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Showing posts from August, 2007

Goings On

Dear Readers,

I deeply regret that I was unable to bring you your usual installment of ‘Reading Scripture with John Calvin’ yesterday morning, and that my posting frequency has so rapidly declined. However, I now find myself to be in a very interesting transitional period.

Last weekend was spent fulfilling all righteousness with reference to my Summer French course, which concluded (for me) on Tuesday morning. Wednesday morning was spent playing golf, something that I have not been able to do since early June. Wednesday afternoon was spent helping my neighbor move into a new apartment down the hall. This morning is / will be spent gathering some research materials so that I can move toward writing a paper proposal; this afternoon will be spent picking some friends up at the airport. Friday will be spent helping various friends move. Are you beginning to see a trend? :-)

My wife and I will be attending a Wedding this coming weekend which will occupy me until Tuesday. I have vario…

Francis Turretin’s Ecclesiology: 18.21

Twenty-First Question: The Distinction Between Bishop and Presbyter – Is the episcopate an order or grade of ecclesiastical hierarchy distinct from the presbyterate; and is it superior by divine right? We deny.

Turretin is not concerned here with the notion of bishops as such. What he is concerned about is the notion that bishops posses authority on the basis of divine right as opposed to their being granted temporary custody of authority by a group of equals. Indeed, Turretin ends this section by commenting that while he thinks the presbyterian form of church government is closest to what Christ and the apostles instituted, he is willing to admit for other forms in different places as need for them arises. As long as people grant to him that the presbyterian form is not heretical and not cause for breaking communion between churches, he is happy to allow for other forms of ecclesial government that support the Gospel.

He does, however, offer a number of arguments to undermine the…

Did the Eternal Son Assume Fallen Human Nature? Some Reflections

The question of whether or not the eternal Son assumed a fallen or an un-fallen human nature is one that has long exercised theologians. Lately, thanks in no small part to Karl Barth, there is growing support for the position that the nature assumed was fallen. But, there has also been increased resistance to this idea. I recommend reading David Congdon’s paper proposal dealing with Barth and Oliver Crisp for a brief introduction to these matters.

What goaded me into writing this post was a recent post by Guy Davies over at Exiled Preacher. Therein, Guy reflects briefly on Barth on this matter and declares in favor of the ‘un-fallen human nature’ position. In the first comment on that post, I briefly indicated why this position may not in fact be correct. Guy’s response to that comment convinced me that a more complete treatment is needed.

The following is not by any means exhaustive. Nor does it deal explicitly with the work of Barth or others who have addressed this questio…

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 3.1-4

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1 Peter 3.1-4

[1] Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, [2] when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. [3] Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. [4] Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

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COMMENTARY:

I’m afraid that this is one of the times when I feel the need to both defend Calvin and make excuses for him. As much as I would love to be able to say that Calvin was a feminist a few hundred years before anyone else really was, I cannot. Of course, this is the same kind of thing that we must remember with reference to the writers of the biblical text. We must judge them in light of their cultural situation, and not in lig…

Barth and the Writing of the Barmen Declaration

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George Hunsinger (Ed), For the Sake of the World: Karl Barth and the Future of Ecclesial Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 209.

This from John Godsey, who reports the story that Barth told him about the writing of the Barmen Declaration:
…they appointed three persons to work on a common theological declaration for the meeting. These were Thomas Breit, a Lutheran from Bavaria; Hans Asmussen, a Lutheran from the Old Prussian Union; and Karl Barth, a representative of the Reformed. Breit wrote the other two to meet him at a hotel in Frankfurt, where they could work out the declaration together. This they did, and during the morning they outlined the six points they wanted to make and decided on their plan of action. They would eat lunch at the hotel, then each go to his room and work out his own statement concerning the six areas, beginning at two and ending at five o’clock. Then they would come together at five, compare what each had written, and work out a common stateme…

Francis Turretin’s Ecclesiology: 18.15

Fifteenth Question – Are the evangelical and Reformed churches true churches of Christ? We affirm.

Turretin begins this section by stating that if anyone wants to know why the ‘evangelical and Reformed’ churches are true churches, they need only apply the ‘rule of opposites’ to the preceding discussion of the Roman church. But, finally, the reason is that “there is nothing in it not founded upon the word of God and which was not instituted and delivered by Christ and the apostles.” (p. 137) Turretin gets going rhetorically in this section, and I thought that I would reproduce a good chunk of his text so that you, gentle reader, would be able to enjoy it. Also, this bit of text touches on many of Turretin’s primary concerns:“Our religion [‘evangelical’ or ‘Reformed’ Christianity] is that which is wholly occupied with knowing the one and triune God, the Creator, preserver and Redeemer, and rightly worshiping him according to his command. It gives the entire glory of our salvation to …

Gerhard Forde's 'On Being a Theologian of the Cross'

Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997)

The title of this work says it all. This book is not about how to do theology of the cross, it is about being a theologian of the cross. And this distinction makes all the difference. Basically, this book is made up of Gerdard Forde’s commentary on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, as the sub-title states. Through his commentary, Forde explicates what may be Martin Luther’s most profound theological contribution, theologia crucis, the Theology of the Cross. One quote from Forde sums up the work as a whole, “A theologian of the cross says what a thing is,” (p. x). While this may seem odd, especially since many view theology as being quite abstract and not concerned with concrete “things” at all, the oddity is exactly the point. Forde recognizes a need in the theology of our time to focus once again on how we write and speak. Language is one of…

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 2.24-25

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1 Peter 2.24-25

[24] “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” [25] For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

*NB: Quotes are from Isaiah 53

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COMMENTARY:

Calvin comments on these three extraordinary verses in the space of three pages, but in that time he touches on some central themes in Christian soteriology and even manages to quibble a bit with the Roman Catholics of his day, whom he here calls “the Sophists in their schools.” From these verses Calvin extracts three primary points. First, “Christ by his death has given us an example of patience.” Calvin seems to be drawing upon the preceding verses for this meaning. Second, “by his death he restored us to life” for which reason “we ought cheerfully to follow his example.” Third, we find an explanation of the reason why Christ died…

TF Torrance on John Knox on the Ascension

Thomas F. Torrance, Scottish Theology: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 22-23.The resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ means the final completion of our salvation in the objective sense, for Christ alone among his brethren possesses glory, honour and prerogative till all his enemies be made his footstool, which we undoubtedly believe they will be at the final judgment…In consummation of all this the Lord Jesus will return visibly as he was seen to ascend, when the time of refreshing and restitution of all things will come, and all God’s promises will be fulfilled. But the ascension implies two other things:

(1) The suspension of final judgment until Christ comes again. Christ alone possesses all power and glory. He possess [sic] that in our name, but he has withdrawn himself visibly from us, until he comes again. The full execution of his judgment and salvation is therefore yet to come. That leaves the world throughout the ages time …

Karl Barth Reading Group - Week 6

This is the final installment of the Karl Barth Reading Group notes. You can expect future installments if and when the group reconvenes.
=======================§ 7. The Word of God, Dogma and DogmaticsDogmatics is the critical question about dogma, i.e., about the Word of God in Church proclamation, or, concretely, about the agreement of the Church proclamation done and to be done by man with the revelation attested in Holy Scripture.Prolegomena to dogmatics as an understanding of its epistemological path must therefore consist in an exposition of the three forms of the Word of God as revealed, written, and preached.1)The Problem of DogmaticsDogmatics arises in response to the question of whether the human activity of proclamation is also obedience, and for this reason dogmatics judges proclamation.The criterion of this judgment is Scripture as the “concrete form of the Word of God.”This criterion is not to be replaced by any other for if it is, dogmatics becomes something other than…

Recommended Reading Meme

David tagged me, and so I am obliged by the etiquette rules of theo-blogdom to offer you, dear readers, a short list of books that have influenced me greatly or to which I find myself frequently returning. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Battles / McNeil edition)
Calvin’s Institutes will make you a theologian. Giving sustained attention to Calvin for some reason other than declaring him unenlightened is frowned upon in some circles; giving sustained attention to Calvin because he pushes one to grapple with issues at a more fundamental level than does much conservative theology is frowned upon in some others. Nevertheless, he deserves and rewards careful study and, if nothing else, will give you an example of the marriage of biblical, pastoral and ‘systematic’ theology.

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction
This was the first of Barth’s many books that I read, and I have read it numerous times since then. It never fails to cast new light on the many subj…

Upcoming Conference on the Analogy of Being (Analogia Entis)

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 2.21-23

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1 Peter 2.21-23

[21] To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. [22] “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” {Isaiah 53.9} [23] When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

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COMMENTARY:

In the few pages of commentary connected to this passage we find something of the non-violent Calvin. That Calvin could express sentiments like those we find here is an incredible thought for many people, especially if they have stumbled upon the defamatory literature on the web concerning Calvin and Servetus (most of which is riddled with historical inaccuracies, btw). But, we must remember to make an important distinction between what Christians are to willingly bear in patience for the sake of the gospel, what the civil government has responsibilities for, and what c…

Karl Barth’s Relational Anthropology

Daniel J. Price, Karl Barth’s Anthropology in Light of Modern Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 97-98.
The salient feature of Barth’s mature anthropology is that it is dynamic. Barth’s anthropology is not dynamic merely in the sense that it indicates raw motion as opposed to a static state – but also in the sense that “dynamic” refers to interpersonal relations…The relational implications of Barth’s anthropology are highlighted by his adoption of the Latin phrase: Si quis dixerit hominem esse solitarium, anathema sit. (Note: Price includes this translation in a footnote – “If anyone will have said that man is solitary, let him be anathema.”) This statement comes in the middle of Barth’s volume on theological anthropology and it holds both ends together. This Latin phrase indicates the social character of Barth’s anthropology: to be human is to participate in a shared experience. Therefore, no accurate understanding of the human being can be derived if we look at a person…

My Most Recent Publication

Things You Ought to Read

Even though we are easing into August – that dreaded month when the mercury never seems to stop climbing and when we are forced to reckon with the approaching academic year – your dedicated theo-bloggers far and wide have been working to bring you quality, stimulating reading material. Here are a few things that you don’t want to miss:

On Journeying with Those in ExileDan has two nice posts up at the moment. First, there is his very recent post entitled “Baudrillard and Christian Universalism: Freedom, Choice, Liberation, Martyrdom” where, making use of Jean Baudrillard and making reference to a conversation going on over at David’s (Fire and Rose) in his Paul among the Evangelicals: The Problem of Universalism in Rom. 5:12-21 series (this series of David’s is one that you definitely don’t want to miss), Dan thinks through the question of whether human freedom should be understood in terms of choice or obedience, and what sort of difference it makes.

Also, Dan has posted a nice revi…

Discussing the Trinity with Halden

I thought that I would take this opportunity to point you toward a conversation that Halden D. and I have been having in the comments section of at his blog, Inhabitatio Dei. He posted about the Westminster confession, I responded, and things went from there. At this point it seems that Halden and I have come to something -like- a consensus, but others may succeed in stirring the waters again. In any case, be sure to check it out.

Here is a statement of the doctrine of the Trinity in a nutshell that I developed in that comments section:There is one divine life (ousia / essence) that is structured or characterized by three-fold communion (persones / hypostases). There is one will / locus of consciousness / personhood, with three forms or modes of being / activity. These forms are radically perichoretic, which means that the divinity of each is equal to that of the whole. The three forms are distinguished only by the unique combinations of their mutual relationships. One God existing …

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 2.18-20

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1 Peter 2.18-20

[18] Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. [19] For it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God. [20] But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

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COMMENTARY:

Calvin’s penchant for brevity has turned into something of an obstacle for us in this series. The dearth of material that he offers to us leads, in turn, to a dearth of material that I can offer to you my readers. And yet, we will not turn aside.

Context

When undertaking Scriptural exegesis, there are two aspects of context to which one must give attention. First, there is the literary context, that is, one must consider the text that comes before and after the passage in question. There are var…