Reflections on Scottish Independence

Given my Scottish background and heritage, perhaps it’s surprising that I’ve stayed quiet on the upcoming Scottish vote.  Obviously, I don’t live there and should be somewhat reticent about offering advice that won’t be taken.

Still, the referendum does provide for critical reflection which can shine light upon our own situation in America.  Tentatively, for what little it’s worth, I think it would be neat to see it happen, but with that said:

Nothing changes on the national level

Very few Christians are able to make an intelligent distinction between “nationalism” and “jingoism.”  Nationalism is simply Genesis 10 and Acts 17.  In some’s desire to attack Kinism, they end up espousing Marxist views on race and border.  I’m not a Kinist (whatever that word means), but in rejecting Kinism please don’t reject Genesis 10.  I used to perform an experiment on critics of Kinism:  I used to quote Acts 17:26 without stating the verse and watch reactions.

In a debate with an Orthodox apologist he explicitly told me too bad for Paul, this is what it means today.  Such a view was pure Marxism, of course (especially ironic for an Orthodox guy), but at least he was consistent.

The Scottish nation has existed for over 1,000 years and even though today it is Leftist and a shadow of its former glory, it’s still a nation.  The Scottish State and Government apparatus is an entirely different matter, and the referendum will affect that.

So even if “Better Together” wins, the Scottish nation will still be the Scottish Nation.

Will they be poor?

Probably.  I don’t see their keeping the pound and it is no guarantee they will be in the Eurozone (and stay out of that Harlot of Revelation 17).  If they can make money off of their oil reserves that might help.

On the other hand, Europe is socialistic.  It’s not like Socialists have any ability to keep long-term wealth apart from the threat of sanctions and the barrell of a gun.  So for Socialists to tell Scotland they will be poor if they don’t’ stay is somewhat hypocritical.

Will they be threatened nuclearly (or newkular, to quote Bush)?

This is among the better objections.  However, Scotland has somewhat natural borders.  If Hitler couldn’t take England at the height of his power in wartime, Scotland probably won’t be invaded by anybody anytime soon.  And if they are out of NATO, that simply means they won’t have to die in Bankers’s Wars.

Look at their geography.  They are literally at the far North end of the world on an island.   Even in a technological age it would be difficult.

But will they be holy?

This is what matters the most.   The Church of Scotland is borderline apostate.  At least the Roman church isn’t that large. I know an independent Scotland and popery often go together, but today’s Pope opposes independence.

 

 

Earthy-ing the Imago Dei

I read Van Til, Dooyeweerd, and Rushdoony for reasons most other people don’t read them.  I couldn’t care less about specific apologetic methodologies.  Their true genius is in the fact that they–more than anyone else–allowed the Creator-creature distinction to inform their understanding of creation and imago Dei.

Any discussion of the imago-dei is better served, not by speculating on essences and accidents, but on man’s role as priest-king-prophet in creation and New Creation.  We must firmly resist any scheme that says the higher part of man is the soul while the lower part is the body (John of Damascus and Aquinas say exactly that).

A brief tribute to Ian Paisley

Granted, he wasn’t the most polished Reformed guy in ecclesiology or the most Confessional.  Still, he had what the Reformed world probably needed most:  courage.  He also had wisdom and insight.  Whereas most Reformed will reject Romanism for its deficient theology, and rightly so, Paisley saw it for the existential threat it is.  He knew the Jesuits have one goal:  the destruction of Protestant nations.  Modern Calvinists won’t touch that topic with a ten foot pole.

Find his sermons here.   If anything, they are fun. Find his sermon on Richard Cameron.  Two moments in it will give you chills: one when he is quoting Psalm 46 and the other when he is quoting Cameron’s sermon and says, “And the gates of Rome will burn!

How the mighty have fallen!

Tell it not in Gath; publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice

Over-honoring Mary?

Starting a new category on mariology.  I hope people don’t take this the wrong away.  I am not saying that honoring Mary is wrong.  I am not even saying that Anchoretism’s special honoring of Mary is wrong, but I am pointing out how these unguarded statements will usually be interpreted by the less-educated.

In the very words of Cabasilas, ‘Mary’s blood became God’s blood,’ by the ineffable communicatio idiomatum and by her personal effort to raise fallen humanity to its original purity and perfection. Even more so, she recreated earth and heaven and united them—angels and men–by showing to them, more directly and more clearly than ever before, the ‘enhypostasized wisdom and love of God,’ the very God and their Savior Himself. She is, therefore, the very first and last created human being who represents microcosmic and macrocosmic perfection, having fulfilled God’s purpose of creation: the original and ideal humanity perfectly united with His love and will.

Basically, everything Protestants have said of Jesus, Cabasilas is saying of Mary.  This is the most basic textbook definition of idolatry.

because our Lady is the first ‘divinized’ human creature, making all men able to rise to deification by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

I have no problem with theosis.  I have no problem with saying the Holy spirit divinizes us into the image of Christ.  That’s classic Reformed teaching on sanctification + glorification.   I Have a problem with making Mary the active agent.

That is why Gregory Palamas calls the Mother of God ‘the boundary between the created and the uncreated,’

When I translated Genesis 1 from Hebrew, one of the more powerful repetitions was raquiyy, boundary or division.  I don’t think God was thinking about Mary when he said that.

(Constantine N. Tsirpanlis, _The Mariology of Nicholas Cabasilas_)

 

Letham’s Westminster Assembly

With this volume Letham has established himself as the leading English-speaking Reformed theologian.

HOLY SCRIPTURE

Letham gives the basic Reformed understanding of Scripture.

Continuationism

It’s there, albeit in a mild form.  Letham notes that William Bridge, George Gillespie, and John Knox received (or claimed they did; or others claimed they did) prophetic revelation.  Letham is quick to point out this is only “providential” illumination of Scripture (127).  Letham is correct that the Assembly felt no need to deal with this issue (nor would they have affirmed it), but other studies clearly demonstrate that the Scottish Reformation (both in its First and Second phases) saw manifestation of prophetic gifts beyond that of simply “illuminating” Scripture.  When Cargill and Cameron prophcied the deaths of certain (specific) wicked men, they weren’t merely “applying” the general sense of Scripture.  If “prophecy” means illumination, then every pastor is a prophet!  In which case prophecy is still valid today, but nobody reasons that way.

Part of the Reformed world’s problem here is the presupposition that every prophetic utterance necessarily carries the full binding of God with it.   In another place Wayne Grudem shows that is simply not the case.

God the Holy Trinity

Without passions…

Letham is aware that a hard division on God’s not having passions must take into account the fact that the Incarnation brought into true union with humanity.  Jesus experiences human thoughts, human emotions, etc (162).  Letham is certainly on the correct path, but the problem is much deeper (and this isn’t a slam against Reformed Christology;  all Christological traditions hailing from the Chalcedonian definition must face this problem:  does our definition of what it means to be a person today include self-reflection?  If it does, then we are on the road to Nestorianism. If it doesn’t, is it really coherent to speak of person anymore?)

Letham gives a competent discussion on Creation, though one that will annoy many.  He admits, contra many Klineans, that the divines likely held to six solar days, yet he points out that the more pertinent goal was to reject Augustine’s view of instantaneous creation.  Further, what we must also admit, no matter where we land on this discussion, is that the divines did presuppose a geocentric cosmology which saw theology in spatial terms.  Indeed, one wonders if George Walker even knew that the world is spherical (Letham 191 n.50).

Christ and covenant

“Condescension”

  • Makes the Klinean meritorious reading strained.
  • CoW, while perhaps the correct reading, is not necessary to maintain Reformed theology.  It was developed over time and if Kline’s reading is correct, then huge swathes of Reformed theology would have proved defective before Westminster (233).

Covenant of Redemption?

Letham highlights a number of problems.  While he doesn’t note the problem of person, if person does not include mind (which is usually subsumed under nature), then does it make sense to speak of three individuals who all share the same mind making an agreement?  I’m not saying it is a wrong idea, and the CoR certainly preserves a few key values, but it does have problems.

Assurance

Great section on assurance and he places these (sometimes) painful discussions in their pastoral context, which context is often lost on critics of Reformed assurance.  For the record, I agree with Goodwin pace Owen on the Spirit’s sealing.

Law, Liberty, Church and Eschatology

Great section on Law and Liberty–and he avoids getting involved in the painful theonomy disputes.  Letham shows how the RPW should be read and interpreted in light of the Laudian imprisonment and persecution of Reformed believers.  On another note, he points out how the Presbyterians really failed on clinching and continuing the “liberty of conscience” victory it justly won.   I will elaborate:

Did the Solemn League and Covenant bind the consciences of those who didn’t vow it?  Said another way, was Cromwell later on obligated to establish Presbyterian government?  If he was, how does this square with what (Covenanter) Samuel Rutherford said, “It is in our power to vow, but not in the church’s power to command us to vow” (quoted in Letham 299)?  Maybe the two points don’t contradict each other, but the tension is certainly strained.

And it appears the Presbyterians couldn’t maintain this tension.  They chose to deal with the tyrant Charles I and supported (to their fatal regret later) the pervert Charles II.  Cromwell’s victory at Dunbar is fully justified.

Conclusion:

This isn’t a commentary on the Confession.  It is a theological exploration of the historical circumstances behind it.  Letham’s scholarship is judicious, measured, and quite frankly awe-inspiring.

And people say I read chain of being into everything

(And lest I am misunderstood, my target audience was not originally the Orthodox, though my comments directly apply to them.  Rather, some Reformed guys took issue with my Covenantal Ontology and didn’t believe that chain of being was a real deal).

“The Old Testament makes the body obedient to the intelligence and raises it up towards the soul by means of the virtues, preventing the intellect from being dragged down towards the body. The New Testament fires the intellect with love and unites it to God. Thus yet Old Testament makes the body one in its active with the intellect; the New Testament makes the intellect with God through the state of grace.”-

St. Maximos the Confessor ( Philokalia Vol. 2, Fourth Century of Various Texts)

But anyone who is a “portion of God,” on account of the logos of virtue that exists in God, as was explained above, and who abandons his own origin, is irrationally swept away toward non-being, and thus is rightly said to have “flowed down from above,” since he did not move toward his own origin and cause, according to which, by which, and for which, he came to be.

“Flowing down from above” in this manner, he enters a condition of unstable deviations, suffering fearful disorders of soul and body, failing to reach his inerrant and unchanging end, [1085A] by freely choosing to turn in the direction of what is inferior. Here the sense of “flowing down” can be understood literally, for though such a person had it well within his power to direct the footsteps of his soul to God, he freely chose to exchange what is better and real for what is inferior and non-existent.

St Maximos the Confessor, Ambiguum 7. Translation by Fr Maximos (Nicholas Constas)

10.74} As for Elijah, he is the image of nature, not simply because he preserved inviolate the principles of his own nature (along with the deliberative frame of mind appropriate to these principles) free from any change due to passion, but because he taught by judging, like a kind of natural law, those who twist nature to unnatural ends. For such is nature, punishing those who undertake to violate it to the degree that they actually live in unnatural opposition to it, by not allowing them to acquire naturally all of nature’s power, for they have been partially deprived of its very integrity and for this they are punished, since it is they themselves who pointlessly and foolishly [1164D] have procured this lack of existence by inclining toward non-being.

Ambiguum 10

>>>>Elijah was free from passions? Didn’t he call down fire on the king’s army?

>>>>Notice how he says “inclining toward non-being.”  That is about as stark an admission of chain of being that I have ever seen.  I did worry at a time that I might be reading chain of being into ancient sources.  That is no longer the case.  You do not get any clearer than that.  In fact, this is far clearer than Plato ever was.

29. Just as evil is a privation of good, and ignorance a privation of knowledge, so non-being is a privation of being – not of being in a substantive sense, for that does not have any opposite, but of being that exists by participation in substantive being. The first two privations mentioned depend on the will of creatures; the third lies in the will of the Maker, who in His goodness wills beings always to exist and always to receive His blessings.

St Maximos Four Hundreds Texts on Love, Third Century. Philokalia v 2