Union with Christ: Letham (5)

Transformation.

Lane Tipton: “Union with Christ allows Paul to speak in relational and judicial categories simultaneously, without conflating either into the other.”  “Union with Christ and Justification,” in Justified in Christ: God’s Plan for us in Justification, ed. K. Scott Oliphant (Fearn, Ross-Shire, UK: Mentor, 2007), 38.

Jesus’s resurrection is a forensic verdict (Horton).

Ordo Salutis

Explores Gaffin’s comments on the ordo.

Theosis

Humans remain human while deified.  “It is union and communion with the persons of the Trinity” (92).  While Letham is giving the East a fair reading, it must be acknowledged that the Palamite strands of Eastern Orthodoxy revert to an impersonal, energetic union.  See the comments by Vladimir Moss.  Romanides writes, “But in Patristic tradition, God is not a personal God. In fact, God is not even God. God does not correspond to anything we can conceive or would be able to conceive,” Patristic Theology (Uncut Mountain Press: Dalles, Oregon, 2008), pp. 139-140.

What is truly meant by the Athanasian claim that “man becomes God?”   According to Norman Russell, “It is either to emphasize the glorious destiny originally intended for the human race, or to explain that the biblical references to ‘gods’ do not encroach upon the uniqueness of the Word made flesh” (Letham 92-93, quoting Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition, 168).   If that is all that is meant, then the Reformed tradition has no real argument, but would better see that under the teaching of “glorification.”

Metochoi (Partakers):  we are called to glory.  This is not alien to Reformed thought but sometimes it doesn’t receive enough attention.  It would be interesting to link this with the OT concept of the glory-cloud.  Points to our destiny.

Letham then quotes numerous sources (almost to overkill) pointing out that the Reformed had a rich and nuanced appreciation of Union with Christ (102-122).

  • Per Calvin, the Spirit unites the spatial difference between us and Christ in the Eucharist (Comm., 11 Corinthians; CO, 49:487, in Letham, 105; see also Institutes, 4.17.10).  “That a life-giving power from the flesh of Christ is poured into us through the medium of the Spirit, even though it is at a great distance from us, and is not mixed with us.”  Here Letham seems to contradict part of his narrative.   He notes (correctly) for Calvin that we participate in God’s attributes, not his being (107).  However, earlier he said that the Greek (Palamite?) view does not see theosis as participation in God’s attributes (92, “Nor, on the other hand, is it simply communion with God’s attributes.”  If, however, Letham means for the East that the communion with the persons is also a communion with the attributes, then there is no real contradiction.  Even still, I have my doubts that the East can truly avoid collapsing the communion with the Persons into a communion with the energies (see comments by Moss and Jenson).
  • Contra detractors, Calvin affirms that the body and blood of Christ are substantially offered.  He simply explains the mode: the Holy Spirit transfuses the flesh of Christ to us (Theological Treatises, 267).  We just reject a local presence.
  • Letham is aware of the Nestorian charge and sense that Calvin drifted there at times, given his comments on 1 Corinthians 15:27-28.   But see Richard Muller’s response to Jurgen Moltmann on that point.
  • Per Polanus there is a real sacramental union and a conjunction between signum and res.

While there are suggestions that Calvin was close to the East, I think Letham overplays that point (115).  However, Letham is correct to criticize Michael Horton’s claim that we participate in the energies of Christ (Horton, Covenant and Salvation, 285, 302). The East does not mean by energies what Horton means by it.

Review of Hodge’s 3 Volumes

Charles Hodge is the highpoint of American theology. While Dabney searched deeper into the issues, Hodge’s position (if only because the North won) allowed him a wider influence. Thornwell was the more brilliant orator and Palmer the greater preacher, but Hodge was the teacher and systematician. Of the Princetonians Hodge is supreme. His writing style is smoother than Warfield’s and he is deeper than his predecessors.

We rejoice that Hendrickson Publishing is issuing these three volumes at $30. Even with the page-length quotations in Latin, Hodge is strong where American Christianity is weak. A renaissance in Hodge would reinvigorate discussions about epistemology, the doctrine of God and God’s knowledge, justification, and God’s law. We will look at Hodge’s discussion of epistemology, doctrine of God, human nature (including both sin and free volition), soteriology, and ethics.

Common Sense Realism
Far from stultifying the gospel, Hodge’s position safeguards the reliability of “truth-speak” and if taken seriously today, adds another angle to the “convert” phenomenon. A properly basic belief is one that doesn’t need another belief for justification. I’m not so sure if Hodge is making that claim. However, he does anticipate some of Plantinga’s positions by saying that God so constituted our nature to believe x, y, and z. My aim is to show from Hodge’s own words that our cognitive faculties are (1) reliable and (2) made so by God. I will advance upon Hodge’s conclusions: a commoner can read the Bible and get the general “gist” of it apart from an infallible interpreting body. Secondly, to deny the above point attacks the image of God. Thirdly, to deny the above point is to reduce all to irrationality. The practical application: Those who deny this position often find themselves looking for “absolute” and infallible arbiters of the faith. Such a position denies a key aspect of our imago dei.

“Any doctrine [and Hodge is using this word in the technical sense of philosophic and/or scientific beliefs], therefore, which contradicts the facts of consciousness, or the laws of belief which God has impressed upon our nature, must be false” (I: 215).

“Our knowledge of mind, therefore, as a thinking substance, is the first and most certain, and the most indestructible of all forms of knowledge; because it is involved in self-knowledge…which is the indispensable condition of all knowledge” (I: 277).

It is interesting to note his reference to self-knowledge. One is reminded of Calvin’s duplex cognito dei.

Doctrine of God

…[S]tart with the revelation that God has made of himself in the constitution of our own nature and in his holy word. This method leads to the conclusion that God can think and act, that in him essence and attributes are not identical (I: 564).

It’s also interesting to note Hodge’s comment about God constituting our nature in a certain way. Shades of Thomas Reid.

“To say, as the schoolmen, and so many even of Protestant theologians, ancient and modern, were accustomed to say, that the divine attributes differ only in name, or in our conceptions, or in their effects, is to destroy all true knowledge of God…If in God knowledge is identical with eternity, knowledge with power, power with ubiquity, and ubiquity with holiness, then we are using words without meaning (I: 371-372).

The attributes of God, therefore, are not merely different conceptions in our minds, but different modes in which God reveals himself to his creatures…just as our several faculties are different modes in which the inscrutable substance self reveals itself in our consciousness and acts (I: 374).

So what do we mean by simplicity? Rome has a thorough, if ultimately chaotic, answer to this question. Orthodoxy has an outstanding response to Rome, but nothing in terms of a constructive view of Simplicity. Following Turretin, Hodge writes,

The attributes are to be distinguished not realiter, but;”virtualiter, that is, there is a real foundation in the divine nature for the several attributes attributed to him (I: 370).

What does virtualiter mean?
Richard Muller defines it as “literally, i.e., with virtue or power” (Muller 371).

It’s interesting that Muller mentioned “power.” This corresponds with Radde-Galwitz’s interpretation of Gregory of Nyssa. Alluding to Michel Barnes he notes that divine power is the causal capacity rooted in the divine nature; inseparable from the divine nature and gives rise to the divine energies (Barnes 183). Further, each “Good” (or attribute, in our case) entails another.

Human Nature
Charles Hodge’s key argument regarding the free will controversy is this: does infallible certainty of a future event destroy human liberty? He answers no. Hodge gives a lengthy explanation that the Reformed tradition can maintain free agency, yet God’s foreknowledge of future actions is not threatened (Hodge, II: 296-304). Part of his discussion is labored and a bit confusing, for he realizes that “free will” has as many glosses as it does adherents. He explains what is and is not meant by “free will.”

I do not always agree with his defining of the terms. He lists the three options: necessity (fatalism), contingency (free-willism) and certainty (Reformed and Augustinianism). My problem with Hodge’s list is that traditional Reformed orthodoxy made a distinction between the necessity of the consequent (absolute necessity as pertaining to God ad intra) and necessity of the consequent thing (conditional necessity). My problem with his term “contingency” is that it risks confusion: God is a necessary being; man is a contingent one. It is evident, though, that Hodge makes clear he means the semi-Pelagian options. He does advance the discussion forward, though, with his use of the term “certainty.” Hodge is content to show that opponents of the Reformed system cannot demonstrate a contradiction between the proposition “all events are foreknown by God and will happen with certainty,” and the proposition, “Man can make rational choices apart from absolute necessity.” Hodge lists several metaphysical and biblical examples. God is a most perfect being. This is a certainty (else we are doomed!), yet few will argue that God’s liberty is impinged. Jesus’s crucifixion was foreknown in the mind of God, yet the Roman soldiers sinned most freely.

This raises an interesting issue: many semi-Pelagians try to duck the Reformed charge by saying, “God simply foresees who will believe and elects them based on his foreseeing their believing.” Besides being a crass works-righteousness, does this really solve the problem? Is their belief any less certain? If the semi-Pelagian argues that election is God’s foreseeing their faith, then we must ask if this is a certain action? It’s hard to see how they can say no. If they do affirm that it is certain, then they must at least agree (hypothetically) with the Reformed gloss that certainty does not destroy free agency.

So what does it mean for a man to act “freely.” Few people on either side ever define this satisfactorily. Hodge loosely follows the standard Reformed gloss: the will follows the intellect (which is assumed to be fallen). Man can be said to act freely if he acts naturally: man acts according to the way he was created (II: 304).

Imputation

One of the objections to the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ is that the transfer of guilt (ours/Adam’s) and/or the transfer of righteousness (Christ’s) is morally and legally impossible. Hodge answers:

“The transfer of guilt or righteousness, as states of consciousness or forms of moral character, is indeed impossible. But the real transfer of guilt as”a responsibility to justice, and as righteousness which satisfies that justice,’ is no more impossible than that one man should pay the debt of another. All that the bible teaches on the subject is that Christ paid as a substitute our debt to the justice of God” (II: 540-541).

Justification
Vol. 3: 114ff

Hodge gives a wonderful and penetrating treatment on justification. He notes that The nature of the act of justification Does not produce subjective change. It is an Act of God not in his character of sovereign but in character of judge (speech-act?)

Includes both pardon and declaration that believer is just in the sight of the law. It is not saying that the believer is morally just in terms of character. The believer is just in relation to the law–guilt is expiated (120). It is not mere pardon: sinner’s guilt is expiated (125). Mere Pardon does not produce reconciliation (128).

Scriptural usage:
Dt 25:1. Judge pronounces a judgment. He does not effect a character change. Condemnation is the opposite of justify. A sentence of condemnation does not effect an evil character change. Thus, if sentence of condemnation is judicial act, so is justification (123).

Romanist Views
Infusion of righteousness does nothing for guilt (though possibly they would say the guilt is washed away in baptism). Accordingly, justification does nothing for the satisfaction of justice. Even if the Romanist claim that justification makes me holy were true, I would still be liable to justice (133).

Satisfaction of Justice
An adequate theory of justification must account for satisfying justice (130). Nothing “within” me can do that.

Works of the Law
Scripture never designates specifically “what kind of works” (137). The word “law” is used in a comprehensive sense. Nomos binds the heart–law of nature. Not ceremonial. Paul says “thou shalt not covet” as the law that condemns me (Romans 7). Not ceremonial. Grace and works are antithetical. It doesn’t make sense to subdivide works (138).

Ground
The Ground of justification is always what is done for us, not what is in us

  • justified by his blood (Romans 5:19)
  • by his righteousness (5:18)
  • If just means “morally good,” then it would be absurd to say that one man is just because of another (141).
  • We say that the claims against him are satisfied.
  • When God justifies the ungodly, he does not declare him morally godly, but that his sins are expiated.

Hypothetical Objections Proves Protestant View
Why object over possible antinomianism if faith alone not true (Romans 6; p. 140)?

The Law of God
Like older Reformed systematics, Hodge has a treatment of the Decalogue. Much of it is common fare. What is interesting is the way he handled it. By reading his arguments we see a commentary on problematic cultural issues. Of particular importance, which I won’t develop here, are his expositions of the 4th and 7th commandment. In the latter he specifically deals with Romanist tyranny in marriage.

Throughout the whole discussion he is combating Jesuitism. We do not see that today. Modern systematics, even conservative ones, are scared of appearing “conspiratorial.” Hodge’s age was a manlier age. They called it for what it was. They knew that Jesuits swear an oath to destroy Protestant nations by any means necessary. And they knew that only the Law of God provides spiritual and political liberty.  This is why God doesn’t take conservative, political evangelicalism seriously today.

Hodge is not entirely clear, though. When he wants to prove the Levitical prohibitions as binding today on sanguinuity and close-kin marriage, he argues like Greg Bahnsen. Almost word for word. If he did that today he would be fired. But when he wants to argue against more theocratic penalties, he sounds like a dispensationalist.

Sacraments
Keith Mathison’s book on Calvin’s view of the Supper is now something of a classic, and deservedly so. I am in large agreement with most of the book. I certainly lean towards Calvin. That said, I think one of the unintended consequences of the book is a slighting of Charles Hodge among the “Young Turk Calvinists.” It’s not that I disagree with Mathison or Calvin, but I am concerned about the new interest in Nevin. I used to be a hard-core Hegelian for 3 years. Nevin was also an Hegelian. Granted, Nevin pulled back from the worst of Hegel. I am not so sure Nevin’s modern interpreters fully understand that. I hope to give something of a modified defense of Hodge on the Supper:

“really conveying to the believing recipient, Christ, and all the benefits of his redemption…There must be a sense, therefore, in which believers receive the body and blood of Christ” (III: 622).

However,

Anything is said to be present when it operates duly on our perceiving senses” (637). I am not so sure Hodge is able to dodge Mathison’s charge. I agree with Hodge’s common sense realism, but I don’t think Hodge’s next point follows: “In like manner Christ is present when he thus fills the mind, sheds abroad his love into our hearts…” (638). I suppose the question at issue is this: we grant that Christ fills the mind. We grant that sensory operations also fill the mind, but it does not necessarily follow that Christ is present in the Supper in a sensory manner. In some sense I think all Reformed would agree with that.

Hodge makes the common Reformed point that “what is affirmed to be present is not the body and blood of Christ absolutely, but his body as broken and his blood as shed” (641). This is a decisive point against High Church traditions: when they insist upon a literal reading, “This is my body,” the Reformed can point that Christ’s wasn’t sacrificed yet, so the “body” at issue can’t be the sacrificial body.

Hodge concludes his exposition of the Reformed teaching with “There is therefore a presence of Christ’s body in the Lord’s Supper; not local but spiritual; not to the senses, but to the mind and to faith; and not of nearness, but of efficacy” (643).

The Problem with Nevin
Throughout the work is a running attack on Nevin’s theology. Hodge makes a point that isn’t always grasped by Nevin’s defenders today: 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!

Evaluation
It is superfluous to sing of Hodge’s greatness. That is a given. I do have some issues with his treatment. Hodge routinely appeals to the “received consensus of the church” for many of his doctrines. There are several problems with this. Aside from the most general teachings from the Creeds, appeals to the Patrum Consensus are problematic and question-begging. Further, the Eastern Orthodox Church, to which Hodge sometimes appeals, would not share his assumptions about Adam’s imputed guilt, for example.

Anyabwile’s Specifics

My goal in these posts is to raise epistemological awareness of some issues relating to biblical ethics. As it stands, any humanist can ride circles around well-meaning Christian ethicists on what the Bible says about slavery.

After searching TGC for specifics on this debate, and wading through a lot of irrelevant posts on “insensitivity,” Anyabwile finally gets to the heart of the matter. He writes,

This, the central premise of the book, fails to sense how horrific an experience slavery was for African Americans.

Wilson’s larger argument is that Southern slavery was far more benign than Roman slavery. I do not think he is saying it is an ethical good, but merely making a contrast. I might take issue with some parts of Wilson’s book, but he has a point here: what was the difference between slaves in Greece and Rome and Southern slaves? The former could be killed and sexually used with impunity. While this certainly happened to a lesser degree in the South, the South had moral and cultural bulwarks to lessen this evil. Rome did not.  Here is the argument:  The Hellenistic world saw the man as needing sexual release in any way he got.  Semen was building up in him and he had to release it somehow (other men, women, animals, slaves, etc). Even Roman and Greek youth–youth who were not slaves– could be masturbated on until they became adults (Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea).  The only thing forbidden was actual penetration.  Now if that would happen to the free sons, imagine–or don’t, for that matter–what would have happened to the slaves. That didn’t happen in the South. There’s Christianity for you. But Lincoln died on the cross to free the slaves.

Does that make African slavery right?  (Why just African?  Many Scots and Irish went to the plantations, too).  My point is that if Paul knew that was happening to slaves in the Roman empire and he didn’t say anything (the only thing he did say was Masters be right to your slaves), then that sheds some light on Southern slavery and the Church.

Anyabwile writes,

Second, Wilson writes about the “obvious inferiority of black culture” with seemingly no understanding or acknowledgement of how the Southern culture he’s defending actually actively guaranteed black underdevelopment!

I think both of them are wrong on this point. Wilson is simply stating a historical fact: where in Africa do you find Bach, Vivaldi, and neo-Classical architecture prior to the coming of the European?  Where did Voodoo come from? Why did the Haitians consecrate their island to Satan? The Malinese are kind of an exception. I am not making a judgment, just an observation. Anyabwile does have a point that the Southerner could have done a better job in elevating black culture. Fair enough.

Anyabwile is upset that Wilson writes,
Christians who doubt this should consider whether it was safer to be a black child in the womb in 1858 or in 2005″

But this is no different than what Martin Luther King’s daughters have been saying for the longest time.  Why is it bold and heroic for Alveda King to say stuff like this but racist for Wilson to say it? It is no different than What Ms Sanger said when she started Planned Parenthood. It is no different from what Alice Walker’s daughter has said, and Anyabwile has yet to answer the question, “Well, is it more dangerous?”

Wilson had written that more people are upset over someone’s calling Robert E. Lee an honorable than the black-on-black crime. Well, he has a point.

Even Will Smith was bold enough to call out black on black crime.

Anyabwile for the most part doesn’t deal with the specifics of biblical exegesis or historical realities.  At most he simply accuses Wilson of “racial insensitivity.”  Let’s pretend that is a sin for the moment.  Per Matthew 18, eventually Wilson should be excommunicated from the church (let’s pretend the Federal Vision didn’t happen for a moment).  By extension, that also means that anyone who thinks Robert E Lee is a noble human being is also guilty of racial insensitivity and thus risks excommunication, which is being cut off from the Kingdom of God.

How is this any different from Romanist tyranny?  Racial inensitivity is not a biblical category, and so it isn’t a sin.  Aspects of said behavior might be sinful in “not putting others first,” but that’s a different question.   While we are on racial fellowship in the church, when I used to attend Auburn Avenue (this was a long time ago) there were black people in the church (how many white PCa churches can say that today?  LOL).  We had the Lord’s Supper every week.  Thus, blacks and whites were sharing communion and eucharist with each other.  I would say at the same table ala Galatians 2, but churches don’t eat communion at tables any more, Galatians 2 notwithstanding.  But you get the idiom.

The 5-Point Covenantal Model

In the 19th century a German theologian was asked what he thought about Hegel’s philosophy.  He replied that it was a beautiful and powerful system, but it was like a loose tooth:  he was scared to “bite down” hard.   That’s how I feel about Ray Sutton’s That you may Prosper.   As his 5 points go, there can’t be any disagreement with any of them.   The danger comes when you put them together and filter the bible through them.   But that points to another problem:  even doing that, I still don’t see a danger.  Here are the points.   According to Sutton’s reading, which is based upon Kline’s, every covenant will have these points.

1. The transcendence and immanence of God
2. Authority/hierarchy of God’s covenant
3. Biblical law/ethics/dominion
4. Judgment/oath: blessings and cursings
5. Continuity/inheritance

By itself it wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the Tyler guys didn’t create mischief with it.   Ironically, even later Klineans like Horton are saying similar things.  That doesn’t make it right, of course, but it does lend to it an acceptability it formerly lacked.  I am going to walk through some of the basic points:

1.  Transcendence

Here is where it shines.   Sutton (and Jordan, North, and Rushdoony) wonderfully contrast the Hebraic, covenantal religion with that of metaphysical religion.  The former denies a continuum between creator and creature.  As a result, salvation is not metaphysical, but ethical.  This automatically leads to:

2.  Authority and Representation

When I reread this part, I couldn’t help but see parallels to Oliver O’Donovan’s Desire of the Nations.   Someone must mediate and represent God’s judgments.  Ultimately, we see this in Christ though God did establish judges for the people.    God manifests his transcendence through mediators–but this mediation is not ontological, but ethical and civil (which shows both the power and shortcoming of Pseudo Dionysius).

3.  Ethics

Sutton wonderfully draws the contrast between Ethical and Magical religions (see pt 1).  The former is based on fidelity to God’s word.  The latter on manipulating reality.  Ethical religion’s relationship is “cause-effect” (though not entirely and absolutely so; that is why Sutton refines the model to read “Command/fulfillment”).

Interestingly, magical religions necessitate a chain of being ontology: as above/so below (74).   Sutton should have fleshed this out more.  Still, the connection on magic was spot-on.

4.   Sanctions

Blessings, cursings, and rewards come through judgment.  This often includes sacrificial judgment (and with our eyes on Christ, we see an echo to point 2, mediation).  We are dealing with oaths and witnesses and because Christ’s death in is in view, we also see the Lord’s Feast.  We shouldn’t be afraid of calling bread and wine symbols.  They have power because God’s Word says they have power (Word and Sacrament!).  This symbol of the Covenant represents God’s oath upon himself.  This is Covenantal Ontology.

I’ll deal with the last point, Continuity, later.

A Typology of Wine

Taken from Hart’s Beauty of the Infinite, 108.  Not only is this an excellent manifesto for the godly enjoyment of wine, it is also a subtle critique upon Greek ontology (as it is embedded in a specific mythology).

The wine of Dionysius is no doubt of the coarsest vintage, intended to blind with drunkenness rather than enliven with whimsy; it is fruit of the same vine with which Dionysius bridged the Euphrates, after flaying alive the king of Damascus, so that he could conquer India for viniculture (so we know from Plutarch et al…); and of the same vine for which Lycurgus mistook his son Dryas when driven mad for offending the wild god, causing him to cut Dryas down for “pruning” (as Homer and Apollodorus report); the vine that destroyed the pirates who did not bear Dionysius to Naxos (again, Homer and Ovid); it is the wine that inflamed the maenads to rend Pentheus limb from limb, led by his own mother; the wine repeatedly associated with madness, slaughter, warfare, and rapine (one need only consider the Dionysian cult at Orchomenus with its ritual acts of frenzy, infanticide, cannibalism).

The wine of Christian scripture, on the other hand, is first and foremost a divine blessing and image of God’s bounty (Gen. 27:28; Dt 7:13…the texts are too numerous to count) and an appropriate thank offering by which to declare Israel’s love to God (Exodus 29:40 et al); it is the wine that cheers the hearts of gods and men (Judges 9:13), to be drunk and shared with those for whom nothing is prepared on the day holy to the Lord (Neh. 8:10), the sign of God’s renewed covenant with his people (Isaiah 55:1-3), the drink of lovers (Song 5:1), and the very symbol of love (7:2, 9; 8:2), whose absence is the eventide of all joy (Is. 24:11); it is, moreover, the wine of agape and the feast of fellowship, in which Christ first vouchsafed a sign of his divinity, in a place of rejoicing, at Cana–a wine of the highest quality–when the kingdom showed itself out of season; the wine, again, forsaken with all good things of creation, when Christ went to his death, but promised to be drunk anew at the banquet table of his father’s kingdom (Mark 15:23).

On fighting politics with politics and why it is bad

I am settling on a thesis that Satan co-opted the Federal Vision right where it could have had constructive promise.   Note of course that I fully reject FV.   Still, many of their perspectives on liturgy (to the degree they can be squared with the RPW) and Old Testament theology allowed one to reject Modernity, avoid postmodernity, and begin to offer a constructive Protestantism.    And then everything went to Hades.  And I don’t think that is coincidental.

So, this leads me to begin my “Merry Protestantism” project.  One doesn’t need to accept Leithart’s “End of Protestantism” thesis, but he does have a point that we really haven’t seen a truly constructive Reformed theology.   Bucer came close.  We have lived off of previous negations–and theologies built upon negations and apophaticisms do not long last.

And this leads to the point of the post:  I do not think it is helpful to oppose various political systems merely by acknowledging them as “the bad guys.”  Most thinking conservative Christians have probably by now come to the realization that the Republican Party had been pimping them (and probably literally sometimes, given Washington sex scandals) for votes.   This leads to several (ultimately doomed) alternatives:   the Ron/Rand Paul movement and various 3rd parties.  Having drunk deeply of Reformation politics, both of these are dead-ends.

Some Orthodox friends of mine have suggested a return to monarchy.  I actually like that idea.  I’m not entirely sure how it will get off the ground in America, but it’s no less Quixotic than voting 3rd Party.

Liturgy as Political Theology

This is where the FV actually had real potential.  They saw that liturgy–and at its most basic that word simply means an order of worship–was the enacting of another narrative, one which proclaimed Yahweh-in-Messiah as Lord over the nations.   The Lord’s Feast could even be seen as a new economics:  it pointed (signs!) towards the ultimate Kingdom feast that broke down the barriers yet still retained otherness and difference.  And if this is all that the Moscow-Canon Press writers would have said, well and good.  Unfortunately, the FV is now plutonium and these themes really can’t be handled today.

Typology as Theology on the Attack

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As a premillennialist I am a bit wary of excessive typologies.  Normally they run something like, “Well, John is using figurative language and that is a typology so this means premillennialism is false.”   All that may well be true, but that’s a lazy argument (though it might get you tenure at a seminary).  Still, seeing literary patterns in Scripture allows one to do biblical theology on a new front.   Had David Dorsey’s book on the Old Testament been written 200 years earlier, the Documentary Hypothesis would have never gotten off the ground (maybe that accounts for some of the academy’s anger towards Dorsey’s work).