done for us,’ but that we must do something to activate or appropriate or otherwise access it, then how is he essentially any better than Lewis?

  58. Brad Says:

    What we find when we read Paul is that God’s plan reached a climax and fulfillment in Christ. He released God’s people and indeed all of creation from bondage to sin, evil, the devil and death. He restored us to life. We together with all of creation find transformation in Christ. We are a new people and the world will be transformed into a new creation. This is the message that is called the gospel.

    We’ve reduced that message to a much more simplistic one that says Christ died so we can go to heaven. And the reason is that when he died he took upon himself our sins and gave us his righteousness. Now I’m not saying this is not true in some sense. What I am saying is that it’s not the whole story. The gospel is a lot broader than that. And we need to account for everything Paul has to say regarding God’s plan in Christ. We are not at liberty to slice off portions of that for theological “comfort food.” We must instead come to terms with the entire story. Otherwise we are in danger of reducing Christianity to something therapeutic or even gnostic.

    So far neo-Calvinism has expressed the same anemic tendency we knew in American fundamentalism, albeit mostly within baptistic churches. We’ve donned new clothing. But we’re still the same. We need to embrace all that God’s story offers. We need to embrace all that Christ has accomplished with all of its ramifications. And systems will all fail us here. There is no substitute for studying the entire Bible in depth.

  59. lawyertheologian Says:

    Who says Stott agrees with Lewis?

  60. Brad Says:

    Lewis was a broad and fascinating man. He knew the Bible very well. He also knew literature generally. He understood that what God accomplished in his trinitarian nature, i.e. through Christ and the Holy Spirit, was a very complex plan indeed! He felt that no theory or system could fully account for that in all its complexity. He often tried to communicate God’s plan through his own literary works. He transmitted that vision in books such as The Narnia Chronicles. Some things can only be expressed poetically. The Bible has always relied heavily on metaphor and has always made rich use of the various literary genres.

    God gave us a story, not a system. If we try to read it as a system, we’ll miss the story we really have.

    The Christus Victor theme underscores the climax of the story. God wins – Alleluia!

  61. Hugh McCann Says:

    I’m wondering… I say IF he does.

    Theirs is a very tolerant, broad church.

    Just wondering whether Stott holds to a truly efficacious atonement, or a merely potential one.

  62. Brad Says:

    I forgot to mention an Easter hymn written around 1500. It’s called The Strife is O’er. It recalls Christ’s victory at the cross over sin and death, and his triumph over Satan. Words like battle, victory, won, etc. relate as much to Christ’s cross as words like sacrifice, blood, etc. Once again, we need to round out our understanding of God’s plan by taking into consideration all of the themes and rich metaphors employed by scripture. There is a lot going on there and we must acknowledge it all, not simply one angle of it.

    Also, we need to remember that God’s victory in the Christ is embedded in a long history of Israel’s covenant and exile and much else besides. Israel is freed so that Jew and Gentile then unite in the Messiah through whom we all have reconciliation with the Father. He then will return one day to reside in his temple never again to depart. The new heaven will be reconciled with the new earth. God will dwell forever with us.

    And yes, I do qualify that. What is not creation is chaos. What is not a part of God’s re-creation will be consigned to utter darkness. Outside the open gates will lie all those who though invited, do not wish to show up.

    As Lewis suggested, they would only flee his presence anyway, or at least spoil the party.

  63. Brad Says:

    Here’s one more thought. Lewis was a literary figure, obviously. He read and wrote stories. The Bible is a story. I’m going to stick my neck out a little bit here. I suspect Lewis examined God’s story in light of the basic story outline. In other words, he probably looked for a conflict involving some kind of a protagonist and antagonist, a climax and resolution, a deneaument, and whatever other parts are deemmed pertinent to a good story. In fact, this would make sense if the Bible were a good story, indeed the best story ever. For in that case, all other stories would reflect it in following a similar pattern.

    I don’t normally suggest reasoning from the created to the Creator. But to say that the Bible is merely like a good story just doesn’t do it justice. I think we have to say that the Bible is the best story, while all other stories are good insofar as they approximate its pattern.

  64. Brad Says:

    So what I’m saying then is that the Christus Victor motif we find so prominent in the early church best reflects the Christ as character. The battle theme would most appropriately fit the plot or conflict. The crucifixion and resurrection would together constitute the climax and resulution. The rest is a matter of tying together loose ends, so to speak. And I suspect that in a culture that prized oral teaching, the presentation of the gospel in story form would be well-received. Simply recall the visual nature of much of Christianity throughout the early and medieval church periods. Scenes depicted portions of the Bible, not necessarily in order, and peopel had to intuitively construct the story.


  65. Brad, I won’t deny that Christ won the victory over sin. But this is not what is meant by atonement.

  66. Brad Says:

    Would someone please tell me why a website would be devoted to questioning whether C. S. Lewis arrived at heaven? Why is someone asking that question? It’s an odd thing to do, I think. Lewis was a fine gentleman. He was scholarly, devoted to teaching, and an excellent apologist. To this day people find God in his writings. Christians gain reinforcement through reading him. I can’t think of a more well-known Christian thinker from the 20th century. He was orthodox yet original, and that in itself is quite a feat. I don’t agree with everything he wrote, but he’s in no way heterodox. The only things I recall being in disagreement with were his view on Mary and his acceptance of purgatory. I count those things to have been eccentricities of his. He felt that our souls demanded purgatory as nothing impure could enter heaven. His view of Mary was high-church. But apart from these two things, I think he was what one could call a Reformed or Protestant Christian. He did not wish to cause division and certainly eschewed labels as such. His appeal was to a very broad audience and his church was of course broad too. The medium he chose to witness through was by its very nature broad. So in all these ways he was a broad figure. And I use the term broad in a very positive way. For had he not been so, his impact would have been far less than it was. C. S. Lewis in fact managed to become classic. That is the best test of all. Many Christian writers have written popular books. But they don’t all turn out to be classics. Billy Graham’s The Secret to Happiness is largely unknown. Francis Schaeffer’s How Shall We then Live? almost never arises in conversation. Yet C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain is referenced all the time. Lewis clearly addressed a timeless and universal audience for Christ. How he did that could be debated. I suspect it had something to do with his understanding that both imagination and logic must play roles in apologetics. Then there is his appreciation for literature and poetry which lent him a certain edge in udnerstanding Scripture. Graham performed a great service as did Schaeffer. But neither one’s writings reached a classic status.

  67. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hey, Brad,

    You say, “Lewis was a broad and fascinating man. He knew the Bible very well. He also knew literature generally…”

    I’d say it was the other way ’round: CSL knew lit well and the Bible generally.

    And, “God gave us a story, not a system. If we try to read it as a system, we’ll miss the story we really have.”

    Dunno if you know it or not, but in God’s good providence, you’re stumbled upon a gold mine of a site, with some great guys here. Listen to McWilliams, Adams, & Gerety. They know of what they write.

    Your statements move to urge you to go to where many of us have gleaned rich treasures: http://www.trinityfoundation.org

    Particularly, see the Lewis article referenced above as well as http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=242

    All blessings from a recovering Episcopalian,
    Hugh McCann

  68. David Reece Says:

    Brad,

    I think your view of the Bible is completely off base. You said that it could not fit into a system, but the Bible is a system. Any attempt to understand it is systematization.

    I do not have the time to argue with you right now, but I would ask you to please stop trying to make everyone a Christian and realize that the way is narrow, not broad.

  69. Denson Dube Says:

    Brad,
    >>Would someone please tell me why a website would be devoted to questioning whether C. S. Lewis arrived at heaven<>Why is someone asking that question?<>It’s an odd thing to do, I think.<>Lewis was a fine gentleman.<>He was scholarly, devoted to teaching, and an excellent apologist<>To this day people find God in his writings.<>Christians gain reinforcement through reading him<>I can’t think of a more well-known Christian thinker from the 20th century.<>He was orthodox yet original<>I don’t agree with everything he wrote, <>but he’s in no way heterodox<>The only things I recall being in disagreement with were his view on Mary and his acceptance of purgatory<>His view of Mary was high-church<>I think he was what one could call a Reformed or Protestant Christian<>So in all these ways he was a broad figure. And I use the term broad in a very positive way.<>C. S. Lewis in fact managed to become classic<>That is the best test of all.<>He did not wish to cause division<>Then there is his appreciation for literature and poetry which lent him a certain edge in understanding Scripture<< No, his mastery of language helped him sway impressionable minds like yours, just like Hitlerś oratory and demagogy swayed millions literally, to the brink!

    Your piece is ladylike, sentimental, devoid of substance, peppered with logical fallacies and gross errors of fact and worse!

    Just curious, have you come to the knowledge of the saviour, Jesus Christ, through faith alone in His Life and death, or are you just paying lip service to what you consider just a religious pastime, trying to be a gentleman, doing the best you can and hoping you come out al-right for your sterling effort?

    regards,

    Denson

  70. Sean Gerety Says:

    “Your piece is ladylike, sentimental, devoid of substance,”

    Please refrain from the use of abusive ad hominem.

  71. LJ Says:

    Brad, you wrote: It can never replace careful reading of scripture and progressive understanding through life-long reflection. Only then does a balance begin to arise.

    I’m all for life-long reflection, etc. But this sounds a whole lot like systematizing or, better, systematic theology. But God, in fact, made us in His image as systematizing creatures; we cannot not do it. Reading your posts kinda proves the point, empirically.

    No minister can even preach a sermon without systematizing. Are you sure you meant to say what you did? You seem very adept and ready to systematize, at length. I may not agree with some of your conclusions, but you are certainly making arguments and drawing very systematic conclusions.

    LJ

  72. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, people may have found God through Lewis’ writings, but was it the God of the Bible?

    Jesus did conquer Satan, sin, and death, but He did so on behalf of His people. That and that alone is the gospel. And the atonement in part explains how Jesus conquered sin. Substitutionary atonement, an particular atonement on hehalf of a people, the elect, is a necessary understanding of the atonement. A vague, general idea of atonement is not sufficient. Nor is simply reciting biblical language sufficient. Nothing in Lewis’ writings suggest that he had a clear understanding and belief in the gospel. In fact, they imply an improper understanding of what the gospel is. And certain of his teachings (Mariolatry and purgatory) are not just odd non essential beliefs, but are inconsistent with a proper view of the gospel.

    The Bible is not a story. It is a system of truth.

  73. lawyertheologian Says:

    “He released God’s people and indeed all of creation from bondage to sin, evil, the devil and death. He restored us to life. We together with all of creation find transformation in Christ. We are a new people and the world will be transformed into a new creation. This is the message that is called the gospel.”

    Sorry Brad, but that message is not the gospel. Again, the gospel is God’s victory in Jesus Christ over Satan, sin, and death on behalf of His people. All creation, all people were not released from the bondage of sin by Christ. Only the elect, when brought to faith are released from the bondage of sin. John 8:32. Again, the elect, not the whole creation (of men) will be transformed. “If any man be in Christ, HE is a new creation.”

    “We’ve reduced that message to a much more simplistic one that says Christ died so we can go to heaven. And the reason is that when he died he took upon himself our sins and gave us his righteousness. Now I’m not saying this is not true in some sense. What I am saying is that it’s not the whole story. The gospel is a lot broader than that.”

    No, it is not. But remember, the “us” is “us elect.” Again, the message is not that God placed everyone in a state of justification through Christ but that we can lose that status through lack of faith (“Humanity is already ‘saved’ in principle. We individuals have to appropriate that salvation.). Rather, it is that our status as elect is confirmed by our faith, which acknowledges Christ’s righteousness, not our own, is the basis of our standing/acceptance with God.

  74. Brad Says:

    None of this relates to the debate itself, which centers on substitionary atonement. The atonement means many things, no doubt. And I suspect no one can fully grasp it all. We try to relate what happened when we advance one or another theory. But all that does is to give someone a piece of the picture. It does not offer the entire picture. To arrive at that, one must acknowledge ALL of the terminology scripture employs to discuss God’s plan. One must give equal weight to ALL of the metaphors used to discuss it.

    The Bible presents us with a story. We always try to construct systems out of it. But that inevitably results in simplified versions of what happened and what it all means. Hence, we must return again and again to the entire story. If we don’t, we’ll be left with one-sided theories. Now you can’t tell me that the ransom theory has nothing to contribute to penal substitution and vice versa. You can’t disregard the Christus Victor theme. It all speaks to what the Bible says. Each reflects it. None can fully explain it by itself.

  75. Brad Says:

    If my spirituality is in question, I can only offer the following: I am baptized into the church, a participant in its life, and believer that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. I stand in agreement with the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds, with which I am familiar. But these are by no means substitutes for the Bible, which is God’s direct message to us. There we learn that Christ lived, died, and rose again to restore creation, and if we believe he accomplished that, we as the church find redemption in Christ. This is the mystery of the ages and the truth that sets us free. This is the reality of God’s kingdom to which his people are invited. And if the Son has set you free, then you are free indeed!

  76. Brad Says:

    How can the Bible be a system? If I write to you, would you take my letter, wave it around, and say hey, I’ve got a system here? Of course not! You may uese the adjective systematic to describe its consistency, but you would not call it a system – that would be innapropriate. So why would one refer to the Bible as a system? It coheres, but anything truthful ought to. That does not make it a system. Newton’s laws together constitute a system. Mathematicians work out systems. Philosophers devise them. Theologians construct them (and I believe it’s more often than not to our detriment). BUT THE BIBLE IS NOT A SYSTEM. It is a collection of books reflecting various literary genres; and we can trace a story through it. That story has a beginning, a middle and an end. It develops through time: we have a conflict, climax, resolution, etc. and it finally concludes. It is a story. It, along with all stories, is timebound. It takes place in the context of history.

    A system, on the other hand, is an abstraction. It is divorced from time and lacks any context whatsoever. It simply hovers in a kind of platonic realm that really doesn’t exist (except perhaps in the person’s mind). So let’s stop saying the Bible is a system. Such talk is preposterous! It is a story. It must be understood and treated as such. Systematic theology is dangerously subversive to the message of the story. The gospel message is best left embedded in its own narrative. Would you take a fish out of it’s natural habitat and place it atop your T.V.? Of course not! You would kill it. And that’s what we wind up doing to Scripture when we abstract and systematize data. Information gets lost and the story, something that was alive, is then killed. A living story gets replaced by a lifeless system. Then people find themselves outside the narrative. They can’t take their place in the story because they don’t know there is one. This is how they were able to sneek in Dispensationalism through the back door. No one knew what was going on. If people knew the storyline, they would have known their parts. They would have known the outcome. They would have known what to do in the meantime. And cults and theological error would have been instantly refuted. Such falsehood would never have caught on. The fundamentalists would never have been able to replace the gospel with therapy and escapism and everything else it’s upheld. Neo-Puritans would never have found themselves unwittingly mimicking them in another context. The Bible is a story and the only way to uphold that story is to continue to treat it as a story. If you try to extract a system from a story you will find yourself in an awkward spot. Of course no theological system can cover all bases. So we must continually return to the story for the real scoop. That is the reason for the emphasis on narrative – and of course the fact that it conforms to the postmodern mood, but that’s beside the point. I hope I’ve made myself understood.

  77. lawyertheologian Says:

    ‘The atonement means many things, no doubt.”

    I doubt it very much. The atonement means only one thing. The sins of the elect were expiated.

    “We try to relate what happened when we advance one or another theory.”

    The Bible gives us the theory/explanation of what happened. There is the story of a man who was crucified. But without the explanation of who He was and what his death meant, the fact(s) of this story don’t tell us anything significant. Propositions/statements of truth not narratives are the essence of the Bible’s revelational truths. And these truths form a system.

  78. lawyertheologian Says:

    “How can the Bible be a system? If I write to you, would you take my letter, wave it around, and say hey, I’ve got a system here?”

    That depends on the contents of the letter. Certainly not all or even most letters are stories. Some may be relating a system of truths. A letter might be about the axioms of plane geometry. These axioms form a system. Paul’s letters don’t tell a story. They present his teaching on different subjects.

  79. Brad Says:

    Can you please tell me why we keep dealing in systems? Why aren’t we simply relating the wonderful story of God? Why isn’t this alone sufficient? Instead, we resort to system after system, and none of them adequately capture all that God has said to us through the Bible.

  80. lawyertheologian Says:

    “There we learn that Christ lived, died, and rose again to restore creation, and if we believe he accomplished that, we as the church find redemption in Christ.”

    Again, you are not getting the gospel right. Jesus live, died, and rose again to redeem the elect, not to restore creation. His life of perfect obedience to God is imputed to the elect and their sins were imputed to Jesus who paid the penalty for them. This is what must be believed in order to be saved.

  81. Brad Says:

    Lawyertheologian:
    We’re not dealing with numbers or geometry or any other such thing. We’re discussing God’s message to us in scripture. That message is communicated in the language of words. Not mathematical words. Simply words. Language, as you know, is symbolic. The reader must interpret what’s communicated. We’re not, however, constructing or solving a mathematical problem. We’re not dealing with pieces of a puzzle that fit perfectly together. Neither do we have a nicely balanced equation, something that can be checked and rechecked to our complete satisfaction. We have God’s message. It’s a story. It tells us that God created the world, that he placed us in its midst, that we failed in our purpose, and that Christ came to redeem us and our very context. As far as the process involved, again, we have no way to ultimately explain that to everyone’s satisfaction. We must all agree on the storyline, however. We all must see ourselves in light of its implications. That defines us now and forever. If we are in Christ, then we are a new creation.

    Peace.

  82. Hugh McCann Says:

    “BUT THE BIBLE IS NOT A SYSTEM. It is a collection of books reflecting various literary genres; and we can trace a story through it. That story has a beginning, a middle and an end. It develops through time: we have a conflict, climax, resolution, etc. and it finally concludes. It is a story. It, along with all stories, is timebound. It takes place in the context of history.

    “The Bible is a story and the only way to uphold that story is to continue to treat it as a story. If you try to extract a system from a story you will find yourself in an awkward spot. Of course no theological system can cover all bases. So we must continually return to the story for the real scoop. That is the reason for the emphasis on narrative – and of course the fact that it conforms to the postmodern mood, but that’s beside the point. I hope I’ve made myself understood…”

    \\Loud and clear, Brad.//

    “A system, on the other hand, is an abstraction. It is divorced from time and lacks any context whatsoever. It simply hovers in a kind of platonic realm that really doesn’t exist (except perhaps in the person’s mind). So let’s stop saying the Bible is a system. Such talk is preposterous! It is a story. It must be understood and treated as such. Systematic theology is dangerously subversive to the message of the story. The gospel message is best left embedded in its own narrative…”

    \\Brad, your use of the “n” word (narrative) is telling.

    Will ya PLEASE read Robbins’ essay, “Words”?!

    Thank you, Hugh//

  83. Brad Says:

    Lawyertheologian:

    If you stop there and say we are saved from sin and death, then where are we off to? A platonic realm?
    Outerspace? Another dimension or a place that is dimensionless? The gospel makes it clear that Christ redeems the very cosmos. Paul underscores this and we find at the end of Revelation that a New Jerusalem is our abode and the abode of God himself.

    You’ve extracted the parts you like. You’ve sifted out those verses dealing with personal salvation so that you can know for certain that you will not burn forevermore. I understand that. Catholics and Protestants have been doing that for centuries. let’s now take some time out to see the bigger picture. God is in the business of re-creation. He will transform the cosmos, in fact! Yes we are redeemed, and so is our context – we get a new heaven and earth thrown in too, in case you thought that wasn’t worth mentioning. I find it extremely consequential. Otherwise we’re left with a very anemic sense of God’s plan – almost a gnostic sense of it. What you seem to be saying is that we’ll merely escape matter – we’ll transcend creation like a bird flying away because the prison bars are broken. That makes a nice Baptist hymn, but I’m not sure how inspiring it is to us.

  84. Brad Says:

    God created heaven and earth in the beginning. He placed us here. He redeems us and creation. Not every individual is redeemed. Only the church is. But as far as creation goes, there is a new heaven and a new earth. So yes, all of creation is redeemed. Those not redeemed remain outside the gaits. They’re consigned to utter darkness, cut off from God’s immediate presence. At the beginning, what was not creation was chaos and darkness. What is not re-creation will find itself in that realm, I suspect.

  85. lawyertheologian Says:

    Here’s a quote from Robbins’ essay “Words.”

    Since Paul writes these words in the fourth chapter of 1 Timothy, the things to which he refers are all the doctrines he has mentioned and will mention in his letter: things such as the purpose of the law; the Gospel; rules for godly worship; civil duties; qualifications for both orders of permanent church officers, Elders and Deacons; warnings against false doctrine, false teachers, and apostates; and so on. His concern is that the brethren be taught, and that they be taught the whole counsel of God. This means that Christianity is taught, not caught. Christianity is words; it is doctrine. It is a religion of knowledge and of the mind. It is completely and thoroughly rational. It is not a religion of the senses, the will, the imagination, or the emotions.

    Note the Biblical phrase “the whole counsel of God.” This is essentially what the Bible is, counsel, that is, instruction from God. Now, no one is denying that the Bible relates the history of man and God’s acts within man’s history, that it tells that story from its beginning to its end. But what God wished to communicate to man is not events, but the meaning of those events, especially the cross of Christ, that man may know who God is, both as to His being a God of wrath, and a God of mercy, that His mercy is shown to His chosen ones through the sacrifice of His son on their behalf, that the elect are justified by the life and death of Jesus Christ, the Second Adam.

  86. Brad Says:

    Christianity is at once taught and caught. It is a religion of the intellect, of the imagination, of the will, emotions and all other faculties besides. But that’s not all because when combined they are not sufficient. It is a religion of faith. And this is where I must be very clear. If Christianity were only a religion of the mind and instruction, then paint the walls white and lecture me while I take notes. No, it is much more than that. Of all faiths, it is the only true one, and the only one with truly classic appeal (because it is true). That means it reaches people regardless of time and place. It is incarnational. It addresses all of our aspirations. It responds to our romantic striving and classical sentiment for order. Yet it goes far beyond this, because once again it is the truth. It is the reality which God is bringing about, the signs of which can be glimpsed even now. All of this is far more than intellect, I’m quite sure.

  87. Brad Says:

    If God’s story is true, then it will speak to us in every possible way. It will completely resonate with who we are at the very core of our selfhood. It will not simply speak to our reason. It will not merely pander to our emotions or touch our senses. The gospel intersects every dimension of our lives in the deepest way possible. It reaches and fulfills our deepest needs and yearnings. This is very profound. The answer to our predicament is not escape. We do not transcend our world. The solution is redemption. It is a vision of a whole new world foreseen by the prophets. The kingdom of God has arrived.

  88. David Reece Says:

    Brad,

    Faith is mental assent to propositions. Faith is simple belief in doctrine. Trust in Christ is thinking certain things about Christ.

    Saving faith is an act of the mind alone by the work of the Holy Spirit. Saving faith is belief in the imputation of my sin to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to me for my justification before God once and for all.

    Do not replace the wisdom of God with the smells and bells of Babylon.

  89. Brad Says:

    I’m afraid I’ve once again been entirely misunderstood. I’ve tried to get across that the gospel turns out to be the very thing we need. It’s the only thing we’re fit for. We need to realize that. And I think faith is a gift from God whereby we are made to see just that. I in no way advocate incense or the ringing of bells, or statues. I am not high-church and never was. As for candles, I can do without them. But the original church, I think, was sacramental. It touched our senses. Calvin, in his Institutes, reiterates throughout those two-thousand pages that God condescends to us. If you have children, you know that you don’t tell them everything. You give them information on a need-to-know basis. And you don’t necessarily tell them things in their literal sense. Sometimes you have to talk to them in terms that they can accept. I think that’s what God did with Israel. It may be, to some extent, what he still does with us. He doesn’t play games; we can be sure of what we need to know. But as far as the vision of our future goes, it’s reality far exceeds our current imagination, I’m afraid. And God’s will is mysterious, unpredictable, and strange.

  90. Brad Says:

    Was the early church sacramental? I think so. Was it confessional? I suppose so. Was it pietistic? Probably. Sound complicated? I know we tend to want things to fit into neat classifications. But they don’t. Bells may accompany worship. They don’t have to. They often don’t. Incense can be swung for the effect. But no one should ever claim that it must be so. We have to apply judgement to everything. Each thing must be examined separately. And remember, there are no easy answers. We read the Bible and bring that to bear upon life. This involves a process of discernment.

  91. lawyertheologian Says:

    “We have God’s message. It’s a story. It tells us that God created the world, that he placed us in its midst, that we failed in our purpose, and that Christ came to redeem us and our very context. As far as the process involved, again, we have no way to ultimately explain that to everyone’s satisfaction.”

    Brad, I would agree that the Bible tells the story of God creating the world, of man’s fall into sin, and of Christ buying back a remnant of mankind. But contrary to what you aver, the process involved must be understood in a clear particular way. Every true Christian will be satisfied with a proper articulation of that process. This process, how Christ redeemed the elect, is at the heart of the whole story, and God didn’t leave the means vague.

    “But as far as creation goes, there is a new heaven and a new earth. So yes, all of creation is redeemed.”

    I guess in the sense that the earth was cursed on account of man’s sin and it thus needs renewing, one could possibly say that it is bought back from God. But “our context” is not the important thing. Yes, God wants us to enjoy a physical earth, but it is in fellowship with Him that makes it an enjoyable place.

    “At the beginning, what was not creation was chaos and darkness.”

    In the beginning, before creation, there was nothing, no chaos and no darkness.

    “The gospel makes it clear that Christ redeems the very cosmos.”

    No, it does not. Remember, the gospel is God’s victory in Christ Jesus over Satan, sin, and death, in behalf of His people. Yes, again, ultimately that will be the result, since sin will be no more. But now, we don’t see creation reconciled or transformed. Yet we indeed are.

    “If you stop there and say we are saved from sin and death, then where are we off to? A platonic realm?”

    No, heaven. Life with God, which is a matter of our minds. Prior to the resurrection, that is where all saints are off to.

  92. Brad Says:

    One thing you realize after a while is that the Protestant branches emerged out of the Roman tradition. There was the Eastern or Greek tradition as well and still others besides. We have to come to terms with the diversity of the church, its manifold expressions. We cannot simply write them all off. No, we must acknowlege that God is wherever two or three gather in his name. We sense that a church is a church if it meets basic criteria. Churches have their life cycles. But God can recycle them too. I used to think as all of you do until I began to reflect upon things and read scripture in further depth. Then I realized I needed to assume a more generous attitude. Presbyterianism has had a glorious past. But so have other faith forms. And new manifestations will arise too. The body is made up of many parts and each part has its function. St. Paul was a master at metaphor. He explained things so well.

  93. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, what do you mean by “It is a religion of faith?” Isn’t faith of the mind? BTW, aren’t emotions, imaginations, and will all of the mind? And I’m quite sure that Christianity totally has to do with the intellect. It is a belief that the 66 books of the Bible are God’s Word. We don’t catch such a thing. It is made known to us by God in regeneration. 1 Peter 1:23.

  94. Hugh McCann Says:

    “Do not replace the wisdom of God with the smells and bells of Babylon.” AMEN!

    Or, as another Hugh* said,

    “Where the devil is resident, and has his plough going,
    there away with books and up with candles;
    away with Bibles and up with beads;
    away with the light of the gospel, and up with the light of candles (yea, at noonday!)
    …up with man’s traditions and his laws, down with God’s traditions and his most holy word.”

    * Rev Hugh Latimer, martyr @ Oxford, Oct 16, 1555

  95. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, the Protestant branches broke off, not emerged from the Roman tradition. It Protested against the Roman tradition as being anti Christian.

    “We have to come to terms with the diversity of the church, its manifold expressions.”

    So long as it is truly the Church. The Roman, Eastern Orthodox and Greek Church is not the Church.

    “We sense that a church is a church if it meets basic criteria.”

    A church is a church if it has the marks of a church: proper teaching of the gospel, proper administration of the sacraments, proper application of discipline when needed.

  96. Hugh McCann Says:

    And that gospel has to be by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (denied by both Catholic and Orthodox Churches), or else one is not a Christian.


  97. Gentlemen, if anything is to be accomplished, we must return to the beginning. The root must be addressed.

    Brad: How do you know?

  98. Denson Dube Says:

    I do not know what happened to my comments on Brad´s CS Lewis praise, but it came out only with quotations and the ad hominem conclusion at the end without my comments, which made it come out the way it did?? I have tried to recall what I had said originally and reposted below.

    <>

    regards,

    Denson

  99. Denson Dube Says:

    <
    Brad,
    “Would someone please tell me why a website would be devoted to questioning whether C. S. Lewis arrived at heaven. Why is someone asking that question? It’s an odd thing to do, I think.“
    First of all, the website is not dedicated to the topic, it is only one article!
    C.S. Lewis´ popularity and influence demands that we examine who he was, what he believed and if his beliefs should be followed; and what more appropriate topic to hone on than our ultimate destiny, heaven or hell? As the Bible says, what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world but loose his own soul!

    “Lewis was a fine gentleman.“ Irrelevant!
    I doubt if any of the disciples of the Lord or the prophets in the OT could be described as fine gentleman, yet they were approved of God.
    “He was scholarly, devoted to teaching, and an excellent apologist“
    CS Lewis was certainly scholarly, but so was Socrates, Karl Max and who have you. Calling C.S. Lewis an excellent apologist simply reveals your ignorance and poor education. Further, the crucial question is really what Lewis defended. I deny that it was Biblical Christianity.
    “To this day people find God in his writings.“ That may be so, but so do Muslims in the Koran, Hindus in the Verdas and I am sure the Mormons in the Book of Mormon!
    The relevant question is what sort of god do people find in Lewis´ writings.
    “Christians gain reinforcement through reading him“
    That depends on what you mean by Christians. The generally apostate post evangelical world would get reinforcement for their false beliefs from one of their own.

    “I can’t think of a more well-known Christian thinker from the 20th century.“
    I suppose we all have our heroes!
    “He was orthodox yet original“
    LOL! Hardly!
    “I don’t agree with everything he wrote, but he’s in no way heterodox“
    Belief in the moral influence theory of the Atonement, pagan inspiration as equivalent to Biblical inspiration, that the Bible contains errors, is the definition of heterodoxy.
    “The only things I recall being in disagreement with were his view on Mary and his acceptance of purgatory“
    The Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, which Lewis was a member of all his life …(Article 22)
    XXII. Of Purgatory.
    The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

    “His view of Mary was high-church“ LOL!
    His view of Mary was just Roman Catholic and plain necromancy, which the Bible condemns!

    “I think he was what one could call a Reformed or Protestant Christian“
    Lewis never mixed with Protestants, and hung out with Catholics. Why would you associate him with people that he by his own choice just did not identify with?
    “So in all these ways he was a broad figure. And I use the term broad in a very positive way.“
    Narrow is the way and small is the gate that leads to life and few be they that find it and broad is the way that leads to destruction.
    “C. S. Lewis in fact managed to become classic.
    That is the best test of all.“
    Irrelevant! This proves nothing! One could say, so did Elvis, The Beatles, William Shakespeare etc etc!

    “He did not wish to cause division“
    Perhaps this was his whole aim. He did not care about the truth as such but religious syncretism. I do not see any of the prophets and apostles in the Bible doing what Lewis did.

    “Then there is his appreciation for literature and poetry which lent him a certain edge in understanding Scripture“

    No, his mastery of language helped him sway impressionable minds like yours, just like Hitlerś oratory and demagogy swayed millions literally, to the brink!

    Your piece is[] peppered with logical fallacies and gross errors of fact and worse!

    Just curious, have you come to the knowledge of the saviour, Jesus Christ, through faith alone in His Life and death, or are you just paying lip service to what you consider just a religious pastime, trying to be a gentleman, doing the best you can and hoping you come out al-right for your sterling effort?<

  100. Brad Says:

    Lewis was not a Prebyterian. He was looking at the faith as an Anglican. His spiritual director was Anglican and Sister Penelope was too. Dorothy Sayers, whom he communicated with, was also Anglican and wrote a book on orthodoxy. He was influenced by writers such as Chesterton, Williams, and McDonald.

    You’re confusing high-church tendencies with paganism. Have the two overlapped in the past? Of course they have! Can we always equate one with the other? Absolutely not!

    Lewis’ apologetic approach was uniquely classic and broad. He did not attempt to spell out substitutionary atonement in detail. He sought rather to lead people to Christianity.

    When speaking of churches he said that salvation is the hallway and denominations are the rooms. We must worship and fellowship in a room.

    If anything, his understanding of Christianity was historic, apostolic, and classic. The kind of high-churchmanship he sought out was very much in keeping with that. It was not the sort of Anglo-Catholicism we are ofen familiar with today. That kind is very Roman or entirely liberal.

  101. lawyertheologian Says:

    “If anything, his understanding of Christianity was historic, apostolic, and classic.”

    That is very doubtful at best.

  102. Brad Says:

    You have to bear in mind that from the perspective of high-church people, others seem to be ghostly: they lack direct and visible continuity with the early church. Other church groups prefer their own credentials, which lie in theological clarity and precision at times. But ecclesiastically and historically, the status may appear sketchy. And we know from our heritage that schism has continued – we don’t stay a certain way for long.

    The reason Chesterton returned to Rome, I think, is because he relied so heavily on logic. I suspect Acquinas had something to do with it. Also, Rome appeared to be a bullwark against immorality and change. But when I consider Chesterton’s testimony, I feel that he along with Lewis were very Protestant figures, and Reformed ones too, at least in spririt. Both men were highly eccentric of course. But that’s part of what endeared them to people. They were original and authentic.

  103. Brad Says:

    Two things seem centrally important in this discussion. First, God sent Messiah to redeem God’s people and creation. Second, Christians have communicated this gospel message in diverse ways throughout the centuries.

    I think Lewis saw that and, drawing on that past, communicated the message in his own unique way. I think Chesterton did that too. Of course we can recall each one but that would take forever.

    God’s trinitarian nature teaches us something: There is unity and there is diversity and we must never collapse one into the other. We are not Muslim. But neither are we polytheistic. Our God is triune. And that means that his creation will reflect that. We should expect that the church will manifest itself in diverse ways. True, there are boundaries which must not be crossed. When they are, we have heresy. But people nevertheless testify in their creative ways. The church needs Calvin and Lewis and all other truthful witnesses. None, I suspect, are entirely correct. But all those who spoke in an orthodox vein deserve a place at the table.

  104. Brad Says:

    Hugh, do you really believe Lewis was pagan or anti-Christian? He could never have witnessed as he did if that were the case. Book after book testifies to his Christian learning and insight. He was not discussing polytheism or pantheism, or gnosticism, or anything else for that matter. His witness was to orthodox Christianity. Not everything he said resonates with everyone. His take on details isn’t the same as everyone elses. But we’re forced to see that he was a very Christian writer.

    I’m afraid that he was correct in his espousal of big-tent Christianitiy. Our denominational sentiments and doctrinal distinctives keep us from embracing fellow Christians and acknowledging them as such.

    This has to with a paradigmatic outlook. One can view Christianity through the prism of their favorite theological system, or they could accept the Bible with all it has to say and all that remains ambiguous.

  105. Brad Says:

    We imagine we’re confronted with an either / or scenario: We can stick to the Westminster narrative or argue our way back to Rome.

    The reality is immensely complex. Every denomination gets some things right and others wrong. We have to live with this.

    Now some churches more correctly communicate the gospel than others.

    But that does not alter the fact that we can learn from them all, since no church can capture everything.

    The term broad has fallen into derision, I fear. But that term, if positively understood, is an adjective that ought to describe each and every one of us as we strive for a complete and balanced understanding of Christianity.

    And I wish to highlight here that I do not use the term broad so broadly as to allow for it to entail false notions. I use the term broad to encompass everything that falls within the category of true Chrstianity. And this, I believe, extends beyond what folks like Calvin and Luther have had to say, though they have said much themselves.

    Everyone speaks from a vantage point. No one but God has a God’s-eye view. We theologize from a perspective rather than within a vacuum. When we do, we find that much of what we say is defined by who we’re saying it too. So it becomes necessary to hear also from people who have spoken in other contexts. This is why it’s imperative that we study what peopel have said throughout church history, and not just those who’ve spoken during the Reformation and Puritan periods.

    By listening to those other voices we gain a more complete perspective.

  106. lawyertheologian Says:

    “First, God sent Messiah to redeem God’s people and creation. Second, Christians have communicated this gospel message in diverse ways throughout the centuries.”

    First, this broad,general,vague language just doesn’t suffice as the gospel. Second, diverse ways of communicating the gospel have been used, but not diverse explanations of what the gospel message is. Again, you want to make the gospel message very broad, such that many, including C.S. Lewis were proclaiming it. But Calvinism is not just one way of viewing the gospel. It’s the only way. Justification by faith is the only proper explanation of the gospel.

    “Our God is triune. And that means that his creation will reflect that.”

    How can creation reflect the fact that God is triune?
    It doesn’t seem possible.


  107. “The reason Chesterton returned to Rome, I think, is because he relied so heavily on logic.”
    The reason Protestants LEFT Rome was because they were logical in their deductions from Scripture.

    Brad (2nd attempt): How do you know?

  108. lawyertheologian Says:

    ‘Now some churches more correctly communicate the gospel than others.”

    There is no degrees as to how correct one can communicate the gospel. You either it get it correct or you don’t. Again, one of the marks of a true church is that it communicates the gospel correctly. The biggest deception of the devil is to get people to believe and teach another gospel, one that looks like the gospel. “There is a way that seems right unto man, but the end therof is death.” The most anti Christian thinking and teaching is one that is placed “in the steaad of” true Christianity.

    Brad, I’m afraid you’re just deluding yourself, either that you understand and believe the gospel or that most people and churches do.

    “But we’re forced to see that he was a very Christian writer.”

    On the contrary. We are forced to see that if he believed what he wrote, he was not a Christian at all.

  109. lawyertheologian Says:

    Oh, and Brad you might want to consider Matt.7:21-23.

    Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

    Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’

    And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

    Many think they are witnessing for the Lord. They will be dumbfounded to discover they had been deluding themselves.

  110. Brad Says:

    Calvin, however fascinating a man he was, didn’t come around until the 1500’s. Was the church lost for 1500 years? Of course not! You’re confusing issues. There is the church as an institution. There is the Bible. Then there are Chritians.

    The Bible is a very large collection of 66 books. We find that it presents a story. We identify with that story when we believe that Christ is indeed the Lord and Redeemer. How did he become so? He was Messiah, sent by God, to accomplish that. How do we know we are Christian? Because we believe Christ is both Lord and God and our Savior because of what he did. What was the process involved? He lived, died and rose again. Why? To redeem his people and creation too. What are the mechanics of that?

    That is where all of the debate enters in. What happened in technical terms when we recall his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, asenscion to God’s right hand, etc.? It’s application is forensic, for sure. We were guilty. Christ declares us right (he rightwises us). It is as if we never sinned. Are we actually sinful? Of course. Are we holy? Indeed! Much of this is mystery.

  111. Brad Says:

    Now if you want to propose an equation where God’s righteousness cancels out our sinfullness, say that he was our stand-in, and that he took upon himself our sin while giving us his ritghteiousness, and that in this way he was the lamb slain from the world’s foundation, that is fine. He was the great high sacrifice to which all others pointed, and his blood atones. Very well. I heartily accept that. His chosen are in Christ. But much more can be said too. What about all of creation? What about time, nature, culture, history, civilization, kings and nations and their craftsmanship? Shall we stop with the elect? I think that’s rather paltry.

  112. LJ Says:

    Brad, you wrote: “So we must continually return to the story for the real scoop.”

    What exactly is the “scoop?” I submit, as soon as you start pecking away on your keyboard, giving us the “scoop,” you are systematizing the “story.” In other words, the “scoop” is the “story” systematized.

    You said yourself that the Bible consists of a number of genres. Granted that there are some stories in the Bible; call them narratives. How do we learn anything from these “stories?” How does anyone learn anything from any story for that matter? How do we get the “scoop?” If there is anything to learn, any knowledge to gain from a story, don’t we (you) compare the truths, the propositions, that we glean in one story with other stories we know and, thereby, further our knowledge? In the case of the Bible don’t we compare one part with other parts? In doing so I think we are systematizing and with systematization comes knowledge.

    Further, to deny that the epistles reveal systematic doctrine and are only stories, when most of the letters were written to systematically correct errors that were occurring in the early church, seems a bit far-fetched. I thought nearly everyone, even the existentialists, admitted that the Apostle Paul systematically addressed doctrines? Isn’t that one of the basic complaints about the Apostle, that he’s just too systematic? I don’t think he was only telling a story. I don’t think the Apostles or the Prophets were only telling stories, unless you have definitions for “story” and “system” that are different from their ordinary use that I am unfamiliar with.

    Finally, you stated that a system doesn’t exist? How can you think about it to deny it if it does not exist?

    LJ

  113. lawyertheologian Says:

    Calvin wasn’t the first to articulate the gospel the way he did. In fact, Augustine pretty much expressed the very same thought. If we had extra biblical writings of the patriarchs, we would see them expressing the same basic thought. It’s the same gospel going back to Adam.

    Christ did not become Savior (or Lord and God) by what He did. He was designated/appointed the sin bearer, the Second Adam. He was made the representative federal head of a people chosen by God. His acts were thus counted as the acts of his people.

    “What was the process involved? He lived, died and rose again. Why? To redeem his people and creation too. What are the mechanics of that?

    That is where all of the debate enters in. ”

    There is no debate among true Chrstians. His life and death was not for Himself but in the stead of His people.

    ‘What happened in technical terms when we recall his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, asenscion to God’s right hand, etc.? It’s application is forensic, for sure. We were guilty. Christ declares us right (he rightwises us). It is as if we never sinned. Are we actually sinful? Of course. Are we holy? Indeed! Much of this is mystery.”

    The mystery has been revealed in the Scriptures. We have a holy standing before God because God sees us in Christ. We are also made holy by our knowledge of the truth. Not sinlessly holy, but set apart, purified in our minds to pursue obedience to God’s commands.

  114. Brad Says:

    What I’m arguing for is a fuller sense of Christianity. Christianity is much more that what we often reduce it to. We’ve oversimplified it’s message. The gospel speaks of redemption, and that redemption doesn’t extend merely to God’s people. It goes beyond that. GOd redeems our context as well. He redeems all things. Do people remain outside this vision? Of course. We read toward the end of revelation that unredeemed people lie outside the gaits of New Jerusalem. But God’s kingdom entails a new heaven and a new earth. We’ve failed to transmit that vision. We’ve settled for a set of doctrinal statements.

    What God will do, and is doing right now, is something far beyond that. He’s redeeming his creation. At the start he declared what he’d made to be very good. Now he is engaged in re-creation, and what comes out of that will far exceed what went before. We must embrace the entire vision. Only then do we possess the gospel in its entirety. Anything short of it is strictly therapeutic, escapist, or outright gnostic. And we’ve had plenty of that kind of stuff down through the centuries. So we need to recapture the vision foreseen by prophets and declared by apostles, that God redeems his world.

    We also need to accept all individuals and churches that, throughout the centuries, have articulated that vision and communicated that truth in one way or another.

    No one can say everything. Many have reduced the complexity to simplicity. Much has been lost. We need to continually return to God’s story to regain a full sense of what the gospel means.

  115. lawyertheologian Says:

    “What about all of creation? What about time, nature, culture, history, civilization, kings and nations and their craftsmanship? Shall we stop with the elect? I think that’s rather paltry.”

    What are you saying? That everyone will be saved? That the gospel being only that God’s elect are saved is not enough? Well then, the elect are nothing if everyone in the end will be saved.

  116. LJ Says:

    lawyertheologian: that’s very systematic of you!

    Brad wants us to stick to the “scoop.” In your post you used the term “mystery.” Isn’t a “mystery,” that which was previously not known but has now been revealed, a “scoop” if there ever was one? How can anyone understand a mystery, a scoop, or a story without systematizing? Isn’t all cognition systematic? I think so unless one is insane!

    Help me out here. You guys are all a lot smarter than I am (and I’m not being facetious). I don’t understand where Brad is coming from. It sounds a little like Existentialism, but I’m no expert and apologies to Brad if I’m just too thick to get it.

  117. Brad Says:

    The Bible first and foremost presents us with a story or grand narrative. Whatever things are said by writers like Paul must be accepted and understood within the context of the story. Paul did not throw forth timeless truth. He didn’t reach up into a Platonic realm and pull down propositions. What he did was to articulate for the church its role within the story. He did not say, “take this system and follow it.” He wrote as one who was a part of the story to others who belonged to it. They were characters with roles and he helped to direct everyone. He also communicated God’s plan – and yes, that plan played itself out as a story. Now we’ve really got to let up on this systematizing. It has confused people to a terrible extent.

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He placed us in the midst of his creation. The end of the story represents a new beginning which has no end. We’re obviously a part of this story. Would someone tell me why we have so much difficulty realizing this? Why is it that I can’t get through to people on this? What is so confusing about it? It’s really very obvious once you think about it. The problem traditionally has been that we’ve placed systems before us. We need to get back to the Bible.

  118. LJ Says:

    Brad, your wrote: “He didn’t reach up into a Platonic realm and pull down propositions. What he did was to articulate for the church its role within the story.”

    I don’t get it. How did he articulate anything without using propositions?

  119. LJ Says:

    Brad, your wrote: “Why is it that I can’t get through to people on this? What is so confusing about it? It’s really very obvious once you think about it. The problem traditionally has been that we’ve placed systems before us. We need to get back to the Bible.”

    Respectfully, isn’t that begging the question? If the Bible is a system of theological propositions, then (we) cannot not “place systems before us.”

    Please explain to me, without systematizing your thoughts, in propositions, what it is about holy scripture that is not systematic. I don’t think you can do it. However, the attempt should be interesting!

  120. lawyertheologian Says:

    Ok Brad, I see your fuller sense of Christianity and the gospel. It is about God recreating the world.

    First of all, beyond the fact that our context is not the thing that really matters, God is not currently recreating the physical universe. He is recreating men in the image of His Son.

    Second, the gospel is not about a vision of a newly created world. The word gospel, meaning good news, was a word used to announce victory in war. Thus, the gospel is a message/proclamation of a victory. It is indeed God’s victory, not in recreating the world, but in defeating the penalty and power of sin that stood as a barrier between us and Him.

    Finally, God redeems, He buys back, men not things. The Bible does not use the word redemption regarding his recreating the universe. Now the earth was cursed as a punishment for man’s sin; man’s redemption thus in the end results in that curse being removed.

  121. Brad Says:

    God redeems his people and the world. I think that’s what you are saying too. He doesn’t just redeem people. Where would we go? To another planet? No, he creates a new heaven and a new earth. All that is good here will in some way find a place there. So we are looking really at re-creation or transformation. This is the vision of the prophets and of St. Paul. That vision was lost by some as the message got reduced to something very simply God saves the elect. This is true. He does. But he does more than that. Where would we go from there? To the moon? To the place where angels can be seen? No, the BIble clearly indicates that it is a kingdom that arrived. And no king has only subjects. They have a kingdom – a context for both them and their subjects. And that is New Jerusalem, the redeemed and restored creation. Now if you don’t believe that, I suppose you’ve missed a good deal of your Bible.

  122. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Paul did not throw forth timeless truth.”

    Really? The gospel is not a timeless truth?
    “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” is not a timeless truth? Nor is ” all things have been created through Him and for Him?” Every statement by Paul and every other Biblical writer is a timeless truth. They reveal what God has timelessly, that is eternally, thought.

    “He didn’t reach up into a Platonic realm and pull down propositions.”

    No, he got them from God. “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Gal.1:12. “that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.” Eph.3:3.

  123. Brad Says:

    It is true that creation was cursed because of our sin. And if sin is atoned for, creation’s curse if lifted. It is all redeemed, not simply the souls of elect.

    Are unbelievers redeemed? Of course not! They’re outside the gaits. All others are, however, along with creation.

    There are no souls hovering about in some platonic realm. That derives from mythic speculation. It is gnostic.

    The gospel is good news for God’s people and the world. His kingdom has arrived. The evil forces are defeated. Our God reigns!

  124. Brad Says:

    Is it timeless truth? I have a hard time saying so. It really is the truth of what happens in time and forever, a reality made known – that God’s kingdom has come and is coming. So we have to see how the categories of truth and reality apply.

    We have turned Christianity into a kind of Platonic treatise. It is our attempt to see things as the Greeks saw them. That is still with us today. But God’s message is on a very different order.

  125. LJ Says:

    Brad, you wrote: “The gospel is good news for God’s people and the world. His kingdom has arrived. The evil forces are defeated. Our God reigns!”

    I think 99.99% of all Christians would probably agree with that statement. Understanding the terms in the vernacular, I would too. But after reading everything you have previously written, I’m not so sure!

    Anyhow, it was interesting reading. Now I’m out.

  126. Brad Says:

    I really don’t knwo what to say. I think I’ve made myself very clear. But if we’re committed to one paradigm, we’ll remain there. We’ll see all things filtered through it. And until we gain the flexibility to see things broadly, we’ll be stuck in our position. I think you see things from your standpoint and interpret all else accordingly. That probably accounts for the confusion. That would explain why you think something might have been said that was heretical. I suspect I’m extremely orthodox.

  127. lawyertheologian Says:

    ‘the BIble clearly indicates that it is a kingdom that arrived”

    Yes, but the kingdom was not of this world, nor was it the New Jerusalem, nor the New heavens and new earth. It is a spiritual realm, not an earthly one. Again, our context is not the important thing. Yes, I believe that God will recreate the world one day. But that is not the gospel, nor part of it.

    “And if sin is atoned for, creation’s curse if lifted.”

    No, that does not follow. We still live in a cursed world. As I quoted earlier, “that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

    For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

    And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” Rom.8:21-23

    “There are no souls hovering about in some platonic realm. That derives from mythic speculation. It is gnostic.”

    Are you suggesting that heaven as a place for souls apart from their bodies amounts to a Platonic realm of ideas?

    “The gospel is good news for God’s people and the world.”

    How can it be good news for the world? It is a message of death to them.

  128. Brad Says:

    OK, I think I see what the problem is. You are viewing things in terms of the present moment. Yes, our context follows later on. But Paul’s vision and God’s plan entails EVERYTHING from beginning to end. Yes, we can’t see it all yet. Yes unbelievers will NOT be redeemed. But the vision is still the vision, and we need to transmit the entire gospel with all of its ramifications. It is not enough to simply say that when I die I’ll go to heaven for a while. It is not sufficient to simply say I won’t roast in hell. There is a lot more to the story. So let’s explain the global scope of it.

    Thanks and peace to you.

  129. Brad Says:

    Once again, unbelievers will surely not experience redemption. Only believers will. This present world is passing. But a new order is beginning even now. And we fail to see this. God’s kingdom has arrived – it’s visibly expressed in the church. Clearly the world is in a very real sense redeemed: what is old passes away, and what is new takes root. The present order is passing away. A new order is arriving. We need to see ourselves in the midst of that and take note of its implications for creation. There is a new heaven and a new earth, the new Jerusalem, and this creation is the dwelling place of God and his people forevermore. All that is good enters in. All that is evil is banished.

    So can you please tell me why you don’t think the world is redeemed? Of course I realize the unredeemed are not a part of it. But the world itself is rescued! The wicked are removed and the righteous are established. And so the meek do inherit the earth.

  130. Brad Says:

    We need to keep in mind the nation of Israel and there concerns. What were they looking forward to? They were expecting a Messiah and a kingdom. What that translates to is forgiveness of sin and new creation. To put this differently, Abraham’s spiritual descendents inherit the world.

    Prophets like Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel had envisioned it, as well as others. It was certainly original for its time. Religious thought considered it possible that the soul could live on in a disembodied existence – that it could escape the world and matter. But to say that people could experience physicial resurrection and that creation could be made over again? Well that was very new indeed. Outside the Hebrew phophets, I don’t believe anyone had the thought categories to imagine such a thing. And this is what distinguishes ancient Judaism and its fulfillment, Christianity, from all else.

    People had always dreamed of escape or transcendence. No religion had put forward the idea of transformation of people and the world. You simply don’t find that anywhere else.

    Escape is one thing. To be born again, and for the entire context surrounding you to experience rebirth, well, that’s a very different matter.

    We’re still thinking in terms of the Reformation debates (and now we see things through a Kantian paradigm). But the Jewish and early Christian vision was non-dual.


  131. Gentlemen, it is obvious that Brad is not interested in providing any logical argument. Indeed, perhaps that might lead him to Rome, as it did MacDonald!* This is why he has not answered questions, but continued to repeat his message of postmodern “Christianity” complete with all its tagwords.

    Brad, for the third and final time, I ask you the simple question: How do you know?

  132. Brad Says:

    I know because we’ve been reading Christianity through various lenses down through the centuries. We need to go back to the Bible (and that means taking off some of those glasses).


  133. Brad, I think you’ve misunderstood my question. How do you know? Anything? How do you know God exists?

  134. Brad Says:

    I suspect postmodernism doesn’t have much of anything to say that’s really positive. Its function has been to remove many obstacles, however. Many idols have been smashed because we’ve seen their futility. Now we can go back to the Bible. Tell me, please, what did early Christians have? Did they possess Luther and Calvin as good as they were? Did they possess Wesley or Graham or Lewis or Lloyd-Jones? No, they got along fine without the accumulated heritage of two-thousand years. So let’s acknowledge one thing: the worst postmodernism can do is to remove that past. It offers nothing in its stead. We have the BIble. That’s all we need.

    Now if that doesn’t strike you as logical, I don’t know what would!


  135. Brad, I’ll just wait ’til you answer. No sense arguing over where to build a theological house when we’re living on different epistemological islands.

  136. Brad Says:

    Mr. McWilliams asks me how I know anything.

    By faith I believe that God is and that he relates to me. By faith I believe the story of God. By faith I believe I’m a saint in that story. By faith I play a role in that. And by faith I look forward to the story’s outcome. So I know by faith. Is that the sort of answer you wished to evoke? I’m not really sure what you’re getting at.

  137. Brad Says:

    I hope you’re not trying to push us into an evidentialist framework. Are you saying that common sense realism is how one knows? The early church knew nothing of that. Neither did the Reformation era reformers.


  138. Brad, based on your response, I wonder how you will answer the following questions:
    What is faith, and how do you know?
    What does “God” mean?
    What is the story of God?
    What is a saint?


  139. Rest assured Brad, I’m no evidentialist 🙂 Neither do I subscribe to common sense realism.

  140. Brad Says:

    I’m not sure we’d know anything apart from God’s revelation to us. Much else would be misunderstood apart from that. One could argue that we’d assume a God, but no reliable proof exists. It would always depend on the individual. Really, you need the Bible and God’s encounter. Of course an objective world exists that’s in some sense recognized and shared. But let’s be honest and recognize the noetic effects of the ‘fall.’

  141. Brad Says:

    Faith, God, his story, and saint:

    Faith is a gift of God to believe that he exists and that what he says is true.

    God is who he is. To think philosophically here is wrong. To restrict to some kind of category is absurd. He is not manageable. But the Bible tells us what we need to know right now. He is the Creator and Redeemer, and the Sanctifier. He is Judge and Counselor and many other things besides.

    His story is the Bible. He created all things. He placed us in their midst. We failed in our purpose. He sent Messiah to restore us – in fact to bring us to a higher level – a kind of synthesis if you will – and this is referred to as New Jerusalem. That some who were invited do not show up is not inconsequential. They remain outside of God’s immediate presence forever.

    Saints are the people called to restoration.


  142. “I’m not sure we’d know anything apart from God’s revelation to us. … Really, you need the Bible and God’s encounter.”

    By “Bible,” do you mean the 66 books of the Protestant canon, as I do? And what do you mean by “God’s encounter,” exactly? Just I know what we’re talking about. Thanks

  143. Brad Says:

    It comes down to faith. Even if one reasons their way to Christianity, faith is involved and so is the operation of the Spirit. One cannot span the gap from atheism to Christianity solely on the basis of reason. That’s absurd. We hold that the ‘fall’ effected our reason too. And simply pointing out inconsistencies in one’s thinking is not sufficient. You may jolt them. But if they’re to become saved, God’s power will have to be at work.

    They will have to be given the gift of faith. Faith always enters the equation. Not only are our faculties effected, but we’re not God himself. We can’t see or know what he’s up to or about from one moment to the next. And so we must always trust him. All of this requires faith. And faith involves conviction. It’s a feeling. Not necessarily a good one, but a feeling nevertheless. When we believe, we know in part and we trust and hope in God.

  144. Brad Says:

    Yes, the Bible consists of 66 books – the Protestant canon. The others are helpful for those engaging in scholarship and research, but they are not part of God’s word to us.

    By God’s encounter I mean all of the ways he engages us as people called by him.

  145. Brad Says:

    So if you’re looking for an epistemology, you may want to rethink your wish. When it comes to knowing, knowledge is not easily proven. We deal in faith more than anything else.

  146. Brad Says:

    But when discussing these things we have to take into account our climate of thought. During certain periods in Western history it’s been possible to say that matters of faith were rational, whereas at other times it’s seemed to come down more or less to one’s faith. So it depends whether we’re living in Calvin adn Luther’s day, or that of a Pascal or Kierkegaard. The 1500’s were very much an age of faith. The 1600’s and 1700’s were less so. The present era seems rather secular.


  147. Faith is belief, you said. Belief in what? What is the object of belief?

    Hopefully, your answer will be propositions. A proposition, the meaning of a declarative sentence, is the only thing that can be believed. Do you agree?

  148. Hugh McCann Says:

    Not-so-quick Clark quote ~

    ‘…The well-known prologue to John’s Gospel may be paraphrased, “In the beginning was Logic, and Logic was with God, and Logic was God…. In logic was life and the life was the light of men.”

    ‘This paraphrase-in fact, this translation-may not only sound strange to devout ears, it may even sound obnoxious and offensive. But the shock only measures the devout person’s distance from the language and thought of the Greek New Testament. Why it is offensive to call Christ Logic, when it does not offend to call him a word, is hard to explain. But such is often the case. Even Augustine, because he insisted that God is truth, has been subjected to the anti-intellectualistic accusation of “reducing” God to a proposition. At any rate, the strong intellectualism of the word Logos is seen in its several possible translations: to wit,
    computation,
    (financial) accounts,
    esteem,
    proportion and (mathematical) ratio,
    explanation,
    theory or argument,
    principle or law,
    reason,
    formula,
    debate,
    narrative,
    speech,
    deliberation,
    discussion,
    oracle,
    sentence,
    and wisdom.

    ‘Any translation of John 1:1 that obscures this emphasis on mind or reason is a bad translation. And if anyone complains that the idea of ratio or debate obscures the personality of the second person of the Trinity, he should alter his concept of personality. In the beginning, then, was Logic.

    ‘That Logic is the light of men is a proposition that could well introduce the section after next on the relation of logic to man. But the thought that Logic is God will bring us to the conclusion of the present section. Not only do the followers of Bernard entertain suspicions about logic, but also even more systematic theologians are wary of any proposal that would make an abstract principle superior to God. The present argument, in consonance with both Philo and Charnock, does not do so. The law of contradiction is not to betaken as an axiom prior to or independent of God. The law is God thinking.

    ‘For this reason also the law of contradiction is not subsequent to God. If one should say that logic is dependent on God’s thinking, it is dependent only in the sense that it is the characteristic of God’s thinking. It is not subsequent temporally, for God is eternal and there was never a time when God existed without thinking logically. One must not suppose that God’s will existed as an inert substance before he willed to think.

    ‘That Logic is the light of men is a proposition that could well introduce the section after next on the relation of logic to man. But the thought that Logic is God will bring us to the conclusion of the present section. Not only do the followers of Bernard entertain suspicions about logic, but also even more systematic theologians are wary of any proposal that would make an abstract principle superior to God. The present argument, in consonance with both Philo and Charnock, does not do so. The law of contradiction is not to betaken as an axiom prior to or independent of God. The law is God thinking…’

    Gordon Haddon Clark, ‘GOD AND LOGIC’ @
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=16

  149. Brad Says:

    Knowing how we know what we know is the epistemological enterprise. But Christianity calls us to lives of faith. We hear the story of God and if it’s mixed with faith we believe it: we join the church and live out the role of the saint, and we look forward to the story’s end by faith. By faith we know these things, as have saints throughout time. Once again, we know by faith. The writer of Hebrews gives us an excellent sense of that.

    There is a circularity to knowing by faith, of course, and there is no way around that. We are people of faith. We are not ancient Greeks or their Enlightenment descendents. We are not philosophers. We often like to philosophize and attempt to discern the connection between faith and our faculties, and we love to devise systems.

    But the Bible is God’s message to us. It’s what we have to go on. We have the testimony of the church, and that’s based on Scripture. So the church brings us back again to the Bible despite what Catholics think. We must have faith that God exists and that he does what he says. And the Bible attests to those things. So our faith is in a God who speaks through the Bible. The object of our faith is God, not the Bible. But he has disclosed his revelation in scripture. Also, he still speaks when we listen; the Holy Spirit is active.

    We have our sciences: Epistemology, hermeneutics, metaphysics, ontology, apologetics, theology, etc. And then there is the Bible alongside the witnessing church, both thought foolish by the world.

    So we must painstakingly study scripture, carefully and prayerfully, and look with faith to the God who speaks through it.

    By faith the saints of old looked forward to things they couldn’t see, to things that often seemed entirely unreasonable or contrary to fact. Some found themselves in bizarre predicaments. Others experienced unthinkable torture. Some early Christians were eaten alive by wild animals. But they were essentially told they’d inherit the world. Somehow – and the plan of God was not fully revealed to them as it is to us – they would revive. They would stand in their flesh and see God and he would vindicate them. Not only that, but Israel itself and Jerusalem would see restoration along with the whole world. They could have considered this very absurd from their standpoint. But they had faith. So they believed it.

    Faith informs all Christians. If that element were taken from the mix, we’d be unbelievers, lost without hope. But as Christians we believe God and trust him. This is so because he’s given us faith.

  150. Brad Says:

    The logos we find in the Johannine text has been mistakenly understood in a Greek sense. The Hebraic logos has been lost. In the beginning was the Word is, I think, a much better translation.


  151. Brad, you did not answer my question. Do you affirm or deny that man thinks in propositions – that propositions are objects of belief?

  152. Brad Says:

    Hughy, it seems you’re deifying logic. Further, your quotation marks you off as a presuppositionalist. You mean to tell me we had to wait 2000 years for this? For a guy in an armchair with a picture of his grandkid in the background? Sitting in a sofa with a floor lamp that’s been out of fashion for four decades? C’mon!

  153. Brad Says:

    No Patrick, our faith is not in a proposition. It is in the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is who he is. And the whole reason we’re having this debate is because we’ve lost touch with the Hebraic roots of our faith. You’re more Greek than anything else!

  154. Brad Says:

    Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God, as we learn in the N. T. All things are held together by him. But to equate him with logic is silly. That’s awfully reductionistic, don’t you think?


  155. Brad, as my name makes rather evident, my roots are Irish, not Greek. 🙂

    I did not mean to say that we place our faith in a proposition in the sense of we trust just any ol’ proposition.

    I meant we believe the propositions revealed in Scripture. This is faith, no?

    Side note: It is interesting that you don’t like to say that you place your faith in a proposition, but you have no problem when Jesus is identified as a single “Word”. Seems inconsistent. But inconsistency doesn’t really seem to be much of a roadblock for you so far…


  156. “But to equate him with logic is silly. That’s awfully reductionistic, don’t you think?”

    You just said He was a single Word! I’m not saying you’re wrong, but seriously?

  157. Brad Says:

    This is why I don’t like presuppositional apologetics. It gives people the false impression that Christianity is logical and appeals to our reason. It assumes we can go forth to argue a case for Christianity that will force others to believe. You can take any unbeliever and lock him in an empty room with Clark, but unless God opens that person’s mind and heart they will not believe.

    Schaeffer and Van Till and Plantinga and all of these apologists want to find a way to get others to believe. But you have to have faith. And faith is a gift of God. Even Calvin explained that. The Holy Spirit must be present for God’s word to take effect in the person’s life – for them to become regenerated.

  158. Brad Says:

    Think about what you’re asking. If you suppose that our faith is in propositions, you are wrong. It is in God. God speaks. We believe what he says. But our faith is where? Our faith is in God. Do you see the difference?

    If we simply believed in propositions we’d be philosophers. We’d merely be assenting to theological ideas. We’d be fooling ourselves ino thinking we were saved. What makes a Christian authentic? Their faith is in the God who has spoken.

    Really, you have to understand this.

  159. lawyertheologian Says:

    Logic won’t force a person to accept another’s presuppositions. Christianity is logical. That is, its propositions are entirely consistent. But logic or pure reason (rationalism) won’t lead one to discover the truths of the Scripture. Nor is one going to believe a syllogism simply because it is logical to do so. One must first accept its axiom. Only when one accepts/believes that the Bible is the Word of God can he accept/believe that all of its propositions are true.

  160. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, we understand you. We just believe that you are dead wrong.

    We believe that Obama is president, that one and one are two, that the sky is blue. This doesn’t make us philosophers.

    But believing in the propositions God has revealed to us concerning Christ does indeed make us Christians.

  161. Brad Says:

    I think you’ve been reading in the area of presuppositional apologetics and now you’re understanding everything in that light. That would account for why you attach so much importance to the notion of propositions and all this discussion about proof and rationality.

  162. Brad Says:

    Gordon Clark was a scripturalist. But the early Christians were not. Such a sense of the Bible would never have occured to them. It wasn’t even in their background. Clark wanted to work out a Christian philosophy. It was an excerise, an intellectual project he engaged in. Some found it interesting. Most would have been left unphased if for no other reason than that they could not understand him.

  163. Brad Says:

    The average Christian doesn’t use terms like proposition and infallibility. They don’t think like that. Many don’t even have the intellect for it. All of this is very Presbyterian.

  164. Brad Says:

    You don’t recognize that until you get outside your own denomination and visit other churches. Then you realize that these other Christians have differnt ways of explaining things. It’s not that they’re saying something essentially different. It’s jsut that they’re explaining it in their own way, and oftentimes in a way that targets a less intellectual type. Look, I’ll be honest. There are those churches that cater to ninnies. But I’m not talking about those. I’m refering to churches that communicate the gospel in an ordinary way, and not as some armchair theologian or ivory-tower philosopher would.

  165. lawyertheologian Says:

    Really? Presbyterianism has the corner on intellectual Christianity? Sad for us poor dumb Reformed Bapists. LOL.

  166. lawyertheologian Says:

    “I’m refering to churches that communicate the gospel in an ordinary way,”

    What is the ordinary way? The way you communicate it? Sorry, but I have not heard the gospel expressed the way you do in any Bible believing church, and I’ve attended many.


  167. “This is why I don’t like presuppositional apologetics. It gives people the false impression that Christianity is logical and appeals to our reason.”

    This is why I don’t like postmodernism. It gives people the impression that Christianity is irrational nonsense like the kind you’ve been preaching above.

    “It assumes we can go forth to argue a case for Christianity that will force others to believe.”

    Interesting, because I don’t believe that.

    “You can take any unbeliever and lock him in an empty room with Clark, but unless God opens that person’s mind and heart they will not believe.”

    Amen!

    “The Holy Spirit must be present for God’s word to take effect in the person’s life – for them to become regenerated.”

    Amen again! Brad, don’t you realize that the only way you can say this is because you have believed the propositions of Scripture and made logical deductions from them? Scripturalists fully believe that it is the Spirit which enables us to have faith!

    “If you suppose that our faith is in propositions, you are wrong. It is in God. God speaks. We believe what he says. But our faith is where? Our faith is in God. Do you see the difference?”

    There is no difference. I believe the proposition, “It’s raining outside.” If you’re the one who told me so, I’d say that I believe you. To believe a person, to trust a person, to have faith in a person is simply to believe the propositions they have spoken.

    The reason I was asking questions about propositions is to show you that words have meaning, and that you, Brad, must operate according to logical principles simply to carry on a conversation.

    “All of this is very Presbyterian.”

    🙂 Well, I’m not Presbyterian, at least not how most would define it. But I do believe what God’s Word says! I am finding many of your statements very interesting indeed. Some I outright reject, others I wholeheartedly embrace. Logic is not something to be feared; it is not in opposition to faith! Logic is simply God thinking. It’s ok for your faith to make sense!

  168. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Gordon Clark was a scripturalist. But the early Christians were not. Such a sense of the Bible would never have occured to them.”

    Really? The sense that the Bible was the only source of truth would never had occurred to them. Brad, you’re making critical statements about terms/philosophies you don’t understand.

  169. Brad Says:

    A Reformed Baptist is just a Calvinist who dunks. But I can’t believe the chuch waited this long for the kind of propositional truth theorizing that’s gone on during the 20th century. It’s come down to this?

  170. Brad Says:

    Terms like inerrant, infallible and so on were unknown. They emerged from the context of debate. We had the fundamentalist / modernist controversey and Clark was knowingly or not a part of that. Roughly 500 years ago we had the Roman Catholic / Protestant debate. The ancient church often defined themselves against gnostics and whatever heresies exited then. Christianity has reflected medieval concerns, deistic tendencies, scientific taste, romantic sensibility and modernist preoccupations.

  171. Brad Says:

    What I’m saying is that Clark was a man of his times. How would he have sounded to Christians around 1200 AD or even 1700 AD? Much of what he said would have been irrelevant. His books are not classics. Hardly anyone has even heard of him. Many could not read him because of his obscurity. He was a Presbyterian and I think he changed denominations six times. He was probably a member of each Presbyterian denomiantion at some point or another.

  172. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hey, Brad,

    YA SAID, ‘Hugh, it seems you’re deifying logic.’

    CLARK quotes St John as saying that the Logos was with God and the Logos was God. Logic (reasonably, sans contradictions, rationally) is how God thinks and communicates reasonably with us.

    AND, ‘Further, your quotation marks you off as a presuppositionalist. You mean to tell me we had to wait 2000 years for this? For a guy in an armchair with a picture of his grandkid in the background? Sitting in a sofa with a floor lamp that’s been out of fashion for four decades? C’mon!’

    I IMAGINE others got it before Clark. But he was a bright light and very cute in that pic.

    THEN, ‘Think about what you’re asking. If you suppose that our faith is in propositions, you are wrong. It is in God. God speaks. We believe what he says. But our faith is where? Our faith is in God. Do you see the difference?’

    YES, but there is no difference. God speaks; God speaks words; God speaks reasonable words; God speak propositons, reasonable ones; we believe what he says. Our faith is THERE, in his words/ propositions. Get it?

    ‘If we simply believed in propositions we’d be philosophers. We’d merely be assenting to theological ideas. We’d be fooling ourselves ino thinking we were saved. What makes a Christian authentic? Their faith is in the God who has spoken.’

    YOU’RE finding a conflict where one doesn’t exist. Our ‘faith in the God who has spoken,’ is identical to our believing in his propositons/ words, & to our assenting to his theological ideas.

    HE speaks his word/ propositions/ ideas, and we believe them. You’re making a conflict where one doesn’t exist.

    ‘Really, you have to understand this.’
    I DO, I DO! DO YOU?!

  173. Brad Says:

    Who finds him interesting? Who’s reading him? I’m not. I read many Christian authors, but I never even heard of the guy until I saw that crusty old photo of him you posted. He’s obscure. His face is entirely unfamiliar. Who’s ever heard of this guy? Really! He’s not someone that’s helped many Christians in the past. He never got beyond a certain circle. He’s known perhaps to some secular philosophers only because there was a bit of academic ovelap. Otherwise this guy is unknown to the church. And you don’t like Lewis? At least peopel know who he was. Even Schaeffer will occassionally arise in conversation. But who discusses Clark? Who’s bringing him up at a cocktail party or in a discussion panel? He’s virtually unknown. When I looked at that photo I said, Gee – who is this guy? He was sitting in that chair like a regal figure. But I never heard of him. Then I looked him up and I said, no wonder. His prestige was confined to a philosophic sector. He’s not someone that ever resonated with people.

  174. Hugh McCann Says:

    Brad,

    OK, so you don’t like Clark, & you don’t need Calvin, but they did have the scoop! So did Robbins. Lewis missed the scoop. It’s called grace. No works: sola gratia.

    If you’re not going to read the tremendous articles I’m casting before you, just say so, and I’ll knock off the dust off my feet.

  175. Brad Says:

    The man looked like he was part of another decade. He belonged to another era. His furniture reflected that. His suit reflected that. His obscurity reflects that. I’ve been dealing in books for years. I’ve never come across anything by him at all.

  176. Brad Says:

    Calvin was classic. We know that. But he wasn’t the only theologian that communicated the gospel and is still read.

    Who said anything about grace and works?

    If that’s what you’re talking about, then realize this: grace and works are not antithetical to each other. We are saved by grace to work, and if we’re really saved, we will. In fact, we will come to find that we’re saved when we see how it plays out in works until the end.

  177. Hugh McCann Says:

    ‘The man looked like he was part of another decade. He belonged to another era. His furniture reflected that. His suit reflected that.’

    Sounds like C.S. Lewis!

  178. Brad Says:

    This guy John Robbins is another obscure one. I don’t know where you find them. You’ve been studying presuppositionalism. Only someone whose been studying that would know names like those. People are not familiar with Clark or Robbins. Some Christians might have a slight familiarity with Van Til, but I wouldn’t count on it. And to read those writers requires a certain frame of mind. You can’t just pick up those books at any time and dive right in. You might have to painstakingly attend to each sentence or even word, and as soon as you’ve got that part down you will forget it in an effort to continue to the next idea. It’s dense stuff and very technical.

  179. Brad Says:

    OK, you’re right. Lewis’ furniture looked like it was straight from a tag sale. And yes, he wore that rediculous tattered tweed jacket. That was his trademark. And he was sort of a Victorian figure in some ways.

  180. Hugh McCann Says:

    Just as we cannot judge someone of another era by our taste in cloting or furniture, neither should we be impressed with popularity or notoriety.

    Truth is always in the minority, and is not found by counting noses, to paraphrase Spurgeon.

    Clark’s relative obscurity says nothing about his validity.

    But, OK, who needs either one? Let’s forget Lewis & Clark – let’s quote BRAD: ‘We need to get back to the Bible.’ (Which you seem to love to denigrate.) Specifically, St Paul.

    Before that, tho’, are you agreeing now that God’s ideas, propositions, & words are synonomous? Good.

  181. Brad Says:

    But Lewis holds classic appeal. He’s reached a broad audience and his popularity has grown with time. None of that can be said about these presuppositionalist scholars. They can’t even be easily read. You have to introduce yourself to that sort of thing slowly, acquiring certain terms and so forth. It all takes time. And yes, it’s very Presbyterian.

  182. Brad Says:

    Alright, let’s say they’re synonomous. What’s your point? What has that got to do with St. Paul and the Bible?


  183. One last comment from me.

    Brad, you’re right that there have been many controversies over Christianity throughout history. God has used these controversies to teach the church, to force Christians to think logically about His Word.

    Earlier you distinguished between the truth of Christianity and the error of Gnosticism. There are lines between truth and error. A wise man will not reinvent the theological wheel, but will make use of the thousands of years of theological thought and development.

    Yes, there were Christians in the Roman church at the time of the Reformation. The consistent ones joined the Reformation and repudiated the errors of Rome. As a result, we now have 500 years of Reformed doctrine. Not all Protestant doctrine is consistent, or true, etc. The church is constantly growing, learning, being molded by the Holy Spirit. This is a truth that I’m sure you’d be happy to agree with! But this growth is due to a further knowledge of the truth – of Scripture. The church has not waited 2000 years for postmodernism to tell us to make ourselves ignorant or inconsistent; or to reject that development which has gone before us.

    Lewis’ status as a widely-revered “classic” does not mean that he taught truth consistently. Aristotle is a classic, but he was a Pagan. Plato, Socrates, Bertrand Russell, Carl Sagan, Homer, Stephen King, Philo… all of these men are “classics” in one way or another. That does not mean that their writings are true.

    It is sad that you base your acceptance of “Christian” writings on how well they have been received by the world, rather than how well they coincide with Scripture. I do not always agree with Clark, but he is a very clear thinker, and extremely insightful when it comes to connecting the dots of Scriptural truth. Clark was intensely devoted to God’s Word, and attempted to base his entire life and philosophy on it.

    And you mock him with abusive ad hominems about his chair and his suit. You mock this humble Christian for living out his faith in devotion to his Lord. Why? Because he hasn’t sold enough books to meet your “classic” quota? Such reverence of men is un-Christian (James 2).

    Brad, you may be well-read, particularly in postmodern thought. But you are attempting to speak about things (e.g. Clark, Scripturalism, the development of Reformed theology) that you simply do not know about. My advice to you is to embrace truth. Embrace our rational, logical, ever-consistent, unchanging God. Follow His way of thinking. The articles and books at trinityfoundation.org are a great resource, too often neglected. I believe that you will find much of Clark’s writings to be to your liking, and a breath of fresh air compared to the chaos of the world around us. Farewell.

  184. Hugh McCann Says:

    But Lewis holds classic appeal. He’s reached a broad audience and his popularity has grown with time.

    SEE Spurgeon quote above. Lewis’ style or popularity prove only that he was stylish and popular, not that he was right.

    None of that can be said about these presuppositionalist scholars. They can’t even be easily read. You have to introduce yourself to that sort of thing slowly, acquiring certain terms and so forth.

    SO what? Maybe the best theologians are hard to read. They ARE smarter than we are. Maybe they’re worth the effort. But let’s get back to the BIBLE, like you said.

  185. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thank you for answering me and gladdening me by seeing that God’s word is his idea/ propositions/ etc.

    St Paul was inspired to write these words/ ideas/ propositions.

  186. Brad Says:

    So I think what you’re saying is that we can’t separate God from what he says. We have faiht in God and what he says. The message comes to us through language, a symbolic tool. Is that where you’re going with it?

  187. Hugh McCann Says:

    “we can’t separate God from what he says. We have faith in God and [in] what he says.”

    AMEN & AMEN!

  188. Hugh McCann Says:

    Or better: We have faith in God through/ from/ by what he says.

  189. Brad Says:

    I do not consider that a work is true because it is popular. But if it’s achieved classic status, then the apeal is beyond a fad. It speaks to us in a way that endures. It seems to me that it is therefore in some way true. I think of Crime and Punishment, Les Miserables, The Divine Comedy, Shakespeare, etc.

    When we discuss matters of the faith, logical consistency should not be expected. If it is, you probably have an airtight Calvinist system going on. And remember, the Bible is not really like that. That’s only how it seems when we’ve systematized.

  190. Brad Says:

    We need to understand categories like truth and reality in terms of God’s message. We live in a Heraclitean universe.

  191. Hugh McCann Says:

    Brad,

    As for Paul, you said,

    ‘The Bible first and foremost presents us with a story or grand narrative. Whatever things are said by writers like Paul must be accepted and understood within the context of the story.’

    >PAUL’S God-inspired writings constitute a huge part of the story.

    ‘Paul did not throw forth timeless truth.’

    >”THROW”? No, but he wrote timeless truth, did he not?

    ‘He didn’t reach up into a Platonic realm and pull down propositions.’

    >”PLATONIC”? Of course not, but the truth/ word/ ideas/ propositions were given to him by God, were they not?

    ‘What he did was to articulate for the church its role within the story.’

    >MORE importantly, the gospel of grace alone.

    ‘He did not say, “take this system and follow it.”’

    >YES, he did, actually; he went to great lengths in 2 Cor. to argue for his authority as an inpsired apostle; hence, his words/ propositions/ ideas are God’s, hence, they are to be understood, believed, and followed, are they not?

    ‘He wrote as one who was a part of the story to others who belonged to it. They were characters with roles and he helped to direct everyone. He also communicated God’s plan – and yes, that plan played itself out as a story. Now we’ve really got to let up on this systematizing. It has confused people to a terrible extent.’

    >WE’VE agreed that God gave us propositions/ ideas/ word. I don’t disagree that it’s a story, but for it to make sense as such, it has to have SOME sort of system of thought, plot, idea, word, propositions behind it. Or your word, ‘plan.’ Sounds like a system to me!

    >WHEN we systematize, it should be to think God’s thoughts (words, ideas) after him, not concoct our own story/ idea/ word in a vain attempt to

    >WE rightly divide (systematize) the word as we compare Scripture with Scripture, line upon line, here a little, there a little. For one to say he is not systematizing when he makes any assertion about sacred Writ is to be either duplicitous or blind.

  192. Hugh McCann Says:

    OOPS! MEANT TO SAY,

    >WHEN we systematize, it should be to think God’s thoughts (words, ideas) after him, not concoct our own story/ idea/ word in a vain attempt to overlay OUR word/ idea/ plan on God’s.

    >WE rightly divide (systematize) the word as we compare Scripture with Scripture, line upon line, here a little, there a little. For one to say he is not systematizing when he makes any assertion about sacred Writ is to be either duplicitous or blind.

  193. Brad Says:

    The biggest mistake people make is to try to conform Christianity to logic or to reduce it to mathematical precision. That can’t be done, since it’s not in it’s nature to be that way. Mathematics and pure logic are different from God’s word, the Bible. The Bible is a story that tells us about God, his creation, how they intersect and where they’re headed. It’s eschatological. When we read it, we use our finite minds to learn of a story that involves the infinite. You can’t square the circle. You can’t entirely wrap your mind around everything it means. But you can believe everything it says.

  194. Brad Says:

    You want to know as the gnostics thought they knew, with a certainty that required no faith.

    Yes, the mystery is disclosed. But that does not mean we have no more questions. There are things we won’t know until later on, perhaps much later on.

  195. Brad Says:

    The gnostics thought they gained access to information that by knowing it would set them free. They did not think they had to trust, believe, or hope in a God who created them and the world. Their sense was that knowledge once known freed them. We on the other hand are told a story. We believe the story and trust the God of that story. It’s a very different scenario.

    Once again, we’re not dealing here with a mathematical problem where the issue of consistency would arise. For a long time people made it their business to try to reduce the universe to an equation. String theory is being revived again. That’s not what we’re dealing with when we go to the Bible and our God.

  196. Brad Says:

    So presuppositionalism and logical consistency and propositions and all the rest of it is rather irrelevent. That’s not to say that God’s word is contradictory or false. It’s just to say that it takes faith to understand it and that even with faith we only know in part.

  197. David Reece Says:

    Brad,

    Would you PLEASE tell us who you are addressing in each of your future posts? I thank you in advance.

    There is no way to know what/who you are responding to the way you are writing now.

  198. Brad Says:

    And there are truths that are paradoxical. They appear contradictory to our minds. They really aren’t. But we lack the ability right now to see how they fit together. Forcing them together in an airtight system is not the answer. That jsut gives us a false picture.

  199. Brad Says:

    I’m frankly getting tired of addressing anyone. It seems that no matter how many times I explain myself misunderstanding remains. I’ve been accused of being postmodernist, inconsistent, abusive toward Clark because of comments regarding his chair, and so on. Lewis has been attacked and mauled. And I’ve had presuppositionalism shoved down my throat. I’m feeling tired now.

  200. Brad Says:

    I have to go shopping in the morning, so I think I’ll go to bed now. Perhaps we can pick this up sometime tomorrow.

  201. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, do not all of the statements related in The Story conform to the laws of logic? And are there not true statements within The Story that by coming to know them sets us free?

    BTW, just to be clear, were you saying or suggesting that the gospel is simply that God through Jesus Christ redeemed the whole world, that by believing that apart from any particular or general understanding of the atonement one is saved, one is a Christian?

  202. Brad Says:

    When we read the Bible we come across much that is illogical (to our minds). With a God’s-eye perspective it makes perfect sense. But we obviously don’t have that – we’re not God. As Christians, we accept what it says by faith since we can’t prove much of it, particularly when it comes to those parts we don’t entirely understand, such as Christ’s nature, the trinity, etc. We accept what the Bible says even when we don’t or can’t understand it.

    If what you say is true, then the unbeliever’s sole problem is that they are illogical. Conversion makes them logical, and then with logic the trinity and everything else makes sense. I just don’t believe this. Our minds are finite. God is infinite. He’s given us minds. We are made in his image. But our minds are not infinite.

    It was a Greek error to assume that the microcosm of the individual corresponded to the macrocosm of everything else. Yes, we are made in God’s image. No, we do not share his mind.

    As far as redemption is concerned, God redeems his people in Christ. That is the ecclesia or the called out ones. Why does he redeem a people and not everyone? The rest were presumably invited but didn’t show, and they remain outside the city gates forever. Another metaphor associated with this is darkness. I think here of the primordial chaos out of which God created. Fire is another. Metaphors are used to describe things for which we have no experience. Each metaphor contributes toward understanding the matter. But none are sufficient by themselves. That’s why Calvin said the fire of hell was not to be understood literally. Of course Dante in his inferno has a lot of fun with images, but he was an artist.

    Now what understanding of the atonement is necessary for salvation? We’ve been arguing this throughout the thread. Think back to the early church. What was the Christian’s defining credential? That he believed the Messiah. Jesus was the Christ and Lord sent to redeem God’s people – to save them from sin and its consequence, death, and to restore them to life everlasting. He did this through his life, death, and resurrection. He atoned for sin. He reconciled us to God and restored creation thereby. We use the term substitutionary atonement to explain it. Various theories have arisen throughout the centuries to explain ‘the how’ of it in detail. This is where it gets hairy. I told you before that if we are in Christ, then we are declared not guilty. What more do you want me to say?

  203. Brad Says:

    And do remember, metaphors are used by the Bible to speak of substitutionary atonement too. Something very objective happened. Its application is very objective – its implications are very real. But we must not seize upon any one metaphor by itself. It is only when we combine the metaphors that we get a balanced picture. If you wish to explain the event in terms of how your snowblower operates, I suspect that’s not possible. The snowblower is humanly created and you are a human being. But if you want to know what God accomplished in Christ, then examine the various metaphors used to describe that. Paul was a master at metaphor. Throughout each topic he draws on all kinds of metaphors and images. One moment he uses one metaphor. Then he goes on to anotehr. None are adequate by themselves. If taken literally, they simply do not match up – rather they conflict. The point is not to take them literally. The point is to gain an overall impression. OK, he says, it’s like this. OK, but no – it’s like that, Paul goes on to say. This sort of thing has caused people to say he is circular while others have gone so far as to say he is irrational or illogical or a Jewish Christian who knows nothing about constructing a normal argument. None of that’s true. He’s communicating things we haven’t experienced, or at least not fully. How’s he to get such things across? He does so through the use of metaphor and imagery. He doesn’t stick to one for each. He uses many just as the Bible uses many to reference what we call hell.

    I know much of this seems elusive and this is where people get shaken up because they suppose we can’t hammer out doctrines if it’s like this. They suppose we can’t set forth ideas and draw parameters around them. They worry that Christian thought will be eroded. They suppose it might be reduced to the subjective experience of each individual. I don’t know what to say. That doesn’t mean we should be sloppy, wrong, or dishonest for the sake of safeguarding truth.

  204. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Why does he redeem a people and not everyone? The rest were presumably invited but didn’t show, and they remain outside the city gates forever.”

    The Bible teaches that God chose a set amount of people and that Christ lived and died for them. Eph.1:4. Everyone is not invited to be redeemed.

    “He atoned for sin. He reconciled us to God and restored creation thereby. We use the term substitutionary atonement to explain it. Various theories have arisen throughout the centuries to explain ‘the how’ of it in detail.”

    Though not necessarily in detail, but the how of it is essential. Otherwise one does not know what is meant by “He atoned for sin.” In fact, some of the theories mentioned previously do not even appear to describe atonement at all. And by not saying how He atoned for sin, we are not saying how He redeemed God’s people. Simply saying that He did so through his life, death, and resurrection, again isn’t sufficient. For believing that God reedemed a people doesn’t save anyone. How He did so does. For it provides the basis of our acceptance with God.

    “This is where it gets hairy. I told you before that if we are in Christ, then we are declared not guilty.”

    Yes, but what does it mean to be in Christ, how do we become in Christ, and what is the basis or reason for being declared not guilty?

  205. Hugh McCann Says:

    January 22, 2011 at 12:21 am
    …The Bible is a story that tells us about God, his creation, how they intersect and where they’re headed. It’s eschatological. When we read it, we use our finite minds to learn of a story that involves the infinite. You can’t square the circle. You can’t entirely wrap your mind around everything it means. But you can believe everything it says.
    >WE cannot understand everything in Scripture; agreed. But to say you can’t square the circle is to argue as if you are omniscient. How do you know you cannot?
    >2NDLY, how does one believe if he understands nothing? Of course, he cannot. He must be able to understand the propositions that St Paul has given us (and you‘ve well-echoed below) : That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he rose again according to the Scriptures.

    January 22, 2011 at 12:27 am
    You want to know as the gnostics thought they knew, with a certainty that required no faith. Yes, the mystery is disclosed. But that does not mean we have no more questions. There are things we won’t know until later on, perhaps much later on.
    >> AND there are things we can know and must proclaim NOW.

    January 22, 2011 at 12:31 am
    …We on the other hand are told a story. We believe the story and trust the God of that story. It’s a very different scenario.
    Once again, we’re not dealing here with a mathematical problem where the issue of consistency would arise. For a long time people made it their business to try to reduce the universe to an equation. String theory is being revived again. That’s not what we’re dealing with when we go to the Bible and our God.
    >> HOWEVER, God is consistent & reasonable, is he not?

    January 22, 2011 at 12:50 am
    So presuppositionalism and logical consistency and propositions and all the rest of it is rather irrelevent. That’s not to say that God’s word is contradictory or false. It’s just to say that it takes faith to understand it and that even with faith we only know in part.
    > FAITH is not unreasonable, though to the natural man, the wisdom (word/ idea, etc.) of God seems foolish. To say, ‘presuppositionalism and logical consistency and propositions and all the rest of it is rather irrelevant’ is to betray your disdain for rigorous thinking, accuracy, and theological integrity.

    January 22, 2011 at 12:52 am
    And there are truths that are paradoxical. They appear contradictory to our minds. They really aren’t.
    But we lack the ability right now to see how they fit together. Forcing them together in an airtight system is not the answer.
    > WITHOUT systematizing (consciously), you cannot say that ‘contradictions’ or ‘paradoxes’ ‘really aren’t’! You have no way of reconciling apparent contradictions in your world of story-only.
    That just gives us a false picture.
    >HOW do you know this in your anti-system system?

    January 22, 2011 at 9:38 am
    …Now what understanding of the atonement is necessary for salvation? We’ve been arguing this throughout the thread. Think back to the early church. What was the Christian’s defining credential? That he believed the Messiah. Jesus was the Christ and Lord sent to redeem God’s people – to save them from sin and its consequence, death, and to restore them to life everlasting. He did this through his life, death, and resurrection. He atoned for sin. He reconciled us to God and restored creation thereby. We use the term substitutionary atonement to explain it. Various theories have arisen throughout the centuries to explain ‘the how’ of it in detail. This is where it gets hairy. I told you before that if we are in Christ, then we are declared not guilty. What more do you want me to say?
    >THAT’S great, Brad. Thank you.
    >WAS Jesus’ death efficacious to save his chosen people and his chosen people only from their sins?

    January 19, 2011 at 8:58 pm
    …I don’t normally suggest reasoning from the created to the Creator. But to say that the Bible is merely like a good story just doesn’t do it justice. I think we have to say that the Bible is the best story, while all other stories are good insofar as they approximate its pattern.
    >THAT‘S fine. What we‘re arguing over ultimately is how to understand that story. Does the story say that Jesus died to truly & completely save his predestined people from their sins by grace alone through faith alone in Him alone, or did he merely provide a possible salvation if we only add ____ to his work? (Fill in the blank with anything and one goes to hell.)

  206. Brad Says:

    God gives us the story of everything (that matters) in scripture. That story is like the story of a writer. It exists first in their mind and is then written. In this case it is played out. Your getting overly precise because you are trying to reconcile things philosphically. You wish to end with a theologically airtight system. When I think of predestination, I think of the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he discusses the plan of God. It was predestined that the ecclesia or called out people of God would be in Christ a new creation. Once again, I don’t think we’re supposed to literally piece these little tidbits of data so as to form a kind of puzzle in the form of systematic theology. We’ve done it. But I don’t think it’s natural.

  207. lawyertheologian Says:

    “It was predestined that the ecclesia or called out people of God would be in Christ a new creation.”

    That is hardly a tidbit of data. This predestination is central to the whole story. And it is not just related in the book of Ephesians, but throughout the Bible. In order for them to become a new creation, Christ had to live and die for them. Again, this is central to the whole story and revealed throughout the Bible.

  208. Brad Says:

    God is triune and that in itself has tremendous implications for the story and how it turns out. To view it as a story is to view it as a development through time with a beginning, a middle, and an end. God the father acts with the Son and Holy Ghost.

    The story of the Bible is life. It is not a system. Systems are static. It is a story that we’re in, and like all stories it is dynamic. It involves singular events. You can’t devise a system based upon laws or principles as one would do with nature which is constant and repeatable. Instead, we’re talking about God interacting with his human creation.

  209. lawyertheologian Says:

    BTW, the four gospel have, as it were,tidbits of information regarding the life of Jesus. Don’t we have to piece them together if we want to have a full and accurate understanding of the events?

    And when considering certain events and their meaning, such as Christ’s death and resurrection,isn’t it obvious that the teaching regarding one event is related to the teaching of the other? Shouldn’t we then be piecing these teachings/doctrines together?

  210. Brad Says:

    It is in the late phase of a civilization that we get systematic. We wish to analyze everything in light of a cold calculating reason. We take life and we kill and dissect it. This is how systems come about. It’s been going on for a very long time now in the West. Spengler pointed it out in his The Decline of the West. It is in the early springtime of a culture that people understand the importance of faith and accepting the absurd (I believe because it is absurd). That’s a long way from Calvin or the Puritan / Royal Society members. I don’t think you realized how much theology has been acquired through the centuries. You keep thinking Calvinism simply restates the Bible with clarity and precision. You refuse to recognize that it’s gone beyond that to reconcile irreconcilables. You will not face the fact that we’ve become divorced from our Hebraic roots – we are thoroughly Greek.

  211. Brad Says:

    The Bible is not a puzzle. It is not a parlor pastime. It is God’s divine message to us, written by humans divinely inspired. How can you piece its parts together? Do you think it’s a game? No, you can not piece it together. If you try it will result in rediculously airtight nonsense. There should be apparent conflict. It is the divine story. The divine story entails paradox. When we ‘arrive’ we’ll probably see that cleared up. But if you try to piece parts together – and that’s an odd hermeneutical approach anyway – the parts will collide. You’ll wind up forcing them together where they don’t belong and you’ll end up with strange notions.

  212. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, if we view the Bible as simply a story, then whenever assertions are made in it, all we can say is that it is true that the assertion was made, not that the assertion is true.

  213. lawyertheologian Says:

    Why should there be apparent conflict in the Bible? When someone tells a story does he always contradict himself in the details? Does every story we read have apparent contradictions in it? Often times we see contradictions when we have misunderstood what was said. So also in reading God’s story. We see contradictions because we misread/misunderstand what is written.

    Again, the gospel letters relate events in different ways, and add or leave out details that another relates. For instance, when Jesus was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane, Mark mentions a young man being seized who fled away naked. This detail is not mentioned in any of the other gospel accounts. Other details are mentioned in the other gospel accounts regarding this event that are not in Mark. Thus, we have to piece the details together to get a fuller account of what occurred.

  214. Hugh McCann Says:

    Brad,

    GIVEN your assertion that, ‘The Bible is not a puzzle. It is not a parlor pastime. It is God’s divine message to us, written by humans divinely inspired,’

    AND given your Q & A, ‘How can you piece its parts together? Do you think it’s a game? No, you can not piece it together,’

    HOW can you dogmatically assert anything, such as: ‘God is triune and that in itself has tremendous implications for the story and how it turns out… God the father acts with the Son and Holy Ghost’?!

    YOUR own accusation accuses you: ‘If you try it will result in ridiculously airtight nonsense. There should be apparent conflict. It is the divine story. The divine story entails paradox. When we ‘arrive’ we’ll probably see that cleared up. But if you try to piece parts together – and that’s an odd hermeneutical approach anyway – the parts will collide. You’ll wind up forcing them together where they don’t belong and you’ll end up with strange notions.’

    IF YOU consider Calvinism to be ‘airtight nonsense,’ you’re fool.

    IF your god is irrational, unwilling or incapable of communicating with us reasonably, how can you assert anything, esp. the notion that perhaps in heaven (when we ‘arrive’) things will be cleared up?

    THEN, everything ought to be completely confusing and (apparently) contradictory, since we systematizing sinners will then see your paradoxical god face to face as he is: UTTERLY INSCRUTABLE. Thanks, Brad, for nothing.

    HOW can you say this: ‘The story of the Bible is life. It is not a system. Systems are static. It is a story that we’re in, and like all stories it is dynamic. It involves singular events. You can’t devise a system based upon laws or principles as one would do with nature which is constant and repeatable. Instead, we’re talking about God interacting with his human creation.’?

    THESE are your opinions, with which I strongly differ.

    WE CAN, we must make sense of our world, and God’s word offers us just that! His System/ Plan/ Word is never static.

    YOU have a god of no laws, no reason, no plan, no plot, no understandable Word, just a confused, necessarily contradictory story. Thanks, but no thanks. Such takes no true, biblical faith to embrace, just gullibility.

  215. Brad Says:

    I’m afraid you misread me, Hugh. That’s not what I’m saying. The divine story entails God as well as us and the interaction between the two. Our minds are finite. God’s is infinite. His story exceeds all human stories. Much of it can be understood by fiath. But not all of it, though all of it must be believed.

    Hope that helps!

  216. Brad Says:

    If we could easily understand everything, then the message would have to have been restricted.

    I know the Calvinist tradition, which I greatly admire, tends to assume that everything can be very clear. But the reality is that we’re told a lot. And some of that is very deep and far beyond us. We can grasp enough of it to be Christian, for sure. Some of it, though must simply be taken on faith. And I think Baptists have always realized that (at least certain sectors within that tradition).

  217. lawyertheologian Says:

    You can’t believe something you don’t understand at all, though you can believe something you don’t understand completeley. Nor is it possible to understand something by believing it (taken on faith). For you are not yet believing anything if you have no understanding of what is being communicated.

  218. lawyertheologian Says:

    “If we could easily understand everything, then the message would have to have been restricted.”

    Non sequitor. How do you know one can’t easily understand everything that’s written in the Bible? The Bible is a revelation from God. It’s purpose thus is to make known truth to us. And most of it is pretty black and white statements.

  219. lawyertheologian Says:

    BTW Brad, in this Story, isn’t God revealing to us truth, which is the thoughts in His mind, which He has eternally thought?

  220. lawyertheologian Says:

    And BTW Brad, you still haven’t said what is it that is grasped that makes us Christians.

  221. Hugh McCann Says:

    Yes, Brad, that helps me understand you. I am sorry that you don’t want to read the things I’ve recommended.

    I am sorry that you will not or cannot affirm that Christ died an efficacious, sufficient, substitutionary atoning death only for his elect.

    “…Much of it [God’s story] can be understood by faith. But not all of it, though all of it must be believed.”

    I don’t believe one can believe something he cannot understand.

    But going with your premise, what parts of God’s story (Scripture) do you think we Calvinists are not understanding? And thus, wrongly believing.

  222. Brad Says:

    I just don’t think we can completely understand everything. There is paradox. And I think we have to accept that. Most Christians have always realized that. The Calvinist tradition has emphasized clarity and precision. (But using the term logic to describe the Bible is a bit strange, don’t you think?)

    Anyway, I think that some things can’t be reconciled right now. We don’t have the perspective to do that yet. We are finite characters in God’s story. He tells us the story. But the story includes us. We are enclosed within that story. God speaks to us using language and yes, he uses words. But remember, we are in the story. We are not in a priveliged position outside the story. We do not have a God’s-eye view. We have a human standpoint. And that is all.

  223. Brad Says:

    Limitations constrain us. The best analogy to our relationship to the Bible would be our relationship between us and our world. We know the world. But we don’t really know it. We can navigate it. We use words to talk about it. But c’mon. We’re just scratching the surface.

  224. Brad Says:

    Your striving for a scientifically accurate understanding of things but we need to ‘catch’ a morphological sense of it all.

  225. Brad Says:

    Don’t Baptists assume a more humble standpoint with regard to scripture, that says we can’t understand it all entirely and that not all paradox can be fully resolved in this life? Or am I just imagining this. Most Baptists are more Calvinistic than anything else, as I am. But let’s be balanced. There are limits to our understanding of the Bible. It is not this morning’s newspaper. It is God’s message to us. We need the Holy Ghost to inform us. We need faith. We need time and reflection. And some things remain complex, confusing or even dark. That is not to say that I assume a Roman posture in relation to the Bible. It is not to say I fondly look to kooks from the Oxford movement, or pray a rosary and carry a sacred heart keychain. All I’m stating is that the Bible is not completely logical and understandable in all of its parts at once. There remains an element of mystery even if it is revelation. Why? Through some fault of God’s? Of course not! Because we can not fully grasp it. Baptists have always recognized this. Only absolute Calvinists maintain otherwise. That’s the only tradition that uses a lawyer’s style to interpret its texts. Can we please not do that?

    As Christians, we can count on being able to grasp what’s necessary. And trust me, knowing its entirety through logic was never promised by the church. This is unheard of. It is complete novelty. You’re just going to have to look back upon church history to see that.

  226. Brad Says:

    One thing that really peaks my curiosity is what was meant by being baptized for the dead? Does anyone really know? When Paul gets through speaking about physical and spiritual descendents of Abraham in Romans, he breaks forth in doxological utterance, and we’re left with the realization that there is more to it. We don’t have all of the details, as much as Paul tried to clear it up (and to all intents and purposes he did just that). So this is what I’m trying to say.

  227. Hugh McCann Says:

    Brad,

    Where’s your blog? Go post there, please.

    You are enslaved to church history are you? Pity.

    Enjoy your irrational, paradoxical religion tomorrow, man, but you are one confused and confusing individual. Or, as St Paul said, deceiving and being deceived.

    You’re worse than a waste of time, b/c you spent hours telling us nothing!

    Tired of casting my admittedly teeny pearls, I am done in Christ Jesus,

    Hugh

    P.S. That’s the sound of dust being shaken off my feet.


  228. Meh, what’s one more?

    It just sounds like to me that Brad wants everyone else to be just as in the dark as he is. It’s not fair that someone else besides C.S. Lewis might understand Scripture better than he, thus nobody can understand it. God can’t possibly be revealing information in His revelation. We can’t try to understand God better than the early Christians by studying His written Word, we just have to drift off in la-la land where we can’t discern truth from error, because there really isn’t any error, except for gnostics, atheists, presuppositionalists, Gordon Clark, and people who think the Bible actually is logically coherent and sensible.

    Not only does Brad not understand Scripture, he does not understand the distinctives that make one a Baptist, a Calvinist, Reformed, Presbyterian, Presuppositionalist, Scripturalist, Protestant, or Christian.

  229. Brad Says:

    What? How can you be saying all of this? You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said. Our disagreement relates to the matter of the degree to which we can know, not whether we can know. We all agree we can know. We disagree as to how detailed and exact we can get. I cited the Baptists because they traditionally recognize caution in the face of paradox. They do not seek to resolve it at all costs.

    I do not speak here of Mohler who is, I think, a five pointer. I speak of the other Baptist groups and the older Southern Baptists who were in the tradition of Mullins. I believe we should excercise caution, rather than assuming we have a complete and logical mastery of the text.

    Now if that puts me in a camp with pagans, forgive me. I never made that connection myself. It seems to be all or nothing from your perspective. Either one must believe completely in the Calvinist system or one is a nonbeliever and destined for hell.

    I’m willing to say that God always has ‘yet more light to break forth through his holy Word.’ The early church, however, got by with what they had, and I believe I will get by with what I have. I can not fathom all mysteries. I do not know everything God has done or will do. But I know what is fundamental to my faith: that Christ died for me, a sinner, and rose again to restore my life. I think too that he will restore all of creation.

    I know that Christianity is an apostolic and historic faith. It must be so. I identify with this ‘classic’ Christianity.

    Lewis was a fascinatingly creative man who witnessed to the truth. He did not do so in the Calvinist way. He did so as an Anglican writer, literary scholar, and apologist. He did not associate with Catholics as far as I know. Some people he knew may have wound up Catholic because it was in vogue at the time – Englishmen disillusioned with the Church of England would go over to Rome – Tony Blair is in that tradition. But when I think about the testimony of Chesterton and others, I’m convinced they had to be Christian. No nonbeliever could have expressed the things they did for so long. It required a certain disposition and response to life.

    Woody Allan often communicates through his films the sense of the atheist. The atheist finds himnself in a world he cannot control and it seems very absurd. So he asks the question, is life comic or tragic? Well, it’s a tragedy interspersed with comic moments I guess. But we know that however the story goes in the meantime, the outcome is entirely comic.

  230. Hugh McCann Says:

    Now we move to Pro. 26:4 exclusively:

    BRADLEY ~ What? How can you be saying all of this? You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said. Our disagreement relates to the matter of the degree to which we can know, not whether we can know. We all agree we can know. We disagree as to how detailed and exact we can get. I cited the Baptists because they traditionally recognize caution in the face of paradox. They do not seek to resolve it at all costs.

    >TO QUOTE DeNiro, you talkin’ to me? You only directly addressed me once in this exchange and misspelled my name, to boot. But you seem to disagree with everyone here! Maybe you’re the one not listening (though writing much). Maybe we’re not wrong, but you are? Just a thought to ponder…

    BRAD I do not speak here of Mohler who is, I think, a five pointer. I speak of the other Baptist groups and the older Southern Baptists who were in the tradition of Mullins. I believe we should excercise caution, rather than assuming we have a complete and logical mastery of the text.
    >>AL MOHLER is reportedly a Calvinist, yes. Mullins and Baptists in general I know not. Who cares? I thought we were going back to the Bible. Don’t Baptists have funny clothes and furniture, anyway? Isn’t Mohler too obscure for your attention?

    BRAD Now if that puts me in a camp with pagans, forgive me. I never made that connection myself. It seems to be all or nothing from your perspective. Either one must believe completely in the Calvinist system or one is a nonbeliever and destined for hell.
    >WHAT makes you a danger is your double-talk. You profess biblical faith one minute, using biblical words and phrases and using God-talk, while lauding the confused such as Lewis and early churchmen. To knowingly deny the doctrines of sovereign grace is dangerous indeed. Does it prove you’re unregenerate? No, but it doesn’t give us any confidence that you truly believe and understand the gospel. You too adamantly defend and promote confusion and the confused.

    BRAD I’m willing to say that God always has ‘yet more light to break forth through his holy Word.’ The early church, however, got by with what they had, and I believe I will get by with what I have. I can not fathom all mysteries. I do not know everything God has done or will do. But I know what is fundamental to my faith: that Christ died for me, a sinner, and rose again to restore my life. I think too that he will restore all of creation.
    >GOOD, depending on how one understands your last sentence.

    BRAD I know that Christianity is an apostolic and historic faith. It must be so. I identify with this ‘classic’ Christianity.
    >IT’S A mixed bag: You seem torn between apostolic sola scriptura and pagan eastern unorthodoxy & pagan roman catholicism?

    BRAD Lewis was a fascinatingly creative man who witnessed to the truth. He did not do so in the Calvinist way. He did so as an Anglican writer, literary scholar, and apologist. He did not associate with Catholics as far as I know. Some people he knew may have wound up Catholic because it was in vogue at the time – Englishmen disillusioned with the Church of England would go over to Rome – Tony Blair is in that tradition. But when I think about the testimony of Chesterton and others, I’m convinced they had to be Christian. No nonbeliever could have expressed the things they did for so long. It required a certain disposition and response to life.
    >BEREANBEACON.ORG has a good piece on Lewis as a bridge to Rome. Rome is a false church with a damning gospel. Like most Anglicans, the RCC is damnably confused over justification and salvation. Lewis winessed to bits of truth and adamantly refused other bits. As one Anglican said, “a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.” (Packer). Lewis’ folly is not life-giving, it is spurious, as Robbins well pointed out.

    BRAD Woody Allan often communicates through his films the sense of the atheist. The atheist finds himnself in a world he cannot control and it seems very absurd. So he asks the question, is life comic or tragic? Well, it’s a tragedy interspersed with comic moments I guess. But we know that however the story goes in the meantime, the outcome is entirely comic.
    >GOD WILL get the last laugh on Allen and all the wicked that know not God (Ps. 2).

  231. Brad Says:

    The atheist exists in a world they do not udnerstand and it can come to be seen as tragic and absurd (and they may see comedy interspersed – I was thinking of the opening scene to “Melinda Melinda,” where they’re sitting a the restaurant table discussing whether life is essentially comic or tragic. And Allen deals with this theme as well as the displaced Jewish one (how does a modern atheist Jew respond to life). And of course we know the response Allen gave when asked the meaning of life. I can’t even find my way to Chinatown, was what he said.

    The gospel is a very simple story, and it must be told not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross be emptied of its power. Christ took upon himself our sin and he made us holy. This is substitutionary atonement. I think Lewis very much believed that.

  232. Brad Says:

    We’ve become very complicated in our efforts to define ourselves against what we don’t believe. Augustine went overboard to prove Pelagius wrong. The Reformers did so in their debate with Rome. Interestingly, the Eastern Orthodox Church did not experience this sort of debate. They remained unto themselves and never defined a lot of these things. We must ponder and come to terms with that. We can not sweep it under the rug. Eg. Are you Protestant? Yes, I am. Why? Because I am not Catholic. To define oneself against another is to complicate one’s stance. It is to overdevelop one’s doctrines or theology and to explain beyond what one normally would, and to do so in a much more technical fashion than usual. We simply cannot sweep this under the rug. It is very much a reality that has marked Christianity in its opposition to heresy throughout the centuries. How we communicate truth often has more to do with who we’re communicating it to than the truth itself. But the Baptist says, “Just give me Jesus,” and “If I know the truth, all falsehood will be easily enough identified as such when it arrives.” Baptists are minimalists, you see, when it comes to such matters!

  233. Brad Says:

    We must realize, I think, how far we’ve developed our theology in response to error. Much of it has been constructed to oppose something else. In so doing, we’ve overdefined. We’ve said some things that came out a bit too black and white. We oversimplified or made to complex, whichever helped at the moment. And we’ve created some novel notions. All of this has been done in the name of safeguarding truth from error.

    I suspect early Christains did not give much thought to many of the doctrinal matters that came to concern aspects of the church later on. I think we need to learn a lesson from the Baptists who in their humility and simplicity preach Christ crucified and risen.

  234. Brad Says:

    Woody Allen’s movies center on the existential predicament. We live in a modern world (and his characters in an urban setting) devoid of meaning and purpose. His characters are often yuppies, sometimes non-practicing Jews, and they distract themselves with work and diversions. But there is always a sense that it’s not supposed to be this way. The problem is that no one has any alternative. So the characters cope with life as they have it, and this gives rise to a cerain comic absurdity; they seem like a bunch of fools. But it’s really very tragic because the outcome apparently seems to be nothingness or death.

    I used that to highlight the contrast that exists with Christians. No matter how our life goes, our death will be very good; it will usher us into immortality. So our situation is really comic.


  235. Brad, please stop speaking for Baptists. Thanks.

  236. Brad Says:

    Mr. McWilliams, we are not a cult. We believe in the Christian faith. One of the marks of a cult, at least to an ordinary person, is a group that “is in the know” regarding many of the finer points of a thing. They have more markers than the typical church; there’s a longer list of no no’s. Then there is a greater level of peculiarity.

    Now, I am not saying that that makes a cult. I’m simply saying that the average person reads such things as warning signs. Whether or not they’re correct is another matter.

    I don’t wish to foster a false understanding of what Christianity is. I want mere Christianity, simple Christianity, and clear Christianity. I want to define as much as is necessary to reach that objective. I do not wish to go beyond that.

    Hope that helps!

  237. Brad Says:

    I apologize if I’ve lumped all Baptists together. They are probably the only denomination to begin at both ends; there were the general and particular types. Both exist to this day and that explains some of the tension existing within the Southern Baptist Convention. But I digress. I should not say that all Baptists are minimalists, because that simply isn’t true. Mohler insists on all five points and in that regard he’s a total Calvinist. There are others like him in that institution. Then there are many others who define themselves from the opposite spectrum. Still others don’t define themselves at all except with regard to the Christian essentials, and they’re probably most well off, since they alone do not suffer from the indigestian that comes from all of this painstaking theological discussion. We’re always oscillating between extremes. I’d like to see us center ourselves – the golden mean is the way to go.

  238. Brad Says:

    What difference exists between Packer and Lewis? Packer was part of the team that put together the standards that respresent Lewis’ big-tent Christianity. I rather think they’re at one. Do you see a difference? What difference is that? I think that if we seated Packer and Lewis at the same table they would talk the night away and never disagree. But let me know if you think otherwise. Your thoughts?

  239. Brad Says:

    Packer is an Anglican, and a reformed one of course. He is a modified Calvinist, I think. That is what I am. I am a modified Caslvinist because I cannot define all that Calvin did without feeling as if I’ve gotten overly technical and wound up with extreme notions that miss the mark. So I’ve come to live with a certian degree of ambiguity, and I believe that this necessarily characterizes faith. THere is nothing wrong with this at all as I see it. It’s how most of Christendom has always been. The strand that is thoroughly Calvinist arose of course within the past 500 years. It has continued to cycle, though it has by no means replaced earlier ways which continue alongside it. If all five points were accepted in their totality, and I seriously doubt anyone really does that, we’d all sit in an armchair and simply read Calvin. But we realize that life is about how God intersects with humanity. We see that we are called to respond to God’s loving invitation either obediently or disobediently. We go forward knowing that it is our response and not anyone else’s. We can not take credit for our response or anything good we do thereafter, but we know we are certainly active throughout it all. We do not know how to disentangle the Spirit’s role and ours. We can’t. So we say that we respond and act accordingly, and that it is God who is at work within us. As C. S. Lewis suggested in Mere Christianity, the Bible tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (as if it were wholly up to us) and then follows that up by telling us that it is God who is at work in us to will and to do of his good pleasure (as if it were only God the entire time). This is indeed a paradox. Both statements are valid and we must hold them in balance permitting that tension to exist. We cannot resolve it philosophically by reconciling it according to logic. That would necessarily involve collapsing one side into the other. And that is what proponents of predestination and free will have done as they’ve warred with each other. If we disentanble ourselves from this complex and evolved debate, we will find ourselves back at the early church saying with the Baptist, “Just give me Jesus!”

  240. Brad Says:

    Packer was part of a joint declaration among Evangelicals. I don’t agree with the entire program. I’ve been told it’s something of a bridge to Rome. I don’t know whether they intended to mean that the effort is deliberate or not. I’ve read a bit of Packer and thought he sounded sensible and of course he has a high reputation. Your thoughts?

  241. Hugh McCann Says:

    Christ took upon himself our sin and he made us holy.
    >>ALL THE world or only the elect? Or is this getting too specific? Do we need to leave such a question in the noumenal and call it a paradox?

    We’ve become very complicated in our efforts to define ourselves against what we don’t believe… To define oneself against another is to complicate one’s stance.
    >>I FOR ONE do not call myself first a Protestant, though I abhor the devilish Roman system. But who cares?! Pelagius/ Augustine; Orthodox/Catholic; Catholic/ Protestant.. Who cares?

    I don’t wish to foster a false understanding of what Christianity is. I want mere Christianity, simple Christianity, and clear Christianity. I want to define as much as is necessary to reach that objective. I do not wish to go beyond that.
    >>RIGHT there with ya – who cares about specificity or truth claims? One‘s as good as another as long as we all recite the Apostles‘ & Nicene creeds.

    We’re always oscillating between extremes. I’d like to see us center ourselves – the golden mean is the way to go.
    >>ABSOLUTELY! I like your thinking! Away with absolutes, certainly, and dogmatism! Up with contradiction, tension, and paradox!

    What difference exists between Packer and Lewis? …if we seated Packer and Lewis at the same table they would talk the night away and never disagree. But let me know if you think otherwise. Your thoughts?
    >>DIFFERENCES, what differences? Both are Anglican – end of discussion. Packer, Lewis, Wright, Spong, they’re all one!

    Packer is an Anglican… I’ve come to live with a certain degree of ambiguity, and I believe that this necessarily characterizes faith.
    >>CERTAINLY! In fact Brad, isn’t it true that the more ambiguity we entertain, the more faithful & pious we are? Yippee!

    There is nothing wrong with this at all as I see it.
    >>AMEN! Nothing whatsoever!

    It’s how most of Christendom has always been.
    >>ACTUALLY, truth be told, that’s just the way Jesus & Paul were – completely ambiguous!

    The strand that is thoroughly Calvinist arose of course within the past 500 years. It has continued to cycle… We do not know how to disentangle the Spirit’s role and ours. We can’t. So we say that we respond and act accordingly, and that it is God who is at work within us.
    >>RIGHT! God loves everyone, and His Spirit enables everyone to make that free-will decision to accept or reject Christ, so ultimately the glory has to go to man! Down with sovereign grace, up with synergism!

    As C. S. Lewis suggested… Both statements are valid and we must hold them in balance permitting that tension to exist. We cannot resolve it philosophically by reconciling it according to logic.
    >>AWAY with that four-letter-word, ‘logic,’ young fella! The sooner we play up the paradoxical tension and affirm the mystery, the better we’ll all feel about this.

    That would necessarily involve collapsing one side into the other… we will find ourselves back at the early church saying with the Baptist, “Just give me Jesus!”
    >>YESSIR! Just gimme Jeezus! None of that nasty predestinationing or ‘lection nonsense – that’s of the Dayvul!

    Packer was part of a joint declaration among Evangelicals… Your thoughts?
    >>WHO cares?! Ultimately, it’s all ONE!

    {Cue music} Mortals join the happy chorus which the morning stars began; Father love is reigning o’er us; Brother love binds man to man!

  242. Brad Says:

    OK, so you’re getting back at me for my assessment of Leithart. As to whom Christ died for, I should wish to leave it alone, yes. Otherwise I’ll wind up discussing limited atonnement and unlimited limited and so forth; and at that point one sounds strangely perspicacious.

  243. Hugh McCann Says:

    Brad,

    An online dictionary says,

    “perspicacious — adj
    1. acutely perceptive or discerning
    2. archaic: having keen eyesight
    [from Latin perspicere: to look at closely; see perspective]”

    Sounds like perspicacity is a biblical virtue!

    1 Thessalonians 5:17 ~ “test everything; hold fast what is good.”

  244. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, If Christ’s atonement was a sustitute for the whole world, than the whole world will be saved.

    If you think one stills has to have faith to be saved, then it is Christ’s atonement plus a person’s faith that is the basis of their salvation.

    This is not the gospel. And the simple gospel you speak of will amount to just believing words, if you can’t/won’t take a side on this or otherwise say what you mean by your language. BTW, previously yous spoke of the gospel as including the redemption of the whole world. That seems to add an additional element to the gospel. For again, the gospel is about people being right with God based on Christ’s victory over Satan, sin and death.

  245. Hugh McCann Says:

    Brad, What’s wrong with the Federal Vision?

  246. Brad Says:

    I don’t knwo much about the FV, actually. I’ve heard they pay great attention to the trinity and what they believe it tells us about God and his creation. They see patterns and things based on the threeness and so forth. But that’s about all I know.

  247. Brad Says:

    Oh, sorry. Also, they want to go back to pre-Great Awakening theology. Basically that means anything prior to the first one, which took place around the middle of the 18th century. So they want less individuallism and a higher view of the churhc and sacraments. Other than that I don’t know.

  248. Brad Says:

    But you’re changing the subject. We were talking about the extent t o which we could ‘know’ the BIble. And I suggested that while we can know much of it (the important stuff), there remain some things we may not. Or perhaps those things wont’ become teribly clear in this life (which means we’ll have to place them on the backburner). I think this is a sensible and moderate stance and one that most people would take. To assume we can know every single part just doesn’t seem correct. I think of Paul’s doxological utterance when he exclaimed “How impossible it is for us to udnerstand his decisions and ways!”

  249. Brad Says:

    Just in case you were wondering, Paul says that toward the end of Romans after explaining why Israel didn’t seem to work out. Of course it did, but not in the way people probably expected.

  250. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hey Brad, deal with my post first!

    And Hugh, please don’t cut in and lead us off onto another tangent. Every time I try to zero in on his vague, unbiblical view of the gospel, he starts going off on a tangent.

  251. Hugh McCann Says:

    Brad: Thanks.

    LT: One man’s germane is another man’s tangential, apparently.

  252. Brad Says:

    Lawyertheologian, I’ve read your post. Here’s my response: I go back to the BIble. There we learn that some deny the Lord who bought them. And they were destined for that. So who were they, really? Well, I don’t know. Then there are those in Hebrews who were enlightened, etc. but who fall away. But I’m reminded of the Book of Common Prayer where during the liturgy of the Eurcharist it states that Christ gave himself up a one, holy, and perfect sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction fror the sins of the whole world. If we define it any further I think we’ll find ourselves in over our heads.

  253. Hugh McCann Says:

    The BCP errs in a number of places. In its understanding of the atonement, and in its claim that baptized persons are necessarily regenerate, and that this regeneration is one’s forgiveness:

    >>Before the baptism:
    DEARLY beloved, forasmuch as our Saviour Christ saith, None can enter into the Kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child (or Person) that which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ’s holy Church, and be made a living member of the same…

    We call upon thee for this Child (or this thy Servant), that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration. Receive him, O Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask, arid ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. So give now unto us who ask…

    …Give thy Holy Spirit to this Child (or this thy Servant), That he may be born again, And be made an heir of everlasting salvation…

    Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy congregation; sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child (this thy Servant), now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful children…

    >>After the baptism:
    SEEING now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child (or this Person) is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits…

    WE yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Child (or this thy Servant) with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church.

    ~ From ‘The Ministration of Holy Baptism,’ 1928 BCP (USA); essentially the same in the Anglican Book of 1662.

  254. Hugh McCann Says:

    Brad,

    We have to laugh at your folly, my man.

    You say once again that you have to “go back to the Bible,” reference 2 passages w/o properly quoting them or fully citing them, and then immediately quote verbatim the BCP!

  255. Brad Says:

    What is all of this? I was responding to someone’s remark about the scope of the atonement. My response is that an invitation is extended, yet God’s people, the saints, are in Christ. I can not explain this further. I don’t understand it beyond that. I quoted the BCP since it articulates Christian truths for collective worship; it’s designed to be helpful in that way. Now if you think that’s folly then I don’t knwo what to say. It struck me as a way to get something across. I would not consider it as I would the Bible. Neither would I attach such importance to the creeds, although I myself can’t find fault with them. The Bible alone is God’s word. The rest should reflect his word.

  256. Hugh McCann Says:

    Nrad,

    The BCP does not reflect God’s word in a number of places, including your quote. It too often articulates false teaching for collective worship.

    Christ Jesus is the “perfect sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins” only of his elect.

  257. Brad Says:

    I did not expect a one-page quote on baptism. That’s irrelevant to what we’re discussing. We’re discussing the atonement and the level to which scripture can be articulately communicated. What we have is a gospel that says Christ died for the church. He took upon himself our sins and gave us his righteousness. How did he do that? The actual mechanics of it elude me. I just know what I do. If we believe that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord, then we are reconciled to God and declared right in Christ. We are buried with him in baptism and we, like him, rise again to new life. We are part of a new creation in Christ. And he will eventually restore creation. This is the message of the Gospel.

  258. Brad Says:

    Mr. McCann, the Bible does not word things that clearly and precisely. Such exactitude results from theological systematization, which I believe over-simplifies things that are really complex.

  259. Hugh McCann Says:

    forgive the typo, please

    the gospel is 1 Cor 15:3f ~ that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

    OUR SINS refer to those of God’s elect


  260. Meh, the BCP is way too systematized.We gotta go back to the Story, man!

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Brad.

  261. lawyertheologian Says:

    “If we believe that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord, then we are reconciled to God and declared right in Christ.”

    Sorry Brad, but that just won’t do. It’s too bad that you can’t or won’t realize that. It’s how Jesus is Saviour, it’s believing that what Jesus dud makes us reconciled with God and declared in the right.

    And the Bible is indeed very clear that the elect are those God chose from the foundation of the world to die for, not those He knew would choose Him. Again, if Christ died for everyone, then everyone as Lewis said is in principle saved. No, it is only the elect who have had their sins atoned for.

    “We are part of a new creation in Christ. And he will eventually restore creation. This is the message of the Gospel.”

    Again, you are sadly mistaken. Again, that is not the gospel. That is not what needs to be believed. What needs to be believed is that Jesus is our justification. Justification by faith is what is missing from your and Lewis’ gospel.

  262. lawyertheologian Says:

    ‘He took upon himself our sins and gave us his righteousness. How did he do that? The actual mechanics of it elude me.”

    Not knowing the mechanics of it means you don’t understand what the gospel is. Let me try to enlighten you. He took our sins (the elect) upon Himself by suffering their penalty- He experienced God’s wrath- hell as it were for a moment- death/separation from God. And he gave us his righteousness means his perfect obedience to God’s law was rendered to our (the elect) accounts.

  263. Brad Says:

    If we are to acknowledge the WHOLE gospel, then we must say that creation itself is re-created. It is not simply God’s people, though it is that. It is all of creation – which is why we find all of creation singing for joy in the psalms. If creation gives praise to God, then it must be so.

  264. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, by speaking of the gospel as you do as the WHOLE gospel, you are adding to the gospel, and thus proclaiming another/different gospel. That is dangerous ground. That is anathema.

    Again, no one is denying that there will be a re- creation, but that is not what needs to be believed to be saved; it is not part of the gospel.

  265. Brad Says:

    What were the Jews looking for? A Messiah. Why? For a kingdom. Who was Jesus? The Messiah. What did he bring? God’s kingdom. What is that kingdom? A collection of disembodied souls? Absolutely not. Heaven and earth are recreated and joined together in New Jerusalem – and that is the New Kingdom. We do not go to the place where angels play their harps. We do not go to the place where babies have wings.

  266. Brad Says:

    Gnosticism held forth the hope of escape. In Christianity, our very context is redeemed.

    The defining credential of the believer in the early church was that they held Jesus to be both Christ and Lord. They believed he died for them and rose again, forgiving their sins, restoring them to life, and reconciling them to the Father. This was a kind of creedal belief.

    Paul elaborates upon God’s plan, demonstrating that all of creation is renewed. It is a far cry from the simple burn forevermore versus fly away to eternity script.

  267. Brad Says:

    And trust me, it was not set forth in the kind of detail we know from the Calvinist tradition, which is a quite novel affair.

  268. Brad Says:

    What we’ve done is to systematize the Bible into theology. Theology extracts certain things. You glean certain truths. But it’s filtered. YOu sift the BIble, in effect. Then you get your doctrines. And you don’t have the full picture. For that you have to return to the BIble, which is why I argue against theology. It gives one the false impression that they’ve achieved mastery of the text. They really haven’t. They’ve simply extracted certain parts. And those parts, isolated from their contexts, may be misunderstood.

    Hence we need a fresh reading. We need to put down our theological lenses and read the Bible afresh. Then we can correct / compensate for our theology.
    Hope that helps!

  269. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, I think I’ve already corrected your view of God’s kingdom being a place. And that there is not yet a recreated world, yet God’s kingdom has indeed come. Now you seem to be just persisting in your unbelief.

    Yes the early Church’s creedal belief (and a Christian’s belief since Adam) is that Jesus is Christ and Lord, that Christ died for them, forgave their sins, restored them to life and reconciled them to the Father. But these things mean something. Again, the HOW explains what these things mean.

    Jesus said to his disciples “rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but rather that your names are written in heaven.” Being right with God, being among the elect in heaven again is the most significant thing, not having a nice context in which to live. It is not about escape from this world, it is about being in fellowship with God. Those who die in Christ go to be with God.

    Show me where Paul says that all of creation has been renewed by the death of Christ?

    Again the gospel, the good news, is not that God has or will recreate the world, and we as saints are included in that re-creation, but that Christ was victorious over Satan, sin, and death on our behalf. We are forever justified in His sight; that is good news.

    “And trust me, it was not set forth in the kind of detail we know from the Calvinist tradition, which is a quite novel affair.”

    No, I will not trust you in this matter. What you are calling details are what we are saying is the meaning of the gospel. Without them you have no gosepl.

  270. lawyertheologian Says:

    Brad, your last post helps all right. It helps to show that your view of the Bible and systematic theology is uttterly absurd.

  271. Hugh McCann Says:

    BRAD,

    YOU SAY, >You glean certain truths.But it’s filtered. YOu sift the BIble, in effect. Then you get your doctrines. And you don’t have the full picture. For that you have to return to the BIble, which is why I argue against theology.It gives one the false impression that they’ve achieved mastery of the text. They really haven’t. They’ve simply extracted certain parts. And those parts, isolated from their contexts, may be misunderstood.Hence we need a fresh reading. We need to put down our theological lenses and read the Bible afresh. Then we can correct / compensate for our theology.<

    CAN WE ever get ANY of our theology correct? Is any truth knowable?

  272. Brad Says:

    It’s tricky, really. But we do know that God saves his people. And his people live on with him. WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHERE WE LIVE ON FOREVER AND EVER? We live on forever in a recreated and united heaven and earth. YES, THAT IS WHERE WE LIVE ON FOREVERMORE.

  273. Hugh McCann Says:

    “It’s tricky, really. But we do know that God saves
    his people.” WHAT???

    WAIT – You don’t have the full picture! For that you have to return to the Bible, which is why you argue against theology.

    You give the false impression that you’ve achieved mastery of the text! You really haven’t.

    You’ve simply extracted certain parts. And those parts, isolated from their contexts, may be misunderstood. Hence we need a fresh reading.

    We need to put down our theological lenses and read the Bible afresh. Then we can correct / compensate for our theology.

    Maybe we do NOT know that God saves his people…?

  274. Brad Says:

    I think you’re asumming it’s all or nothing. Really, it’s somewhere in between. We can have substantial, not exhaustive knowledge.

  275. lawyertheologian Says:

    “It’s tricky, really. But we do know that God saves his people.”

    But we don’t know how?

    “We live on forever in a recreated and united heaven and earth. YES, THAT IS WHERE WE LIVE ON FOREVERMORE.”

    No, we SHALL live on forever in a recreated and united heaven and earth, but we live on now in a non redeemed body and within a non redeemed heaven and earth; we have eternal life NOW.

  276. lawyertheologian Says:

    And again no one is denying that we will live forever in glorified/redeemed bodies in a new heaven and earth. Again, it is simply not the gospel, nor part of it. Look again at 1 Cor.15:1-3. Paul speaks of the gospel as Christ dying for our sins. He does not speak of the gospel as being the change in us and/or the world. Rather he speaks of it as a status bestowed on us or imputed to us.

  277. lawyertheologian Says:

    And if God and God alone saves His people, then His people don’t save themselves. And BTW, who do you think His people are? Those whom God chose from the foundation of the world or those who believe in His Son? We don’t become God’s people by believing; we are God’s people, his elect, already, and God saves us by giving us faith, which rests upon what Christ did as the basis of our deliverance from the penalty and power of sin.

  278. Brad Says:

    No, we do not save ourselves. The mark of the person who is God’s is that they believe Christ is Lord and Savior; that he came in the flesh to save us from our sins by dying for us. We already have eternal life. Indeed. We wait for resurrected bodies and a new heaven and earth. Heaven is a temporary part of God’s plan.

  279. Brad Says:

    To say that the rest of GOd’s plan is not the gospel sounds reductionistic. To say it is simply the forgiveness of sins seems to over-simplify it. The Hebrew prophtets looked forward to more than just that. THey looked forward to the kingdom. Right now it is comprised of God’s people whose sins are forgiven. BUt God’s kingdom will culminate when he returns. I believe that is why we’re given the vision of Revelation chapters 21 and 22.

  280. Brad Says:

    The fact is that we find Paul referring to the gospel as Christ dying for our sins. That is true. But we must read the entire Bible for the context to that.

  281. lawyertheologian Says:

    “The mark of the person who is God’s is that they believe Christ is Lord and Savior; that he came in the flesh to save us from our sins by dying for us.”

    This is true in so far as by believing that the Messiah (Christ) is Lord and Savior, that he died for our sins means believing that Jesus is the God/Man who conquered sin on their behalf, having fulfilled the law of God on their behalf, and having paid the penalty due their sin. But aren’t you now indicating that believing in the redemption/recreation of the world is not necessary, and therefore not a part of the gospel? For again, believing in the gospel is what saves us, and what marks us out as an elect, correct?

  282. lawyertheologian Says:

    “To say that the rest of GOd’s plan is not the gospel sounds reductionistic.”

    Well, to equate the gospel with God’s plan seems to misunderstand the word and its usage. Besides God’s plan is broader than redeeming the world. It includes pouring out his wrath against the reprobate. And even if the more significant aspect to His plan is the redemption of His elect in a redeemed/re-created world, the ultimate purpose or plan of God regarding the elect, that is, the Church, according to Eph.3:10 is that they make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers.

    “The fact is that we find Paul referring to the gospel as Christ dying for our sins. That is true. But we must read the entire Bible for the context to that.”

    That is a strange hermeneutic. The meaning of words are determined by their context. And Paul says what he means by gospel. Yes, we can compare what he says to other places in the Bible where the word gospel is used to see whether there are different meanings or references to the term. Now you may want to use the word gospel to refer to God’s plan of redeeming the world, but that is not how the Bible uses the word. And we are discussing what the Bible means by gospel.

  283. Brad Says:

    Well, I don’t want to quibble over words. There is God’s plan and then there is the gospel. Perhaps they shouldn’t be equated.

  284. Brad Says:

    So perhaps what I’m referring to is God’s plan which includes more than just forgiveness of sin and eternal life. God has destined us to salvation along with his whole creation.


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