We have seen how the search for a bigger Christ-centered picture in the Bible led many Federal Visionists to propound an Incarnation of Jesus Christ apart from sin, but let us now look at their exegetical reasons. I believe it is quite telling.
Paul Duggan puts forth his exegetical reasons for believing in an Incarnation without sin.
1. He says that Genesis 2:16 says all the trees of the Garden are for Adam, and thus the prohibition in verse 17 must either be a contradiction or an indication of the temporary nature of the prohibition. This defies the logic of grammar. When someone says, “You can have everything in the refrigerator, but the cheesecake” he is not contradicting himself, and it is not necessarily indicative of a temporary restraint on the cheesecake. This is a very forced proof at best.
2. He then tells us that knowledge of good and evil is something men should have, thus one can believe that they should get access to the tree. In fact, they need knowledge to be rulers. Which is related to his third point. . .
3. Knowledge of Good and Evil came by eating just as life came by eating the Tree of Life.
This is where I really want to pause and look at this exegesis once again. It is very revealing of the Federal Vision way of thinking about things. The act of eating gave both life and knowledge to Adam and Eve. They were magical fruit in a very real sense. One taste and things are imparted to you. It is not hard to see where their sacramentology comes from since by eating the Supper one receives the benefits of that ‘eatable grace.’
I deny that fruit of the Tree of Life or the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge imparted anything. I believe it is easily provable from the Bible. Genesis 3:2-3 shows us that Eve knew the difference between good and evil. She had knowledge of it because she resists the first temptation of Satan. She repeats the command of God not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. She knows she ought to listen to God, and not disobey. That is the basis of good and evil right there. Eve and Adam already knew good and evil. If they did not, then how can one blame them for not obeying? If they truly had no knowledge of good and evil, then their sin is lessened because they were ignorant. Instead, they knew full well what was right, and they still decided they would be like God and declare good and evil for themselves. Thus, the temptation of Satan to “be as gods, knowing good and evil.” It is not teaching them good and evil, it is a temptation to rebel against what God says is good in order to make their own good and their own evil. The Tree does not impart anything, but it stands for who will declare good and evil. Will it be God, or will it be man? The fruit is not magical.
James Jordan goes on to explain that the noticing that Adam and Eve were both naked and the subsequent fig leaves were because they had taken the knowledge before they were mature enough. They lacked the garments of a king. If they had waited God would have clothed them and then let them eat of the tree. Jordan argues that God has to admit that they are now full of the knowledge and they must be given the garments, so he makes the appropriate animal skin clothes. This of course robs Genesis 3:21 of its sacrificial imagery.
There is a better reading, in my opinion. That the viewing themselves as naked is not a result of fruit, but a result of their sin. The sin had immediate effects, such as guilt and shame. They wanted to hide themselves, not on the outside as much as they did on the inside. They for the first time were polluted. I believe this reading is backed up by the fact that in verse 8 they hide from God. Adam still claims to be naked in verse 10 even though he has a fig leaf outfit that seems to satisfy him in front of Eve for they did not hide from each other when they were naked, but covered themselves. It is when they hear God that they hide. Their nakedness is much more than physical, it is spiritual. God then sacrifices animals to prefigure Christ, and gives them those animals as clothing, and a reminder. This is supported by Cain and Abel sacrificing in the next chapter as if they already knew what was required.
Jordan’s fancy readings of Genesis are important in the Federal Vision system. First, it helps support an eatable grace mentality that will come back again in their sacramentology. Second, it avoids the idea of Adam failing the covenant of works, and makes it an issue of maturity. For them the prohibition on the Tree of Knowledge is not a covenantal obligation, but rather it is a maturity issue that will go away when Adam matures. Third, the downplaying of the sacrificial elements as pointing towards Christ aids their system. While they do not deny that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, Christ is not here primarily to do that, it is something that is added to his job when Adam sinned. The incarnation itself is bigger and more important than atonement. Thus, the downplaying of atonement symbolism in the Genesis story.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
We have seen how the search for a bigger Christ-centered picture in the Bible led many Federal Visionists to propound an Incarnation of Jesus Christ apart from sin, but let us now look at their exegetical reasons. I believe it is quite telling.
Monday, February 27, 2006
If you are looking for a fair, balanced, and non-partisan biography of Jefferson Davis, then I have found the book for you. Joseph McElroy’s Jefferson Davis is one of the best biographies I have read. It may not have the literary greatness of David McCullough’s writings, but it is extraordinarily informative, unafraid to tackle the issues, deals honestly with faults, and gives praise where praise is due. There is one problem, and that is you may need to go to Abe Books to find it. I got it at a used book store in Washington D.C. It was written in the early 1920’s, and probably is no longer in print. Oh yeah, the book is just under 700 pages as well, so do not bother if you are not willing to read.
One of the things I appreciated the most about McElroy is that he was not a partisan. Most of the Davis biographies one finds are written by bitter avid Southerner’s. McElroy is up front about condemning Davis’s view of slavery, but he also points out Davis was kinder to his slaves than most plantation owners. The vast majority of Davis’s slaves waited for Davis in Mississippi and worked for him again after the war as freedmen. On the plantation Davis actually had a legal system for his slaves where other slaves would serve as judge, jury, and executioners. Davis did not have white overseers and when whippings occurred, they were administered by other slaves on a slave convicted by a jury of his peers. McElroy also does not agree with Jefferson Davis about the right of the state. Yet, he honestly presents the view of Davis and lets Davis do his own defense.
McElroy also has many helpful points of comparison. He does a very nice comparison between Lincoln and Davis that sheds a great deal of light on the Civil War struggle. This is not the only helpful side by side comparison, but he also compares Davis to his political rivals prior to Lincoln, after Lincoln, and even does some military comparisons of Davis to other great military leaders. Davis was actually a war hero in the Mexican War showing what European military leaders proclaimed, ‘genius’ on the battlefield.
One other aspect of the book that I found interesting was the constant comparisons of the American Civil War to the League of Nations. McElroy talks of how secession from a union is always an option until the majority of the parts become wealthy on account of the union, and then secession is untenable without violence. He then draws a direct line to the League of Nations and makes a bold prediction of violence should the League continue. It should be noted that Japan walked out of the League of Nations shortly before WWII. I believe his criticisms may also hold true for the United Nations. This element of McElroy’s writings add interesting tidbits to the already intriguing biography.
I recommend this book to all lovers of Civil War history.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Recently Alastair Adveraria has posted a very well thought out argument about ‘the Big Picture’ of election, which for him the ‘Truly Reformed Tradtion’ does not get quite right. In his argument that Christ is the only elect person, and we only have a mediated election through Christ, he mentions that Christ would have been made flesh even if Adam had never sinned. His is not alone in his view of the Incarnation and election, in fact, it is promoted by James Jordan in the book, the Federal Vision. Since this view is growing in the Reformed world, I thought I would make a few comments.
Let me start with a disclaimer that I need to make for those who may want to scream foul. Not everyone in the Federal Vision holds to such a position. The Missouri Presbytery Report rejects such an idea out right, and that report is quite friendly to the Federal Vision position. I actually believe it is the section of the Missouri report that has taken the most heat. With that being said, let us move on to discussion.
Alastair states the two sides of the debate in the following manner.
[God] is forming an international family for Abraham, to set right what Adam set wrong. However, cosmic purposes like setting the creation to rights and gathering all things together in Christ seem to be downplayed in Reformed circles. In their place there is great attention given to the divine purpose of saving a particular fixed number of predetermined individuals and condemning the rest of humanity. Almost everything else seems to be subordinated to this.
He then goes on to argue that election and reprobation are not to be linked because election was possible without the fall, and the God’s purpose was to bring humanity to maturity. Thus, election would still have been in Christ, who still would have come to the world to lead men into maturity even without the fall. In the comment section he clarifies the Big Picture of Scripture by stating, "Scripture is a story of God’s people growing into the full rights and privileges of sonship."
I fear that this is nothing more than Schaff’s Development Theories applied to Biblical Theology, which is one chief reason that I think Biblical Theology may not be a legitimate enterprise. Not only do I fail to see how the idolatry of Israel and Judah in 1 and 2 Kings is all that more mature than the idolatry shown in the Book of Judges, but also I fail to see how this is the Christ-centered view of the bible it claims to be. I do not believe the Bible is mainly about the people of God maturing their way to privileges. Alastair wants to put Christ back in the center of the story, and not the “narrow, individualistic focus” of Reformed Theology. Yet, here he is saying the Big Picture of Scripture is not Christ at all, but the people of God.
Alastair’s desire to put Christ back in the center of Christianity is admirable. I simply disagree that Reformed Theology has not already done just that. Alastair wants to free the decree of election from the decree of the fall lest we think sin a good thing. Jordan says that any view other than the view of Christ coming to give not merit, but maturity leads to a ‘felicitous fall’, or the idea that the Fall of Humanity in Adam’s sin was actually a good thing (pg.184). The Fall is hardly a good thing in traditional Reformed Theology. Nor can it be said it is good for humanity, as the Fall results in hell for many. But God, in Christ, has shown his mercy by giving us a better standing than the original standing of Adam. Does that mean Adam’s sin was good for the elect? No. Does it mean that the mercy of God was good for the elect? Absolutely.
This also fits with what I believe is the Big Picture of Scripture, namely God bringing glory to himself. It is not individualistic salvation, nor is it man maturing into anything. If you read the Scripture and come away thinking it is primarily about man then I think you have missed a great deal. In the beginning God and in the end it is still God. In Genesis we see creation by God, and in the end we see recreation by God. In the book of Genesis we see the Tree of Life pictured sacramentally, and in Revelation we see the true Tree of Life standing in the New Jerusalem. The primary mover in all of Scripture is the Triune God.
I think that is enough opening comments. I will get into some exegesis in the next post.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
I have put some thoughts about Paedocommunion up at Westminster Brass. I thought here I would continue the subject by examining the claims of Paedo or Infant communionists that history supports the practice of giving infants communion.
Tim Gallant gives a few quotes and comments upon them. Tommy Lee gives a fuller set of quotes and discussion. Neither, in my opinion, proves their case. While I will grant that Africa around the time of Augustine must have practiced giving communion to infants, a wide spread practice of paedocommunion seems hard to establish. Nor can any firm proof be brought forth from 1st or 2nd century documents. A few examples of their overstatement of the facts are in order.
Both men cite the Apostolic Constitutions as proof of Infant Communion. They point out that the document tells the catechumens, hearers, and non-believers to leave before communion is served. It then goes on to state, "Let the mothers take their children" and goes on to give the order in which communion should be received. ". . .the deaconesses, and the virgins, and the widows; then the children; and then all the people in order." Here we see that children were to receive the sacrament. Sounds like proof, but all is not finished. Gallant neglects to point out the prayer mentioned in the book. Lee shares it with us. It concludes by praying,
sanctify Thy people, keep those that are in virginity, preserve those in the faith that are in marriage, strengthen those that are in purity, bring the infants to complete age, confirm the newly admitted; instruct the catechumens, and render them worthy of admission...
Now Lee takes this to mean that infants were to be at the table. Yet, he neglects to see if there is a difference between the use of the word infant and the word children. The above proofs all speak of children coming to the table, and the prayer mentions infants specifically. Are they overlapping groups? The prayer seems to indicate not. The prayer is to "bring infants to complete age." What this means is not precisely known, but it seems probably that this is a prayer for infants to come to an age of understanding to partake in the Supper. This is bolstered by the rest of the prayer, "instruct the catechumens, and render them worthy of admission." The same section of the prayer is praying for catechumens, who were dismissed, to be taught so that they might be worthy of admission. It seems likely that the infants need to be of complete age to be worthy of admission as well. At the very least, this is no longer a clear proof for infants having been at the table, and more likely proof they were not allowed.
Let us add to this an earlier citation, one even earlier than Cyprian and Augustine. Justin Martyr tells us of the eucharist and who partakes of it. "This food is called with us the eucahrist, of which none can partake, but the believing and baptized, who live according to the commands of Christ." Clearly, Justin Martyr reports to us that infants were not allowed at the table. For the only ones allowed at the table were baptized, believing, and obedient to Christ. Not something that would be said of infants at their mother’s breast, and probably not something that would be said about very little children. Justin sees more than just baptism as a requirement to gain admission to the table. Remember Justin is not telling us his opinion of the Lord’s Supper, he is merely reporting the common practice of his time, the common practice of the 2nd century Christians.
In the end, the Paedocommunionists can do nothing more than prove that around the 3rd and 4th centuries paedocommunion was practiced in North Africa. This I will grant. But they need to be more honest and admit that the general custom and the earlier custom seems to be forbidding infants from the table.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
I hope everyone enjoyed President's Day. I know that I did. It is an underappreciated holiday. No one in the non-governmental world gets off to celebrate the birthday of Washington and Lincoln, but many do get off for Martin Luther King Jr., Day. Should not Lincoln get at least as much credit as MLK for Civil Rights? That has always confused me.
Anyway, while reading yesterday I was struck by the similarities in character between Abraham Lincoln and our current President George W. Bush. Both men suffered incredible attacks at the hands of the press, and both seemed immune to it. Both violated Constitutional limits in order to prosecute a war that was unpopular, and that they deemed important. Both used War Powers as justification for that claim although neither was fighting a very traditional war. Both were viewed as honest and trustworthy, despised by the ruling class, but beloved by the ordinary man. I could go on, but it is worth pondering, or at least worth posting. One man can be hated in his day, and given a national holiday after his death. Something to remember.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Compromise is sometimes a dirty word, and sometimes it is the only way to get things done. The problem comes when we cannot see which one it is at the time. Of course we should compromise in the unimportant, non-essentials. Compromise to help others is a good idea. To never compromise is to be selfish. However, there are times when principles are at stake, and then compromise becomes a dirty word. Sadly, this is seldom seen. History is replete with Compromisers who would sell their soul to keep unity, and they always fail, and more often than not, make things worse. Let us just look at a few examples.
Senator Stephen Douglas is a fantastic example of this. Douglas believed he had found a compromise position in Popular Sovereignty. This was the idea that people within the territory could decide for themselves the issue of slavery while still a territory. Douglas was sure that this would win accolades in both the North and the South. But, he was wrong. His compromise hastened the “irrepressible conflict” by tearing the Democratic Party in half (thirds actually), and giving Lincoln the victory assuring the South would leave and blood would be shed. Had he but stepped aside and let a principled candidate run, like Jefferson Davis, the Democrats would have held onto the White House, and perhaps bloodshed could have been avoided.
Charles Erdman, a professor of Princeton and follower of the Old School theology, sought to be a compromiser and a unifier. While he was the moderator of the 1925 General Assembly, the Assembly upheld complaints against a few ministers who denied the virgin birth of Christ. In response to upholding the complaint many liberal ministers threatened to leave. Erdman compromised with these deniers of the virginity of Mary by creating a commission to study the problems of the church. The committee met and reported back the next year disavowing the idea that liberals were following a different gospel. The 1926 Assembly was controlled by the liberals and they stopped the appointment of Machen to Chair of Apologetics, and the end of the PCUSA and Princeton had begun.
In every major conflict whether it be in the church or in the state many try to find ground that all can inhabit. They propose compromises that do nothing but undermine the position of those who are right. When fundamental principles are at stake there can be no compromise.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
While on vacation, I borrowed and read Senator Zell Miller’s book, A National Party No More. This is an excellent book about the Democratic Party, their demise, and Southern politics with a little autobiographical touch thrown in for fun. Zell gets his points across and has some memorable lines. For instance when he says Pat Buchannan is so pessimistic that he "looks both ways before crossing a one-way street."
Senator Miller correctly notes that Southern men like himself a Democrats not by choice, but because it is "in the DNA." He goes through his opinions which include pro-life, pro-second amendment, and pro-education. He is a Democrat so he sees some place for Democrat stances such as a lottery to fund education. Georgia’s is the only one in the nation that actually works for education by the way. He shows how just a little common sense and focus on issues that mean something to normal folks, the Democrats would sweep through the elections as they have in the past. He shows how the only Democrtic Presidential winners in the recent past were those that would be thrown out of the party today. Bill Clinton won by having a common sense approach in the elections. He won several Southern States, but he acted against his campaign promises. Jimmy Carter won Southern states his first time around before going super liberal in office. Even JFK lowered taxes, a must for Southern Democrats. Traditional Democratic values according to Senator Miller.
Miller gives some inside info on how the Special Interest Groups run Washington on both sides of the isle. The book was written in 2003, so it pre-dates Jack Abramoff, but does mention how wives of Senators get jobs as lobbyists. He has some good ideas to save the Democratic Party. If they listen to him, they will put up former Virginia Governor Warner, support the military, lower taxes, and win the election. I do not agree with all of Mr. Miller’s political thought in the book, but it is an honest, well written, and stinging critic.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
I have been in Washington D.C. for my brother's wedding. I am still on vacation, but I had to post about my trip.
For the most part Washington D.C. is a "hive of scum and villany" where everyone is super liberal, dress in the same black jackets, and plug their ears with ipods so Bill Gates gets no money and they do not have to speak to you. Eye contact is pretty rare. However, nice people were found, and D.C. is beautiful when it snows.
I got a tour of the capital that was set up by Rep. Stephanie Herseth. This is the way to tour the capital, not the public tours. Just call your reresentatives or senators and see the capital in a little better style. A few of my family met Senator Robert Byrd while going through the underground tunnel from the Senate office building to the capital.
Sunday my wife, two kids and I worshipped at St. John's Episcopal Church. It was across the street from hotel where my brother held the reception. We went to the 7:45 service because we had to drive back to Tennessee. I noticed a few extra trench coats outside and saw the street was blocked off, and became suspicious. To our surprise the Presdient was attending the service, and so we worshipped with the President. It was exciting, but also a little disturbing. Knowing the guy in the aisle behind you has a gun is just as distracting as knowing the President is 3 rows in front of you. Thus, my family and I got a little wave as the President was escorted out after the service through a different door. It made for a nice end to a fun trip.
Just for you doubters out there, the sermon was about the rich man and Lazarus, and was a little more liberal than my taste. See I paid attention.
Friday, February 03, 2006
R.C. Sproul Jr., has apparently been defrocked by his denomination. The charges are numerous, and Rev. Sproul’s response is limited. I do not know which side is right, nor am I taking sides. I have a few friends who attend St. Peter’s Church and I know this must be a troubled time for them. I hope and pray that the discipline of the church results in repentance and restoration, no matter which side is the offending side.
But, church discipline is not tyrannical, as Rev. Sandlin has suggested. In fact, I think that this case is a perfect example of the Presbyterian court system working to avoid tyranny. There were those who felt wronged by St. Peter’s and they had a place to take their complaint. If St. Peter’s had been a congregational church, then the session would have continued in its tyranny, or the unsubmissive complainers would not have had another court reinforce the decision of the St. Peter’s session. Whichever way it works out, it works out for the better. Rev. Sandlin thinks the way to avoid church tyranny is to be autonomous local churches. I disagree. I think a connectionalism, specifically a system of courts, is a much better way to avoid tyranny.