Archive for June, 2010

Available at Amazon and Covenant Media Foundation

The Baptism of Jesus the Christ by Ralph Allan Smith


The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptizer is one of the theologically richest narratives in the Gospels, touching the transition from the old to the new covenant, the doctrines of water and Holy Spirit baptism, and the doctrine of the Trinity, to name only the most significant of topics.


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Now available at Amazon: Bible Matrix by Mike Bull

From the publisher’s overview:

“The Bible is one story told over and over again, with many variations on the same theme. This structure is the Bible’s DNA. This basic seven-point pattern is the heartbeat of the Creation. It is the cycle of a human day and a human life. It is the pattern of the Tabernacle. It is the process of agriculture. It undergirds the speeches and Laws of God. It orders the rise and fall of nations and empires. It is also the structure of our worship. It is the rhythm of Christ, and it will open the Bible for you like never before.”

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The previous essay on “Monocovenantalism” brought up this matter, so a few comments here. In this area also the mindless militants have perverted the conversation. The notion that the death of Jesus was insufficient for our justification and that we must also have an imputation of His perfect life in order to be declared just is a notion found in none of the Reformed Confessions. It was debated at the Westminster Assembly, with people on both sides, and the Assembly decided to write nothing about it and leave it as adiaphora.

Like American political liberals who find the right to abortion hidden in the Constitution, today’s militants have found this doctrine hidden in the penumbra and interstices of the Reformed faith and are determined to pronounce as heretics anyone who differs from it. Never mind that their behavior makes the entire Westminster Assembly into heretics!

I’m rather dubious about this doctrine myself, since I cannot find it in the Bible. Perhaps it is there by implication, as indeed may be the case. I do think, however, that there are some underlying issues that play into the matter, and these I wish simply to note here.

One issue  is the incarnation. The early church and the Nicene Creed affirm that the incarnation was “for us” as well as “for our salvation.” The Son was not incarnated as man only to save us from sin, but also to “bring many sons to glory.” In other words, the incarnation was planned all along, sin or no sin. God created humanity as a bride for His Son, and it was always going to be the Son who would come into the world and bring His bride to full glory. Notice the Creed:

Who for us men,

          And for our salvation,

Came down from heaven,

And was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,

And was made man;

          ALSO [etiam] was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,

          And suffered….

Together with this is the effective rejection of Romans 8:30, where “justified and glorified” are in the same tense. There is present glorification just as there is future justification. As 2 Corinthians 3:18 assures us, we are presently growing from glory to glory. The early church called glorification “deification.” The passages used nowadays to show imputed righteousness, such as the robing of Jeshua in Zechariah 3, are actually about glorification (as is obvious).

God killed an animal to cover Adam’s sin in the garden, and then clothed them in tunics, a royal garment. This “same” tunic of royal rule was stripped from Jesus at the cross and the soldiers cast lots for it.

The “day of atonement” in Leviticus 16 is actually literally the Day of Coverings, plural. Blood covers the Ark-Cover, removing sin, and then the priest is covered in his glory garments.

I lean my hand upon the sacrificial animal, but he does not turn around and put his innocent paw upon me. Rather, he dies and his blood is displayed. That’s justification. Then, however, the sacrifice enters into God’s fiery shekinah presence inside the “altar” (communion site) and ascends up to the throne. That’s glorification.

My robes are white in the BLOOD of the Lamb, not from “imputed righteousness.” The Lord’s Supper displays Jesus’ DEATH to the Father until He comes.

Jesus receives my liability to sin and thus dies, His blood displayed. What I receive from Him is union with His glorification by the Spirit. It is His new life, resurrection and transfigured life, that is given to me. It is the well nigh universal failure of the Reformed faith to take this Biblical data into account that is behind the confusion over justification. Jesus died for me. That’s why I’m forgiven. That’s enough.

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Repeatedly over the last several years a variety of characters have accused the so-called “Federal Vision” of being “monocovenantal.” Many other wild and unsubstantiated accusations against the “Federal Vision” have been made, of course. Recently I learned that two of the men on the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s study committee on “Federal Vision” did not even know that there was a book called The Federal Vision. These men had read next to nothing, if anything, about the “Federal Vision,” but actively wrote a report full of lies and misrepresentations of it.

The lies about the “Federal Vision” early on took on a life of their own. Those repeating them, marching mindlessly in lock step, never bother to consult any “FV” representatives. They just issue report after report repeating the same lies. After a while it becomes, “Well, how could so many churches be wrong about the Federal Vision? Hey look, ALL the denominations have condemned it!”

The answer is simple: the people on the committees are mindless marchers. They march in step with the mindless marchers who have told them these lies. Seldom do they read anything written by the people they supposedly are investigating. They publish wild reports, filled with amazing lies, and when called to account they say this, “Well, those men say that they don’t believe these things; but we know that they really do.”

How do you answer such evil men?  They cannot find that you’ve ever written XYZ, and they cannot find that you’ve ever said XYZ, but they accuse you of it anyway. When you say you don’t believe XYZ, they call you a liar. I wish I were wrong about this, but it seems that these are the kind of men who staff the theological committees of pretty much all the “conservative” “Reformed” denominations these days. There is no charity, no benefit of the doubt, not even a phone call. The attitude is pretty clear; as Luther put it:  They proudly say, “Now, where is he That shall our speech forbid us? By right or might we shall prevail; What we determine cannot fail; We own no lord and master!” (Luther, Psalm 12)

Among the lies constantly reiterated by the unthinking marchers is the charge of “monocovenantalism.” According to them, “Federal Visionaries” deny that there are two covenants in human history. Since nobody has ever said this, the charge is a lie. Somebody started up this lie, and the mindless marchers, too lazy to check into it for themselves, simply repeat it over and over.

Reformed theology does say, of course, that the three persons of God exist in covenant with each other. They exist with each other in other ways also, but they are indeed covenantally united. This follows from the Biblical doctrine of creation. There is nothing in the creation that does not have its archetype in God, because there is nothing outside of God that God could look at when making the creation. Covenants exist in human life because the three persons of God are in covenant with one another. This is standard, garden-variety Calvinistic teaching, and anyone who denies it is not Reformed in any way, shape, or fashion.

So, ultimately, in God there is one covenant. This is an inescapable fact that anyone with the least knowledge of systematic theology should know. In history, however, there are phases in God’s administration of His relationship with man and there are two overarching covenants. (Oh by the way, “Federal Visionists” despise systematic theology as “inherently rationalistic” we are told!)

The human race was created in covenant fellowship with God, but in a child form of that relationship. Human beings were under “law” administered by angels until they grew up. When the human race was ready, God entered into a new covenant, an adult covenant with humanity. The first covenant was in Adam and in the human beings that came from him, including Jesus the Christ. Jesus was born into the first covenant, and then through death and resurrection brought the new covenant, the covenant of maturity or glory. So, there are two overall covenants.

Nobody denies this. To say that “Federal Visionists” deny this is a lie. Nobody has ever denied it.

Of course, beyond this, we recognize a succession of covenantal administrations in history: the Adamic, Noahic, Patriarchal, Sinaitic, Kingdom, Prophetic, and Oikumenical covenants, which precede and lead down to the New Covenant. Each of these previous covenants reiterates the “angel/law” world of the childhood covenant, but each also reveals and progressively partly manifests the adult world of the mature covenant. And, because of the fall of man into sin, each of the older covenants reveals the coming salvation of the world from death and sin, which will make possible the entrance into the New Mature Covenant.

Beyond this, each of these eight covenants has an initial and then a full form. The Adamic covenant is “not good” until Adam has gone through a kind of death-sleep and then been glorified with a bride; then the covenant is “very good.” Similarly, the Sinaitic covenant has a first phase, in which the Ten Words are written on stone and in which the bride is merely part of the husband’s house in the Tenth Word; and then after the death and resurrection of Israel in the wilderness comes the full phase of the Sinaitic covenant, in which the Ten Words are now put in flesh through the voice of Moses and in which the bride is elevated in the Tenth Word to co-rule with her husband over the house.  The same kind of move from initial to full form can be seen in each of the covenant administrations, once it is recognized that the “bride” is the community. Hence, again, the Prophetic covenant starts with Elijah as soloist, but after his departure, Elisha is seen always in community.

The point of this essay is not to give a full explication of genuine Biblical and Reformed covenantal theology. The point is that there are no monocovenantalists. As far as I know, there never have been any.

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July 19-23
– Peter Leithart: Stuff on Sex and Politics in the Song of Songs
– Jeffrey Meyers: Stuff on Acts
– James Jordan: Stuff So Amazing We Cannot Disclose It
Bill DeJong: Ritual and Character Development
– Others to be announced.
– Begins Monday evening at 7:00 pm; ends Friday at 1:00 pm.
– Registration: $100 per person; $125 per family.
– Sung Vespers each evening, with “chanted” psalmody.

– Local airport is Northwest Florida Air Terminal (VPS).

– WARNING: By now it is almost certain that the beaches will be oil-fouled and that people will not be permitted to go to the beach. You may wish to take that into account when you decide where to stay, as some motels have pools. All those listed below have pools. There are recreational parks near the church that have access to the water of the bay, which should be fine.

Meeting place: Trinity Presbyterian Church, 44 Southview Ave., Valparaiso, FL 32580 www.trinvalp.com 

PLEASE NOTE: Trinity Presbyterian has graciously allowed the BH Conference to meet on its premises for 20 years. Trinity is NOT, however, a sponsor of the Conference. Questions about the Conference need to be addressed to Biblical Horizons, not to Trinity Presbyterian. Contact: jbjordan4@cox.net; 850-897-5299.

Better motels that are near the church:

Holiday Inn Express:

Quality Inn:

Comfort Suites:

If these are too expensive and you want a cheapo motel, contact us.

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