On not accepting high church authority claims

Musings from various Michael Horton works:

If the church determines the Bible, whether creating its canon or determining its meaning by some “semper ubique”, patrum consensus, or Magisterium, the following entail:

  • The church is no longer a summoned community but in fact has become the Speaker.
  • No longer a summoned community, and yet ministering to its people, is the church in fact just talking to itself?
  • Precisely why does Christ need to return if he is already here bodily (in the Eucharist) and in authority (Infallible magisterium)?  In fact, some Eastern eucharistic liturgies say exactly this.

What is missing from all of this?  Covenant and Eschatology

Retractare: Theologia Viator

I now accept the model of “pilgrimage” as a valid hermeneutical framework for theology.  This doesn’t mean the “fetishism” of medieval pilgrimages to go worship a skeleton, but rather affirms doing theology in this life as a midway point to the Age to Come.

My initial problem was with how I saw it applied and also with my own priorities in life.   I could not see how a Pilgrim Theology could square with “winnin’ da gummint back for Jee-Zus.”

My priorities were in the wrong place.  A theologia viator is ideal for life in the church.  It has a necessarily eschatological thrust to it.


I warned y’all 8 years ago, but no one listened

I find it humorous that the Reformed world is up in arms over the Tullian fracas and the Republication of the Covenant of Works debate.  I pointed all of this out eight years ago and people laughed me off. Oh well, here are my thoughts, and this might surprise some, since I am closer to the “Westminster West” camp than I used to be.


  • Republication of Covenant of Works:  If all is being said is that the land promises are republished and typological, contingent upon the people’s obedience, then I don’t see what the problem is.   That doesn’t deny a gracious element to the covenant.   No one is saying people aren’t saved by grace alone.  A legitimate difficulty with this position is what to do with the moral equity of the judicial laws.   Fortunately, equity is a natural law category.  If we are no longer under the CoW, and the CoW is typified in the judicial laws, then it seems the judicial laws, per this gloss, are no longer binding.    The Westminster Confession doesn’t go that far, though.
  • Tullian debate:  I didn’t bother with this because I avoid anything to do with parachurch ministries and the Gospel Coalition.  I will say this, echoing Dr Clark, faith alone is the instrument of sanctification.  Keep in mind how the Reformed have always used causality and this isn’t a problem (and I think Tullian is much to blame in this controversy).
  • Radical Two Kingdoms, so-called:  2 Kingdoms is the Reformed position.   It is simply the common-sense observation that the king doesn’t meddle in the affairs of the church and vice-versa.  The problem come when we try to come up with common-grace ethics and the like.  Still, I’m tempted to side with Horton on this, at least practically.   I’ve watched conservatives fail miserably at “reconstructing politics” for 20 years now, all the while sucker-punching the church on reforming worship.

Is Lessing also among the gnostics?

Lessing’s famous dictum that the accidental truths of history cannot prove the universal truths of reason summarizes the epitome of critical scholarship.   Stated another way, “how can an accidental and contingent particular, say the Resurrection, establish a universal truth like Christianity?”

The Common-Sense believer will say that’s stupid, and it is.   But, there is a sense in which Lessing has some force.  If you prize the “universal timeless truths” over history, then you really can’t avoid his charge:  are you really saying the ultimate truth of Jesus depends upon historical verification in the Resurrection (Paul evidently thought so in 1 Cor 15).

I think there is a response to Lessing, and that is to cut it off at the knees.  Lessing’s statement is a refined, modern version of Platonic dualism:  an antithesis between the One (universal truth) against concrete particulars (history).  If you accept this Platonic dualism, it’s hard to avoid Lessing’s charge.

1 Bible does not = a million popes

A common rebuttal to sola scriptura is that it makes each man a pope.   But let’s examine this reasoning. Are they saying that each person reading the bible comes to his own conclusion?  Well, so what?  People interpret material and come to conclusions.  That’s called having a brain.  The objection only holds water if we add one more premise: and is such a judicial authority in the church.

Now, this is a devastating rebuttal to Congregational governments because they are islands in the stream (sorry, bad Dolly Parton reference).  It doesn’t touch synodical governments.  Billy Bob in the Presbyterian church can read his Bible and come to wacky conclusions and it doesn’t mean anything judicially, for Billy Bob as an individual member does not have judicial authority in the synod (and hence isn’t offering his interpretation of the Bible as normative).

Let’s pretend that Billy Bob’s presbytery takes his interpretation and makes it official, would not the objection hold then?  Well, it might hold but consider what has happened:  the representative form of government has limited Billy Bob’s initial appeal.  Billy Bob–or thirty Billy Bobs–only has a normative voice in the context of his synod, and that synod is simultaneously being checked by higher and lower courts.

Ecclesiastical Republicanism is the most perfect form of government, but it is not completely flawless.  I was a part of Louisiana Presbytery when it imploded (and caused no small amount of grief).  But even its implosion illustrated the truth:  higher and lower courts were acting upon the Presbytery, albeit unsuccessfully.

Someone could further object, “Yeah, well if there are 30 Presbyteries, then there are  30 different teachings.”  To which I say, “Prove it.”  That usually ends the debate.  But let’s pretend there are a lot of different teachings.  So what? That’s the cost of doing business in a fallen world.

Beer Journal: Southern Tier’s Choklat

This may be the most perfect beer I’ve ever had.

Why do most people drink? To enjoy quality and to feel good and relaxed.  What is the number one problem with drinking:  the loss of rationality which leads to hangovers and destructive decisions.   Here is why this beer is great:   with its 10% alcohol content, it gives the “relaxed feeling” but it doesn’t have the hangover effect.  I doubt you will drink more than one because it is expensive and filling.   You literally get the best of both worlds.

It has a stout beginning and a chocolatey finish.   Most stores will sell around $5 a pint.   It’s somewhat pricey, but it is perfect for the “once in a while” special.  While it won’t give you a hangover, I would not drink it and drive or operate farm tools.

Beer Journal: Imperial Bock

I decided to try the Pint of Sam Adams’ Imperial Double Bock.   Overall a very fine beer.  It looks smooth but it finished thick.  You can definitely taste the heavier alcohol content (9.5%).  While it cost $5, considering both the high quality and the Pint size, it’s a reasonable price.  Definitely will try again.

The comment that got me banned

On Ortho Bridge’s future of protestantism thread, the admin mentioned Nevin, particularly Leithart’s use of Nevin.  I was intrigued.  I’ve long read Nevin (and Leithart) and I knew that Leithart’s project depends on Nevin’s theology.   I made a comment along the lines of “The Trueman-Leithart debate is an exact replay of the Nevin-Hodge debate.”  I thought it was a commonsensical and brilliant comment.  I was warned not to derail the discussion.  Well, the comment I was about to make, and one pertaining directly to both Nevin’s and Orthodoxy’s anthropology was this:

if we accept Nevin’s platonic essentialism, especially with regard to the Eucharist and Christology, then we run into huge problems. If Christ assumed the universal humanity, then he also assumed the rules of predicating of genus: the more universal a genus, the less specific it is. If Christ is the universal humanity, then there is nothing specifically human about him!

You are only a Lutheran if…

I couldn’t resist commenting on the Tullian debate.  There is no point.  I agree with all of his critics.   What no one really understands is the heart of Lutheranism.  Scott Clark is saying that the Law Gospel distinction is reformed (and it is).  Tullian’s critics are saying too much of the distinction is Lutheran.

Here is the deal:  if you don’t hold to the ubiquitous humanity of Christ, you aren’t a Lutheran, plain and simple.

Drawing Conclusions

He continues with actual critiques of Wilson’s methodology, rather than saying “This hurts my feelings.”  In other words, now we are on to something.

It’s difficult to offer a critique of the history since there’s no clear substantive historical basis to the book. For example, Wilson writes that “it is necessary to get clear on the nature of American slavery, which was not what it’s abolitionist opponents claimed for it” (p. 4). But he doesn’t give us either a sustained critique of abolitionist claims or a sustained argument for a different view.

Well, he can say that. I thought the book offered history.  The world’s leading scholar on Antebellum slavery (Eugene Genovese) thought it offered history.  Who’s to say?

He summarizes Wilson’s thesis (accurately, I think)

Central to the book’s thesis and Wilson’s logic is the notion that “antebellum slavery was the normal kind of sinful situation” rather than “Apocalyptic Evil”

Here is why Wilson is right and Anyabwile is wrong:  the bible does not call slavery an apocalyptic evil, or even sin.  And if Cahill’s analysis of Hellenistic sociology is accurate, as I think it is, then Paul didn’t even call that institution evil, though he would have called the actions sinful.

And here is the dangerous challenge and warning:

At the same time, we should never allow secularists to come in and correct “mistakes” in our regular history that would also be considered (by our high gloss elites) to have been mistakes in the sacred history as well.

In fact, Wilson drops the hammer:

Why are we back-seat-driving for the Virginia plantation owner, or the Massachusetts farmer, when there is an abortion clinic just three miles from your house? What are we going to do about that, and why? Anything you praise a century and a half ago is praiseworthy now, right? Anything you condemn now should be condemned back then, right? If you would shoot somebody for doing “bad things” then, you should shoot somebody for doing worse now, right?

If slavery is evil and worth killing white Southerners over, and abortion is a greater evil (which all will grant), well…you aren’t stupid.  You can draw the conclusion. If you are not willing to draw it, then maybe you need to rework your historiography.

Wilson writes,

“It was the contention of this booklet that the way in which slavery ended has had ongoing deleterious consequences for modern Christians in our current culture wars, and that slavery was far more benign in practice than it was made to appear in the literature of the abolitionists” (p. 14; emphasis added).

Anyabbwile:  That’s a massive claim.

This is a commonsense claim.  I get really angry at conservatives for quoting Lincoln, comparing abortion to slavery, and then getting mad at Obama for executive orders.  So what that your state voted against sodomite marriages and a federal judge struck it down?  America fought a war that negated the 10th Amendment.  One of the consequences of that war is that a Federal judge has every constitutional right to strike down such a law (even if he will be judged by God for doing so).

.” I don’t begrudge Southerners telling their history and defending themselves at various points along the way.

Yes you do.