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Archive for the ‘Theology Proper’ Category

HOT OFF THE PRESSES!

Peter J. Leithart & John Barach, eds., The Glory of Kings: A Festschrift in Honor of James B. Jordan (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011).

Foreword — R. R. Reno

Introduction — Peter J. Leithart

PART ONE: BIBLICAL STUDIES

1. The Glory of the Son of Man: An Exposition of Psalm 8 — John Barach

2. Judah’s Life from the Dead: The Gospel of Romans 11 — Tim Gallant

3. The Knotted Thread of Time: The Missing Daughter in Leviticus 18 — Peter J. Leithart

4. Holy War Fulfilled and Transformed: A Look at Some Important New Testament Texts — Rich Lusk

5. The Royal Priesthood in Exodus 19:6 — Ralph Allan Smith

6. Father Storm: A Theology of Sons in the Book of Job — Toby J. Sumpter

PART TWO: LITURGICAL THEOLOGY

7. On Earth as It Is in Heaven: The Pastoral Typology of James B. Jordan — Bill DeJong

8. Why Don’t We Sing the Songs Jesus Sang? The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of English Psalm Singing — Duane Garner

9. Psalm 46 — William Jordan

PART 3: THEOLOGY

10. A Pedagogical Paradigm for Understanding Reformed Eschatology with Special Emphasis on Basic Characteristics of Christ’s Person — C. Kee Hwang

11. Light and Shadow: Confessing the Doctrine of Election in the Sixteenth Century — Jeffrey J. Meyers

PART FOUR: CULTURE

12. James Jordan, Rosenstock-Huessy, and Beyond — Richard Bledsoe

13. Theology of Beauty in Evdokimov — Bogumil Jarmulak

14. Empire, Sports, and War — Douglas Wilson

Afterword — John M. Frame

The Writings of James B. Jordan, 1975–2011 — John Barach

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3. Covenant Maturation

Let us now turn to the application of this One Eternal Covenant into history. We have been looking at Covenant Theology. Covenant Theology has to do with the persons of God and their relationships, with God’s relationships with humanity, and with our maturation toward being junior partners in the Divine community. Thus, the large focus in Covenant Theology is on persons, and we can link this with the Father-aspect of reality. Literary Theology studies how the Word is organized, and thus engages the Son-aspect of reality. When we move to Typology and Ritual, we are moving into the area of artistic imagery and of time sequences, the Spirit-aspect of reality.

These are the three large zones of Biblical Theology. Obviously, since God is One and “all of God does all that God does,” these three aspects of Biblical Theology cannot be separated fully from one another. What we begin to do in this essay is consider how the Spirit applies the one Covenant in history. We shall see that He does so by carrying humanity through ever-widening and ever-deepening spirals of maturation. These spirals or cycles correspond to one another, and thus are typologically related to one another. Thus, in this essay and those that follow, we are beginning to put Covenant and Typological Theology together.
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The previous discussion led to several points that I’d like to take up in like to take up in more detail. For the sake of discussion, I’ll number them for ease of consideration.

1. Typological “evidences” for Mary as perpetual virgin, queen of heaven, etc. etc. I assert here that these have never been the reasons for Marian doctrines, but that they have been brought into consideration by those who are already completely convinced of those doctrines because of their traditions. As the previous discussion demonstrated, I believe, there is no Biblical warrant for the notion that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible explicitly states that Joseph did not routinely have sex with her until after her purification.

 

When I was in grammar school in the 1950s, I attended a Roman Catholic school. The sisters taught the Catholic kids that Jesus’ brothers were really cousins. One sister told us that they were Jesus’ half-brothers, because Joseph had had an earlier marriage. She, at least, seemed to know that if they had been cousins, the word for cousin would have been used. So, they had to be real brothers and sisters of Jesus, but not children of Mary. That, of course, was impossible. All this was taught with full and total assurance. 

When one reads discussions of Marian doctrine, one never sees any discussion of the Biblical evidence, except to try and discount it by twisting the grammar. No, the doctrines are assumed, and then the Bible is plundered to find allegorical evidence for it. I have read enough Eastern and Roman theology to feel quite confident about this. The actual Biblical data is pretty clear. Nowhere is Mary venerated. She does not appear in the Bible after Pentecost, which means her entire historical role is located in the Old Covenant as the last Eve who bore the last Abel, as the last ‘Adamah who bore the last Adam.

She surely was dead by the time the latest epistles were written, but nothing in them indicates any veneration of her or anything about her dormition or assumption. Forcing Mary into Revelation 12 or into the book of Esther, or whatever, is just that: forcing. The assumption is made, based on tradition and upbringing, that X, Y, and Z are true about Mary. Only then do parts of the Bible “reveal” those truths. And these “revelations” obscure the actual meaning of the text. The woman in Revelation 12 is the Old Covenant church. Esther is a type of Christ.

Of course, if one accepts the Roman doctrine of Tradition (capital tee), as a separate course of revelation next to the Bible, then things change. It still is an issue how to understand Esther and Revelation 12, of course, but the Marian notions can be preserved. But, here at BT, we are not among those who accept that notion of Tradition.

2. This leads me to my second consideration, which is the influence of timeless and gnostic thinking on theology. Heaven knows, there is plenty of that influence in Lutheran and Calvinistic thought. (I have spent most of my career attacking such things in Calvinistic thinking.) Here, however, we are considered with the Marian notions.

What the Bible shows is the importance of Mary as mother of the Chief Heir of the Old Covenant. Her firstborn son was born under the Law. Her greatness is in her willing acceptance of this role, even though it meant virtually everyone she knew would regard her as a loose woman. And indeed, a sword would pierce her heart. But in all of this she is NOT a symbol of being a mother of the New Covenant church. Actually, the Mary who met Jesus in the garden immediately after His glorification was Mary Magdalene, so if there is a NEW Eve, it is she. Much more importantly, the Spirit who paracletically came from Jesus’ side is the new Eve, and Mother of the Church.

Mary had a role in covenant history, and her role ended when Jesus gave her into the house of His disciple John. It was a great role, but that was the end of it.

3. I’d like to suggest how some of these doctrines come about. This is somewhat speculative, of course, and at age 60 (Korean years) I’m not about to write a dissertation and spend five years looking into all this. But just consider.

3a. Theotokos. A friendly interlocutor referred to Mary as theotokos in the present, but then when challenged realized that this is not quite accorate. Theo-tokos means “God-bearer.” It means that the baby on Mary’s womb was God incarnate, the second person of the Trinity. (Note: It does not mean “mother of God,” and that phrase is much more problematic because of its slippery ambiguity.) But of course, Mary stopped being theotokos the moment Jesus was born. He was no longer in her womb, and she was no longer carrying Him. She WAS theotokos, but she IS no longer theotokos.

If, however, theologians and uneducated monks (especially the latter in late antiquity) go around calling Mary “theotokos,” then it gets into the air that she still IS theotokos. Icons are made with the baby Jesus blessing the world from Mary’s lap. She is his environment, always.

Now, a better construction on such ikons can be that the woman is the Church, which carries Jesus with her into the world. Yes, that’s true, but it’s also true that Jesus is in heaven and not living “inside” the Church. It’s much more important that the Church is inside of Him!

3b. More important is the phrase, “the virgin Mary.” The ecclesiastical Creed nicely says, “came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made man.” Here it is clear that Jesus’ conception and birth were of the virgin Mary. The so-called Apostles’ Creed, often used but unofficial in the early church, simply says, “born of the virgin Mary.” This might suggest (in context it does not) that “the virgin Mary” was some kind of name, like “Pontius Pilate.” One might begin to think that “the virgin Mary” was always a virgin. 

Now, the Apostle’s Creed does not SAY that Mary was always a virgin, but again, consider ignorant and illiterate monks whose theology is little more than the list of things in the creeds, and who are given to all kinds of superstitions anyway (and for that matter are happy to form gangs and murder people like Hypatia). Is it hard to understand that “the virgin Mary” becomes an idea, a slogan, something timeless? — especially in the gnostic and philosophized context of the ancient world, where all truths are timeless. 

Again, does your Protestant hymnal say “virgin Mary” or “Virgin Mary”? If the latter, why the capital vee? (If so, get rid of it. And for that matter, let the Latin guide you and say, “born of a virgin, Mary”.)

To return, once “the virgin Mary” becomes an idea divorced from history, then it becomes an important theological datum. It fits in nicely with several factors in the early Church:

a. the context of timeless philosophical thinking, regarded by too many theologians and apologists as important. 

b. the influence of ignorant monks and Buddhist-like “holy men” like Anthony.

c. the increasing celibacy of much of the clergy, cut off from real life. Along these lines consider the crackpot opinions of Jerome, which you can read about in the wikipedia article on him. It is no surprise that Jerome condemned Helvidius, Tertullian, and Victorinus for believing that Mary had a real marriage with Joseph. We admire Jerome for some things, but we cannot admire  his vicious asceticism any more than the people of his own day did. 

d. and, perhaps most importantly, the growing fear of music (too emotional), food (too tempting), and sex (way too tempting) in the later early church. The rejection of music, wine, and woman is characteristic of Islam, and Islam just brings to perfection these three trends emerging from late antiquity. Augustine hold that sex within marriage is always sinful, partakes of “concupiscence,” and is justified only to make children. Basil says that sex is a result of the fall, and that if Adam had not sinned, we would reproduce by division. 

Given this context, it is hardly a surprise that after a couple of centuries “the virgin Mary” became an important theological matter.

4. Once these completely unBiblical notions gain currency, they begin to play havoc with orthodox teachings. For instance, in order for Mary to be a virgin always, her hymen must not have been broken when Jesus was born. He just passed through it, as He passed through doors after His resurrection. Now, notice two things:

4a. This confuses the pre-resurrection Adamic body of Jesus and the post-resurrection body of Jesus. Here again we see an example of timeless gnostic thinking.

4b. And no matter how many times this may be denied, this foolish notion means that Jesus did not experience a birth. It is a denial of the virgin birth, because it was not a natural birth at all. Please note, that the Bible never says that Mary was a virgin while Jesus was being born. The doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus only means that no man had slept with her before Jesus was born. The “hymen intacta” notion is a docetic move that implies Jesus did not have a real human body. He was NOT like us in all ways, though without sin. He, unlike us, could pass through the birth canal and cause no ripping of any sort.

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The Reformed faith has traditionally spoken of God condescending to reveal himself in creation. Presupposed in this assertion is that God is infinite in his own essence, both qualitatively and quantitatively. God is of a different type of “being” altogether, existing wholly within himself, outside of our plane of space and time. He is outside of our scale of being. In order for us to have knowledge of this wholly other God, God has revealed himself in an appropriate fashion. Calvin referred to this as accommodation, and this has given some occasion for question. It is very easy to interpret this accommodating as a less desirable way of relating, as if in the best of all possible worlds man could overcome this situation. However well-intentioned such a desire may be, it is indeed quite fatal, for what is called “accommodation” is really just one attempt at the larger Christian doctrine of analogy, that is, the relationship between the infinite and the finite.

This concept is indeed not free from controversy. I do not wish to touch on Aquinas’s use of the analogia entis, nor will I tread upon Eastern Orthodoxy’s distinction between God’s essence and his energies. These are all attempts to get at the same thing, and postmodernity has given a new popularity to questions of “being.” For our purposes, I would like to examine what the Reformed faith’s doctrine of the covenant has to offer on this question.

There is some diversity within the Reformed tradition as we well know. Everyone remembers the Van Til/Clark controversy, though few understand it still. Calvin scholarship is also divided on just what he meant “accommodation” and “condescension” to achieve. Was it specifically aimed at salvation or was it simply the relationship between Creator and creation? In order to get beyond some of these disputes and to the point of interaction with the topic at hand, I am basically assuming Van Til’s position, and I am assuming Van Til’s position to be basically consistent with Reformed Orthodoxy. Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics supports this, and as I proceed, I will interact with Scott Oliphint’s Reasons {for Faith}, which will also substantiate this point. And in doing all of this, I believe that I will interact with a few points mentioned elsewhere concerning the sacraments and the covenant.


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