Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why Republicans Need Geerhardus Vos

Recently, in an interview, Senator Rand Paul said:
 “I think it’s important that people know that for the country to get better it needs more than just politicians. Politicians aren’t enough and it needs resurgence through churches, through revivals through a spiritual cleansing of the people."
An obvious reference to Jim DeMint's book Saving Freedom which is part of the ongoing debate on what the Church needs. For this debate to be fruitful we will need to move the idea of 'revival' beyond a nostalgic longing for early America. Historian Charlie Dennison wrote in 1996:
'Could it be that the OPC, helped greatly by Van Til's biblical apologetic, calls to mind that Christ's church is a pilgrim people without nationalist or ethnic portfolio? Could it be that the OPC, encouraged by Van Til's antithetical posture, reminds Christ's church that she is stamped with an otherworldliness, so that she does not seek to regain the world from which she has been delivered, but seeks instead to be a servant in that world until Christ returns? Could it be that the OPC provides a much-needed testimony that Christ's church must always confess, "Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come" (Heb. 13:14 KJV)?'
Gary North, Director of curriculum development at Ron Paul homeschool program, wrote some time ago:
'In October, 1990, the long-promised book by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary finally appeared: Theonomy: A Reformed Critique. In response comes Westminster's Confession. It is both a negative and a positive statement. Theonomists believe that "you can't beat something with nothing." It is not enough to demonstrate that someone is wrong: you must also show what is correct.
Cornelius Van Til made this principle the bedrock application of his apologetic method. It was not enough to demonstrate that his opponents' systems of thought were internally inconsistent; he also showed why Christianity is the only logical alternative. But he left an incomplete legacy. He refused to offer an explicitly biblical alternative to the natural law theory that he had refuted. His system created a judicial vacuum.'
 A recent lecture on Natural Law by William Dennison & John Witte's article A Demonstrative Theory of Natural Law: Johannes Althusius and the Rise of Calvinist Jurisprudence give us the best introduction to the debate on natural law among 'Calvinists' today. Natural law is discussed on the radio program Christ and Culture here.

Republican strategists would do well to listen carefully to William Dennison. Dennison articulates the principles behind Kuyper's political strategy which succeeded in transcending the conservative-liberal divide in Dutch politics at the end of the 19th century. Instead of superficial pandering towards immigrants and libertarians, William Dennison's articulation of the (traditional Calvinist) antirevolutionary position has the ability to provide credible thoughtleadership to the Republican party in transition. The political thoughtleadership Geerhardus Vos dreamed of when he convinced Abraham Kuyper to do the Stone Lectures at Princeton in 1898.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Church of God which Sojourns in Rome

First mention of Letter to the Hebrews (17 times) outside of the New Testament in Clemens of Rome's letter to the Corinthians (69 AD). This letter starts by emphasizing the phrase 'The Church of God which sojourns':
"The Church of God which sojourns in Rome to the Church of God which sojourns in Corinth, to those who are called and sanctified by the will of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace from Almighty God be multiplied unto you through Jesus Christ.
James Dennison briefly mentions Clemens letter in episode 2 of his lectures on the letter to the Hebrews. He argues that the meaning of 'Hebrews' in the title means 'sojourners' so that it actually reads like 'letter to the sojourners'.

 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Archetypal & Ectypal Theology

NewGeneva quoted R. Scott Clark yesterday:

Reformed theologians called theology as God does it archetypal, and theology as it comes to us ectypal theology ~
Klaas Schilde in his commentary on Heidelberg Catechism sunday 6 writes about this 'typical' thinking:
'There was a time, some still follow this line of thinking today, that people loved talking about "archetypal" and "ectypical" theology. "Archetypal", i.e. was what the Lord God himself thought. His knowledge of himself was called, so to speak, the "model", to which our knowledge of God, our "theology" was formed; therefore the latter was called "ectypical" ,ie 'portraying'. The archetype was comparable to a punch, the imprint of the punch to the ectype.

We hold multiple objections against this representation, which we will not mention here.'
Rob Edwards wrote march 14:
In honor of Geerhardus Vos' b'day read his excellent sermon portraying ministry in the context of redemptive history:
This sermon, 'The More Excellent Ministry', by Geerhardus Vos illustrates and underlines Klaas Schilder's  objections:
'There is a straightforwardness, a simplicity in preaching, which is proportionate to the preacher's own faith in the absoluteness and inherent truthfulness of his message. No shallow optimism about the adjustableness of Christianity to ever changing conditions, about its self-rejuvenating power after apparent decline, can possibly make up for a lack of this fundamental conviction. Unless we are convinced with Paul that Christianity has a definable and well-defined message to bring, and are able to tell wherein it consists, all our talk about its vitality or adaptability will neither comfort ourselves nor deceive others. A thing is not immortal because it is long-lived and dies hard. Only when through all changes of time it preserves unaltered its essence and source of power, can it be considered worthwhile as a medicine for the sickness of the world. Something that needs the constant use of cosmetics to keep up the appearance of youth is a caricature of the Christianity of the New Testament. Its case is worse than it imagines: it has not merely passed its youth, but is in danger of losing its very life.'

Monday, April 1, 2013

Biblical Theology & the Westminster Confession of Faith

Todd Braye made me aware of the helpfull discussion on the relationship between Biblical Theology & the Confession:

'After all, from my viewpoint, the definition and understanding of Biblical Theology lies within the parameters of the analogy of Scripture found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, i.e., "the infallible rule of the interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself (I:ix)."2 In my judgment, the Confession's statement on the "infallible rule" of Biblical hermeneutics is an essential component of Biblical Theology. For this reason, Biblical Theology has a favorable and positive disposition in the heart of the Reformed confessional tradition.'

'The Westminster Confession's statement that "the infallible interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself" (I:9) is not a platitude of Reformed piety that is declared in order to impress our constituency or those outside our constituency with our high view of Scripture and method of interpretation. Rather, it must be a principle at work in the Reformed exegete. Specifically, the exegete must engage constantly in critical self-examination as to whether his method of Biblical interpretation is in compliance with the authority of Scripture, or to put it another way, is in compliance with the infallible Scripture interpreting the infallible Scripture. This critical analysis has been at the heart of Reformed Biblical Theology and its redemptive-historical hermeneutic; after all, in my judgment, the Westminster Confession's rule of interpreting Scripture is redemptive-historical—it is Biblical theological.'
This reminds us offcourse of the 'Kamper tradition' as explained by Wim van der Schee here. In his article William Dennison states:
'at this point, it is crucial to understand that the redemptive-historical hermeneutic is connected organically with the historic Reformed view of Scripture'
which reminds me of Herman Bavinck's statement in the introduction of his Reformed Dogmatics:
"Not just the believer, but also the dogmatician has to confess the communion of Saints. Only with all the saints can he understand, what the width and length and depth and height is and confess the love of Christ, that surpasses all knowledge. First in and by their communion does he understand the dogma, in which Christian faith expresses itself."
The work of Biblical Theology reminds me of the wisdom of the crowd principle and Google's way of calculating authority based on linking. At the same, as Origen's observes, 'stumbling block(s)' in revelation is/are at the heart of the biblical narrative as well. Just read this sermon on Matthew 2. Or as it is written in Zecharia 12:3:
'On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.'