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Archive for February, 2008

This is from John Frame’s The Doctrine of God:

So although the election of Israel is by grace, there is an important
place for continued faithfulness. Individuals can belong to the chosen people, yet lose their elect status by faithlessness and disobedience. Branches can be broken off “because of unbelief” (Rom. 11:20).

When we consider divine rejection, we should not argue that the discarded branches were never really elect. There is a place for such reasoning, but it pertains to a different kind of election, which we will discuss in the following section. Here, however, we are talking about historical election. And in this context it is possible to lose one’s election. The discarded branches were indeed elect at one time, for they were part of the tree of Israel. Israel as a nation was really elect, before God declared them to be “not my people,” and they became elect again, when God declared them to be “sons of the living God.”

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BH Conference Information

The 2008 Biblical Horizons Bible Conference will be held, as always, at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Valparaiso, Florida. The dates are July 21-25. We begin Monday at 4:00 pm and end Friday at 1:00 pm.

Lined up to speak thus far are Peter Leithart on Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, and Jeffrey Meyers on Colossians.

We shall NOT have the Vespers worship service that we have been using for the past several years, but we shall sing psalms and chorales and work on church music. I’ll be checking with some of the regulars to see what we might work on that would be helpful.

More information as we get it.

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I’ve recently re-discovered an awesome theological resource, The Westminster Shorter Catechism Project. It is excellent, not least because it demonstrates the healthy diversity that has always been allowable in the Reformed Tradition until recently.

For example, consider the sources attached to Question and Answer #94:

Q: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Chist, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Among the links we have Matthew Henry and James Fisher.

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Ten Words

In Genesis 1, God speaks ten times (“And God said”: Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29).  In The Gospel in Genesis, Warren Gage links these ten speeches with the Ten Words, which is the Bible’s name for what we usually call “the Ten Commandments.”  Gage writes: “As God created the cosmic order with ten words, so he creates social order with ten commandments.”

Gage doesn’t elaborate, but what he says here is thought-provoking.  James Jordan and others have shown that the building of the tabernacle in Exodus involves seven speeches, the last of which is about Sabbath, and therefore the construction of the tabernacle is the construction of a new world.  The fact that God gives Israel ten words, as he spoke ten words in the beginning, may likewise suggest that God is building a new world at Mount Sinai.

I wonder, though, if there are closer correspondences between the ten words in Genesis 1 and the Ten Words in Exodus 20:

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The Pledge of Allegiance

      A friend recently asked if the frequent saying of the Pledge of Allegiance was a sign of American jingoism, or an attempt to inculcate “nationalism” of a bad sort. It seemed to him as a Canadian that that might be the case. That seemed to me to be probably backwards, so I penned this response.
     Here is my belated reflection to our Canadian friend (and I keep in mind you are our friend to the north looking at your neighbors to the south–this is not really YOU, but your reflection on us–however, you are one of the ENGLISH speaking people).
     I think of Michael Polanyi’s reflection comparing the English speaking peoples to the Austrian-Germanic peoples, in his great book Personal Knowledge,  and all that they had been spared because of the relativizing intellectual environment that both the British empiricism, and also (I would add) the Puritan background, compared to the intellectual and nationalistic fanaticism bred in the Germanic peoples.  My point being here that Polanyi gives a very credible touch stone from outside of ourselves as to what “nationalism” really is.  Until you have seen something else, our attempts at self examination fall rather flat.  The English speaking peoples are amongst the least of nationalistic peoples.
     CS Lewis’s Screwtape says, “One of the games we play with them is to always make them think that their excess is their deficiency, and their deficiency, their excess.”  So, he goes on to say, in the Elizabethan era, make them terrified of prudery, and in the Victorian, their sensual excessiveness.

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There is something in the nature of man that he feels the necessity to add to things. This can be a good thing as we transform the natural order from a raw state into a more gloriously refined state but it can also be twisted. Take our conception of and approach to the Eucharist. In the Puritan world an emphasis was put on the judgmental aspect of the Table and our unworthy disposition toward it. This led to, ironically, the same fearful disposition toward the Eucharist that Medieval Catholics had and that the Puritans were seeking to escape.   (more…)

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Look! My servant whom I have chosen,
My beloved in whom my soul is well pleased!
I will put my Spirit upon him
And judgment to the nations he will announce.
He will not quarrel nor cry out,
Nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
And smoldering flax he will not quench,
Until he sends forth judgment to victory;
And in his name nations will trust.
— Matthew 12:18-21

These words, slightly modified from Isaiah 42, are often quoted in connection with Jesus’ compassion, and compassion certainly is present in this context. Jesus heals the multitudes who follow him (12:15).

But Matthew quotes this passage from Isaiah with something else in mind. The Pharisees are plotting to destroy Jesus (12:14), but Jesus’ response is not to destroy them in return. Instead, he withdraws. When the crowds follow him, he heals them but he also hushes them. He warns them not to make him known, Matthew says, so that “it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet,” and then he quotes the words above.

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I thought it might be good to put this up here, since it is 14 years old, and itself reflects earlier discussion. From this you can see that we at BH have been considering this notion for quite some time. Clearly, the last word has not been said. — James B. Jordan 

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 56
December, 1993
Copyright 1993, Biblical Horizons

My research for Through New Eyes II has led me to the conviction that there are three major periods of Biblical history, which lead to a fourth. These are the Ages of the Father, the Word, and the Spirit.

The First Age, that of the Father, is recorded in the book of Genesis. It focuses on the personal lives and faith of the men we call the patriarchs. It begins with God’s establishment of four environments on the earth: (1) the Throne Land of Eden, accessible only through the (2) Garden-Sanctuary, which is surrounded by (3) homelands, which relate to other spaces as (4) outlying world. Man’s first fall, in the Sanctuary, prevented his going into Eden and resulted in his being put in a Homeland that was not a Throneland. The second fall, of Cain, expelled him from a Homeland into a world of wandering. The third fall, of the Sethites, removed the sinners from the world through the great flood. As I have shown in a previous essay (“Three Falls and Three Heroes,” in Biblical Horizons 22), these rebellions constituted stealing the gift of the Father (sacrilege), murder of the brotherhood of the Son (fratricide), and resisting the marital gifts of the Spirit (intermarriage or compromise).

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Ephesians is often treated as a pure type example of the Pauline method that “the indicative preceds the imperative.”

But what Paul does first is pray. Simply reading verse 3 and following involves readers in a prayer of thanksgiving to God–and much more so for those listening to the epistle read out loud in a Church gathering. This prayer then turns into a request for God to grant the Ephesians knowledge of what they have. And that practice, which involves the reader and listeners of the letter, sets the stage for the imperative at the end of the epistle, that the Ephesians should pray for everything.

God doesn’t begin with propositions. He begins by practice and teaching us by practice. That way we are in a position to understand both His propositions and his poems.

Theology should be compared more to dance than to book reading.

By the way, one of the astounding oddities I found reading the English translation of Bavinck’s first volume of Reformed Dogmatics (pp. 34, 35) is that he lists William Ames as a bad guy for defining theology as “the art of living to God.”

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All I can find are three quotations.  The first is from the Bible Presbyterians really good resource on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Matthew Henry has left the following testimony in his Treatise on Baptism: “I cannot but take occasion to express my gratitude to God for my infant baptism; not only as it was an early admission into the visible body of Christ, but as it furnished my pious parents with a good argument (and, I trust, through grace, a prevailing argument) for an early dedication of my own self to God in my childhood. If God has wrought any good work upon my soul, I desire with humble thankfulness, to acknowledge the moral influence of my infant baptism upon it.” (s0urce)

And then there is Alexander Campbell in the Millennial Harbinger:

Matthew Henry. “In baptism,” says he, “our names are engraved upon the heart of this Great high Priest. God doth in this ordinance seal and make over to us all the benefits of the death of Christ. Baptism seals the promise of God’s being to me a God.” Treatise on Baptism, p. 12, 40, 42.

And finally, there is a blogger who posts the following as from Matthew Henry’s “Treatise on Baptism.”

As far as the parents are concerned, we are sure, that the children are not so regenerated, as not to need good instructions, when they become capable of them, and yet are so regenerated, that if they die in infancy, parents may take comfort from their baptism in reference to their salvation: and as to the children, when they grow up, we are sure, that their baptismal regeneration, without something more, is not sufficient to bring them to heaven: and yet it may be urged, (as I said before,) in praying to God to give them grace, and in persuading them to submit to it.

This last sounds uncannily like something I’ve seen from Holifield’s The Covenant Sealed. Does anyone have access to Matthew Henry’s treatise so I can verify these quotations and see the context?

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