R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Fresh from the afterglow of a recent post on sex, I’ll take another stab with a remark about gay marriage. Noah Millman observes in passing an exchange between David Frum and Andrew Sullivan which went like this:

the question – as Andrew Sullivan posed it repeatedly to David Frum over the years, Frum being well-aware of these alternative approaches to the marriage “problem” and their potential normative costs – is: what, in your worldview, are you offering to gay people, if not marriage? And there was never a good answer to that. And, there being no good answer – good in the sense of being something that would be readily accepted as an answer – the marriage movement grew, and burgeoned.

I know some of this exchange had to do with policy alternatives to existing marriage laws, but I am still puzzled by the substance of Sullivan’s question — as if changing marriage law will fundamentally change gay life in the United States. As most married couples know, the respect of a spouse is as important to the survival of a relationship as is romance, more so. Right now in the U.S. gay men receive more respect without marriage than African-American men ever did before (and arguably after) the Civil Rights Act. The image of gay men may trade on stereotypes but compared to those associated with heterosexual young males, being articulate, having impeccable taste, knowing table manners, being able to throw a great dinner party, knowing how to decorate a room beat pretty much any day of the week being crude, unrefined, poorly read, wearing t-shirts and baseball caps backwards, drinking bad beer, and watching televised sports. In fact, it takes marriage to domesticate most heterosexual men. Gay men generally don’t need it.

Of course, this is not argument against gay marriage. It is only to say that marriage may not be the panacea that Sullivan imagines. Here the old line of Irving Kristol comes to mind. When asked about gay marriage, Kristol said, “Let them have it, they won’t like it.”

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139 Comments

  1. Posted April 12, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    John Murray is another powerful witness who stands on the traditional reformed side with me.

    John Murray: “The disposition to construe the demand for obedience in the Mosaic economy as having affinity with works rather than grace arises from failure to recognize that the demand for obedience in the Mosaic covenant is principlly identical with the same demand under the gospel. When we re-examine the demand for obedience in the Mosaic covenant (cf. Exodus 19:5, 6; 24:7) in the light of the relations of law and grace in the gospel, we shall discover that the complex of ideas is totally alien to a construction in terms of works as opposed to grace. Obedience belongs here no more ‘to the legal sphere of merit’3 than in the new covenant. The New Testament believer is not without law to God but under law to Christ. He delights in the law of God after the inward man and he therefore reiterates the exclamation of the Old Testament saint, ‘O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day’ (Psalm 119:97). And he also is not forgetful that he who was the incarnation and embodiment of virtue, he who is the supreme and perfect example, said, ‘I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart’ (Psalm 40:8).” (“Law and Grace,” in Principles of Conduct)

  2. Posted April 12, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Doug: Paul is NOT saying it’s even possible, since we all know anything that is not of faith is sin.

    Again, no one is saying that it was possible. If your critique is based on the assumption that people (I, Gordon) are saying that it was possible, then your critique is resting on the wrong foundation.

    To go further,

    Doug: The problem, as I have pointed out, was with the heart of the people, not with the law.

    Full agreement there. There was and is nothing wrong with the law of God. The question is, “What was its function.”

    So far, we have identified at least one: To expose transgressions.

    You want to assert a second function, to provide a provision for forgiveness of sin. I have previously argued that the sacrifices were distinct from the commands; you aren’t happy with this distinction. So I suggest that we find a point of common ground. Can we agree that the provision for forgiveness is limited to the ceremonial law?

    That is, neither the moral law nor the civil law exhibit grace?

  3. Posted April 12, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Jeff and Sean, I stand behind Murray’s paragraph 100%!

    Murray was the systematic theology professor at Westminster Seminary of Philadelphia, no? Murray was considered the best systematic “reformed” theologian of his day, no? Murray is “reformed” 101 on how *we* are to view the covenant of grace. One covenant different administrations. Therefore the law is in perfect harmony with grace, “in Christ”, during both administrations according to Murray!!!

    Please quit calling my perspective, which aligns perfectly with Dr. John Murray; a RC position! I find that repugnant and mean spirited.

    John Murray places VanDrunen, Gordon, and Hart, on the back porch and in the dog house of the reformed world. Sean, If you want to hang (theologically) with these dubious characters, (TLINF gang) you’ll need to take an exception, you’re OPC, right? The law was just as gracious as the gospel; in that it saved the elect just like the gospel does today. Faith is still the key, as it was back then.

    . TLINF’s view of the Mosaic covenant, is tortured and confused, (that’s putting it nicely) saying it’s both legalistic and grace. The whole reformed community should get on their heels and say; Stop it!

  4. Posted April 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Venema via Doug: The traditional formula of Reformed covenant theology, that the covenant of grace is one in substance though diverse in administration, entails that the Mosaic covenant was substantially a covenant of grace and only accidentally distinct from other administrations of the covenant of grace. This means that the distinctive features of the covenant of grace, which distinguish it in substance from the covenant of works, characterize the Mosaic administration in its entirety.

    Actually, I have no argument with this. This is one reason that I distinguish between the sacrifices (which belong to the essence of the covenant) and the commands (which do not).

    The key question, now, is Does the Law belong to the essence of the Mosaic covenant, or to its administration? I can’t speak for Gordon (though I suspect I know what he would say). For myself, I would emphatically say that the Law (civil, ceremonial) belonged to its administration only.

    It’s entirely possible that Gordon would say the same.

    So I think Venema might be talking past Gordon, taking aim at a view that Gordon does not hold.

    I am pretty confident that you, Doug, have misunderstood somewhat of the position.

    Doug: Quit calling me a RC

    That would be my fault, not Sean’s. I’ll leave off. The intent was not to say that your soteriology is identical to Rome’s, but that it shows some similarities.

    But I’m pleased that the association outrages you, in that it shows a desire on your part to be justified by grace and not works. Hold on to that thought.

  5. Posted April 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Doug: TLINF’s view of the Mosaic covenant, is tortured and confused

    Doug, it’s actually not truthful for you to assert something like this if you haven’t verified it for yourself. It would be much better to interact with the views presented here, until of course you have actually read TLNF.

    There’s another good reason: The view I’m presenting owes much more to Calvin and Hodge than to Gordon and Fesko. So even if you blew gaping holes into TLNF with your atomic Venema quotes, my own view would still stand.

  6. sean
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Doug,

    I actually appreciate some of the distinctions you’re beginning to make. The question however is not whether the mosaic covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace, but HOW or in what manner is it so. Paul is arguing for a pedagogical use of the law or sinai as it regards the NC. IOW, the law is a schoolmaster to lead you to Christ. So, HOW does the law do that? Certainly we can talk about it typically, but the point of emphasis for Paul, particularly in Gal, is to draw out it’s antithetical nature. So, what is it about Sinai that is NOT conducive to the NC or in this case the Abrahamic promise? Paul cites Lev. 18:5 as principle; by which it doesn’t share coherence with the NC. And he says it in this way; the law(sinai, torah, moses) as considered from the point of view of Lev. 18:5 is NOT of faith. As a matter of fact it was/is not so, so that IT(the law) might imprison us in our sin(I can’t save myself& see God’s goodness and my badness), so that, we might come to Christ. This is the pedagogical use. So, there’s no deficiency in the law, it did it’s job in service of the gospel. But, HOW it did that, as considered from Lev 18:5, was to posit a works principle, by which we might despair and come to Christ APART from our works and by faith through grace embrace Christ. The continuity on the grace/faith continuum you’re looking for is back to Abraham and necessarily so, because if we make of the Law, as considered per Lev 18:5, of the principle of grace and faith, then it’s not available to perform it’s pedagogical purpose(driving us) to embrace Jesus Christ by faith.

  7. sean
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Doug, I did accuse you of sounding RC, and I did it on purpose to offend you. I may dislike theonomy, a lot, but it doesn’t mean I want you or any theonomist to flee to Rome. It was my own version of stupor-jarring. Can’t say I’m sorry you took offense because, like Jeff, I don’t want you wittingly or unwittingly near that cliff.

  8. Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I can just see Doug’s mug on the roster of the Called to Communion page. He’ll be signing all his posts, “In the sword of Christ”…

  9. Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Jeff, you really need to read this very carefully, and then please interact. As you will see, Murray destroy’s your command/suggestion theory.

    John Murray: “The disposition to construe the demand for obedience in the Mosaic economy as having affinity with works rather than grace arises from failure to recognize that the demand for obedience in the Mosaic covenant is principly identical with the same demand under the gospel. When we re-examine the demand for obedience in the Mosaic covenant (cf. Exodus 19:5, 6; 24:7) in the light of the relations of law and grace in the gospel, we shall discover that the complex of ideas is totally alien to a construction in terms of works as opposed to grace. Obedience belongs here no more ‘to the legal sphere of merit’3 than in the new covenant. The New Testament believer is not without law to God but under law to Christ. He delights in the law of God after the inward man and he therefore reiterates the exclamation of the Old Testament saint, ‘O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day’ (Psalm 119:97). And he also is not forgetful that he who was the incarnation and embodiment of virtue, he who is the supreme and perfect example, said, ‘I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart’ (Psalm 40:8).” (“Law and Grace,” in Principles of Conduct)

  10. Bobby
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Doug,

    I think it is widely acknowledged today that Murray’s theology has some substantial problems. Those problems were not too germane to the chief debates that concerned the conservative Reformed denominations during the years when Murray was active. They have only been uncovered by more recent debates. You act as if there’s some kind of estoppel at play, implying that we now have to accept Murray’s problematic theology as authoritative or “traditional” because those criticisms weren’t levied during the years of Murray’s primary activity. Nothing could be more absurd.

    During the years of Murray’s primary activity, conservative Reformed denominations were primarily concerned, if not obsessed, with distinguishing themselves from the Protestant mainline. Thus, while Murray’s theology may have been viewed with some skepticism, it wasn’t perceived as dangerous. Its deficiencies became more apparent with the rise of theonomy in the 1980s.

  11. Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Bobby; are you now willing to throw Dr. Venema under the bus as well? It was Dr. Venema who said “The traditional formula of Reformed covenant theology, that the covenant of grace is one in substance though diverse in administration, entails that the Mosaic covenant was substantially a covenant of grace and only accidentally distinct from other administrations of the covenant of grace. This means that the distinctive features of the covenant of grace, which distinguish it in substance from the covenant of works, characterize the Mosaic administration in its entirety.”

    Bobby, my position lines up nicely with the traditional formula of Reformed covenant theology. It also lines up perfectly with Dr. John Murray. So let’s not call my position a RC position, okay? This notion, that the Mosaic covenant had a works principle inside of it, is ludicrous. As I have proven from Scripture, the only problem was Israel’s lack of faith, period, end of story. The law preached the same gospel, it just needed to be apprehended by faith, JUST LIKE TODAY.

  12. Bobby
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Doug,

    Where did I “call [your] position an RC position”? Nowhere! Why does theonomy necessitate that we struggle against SSM, and yet excuse its proponents when they perpetuate one false statement after another. I also recall the theonomist bookseller, Great Christian Books, that had a penchant for charging customers’ credit cards for books that they had no intent of shipping. Maybe you guys should focus less on the Culture War, and focus a bit more on things like lying, cheating, and stealing.

    Also, I have no idea who “Dr. Venema” is. I did an internet search and came across a guy at some obscure seminary in Indiana. Is this who you’re referring to? It looks like he’s something of an apologist for neo-Calvinism. Surely you can’t be suggesting that Kuyperianism is “traditional” Reformed theology. Kuyperianism strikes me as nothing more than a failed effort to re-imagine Protestant theology through the lens of German Romanticism. I see no reason to be beholden to such a philosophical concoction.

  13. David
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    D.G. Hart,

    Sullivan sure is scoring a lot of points of late. One wonders why. I did see him make a defense of classical liberalism at Harvard once. It was obvious he knew his stuff and that he was gifted rhetorically. But he lost me when after laying out a great summation for classical liberalism he then went on to be a pure apologist for statism progress and ever widening expansion into individual life.

    Great insights concerning Civil Rights legislation in comparsion with gay culture. As a hetersexual black man (an Old school Presbyterian even!), I’m not seeing a whole bunch of domestication going on when a man and woman hook elbows sort of speak. In a word, domestication is not attenuating the list of negatives you so aptly mentioned spoiling masculine culture in these years.

    Not that it matters: I’m fairly well read, tidy, refined, don’t wear baggy clothes unless weigh-loss has occurred; don’t sport backwards hat wearing, and I’m neither married or gay. Lol.

    Some men — quite a few I hope — can be about town without being either gay or married. That’s not to put down ladies, of course. They are wonderful and mysterious creatures. Especially when confessionally Presbyterian.

    Cheers! (Keep up the good work Mr Hart)

    djbeilstein

  14. Posted April 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    David – “don’t wear baggy clothes unless weigh-loss has occurred”

    You’ve officially become a middle-aged man. The only time we make a fashion statement is on accident.

    I did some clothes shopping today for the first time in a long time. Actually my wife did. She brings clothes home and I try them on. If she likes them, we keep them.

    The one thing you lack is a good woman to make most of life’s difficult decisions for you.

  15. Posted April 13, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    David,

    A Hart piece from the “Dictionary of the Presbyterian & Reformed Tradition in America” on John Gloucester (1776-1822):

    “Presbyterian minister and founder of the first African-American Presbyterian church. Born a slave in Kentucky and converted by the preaching of a Presbyterian minister, Gideon Blackburn. Gloucester began to receive training for the ministry when Blackburn purchased him and took him to his home in Tennessee for instruction in Presbyterian divinity. After Gloucester preached to the nearby Cherokees, Blackburn advocated in 1807 that the Presbytery of Union license him to preach. At the same time, Archibald Alexander, then pastor of Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, who met Gloucester at the 1807 general assembly, asked him to go North for the purpose of serving in the Evangelical Society, an agency that evangelized blacks in Alexander’s hometown. Blackburn agreed to free Gloucester to comply with Alexander’s request. Gloucester’s preaching led in May 1807 to the organization of the First African Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. he was finally licensed to preach in 1810 by the Presbytery of Union and a year later transferred his credentials to the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

    In addition to pastoral duties and overseeing a sabbath school and a day school, Gloucester traveled frequently to raise funds for the manumission (freeing) of his wife and four children. In 1818 he went as far as England to secure the remainder of the fifteen hundred dollars he needed. His trip was successful, and upon his return to Philadelphia he was reunited with his family. Gloucester’s two sons, Stephen and James, followed in their father’s footsteps, the former founding the Central Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia in 1844 and the latter organizing the Siloam Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn in 1849. Gloucester’s admirers remembered him as an excellent preacher and an even better singer. Consumption (tuberculosis) contributed to his death.”

  16. Posted April 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Bobby, if you had been paying attention, the charge has been leveled at me, that my position looks like a RC apologetic. Then you jump in on post 110 and act like you haven’t heard this? Read Bobby, read, before you pop off. As for Dr. Venama, this his bio:

    While studying at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1979-1981, Dr. Venema was a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Theology. He served as pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of Ontario, California, for six years before coming to Mid-America.

    Dr. Venema serves as President of the Seminary in addition to his systematic theology teaching responsibilities. He has served as an elder in his church and preaches on a regular basis. Dr. Venema also speaks and teaches in a variety of church and conference settings.

    His special interest lies in Reformation theology, particularly the work of the Reformers John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger. Dr. Venema’s books, Heinrich Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination: Author of “The Other Reformed Tradition”? and Accepted and Renewed in Christ: The “Twofold Grace of God” and the Interpretation of Calvin’s Theology, reflect this interest. He is the author of several other books including But for the Grace of God: An Exposition of the Canons of Dort; What We Believe: An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed; The Promise of the Future; Getting the Gospel Right; Children at the Lord’s Table?; Christ and the Future; The Promise of the Future Study Guide; and The Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ. Dr. Venema is a co-editor and frequent contributor to The Outlook and the Mid-America Journal of Theology.

    Bobby, I would call those pretty impressive “reformed” credentials, wouldn’t you? He’s President of MARS systematic theology. And Dr. Venama thinks TLINF is faulty and not in keeping with the traditional view of the Mosaic covenant being the same in substance as the new covenant. The difference is in administration only. The same covenant! That is reformed covenant theology 101. You and your ilk have strayed off the reservation.

    I stand with the reformers who thought there were only two covenants, once before the fall, and one after, PERIOD. And none of this works principle nonsense sneaked in the back door of the Mosaic. Once you accept the traditional way of understanding the covenant of grace, we will be in harmony.

  17. Posted April 13, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Doug – “He’s President of MARS systematic theology”

    Erik – I don’t groc. How can we except the testimony of a theologian from another planet? I know you are from California, Doug, but let’s not get crazy. Is his interpretation corroborated by any theologians from Saturn or Jupiter?

  18. Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Ha ha Erik!

    I thought MARS had a clout, maybe I’m wrong.

  19. Posted April 13, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Did any other “Mad Men” watchers pick up the “grok” reference from the kid in the run down house that Betty goes to to look for the girl? Heinlein reference, but he wrote “Stranger in a Strange Land” in 1961 and it’s the mid to late late 60s now on the show

  20. kent
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Erik, the show is now starting 1968.

    Dec 31, 1967 New Years was at the end of the second hour

  21. Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Sorry Erik, but I wouldn’t consider watching “Mad men”, which to me, is akin to eating “unclean food” in the Mosaic covenant. When you open yourself up to that kind of entertainment, (worldly) it causes you to think in line with the world, rather than thinking God’s thoughts after him. I’m not saying it’s a sin, per se to watch TV, it’s just very unwise, and begging for disaster in my humble opinion.

    Watching shows like “Mad men” can’t help you to walk by faith in Christ, therefore I think you should drop that nonsense, like a bad habit. How about reading Psalms every month? Just read five chapters a day for 30 days, and you got it! In addition to your other Scriptural disciplines of course.

    Then do that for about three or four years soaking in the Psalms, and praying for God to open the eyes of your heart, and see all the ways you see life differently. I suggest you will have more joy and confidence in your walk with God. And you will spend in your prayer life on things that are eternal, rather than wasting your time on “worldly entertainment”, most of which is trash. Spend 90% of that time you waste on TV and transfer it to meditation on God’s word, and see how things change.

    Keep pressing on!

    P.S. You know I love you bro!

  22. Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Doug,

    I appreciate Murray for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that he completed my crossover from credo to paedobaptism. I think his treatment of the church is outstanding.

    But you should be aware that while he was at WTS, there was a rift between himself and others. Kline, certainly. But even those in between found themselves qualifying some of his statements. O. Palmer Robertson, for example, in Christ of the Covenants, places some distance between himself and Murray’s tendency to collapse the covenant of works into the covenant of grace.

    In other words, Murray (like all of us) had some weak spots in his theology. His weak spot was a tendency to minimize the systematic theological work of the 16th and 17th centuries in favor of his own exegesis. In general, I admire that spirit, and I resonate with it.

    But what I’ve learned is that there are places where we have to listen to the collective wisdom of the church, and one of those places is in this area of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

    Murray’s tendency is to flatten the two. It’s not that he ignored Calvin, Witsius, et al. It’s that he thought they needed correction.

    That tendency is evident in the quote you provide. Let’s dissect it.

    Thesis: “The disposition to construe the demand for obedience in the Mosaic economy as having affinity with works rather than grace arises from failure to recognize that the demand for obedience in the Mosaic covenant is principly identical with the same demand under the gospel.

    Support: (1) When we re-examine the demand for obedience in the Mosaic covenant (cf. Exodus 19:5, 6; 24:7) in the light of the relations of law and grace in the gospel, we shall discover that the complex of ideas is totally alien to a construction in terms of works as opposed to grace.

    (2) Obedience belongs here no more ‘to the legal sphere of merit’ than in the new covenant.

    (3) The New Testament believer is not without law to God but under law to Christ.

    (4) He delights in the law of God after the inward man and he therefore reiterates the exclamation of the Old Testament saint, ‘O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day’ (Psalm 119:97).

    Before we evaluate his supports, observe that in all four supporting statements, he emphasizes the continuity of Old and New testaments without any mention of their differences.

    Can you agree so far?

    Also, have no idea what you mean by my “command/suggestion theory.” What do you have in mind?

  23. kent
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Yes Erik, your leisure time would be much better spent typing thousands and thousands of words on oldlife, going absolutely nowhere…

  24. Posted April 14, 2013 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Kent, why be such a smart aleck?

  25. Posted April 14, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Jeff, when God commands us to obey, as in “do this and live”, I see that command as an exact parallel to the command to obey the gospel. You see a difference, no? You see brute commands in the Mosaic covenant while Murray and myself see no difference in either testament. We are commanded to offer ourselves up a living sacrifice, which is our reasonable duty in the new testament. What is more of a brute command than that? Living sacrifice? Wow!

    Both Testaments have commandments, with an offer of life for those who obey. Our life is hidden in Christ in both testaments. Not just our justification either, our obedience or sanctification is also life, when we walk in faith! It was the same in both testaments. Faith equals life, (Christ) while anything else, equals death. Of course faith is a gift of God lest anyone of us should boast.

    Now let me quickly say, that our salvation is grounded on the completed work of Christ and amen! But good works are the reason God saved us, so both justification and sanctification are very important. If we are truly saved, (born of God) then we must press on to the higher calling found in Christ Jesus. Which is just another way of saying, “walk by faith”. It was the same in both testaments. Both testaments have commands, both testaments were all about Christ. Both testaments required the elect to walk by faith.

  26. Posted April 14, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Bobby bellows; Also, I have no idea who “Dr. Venema” is. I did an internet search and came across a guy at some obscure seminary in Indiana.

    So MARS is some obscure seminary? Here is the point Bobby, not everything we debate can fairly be called NeoCalvinism. How we view the covenant of grace is one of those things. The traditional perspective has no truck with TLINF, as in none!

    The irony is that men like DGH, refer to themselves strict subscriptionists to the WCF, when in reality he’s waaaaaay off the reservation. If you hold to the teaching of TLINF then you need to take an exception from the WCF. Psssst, DGH, is not really reformed with his perspective of the covenant of grace.

  27. Posted April 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Doug,

    What are your thoughts about these two:

    What law can do is in some respects quite obvious, in other respects frequently overlooked. (1) Law commands and demands; it propounds what the will of God is. The law of God is the holiness of God coming to expression for the regulation of thought and conduct consonant with his holiness. We must be perfect as God is perfect; the law is that which the perfection of God dictates in order to bring about conformity with his perfection. (2) Law pronounces approval and blessing upon conformity to its demands. The commandment was ordained to life (Romans 7:10), and the man that does the things of the law will live in them (Galatians 3:12). Law not only enunciates justice; it guards justice. It ensures that where there is righteousness to the full extent of its demand there will be the corresponding justification and life. Only when there is deviation from its demands does any adverse judgment proceed from the law. (3) Law pronounces the judgment of condemnation upon every infraction of its precept. The law has nought but curse for any person who has once broken its sanctity; he who is guilty at one point is guilty of all. ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them’ (Galatians 3:10). (4) Law exposes and convicts of sin. It exposes the sin that may lie hid in the deepest recesses of the heart.

    AND

    What law as law cannot do is implicit in what we have found to be the utmost of its potency. (1) Law can do nothing to justify the person who in any particular has violated its sanctity and come under its curse. Law, as law, has no expiatory provision; it exercises no forgiving grace; and it has no power of enablement to the fulfilment of its own demand. It knows no clemency for the remission of guilt; it provides no righteousness to meet our iniquity; it exerts no constraining power to reclaim our waywardness; it knows no mercy to melt our hearts in penitence and new obedience. (a) It can do nothing to relieve the bondage of sin; it accentuates and confirms that bondage. It is this impossibility to alleviate the bondage of sin that is particularly in view in Romans 6:14. The person who is ‘under law’, the person upon whom only law has been brought to bear, the person whose life has been determined exclusively by the resources and potencies of law, is the bondservant of sin. And the more intelligently and resolutely a person commits himself to law the more abandoned becomes his slavery to sin. Hence deliverance from the bondage of sin must come from an entirely different source.

    I would especially like your thoughts on the three bolded sentences.

  28. Posted April 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Doug,

    Why do you give as a “Website” on the comment form a link to http://www.oldlife.com? Just curious.

    When I click your name, this is where I get taken… more often than not some spammy forwarding url. Strange.

  29. Posted April 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Doug,

    As an observer on this conversation, here’s a piece of advice. Your appeal to authority (Venema, Murray) is a bit much, and is a well known logical fallacy.

    As other posters have noted, Venema and Murray are both great Reformed thinkers, who have said more or less helpful things on covenant, et al. It frankly doesn’t matter where they teach, or got their degrees, beyond demonstrating minimum competence, which they obviously both have.

    Let’s just stick to the substance of the arguments?

  30. James Caldwell
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    “Doug,

    Why do you give as a “Website” on the comment form a link to http://www.oldlife.com? Just curious.

    When I click your name, this is where I get taken… more often than not some spammy forwarding url. Strange.”

    Brian, crying has never gained sympathy at OldLife. 2kers would never claim to practice against a neocal and they would expect better from you.

    &

    “Doug,

    As an observer on this conversation, here’s a piece of advice. Your appeal to authority (Venema, Murray) is a bit much, and is a well known logical fallacy.

    As other posters have noted, Venema and Murray are both great Reformed thinkers,”

    Have you really read here, Brian, or are you just looking to make any attack against Doug Sowers? Liberty of thought is a 2k principle which you are violating here.

    This was written earlier in this thread, “Also, I have no idea who “Dr. Venema is. I did an internet search and came across a guy at some obscure seminary in Indiana. Is this who you’re referring to? It looks like he’s something of an apologist for neo-Calvinism.” Did you read that?

    Also, Doug has been arguing against a man whom I and most others highly respect, Jeff Cagle. Jeff Cagle has been arguing against some of the arguments that Murray has made with Doug Sowers. Mr Cagle writes very sensibly. Doug has tried to argue sensibly also. Maybe, Brian, you should too, try an argument.

    Personal attacks are not arguments. Calling something a logical fallacy does not make it one. Especially after the arguments by those men whom Doug has mentioned have been layed out. Do like others, make a measured argument

    &

  31. Posted April 15, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Doug,

    The amazing thing is, I could follow your spiritual program to a “T”, read something written by you or Richard, and still be irritated by it.

  32. Posted April 15, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    James,

    What a strange post. I directed a question and a comment at Doug… at which point you intervened, and attacked me for attacking him. Hmm.

    To the first point, I’m not crying (and in fact, I don’t know what this means). I regularly click on names to get taken to the websites, blogs, etc. of the posters to find out more about them. Doug’s name takes me to a bogus url. I wondered if that was on purpose, or accidental (maybe he thought he was supposed to enter “oldlife” in the field for “website”, and mistakenly figured it was a dot.com… I dunno), so I asked him a question. Seems reasonable enough.

    Yes, I had read most of the posts in the chain, including that you refer to. The fact that Doug didn’t know who Venema was prior to his Google search doesn’t mean that he couldn’t employ an argument to authority. Doug’s argument has repeatedly claimed that “covenant theology 101″ as referenced by these two guys settled the debate. That simply doesn’t follow, and it’s not much of an argument.

  33. Richard Smith
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Brian Lee: Yes, I had read most of the posts in the chain, including that you refer to. The fact that Doug didn’t know who Venema was prior to his Google search doesn’t mean that he couldn’t employ an argument to authority.

    RS: Doug was actually quoting Bobby who had no idea of who Dr. Venema was before an internet search (copied below). Doug was saying (if I am reading it correctly) that Bobby was bellowing and then quoted Bobby without the quote marks. Just for clarity with no attack on anyone.

    Doug Sowers
    Bobby bellows; Also, I have no idea who “Dr. Venema” is. I did an internet search and came across a guy at some obscure seminary in Indiana.

    RS: By the way, you (Brian Lee) was giving a plug for a book about a month or so ago. It was entitled “Johannes Coecceius and the Exegetical Roots of Federal Theology.” After your plug (shameless at that) of the book I ordered it and discovered that the author was Brian J. Lee. Interestingly enough, when I click on your name (at OldLife) it takes me to a Christ Reformed Church in Washington D.C. The author is also said to be a pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington D.C. I made the assumption that you and the author are one and the same. By the way, they don’t give your book away. With all of that said, what does Cocceius teach that is helpful with the discussion Doug and Jeff Cagle are engaged in?

  34. Jerry
    Posted April 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Brian,

    Simply, what Richard said. A lot of this last page has been about what you mistakenly attribute to Doug Sowers

  35. Posted April 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    My apologies if I misread or misattributed. Yes, I am the BJL who is the pastor of Christ Reformed Church in DC (URCNA).

    Cocceius’s federal thought is very complex (baroque or scholastic would be a fitting description). Though, speaking very broadly, I’d say it would be safe to put him into the “law is not of faith” wing of how to read the Mosaic economy. Most of the Reformed theologians I read for my research in the seventeenth century follow the line of Witsius, that there is some legal aspect or principle in operation in the Mosaic economy that is both a typological republication of covenant of works and a contrast to the principle of grace in the New Covenant.

    I’m surprised (and pleased) you ordered my book. It was sort of tongue in cheek, but I appreciate it. Obviously, as a dissertation project, it takes a fairly narrow slice of the story to study in detail. But it was a great introduction to the covenantal thought of the period, and how exegetical issues really drove it forward.

  36. Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Jeff, that is a lot to comment on, but first off, who wrote this?

  37. Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Jeff, let me say, I would make careful clarifications before I could sign off on that. First of all the law did in fact offer forgiveness for both intentional and unintentional sins. So what Paul is alluding to in Galations, is the law in the abstract with out faith. When a Saint or the elect appropriated the law mixed with faith, his hope was in Christ. The reprobate, could only see the law, “as if it were by works”.

    It’s exactly the same today, when people hear the gospel, many are baptized, who really don’t have true God given faith, and will approach going to church “as if it were by works”. It the same in both administrations.

  38. Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Doug, I don’t mind at all telling you who wrote it.

    But it would be a more helpful experience for you to react to it, consider its claims, and then Google for it. As you know, we all have a tendency to assess things according to which “team” they come from.

    By letting the arguments be anonymous, you have a better chance of giving them fair hearing.

    But if that seems to weird to you, then Google will get you there in one step.

    JRC

  39. Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Jeff, whoever wrote those paragraphs is self conflicted, when he says:

    (3) Law pronounces the judgment of condemnation upon every infraction of its precept. The law has nought but curse for any person who has once broken its sanctity; he who is guilty at one point is guilty of all. ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them’ (Galatians 3:10)

    Me: the law did not pass judgment upon every infraction: for the elect! Because the curse of the law, was dealt with by Christ on the cross. The law offered forgiveness for sin, see all the ceremonial laws which pointed to Christ. How on earth can this author miss this obvious fact? Just look at John the Baptists parents, in Luke 1:6; who were *blameless* in all the commands of the Lord. Were they sinless? Of course not! But there faith was counted unto them as righteousness, just like Father Abraham. So whoever wrote those paragraphs is missing something very big, the faith of the old testament Saint. Moreover, he is taking Paul, and James grossly out of context and forgetting the big picture. All the Saints of old were covered in Christ, retroactively, by promise, connected by faith , which is a gift from God.

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