A convertskii checklist

The following issues need to be answered satisfactorily from the neo-neo-Palamite bloggers:

Before you accuse us of violating the person-nature distinction, are you entirely clear from the charges?  See here, here, here.

I can grant that you can find quotes from the fathers teaching apostolic succession.  However, if you remember what a normative proposition is and how logic works, the mere asserting this proves actually nothing.

Can you give a non-circular account of the patrum consensus?  To say that tradition is interpreted by the fathers, councils, bible, etc is one thing.  Do actually establish any of those terms within the claim, like the fathers, by referencing them to another term in the claim, is circular reasoning.  For instance, is Irenaeus’ teaching for us normtative?  Yes, but what of his premillennialism?  Is Athanasius normative?  Yes, but what of is calling the veneration of dead saints as Egyptian mummy-worship?  This is where the circles usually begin.

I keep seeing folks react to the term “legal” as something bad.   So?  You guys have to realize that simply asserting that I teach a “legal” view of the atonement doesn’t actually refute my position.  (Keep in mind how logical deductions work.)  When the Bible says Jesus made atonement for my sins, and then defines sin as a breach of the law, that’s legalism plain and simple.   It’s gotten so bad in some Anchorite circles that even wild card Orthodox theologians like Vladimir Moss had to address it (and he agrees with me.  see here and here).

An Orthodox friend of mine recently told me that he sees the Old Calendarists eventually being the only viable Orthodox option.  I think this makes sense for several reasons:  most Convertskii are super hard-core and seem to fit right in.   Any church that beds itself with ecuemnism dies; the Old Calendarists seem the best antidote to that.

This raises a problem for the seeker.  If you read the history, the Old Calendarists are entirely in the right.   They even say New Calendarists “lack grace.”  So what does the seeker do?  This is a huge problem.   Even asking this question employs my sinful, autonomous, Protestant-looking reason.   For me this was the biggest setback.   The True Orthodox, while lacking any charming or gracious qualities themselves, appear to have won the debate hands-down.


Moss’s refutation of Romanides.

What constitutes legitimate authority?

Mainstream Republicans, virtually of Democrats, and most bourgeousie Christians read Romans 13 and conclude that we must do whatever the government tells us to do.   They point to the example of the early Christians and say that must be our model for all time.  But this is sloppy reasoning for a number of reasons:

  1. Is our situation the same as the early Christians’?  Alarmist conservative cries to the contrary, it is not.  We have over 1,000 years of common-law heritage and constitutional rights, which are binding on both magistrates and citizens.  The early Christians–and the majority of people in the Roman empire–cannot make such a claim.
  2. If the lesser magistrate, a sheriff or something, interposes himself against a violent and genocidal president or king, must the Christians, based of an inane reading of Romans 13, side with the latter?  The very posing of this question destroys the bourgeoisie Christian worldview, which says that “authorities” (never defining that word) must always be obeyed.  The problem, though, is that I just posited two contradictory authorities.  Only one can be obeyed.
  3. If Obama surrenders the U.S. to the U.N., must I now obey the U.N.?  I would view U.N. authorities as invading troops.

More reductios can be thought of.  Rutherford thinks of several.  To use one of Rutherford’s examples, if a magistrate sends his troops, based on some arbitrary and ad-hoc law, to rape and sodomize the women of a particular county, can the citizens resist?  You are a sick human being if you say no.  If you say yes, then you by necessity agree with me.

The problem of Christology-first apologetics

This was something I was guilty of a few years ago.  On one hand, who wouldn’t disagree with the proposition that we should begin all of our theology with Christology first?  That we should let Christology be the template for doing all theology?  On one hand it is true that we should do this, but the above claim has several hidden presuppositions:

  1. To let a Chalcedonian Christology dominate your paradigm, you must first define a number of highly technical philosophical terms:  phusis, hypostasis, motion, and participation.
  2. This isn’t beginning with Christology, but demanding an intriciate knowledge of several highly technical fields.
  3. These are important fields and I’ve read most of the more mainstream technical literature, and while I am ignorant of many things, I have a pretty good idea of what is going on, and as such I don’t spout off things I can’t define, like person, nature, and motion

A more biblicist approach is warranted:  Vos’s book on Pauline eschatology is a good start.

Alternatives to theonomy in seminary—it wouldn’t have mattered

I suppose I probably could have spared myself a lot of grief in seminary by not taking the theonomy route.  I mean, I’m not a theonomist now, so it wouldn’t have mattered right?  Well, it’s not so simple.   Let’s consider:

  1. Under no circumstances would I have countenanced any political movement that did not kiss the feet of King Jesus.  Even so, there remain alternatives to theonomy.
  2. I even quoted published critics of theonomy (Poythress)to professors and they still said it was unacceptable.

On the other hand, had I grounded my political ethic solely in Rutherford, Gillespie, and the covenanters, my argument–or at least my rhetorical presentation of it–would have been indestructible.  The conversation would have gone something like this:

Covenanter:  Professor/teaching assistant, is it acceptable to employ Old Testament laws in constructing a political ethic for today?

Professor/teaching assistant:  No, for theonomy is wrong/marxist/homosexual/terrorist*/we fired Bahnsen.

Covenanter:  Did I say anything about theonomy?

Professor/teaching assistant:  No, but you mentioned Old Testament laws and that’s theonomic.

Covenanter:  I am glad to see you admit that much of the Bible teaches theonomy, but that is not what I was advocating.  Have you read Rutherford?

Professor/teaching assistant:  No.

Covenanter:  Rutherford based much of his argument on the validity of Old Testament ethical norms for today.

Professor/teaching assistant:  Well, the Reformed faith has come a long way since then.

Covenanter: But Professor, Lex, Rex was specifically written in the context of forging a distinctively Presbyterian identity, especially if you combine his argument with Gillespie’s, both of which are to be read against the background of the National Covenant of Scotland and the Solemn League and Covenants.

Professor/teaching assistant:  But we live in a democracy.  You can’t just expect everyone to agree with those rules.  That’s a theocracy!

Covenanter: I am glad to see you concede the theocratic roots of Presbyterianism.  I agree that such expectations are unrealistic for current America.  That’s quite irrelevant, though.   What God commands is often not contingent on what’s possible.  Isn’t that the point of Calvinistic evangelism?

Professor/teaching assistant:  So, you just want to go kill everyone that disagrees with you?

Covenanter:  No, don’t be silly.  My point is that for us to be consistent with our Presbyterian identity, we must come to grips with the ecclesiastical and political issues of those Covenants.   If that means we need to abandon key modern American ideas and structures like the 1st Amendment (which has already been repealed in the Patriot Act), American Idol, and MTV, then so be it.

Professor/teaching assistant:  Why do you hate America?

Covenanter:  I don’t hate America.   I want what’s best for America.

Professor/teaching assistant: But many aren’t Christians.  Doesn’t this mean they will be executed for worshipping false gods?

Covenanter:  Your objection presupposes something that is impossible on my system:  the only way a state could systematically do such things on a large scale is to be a large state.  Yet this is the very thing I deny.  But to answer your question–it could be death, but more likely it will be exile.  And quite frankly, why would a Buddhist or a Romanist even want to live in a Covenanter state?


The previous conversation never actually happened as stated, but it is a summary of a number of conversations I had with students and teachers.  After a while I stopped referencing Bahnsen and used the arguments of Rutherford, but to no avail.


*I had all of these terms used at me on my last day of class by a professor.

Towards a seminary curriculum

I don’t have any confidence in the future of Reformed institutional learning in America.  Even if they weren’t puppets for pop culture, albeit of a conservative variety, the poor market would preclude many prospects.  Still, it’s not dead yet. The following should form the basis of any Reformed curriculum:

Rutherford, Samuel.  Lex, Rex (Sprinkle).  It’s not just a political treatise.   Since it interacts with the Scholastic tradition, it also deals with ontology.  It also deals with applyiing biblical law to today’s situation.  And it will be come a hot-button issue if Obama wins the next election.

Gillespie, George.  Aaron’s Rod Blossoming.   The EP/C2C crowd offered a number of apparently cogent challenges to Reformed worship and historiography.  Many viewed them as unanswerable.  Gillespie had answered them long ago.  (In fact, it was Drake’s use of Gillespie that brought me out of that movement).  But today most seminary students won’t read Gillespie, because if they do they will ask their professors whether Gillespie, given his view on the Old Testament, could be hired at RTS.

An apologist arose who knew not Turretin…

If you ever read the debates between Orthos, Catholics, and Reformed, you can always guess what the next argument will be.  All players literally follow a script.   I think one of the reasons Drake got everybody so angry at him, is that he read Turretin and Rutherford, men even the Reformed of today do not read, and he did not follow the script, which meant that the typical rebuttals did not apply to him.

No one is impressed if you read Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll and then “refute” them.  More power to you.  I would be more impressed if you worked through Turretin’s arguments and refuted them.  I haven’t seen it happen yet.

(Interestingly, Turretin wasn’t translated into English until the 1990s, which means a lot of debates before then are simply out of date and irrelevant).

A monarchist defends July 4

As a monarchist it would seem that I should automatically hate the principles of July 4.  I do not.  It should be remembered that Parliament, not the Crown, was the true tyrant of England.   Therefore, strictly speaking, the colonials were rebelling against a representative government.  Even more, Parliament–like today’s congress–was controlled by Big Business, the East Indies Company.  To that degree then, the Colonials were right to seek independence.

Further, when we reflect on what a culture and ethnos truly is, the colonials were going to be independent anyway.  As such, they were their own country de facto.  From one perspective, they really weren’t “rebelling” at all.

But I see the applications for today reaching deeper.  A lot of convertskii have become official monarchists and then proceed to bash the United States every chance they get.  Unfortunately, they do not limit their criticisms to only the parasitic aspects of the US (e.g., Congress, Lobbies, etc).  They also attack the legitimately good parts of the U.S., and that is wrong (see Jeremiah 29).  Even worse, these convertskii have not reflected on the thorny issues of political ethics.  How many of them have read the Anti-Federalists and Samuel Rutherford?  I rest my case.

So which is better, monarchy or republic?  Well, we must acknowledge that both will be deeply flawed in application.   We must be careful of the reactionary republican response to monarchy, saying, “Doesn’t 1 Samuel 8 condemn monarchies?”  Well, the irony is that today’s republican government embodies all of the horrible things Samuel warned about.  (And what’s even more ironic is that these republicans do not even realize it.  They think that merely having the sacred word “republic” necessarily guarantees freedom).

I am not so sure that America needs a monarchy, though.  It would be alien to our traditions and would have to be imposed top-down, which guarantees failure.

Be patient with God–he’s learning, too!

Does God know all future contingencies?

If yes, does he control them?  If not, then we have just posited an area that is not God and is outside his control.    The alternatives are Calvinism or Manicheanism.

On the other hand, we can deny the proposition above and opt for open theism or middle knowledge.   In this case, every day God learns even more, since the realm of unknown/uncontrolled contigencies gets bigger (more people; more potential decisions; more instantiations of free will, etc).  Remember, God is responding to my free will.

This is why atheists die laughing at most Christian apologetics.  Positing free will as a theodicy merely removes the problem one step.

A Bit More Seriously

Middle Knowledge:  God’s foreknowledge about future contingent events whose truth depend not on God’s free decree (being anterior to this), but upon the liberty of the creature (which God certainly foresees).  As Turretin clarifies,

Whether besides the natural knowledge of God (which is only of things possible) there is in God a middle knowledge of men and angels where he knows what they may without a special decree preceding (I: 214).

Turretin responds:  things not true cannot be foreknown as true.  Now, conditional future things are not true apart from the determination of the divine will; for example, the Sidonians would have repented if the powers had been supplied to them, for they would have been indifferently disposed in their nature to repend or not repent, those powers being given. ..

No effect can be understood as future without the divine decree, so no future conditional can be knowable before the decree.

Again, knowledge either makes the event certain or foresees it as certain…


Person-Nature, a summary and footnote

I never expected any blog post of mine to get 100 comments.  I don’t write about politics (much) or sex (at all), so who would care?   I’ve been criticized over the past four months by some Anchorites for running my mouth and not listening to my elders.   In actual fact, all I’ve done is simply voice some difficulties with anchoretic triadology  that I’ve had for three years. (What’s funny is that when I was writing all these essays against absolute divine simplicity, I was praised and no one said a word; even today, I still get email requests to access the old Tsar Lazar site.  Unfortunately, I forgot both the username and password; I can’t even access it). Here are some of the difficulties:

  1. I still agree with Damascene that distinguishing between person and nature is important.
  2. However, is there an ontological distinction or a logical/rhetorical?  If the former, then we have a quaternity.  If the latter, then we really lose the force of Damascene’s statement.
  3. I then asked my friends to define both “person” and “nature,” particularly “person.”   Several did not even try.  One got on to what I was asking and said it was impossible on a patristic gloss (he is correct).  He went on to say that apophatic theology precludes such a task.  He is correct.  I then came to the conclusion that one can either have apophatic theology or use the “person/nature” distinction as a kritique of Calvinism, but one may not do both.  The point is quite simple:  if you cannot define “person” then by a simple definition of terms and logic, you cannot accuse the other of confusing the two!
  4. However, even if you are successful at (3), we still have the problem of (2):  either a quaternity or at least some kind of confusion.
  5. No wonder Fr Sergius Bulgakov got into trouble.  He tried to answer both (2) and (3).