An Army of Psalm Chanters

My goal in “Federal Vision Diagnosis” is to give an analysis somewhat removed from the situation. Most of the battle are over. NAPARC has ruled (correctly) that the FV is in error. The CREC provides a convenient outlet. Even if the PCA ultimately disciplines Leithart, he’s won the debate. He has shown that the PCA cannot discipline error at the highest level. The reason is simple: what right do mainstream PCA guys have to rebuke Leithart when they are deliberately weak on the Second and Fourth Commandments? (And to add insult to injury, Jim Jordan really doesn’t take exceptions to those two commandments, at least not the way most people take the exceptions). I am also trying to cut off future movements into FV at the knees. A lot of young guys get enamored with the FV because they do see some good things there and see inadequacies in their own churches, and think the FV is the answer. When they are rebuked on it, they harden the defenses. I don’t plan this to be a rebuke. I really want to capitalize on some good things they are saying. Below is an analysis of one of Jordan’s rants against the Calvinist world. I’m not linking to it. It’s fairly easy to find.

What makes this piece by Jordan so annoying is that of the six pieces he wrote on this topic, hidden in two of them were some gems that would utterly revolutionize Reformed life. I’ll jump to the conclusion: you really want to “change the world” or “continue the reformation?” Sing and “chant” Psalms. And not the tamed NIV-psalms in the Red Trinity hymnal.

Some of my criticisms of this article are more along the lines of “this is why nobody wants to play with you.” Other comments will acknowledge that this idea could work and could be within the parameters of the Reformed faith, but the way it is being presented is harmful.

The Calvinistic churches are little more than extensions of the academy. The black robe is the robe of the scholar, not the angelic white robe of a worship leader.

No argument here on the academy part. If robes worn are under the category of “circumstance,” then I don’t see the problem with wearing a white one instead.

The heart of the meeting is the long lecture-sermon.

Paul did say preach the word.


I’m going to say “no” but my reasons are different. For starters, Bucer didn’t have an initial problem with it. I’ve been in Presbyterian churches that did light candles and it didn’t detract from the preaching (think of a 40+ minute sermon). At the end of the day I have to ask, “Where is it commanded?” Could it be under “circumstance?” That might work. I have long hated fluorescent lighting with all of my heart. It is ugly and science has proven that it triggers migraines. There is no excuse for it. Using candles (or some variant) instead is infinitely superior.

Colored paraments on table and pulpit?

I don’t even know what that is.

Flowers? Maybe.

I have so many reasons for not wanting flowers. All low-church evangelicals know they are obligated to compliment Aunt Glady May’s flowers in the front or lose their job. Try it next Sunday. Even worse, I’ve seen some churches who are big on “creational theology” overdo the flower stuff. It’s worse than silly. A lot of such theology is no different from Celtic paganism.

The darkest part of the room is the center where the dark wood table and the dark wood massive pulpit and the black-robed preacher are.

Not if they are using fluorescent lighting. Then it is seeringly bright.

The Supper is not a festival, is done rarely, with precious little to eat and only grape juice to drink.

The Reformed world has actually improved on this point. He is right on grape juice. That is utterly inexcusable. It’s not merely a crude violation of the RPW, wine has ontological and typological connotations. If we drink grape juice, then we can’t fight Yahweh’s battles in a drunken Spirit-frenzy (Zeph. 9:15). We’ll fight it like practitioners of American Religion. We’ll vote Republican. But I’ve seen Reformed churches increase frequency on this point and as American Fundamentalism waxes older and older, I think we will see more wine. I hope so, if for their sakes.

And in fact, the sacraments don’t actually do anything at all. They are just aids to devotion. Eating bread is nothing; it’s meditating on Jesus that matters. Water on the head is nothing, just a symbol that some day you might come to the right ideas about Jesus and be saved. In other words, touch and physical contact are completely unimportant. It’s all ideas. If you get sick, don’t expect to be anointed with oil. You might be, but it’s pretty rare.

Let’s look at what he is and isn’t saying. He is implying that we are transformed, but not in a Romanist sense. What kind of sense? I don’t know. He doesn’t say. You can’t just drop bombs like this. This is why even on the most charitable reading, The Federal Vision can be accused of pastoral irresponsibility.

So, the churches are miniature academies. People are not taught the Bible, but the confession of faith, over and over.

Sometimes they aren’t taught the Confession, either. No one has ever accused the PCA of being too confessional! LOLOLOL!

I should have thought that the “basics” were learning to chant all the psalms, getting a real practical knowledge of the laws of Exodus and Deuteronomy, and coming to be able to walk through every book of the Bible.

He has a point. If you are trained to do chiastic outlines of the Old Testament, I promise you will be able to recall most of it (structure) from memory. And Scripture becomes infinitely more beautiful. But what about chanting? Isn’t that what EO and Rome does? Sort of. I doubt they chant it like the Hebrews did. But however you say it, chanting is mnemonic. Many Russian Cossacks had the entire Psalter memorized. Even though imperfect, they sought to be Holy Warriors. Chanting aided memory.

And what does the Calvinistic seminary-academy look like? Well, this is what I was taught: We start with exegesis, the grammatical-historical method of getting the data out of the Bible. Then we build Biblical Theology on top of that, learning Biblical themes. But the acme, the highest point, is Systematic Theology. There we have it all put together. So, what are sermons like in Calvinistic churches? They consist of “points” that are somehow related to some text. They do not consist of walking through the text and bringing the people as close as possible to how God wrote the text. Something as simple as walking through the text line by line and closing with some applicatory thoughts would just not be “sermonic” enough.

I’m sorry but this is true. No, the reality is much worse. My experience was a watered-down version of the above. Yeah, that bad.

But let us consider what a Christian view of the Church would be. It would be a place of transformation, not merely of information. Marshaling the people into an army of psalm chanters would be at the top of the list. Indeed, in seminary several psalms would be chanted every day in chapel. The music in the church would be loud, fast, vigorous, instrumental, martial. There would be real feasts. People would be taught that when God splashes water on you, He’s really doing something: He’s putting you into His rainbow.

Some of this is silly, but I hope the “army of psalm chanters” got your attention. As to the instruments–my jury is out on that one.

The environment of music (and the Spirit is the Music of God, as the Son is the Word of God) would be a healing environment (1 Samuel 16:14-23); there would be far fewer occasions for pastoral counseling. Also, because the things that God holds important (music, sacraments, Bible) would be paramount, what passes for systematic theology would be kept on the back burner where it belongs. We need it to ward off errors, but it does not cause the Church to grow. Confessions of faith are neither soil nor fertilizer nor water. Laymen probably should not know that they exist.

There is something to systematic theology, but I am willing to see the above enacted. We shouldn’t reject Charles Hodge. All of the convertskii have demonstrated that they know nothing of Hodge and Turretin.


“Coming home” is bad ecclesiology

Convertskii love to say how “they came home to Mother Church.”  But we have no home on earth.  We seek the Jerusalem that is above.  Our mother is the heavenly Zion.  It is still in heaven (Revelation 21-22). Therefore, I can’t come home.

And I don’t care what denomination it is (Presbyterian, Romanist, Orthodx, Moonie), books about conversion stories are so saccharine and cloying I can’t read them.

Notes on a verbal ontology

The original language of creation was Hebrew.   Primordial man had Hebrew names.  See here for more detail.   One can argue that all languages imply one another and so truth is translatable, but it is hard to find a reason not to emphasize Hebrew (if given the ability).  Any attempt to judge the Hebrew scriptures by some other translation, be it the Septuagint or the Vulgate, is Nestorian and Docetic–for it divides the Logos from his Hebrew maleness (which is yet another reason why the Logos didn’t assume the universal of humanity, but a localized Hebrew body).  

While much of Jordan’s stuff is in the stratosphere, I can’t find a better summary of a verbalist ontology.  

In Christianity,

God sets up the Mediator.

The Mediator is verbal, not visual.

We must listen and be changed.

In paganism and semi-Christianity,

Man sets up the mediators by making images.

The mediators are visual, not verbal.

The mediators are silent, so we are not changed.

A sort of autobiographical diagnosis

In good chiastic fashion I have come full circle with some older pre-FV writings.  When I left college I read anything I could get my hands on by Peter Leithart and James Jordan–and much of it really was quite good.   Without really knowing all the issues involved, I fell in love with a tangible, concrete biblical verbalist ontology.  And even today that is good.  Several issues made this a bad thing:   1) the FV was still mutating into the dangerous creature it is today, 2) rightly or wrongly (and a little of both) theonomy was tagged as FV’s meaner cousin, and 3) Protestant scholastic categories had fallen on hard times.   I think a good verbalist ontology is what we need, but not at the expense of justification.

Now that I’ve fought Anchoretism and truly understand (to the degree that I do) the philosophical issues involved in the debate, and since much of the FV has moved into the mainly CREC orbit (which has problems even beyond FV), FV writings do not tempt me anymore.  In other words, when FV writers use the biblical text to deconstruct Greek ontologies (and the religious traditions that hold to them), I cheerfully use them.  This isn’t all that different from what Mike Horton does.

I never could shake this argument

All Protestants intuitively know this.  However, as some begin to move into Patristics they pretend it isn’t there.   I first came across it in Jim Jordan’s brief commentary on Revelation (which I don’t endorse).  Jordan writes,

Anyone who reads the Bible, climaxing in the New Testament, and then turns to the “apostolic fathers” of the second century, is amazed at how little these men seem to have known. The Epistle of Barnabas, for instance, comments on the laws in Leviticus, but completely misinterprets them, following not Paul but the Jewish Letter of Aristeas. It is clear that there is some significant break in continuity between the apostles and these men.

No argument here.  It’s the next sentence that loses all his readers,

What accounts for this? I can only suggest that the harvest of the first-fruit saints in the years before ad 70, which seems to be spoken of in Revelation 14, created this historical discontinuity. (I’d say the first-fruits Church was the Pentecostal harvest of the third month; we look toward the Tabernacles harvest of the seventh month; note Leviticus 23:22, which comes right after the description of the Pentecostal feast, and may well shed significant light on the problem we have here mentioned.)

That might be true, but you just can’t drop bombs like this out of nowhere and expect people to follow along.  But I digress.  Back to Aristeas.   There are a number of comments that OB didn’t approve on the LXX.  His next point is spot-on.

We ought to be careful, too, in assuming we have a comprehensive picture of the early church. We have a few writings of a few men, many of whom were not pastors and teachers but educated first generation converts from paganism, lay scholars who were engaged in debate.

Anchorites love to appeal to St Ignatios and the fact that he was a disciple of John.  What of it?  What gives you the right to take a mere selection (fewer than 20 pages) of one man’s writing and apply them to the whole church?  This is the crudest of logical fallacies

I know I shouldn’t do this, but…

Here is Jim Jordan’s take on EO.  They range from bizarre to occasionally insightful.  I remember when I was first looking into this I noticed that a lot of his articles were on the theme, “My take on liturgy never meant you to do that.”  Still, factoring that some of these are worthwhile.

Sanctuary Ontology

Leithart gives an overview.  I am not endorsing his larger project.  However, in a recent talk on Christology he suggested that a Christology that takes its start from a sanctuary typology avoids the pitfalls and tensions inherent in a substance ontology.   I think there is something to this.  One of the dangers is that Nestorius also used sanctuary as a model, but he did so in a crude, extrinsic fashion (and probably operated under the substance paradigm as well).