Internalism and Warrant

Some notes in Reformed Epistemology.   Helps to know these ahead of time before reading Plantinga. Parenthetical citations are from Plantinga’s Warrant and Proper Function.

Internalism in epistemology sees warrant as justification.

    • justification is necessary for warrant.
      • satisfaction of epistemic duty.
      • Descartes: epistemic deontologism.
        formation of belief; hence, internal
      • involves a view of cognitive accessibility (36).

Warrant: Objections and Refinements

  • Gettier:  knowledge cannot be just justified, true belief.  A fourth condition is necessary.  Internalist accounts of warrant are fundamentally wanting, thus the continuing epicycles added to the Gettier problem (32).
    • an externalist account of warrant would also take in the “epistemic credentials the proposition you believe has from the person whom you acquired it” (34).
    • credulity is valid when it operates under certain conditions:
  • Gettier’s problems show that even if internalism meets all of its conditions for knowledge, it can still fail to give knowledge.  If my internal cognitive faculties are working, and they arrive at a belief, there are still a number of counters- (ala Gettier) that show it can’t reach knowledge (36-37).  As Plantinga notes, “Justification is insufficient for warrant” (36).

My non-existent neo-Plantingian Interview

This interview never happened.  It is between me and myself.  On a more serious note, I have noticed that my philosophical readings do not fit into any specific category.  That is good, I suppose, since “joining a school” is not the best start.

Question: You read Van Til, doesn’t that make you a Van Tillian?

Answer:  Not really.  I don’t find all of his apologetics convincing, but I do appreciate his reading of Greek and medieval theology.  I think he has a lot of promise in that area.  More importantly, Van Til, better than anyone else at his time, showed the importance of God as a Covenantal, Personal God.

Q.  But didn’t you used to promote Thomas Reid’s Scottish philosophy?  All the Van Tillians I know reject it.

A. There are two different “Van Tillian” answers to that question, and his reconstructionist disciples only knew one of them.  In Survey of Christian Epistemology (p. 132-134) he notes that if the Scottish school takes man’s cognitive faculties as a proximate starting point and not an ultimate one, then there is no real problem.  Further, we see Thomas Reid and Alvin Plantinga saying exactly that.   Elsewhere, however, Van Til was not as careful in his reading of Reid, and the reconstructionists read him as condemning Common Sense Realism.

Q.  So, is there a contradiction between the two schools?

A.  If the above distinction is made, I am not convinced there is.

Q. You keep mentioning Alvin Plantinga.  Are you a Reformed Epistemology guy?

A. I’ve read quite a bit of Wolterstorff and Kelly James Clark.  I like what they have to say.  I am not an expert on Plantinga so I have to demur at that point.  I do think there is a dovetailing between Thomas Reid and Plantinga, and if that convergence holds there is an exciting opportunity to unite Reformed guys along different epistemological and even geographical lines.

Q. What do you mean?

A. The guys in Westminster (either school) claim Van Til.  There is a debate on how well they understand him, but that’s beside the point. I think I have demonstrated above that there is no real contradiction between the two at least on the starting point.  This means that guys who hold to some variant of Common Sense epistemology and/or Van Tillian presuppositionalism do not have to be at loggerheads.

Q.  There is still one other Dutch giant you haven’t mentioned.

A.  You mean Herman Dooyeweerd, right?

Q. Correct.

A.  If you trace the development of the Reformed Epistemology school, you can find something like Dooyeweerd at the very beginning.  When Wolterstorff and Plantinga edited Faith and Rationality, they were at that time strongly influenced by Dooyeweerd. I am not saying that’s where they are today.   However, I do believe that Dooyeweerd’s contention that all men have a pre-theoretical “faith commitment” from the heart is in line with what Kelly James Clark and Van Til say about pretended neutrality.

More on the so-called Hellenic divide

I’ve never said that the Hebrew language is ontically different from the Greek language, and hence superior. Apostle Paul delivered the most devastating criticisms of Greek philosophy in the Greek language.

Rather, I am thinking in more of–hmm, I don’t want to use the term “worldview.” That is a bit overused and I suggest even “Greeky.” For some reason the phrase “social knowing” is coming to mind (I think it is the title of Pinkard’s book on Hegel). It’s not perfect and I can think of a few flaws, but it is okay enough. Keep in mind that Descartes said to get to truth he had to isolate himself in his apartment.

Below I want to offer some observations.

1. The Hebrew word for “knowing” can also be used of sexual intercourse (yada). Is knowing communal and interpersonal? Rossenstock-Huessy thought so. Jewish thinkers like Buber and Heschel picked up this as well.

1a. If knowing is communal in general, then is proper knowing also covenantal? Michael Horton suggests that the proper response to the Speaking Covenant Lord is “Here I am.” (The Christian Faith, 86-87, 95)

Excursus: Did Vos really say there was a difference between Hebrew and Greek thought? Not really. Vos simply quoted Plato and compared it with the prophets. He writes,

According to the former, “to know” means to mirror the reality of a thing in one’s consciousness. The Shemitic and biblical idea is to have the reality of something practically interwoven (Biblical Theology, 8).

Abraham Heschel writes,

Plato lets Socrates ask: What is Good? But Moses’s question was: what does God require of thee? (God in Search of Man, 98).

Survey Christian Epistemology: The Greeks

Abstractness and Greek Epistemology

For Plato “abstract” is the opposite of empirical (33).  The sense-world is associated with ultimate plurality.  It is the world of “Becoming.” Because all is in flux, there is no unity in the sense world.  It can only find its unity in the world of ideals.

But the world of Ideas cannot solve the problem of knowledge, either.  Further,  Which Idea is most ultimate and why?  It appears then that the world of Ideas has a diversity in it as well.  The world of the ideas, on the other hand, is Absolute and unchanging.  To which world, then, does the soul belong?

If the soul belongs to the world of Ideals, and as such is eternal, then why did it leave it that world in the first place?

Who Can Think in Eternal categories?

We can’t use temporal categories to talk about the non-temporal world.  Further, we can’t use eternal categories to talk about the temporal world, since the former are immutable and the later mutable.  We need a God who can reveal this manner of speaking to us.

Shakespeare: Towards a Merry Protestantism

Some thoughts on Much Ado About Nothing:

Peter Leithart suggests that in understanding “Nothing” one should draw a circle. Inside the circle is “reality.” Outside the circle is anything that is possible but having not actually happened yet. In that case it is “nothing.” They are situations that do not correspond (as of yet) to reality. Benedict and Beatrice are told that the one loves the other, although this is not true. They then base their actions on these inaccurate reports.  Ironically, it ends well.

Because of this, we see that ethics follows epistemology. They are basing their actions on what they know.

The tale itself is rather delightful and the narrative is much smoother and more “natural” than Romeo and Juliet, for instance. Dogberry may be one of the most wonderful characters in all of literature.

The earthy Protestant overtones can be seen in the sexual innuendo, albeit one that usually points towards marriage.  As with true comedy, it ends in a marriage (is this not eschatology:  the wedding of the Lamb?).   It is very interesting to see that the Reformed Protestantism in which Shakespeare found his culture (leaving aside the usual Puritan frowning upon theatre) allowed this story to go in a different way from both earlier Christian narratives and tragic pagan ones:  the end of comedy is marriage, not the monastery.  The book is rife with sexual innuendo.  Michael Scott doesn’t hold a candle!  Even without the critical apparatus I knew very well what they were saying.  What is interesting, though, is that this innuendo is usually aimed towards marriage, not fornication.   We see here a Puritan delight in sexuality.

Barth, the Protestant Scholastics, and a critical appropriation

Last year I was very vocal on the importance of recovering the Protestant Scholastics for today.  Recently, however, many of my posts and much of my reading has seemed slightly pro-Barth.  Does this mean I have rejected the Scholastics and become a Barthian?  Of course not.  One should never reject a foundation (and correspondingly, it is doubtful Barth could provide one).  I remained convinced as ever that the lack of knowledge in Protestant scholasticism represents a gaping wound in Reformed discourse today (not least of all Reformed publishing).

Here is the problem: we live in a post-Kantian, post-Hegelian, post-Heideggerian world.  We have to meet people (epistemologically) where they are.  Barth can do this.  Barth’s strength lies in a philosophical awareness of where modernity was heading.  Barth can guide us in a philosophical critique while while we can simultaneously avoid his theology.   Even N.T. Wright admits that little of Barth’s exegesis has stood the test of time, so we have nothing to fear from that front.

Therefore, for those who can take it, Barth can guide us into a philosophical critique. What I mean by that is Barth does a very good job in clarifying challenges from and to modernity.  This does not mean we should endorse his theology, but neither does it mean we should hysterically over-react.  We live in an age where we can not simply chant platitudes.  This is most evident in my recent conversations on Orthodox Bridge. I try to get behind the discourse of “We have apostolic succession and the church fathers agree with us” and focus on actual logical arguments.  In fact, when I bring up Turretin and Muller, they get very annoyed.  They won’t touch these guys with a ten foot pole.

Epistemology, Trinitarian Distinctions, and the Divine Decree

(The Reformed structure this discussion) “Around the epistemological problem of the finitum no capax infiniti and its resolution in the explication of the eternal decree and its execution of the sovereign will of God in and for the temporal economy. Here we see both a statement of the non capax and an approach to the divine relatedness: the mind cannot conceive of the way in which the attributes belong to the utter simplicity of the divine essence; nonetheless, the distinct attributes are correctly distinguished by reason in the effects and operations of God in the world—and these effects and operations rightly and genuinely reveal the identity of God, indeed, the invisible essence of the utterly simple Godhead. The effect of this distinction, like the effect of the distinction between the decree and the execution, is to direct attention away from the divine essence toward the divine economy” (298).

Again, I am amazed at how the Reformed orthodox interweave epistemology, (Christology), trinitarian distinctions, and predestination in one fell move.  If we begin with the Creator-creature distinction, then we necessarily have the archetypal-ectypal distinction.  If we have the ectypal distinction, then we realize that we can never give adequate and full accounts of how their can be distinctions in the divine essence.  Yet God has not left us in the dark.   We can see distinctions in God’s operations toward us in the world.   These are the outworking of God’s decree.  Yet, if there is an outworking of the decree, it logically follows that there is a divine decree.

Christological issues of the Supper aside, this is the second most reason I am Reformed:  ectypal theology.  People will ask, “Yeah, but how do you know you are elect?”  If we begin with the understanding of ectypal theology, then we can begin to answer this question (though I doubt any answer I give will satisfy the interlocutor)..  I can not “know” in the sense of having ultimate, archetypal knowledge (and to seek such is sinful).  I can know, however, based on the understanding of God’s providence and execution of the decree (and issues of Christ, the Supper, Church discipline).  The problem is that the interlocutor has presuppositionally denied any predestination by God, so dialogue is fruitless.

This is also another reason why I read Orthodoxy so sympathetically, yet ultimately rejected it.  I liked the way they rejected the Romanist reading of absolute divine simplicity and seeking the knowledge of God in his operations and energies.  Yet problems remained. I couldn’t find a satisfactory account of foreknowledge and predestination that did not lead to open theism.  And even the energies was problematic:  while it is true we know God by his outworkings to us (emininter and virtualiter) in the ad extra, this is not exactly the same thing that the Eastern Orthodox were claiming.  They were claiming that we know God by the peri ton theon and the logoi around God.  It’s hard to see how this isn’t any less speculative than Thomas’s beatific vision.

Answering the Anchorites

This project has been a long time in coming.  Anchoretic apologists have been initially successful in picking off Reformed students by using a series of Trinitarian and Christological arguments.  In short, the Reformed students are (supposedly) faced with the implications of what they believe about necessity and how this is (supposedly) at odds with conciliar Christology.   The average Reformed student has no chance whatsoever of answering these challenges, if current seminary models are still valid.  There are two ways of dealing with these challenges:   1) simply pretend to be ignorant.  This really isn’t a bad method.  Most of these Anchorites (most but not all) aren’t that much more philosophically advanced than the Reformed student.  So all that the Reformed guy has to say is, “Hmm…show me.”    More often that not, that works.    Still the challenges must be faced.   The following challenges (and answers thereto) are based from numerous conversations with Anchorites.  They really aren’t based on any definitive literature because there isn’t any definitive literature that truly understands Calvinism.  Maybe that will change in the near future.

Anchorite challenge 1:  Isn’t the Reformed faith Nestorian?   Rushdoony and A.A. Hodge fell into Nestorianism.  The WCF 8.2 says that the person of Christ is divine and human.

Response ~1: Rushdoony doesn’t speak for the Reformed faith.   For over ten years he willingly cut himself off from any communion.    Hodge spoke too loosely and no one at the time really understood what Nestorius was saying, as McGuckin later demonstrates.   As to the Confession, if this is a claim to a Nestorian Christology, it is a very vague and weak claim.  I suppose  What does the Confession mean about the Person being “divine and human?”   It really doesn’t specify.   The most common interpretation is that the person has both divine and human elements to it.   This isn’t that much different from Maximus the Confessor confessing a synthetic Christ (cf. Von Balthasar, The Cosmic Liturgy).

Anchorite Challenge 2:  But doesn’t the Reformed faith deny a communication of attributes?  This means there is no communion between the two natures, and such a denial is a Nestorian separation.

Response ~2:   The Reformed do not deny a communication; we simply deny a 1:1 switch-over between the two natures.   Rather, we assert that the two natures are communicated to the Person.  If the Reformed (and generally Western) position is not held, and the two natures communicate their propria to each other, then they lose any real human or divine identity.   You can assert Nestorian all you want, but from our position all we see of you is Eutychianism.  Sure, this is a Western Christology.  We don’t hide it.  Unfortunately, we do not see anchorites trying to understand what legitimate concerns the Reformed have.  None has said it better than Richard Muller,

The Christological problem follows the [epistemological issue]:  if the human nature of Jesus, as finite, is in capable in itself of comprehending the infinite knowledge of the theologia archetypa[think of the simple divine mind, admitting no real distinctions], then any equation of the theologia unionis [for our present purpose, think the communication of attributes; BH] with archetypal theology must involve some alteration of the human nature of Jesus.  For Jesus to be possessed of an infinite divine wisdom according to his humanity, there would have to be either a communication of divinity to humanity or a transference of divine attributes to Jesus’ humanity within the hypostatic union (Muller, PRRD I: 250]

We must add one more thing:  if the Eutychian communicatio is true, then it’s hard to understand why Christ had to be anointed by the Holy Spirit and receive said gifts.

Anchorite Challenge 3:  You believe in necessity, do you not?  So, on your view is Christ’s human nature determined by his divine nature?

Response ~3:   This is one of those times where you just press them to define their terms.  When I hear the word necessity, I reach for my pistol.  Okay, maybe I don’t, but the point is that necessity has a loaded vocabulary.  Since I am representing Reformed theology, I get to define what necessity means (and doesn’t mean) according to Reformed sources.  Fair?  Reformed Orthodoxy makes a distinction between the necessity of consequence and the necessity of the consequent.   The former is how contingent events fall out in God’s providence.  They will happen, given what events came before them, but not absolutely.   As Muller says, it is a conditional necessity.  “The conditions that create [necessitate?  BH] that circumstance are themselves conditional” (Muller Dictionary, 200).  By contrast, the necessity of the consequent is an absolute necessity (like the opera ad intra).  Therefore, to answer the question, even though I think the question is badly misleading, the human nature follows the divine nature in terms of a necessity of consequence.

But even saying that, I simply have not read in any serious Reformed sources anything like the above charge.

Anchorite Challenge 3b:  How can you speak of natures determining?  Isn’t that Manicheanism?

Response ~3b:  All we mean by that is no nature against the terms that definite that nature, not even God.  This is standard theological fare (cf. Muller, ibid 200).  I remember listening to a Our Life in Christ podcast on the Essence and Energies (#4) and they came very close to positing a schizophrenic God.   They admitted that God’s nature doesn’t change, but then asserted that predestination isn’t true because God relates to us as a person, not a nature.   I suppose on one level God indeed does relate to us as a person, but I shudder to think of a disjunction between person and nature.

Anchorite challenge 3c:  Isn’t that monoenergism, since the human will of Christ doesn’t act freely?

Response ~3c:  No.  Given what we believe about the necessity of the consequence, we allow for freedom.  Let me explain.  Reformed scholasticism speaks of a liberum arbitrium, a freedom of choice.   We believe that the faculty of will (voluntas) is itself free and not prey to the bondage to which human nature fell (Muller 176).  We maintain that the human will is free from external constraint and imposed necessity.  The so-called lack of freedom is the limitation of choice.
How does this relate to Christ’s two wills?  I don’t know, but I think I have demonstrated that that the human nature isn’t “bad” on the Reformed gloss.

Anchorite Challenge 4:  But surely you Reformed speak of a sinful nature, right?

Response ~4: This might be somewhat our fault.  Our humanity has a sin nature accidentally, not substantially.  It’s been easier in discourse to simply say “fallen nature,” or something like that.    Casualty of war, I suppose.

 

Review Bavinck Prolegomena

Bavinck’s project consists of drawing upon the strengths of the Magisterial Protestants while formulating theology in response to the modernist crisis of his day.  To do so, he realized he could not slavishly mimic older platitudes and simply “hope for the best.”   Bavinck represents a very exciting yet somewhat embarrassing hero for modern Calvinists.  Exciting, because his work is simply awesome and coming into English for the first time ever.  Embarrassing, because modern Calvinists generally dislike the movement “neo-Calvinism,” yet Bavinck is the unofficial godfather of it.

Bavinck takes the traditional terminology of principia, yet in the background is an ever-present urgency to respond to modernism.   Therefore, he takes the terminology and reframes it around the neo-Calvinist slogan, “Grace restores Nature.”  There is an antithesis and dualism, to be sure, but it is not between nature and grace, but sin and grace.

Principia

God himself is the principle of existence for theology (principium essendi).  Objective revelation of God in Christ is recorded in the Scriptures and this is the external source of knowledge (externum principium cognoscendi).   The Holy Spirit is the iternal source of knowledge.   This leads Bavinck to a line he repeats throughout the book:  there must be a corresponding internal organ to receive the external revelation.  This anticipates the later Reformed Epistemology school.

Contrary to the convertskii, everyone’s reception and evaluation of his or her ultimate authority will be subjective in some sense.   One often hears the refrain, “You Protestants make yourself the Pope and judge of authority while we simply submit to the Church.”  Unfortunately, at one time this convertskii had to make a decision–using his own sinful Western-influenced reason–between Rome, EO, Assyrian Orthodoxy, Monophysitism and Nestorianism.  Whatever the external source of knowledge-the Church, God’s Revelation, etc.–the religious subject will have to respond to it.  Since the subject is responding, the response and evaluation is, quite naturally, subjective.   Bavinck hits a grand slam on this point.

Circular Reasoning and First Principles

Bavinck does not try to hide the fact of circular reasoning.  He asserts, quite rightly, that first principles in any science are by definition circular.  If they were proven by other principles, they would not be first principles!  With this acknowledged, Romanism and Orthodoxy are in no better position than Protestantism.  Positing either the Pope or the Church as the external principle of knowledge is highly laughable–and bears witness to my argument given that few even try to do that.

Towards the Future of Reformed Epistemology and Apologetics

It’s obvious that Van Til read Bavinck.  It is also obvious, if perhaps less so, that the Reformed Epistemologists follow in Bavinck’s train.   It’s interesting that while Van Til drew heavily from Bavinck, I don’t think they are always saying the same thing on apologetics.   Bavinck used the categories of presuppositionalism, but he knew when to stop the train.  I think he kept himself from many of what would later be some of Van Til’s errors, or at least weak points.

Criticisms

The book isn’t always easy to read.  If the reader does not have a background heavy in European Rationalism, many of Bavinck’s sparring partners will be over one’s head.  Conversely, if one does have such a background in those disciplines, then there is little point to read Bavinck on them, since he is merely given a cursory reading of them.

The day bourgeoisie Reformed thought failed

Iain Murray wrote a book titled The Day Church and State Failed.  I don’t really know what it is about, but I will borrow the title.  I am trying to figure out why I ditched middle-of-the road “vanilla Presbyterianism” and read Eastern Orthodoxy so sympathetically?

My senior year in college I was thoroughly imbibing the biographies and writings of the Scottish Covenanters.  I listened to all of Joe Morecraft’s lectures on the History of the Reformation.  These lectures, I might add, were wildly theocratic.   Yes, I was a theonomist, and I do reject theonomy now.   (However, it must be said that the Reformed community never came up with a response to theonomy that didn’t sound like either pure Dispensationalism or the Platform for the Democratic National Convention. )  This caused me no small grief in seminary.

Before I start bashing RTS, which I intend to do mercilessly, I need to first say where I was wrong and wrong-headed.  I was wrong on theonomy (though RTS certainly was not right on the matter, being quasi-dispensational).  Still, I went to seminary thinking we would carry on the great, magisterial Presbyterian tradition.  I thought we would thoroughly read and pass down the teachings found in Dabney, Rutherford, the parts of Calvin no one wants to talk about (Sermons on Deuteronomy and Book IV chapter 20 of The Institutes).

I was underwhelmed upon arrival.   The campus was still in a hang-up over theonomy and the Federal Vision controversy was raging.   On one hand, there felt an air of suspicion of whom you could quote as a source and not be seen as a Federal Visionist or theonomist (I quoted Berkhof in a covenant theology paper, but deliberately left the name blank, and the prof said i was using “federal vision” theology.   Seriously).  I do almost understand their fear/paranoia.  Fifteen years ago a Jackson pastor became a theonomist and shot an abortionist.   I guess most of the people in Jackson had trouble making distinctions.

In any case, the fear of theonomy precluded them from truly appreciating their Reformed heritage.    If theonomy is so evil, what do we make of John Knox, George Gillespie, Samuel Rutherford, Thornwell, and the parts of Calvin we don’t like (Servetus, anyone?).  Now, I reject theonomy simply because the exegesis “almost works, but not quite.”  Anyway, the moral vision of the Covenanters and even men like Gustavus Adolphus give you roughly the same thing without all the grief.

But politics isn’t the gospel and the preaching ministry, one might object.  And they are correct.  However, the presuppositions behind these objections carry over into other areas.   The presuppositions more often than not reveal a post-Jeffersonian view of America that is wildly at odds with historic Reformed teaching (remember the changes to the Confession?).  The presuppositions reveal an underlying “Americanism” that will condition the rest of one’s framework.  Among other things, this will subtly redefine what it meant to be Reformed (I realize how silly that sentence is because in the Federal Vision debate, everyone accused each other of doing that, yet none could demonstrate that).

I’ll expand upon that last claim.  I am taking Reformed as largely meaning those who come from the magisterial Reformation and in some sense seek to embody those principles (including that of the civil magistrate!!) in their faith and spirituality today.   (As a result, Baptists can claim to be four or five point Calvinists, but not really Reformed.).  Among other things, this will also include a magisterial defense of these principles.  Inability on the latter is not that great a fault (it is if you are a prof, though).  Inability on the former is a culpable fault.

The Reasons I am staying in the Magisterial Protestant Tradition

Eastern Orthodoxy, especially for those whose worldview has been shattered by Reformed ineptitude, is a powerful attraction.  While I’ve sung its praises in the past, here are the reasons I will not go (for now; unless I am convinced by reason and plain scripture, etc).  Some of these reasons are my own reflections.  Others are taken from Drake, whose tone I don’t always appreciate nor am I using his arguments in the same way, but I will give credit where credit is due.

  1. The EO argument against Sola Scriptura backfires and becomes a good argument against reading the Scripture in light of the Fathers.  Yes, the fathers were holy men and we should read Scripture in light of the Fathers. I myself have read about 5000 double-columned pages of the Fathers.  Here’s the problem:   when the Fathers say things that are mutually exclusive–like when Athanasius says the Son is begotten of the essence and the Cappadocians say the Son is begotten of the Father–who adjudicates?  Who is right?  We can’t say we have to interpret the two passages in light of the Patrum Consensus, because these two passages are themselves part of the same Consensus.   Orthodox apologists have said we have to interpret the fathers in light of the church councils.  Great.  Which church council adjudicates these two fathers?
  2. John 6 speaks of limited atonement.   2 Peter 2:1 seems to deny it.  How shall we decide which is right?  Orthodox and Catholic apologists love to say “what good is an infallible bible without an infallible interpreter?”  This claim, practically speaking, is useless.  The Church has not given us anything like a list of infallibly interpreted verses.
  3. The idea of doctrinal development and liturgical development is inevitable.  While I agree with the Christology behind 2nd Nicea, the fact remains that there aren’t any defenses and presentations of iconodulism in the early Fathers.  yes, I know about Dora Europa.  That, however, is not a passage from the fathers. It is a picture on a wall.  Most importantly, it is not functioning as the Patrum Consensus.
  4. Great heroes like Fr Seraphim Rose warned against basing theology and liturgy on private visions.   What do we do about several prayers to the Theotokos?  These date from the 9th century and seem to come from a vision.  Yet, as Fr Seraphim rightly points out (and one can only think of the Fatima vision), this principle is highly dangerous theology.
  5. On the practical side, I have to think of my family’s well-being.  The local Greek parish, the only option for 200 miles, is a handful of people, the service is mostly in Greek, and there is deliberately no preaching.   Good theology aside, this isn’t good for my family’s spiritual development, to which I, the father, have been entrusted to guard.
  6. That and the Ecumenical Patriarchate has always remained too close to the higher levels of Freemasonry.  Sharing the Eucharist with a Freemason, or with a jurisdiction that tolerates Freemasonry, is sharing and communing with Freemasonry.
  7. EO requires the convert to renounce his former theology and theologizing.  Yet, it is those very things that would have led me to EO.  Therefore, I have to condemn the road that led me here.
  8. St Ignatius of Antioch said to join a schismatic is to lose the Kingdom of God.   Well, did ROCOR “schism” from Moscow Patriarchate?  I agree with their reasonings, but it still kind of looks like a schisming from the Established Church.   Few, however, will deny that St John of Shanghai is not going to inherit the Kingdom of God.
  9. I have other reasons concerning the various jurisdictions and how that isn’t working in America, but I’ll save that for later.

Can American Reformed Thought be Salvaged?

It doesn’t seem likely, but we’ll try.  If American Reformed thought wants to maintain its identity in the face of a distinction-eroding American culture, it must consider the following options.

  1. Go back to the original confession on the civil magistrate.  This will provide a safeguard against the worst aspects of American culture.
  2. The seminary education in the South needs to be revamped whole-scale.  When I saw a youth minister out-debate a Reformed professor of 20+ years on the doctrine of sola scriptura, I knew that the Reformed world would be in for some rough treatment if this were the norm.    How should the professor have handled himself?  He should have relied on the arguments from Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics.   It’s not just a series of books.  It’s an outlook.  The key principle is the archetype-ectype theology.  God’s principium essendi is the archetype.  God’s principle of essence (call it aseity, simplicity, whatever).   Such a God can only make himself known through Revelation, which is the principium cognescendi of theology.  This is only an example of a deeper problem.
  3. The problem is that Reformed people really don’t care about their roots in the magisterial and scholastic Reformation. I was interested in Eastern orthodoxy for so many years simply because reading the current Reformed world, and examining major Reformed seminaries in the South left me with the only conclusion that the Reformation in America had failed.   I was wrong, of course, but I was working on very good (available) evidence.
  4. Continuing the Reformation can work provided we draw upon stronger Reformed sources.   I have in mind the men in Muller’s four volume work.  This means the seminaries need to have a stronger emphasis on Reformed scholasticism, the Scottish Reformation (I don’t remember the Solemn League and Covenants ever being mentioned), and the strong moral and political vision found in men like Hodge, Dabney, and Thornwell.   A thorough diet of these men can help the young minister not only explain his faith, but explain the internal causal connections of his faith (that is what made Dabney so great).  If someone can explain the internal connections, then he knows his faith and won’t be shaken.  Someone–and institutions–that simply parrot pop “Reformed” arguments by big-city preachers won’t last five minutes against Dave Hodges or Perry Robinson.

What should the seminaries do?

  1. My immediate thought was “shut down.”  But anyway, they need to revamp the entire project and give stronger emphasis on historical theology.  Yeah, we were told how cool it would be to just focus on Hebrew and Greek and one day we would be able to do our quiet times in Greek.  That’s wonderful.   We also missed out on most of the Reformed heroes.
  2. I suspect that one could integrate historical theology and epistemology in one project.   Keep in mind that the archetype/ectype distinction covers both.
  3. Get rid of most “adjunct professors” who are actually pastors and best friends with the Board of Trustees.  I understand you are saving money, but at the cost of a good education.  You haven’t been in a seminary class until you’ve seen the “professor” literally go insane and call you (and your pastor, and your pastor friend at the church you are attending) a “homosexual Marxist feminist” because you believed in theonomy (if you are scratching your head about the relevance, don’t bother).  The next best thing was watching your friends leave the class and just holler the “F” word because it was so bad.
  4. While you might think it is nostalgic to have a deep South school that is nothing more than a “preacher mill,” the implications are actually quite bad.  Because the focus of some of these institutions is simply to “churn out pastors,” the grading scale is quite insane and at the detriment of the student’s future goals.  If you are simply going to be a pastor at Bodunk Presbterian Church in Tarwater, MS, then you don’t need no fancy schooling beyond a Master’s.  So what that we gave you a D- on a B- paper?  Passing is passing and Old Aunt Bessie May on the front pew don’t care.    Well, she might not care but the Admissions Office at a PhD school will care.  I actually got denied for the first grad school I applied to after RTS because they didn’t understand that 1) RTS was on crack, and 2), like Law Schools, the grading scale isn’t 1:1.   Why is this a problem?  Well, it is keeping young minds from getting PhDs and defending the very faith that someone forgot to do.

Difficulties (still) with Calvinism

I am not ready to affirm a full-orbed Confessionalism (though I am probably more Confessional than Yankee PCA pastors).

  1. While I affirm predestination, I do not read Election the way the “U” in TULIP reads it.  Every time “elect’ is mention in the OT it is mentioned as “elected unto service.”  And before you quote Romans 9, even apostate Israel was “elect.”
  2. I would take an exception on images of Christ.  Mind you, I don’t have any icons in my house of Christ.  I don’t venerate them.   But I agree with Rushdoony:  an Incarnation that cannot be demonstrated is a contradiction in terms.
  3. I agree with rulership by elders, but the word “bishops” is also used in the NT and it doesn’t always mean “elders.”  If it did, why bother using two different words?
  4. I can agree with imputation provided it is first grounded in union with Christ.  Otherwise it is a legal fiction.
  5. I agree with justification by faith alone 100%.  But when Paul is worrying about the gospel  being threatened in Galatians, he and Peter are talking about table fellowship and who is a member of the covenant, not Roman catholic works righteousness.
  6. As to the presence of Christ at the Supper and the Person of Christ, I am with the Lutherans on this one.  I won’t drop the Nestorian bomb anymore, but I have my own issues with WCF 8.2.