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Archive for the ‘James Jordan’ Category

In our I hope brief blog-versation, Doug Wilson has posted a couple more things to think about. In one he asks who our father/Father is. We either have God or the devil as our father. Well, yes and no. I’m with Doug in what he’s getting at, I think, but here again I’m not so sure about terminology. The devil as father was a liar from the beginning. Well, every child lies instinctively. You don’t have to teach kids to lie. Those little children that Jesus wanted to come to him were “of their father the devil” in some sense. So am I, since I still have an Adamic death-nature that messes with me — and as far as I’m concerned Romans 7 STILL is talking about that, even if I’m increasingly lonely in thinking so.

When Peter confessed Jesus as the son of the Living God, Jesus blessed him for listening to the Father. Five minutes later Jesus condemned him as a mouthpiece of Satan.

Also, of course, I had a physical father; and if I were a Presbyterian clergyman I would address Presbytery as “Fathers and Brethren,” acknowledging that older minister are fathers to younger ones. Every human being has God the Father as his father by creation; Adam as his father by generation; and the devil as his father by Adam’s decision to give the world to him. Christians have God the Father as father because they are in Christ, the Son.

Perhaps I should write “faithful Christians.” It seems to me that the Bible is telling us to be concerned about who is faithful, who trusts and obeys, and leave the heart (and “regeneration”) to God. (more…)

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The following material was published in 1984 in Christianity and Civilization No. 4: The Reconstruction of the Church, pages 6-9, and are reprinted here as grist for the mill of the discussion of “evangelicalism.” Footnotes have not come through, of course. Though this material is offered in connection with a concern for “evangelicalism” raised initially by Rev. Douglas Wilson, I am as certain as I can be that Doug would agree with what is written here about the dangers spoken of.  My point is that one of the several meanings of “evangelical” is precisely someone who would agree with Whitefield and the Methodists in connection with the problems of the Great Awakening. If you want to understand much of what is meant by “evangelicalism” in America, you need to understand the evils of the Great Awakening. — JBJordan

Beginning of citation:

As a result of all this [the inability of the Reformers to get full liturgical worship and weekly communion in place in the churches], protestant people came to think of preaching as the most important aspect of the institutional Church. This was a mistake, because God has not given many gifted orators to the Church. (St. Paul was ridiculed for his lack of oratorical skill, and Moses had the same problem; see Exodus 4:10ff. and Acts 20:7-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 10:10.) The proclamation of the gospel needs the pastoral context of the whole “body life” of the Church, and particularly needs the seal of the sacraments. By its exaltation of preaching as a charismatic art, the Reformation moved in the direction, subtly and unintentionally to be sure, of undermining the Church itself. (more…)

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I wrote my beef about “regeneration” a decade ago, and I don’t really see the need to reopen what I think now. (Jordan, Thoughts on Sovereign Grace and Regeneration: Some Tentative Explorations. Biblical Horizons Occasional Paper No. 32; available for $5.00 from Biblical Horizons, Box 1096, Niceville, FL 32588.)

But.

My pal Doug Wilson has been writing a series of essays on “Life in the Regeneration” (I like the title!) and I’m being constrained to say something. So let me do this as a series of points.

1. I’m a postmillennialist, because I actually believe (gasp!) that Jesus was serious when He said He intended to disciple all nations.

Disciple.

All.

Nations.

Got it?

So, I don’t think I have to get everything right today. In fact, I know I won’t. In the year AD 35,678, some theologian in what is now Sri Lanka will come up with the very best explanation of the things under discussion, and I’m willing to wait.

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Nicodemus’s conversation with Jesus in John 3:1-15 is sometimes regarded as an illustration of the tremendous stupidity of the Jews of our Lord’s day. Nicodemus is treated as just some guy who comes to Jesus at night because he doesn’t want to get into trouble by being seen with Him. Nicodemus tries to butter Jesus up by telling Him that he and his pals know that Jesus has come from God. Then, when Jesus says that one must be born again-from-above, Nicodemus is so dumb or sarcastic that he says, “Uh, duh, well, uh, how can a person be born when he’s already old, huh? Uh-hyuh, uh-hyuh! He can’t just crawl back, uh, into his momma and be born again, can he?”

Well, uh, duh, no, that’s not what is going on. First of all, the Holy Spirit is not wasting His breath showing us Jesus putting down various morons. This conversation is included because it is profound. Second, John’s gospel deals with profound depths, as all expositors agree, and so again this is not some stupid conversation. Third, Nicodemus was a member of the great Sanhedrin (John 7:50), which means he had served in a local sanhedrin as a judge for a number of years before being selected to the first small sanhedrin, then after more years advancing to the second small sanhedrin, and finally being approved to be one of the 70 members of the Great Sanhedrin (Article, “Sanhedrim,” in McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature [1867]). He was therefore an older man, probably twice Jesus’ age and worthy of respect. Fourth, Jesus tells us that Nicodemus was “the teacher of Israel” (John 3:10). Are we to take this as sarcasm, unworthy of the spotless son of man who knew to respect the aged? No, Jesus means what he says: Nicodemus was the preeminent theologian and teacher in Israel, and therefore on the surface of the earth, and not a fool.

Finally, Nicodemus was not at all reluctant to defend Jesus in public (John 7:50) and to be seen helping to bury him (19:39). (I’ll bet Caiaphas was pretty angry about that.) He came to Jesus at night in order to have a long conversation with Him uninterrupted. The notion that Nicodemus was not a believer does not stand up. He certainly was a faithful old covenant believer who was headed for paradise. If by “regeneration” we mean someone who has a life with God and is destined for heaven, Nicodemus was regenerated every bit as much as Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah.

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During the last couple of weeks, Douglas Wilson has issued several posts over on his Blog and Mablog blog that deal with “evangelicalism” and who is and who is not an “evangelical.” In the course of these postings, Doug has written that while I am a fine Christian who has much to offer everyone, I’m not what he means by “an evangelical.” I’m a conservative Biblicistic protestant (my phrase), but not an “evangelical.” See here and here. None of this really bothers me, but I have received more than one request that I comment on the issue involved, including from Doug himself. Hence this first of a series of essays.

(The essay of mine to which Doug refers is Thoughts on Sovereign Grace and Regeneration: Some Tentative Explorations. Biblical Horizons Occasional Paper No. 32, January, 2003; available for $5.00 from Biblical Horizons, Box 1096, Niceville, FL 32588; or see here.)

First of all, then, what is “an evangelical”? That will be our topic in this posting. The use of the adjective “evangelical” as a noun is, to start with, a bit strange, but “Evangelical Christian” is the actual term, with “evangelical” being shorthand.

The usual and broad meaning of “an evangelical” in the United States (where it matters most) is this: someone who accepts that the truth claims of the Bible are without error not only doctrinally but also with respect to historical and spatial matters, who accepts the teaching that God is three equal persons in one Godhead, and who trusts in the work of Jesus Christ alone for his justification and salvation. This is the definition that will get you into the Evangelical Theological Society, of which I have been a card-carrying member since 1976. And in this sense, James B. Jordan is most definitely “an evangelical.” And I know that Douglas Wilson fully accepts that this is so.

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Elsewhere on the blogosphere men are mocking the wearing of collars and albs to lead in worship. When it is pointed out that historically Reformed ministers have worn daily uniforms and robes in worship, it is replied that that was then and this is now. We ought to conform to our age. Bah, humbug.

 

1. We don’t follow the world; we lead it.

 

2. We don’t conform to culture; we change it.

 

3. We don’t take up our ideas from what gooey liberal and gooey evangelical churches do or don’t do; we get our instructions from the Bible.

 

4. Jesus had a special and very valuable tunic (John  19:23-24). Compare Exodus 28:40. Jesus’ special tunic and several pieces of outer garments correspond closely to the special garments of the priests. Apparently these most modern of bloggers have got better sense in how to dress than did their Lord. They might take their cue from the doctrine of union with Christ and what that might mean for them as officers in the army of the Lord of Hosts.

 

5. Back in the day when clergy wore uniforms and the Church was an army, we were well on the way to world conquest. Compare today.

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Discussions on the catholicity of the church have led one RC advocate to write to me that according to 2 Timothy 1:16-18, Paul is clearly and unmistakably praying for a dead person. He points to a couple of Protestant writers who had agreed with this, though they are in a tiny minority. Search this out on line and you’ll find Roman Catholics insisting on this as if it were certain. Let’s see what Paul actually says:

16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered at Ephesus.

First of all, clearly Onesiphorus was a believer, baptized into union with the ascended Jesus Christ, faithfully serving the Lord. So, how on earth can Paul ask that he receive mercy on the day of judgment? Is his salvation in any doubt? Is there something lacking in his salvation by Jesus? To ask the question is to answer it: No, or course not. Paul cannot possibly be asking for Onesiphorus to be given mercy on the final day. The suggestion is ridiculous.

Therefore, Paul must be praying for mercy on the day that is near at hand: the judgment on the Old Creation in the years leading down to the year AD 70, the tribulation that came upon the entire Oikumene.  

With this in mind it becomes clear why Paul asks for mercy on Onesiphorus’s household. The tribulation about to break out over the whole Oikumene could be a horror for wives and daughters, for small children and the aged, as well as for men.

 Theologically, we find a unity in the passage. Onesiphorus was willing to be seen with Paul when the latter was in chains. He took the serious risk of associating with the criminal Paul, and this put his own family at risk. But beyond this practical consideration, Paul is saying that those who put themselves at risk for the Kingdom are those to whom God is likely to show mercy — at least to their families — during times of tribulation.

In short, there is absolutely nothing in this passage that hints that Onesiphorus is dead. Paul asks that he find mercy during the coming tribulation, which means he is alive.

Finally, there is 2 Timothy 4:19, “Greet Prisca and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.” Again, this has been taken to mean that Onesiphorus must be already dead. Uh, duh, no. We have already been told that Onesiphorus sought Paul out and had rendered great service for him at Ephesus. It’s a whole lot more likely that Onesiphorus is not at home, but doing something else for Paul at this time, perhaps even visiting churches like Timothy and Titus. As we have seen, he certainly is not dead.

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The Nicene Creed states that the Holy Spirit “spoke through the prophets in (or into) one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” Contrary to usual translations, neither the Greek nor the Latin originals say “I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” As written, the thought of the authors seems to be that as the Spirit spoke through the prophets in depositing the Bible for all time, so He continues to guide the Church into all truth.  Either that, or taking “in” as “into,” the Spirit spoke the Bible into that church.

What kind of church is it that the Spirit works in? A church that is united, holy, catholic, and apostolic. No church is fully these things, and so the thought has to be that to the extent that the church functions in this way, to that extent the Spirit guides her.

So, is the church today one? Hardly. Of course, sectarians will say that she is one, because they exclude everyone with whom they disagree. Landmark Baptists and “Baptist Bride” Baptists of all stripes will recognize the rest of us as “separated brethren,” but not as fully “in” the church. This same hypersectarian mentality is found in Romanism, Orthodoxy, and in nose-bleed-high Anglicanism. Authentic churches, however, recognize others as real though flawed. The great Scottish Presbyterian Samuel Rutherford was a pains to insist that Roman Catholic ordination was real and that no converted priest was to be “re-ordained” in the Scottish church. Sadly, Hyperbaptists, Papists, Orthodox, and too much of Anglicanism cannot say the same. Some goofy sectarian Presbyterians are the same. Churches function as part of the ONE when they recognize one another’s orders and sacraments and discipline. This is not always easy, but real churches do it. When someone comes to us from a Baptist or Catholic church and wants to join, we phone up the pastor/priest and talk to him. We find out what the story is. We honor other churches, however wayward we think they are.

Is the church today holy? Well, that definitely depends on the church. Those who define holiness as mysticism and shamanism can tolerate all kinds of immorality. In Rome and Orthodoxy and Pentecostalism, holiness inheres in various charmed objects and persons. These semi-churches will discipline someone who rejects these talismans, but turn a blind eye to Tsars, mafiosos, pederasts, adulterers, and royalty. Imagine what would happen if a priest in the Church of England refused communion to one of their adulterous royalty? Well, you can’t imagine it, can you? It cannot happen. Anyone who reads the Pauline epistles or chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation knows that kicking people out for immorality is at the top of Jesus’ demands for a faithful bride. Can anyone point to an instance of that’s happening in Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, or Rome? One thing these churches are not is “holy.” It seems that it is only in those churches that trace back to the Reformation, including the Baptists, where the holiness that Jesus wants can be found, however partially.

Is the church today catholic? This is similar to asking if she is one. The test of catholicity is an open communion table. From early times the church has failed to be charitable in this regard. In his book Jesus Wars, John Philip Jenkins describes the horrible treatment of “Monophysite” and “Nestorian” Christians at the hands of savage “Orthodox” monks; and vice versa. Rodney Stark’s wonderful book on the “crusades,” God’s Battalions, shows how the eastern Christians welcomed the Moslem invaders as deliverers from vicious oppression at the hands of Byzantine Christianity. We’ve grown up a bit since those days, but it is still the case that sectarian groups deny communion to baptized believers simply because they don’t sign on the dotted line. Hyper-Lutherans deny communion to anyone who does not confess what is often called “consubstantiation.” Now, think about this. The Eucharistic Meal is not what you or I think it is or may be; it is what Jesus does. If I’m wrong about the theory, does that mean Jesus is not present? Real Lutherans say, yes, there is “real presence” as they define it, but even if you don’t understand that, Jesus is still there for you if you trust him and are baptized.

Catholicity of practice is, sadly, missing from Orthodoxy, Hard-core Baptists, the Church of Christ, and most of Rome. Rome won’t “rebaptize” Protestants, but neither will she give us communion unless there happens to be no Protestant church in the area we can attend. This is at least an improvement over how things were when I was a child, before Vatican II. Orthodoxy says our baptisms stink, and have to be cleansed by “chrismation,” a ritual nowhere found in the apostlolic scriptures. As Peter Leithart wrote recently on his blog, anyone who is truly committed to catholicity will have a hard time joining one of these sects.

Finally, is the church Apostolic? Here again, we have sects that claim something called “apostolic succession,” a notion that cannot be found in the Bible. In fact, Paul is at pains repeatedly to deny any succession from the earlier apostles. I’m happy with the notion of ministers ordaining ministers and Christians baptizing Christians, but ultimately the succession in the Church is by the Spirit. It cannot be otherwise. “Apostolic” in the Nicene Creed means “faithful to the apostles.” Well, do the apostles anywhere teach that icons can be used as charmed objects with which to communicate with the dead? Do they tell us to chat with, or to offer prayers to, our “heavenly family members”? Surely, if the Apostolic Church had changed the earlier rules against consulting the dead and worshipping through images and man-made objects, it would have been controversial. But we see nothing of that. The controversial changes were about circumcision, calendar, food, and Jewish exceptionalism. In fact, the early Church teachers (“fathers”) were death on using images in worship, and it was only in the 700s that ignorant monks were able to overwhelm the authentic clergy and bring this garbage into the church. No Apostolic church has anything to do with prayers to the goddess BMEV (Blessed Mary Ever Virgin) or any other god-saints. No Apostolic church bows down to pieces of wood and brass, to images whether flat or in the round.

It is because I am a member of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church that I cannot imagine joining one of these giant sects. The fact is that God the Holy Spirit fixed these problems half a millennium ago in the Protestant (pro-test = stand for) Reformation. Protestantism has now run its course, but what will come in its place will be more Biblical, more Catholic, more Unified. It will not be a return to Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Orthodoxy, or Romanism.

People who despair of Protestant churches as they have experienced them — and many are pretty awful today — and who go into Rome or Orthodoxy may do so for two reasons. One, they may become idolators, pure and simple. Such is the case with Scott Hahn, who decided to worship Mary and then converted. Or, two, they may hold their nose at many things but go into these churches because they think (erroneously in my view) that this is where God is going to act in the future. This is an understandable reason, and I think godly men like Louis Bouyer are in this category. For myself, however, I think remaining in the Protestant world is the best option, however chaotic it is right now. God does not go back. The future, which we cannot really imagine, will come out of what He has done most recently, which is the Reformation.

You Romanists, Nestorians, Monophysites, HyperBaptists, HyperLutherans, and Orthodox are welcome at the Lord’s Table in authentic Protestant churches such as the ones I attend. Come on in. The fire’s warm. The roast is in the oven. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape is decanted. We’d love to see you.

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One of the latest sectarian movements to arise around the fringes of the Christian religion is something called “family integrated churches.” What this seems to mean, depending on the advocate, is that youth groups are bad, age-segregated Sunday Schools are bad, families need to sit together in church, and even the notion that husbands should serve their wives and children the Lord’s Supper (a practice that was a capital offense in the Bible; Exodus 35:2-3; Numbers 16).

 

One understands where some of this comes from. I gather that most of these people are Baptists or come from hip-hop PCA churches and want something better. They rightly are opposed to “children’s church,” a practice unknown to Lutheran and Episcopal churches and only found in Baptist and Bapterian churches. They are also concerned about the breakdown of the family in our society. Their cure, however, is not much better than the disease. What is needed is a return to Reformation worship, with full sung liturgy and genuine psalmody. In such a context, Sunday Schools and Youth Ministries are no threat to anyone.

 

The simple fact is that for 2000 years, the Holy Spirit moved the church to have men and women sitting separately during divine worship. This is because in heaven there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage. There is neither male nor female, bond nor free, child nor parent. Hence, ascended worship, taking place seated in the heavenlies, involves an affirmation of God’s Family and a setting aside of the earthly family. As a matter of fact, if you want God to give you a healthy family, let Him take it apart and put it back together each week, for that is how God always glorifies and empowers His people (Hebrews 6:12-13 + Genesis 2:23-24). I have a lecture on this that can be heard here: http://www.trinvalp.com/ The message is titled “The End of the World.”

 

Functioning beneath the surface with such groups as Vision Forum and the like is a form of idolatry. We read that the family is the foundation of civilization. That is a fairly ridiculous notion, since the family is a highly temporary social unit. The Bible commands that a child leave his father and mother when he marries (Genesis 2:24). Moreover, as children grow up, they move from an orientation toward parents (imaging the Father), to an orientation toward older young people (imaging the Brother) and finally move out and become oriented toward mentors (imaging the Spirit). This is perfectly natural, and is why wise churches have youth groups in which young people growing away from their parents receive reinforcement from older teens. The notion that a 15 year old must relate to his parents in the same way as a 5 year old is implicitly unitarian. God has designed the family to be temporary, and has designed us to begin to look outward from our initial foundation.

 

A good discussion is found here: http://www.weswhite.net/2011/04/family-integrated-mathis/ I don’t usually recommend visiting this site since the men involved are opposed to Reformation theology, but on this point they are right. The discussions below the essay are interesting, because you can see the kind of fanaticism this movement entails.

 

Another aspect of this business is dealt with here: http://www.patriarchy.org/church/membership.html

 

Finally I recommend this paper, which deals with how this familistic movement is an enemy of the church: http://trinity-pres.net/essays/THECHURCHANDHERRIVALSversion3.0.pdf

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Biblical Theology Basics #8

8. Comments on The Covenantal Gospel by Cornelis van der Waal

by James B. Jordan

This is an excellent book, and every Bible student should read and master it. Cornelis van der Waal was a Dutch theologian who lived much of his life in South Africa. He lived from 1919 to 1980. This was his last book and he died before completing it.

Thinking on the covenant has continued since his death, and the few comments I have included here are intended to express places where some slight improvements in his book can be made. These minor criticisms do not take away from the great value of the book. I shall proceed section by section, since the English translation will not have the same pages as the original Dutch.

Introduction section 2. The statement in 2 Cor. 3:14 about the “old covenant” does not refer to all the books of the Old Testament, but as the next verse shows, to “Moses.” We should really think of the Ten Words, the heart of the Sinaitic Covenant. We can say that there are two covenants, but we can also say that there is one covenant in two phases. Both phases are revealed and discussed in all the books of the Bible, but of course the second phase, the “new covenant,” receives the most attention in the New Testament books. Van der Waal sometimes writes of one covenant, and sometimes of two, but he always means one covenant in two historical phases.
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