Continuationism and proving Van Til right on evidence

Whenever I doubt the truth of presuppositional apologetics, I read discussions where TRs doubt that God’s power gifts continue today.  Now, I have no problem with someone coming up with a logical argument that the Spirit’s power isn’t active today.  Fair enough.  I just think a lot of the conversations are funny.

A note on prophesy:  this is one of the most debated terms in the Bible. The problem is that the NT really doesn’t give a neat usage of the term.  Older Puritan writers often equated it with Preaching, in which case the gift obviously continues today.   Most people, cessationist or otherwise, see that usage won’t stand up to five minutes of Scrutiny.  Even worse, some say it is the Spirit applying the truths (timeless, of course; not messy historical contingencies) to day-to-day situations.  In that case, everyone of God’s children should prophesy.  But that seems inadequate and ignores almost all of the NT texts.

A quick rejoinder:  But prophesy doesn’t always mean telling the future.  Sure.  But that did happen.

But God’s word meant the death penalty if your prophesy didn’t come true.   Okay, I’ll grant that for the moment (though I think you can find examples in the OT where godly men were less than 100% accurate and they didn’t die).  But even with that terrifying injunction, you really don’t see NT believers afraid to prophesy.  That’s just the plain truth of the matter.  In fact–and it’s funny that the most rabid anti-theonomists become theonomists on this point–Paul urges all to prophesy.   I doubt the conversation went like this:

Paul:  Pursue all gifts, especially that you may prophesy, but be careful because if you are less than 100% accurate I am going to kill you.

Anyway, to the conversation.

Cessationist:  Show me one example of a Reformed Christian believing continuation of gifts continue.

Continuationist:  (insert example of Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill prophesying/speaking the truth)

Cessationist:  Yeah, well that doesn’t count.

Translation:  you have your facts and I have my theory.  Too bad for your facts.

Why continue the conversation?

The Bible Commands War Against Hellenism

For I have bent Judah as my bow;
    I have made Ephraim its arrow.
I will stir up your sons, O Zion,
    against your sons, O Greece,
    and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

Zechariah 9:13

Ironically, the Biblical Horizons guys could have scored huge points against Calvinist International if they would have quoted these verses.

Beer Journal, Entry 3

I can’t remember if I had already reviewed “Beck’s Sapphire.”  I have had it before and I had a high appraisal of it then.   Perhaps I was in the same situation as the wedding host in John 2 concerning the good wine.  In any case, I thought it was darker and bolder (no doubt due to the misleading case).  It has a sharp flavor, yet without the overkill that haunts some of the Samuel Adams’ vintage IPAs.  It doesn’t leave a bad aftertaste, which often happens with dark lagers.  It’s almost like a Heineken without the “skunky” flavor and smell.

A Primer on Study Bible Polemics

This is in response to a comparison between the Orthodox Study Bible and the Geneva Bible.

In regard to the claim that justification is an ongoing process.

Point 1:  If we are justified (aorist) then how is it an ongoing state?  At best that is vague language.   The aorist tense suggests a completed action, not an ongoing one.  It seems the OSB is conflating “salvation” with “justification,” but Protestants do not hold that. The study bible says,

Faith is more than the conviction that something is true

This is classic Reformed 101.   Reformed define faith in a 3-fold way.  This is further evidence that for all of the irenicism, Orthodox simply do not bother to understand what Reformed teach.

Stated:  In its reaction to medieval Roman Catholicism Protestantism became allergic to the role of good works in salvation.

This is ironic since the Puritans are usually accused of being legalists.  We simply deny that works are the instrumental and efficient causes in our salvation.  How hard is that to understand?

About tradition:  Quick question:   give empirical verification that the traditions you have today are the same as the apostles’.  Do not employ the fallacy of asserting the consequent.

About the real presence:  essentially the Protestants are wrong because they are ambivalent on the real presence.  Maybe so, but that’s not an argument that it is logically true.  Also ironic is that the Scriptures suddenly become clear, objective, and literal when proving a pet doctrine.  But I come back to a question:  Is the divine nature present in the Eucharist?  Presumably the OSB will say yes.  Can the divine nature exist outside of a hypostasis, whether that of Father, Son or Spirit?   The OSB will have to say no because of the doctrine of enhypostasis.  This means logically that the hypostasis of Jesus is present.   But this becomes problematic when multiple Eucharists are being celebrated at the same time, for then we will have multiple hypostases of Jesus!  Nestorius didn’t even teach this!

Then there are the usual calls tha tProtestants need to own up to their own traditions.   Have these people not heard of the presuppositional school?   Of course Protestants know that.  We also know that our understanding isn’t infallible.

Beer Journal: Entry 1, Sierra Stout

Not really a deep theological topic, but it should prove interesting.   Today’s beer is Sierra Nevada Stout.  The first Sierra Nevada I had was a Pale Ale, which wasn’t bad but I am not much for lighter beers.  I like heavy and dark beers.

I wasn’t expecting just how dark it would be.   It was almost too stout (of course, such a thing is impossible).  Very good start to the taste but kind of “burnt” at the end.  8 out of 10 stars.

Thomas Watson on the 7th Commandment

Watson’s treatment of it, like anything else he writes about, is stirring, convicting, and breath-taking.  I plan to outline the chapter (Watson, The Ten Commandments.  Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 1986, pp. 152-163).

  1. The thing implied is that the ordinance of marriage should be observed
  2.   The thing forbidden is infecting ourselves with bodily pollution and uncleanness.  There is a two-fold adultery
    a.  mental (Mt. 5:28)
    b.  Corporal
  3. The greatness of this sin:
    a.  breach of the marriage oath
    b.  Dishonour done to God.
    c.  it is committed with mature deliberation
    d.  It is needless, since God has provided men and women with spouses.
  4. Practical Uses of this Doctrine:
    a. The Church of Rome stands condemned.  How can they be holy when the city stews with fornications and uncleanness?
    b.  It is a most common sin of our times (and Watson wrote this 350 years ago!)
    c.  Exhortation on how to avoid this sin:
    (i)  It is the highest sort of thievery, since you are stealing a man’s wife.
    (ii)  Adultery debases a man and makes him brutish
    (iii)  Adultery pollutes
    (iv) Adultery destroys the body
    (v)  Adultery drains the purse
    (vi) Adultery destroys the reputation
    (vii) It impairs the mind
    (viii) It incurs temporal judgments
    (ix) Damns both one and soul and the other’s

Cromwell, the Covenanters, and a Critical Reflection

This is a hard post to write, not only because I am not entirely certain where I stand on this issue, but that the answer to this question appears for force the answers to a number of other questions.  My goal in this post is not to vindicate Cromwell.  I want to add clarity to a few key moments in English history where Cromwell clashed with the Covenanters.  Ecclesiastically, I side with the Covenanters.  While I have an appreciation for many Independents, I think it is problematic.   Further, the Covenanters’ testimony during the Killing Times is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  However, some problems remain and I will try to explore these:

  1. Cromwell may be a covenant-breaker, but how was Scots’ aligning with Charles II not a similar violation of the Covenant on the grounds of allying with malignants?   While Rutherford may have had distaste for Cromwell, I think he realized this very point (cf Coffey, 251).
  2. If (1) is true, and if Covenanting Scots had even fought against Charles I and his bishops previously, as they had (Fissel:  1994), then on what grounds can later Covenanter tracts condemn Cromwell as “the Usurper?”
  3. Following (2), isn’t it likely that Cromwell would have left alone Presbyterian Scotland had they not crowned a Stuart Monarch?  Cromwell, being a military and political genius, saw it as cementing a Stuart (and probably quasi-papist, Charles II’s swearing to the Covenant notwithstanding) political power to his north, which would have been a danger.  Cromwell didn’t necessarily want to invade Scotland for invasion’s sake.  The Scots had already proved their mettle earlier and have even defeated some of Cromwell’s lieutenants earlier. Indeed, even when Cromwell brought the bulk of his army to Scotland, he found himself in a terrible trap.  Inexplicably, the Scots abandoned their military vantage point, met Cromwell on equal footing, and lost their army, and soon their liberty.  Precisely who is at fault here?
  4. Following (3), even a Covenanter like Maurice Grant admits that Cromwell’s occupation of Scotland silenced many church disputes and allowed the church to flourish spiritually (Grant, 37).
  5. This is not to say that Cromwell was 100% in the right.  It is sad that Christopher Love was executed.  Assuming he was innocent of those charges, exactly how was correspondence with Catholic monarchs in Europe supposed to be viewed by Cromwell?   I say this as someone who loves Thomas Watson, for example.

Works Cited

Coffey, John.  Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History).
Fissell, Mark.  The Bishops’ Wars: Charles I’s Campaigns against Scotland, 1638-1640 (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History).
Grant, Maurice.  The Lion of the Covenant: The Story of Richard Cameron.

D’Aubigne on Cromwell: Review of The Protector

I’ve gone back and forth in my appraisal of Cromwell for over a decade.   His military genius cannot be denied, nor his spirituality.   While one can make a sound case for the execution of Charles I, it still feels “off.”  Many Cromwell supporters have praised D’Aubigne’s biography on Cromwell.  I critically differ.  It is worth reading.  It is pastorally warm and soul-stirring, but D’Aubigne woefully misreads some key details.  Further, I think D’Aubigne’s own analysis is blatantly self-contradictory, as I will demonstrate below.

While D’Aubigne does a fine job with Cromwell’s spirituality and family life, he is very critical of Cromwell’s military life.  Without any argumentation beyond a simplistic appeal to the Sermon on the Mount, D’Aubigne says Cromwell was wrong to resist the king because that is not what Jesus would have done, or something like that.   (D’Aubigne makes the same criticism of Zwingli; cf William Cunningham for a rebuttal).

I was critical of D’Aubigne’s approach to Cromwell when I first began the biography. I still think my criticisms of MD are justified. But here are some wonderful snippets from his biography that are worthy of reflection (and imitation!).
Speaking of Cromwell’s opposition to Turkish Islamism:

He sailed right into the harbor, and though the shore was planted with heavy guns, he burnt nine of the Turkish vessels, and brought the tyrant to reason. But he did not confine himself to this mission: he spread the terror of the English name over all of Italy, even to Rome itself (211).

Cromwell himself reflects on his army,

I raised such men as had the fear of God before them, as made some conscience of what they did; and from that day forward, I must say to you, they were never beaten, and wherever they engaged the enemy, they beat continually (240-241).

D’Aubigne concludes:

Without Cromwell, humanly speaking, liberty would have been lost not only to England, but to Europe (278).


It is logically impossible for D’Aubigne to say (1) Cromwell was wrong as a Christian for going to war but (2) Cromwell is right for bringing liberty to Europe.  Precisely, one may ask, how did Cromwell bring liberty to Europe?  Further, D’Aubigne’s gloss on Matthew 5 effectively guts the whole Christian just-war tradition.