Two Kingdom Tuesday: When the Light of Nature Brightens

For the critics of natural law and two kingdoms who think the light of nature needs the lift of special revelation to be discernible, comes a sensible essay by one of my favorite writers, Joseph Epstein. The occasion for the piece published in the Weekly Standard was the presentation by a professor at Northwestern University that involved a sex act, performed in front of undergraduate students. Epstein himself taught for many years at Northwestern while editing the American Scholar and has first-hand knowledge of the demise of academic standards and even common sense within Northwestern and higher education more generally.

Not only is Epstein’s article worth reading for its diagnosis of the problems that afflict universities and colleges, but it also demonstrates that people who are not regenerate have the capacity for moral discernment.

Consider the following:

When I began teaching at Northwestern in 1973, the smoke had not yet cleared from the student revolution. I recall at the time hearing gossip about a teacher who was sleeping with one of his students, and when I checked with a friend on the faculty, he confirmed that it was likely true. “Do many younger professors sleep with their undergraduate students?” I asked this same friend. “I don’t know many who don’t” was his rather casual reply.

Does sleeping with one’s undergraduate students come under the shield of academic freedom, or was it instead an academic perk, or ought it, again, to be admonished, if not punished by dismissal? Although a youngish bachelor at the time, I eschewed the practice myself, chiefly because I thought sleeping with one’s students was poor sportsmanship—fish in a barrel and all that—and my own taste happened to run to grown-up women; I also thought it was, not to put too fine or stuffy a point on it, flat-out wrong. I wondered, too, if in its taking unfair advantage—a teacher after all has the power of awarding grades to students—it wasn’t an obvious violation of academic freedom, and not merely crummy.

Why would Reformed Protestants not want to encourage such wisdom and conviction by insisting that Epstein first take out his copy of the Hebrew Scriptures before commenting on conditions at his old campus?

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254 thoughts on “Two Kingdom Tuesday: When the Light of Nature Brightens

  1. Thanks Dr. Hart. Yes, we should not only encouraged this kind of wisdom and argumentation as it is grounded in what is common to all… the moral knowledge of good and evil, but also because it is immediately accessible, as all are created in the moral image of God. It doesn’t ensure all will accept that wisdom, but at least it doesn’t throw in an unnecessary and incorrect insinuation that only those redeemed and possessing the light of Scripture can positively weigh in on these kinds of debates. And it also prevents the wrong-headed goal of setting up little Christian kingdoms in various institutions of this world.

    From David VanDrunen’s book “Living in Two Kingdoms” –
    Here, then, is a major clue as to what Christian life in the two kingdoms ought to look like today. Abraham and his descendants were “sojourners” and “strangers” (Gen. 12:10; 15:13; 20:1; 21:34; 23:4;Heb. 11:13), precisely what Christians today are called to be (1 Pet. 2:11). As participants in the Noahic covenant, they joined in cultural activities with their pagan neighbors in the common kingdom. [pp. 87-88]

    And referring to the nation of Israel VanDrunen writes, Outside the boundaries of the Promised Land they were again to conduct themselves as citizens of two kingdoms… they never attempt to turn Babylon into something other than Babylon. They never try, for example, to turn Babylon into another Jerusalem or to impose the Mosaic law upon the Babylonian people. [pg. 95]

    My “enlightened” understanding on moral issues resulting from redemption certainly bolsters the strength and confidence of arguing in the public square. But the kingdom of this world is not my kingdom nor am I trying to make it God’s kingdom. So then I argue from that which is God-given and common to all for the good of all within the common kingdom I sojourn.

    cheers…

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  2. Fantastic for him, but how do you know that Epstein is living by the light of nature and Bailey and Essig are not? Why do you (rightly) uphold Epstein’s article as an example of the light of nature, but you do not uphold Bailey’s book as an example of the light of nature? Bailey is a (social) scientist, after all…

    What’s the moral compass inside D.G.Hart that allows him to discern good light of nature from cheap or pretentious imitators?

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  3. Jeff, not even Bailey necessarily says that the sex acts are good. His defense, such as Epstein reports, are all about academic freedom. So the light of nature informs us all.

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  4. Now that the Bible is no longer commonly accepted as an authoritative book in the public square (and unfortunately in some Christian corners), it seems wisest to employ natural law since it is written upon all men’s hearts.

    Here’s an article that may be of interest from Modern Reformation. It was recently made available to the public:

    Natural Law, Lutheranism, and the Public Good
    by Korey D. Maas

    http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1227&var3=main

    Excerpt:
    “Moses agrees exactly with nature,” says Luther (AE 35:168); though they had not yet been etched in stone, “the Ten Commandments had spread over the whole world not only before Moses but even before Abraham and all the patriarchs” (AE 47:89). Nor are such explanations unique to Luther; they are reiterated in the Lutheran Confessions, which likewise assert that “natural law, which agrees with the Mosaic law, or the Ten Commandments, is innate in the heart of all men and is written on it” (Ap IV 7).

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  5. DGH: Bailey *does* however, say that it is good to teach students by shocking them with this sex act. So … is he wrong? How do you know?

    Please don’t hit the minor issue when the major one will do!

    Lily: That’s precisely what I have in mind. Thank you.

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  6. Jeff, we who are regenerate and have the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand, believe and apply the Word of God are able to use and discern Natural Law rightly.

    The unbeliever cannot rely upon it, because of their depravity, but that still doesn’t negate the fact that they have it and are accountable to it. Even though they surpress it and even turn the created things into idols rather than recognizing and praising their creator, the fact remains that they have it (general revelation). There is nothing wrong with the believer wanting to hold unbelievers accountable for general revelation/natural law.

    But we have to remember that judgement begins with the household of God and WE will be judged by a higher standard because by God’s Grace alone have we been given more.

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  7. Jeff, isn’t this an argument for the papacy? How do you know that infant baptism is wrong? Plenty of Christians, regenerate people at that, think the Bible teaches credo baptism? So are you really prepared to answer your own skepticism?

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  8. RE: Bailey – His defense, such as Epstein reports, are all about academic freedom.

    His defense of depravity is academic freedom!?! Whew… he’d be better off using the Scarecrow defense: “if I only had a brain!”

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  9. Is Natural Law different in any way from the Moral Law revealed in Scripture?

    In other words does Natural Law say “Cursing God is OK” even though the Moral Law calls it an abomination?

    Is it better for us to embrace the shadow of Natural Law and shun the light of the Moral Law?

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  10. DGH: Jeff, isn’t this an argument for the papacy?

    I suppose if I thought the papacy were God’s ordained means for communicating His revealed will to us, then it would be.

    But I don’t … so it isn’t … and you still haven’t answered the question. 🙂

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  11. Jeff, but what if you have asked a question that you yourself cannot answer? My point is that Epstein, who is not a Christian, makes an argument for a certain kind of immorality being wrong. Implicit in your question is that he should not be able to do this without Scripture. But when large portions of the population see something as wrong apart from Scripture, it suggests the presence of natural law or the light of nature.

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  12. Ben, and what if the moral law is not nearly as clear as you think it is? We are, for instance, to set our minds on things above. Then what do we do with the inspired story of Tamar and Judah which is part of God’s word and so a thing above?

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  13. Though what proof do you have Dr. Hart that Epstein is not using Biblical moral categories (whether consciously or not) to make his determination?

    For the sake of argument if he is not, merely by the fact he happens to get this one right does not answer for all the other places in his own life where he denies Biblical Morality. This one “happy accident” does nothing to prove your point the Bible is completely needless outside the Christian home and sanctuary.

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  14. I am not sure what the “clarity” of the particular Scripture has to do with anything? Genesis 38 is as much Holy Writ as Romans 5. Peter makes it clear that Paul is hard to understand. Does that mean we should tell our people, “Sorry Galatians 4 is hard so we’ll just pass over it.”

    Do you sing Psalm 137 with the same gusto you would sing Psalm 23? If not why? Are you embarrassed by God’s Word?

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  15. DGH: “What courage and conviction”? His taste runs to “grown-up women”. So, apparently the light of nature does not direct him to monogamy.
    You have not made your point by this posting.

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  16. Jeff, I think the answer to your question is that you’re doing that culturalist-philosopher thing again that demands epistemological justification (“How does anyone know what is right and wrong?”). It doesn’t register with 2k because 2k says that natural law is intuitive, so created beings, redeemed or not, know what is right and what is wrong when they see it and doesn’t waste much time and energy pondering how anyone knows that public sex acts are contra the light of nature. So 2k doesn’t demand Epstein justify how he knows what he knows. It asks Bailey to behave accordingly. Sort of like not asking how the pagan cashier knows to give me correct change, just that she does.

    Jay, it seems to me to work both ways: there is nothing wrong with un/believers wanting to hold un/believers accountable for general/natural revelation. Which means un/believing Epsteins can rightly expect un/believing Baileys to pull their socks up.

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  17. Zrim. I agree that unbelieving Epsteins are justified in expecting unbelieving Baileys to behave. However, what I’d be concerned about is the unreliability and inconsistency of Epstein’s ability to “get natural law” right. It seems like you would still need another entity to provide consistent and accurate discernment. Clearly, some unbelievers are in full-blown suppression mode, while some are more selective in their suppression. Not sure what the answer is, other than Christians who see their proper vocations in all spheres of life and not just within the four walls of their churches on Sundays. (I mean we did pretty much extract ourselves, our influence and our morality from academia, right?)

    Kind of thinking out loud here… And listening to you all…

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  18. Jay, your concern begins to broach the questions surrounding the sufficiency of both special (explicit) and general (implicit) revelation and the insufficiency of sinful creatures, redeemed or not, to reliably and consistently read either.

    I understand the inclination to suggest that special revelation makes whatever is unclear in general revelation clear, but it runs into a couple of problems: it implies that to be implicit is to be unclear and seems to circumvent the reality of human sin. If special revelation clears things up so well then how does anyone explain the vast theological differences across Christian traditions that subscribe the Bible, including those who subscribe sola scriptura? True, the Bible is clear that justification is sola fide, but plenty of Christians are pretty unclear about it, while even some unbelievers see it. If the Bible can’t easily clear up vital theological issues in such a way that it greatly eliminates gross theological deviations even within the fold, what makes anybody think it’ll help Bailey see what Epstein grasps such that it greatly eliminates gross natural deviations on univerity campuses?

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  19. Hey Jeff,

    Have you considered that the general sense that murder, adultery, etc. is wrong is a feature (natural law) of creation and not a bug (autonomous moral standard)? And do you find it at all interesting that your response of incredulity — however rhetorical — to secular/NL condemnation of Bailey parallels Bailey’s response to the media?

    “Those who believe that there was, in fact, a serious problem have had considerable opportunity to explain why: in the numerous media stories on the controversy, or in their various correspondences with me. But they have failed to do so. Saying that the demonstration ‘crossed the line,’ ‘went too far,’ ‘was inappropriate,’ or ‘was troubling’ conveys disapproval but does not illuminate reasoning.”

    Of course, there’s a different intent behind his words, and you would conclude that this is why the media needs to cite Scripture. But if Epstein is the more thought-provoking and intellectually honest of the two unbelievers, then I don’t understand why modeling him instead of the “how do you know that -> you can’t -> BIBLE” chain would be a mark of impiety.

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  20. “I eschewed the practice myself, chiefly because I thought sleeping with one’s students was poor sportsmanship…”

    This is an example of an unbeliever reading natural law aright?

    And supposing one were lawfully married to one’s student?

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  21. DGH: Jeff, but what if you have asked a question that you yourself cannot answer?

    That’s possible. But we could get to that point a lot more efficiently if you could say

    hypothetical DGH: Here’s how I know… Can you answer your own question?

    or

    other hypothetical DGH: I can’t answer that question. Can you?

    Then at least you wouldn’t leave me hanging with this sense that in your mind, you can ask me questions and expect answers, but I cannot. 🙂

    So I’ll be happy to answer your question, second.

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  22. Zrim (and Mike K): So 2k doesn’t demand Epstein justify how he knows what he knows.

    I’m not actually asking Epstein to justify himself. He’s welcome to his view, of course, and I’m happy that he seems to have a sensible one.

    Rather, I’m asking DGH, who *is* a believer, to explain why he’s picked Epstein as an example of “the light of nature”, but rejected Bailey as an example of “the light of nature.”

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  23. Mike K: And do you find it at all interesting that your response of incredulity — however rhetorical — to secular/NL condemnation of Bailey parallels Bailey’s response to the media?

    This was insightful and thought-provoking. In the end, you’re right: we have really different reasons for playing the skeptic. But the element of skepticism is certainly there.

    And to be specific about it: I’m not at all skeptical that there *is* a “light of nature”; I’m just skeptical that it ought to be divorced from the decalogue. As I read the Confession, the decalogue is binding on all … and is therefore part of God’s revealed will for all … and there it is.

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  24. Eliza, your lack of charity in reading Epstein hardly proves your point. Was he really saying that he was sleeping around with grown-up women or explaining why he would not go after undergrads? This may be an example of why non-believers mistrust Christians.

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  25. Jeff, the light of nature says that Epstein is right and Bailey is wrong. The overwhelming consensus of human beings about the impropriety of such behavior adds to Epstein’s point. Do you really think the Weekly Standard is surreptitiously edited by the folks at World? Are there any serious news outlets that promote Bailey’s teaching? So why the consensus?

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  26. I’m asking DGH, who *is* a believer, to explain why he’s picked Epstein as an example of “the light of nature”, but rejected Bailey as an example of “the light of nature.”

    Jeff, that’s my point. DGH picked Epstein as an example for the same reason Epstein picked Bailey. Created beings, redeemed or not, know right and wrong when they see it. Asking either to justify how they know right from wrong seems rather pedantic. You say that you’re happy Epstein has a sensible view. I might ask you how you know his view is sensible, but I already know how you know this. So why are you asking DGH to explain how he knows Epstein has a sensible view?

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  27. Yeah, I guess you can get your natural reason on sexuality from cerebral essays, but I prefer mine from a gravelly blues voice:

    Love oh love oh careless love
    Love, love oh careless love
    You have caused me to weep
    You have caused me to moan
    You have caused me to lose my happy home

    …Careless love, you drove me through the rain and snow
    Careless love, you drove me through the rain and snow
    You have robbed me out of my silver
    And out of all my gold
    I’ll be damned if you rob me out of my soul.

    The blues are full of natural reason, particularly about whiskey and women (wimmin).

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  28. JRC: …but how do you know that Epstein is living by the light of nature and Bailey and Essig are not?

    DGH: Jeff, the light of nature says that Epstein is right and Bailey is wrong. The overwhelming consensus of human beings about the impropriety of such behavior adds to Epstein’s point.

    Am I understanding correctly? You know that Epstein is living by the light of nature because the light of nature says so; and the overwhelming consensus of human beings confirms this?

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  29. There’s no doubt that there is a “light of nature” that teaches there is a God to whom men are responsible. It likewise reveals there is a right and wrong and a reward for good and a punishment for evil. Thus, mankind are “without excuse.”

    But to take this “light of nature” and expect that it teaches the Moral Law is a bit much.

    Remember that we live in a society still mightily influenced by the written Word. People are restrained also by the light of civil laws, university regulations, etc. which in turn have been influenced by Biblical teaching. That’s why if you look at sharia law you’ll find a different set of norms. I’m glad the light of nature restrains sin, but the LoN is not extensive and exhaustive, nor are sinners’ minds and wills bent toward obedience and understanding.

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  30. Ben, if people are as bad as you think, how do you ever get into a car, cross the street, purchase food? I mean, lots of people out there are doing things that could end your existence and they aren’t reading their Bibles looking for God’s will.

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  31. Eliza, neither is the book of Scripture exhaustive or extensive. That is why our creeds and confessions, which summarize biblical teaching, are so short and say nothing about academic disciplines, public policy, state legislation, medical treatments — the list goes on. So the critique of the light of nature on the grounds of biblical teaching comes up way short. And if you think the Bible is exhaustive and extensive, then I think you may be eligible for a scholarship to the annual Gospel Coalition Conference or free sessions with the local nouthetic counselor.

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  32. Dr. Hart

    I am not really sure where you are going with that, it literally makes no logical sense. Especially considering even in your mythical “the Bible is a worthless document outside of corporate worship” world people are randomly murdered by strangers all the time. Where was your idea of Natural Law for the victims of John Wayne Gacy? Because obviously he didn’t bother to think what he was doing may be wrong.

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  33. DGH: Well, OK. I’m not comfortable with your framework, but there it is. I mean: You seem to be claiming that you have a “light-o-nature” sensor. Which, if true, means that you really ought to publish, since the rest of us have only our consciences, notoriously fallible as they are. It would be fabulous to have a scholarly summary of the light of nature, done by someone with an apparently highly accurate sense of that light.

    Also, the majority of Americans, at least, think sex before marriage is OK. I would assume that you would say that this is a “light of nature” false positive. But how do you know?

    But in any event, thanks for answering the question.

    To your questions:

    DGH: How do you know that infant baptism is wrong? Plenty of Christians, regenerate people at that, think the Bible teaches credo baptism? So are you really prepared to answer your own skepticism?

    I know that infant baptism is right because Scripture is clear enough to reason to best inference. The data are clear. Scripture is, after all, sufficient on matters of faith.

    But lurking at the back of your question is this criticism: Scripture doesn’t bring “political-theological” unity to Christians, so how could it bring “political-moral” unity to a mixed society?

    And if I were concerned about political-moral unity, that would indeed be a fair shot. But I’m not. I’m thinking instead about how a Christian magistrate ought to reason. And I think he’s obligated to use the decalogue to inform his understanding of what the natural law says.

    Why? Well, because the decalogue binds all men to its obedience, and because the general equity of the Law remains as the standard of justice for the nations — NOT in the Bahnsenian sense, but in the classic 1789 revision sense.

    So the law is not merely a set of commands, given to some set of people or another; it is also a reflection of who God is, and therefore what justice is. It illumines, defines, corrects our understanding of the natural law.

    DGH: Do you really think the Weekly Standard is surreptitiously edited by the folks at World?

    Peter Wehner might cross-dress. Just kidding.

    DGH: Are there any serious news outlets that promote Bailey’s teaching?

    There’s a thin line between “promoting” and “reporting on.” The latter? Most definitely.

    DGH: So why the consensus?

    I don’t know that there is. You seem pretty certain, but without hard data to back it up. Near as I can tell, the cultural consensus on matters sexual is somewhat to the left of the seventh commandment, which is (I assume you would agree) the true content of the light of nature. Heck, this week saw the creation of a .xxx top-level domain. The money, at least, is betting on fornication.

    DGH: Jeff, if the decalogue is binding on all, why does it begin with “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt?”

    Several possible reasons for that; but none of them are strong enough to overturn this:

    2. This law, after [Adam’s] fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

    3. Besides this law, commonly called moral…

    5. The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

    The language is clear enough: the decalogue is binding on all. I’m not sure what that does to various theories about why it is framed thus in Ex 20, but there it is. Confession trumps Kline, right?

    Does that answer your questions?

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  34. Well, Ben, where are you going with the idea that people only have a sense of goodness if they know the Bible? If I don’t have a clue, where does your grip on reality come from. There are a lot more people who don’t commit murder than do.

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  35. In light of Romans 2, our consciences are not infallible. Because total depravity is true, it can be seared “as with a hot iron” per Paul. Remember total depravity is different than utter depravity. So there are varying degrees of recognizing natural law as revealed through the conscience. I think Dr VanDrunen’s book “Natural Law & the Two Kingdoms” is helpful. Calvin even thought that, as Aquinas did, that more educated people MAY have better discernment of right and wrong than uneducated people. So it is not a binary “person A knows what’s right and knows what’s wrong”; there are differences depending on the individual. If total depravity weren’t true, perhaps one could make the leap that everyone has consistent and specific knowledge of right and wrong. But the fact that societies operate with any degree of efficiency and everyone isn’t murdering everyone proves the fact that the general light of God’s moral law prevails and is the rule rather than the exception. Am I missing something?

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  36. Jeff, if you were to publish the Decalogue in a court room or school classroom, would you include the preface? If you do include the preface, what does that communicate to the non-believers? That they have been rescued from bondage even though they don’t believe? Or that the following rules don’t apply to them? Either way, is it fair to deny the redemptive context of the Decalogue? Does a blanket use of the Decalogue get you three senses or one confusing plan of salvation through works righteousness?

    The point of the post was not about my moral censor but about Epstein’s. I don’t know why that is so hard to see. And I still don’t think you have accounted for all the order that prevails among unbelievers thanks to something that I think of as the light of nature and providence. If it takes special revelation to make a morality, why do we have as much morality as we do? (And btw, why are you so negative about the moral conventions of our times? I did not take you for a nabob of negativism.) Also, if the cultural consensus is to the left of the seventh commandment, why is almost every comedy and drama produced by Hollywood replete with judgment upon those who cheat on girlfriends and wives? Tarrantino just doesn’t make that many movies.

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  37. DGH: As far as Scripture being exhaustive and extensive, if you hold to the WCF you believe that the Scriptures are the rule of faith and life. His Law is proclaimed there extensively and exhaustively. (After all, morality is what we were discussing, not your favorite topic, Christian plumbing).

    BTW, Did you inherit your sweet nature from your parents or did you have to work at it 🙂

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  38. DGH: Jeff, if you were to publish the Decalogue in a court room or school classroom, would you include the preface? If you do include the preface, what does that communicate to the non-believers?

    No, nor the first table — for reasons that I outlined at GB.

    DGH: The point of the post was not about my moral censor but about Epstein’s. I don’t know why that is so hard to see.

    No, I got the point loud and clear. You believe that Epstein provides evidence that the natural law can function properly without explicit appeal to Scripture.

    I just think your post can be mined a bit for the mindset of its author. If it annoys you that I would zero in more on your reasoning than Epstein’s, I’ll desist; but metastudy is normally considered a proper method.

    To play a card: I suspect that you aren’t really doing what you say you’re doing. You *say* that you’re just using intuition and confirming it with popular vote.

    I *suspect* that you’re using intuition heavily influenced by Scripture and catechism, and taking the popular vote as evidence only when it blows your way. If I’m being too cynical, let me know. But if I’m in the ballpark, fess up. 🙂

    DGH: If it takes special revelation to make a morality, why do we have as much morality as we do? (And btw, why are you so negative about the moral conventions of our times? I did not take you for a nabob of negativism.)

    No, I know that our culture is more conservative than medieval Italy, for example. I’m not a hell-in-a-handbasket guy, just a call-em-like-I-see-em guy. It seems uncontroversial to say that we are to the left of the 7th commandment in our culture.

    DGH: Also, if the cultural consensus is to the left of the seventh commandment, why is almost every comedy and drama produced by Hollywood replete with judgment upon those who cheat on girlfriends and wives?

    The same ones that have the sympathetic gay couple and the star-crossed boyfriend and girlfriend that you *want* to hook up by the end of the movie? The question answers itself.

    My, a lot of questions!

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  39. Zrim, you wrote: “Jay, your concern begins to broach the questions surrounding the sufficiency of both special (explicit) and general (implicit) revelation and the insufficiency of sinful creatures, redeemed or not, to reliably and consistently read either.”

    Actually, I broached the second half, not the first. I maintain the sufficiency of general revelation, but question the reliability and consistency of the unregenerate to acknowledge and rely on it.

    As believers, on the other hand with greater grace given through the Holy Spirit’s enabling power that gives us understanding and application of special revelation. we have a particular advantage in terms of being able to discern general revelation in a way that unbelievers do not.

    Unbelievers who are on Bailey’s trajectory will continue to increasingly suppress the Truth of God found in the light of nature unless the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit through God’s election and the Gospel call goes out to them.

    We might hope that unbelievers who appear to have Epstein’s trajectory ought to be considered allies in the culture wars to the extent that they in fact do properly understand and submit to general revelation. However, we must always keep in mind that the Epstein’s of our culture are yet outside the wicket gate and are in desparate need of the salvation that is close at hand. While we may partner with them to some degree in some ways, it is also imperative that we do not appease them in their unbelief and that they understand the gravity and precariousness of their situation.

    The Epstein’s may be closer to the Truth, but yet they stand at the edge of hell and will perish, unless by the grace of God, they enter the narrow gate — ASAP!

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  40. Eliza, you really should go back and read some of your initial comments here to do a wee bit of a check on sweet dispositions.

    Yes, the Bible reveals morality. The Bible does not reveal how to keep non-believers from immoral behavior.

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  41. Jeff, so you won’t publish the decalogue in a classroom. But when you appeal to it with your non-Christian neighbor or co-citizen, does the appeal come with the preface? If not, why? Yes, more questions.

    I don’t mind your pushing me. But I just wish you could see how your push is also a problem for your position (such as I understand it).

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  42. Jay, where you seem to emphasize the indwelling power of the Spirit, I emphasize the abiding reality of sin. So I’m not as optimistic about how the Spirit enables believers to read general revelation better than the unbeliever (the indwelling Spirit doesn’t seem to be the silver bullet to settle special revelation disputes amongst those he indwells). If I may be so bold, I think your emphasis is what may account for a certain measure of arrogance on the part of Christian religionists in general. It seems to be behind various dubious notions, not least that believers make the best magistrates, parents, teachers, scientists, artists, etc. Sorry, but reality just doesn’t bear that out. In fact, it’s at least as often the case that unbelievers outpace believers in these vocations.

    By the way, you can join up with those who have more faith, but I’d rather link up with un/believers who are agnostic about the so-called “culture wars” doctrine.

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  43. Zrim, I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, and just so you know, I’m not your typical raised-in-the-church, Christians-are-better-than-believers kind of thinker. And I’m definitely not a culture-warrior type. Went to public schools, became a Christian later in life, didn’t know anything about the Bible until I was over 30. (seriously, I thought John 3:16 was some kind of famous athlete).

    I’m simply trying to work through both sides of this issue.

    Okay. Essentially, you seem to be saying that a good magistrate could be either a non-believer or a believer and that in fact a non-believer might make a better magistrate than a believer. I agree!

    Where I’m coming from on this is that a non-believer would be a better magistrate if he became a believer. Whatever common grace God has given to a man or woman apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit will only be enhanced and refined as a result of studying, understanding and applying the Word of God as a believer.

    Now, I have a bit more of an issue when it comes to your assertion that it is dubious that believers make the best magistrates, parents, teachers, scientists, artists, etc., because you believe that unbelievers outpace believers in these vocations — I heartily disagree with you there. Perhaps you are simply looking at a snapshot of the late 20th thru 21st Century America to gleen this conclusion, but the sweep of history is wholly against you on this. Historically, the large majority of the best examples in each of these vocations have been believers.

    Christians contemporary to us retreated to what has been called their “Christian Ghettos” and for the most part they do not participate as they should in public vocations any longer.

    How many Christian professors are even at the elite universities who might be able to stand against — or better yet teach — someone like Bailey? Practically nill. We abdicated that sphere many moons ago. Just as we have abdicated the public school system, the sciences, and the arts. Christians in this country will have a lot to answer for, in my opinion.

    I would posit that the reason why it seems that believers are outpaced by unbelievers is because:
    1) unbelievers are calling the shots in the public realm and making the rules by which these vocations are carried out, and
    2) very few believers are participating alongside unbelievers and therefore are not making or acknowledged for their contributions.

    Again, thinking out loud…

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  44. DGH: But when you appeal to it with your non-Christian neighbor or co-citizen, does the appeal come with the preface? If not, why? Yes, more questions.

    I’ll try. It’s a vague question. Am I talking with my neighbor over the fence about health care laws? Or at a PTA meeting over fund-raising policies? Interactions are too complex to be boiled down.

    But more to the point, why would I necessarily have to or want to make all of my reasoning explicit to my neighbor? I’m plenty capable of making arguments that appeal to someone on his own grounds.

    The imperative for me is *not* to always and only make explicitly Scriptural appeals. Rather, the imperative for me is to always be checking and informing my conscience against Scripture. It has to do with my judgment as an individual, NOT with me coming on to my neighbor with Scriptural appeals.

    Now, if the neighbor pins me to the wall — “Why *don’t* you support gay marriage?!” — then I might well have to go into Scriptural arguments out of simple honesty.

    But the major point is that in my own life as a Christian, a neighbor, a teacher, there’s not a wall between Scripture and general revelation going on. Instead, there is a coordination between the two.

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  45. The Ancient Greeks should be a good test case for natural reason. They, without any influence of the Bible (or, at most, by indirect and remote influence), produced extraordinary art, architecture, literature, drama, and philosophy. So far so good. Then there was Plato – a courageous monotheist who emphasized right living and love. But then, Plato also had no qualms about sexual relations between men and boys (e.g., in The Symposium).

    I would think both sides of the argument would find plenty there.

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  46. Dear DGH,

    Many thanks for being a guest on Issues Etc., today. As you usual, you are a gem and your wealth of knowledge and understanding are greatly appreciated!

    For anyone interested in listening to this program (Reformed Protestantism and the Theology of the Cross) and would like to hear DGH’s sweet disposition in action (really!):

    [audio src="http://issuesetc.org/podcast/713032311H1S2.mp3" /]

    And yes, the light of nature tells me I can shamelessly plug DGH and this wonderful segment of Issues Etc.! ;P

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  47. Really, Lilly, “how intuitive natural law is for all men”? How intuitive is it for Moslem terrorists? How intuitive in Ancient Rome, when fathers were free to kill their children? In Ancient Greece, where man-boy pairings were accepted? In the US, where children out of wedlock is common and marriage rarely consists of two virgins? Etc.

    Have you every read Doestoevsky? See the following:

    A Bulgarian I met lately in Moscow,” Ivan went on, seeming not to hear his brother’s words, “told me about the crimes committed by Turks and Circassians in all parts of Bulgaria through fear of a general rising of the Slavs. They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to the fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them — all sorts of things you can’t imagine. People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it. These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, too; cutting the unborn child from the mother’s womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mother’s eyes. Doing it before the mother’s eyes was what gave zest to the amusement. Here is another scene that I thought very interesting. Imagine a trembling mother with her baby in her arms, a circle of invading Turks around her. They’ve planned a diversion; they pet the baby, laugh to make it laugh. They succeed, the baby laughs. At that moment a Turk points a pistol four inches from the baby’s face. The baby laughs with glee, holds out his little hand to the pistol, and he pulls the trigger in the baby’s face and blows out its brains. Artistic, wasn’t it?

    I mean, yes, natural law is a significant concept, but don’t act like you’ve got four aces in your hand. Sin is pretty powerful, and its impact on both behavior and thinking is not to be underestimated.

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  48. Where I’m coming from on this is that a non-believer would be a better magistrate if he became a believer. Whatever common grace God has given to a man or woman apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit will only be enhanced and refined as a result of studying, understanding and applying the Word of God as a believer.

    Jay, I don’t see how this is in agreement with what I am saying (you said you don’t disagree with me). But I understand how this theory sounds good. The problem is how it doesn’t shake out in reality, which means we have to go back to the drawing board and re-examine the sunny theory. As long as we’re sharing backgrounds, I wasn’t raised in a believing home either. In order for your theory to work I’d have to conclude that my father wasn’t as good a father as he could’ve been had he had faith. Not only does that force me to break the fifth, it also doesn’t square with the reality that my father’s parenting skills outpaced not only unbelieving fathers but also believing ones.

    Perhaps you are simply looking at a snapshot of the late 20th thru 21st Century America to gleen this conclusion, but the sweep of history is wholly against you on this. Historically, the large majority of the best examples in each of these vocations have been believers.

    I’m thinking of things like the Ming Dynasty, Ottoman Empire and the Greco-Roman civilization—all sufficiently devoid believers. But I also have in mind Daniel’s alma mater, Babylon University, also free of any believers. I think behind your remark here is that ubiquitous notion that western civilization owes itself to Christianity. But western civ pre-dates the church. The Greco-Roman pagans figured out all sorts of virtues, contemplations and practices moderns (allegedly) esteem well before Paul arrived in the Areopagus.

    If you’re not a culture-warrior type then what gives with assertions like “Christians will have a lot to answer for” in their alleged withdrawal from cultural endeavor? Sorry, but that just seems like a way to shift blame for cultural decay onto us, which I know it seems better than scape-goating all those evil unbelievers for stealing culture and sending the world to hell in a hand basket, but it’s really a way of advancing culture war in a kinder, gentler and more self-effacing way. But it smacks of the dubious assumption that believers are somehow duty-bound to keep society afloat, as well as this idea that unless we’re in every nook and cranny things will fall apart. The irony is how it ends up being as arrogant as any nasty scape-goating. Smiling faces still have teeth, as they say.

    I do agree with you that there is plenty of Christian ghetto and that it is lamentable. But the irony to me is that a lot of it is the result of the idea you’re putting forward here, namely that believers have a leg up in cultural endeavor. It’s not many leaps from that premise to the construction of all sorts of Christian versions of culture. But what believers have over unbelievers isn’t earth but heaven. We put them to absolute shame when it comes to how to gain eternal life.

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  49. “Michael,” I don’t know how much more intuitive one can get than to say, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness…” Are you prepared to throw Muslim terrorists, the Symposium and Doestoevsky in Paul’s face?

    But how does falling down on natural law prove it isn’t intuitive? All it shows is that the imago Dei is sinful and quite imperfect. I don’t see how Romans 2:14-15 can’t co-exist with Romans 3:9-12.

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  50. @Michael Mann

    I’m not sure where you got the idea that I think I have four aces in my hand… perhaps you would better like the word innate rather than intuitive? All of mankind has the innate understanding of good and evil. The examples you offered are examples of wanton evil in action. There are also examples of extreme goodness among unbelievers.

    The recognition of natural law does not underestimate the power of sin. All men recognize both good and evil. It is not only the good man who recognizes natural law. Even an evil man will appeal to the natural law for justice when he has been the victim of deceit, theft, or other such ilk. Their cruelty stops when it comes their own person and it becomes evident that the law is still written in their heart.

    Check out the link I posted for Jeff about the bully. Among other things, why does the author recognize the bully is lying? Even though the bully denies the truth, the bully recognizes he is lying because his body language shows it. This is a good example of natural law in action. The bully recognizes right from wrong no matter how imperfectly he acts on it.

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  51. Jeff, I still don’t think you’ve addressed the theological question of the preface, which for me implies differences between the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd uses of the law and also that Christians in the public square rarely make those distinctions when appeal to the decalogue. What they want is moral certainty and the Bible supposedly gives them that. I believe the Bible gives a rough outline of moral truths, but fails to give much detail on application which is always where the rub comes and why Christian liberty is important. For instance, adultery is wrong. The application may or may not permit a believer to watch a movie in which an adulterer is the hero.

    But I’m struck by your micromanaging approach to Scripture. Yes, you believe it speaks to all of life and I think that is admirable. But I also wonder if it is doctrinally true — as in the case above — and whether this is the best approach to the Bible. After all, saints did not have the Bible readily available until the nineteenth century for personal use. How were they supposed to let the Bible micromanage their lives when they were only hearing it read and preached on Sundays (and perhaps a mid-week sermon)? At that point, was the Bible being invoked for micromanagement or was it spiritual food to sustain pilgrims against unbelief and despair?

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  52. Zrim: But I understand how this theory [that a non-believer would be a better magistrate if he became a believer] sounds good. The problem is how it doesn’t shake out in reality…

    I’ve been thinking more on this issue, and I wonder what place Proverbs has in your particular flavor of 2k? For both Proverbs and Psalms commend Scripture as the source of wisdom; the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9.10); etc. The kind of wisdom in view (hokhmah) is the same term as the wisdom we get from watching the ant (Prov 6.6).

    Which leads to me to ask: Are you giving Proverbs its full weight? Can you affirm that (as Mark Futato puts it) God has created the universe with a moral bent such that wise behavior improves our chances of success? And does that same wisdom include the fear of the Lord and the wisdom that comes from Scripture?

    When I read your posts, I can see that you give Ecclesiastes its full weight, but it seems to be at the expense of Proverbs. A bit overbalanced, perhaps?

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  53. Zrim, Paul said a lot about truth, falsehood, ability, and thoughts. I’m not sure your text proves as much as you seem to think. It seems to me, though, that Paul’s most relevant words are as follows:

    26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

    This, of course, is from his speech at Athens. If I recall correctly, the Greeks had a concept of people and things having their appointed places (vs. 27). Certainly in verse 28 he quotes one of their poets. So, he is affirming some of their thoughts which clearly are not motivated by the scriptures. But, then, he is not wholly affirming them; he proceeds to set them in a biblical context, giving them a fuller, truer meaning.

    See, Paul and I would rather read poetry than Rick Warren. But, having said that, the truths to be found (I am not talking about technique or “plumbing” here) sometimes need a bit of re-interpretation. So where does that leave us?

    Lilly, are you saying you weren’t diabolically grinning, looking forward to scooping up all the chips and the deed to my house? OK, maybe that was a scene from a movie or Looney Tunes. On a more serious note, I think one thing we do have to account for is, as someone noted above, the indirect influence of special revelation on those raised in a more-or-less Christian (or even Pentateuch-influenced) culture.

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  54. Hi Lily: I think you and I may have crossed paths on my earlier comment on the decalogue. Sometimes, I wonder if you have a mental block about how intuitive natural law is for all men?

    You may be right. Put it this way: I mistrust claims that intuition alone is a reliable guide. Part of that is scientific training, which has a built-in bias against intuition (Aristotelian physics, anyone?) and towards empirical evidence. Part of that is Scriptural teaching, which severely qualifies the capabilities of man’s conscience to lead us to truth.

    More thought later.

    JRC

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  55. DGH: Further to the point, that approach (which I would argue is a form of biblicism) says that the Bible speaks to all of life. How could you NOT get Christian dentistry out of that? If not, than how much of life? This is precisley how the pragmatism of the Joel Osteens of Christendom have taken the Bible: as a sort of handbook for life. He may take it to extremes that none of us on this board would ever do, but seriously, isn’t the underlying outlook similar?

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  56. Jeff, I don’t see how emphasizing Ecclesiastes means to ignore Proverbs. But the premise of my words that you quote is that there is a second category of knowledge beyond special, namely common, as in human experience and reasoning. I have to believe you think there is place for that. And yet, you seem to want me to only appeal to Scripture. When I do it’s unbalanced. Where’s the verse about being damned if you and damned if you don’t?

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  57. Michael, it leaves us having to distinguish between the temporal and eternal. When an unbeliever says that public sex acts are inappropriate nobody needs the Bible to confirm this because it is implicit knowledge to which everyone has equal access. When he says there are multiple gods, etc. then we need the Bible to refute it because that is special knowledge not everyone has. But in both cases human sin still gets in the way of what is both known intuitively and what is only known by explicit revelation.

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  58. Jeff, re your mistrust of intuition as a guide, isn’t intuition just as God-made as our feet and eyes? And yet, I doubt you’d say that we should be suspect of our eyes’ abilities to see what is on these pixel screens or the abilities’ of our feet to get us across the room. Yes, I know all these faculties have flaws (I have flat feet and bat’s eyes), but we actually rely on their inherent powers much more than you seem to want to admit.

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  59. Michael Mann,

    I am definitely “grinning” at your zany humor and do wonder that you watched too many Looney Tunes cartoons as kid! One of my favorite evangelical joke lines is “If God gave me any more character, I’d belong on Looney Tunes!”

    Re: “…the indirect influence of special revelation on those raised in a more-or-less Christian (or even Pentateuch-influenced) culture.”

    I’m just not into trying to pull back the curtain that veils the hidden ways God works in people’s lives or how unbelievers are convicted by (or rebellious towards) his law written on their hearts. Pax!

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  60. Hi Jeff!

    As always, thank you for explaining your thoughts. I do not think we have any disagreements on the fallibility of intuition, reason, or conscience. I would even add that our understanding of the Bible is imperfect.

    I think we all wrestle with these things to one degree or another. More so or less so depending upon so many different factors. But at some point, I think we have to accept the fact that our intuition, reason, conscience, and natural law all play a valuable roles in our lives and accept them for what they are? Perhaps, Luther’s advice to Melanchthon to stop worrying about our potential to sin and to trust in Christ would be sage advice for this situation. Here is the relevant section from Luther’s letter to Melanchthon:

    “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”

    Source: http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/letsinsbe.txt

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  61. Zrim: “When an unbeliever says that public sex acts are inappropriate nobody needs the Bible to confirm this because it is implicit knowledge to which everyone has equal access. When he says there are multiple gods, etc. then we need the Bible to refute it because that is special knowledge not everyone has.”

    I am unconvinced of the validity of your distinction. Remember the monotheist Socrates (Plato) who was fine with man/boy sex? His theology was better than his sexual ethics. It seems to me that insight & errors occur in both the theological and the ethical realm. Romans tells us that men are accountable due to their “knowledge” of certain divine attributes, so I don’t know why you are more circumspect about the theology of natural reasoning than its ethics.

    We do need to look to the Bible to confirm and correct our sin-marred intuition in the fields of ethics and theology. Sure, a lot might be known by natural means, but if natural intuition was a bungee chord I’d look it over pretty thoroughly before jumping.

    I don’t feel like I need to correct people who fail to speak with biblical proof texts if that’s all you mean.

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  62. Lily, my childhood role models were my father, Jo Jo White, and Bugs Bunny. I never developed Jo Jo’s jump shot, but the other two left their mark.

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  63. MM, but whatever monotheism he had Socrates opposed the cross and so needed 1 Cor 1:18-25, so his natural theology was still as marred as his intuition on sexual ethics. And I have to believe that for every Greco-Roman pedophile there existed somewhere in the wide world a pagan who eschewed it, just like today (as in Epstein versus Bailey).

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  64. Michael Mann,

    It sounds like you majored in what was important (Dad and Bugs)!

    I do not know why natural law is such a difficult subject. It seems self-evident to me. History illustrates both the good and the bad among both believers and unbelievers. Perhaps, the question is not why Socrates and other impressive pagans got some things wrong, but why did they get so much right?

    In my thinking, natural law is part of our daily reality because Christians live in both kingdoms and see both ways in which the Bible characterizes God’s revelation of himself to mankind. Perhaps I am alone in this, but I have to deal with the fact that I am imperfect in my knowledge and understanding of both kingdoms and I will remain that way until Christ returns. Until then, I rest in Christ for all in all.

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  65. Zrim, you’re reading an aweful lot into what I wrote that is NOT there. For instance trying to get behind my remark, rather than taking my remark as it was written. Christianity absolutely improved upon Greco-Roman culture to the extent that Western Civilization benefited, but I have not in anyway asserted that Western civ owes itself to Christianity. That is your reference only here.

    In addition, I stand by my claim that the BEST EXAMPLES in a myriad of vocations are found in Christians/believers. By highlighting the Ming Dynasty, Ottoman Empire, Babylon University, and the Greco-Roman civilizations as superior examples shows
    1) that your measuring stick is unbiblical, worldly, and devoid of light/righteousness, and
    2) that you have confused my words again by presenting entire cultures and time periods rather than specific examples of truly superior (from a Biblical definition) people in their vocations.

    I appreciate being able to examine the issues from various angles, but address what I’ve said, not what you think I meant! (And I do believe that your father, who apparently was a very good unbelieving father, would have been an even better one, if he had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. That is not an outlandish statement. And believing it would NOT make you break the 5th commandment! I can’t even understand why you would make such a remark.)

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  66. Jay, what I am doing is taking what you say and trying to work from there back to the premise. So when you say that “Christianity absolutely improved upon Greco-Roman culture to the extent that Western Civilization benefited” then it just seems to me that you’re working with the premise that true religion really does have some sort of direct or obvious bearing on the temporal cares of this world. And when you suggest that a man’s ability at a natural vocation would have been improved by possessing supernatural faith it seems to suggest something similar. I’m not sure what else I could infer. The reason my accepting your formulation would cause me to break the fifth is that I’d have to tell my father he’s not as good a father as he could’ve been merely because he doesn’t share my faith. That doesn’t seem to be the way to show love and honor. It actually sounds pretty arrogant.

    But about this idea that Christianity absolutely improved upon Greco-Roman culture, I happen to think it’s a popular tale we western Christians love to tell ourselves. My guess is that you have something like Craig Carter’s view (“Re-thinking Christ & Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective”) that between Acts and 300 A.D. the early church fathers did indeed transform culture. They didn’t mean to, of course, it just happened. He calls it “the great irony of history.” It goes like this: The early church created a “Christian culture” that rushed in to fill the void when a pagan culture, for whatever reasons, crumbled, and then the “Christian culture” became dominant (insert implied glee). And I guess that’s when all the good stuff took root. And just so nobody sounds too transformationalist the idea is that somehow they just backed into it. But I’m not sure how anybody absolutely improves anything or constructs a whole culture without trying. Getting something done, like transforming culture in ways Carter suggests, really does require deliberation. Call me kooky, but something tells me my wife won’t buy the plea that my conscientious effort at minding my own business reading a book will get the dinner dishes clean or the homework done.

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  67. Zrim: I think you misread my post in its entirety. Yoikes!

    But if it helps, the reason I think you are uncomfortable from Proverbs is not because you preach from Ecclesiastes, but because you (a) never — not once, I think — mention Proverbs or its themes, and (b) more importantly, you say things like

    …you’re working with the premise that true religion really does have some sort of direct or obvious bearing on the temporal cares of this world.

    (which is to say, you *aren’t*. That is, you deny that true religion has some sort of direct or obvious bearing on the temporal cares of this world.)

    And it strikes me that Solomon really seems to believe that the fear of the Lord has a direct bearing on our temporal cares. Which you deny. So either I’ve read Proverbs wrong (possible!) OR you have spent too much time avoiding pp. 335 – 367 in your Bible. So to speak.

    So the unbalance has to do with what you *don’t* say and what you *deny*, not what you do say.

    Zrim: Jeff, re your mistrust of intuition as a guide, isn’t intuition just as God-made as our feet and eyes? And yet, I doubt you’d say that we should be suspect of our eyes’ abilities to see what is on these pixel screens or the abilities’ of our feet to get us across the room. Yes, I know all these faculties have flaws (I have flat feet and bat’s eyes), but we actually rely on their inherent powers much more than you seem to want to admit.

    Hm. I admit we have intuition, certainly; and that it’s God-given, definitely.

    But with the senses, I seek — most of us seek — confirming evidence. For example, I would not convict a man on eyewitness testimony alone, unsupported by forensics.

    Likewise, I see Scripture functioning as a confirmation to our intuitions, or better, that which shapes our moral sense. You seem uncomfortable with that, and I’m not sure why.

    Most of us, I would say, would reason that unless the intuition is somehow infallible, then it ought not to be our sole source of information.

    It seems to me that you’re arguing for some kind of tabula rasa: Take a random child, raise him by wolves, and he’ll have enough moral sense to build a civilization. That seems really iffy to me.

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  68. Zrim, presuming others motives and trying to “get behind” their words is sinful straight up. I’d love to explore this topic in a meaningful way, but it will be impossible, because you insist on overlaying all of your preconcieved ideas over top of my words. That will not do.

    I appreciated the go, though. Maybe another time. Out here.

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  69. Jeff, I suppose you’ve lost me on the Proverbs point. Sorry.

    That’s right, I am not working with the premise that true religion really does have some sort of direct or obvious bearing on the temporal cares of this world. That’s why I don’t say things like Christianity absolutely improved upon Greco-Roman culture or that a good father would become better if he had faith. I used to, but not anymore. Now I think that faith only reconciles sinner to God, it doesn’t make bad people (and their societies) good and good people (and their societies) better.

    I’m not saying intuition is infallible. It’s just as fallible as our eyes and feet. But I fail to see how infallible means unreliable. My eyes and feet are flawed, but I have no trouble saying they are in the main quite reliable to get done what they were created to get done. Same goes for my intuition and conscience. Of course, you’ll have to remember that I am pretty at ease with approximation. Maybe that’s what throws you? And I don’t see how you get tabula rasa from what I am saying. I would think you’d see that my view favors nature over nurture.

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  70. Jay, isn’t there a difference between divining motives and mining for premises based on what someone writes? Maybe my mining is off, but is it really sinful?

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  71. Z, I think it is sinful and the reason why I am not a fan of VT/Bahnsen presuppositional apologetics, but that is a rabbit trail for another time – please 🙂

    You wrote: “The reason my accepting your formulation would cause me to break the fifth is that I’d have to tell my father he’s not as good a father as he could’ve been merely because he doesn’t share my faith. That doesn’t seem to be the way to show love and honor. It actually sounds pretty arrogant.”

    If that was true (which it is not), then imagine how arrogant you would sound when you tell your father he is going to hell apart from faith in Jesus Christ?

    Here is probably the key area where I’m having trouble with your position:
    When you say that an unbeliever would not be improved upon faith in Christ and by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, I sounds to me like you are saying that it is normal for there to not be a publically noticable difference between a B.C. Christian and a Born Again Christian.
    If that is what you are saying, I think it is patently unBiblical.

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  72. Jay: Zrim, presuming others motives and trying to “get behind” their words is sinful straight up.

    Isn’t that process necessary in order to have empathy for people? Perhaps I’m misunderstanding …

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  73. Zrim: That’s right, I am not working with the premise that true religion really does have some sort of direct or obvious bearing on the temporal cares of this world. … I think that faith only reconciles sinner to God, it doesn’t make bad people (and their societies) good and good people (and their societies) better.

    OK, but now you also affirm that

    Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. — Jas 3.13

    and

    Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. — Jas 1.26

    and even

    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. — Jas 1.27.

    So put that together with this. James seems to think that religion has a direct bearing on the cares of the world, doesn’t he?

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  74. Lily: The Luther quote is one of my favorite, BTW. But don’t tell anyone I learned it from the new life crowd. 🙂

    You wrote, But at some point, I think we have to accept the fact that our intuition, reason, conscience, and natural law all play a valuable roles in our lives and accept them for what they are?

    Yes, I think that’s right. Is it fair also to say that these things should not be exalted beyond their station?

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  75. Jeff: empathy is putting one’s self in the other’s situation so that we are able to share in another’s suffering or experience (hopefully to minister to them).
    Presuming on someone’s motives is saying that we know why someone said or did something but only the Holy Spirit can know that.

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  76. Jeff,

    I am glad we share a common favorite quote. Who is the new life crowd?

    Re: “Is it fair also to say that these things should not be exalted beyond their station?”

    I agree with a caveat: neither should they be diminished below their station. I think that is what happens in a lot of the arguments against natural law and I think it important that they should not be discounted simply because we use them imperfectly. Since we have been given these faculties and we are expected to use them whether we are believers or unbelievers, it seems best to appreciate them.

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  77. Jeff, I don’t see plumbing mentioned in any of these bible verses. Are you trying to pour all cares of this world into these references to good deeds or to words?

    You earlier talked about the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom. But the fear of the Lord is not the same as saving faith. Leon Kass has the former but not the latter and he is definitely wiser than I am.

    The key part of your biblical texts is humility. Does it really seem or is it really humble for Christians to think that by virtue of regeneration they become better plumbers, better doers, better speakers? If you thought that, wouldn’t the humble approach prompt you not to say it in public?

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  78. Jay: So to push this a bit further: empathy would seek to understand why someone might say something; whereas presumption would declare it dogmatically?

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  79. DGH: Jeff, I don’t see plumbing mentioned in any of these bible verses. Are you trying to pour all cares of this world into these references to good deeds or to words?

    No, just plumbing. That’s actually the only thing I care about: plumbing, plumbing, plumbing.

    😛

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  80. Seriously though: You earlier talked about the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom.

    I repeated it, but Solomon wrote it. Specifically, the Holy Spirit through Solomon wrote it. So what does it mean? Keep in mind that this is the same author that has us getting wisdom from the ant.

    I think it would help round out the 2k position for you to lay your Proverbs cards on the table. Why is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom?

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  81. When you say that an unbeliever would not be improved upon faith in Christ and by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, I sounds to me like you are saying that it is normal for there to not be a publically noticable difference between a B.C. Christian and a Born Again Christian. If that is what you are saying, I think it is patently unBiblical.

    Jay, that is more or less what I am saying. But before you dismiss it as unbiblical consider something like the HC Q/A 114: “But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments? No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God.” If even “the holiest of men make only a small beginning in obedience” then doesn’t stand to reason that the outward difference between a BC and a BA is hardly discernible? So my own notion of sanctification is that it is much more mysterious and inward than known and outward. Mortification of the flesh and vivification of the spirit really isn’t the same as any worldly notion of self-improvement. And conveying to an unbeliever what happens eternally apart from Christ is just different from telling him he can be a better him with Jesus in his heart.

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  82. Jeff, instead of saying that true religion has a direct bearing on the cares of this world I’d rather say that James thinks faith without works is dead. That’s how he puts it. The former way of thinking is what leads some to say that the world sets the church’s agenda. James’ way leads others to write the whole third section of the Heidelberg Catechism, as in the Christian life wrought by faith is all about obedience.

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  83. Jeff, is empathy seeking to understnad why someone does something? Understanding the “why” might be included, but more germain to proper empathy is understanding the “what.”

    Presuming motives example: Let’s say person A says they think that protecting civil rights is important to them, and then person B that person A must be either a sympathizer with the GBLT agenda or the ACLU.
    Making a presumption like that reveals about the person B doing the presuming than person A who made the original statement.
    Does that make sense?

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  84. Does the Bible teach someone how to be plumbers? Not in terms of skill set, but in terms of being a good employee, a good servant, etc.yes it does. If we have two plumbers of the exact same skillset, and one is a Christian and one is not, then the Christian ought to be the better plumber. Calvin and the puritan’s taught this, re: the Protestant Work Ethic and Luther taught it in his doctrine of Vocation.

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  85. Jeff, you didn’t address the point that saving faith may be very different from fear of the Lord. And if you thought about that, you might also see that the wisdom lit. in Scripture shares a lot with wisdom lit. in other ancient near eastern cultures. And you might also see that Solomon was not necessarily a model of saving faith.

    The short answer to you question is “the Bible says so.” The natural law answer is that a recognition of one’s dependence on the creator helps one live in the creator’s creation.

    But you don’t need saving faith to be a good plumber.

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  86. Jay, what is the value added to plumbing that comes with faith? If two plumbers have the same skill set, they are going to approach a leak or faulty toilet in the exact same way. And if they are law abiding citizens, which most Americans are, they are going to charge a fair price. And if they are human, they are going to see the most profit they can for the least amount of work (if they believe in a free market anyway).

    Calvin and Luther did not teach that Christians make better plumbers. The doctrine of vocation is just that, a doctrine. It has to do with serving God. God doesn’t need faucets or toilets. Service to him is spiritual since he is spiritual. A believing plumber does spiritual work while doing the physical work of plumbing. But the spiritual work adds nothing to the physical. The Christian plumber doesn’t get to charge more than the non-Christian.

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  87. DG, I’ve read both Calvin and Luther on the doctrine of vocation and the whole point is that when Christians serve God and glorify Him in our work, we WILL be qualitatively better workers, family members, neighbors & church members as a result.

    To say that vocation and service to God is exclusively spiritual is a trajectory headed back to Rome.

    Apparently, we disagree on this matter, but if you don’t think the spiritual adds anything to the physical (gnosticism?), I’m not going to be the one to agrue with you about it.

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  88. DG: Do you see the fact that Jesus was a carpenter factoring into this discussion at all? I’d be curious what you make of God incarnate, our Lord and Savior, serving as a carpenter by working under his earthly father for so many years prior to his public ministry?

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  89. So DGH and Zrim, it’s time for some questions. You wrote:

    The doctrine of vocation is just that, a doctrine. It has to do with serving God. God doesn’t need faucets or toilets. Service to him is spiritual since he is spiritual. A believing plumber does spiritual work while doing the physical work of plumbing. But the spiritual work adds nothing to the physical.

    * Could the spiritual work could be done *without* doing the physical? If not, then what is the relationship between the spiritual and physical here? If so, how do you avoid the charge of Gnosticism?

    * Is the physical situation of widows and orphans a “care of the world”? If not, what is it?

    * Can you acknowledge that there is a difference between “True religion has direct bearing on all cares of this world” and “True religion has direct bearing on some cares of this world”?

    DGH: Jeff, you didn’t address the point that saving faith may be very different from fear of the Lord. And if you thought about that, you might also see that the wisdom lit. in Scripture shares a lot with wisdom lit. in other ancient near eastern cultures. And you might also see that Solomon was not necessarily a model of saving faith.

    Yes, quite. So:

    * What is the wisdom that Solomon is talking about in Proverbs? And why is it related to *both* the ant *and* the fear of the Lord?

    Zrim: Jeff, instead of saying that true religion has a direct bearing on the cares of this world I’d rather say that James thinks faith without works is dead.

    Yes, I would say that Jas 1 and Jas 2 are related in that way. So:

    * Isn’t James implying, therefore, that true religion will necessarily have a bearing on at least some physical actions?

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  90. Zrim: Of course, you’ll have to remember that I am pretty at ease with approximation. Maybe that’s what throws you?

    Actually, I do a quite a lot of approximating on a daily basis. And here’s what that means:

    “Approximating” means locating the true value between two boundary points. Thus: “The length is 3.5m plus-or-minus 0.2m.” Without the boundary points, you don’t have an approximation, but just an arbitrary guess.

    Practical application: Currently, the major criticism of global warming theory (the other Michael Mann!) is that no-one has done any error-bounding to determine the boundaries. So, the projected trend that temperatures are headed up is nifty, but meaningless (google for “Judith Curry” for more detail).

    But when you speak of “approximation”, you mean “searching your intuition.” There are no controls, no boundaries; in fact, you resist bounding your intuition with Scripture.

    This is not the meaning of the word “approximation.” It is, rather, “guessing.” And there’s not a whole lot of virtue in a raw guess without controls.

    For example: When Aristotle said that “objects in motion come to rest unless pushed by an outside force”, he was guessing based on the evidence of his senses. His conclusion wasn’t approximately true, it was exactly the opposite of the truth. In point of fact, objects in motion continue in their motion unless acted on by an outside force.

    So no — I’m not comfortable with your approximating, because it isn’t actual approximating.

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  91. Jeff, I think the spiritual work can be done with or without the physical. One can sit in a box all day or make boxes all day and still glorify God either way. I fail to see how this backs into Gnosticism. What it actually suggests is that God is sovereign over all of life and we glorify him wherever we are in whatever we’re doing. But if it helps, I think making boxes all day beats sitting in one, and if one finds himself sitting in a box he should make himself as useful as he can and resist any temptation to contemplate his spiritual navel or gauge how much he desires God.

    I think you’ll sort of hate this, but I can’t help but wonder if you’re straining too much at the “cares of this world” point. But all I am trying to say is that we should be more cautious than we tend to be about suggesting that true religion is somehow useful or relevant to doing earth. Without more caution I don’t see what keeps anyone from some form or another of both social gospel and moralistic-therapeutic deism.

    And I think you’re getting pretty exacting about approximation. That exacting impulse may be what makes you so uncomfortable with my approximate disposition.

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  92. Jay, the whole point? My that sounds like an overreach, especially without any quotation. The differentiation between the physical and the spiritual is not gnostic. It is Pauline and Augustinian — you know the difference between earthen vessels and heavenly truths, or the difference between the physical things that perish and the spiritual that abide. It’s all over 1 Corinthians (a book that Kuyperian anti-dualists don’t seem to read much).

    And someone can play the other side with you, if faith makes me a better person, then how many steps are you behind the prosperity gospel? I’d be careful invoking Luther on this since he is one of those rare writers to see that the hiddenness of God disallows us from crediting religion for success.

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  93. Jay, since the Bible includes nothing on Christ’s work as a carpenter, I’d have to say that the Holy Spirit didn’t think his work was all that important to his spiritual ministry. Before you go off thinking this means I think carpentry evil, don’t go there. It is good, just not holy, and it doesn’t have much to do with setting people free from the guilt and penalty of sin.

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  94. Jeff, if you mean that the cares of the world are worthy of our attention as Christians, fine. The way I get to that is through the doctrines of creation and providence, not through soteriology. And if you try to get there through the doctrines of redemption, then you wind up with this nagging problem of Lazarus dying. Jesus healed people but it didn’t last. Redemption lasts. The created order and our efforts to maintain it do not.

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  95. DGH: Just a couple of quick comments.
    1-there will also be spiritual things that perish and physical things that don’t (our resurrected bodies, the new creation, etc.)
    2-I am definitely NOT anti-dualistic Kuyperian and neither is the doctrine of vocation (WSC has been instrumental in bringing it back to the fore as of late, so I would caution against the assumption that vocation as described and 2K are in conflict).
    3-I want to be clear so that I am not misconstrued as arguing for “crediting religion for success” (even though I do understand that I may have left that impression.)

    To me “success” in the way you used it, would be by the standards of this world. However, when I say someone would be a “better” anything (father, worker, churchman, etc,) because they are a Christian, it is not to say “better” in the worldly sense. I think this may be the key misunderstanding, in retrospect. If we are In Christ, we are being transformed into His image. So, we will therefore show marked improvement in how we live in this world and conduct ourselves both inside and outside of the Church – reflecting His glory, in ever increasing power. (I believe that Paul treats that as a promise.) I’m not saying that we have the marks of worldly success or fame or any of those things that are contrary to Christ.

    By God’s standard, however, we absolutely ought to be better than we were. — this is where I think we might be crossing hairs. The measuring stick I’d go by is God’s standard, not worldly success. Hope that helps clarify.

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  96. Zrim: I agree that from an eternal perspective the progress that we make in this life is slight, just as you had quoted from the HC. However, I would not agree to say that the difference is undiscernable. We are told that we shall know them by their fruit. In 1 Cor 6, we are told that that is what some of your were. I do think there ought to be a discernable difference. But in the eternal sense, yes, we have barely made a start.

    My guess is that part of our misunderstanding is that you and DGH think I’m arguing for anti-dualism. But believe me, I’m not! Our church just went thru a whole year SS on kuyperian, worldviewism, anti-dualism, anti-2K theology and I showed up every week to be the thorn in their side and argue for 2k ideas. All I’m trying to do now is ask questions of R2K here that seem to conflict with my understanding of scripture. Thanks!

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  97. Jay, actually our resurrected bodies will only come if the die first (or are raised up). But aside from the body, what guarantee do we have that anything physical will abide?

    As for using God’s standard, not worldly success, of course, I agree. But God’s standards have nothing to say about the stuff of most vocations (aside from pastors — a lot, fathers — some, and magistrates — very little).

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  98. Hi Jay,

    After reading some of your posts, I wondered if you would be interested in reading more of what Martin Luther wrote? I purchased a kindle this week and found some of his works that are FREE in the kindle store at Amazon. I started reading “The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude” today. I haven’t yet checked to see if there are any free works by any of the other Reformers, but you might enjoy searching their free kindle items (assuming you might have a kindle).

    Here are the FREE works by Luther that I found:

    1. Concerning Christian Liberty
    2. A Treatise on Good Work
    3. Selections from the Table Talk of Martin Luther
    4. The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude Preached and Explained

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  99. Jay, just to be clear, I didn’t say the difference is undiscernible. I said it can be hardly discernible. Have you ever wondered what might be the importance of Jacob and Esau being twins, as in one eternally loved and the other hated but both still temporally difficult to distinguish?

    So when you say “We will therefore show marked improvement in how we live in this world and conduct ourselves…” this is where I scratch my head, even with your qualifications. True, we expect to see those who are extraordinary misfits show marked repentance. The thing is, though, most people aren’t extraordinary misfits. So can you see how most of us who are ordinary might feel a bit perplexed about having to show “marked improvement”?

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  100. Zrim: I think you’ll sort of hate this, but I can’t help but wonder if you’re straining too much at the “cares of this world” point.

    Zrim: And I think you’re getting pretty exacting about approximation. That exacting impulse may be what makes you so uncomfortable with my approximate disposition.

    Is it really always my fault? 🙂

    I’m just saying, this is what the light of nature actually teaches: approximation without controls is mere guesswork, and has a tendency to mislead those who rely on it. It’s not just me who says this!

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  101. Zrim: Jeff, I think the spiritual work can be done with or without the physical.

    Isn’t that the opposite of James’ point? Sitting in a box sounds a lot like monasticism to me…

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  102. DGH: Jeff, if you mean that the cares of the world are worthy of our attention as Christians, fine. The way I get to that is through the doctrines of creation and providence, not through soteriology …

    Interesting thought. I’ll chew on that.

    DGH: Redemption lasts. The created order and our efforts to maintain it do not.

    Full agreement.

    And yet, redeemed people are called, it seems, to work out their redemption and express it in terms of “good works” that are the fruit of faith. These “good works” are clearly not plumbing simpliciter, but they might be things like fixing a widow’s toilet. To my mind, that speaks to some kind of connection, rather than a division, between our actions in the physical world and our faith. That connection is not an identity — we cannot say that fixing the widow’s toilet is redemption. But that connection is one of necessary outcome: redemption leads to the fixing of the widow’s toilet.

    Agree? Disagree?

    Two questions left hanging, for both you and Zrim:

    * What kind of wisdom is Solomon talking about, that we can get from the ant AND that begins with the fear of the Lord?

    * Can you acknowledge that there is a difference between “True religion has direct bearing on all cares of this world” and “True religion has direct bearing on some cares of this world”?

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  103. Scott,

    I hope your daughter cooperates! I also hope you get your socks blessed off! I’m having a fabulous time savoring St. Peter with Luther. I looked at the prices of the hard copy books that I’ve downloaded for free and justified the price of my kindle several times over! Not to mention the savings in gas to the library and late fees! ‘O the joys of justifying my extravagant blessed purchase! ;P

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  104. Jeff, I understand that sitting in a box may sound monastic, but the point wasn’t to bifurcate the spiritual and physical so much as say that we are spiritual creatures wherever we are and whatever we’re doing. And sometimes where we are and what we’re doing gets pretty mundane and boring. So against what I take your original point to be—that to be spiritual requires doing stuff and probably can’t be as well done when we’re not—I demur. I find it to be slouching toward an activist notion of faith, which tends to undercut a contemplative notion. Activism usually coincides with extraordinary piety, contemplative with the mundane and ordinary. And all that together actually seems brutally Reformational to me as opposed to any monasticism.

    Can you acknowledge that there is a difference between “True religion has direct bearing on all cares of this world” and “True religion has direct bearing on some cares of this world”?

    Well it seems like a distinction without a difference to me, and that distinction is between a full blown and crass form of prosperity (all) and a softer, more couth form of it (some). Yes, fixing the widow’s toilet is Reformed piety when compared to taking an oath of silence in a tower. But instead of saying that flows from any notion that true religion has direct bearing on all or some of the cares of this world, I’d rather say that it flows from the doctrine that faith without works is dead, or that the Christian life is structured and manifest by works, or works are the inevitable result of faith, or the idea that God doesn’t need our good works—our neighbor does.

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  105. Lily, that’s awesome! I actually just purchased a 3G Kindle this week too! Will check Luther out, asap! Thank you.

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  106. Jeff, since I can’t fix a toilet I’d likely employ a pagan plumber to fix the widow’s toilet. Is that plundering the Egyptians.

    The wisdom of ants comes from observing creation and the natural order. People who think that wisdom starts with the Bible will not observe creation as much as they read their Bibles, which may explain why Wendell Berry and Leon Kass are wiser than most Christians.

    I don’t know what “true religion has a bearing on the cares of this world” means. It could mean vocation. It could mean good works follow from faith. It could mean transformationalism.

    I care about this world. I care about it because God created it, not because God has a wonderful plan to save it. I have a vocation (or multiple ones) that put me smack dab in creation and its cares. My faith doesn’t absolve me of any of that. But I don’t think I need to read the Bible to figure out how to respond to my cares as a home maker or historian or movie watcher. And I don’t think my faith makes a big difference in the way I do those things. I thank God for his gifts and seek to be faithful to his creation and to his revealed word in what I do.

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  107. Jay,

    The timing is delightfully providential! I hope you thoroughly enjoy your new kindle and the free books. I love reading Luther because I can count on him to keep what is primary (Christ) primary and to keep secondary things secondary. Plus he can be such an irascible curmudgeon about the right things. Never a dull moment! 😉

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  108. Zrim: So against what I take your original point to be—that to be spiritual requires doing stuff and probably can’t be as well done when we’re not—I demur.

    No, my original point was James’s: that faith without works is dead. And as a subsidiary point, that sitting in a cardboard box is not one of those good works commanded by Scripture, and therefore should not be considered as an expression of piety.

    JRC: Can you acknowledge that there is a difference between “True religion has direct bearing on all cares of this world” and “True religion has direct bearing on some cares of this world”?

    Zrim: Well it seems like a distinction without a difference to me…

    Yikes. So “Some people can get pregnant” is no different from “all people can get pregnant”?

    Or “Some religions are false” is no different from “all religions are false”?

    I thought I was offering up a completely unobjectionable and self-evident observation!

    Are you sure you’re a fan of the light of nature? 😛

    Zrim: …and that distinction is between a full blown and crass form of prosperity (all) and a softer, more couth form of it (some).

    It seems to me that you’ve backed yourself into a corner. For you, either Scripture can never have direct bearing on the cares of this world, or else we are on the inevitable slippery slope towards transformationalism.

    And the problem you have is that Scripture contains those pesky passages in which it directly speaks to *some* of the cares of this world.

    Which means, I’m afraid, that you are torn between flat-out denying Scripture, or else falling into the transformationalist bucket, since “some” inevitably means “all.”

    Time for a third way, methinks.

    Zrim: But instead of saying that flows from any notion that true religion has direct bearing on all or some of the cares of this world, I’d rather say that it flows from the doctrine that faith without works is dead

    Now there, my friend, is a distinction without a difference. The reason the deaconate was created was to take care of “cares of this world” — specifically the feeding of widows — so that the ministry of the Word could go forth. And the deaconate is a spiritual office.

    There is no difference between saying that “true religion is to look after orphans and widows” and saying that “faith without works is dead.”

    And in fact, the same author says both.

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  109. DGH: Jeff, since I can’t fix a toilet I’d likely employ a pagan plumber to fix the widow’s toilet.

    Fine. You want to discuss ways and means. You still uphold the basic point — the physical act of getting the widow’s toilet fixed flows out of something spiritual: true religion. It never occurred to you to suggest that it would reasonable to let the widow’s toilet take care of itself.

    DGH: The wisdom of ants comes from observing creation and the natural order. People who think that wisdom starts with the Bible will not observe creation as much as they read their Bibles…

    That doesn’t answer the question. Why is it that the *same* wisdom that starts with the fear of the Lord, also comes from observing ants? So it seems in Proverbs…

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  110. Jeff,

    If I may, I would add to what Dr. Hart is saying.

    I often think Lutherans have a much easier time than the Reformed because so many Reformed teachers place undue emphasis on “glorify God and sanctification” and it trips people up. The Lutheran teachings about vocation are much like the ant who sets himself to accomplish what is set before him and to both be and do what God created him to be and to do.

    Lutherans do not believe that God needs anything from them, but their neighbor does, so they set themselves about the business of accomplishing what is set before them for the sake and benefit of their neighbor. Most of what we do is quite mundane, but changing diapers, fixing the widow’s toilet, and etc. are part of the good works God created us to do. One of the beautiful things about the doctrine of vocation is that it helps one become self-forgetful in service to others and not a Dudley-Do-Right who’s always focused on trying to do good deeds and then ends up mucking it up because his focus is on himself and not his neighbor.

    Consider the self-forgetfulness in Matthew 25:35-40:

    For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    As far as I can tell, there is no outward difference between believers and unbelievers in the way they fulfill their vocations in the left-handed kingdom and I am not necessarily impressed by outward appearances in Christians because of the Lord’s warnings to the Pharisees. I rest in the promise that faith will be followed by good works and that he is at work in me to both will and do his good pleasure.

    As far as fear of the Lord, I fear the thought of ever being separated from him for I am nothing but an object of wrath without him. But I do not fear because he has promised me salvation. I am a baptized child of God who is daily forgiven much and assured his mercy and forgiveness are real and for me when I receive his body and blood in the Lord’s supper. I don’t worry about sanctification because he has promised it is mine and that he is at work in me to will and do his good pleasure. I am merely a beggar receiving from his table.

    I would encourage you to read about the Lutheran doctrine of vocation and the theology of the cross. I think you might glean much and find some of the answers you are looking for.

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  111. P.S. Fixing toilets is material not spiritual. It’s merely being and doing what God created you to be and do. 😉

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  112. Jeff, the deaconate was established to take care of the needs of the household of faith, not to take care of the cares of the world. (Recall the distinction between the Bible speaking to its people and not their interests, activities or institutions.) Can you see how to say that “the deaconate was established to take care of the cares of the world” easily turns into all manner of mercy-ministry and social gospel?

    I agree that there is no difference between saying that “true religion is to look after orphans and widows” and saying that “faith without works is dead.” But now you’ve switched out “the cares of the world” for “the needs of the household of faith.” That’s a significant difference.

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  113. Jeff: You still uphold the basic point — the physical act of getting the widow’s toilet fixed flows out of something spiritual: true religion. It never occurred to you to suggest that it would reasonable to let the widow’s toilet take care of itself.

    Discussing whence the urge to fix toilets “flows” is a jarring, but I know and have known plenty of unbelievers that understand that if you leave your friends in a desperate situation, you’re not a genuine friend. When Paul said to believers that not providing for your family makes you worse than an infidel, the most natural reading presupposes that infidels provide for their families, generally. It’s a case of special revelation that is rooted in and enforcing general revelation, and I think there’s an argument that the non-ceremonial Law is always such, whereas the Gospel is something that neither the senses nor intuition could apprehend apart from the given Word.

    If 2kers overemphasize Ecclesiastes at the expense of Proverbs, okay, but I’m not sure the other side deals with Ecclesiastes at all unless applied to unbelieving life. DVD’s Bioethics book released in the midst of his NL2k publications might also be a comfort.

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  114. Lily, I agree with almost all that you’ve said. And in particular, this is precisely in harmony with what I’m saying:

    Most of what we do is quite mundane, but changing diapers, fixing the widow’s toilet, and etc. are part of the good works God created us to do.

    And now, advance one frame: Those good works, for Christians, flow out the fact of our redemption, in the same sense that sanctification could be said to flow out of our justification.

    What I hear DGH and Zrim saying is that the doing of good works has no connection to our redemption.

    Here’s the one thing: P.S. Fixing toilets is material not spiritual.

    Why does it need to be one or the other? Perhaps fixing a toilet, out of faithful obedience to the command to take care of widows and orphans, is *both*.

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  115. Jeff,

    I wish I had more time to be involved in this discussion, but here are some thoughts:

    DGH: Jeff, since I can’t fix a toilet I’d likely employ a pagan plumber to fix the widow’s toilet.

    Fine. You want to discuss ways and means. You still uphold the basic point — the physical act of getting the widow’s toilet fixed flows out of something spiritual: true religion. It never occurred to you to suggest that it would reasonable to let the widow’s toilet take care of itself.

    What happens with the pagan who calls the pagan plumber to have the widow’s toilet fixed. Philanthropy is at it’s core different than true religion, but in terms of this-world effects they are similar. Some wealthy individuals donate cancer wings to hospitals, middle class college kids join the Peace Corps to help those in need, whole nations (predominantly secular albiet) come to the aid of disaster stricken portions of the globe. On the human plane these are charitable acts, that aren’t too different from an elder helping a widow in his church have her leaky toilet fixed (after he checks the angle stop and the flapper to save the $100+ service call of course).

    DGH: The wisdom of ants comes from observing creation and the natural order. People who think that wisdom starts with the Bible will not observe creation as much as they read their Bibles…

    That doesn’t answer the question. Why is it that the *same* wisdom that starts with the fear of the Lord, also comes from observing ants? So it seems in Proverbs…

    Of course there is the pagan “Wisdom of Amenemope” that is deeply connected to Proverbs 22:17-23:11. Heck, even our Reformed standard ESV uses it to bring clarity to a textual emendation to a sticky issue in 22:20. Don’t you think it’s kind of strange that the author of proverbs saw fit to use a pagan’s wisdom and observation, and downright scandalous that it was included in inspired Scripture? I am pretty sure, even with all of the inspirational issues in play here that Amenemope feared the Lord.

    There are plenty of good scholars on both sides of the issue, and a good amount take many portions of Proverbs to follow contours of natural theology (or at least an ANE analogue). In which case the fear of the Lord also means looking for wisdom in the world outside Scripture as a valid, even if different, source of revelation.

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  116. Zrim: Jeff, the deaconate was established to take care of the needs of the household of faith, not to take care of the cares of the world.

    You’ve shamelessly equivocated. The “cares of the world” refers to material cares, not “the cares of everyone in the world as opposed to the cares of the household of faith.”

    If you want to emphasize the household of faith, as in “do good to all, especially those of the household of faith”, that’s fine. No argument.

    But if you want to say that “doing good to the household of faith proves that faith is not concerned with the cares of the world”, then you’re just twisting language around.

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  117. Jed: What happens with the pagan who calls the pagan plumber to have the widow’s toilet fixed. Philanthropy is at it’s core different than true religion, but in terms of this-world effects they are similar.

    OK, but what does this prove? You have two different causes (true religion, common grace) producing the same effect. It does not follow in the least true religion does not concern itself with the widow’s cares.

    Right?

    Jed: Don’t you think it’s kind of strange that the author of proverbs saw fit to use a pagan’s wisdom and observation, and downright scandalous that it was included in inspired Scripture?

    Not at all. If, as I’m arguing, the fear of the Lord and the wisdom from the ant are not *separate*, but *coordinated*, then it is unsurprising that we could find wisdom from pagans.

    But if, as DGH and Zrim argue, the fear of the Lord and the wisdom from the ant are separate entities, one having nothing to do with the other, then it is highly surprising that Solomon would join them together in Proverbs.

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  118. Mike K: As I said to Jed, you have to consider multiple causation. Yes, conscience might provoke us to good deeds. But true religion is supposed to do the same. The one does not take away from the other.

    If 2kers overemphasize Ecclesiastes at the expense of Proverbs, okay, but I’m not sure the other side deals with Ecclesiastes at all unless applied to unbelieving life.

    Well, there’s one problem right there. Why are there “sides”?

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  119. Jed, to double down: It’s even more highly surprising that an entire book devoted to the wisdom acquired from observing life should make it into Scripture.

    UNLESS

    There is a connection and coordination between this wisdom and that.

    I would say that the very existence of the book of Proverbs falsifies the premise that special revelation and general revelation are disjoint sets.

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  120. What I hear DGH and Zrim saying is that the doing of good works has no connection to our redemption.

    Jeff, how do you get that from, “I’d rather say that it flows from the doctrine that faith without works is dead, or that the Christian life is structured and manifest by works, or works are the inevitable result of faith, or the idea that God doesn’t need our good works—our neighbor does”?

    But if you want to keep pushing the idea that true religion has direct and obvious bearing on the cares of this world then what exactly is keeping you from the doctrines of personal and social relevance? Maybe I’m coming off as fixated on transformationism and prosperity gospel, but that stuff doesn’t just fall out of the clear blue. Near as I can tell, it’s based on very real premises, like Christianity makes bad people (and their societies) good and good people (and their societies) better; true religion must be relevant to the doings of earth in order for it to be good at all; it must meet personal and social felt needs to greater or lesser degrees or it’s dead.

    All this over against Jesus’ own teaching that his kingdom is not of this world and even telling us that we must hate those social ties most dear and relevant, our family, as well as laying down that highest temporal good life itself, if we want to obtain eternal life. The temporal, very good as it is, even its highest aspects, are fading away. How does any of that comport with the idea that true religion is supposed to breath life into the temporal?

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  121. Jeff,

    I’m a little confused by the reply. You had said to Darryl, You still uphold the basic point — the physical act of getting the widow’s toilet fixed flows out of something spiritual: true religion. It never occurred to you to suggest that it would reasonable to let the widow’s toilet take care of itself.

    I responded that unbelievers are also fine in this department, implying that the motive is not necessarily religion, and argued that at least some special revelation that deals with our responsibilities wrt neighbor is a republication of the natural law, so to speak. You had asserted a single cause; my response, if true, casts doubt on how often we can even distinguish between “religion” and “conscience,” so I’m plenty comfortable with multiple causation here.

    But the point was how my suggestion inverts your previous reading of the relationship between NL and Scripture, which often had NL restating the moral elements of the Decalogue instead of the other way around*. And I’m not sure how to clarify “sides”. There’s a disagreement; it was referring to the parties thereof.

    *noting that the relationship of the first 4 commandments to NL is different from that of the last 6.

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  122. Goodness Jeff!

    With so many people responding how are you going to keep us all straight? 😉

    I would like to take another stab at this. You wrote: “And now, advance one frame: Those good works, for Christians, flow out the fact of our redemption, in the same sense that sanctification could be said to flow out of our justification.”

    Let me start with my premises (I know this is redundant, but I’m not sure how else to approach this): We know there are two kingdoms, because that is what Jesus teaches us. In my understanding, 2k helps me see where those two kingdoms boundaries are.

    In the left-hand kingdom: all men are created in the image of God and have been created to be and do what he created them to be and do. We all have the law written upon our hearts and our reason, consciences, and intuition bear witness to natural law. Because of our sin natures we all muck it all up to one degree or another whether believer or unbeliever. Both believers and unbelievers are capable of being honest, hard-working Joes because they follow or honor the natural law written upon their hearts or dishonest, slackard Donnas because they suppress the truth and follow their flesh. Both believers and unbelievers also believe or do things because of ignorance.

    In the right-hand kingdom: Christians have been born again, adopted by God, hidden in Christ, placed in his kingdom, given the Holy Spirit, and etc. We have numerous promises that are not yet ours, but we have them by grace through faith in Christ alone. There is zip, zero, zilch, nada works involved here. The kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit, and our faith are invisible. Our salvation cannot be seen in outward appearances and sometimes I despair of what a miserable sinner I am, but then I remember I live by faith in Christ not by what I see in myself. The theology of glory always want to emphasize obedience to the law in works instead of submitting to the theology of the cross or resting in Christ and patiently growing in the knowledge of him.

    This is probably too simplistic, but I’m not sure how else to make my point. The left-hand kingdom is pure law and the right-hand kingdom is pure grace. The unbeliever only lives in the left-hand kingdom and receives no forgiveness from God when he mucks up. The believer lives in both kingdoms and does receive all of the blessings and benefits of salvation in Christ. It doesn’t make us better than unbelievers in the left hand kingdom or make our work different. It makes us saved and loyal to Christ our King instead of this world.

    Christians have the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to guide them in the left-hand kingdom. It doesn’t necessarily make us more skilled in our vocations, but it does help guide and guard our hearts against sin and hopefully be less vulnerable to the seductive and deceptive siren songs in our culture. But even Christians can suppress the truth written on all men’s hearts and go their own way at times. Even a Christian can be hung for planning an assassination (eg: Bonhoeffer) and other such things.

    Lastly – regarding: Here’s the one thing: P.S. Fixing toilets is material not spiritual. Why does it need to be one or the other? Perhaps fixing a toilet, out of faithful obedience to the command to take care of widows and orphans, is *both*.

    I’m not sure how to answer this except to say 1) God’s servant is merely doing his duty when he does what he should do 2) all of our works, even our best works, are but filthy rags in the sight of God.

    We are material created beings living in a created material world where both the believer and unbeliever will help widows, orphans, and the like. God has made all of us in his image and we will all reflect that to one degree or another. Salvation cannot be seen and if I saw you in a crowd surrounded by unbelievers I would be hard pressed to pick you out as the believer. Faith is the difference between a believer and an unbeliever not our works. Christians do want to please God, our faith has an object outside of ourselves, and his kingdom is not of this world. The unbeliever only has what was written on all men’s hearts and no portion in the promises of God.

    I hope this makes sense? I wish I was a better Lutheran so I was a better articulator of this.

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  123. JRC: What I hear DGH and Zrim saying is that the doing of good works has no connection to our redemption.

    Zrim: Jeff, how do you get that[?]

    From this:

    DGH: Jeff, if you mean that the cares of the world are worthy of our attention as Christians, fine. The way I get to that is through the doctrines of creation and providence, not through soteriology

    and from your flat denial that true religion has any direct bearing on worldly cares.

    Is that not a reasonable inference? Here are the details:

    (1) Our good works are those things commanded by Scripture.
    (2) Which include some worldly cares: feeding our families and caring for widows, to name two.
    (3) And therefore obedience to Scripture will directly bear on some worldly cares.
    (4) True religion includes obedience to Scripture.
    (5) True religion flows out of our redemption.
    (6) So out of redemption flows attention to some worldly cares, as one species of doing good works. Put another way: Redemption causes good works, including attention to some worldly cares.
    (7) Therefore, the denial that “true religion has no direct bearing on worldly cares” is tantamount to a denial that “our good works have no connection to our redemption.”

    Zrim: But if you want to keep pushing the idea that true religion has direct and obvious bearing on the cares of this world then what exactly is keeping you from the doctrines of personal and social relevance?

    I think I’ve explained this a bit before.

    It all comes down to making the proper distinction between “some” and “all.” The cares of the world that Scripture has direct relevance for are those, and only those, which Scripture commands us to take on. Thus, true religion will be concerned with *some*, but *not all* of the cares of this world — and not for their own sake, but for the sake of the people impacted by those cares.

    Zrim: Maybe I’m coming off as fixated on transformationism and prosperity gospel …

    No, not at all. You hardly mention it. 😛

    Zrim: …but that stuff doesn’t just fall out of the clear blue. Near as I can tell, it’s based on very real premises, like [A,B, and C].

    Since I don’t share any of those premises, I don’t see where you’re coming from.

    Part of the problem here is that you jump on superficial similarities in language.

    But in the areas of sanctification and good works, a lot more care is needed. Consider:

    (1) Our good works contribute nothing to our justification.
    (2) Our good works are unnecessary for our salvation.

    These two sound very similar, but (1) is true and (2), possibly false. For (2) could mean (1), or it could mean that being saved will not necessarily result in good works, which is false. (The ambiguity is in the word “for”).

    OR consider

    (3) Faith without works is dead.
    (4) Living faith includes works as a component.

    (3) is true; (4) is false.

    Likewise here. I’ve alleged something generic: There is a connection between true religion and some worldly cares, in this sense: true religion leads to obedience to Scripture. Scripture has some commands concerning some worldly cares. Therefore, true religion will have a direct bearing on some worldly cares.

    Simple, and really unarguable AFAICT.

    But you want to take that and make more of it than is there, because of superficial similarity to transformationalism or social gospelism, or whatnot.

    And I’m asking, No, please slow down and be more careful here. Consider that rejecting my generic claim entails rejecting James and Proverbs.

    Now … if you wanted to nail down “direct bearing” with more specificity, I could understand that. But then we’d have to get, ya know, specific and stuff instead of all “approximate-y” 2x:P

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  124. Mike K: …my response, if true, casts doubt on how often we can even distinguish between “religion” and “conscience,” so I’m plenty comfortable with multiple causation here.

    OK, good. What I was trying to get at is that for *Christians*, their religion will have a bearing on their behavior. That’s all; nothing was implied about non-Christians, and I also agree with you that Christians’ consciences *might also* affect their behavior.

    So we have one claim:

    DGH, Zrim: True religion has no bearing on worldly cares.

    and its opposite:

    JRC: True religion will necessarily lead to attention to some worldly cares.

    which I was illustrating with the widow’s toilet.

    Does that make more sense? I’m trying to establish a causal link, which is unaffected by other possible causes, like conscience.

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  125. Lily, I’ll chew on it. My gut reaction is that we might spin this out a bit:

    Christians have the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to guide them in the left-hand kingdom. It doesn’t necessarily make us more skilled in our vocations, but it does help guide and guard our hearts against sin and hopefully be less vulnerable to the seductive and deceptive siren songs in our culture.

    Given that there are sins of omission as well as commission (why does only one of those have a double-m?!), how does the Spirit’s work in our lives affect our sins of omission?

    And then, if you don’t mind cross-denominating for a moment, what do you make of something like the Westminster Larger Catechism Qn #135? Or Chap 16 of the Confession?

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  126. Oy vey, Jeff!

    Re: “And then, if you don’t mind cross-denominating for a moment, what do you make of something like the Westminster Larger Catechism Qn #135? Or Chap 16 of the Confession?”

    Please forgive me. I’m useless in this kind of examination and I wish I spoke better Lutheran! A number of years ago, I did read a book by Sinclair Ferguson comparing the different Reformed confessions. I remember well that I thought the Heidelberg confession was the best of the lot, but I could not tell you exactly why now. My best guess is that the first line appealed to my Lutheran sensibilities? “What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” Now that glorifies Christ as the All in all and gives an anchor for our faith at the same time!

    Re: “Given that there are sins of omission as well as commission (why does only one of those have a double-m?!), how does the Spirit’s work in our lives affect our sins of omission?”

    Too funny! Omission omits and commission adds – definitely no winner m’s there!

    On the serious side, I think we have all felt the promptings to do things that we did not act on (including unbelievers) and regretted not acting on them later. Whether it is the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin and righteousness, or our consciences, I do not know. Plus, we plain forget things or are ignorant of things. There are limits to how far I am comfortable probing into things that are hidden from us or are only partially answerable in this world. I wonder that I have been trying to unweave a whole cloth that should remain whole cloth and I went too far in my last post. I am confident that the answer is the same for all sin: Christ crucified. And since it is a matter of when not if I’ll sin, that’s my answer and I’m sticking with it. ;-P

    I do wonder that being a math whiz may be giving you some grief because that kind of valuable talent tends to want to nail down all the details, work the formulas, and find the correct answers for each different problem. But, in ordinary everyday life, there are limits to the details we can nail down, no set formulas, and only one correct answer for all: Christ crucified. There seems to be an ever present danger of the flesh always wanting to find a way to smuggle works into salvation since the flesh would love to find something it can do to make itself feel better about itself. I think the way the flesh works trying to find something it can do is common to all of us. I find it easiest to recognize that my best works always fall short of perfection and my best works are merely doing what I should do no matter what it is. This completely frazzles my flesh and makes me always dependent upon God’s mercy for me in Christ for all. Yes, Lutherans even repent of their good works since they could tempt us to pride. Yes, we are an odd lot. 😉

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  127. Jeff wrote: “If, as I’m arguing, the fear of the Lord and the wisdom from the ant are not *separate*, but *coordinated*, then it is unsurprising that we could find wisdom from pagans.

    But if, as DGH and Zrim argue, the fear of the Lord and the wisdom from the ant are separate entities, one having nothing to do with the other, then it is highly surprising that Solomon would join them together in Proverbs.”
    and
    “I would say that the very existence of the book of Proverbs falsifies the premise that special revelation and general revelation are disjoint sets.”

    Amen Jeff! Very well put, imo.

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  128. Zrim: Jeff, what do you understand the essential problem to be about prosperity/social gospel?

    Both are covers for unbelief. I see the social gospel as a cover for those who long ago left the faith, but believe that the Bible is good for giving us ethical principles. I would put “In His Steps” in this category (though it’s well-nigh 20 years since I read it, so my memory might be wrong)

    I see the prosperity gospel as a cover for those who do not believe or understand that we are pilgrims in this world, and have no hope in the next, and therefore believe that the Bible is good for giving us how-to’s for life. I would put “God’s Little Instruction Book” in this category.

    Neither of those is grounded in or cares much for our salvation.

    In contradistinction to either of those, I am suggesting that God appears to want his people to work out their salvation in fear in trembling, to do the good works that he has prepared us to do. That is: our salvation, ordained from eternity, declared in our justification, has implications for — direct bearing on — the lives that we live now.

    So when the widow has need, true religion impels us to act. Other people’s consciences might well do the same without religion; great for them. But for the Christian, the reason that overshadows any other possible reason is that our Lord said so.

    Genuine salvation (Eph 2.8,9) ==> Manifestation of salvation in our lives (Eph 2.10), however imperfect.

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  129. JRC: I see the prosperity gospel as a cover for those who do not believe or understand that we are pilgrims in this world, and have no hope in the next…

    should have said, “, those who have no hope in the next…”

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  130. Jeff, why do you think the fear of the Lord is different from the wisdom of ants. People who do not believe in Christ have the fear of the Lord. Fear of the lord is not necessarily redemptive.

    Also, if you think good works are connected to redemption, if you think that you fix the widow’s toilet because you are saved, I fear you are dangerously close to self-righteousness. If what saves us is Christ’s righteousness, what else could meet God’s holy standard, then how can our good works be “connected” (a very sloppy word) to our redemption? I see some possible doctrinal and pride problems here.

    And this is why the culture warriors get old from my perspective. They really seem to think that Christians will be better people, so Christians should rule. Does that apply to Rob Bell?

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  131. Jeff, you say that prosperity gospel believes that the Bible is good for giving us how-to’s for life. Yet you also say that the Bible speaks to all of life and has direct bearing on the cares of this world. I’m sorry, but I’m having a heckuva time figuring out what the principled difference is.

    So I have to say, the way you attempt to put prosperity gospel over there and all-of-lifery over here sure ends up sounding to me like what I hear in a lot of Reformeddom: prosperity gospel is bad when it comes in cheesy combovers and bling-bling, but when it comes dippped it lotsa well-tutored philosophy it’s good. But to my mind prosperity can come in all shapes and sizes, and it just doesn’t do to say that they can’t because they’re them but we can because we’re us.

    P.S. I know this side of the table is usually tagged for being extreme and all that. But I notice how you characterize social gospel being a “cover for unbelief for those who long since left the faith.” Yeow. Much as I may have an axe to grind against it, I’m wary of declaring proponents of social and prosperity gospel devoid of faith. Misguided and confused, yes, but faithless? I do think prosperity is a function of unbelief, but like Calvin said all believers retain a measure of unbelief and so are compromised creatures.

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  132. Jeff,

    The verse (working out your salvation in fear and trembling) follows a therefore. If you look at the passage prior to where you are taking that verse from it is expounding Christ and the depth of his humility serving others and his obedience unto death for all of us… there is so much richness there, please reread the passage. The verse you are chewing on appears to be referring to keeping our sin natures in check and serving our neighbors. There is also a promise attached to the verse you are chewing on: for it is God at work in you to will and to work for his good pleasure. It is his gracious gift at work in you not you working for him.

    Please consider this: When Christ died for us, he said, “It is finished.” He completed everything that the law demanded. God does not need your works for Christ has fulfilled all, but your neighbor does need your works. You fulfill the works you have been created to do in your vocations which means we serve others and it does include fixing widow’s toilets. Please be aware of how easy it is to try to smuggle works into salvation. The flesh is sneaky.

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  133. Jay (and Jeff) have you considered 1 Cor.? The wisdom of the world is folly in the world of redemption. And the cross is foolishness in the wisdom of the world. If they are not disjoint sets, then what on earth or in heaven is Paul talking about?

    BTW, Paul also says that if believers don’t take care of widows, they are no better than pagans who do the same (somewhere in 1 Tim. 5).

    So why do you want to coordinate them so much? It seems to me that it is an effort to show off one’s faith. Showing off is not a virtue. And you may want to say that it is to give glory to God, but when the football players point to the sky after scoring (on the Lord’s Day no less), somehow they don’t give as much glory to God as they demonstrate their own self-sanctity.

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  134. So Jeff, if the gospel is (at least partly) about the lives we live now, what do you do with Paul’s contrast between the things of this world that are temporal and the eternal and spiritual things which abide. Also, remember that Paul says we should set our minds on things above. Where is there room in your worldliness for the Bible’s otherworldliness?

    Please do remember that we don’t have a lot of examples in Scripture for faith making a difference in this world the way you think it does. We don’t see many examples of daily living or many saints who were all that devout the way we expect Christians to be (think Jacob or Abraham).

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  135. DGH “Jay (and Jeff) have you considered 1 Cor.? The wisdom of the world is folly in the world of redemption. And the cross is foolishness in the wisdom of the world. If they are not disjoint sets, then what on earth or in heaven is Paul talking about?”

    This is an interesting question, as it is one that the worldviewists in my church loved to lob my way whenever I would invoke the validity of natural law, their position being of course that natural law=worldly wisdom and therefore in opposition to biblical truth. So, if you want to divorce the two of them completely, I think you only bolster the worldviewist/anti-2kers.

    Why I agreed with Jeff is because I think the boundary lines between the 2 kingdoms are not impassible, but rather permeable. If the any wisdom in the world be true (because of general revelation), then it must not contradict special revelation. If special revelation is clearer and more direct Truth, then it would logically follow, imo, that it would improve upon general revelation.

    Have a blessed Sabbath!

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  136. Dr Hart,

    May I ask about this: “have you considered 1 Cor.? The wisdom of the world is folly in the world of redemption. And the cross is foolishness in the wisdom of the world. If they are not disjoint sets, then what on earth or in heaven is Paul talking about?”

    Is your point that the ‘wisdom of the world’ is pure law in operation where we receive our just desserts, whether for good or ill, based on our labors/works in this temporal world? The consequences of obeying or not obeying the law and receiving what our work merits makes sense to us.

    Versus ‘the cross is foolishness’ is pure grace in operation where the law is nullified and we receive what we do not deserve and could never merit/earn all based on the work of Christ alone.

    Therefore, by obedience to the law we receive nothing of eternal value for the law cannot save us and Via Delorosa we receive everything of eternal value at no cost to us because Christ fulfilled all for us. I’m sure you can explain this much better than I, but is this the gist of the comparison?

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  137. Jay, way back you said, “…what I’d be concerned about is the unreliability and inconsistency of Epstein’s ability to “get natural law” right. It seems like you would still need another entity to provide consistent and accurate discernment.”

    To which I responded, “…your concern begins to broach the questions surrounding the sufficiency of both special (explicit) and general (implicit) revelation and the insufficiency of sinful creatures, redeemed or not, to reliably and consistently read either.”

    Then you said, “Actually, I broached the second half, not the first. I maintain the sufficiency of general revelation, but question the reliability and consistency of the unregenerate to acknowledge and rely on it.”

    And now, “If the any wisdom in the world be true (because of general revelation), then it must not contradict special revelation. If special revelation is clearer and more direct Truth, then it would logically follow, imo, that it would improve upon general revelation.”

    This is why I originally suggested that you were beginning to broach questions surrounding the sufficiency of both special (explicit) and general (implicit) revelation. It took a little while to get here, but your last statement is what I was anticipating back there. It seems to suggest to me the possibility that general revelation is not as clear or can be less direct truth, thus special revelation is needed to improve upon general revelation. This is what I don’t understand: it’s true that if as 2k says natural law corresponds to special revelation then it cannot contradict it. But whence this idea that special revelation is clearer and more direct? Is it in the other idea that to be implicit is to be unclear and indirect, which is to say somehow flawed? If so, I don’t get it. First, that would seem to mean that what God has revealed implicitly is fallible, but how can that be if we’ve previously agreed that what God has revealed explicitly and implicitly cannot contradict? And, second, people who have never cracked a Bible know that murder and stealing is wrong, which means nobody needs the Bible to know that. So I’m beginning to wonder if it’s this flawed premise about implicit natural revelation that helps some to conclude that faith improves people the same way special revelation improves general.

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  138. DGH: Also, if you think good works are connected to redemption, if you think that you fix the widow’s toilet because you are saved, I fear you are dangerously close to self-righteousness. … I see some possible doctrinal and pride problems here.

    DGH: So why do you want to coordinate them so much? It seems to me that it is an effort to show off one’s faith. Showing off is not a virtue.

    For some reason, this conversation has veered into the personal all of the sudden.

    Dear Darryl, I don’t think this is a profitable direction. Not saying I’m not listening — just saying that you’re probably not well-positioned to be diagnosing me over the ‘Net. Fair?

    Here are two examples of what I mean:

    (1) When I have decisions to make about matters in this life, as a matter of method, I ask myself, “What does Scripture have to say about this, if anything?”

    To the extent that it has something to say — either to warn me off of a sin of commission, or to provoke me to remedy a sin of omission — then I consider it normative. To the extent that it does not, I consider myself to be at liberty to act according to wisdom.

    Here, general and special revelation are not separate, but coordinated. General revelation guides me generally, but it is used within the confines of the word.

    (2) When students talk to me about “what is God’s will for my life?”, I try to steer them away from trying to discern God’s hidden will and towards looking for God’s revealed will, found in His word, together with seeking wisdom. And, I try to steer them away from relying on pious opinions and towards having Christian liberty, within the confines of Scripture.

    Here again: general and special revelation are not separate, but coordinated. Both are relevant, in their own way, to the actions we take in the physical world in which we live.

    That’s what I’m talking about. It has nothing to do with showing faith off to others, and everything to do with the individual living coram deo.

    Now, you may not *like* the term “coordinated.” I imagine that you prefer for me to think about GR and SR playing separate, distinct roles. But for whatever reason, I don’t think of it in that way. Sorry.

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  139. Jay, I don’t reject the wisdom of the world and no good 2k person does. The wisdom of the world is what we need to operate in the world. Paul calls it the wisdom of the Greeks because they were wise. It’s just that such wisdom is folly when it comes to the problem of sin and the way of salvation.

    What you don’t seem to recognize is that your formulation is almost as fundamentalist: something is true only if it conforms to Scripture; if it doesn’t, then it is worldly.

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  140. Lily, that is one way to go. But I was thinking more about Paul’s contrast between the things that are seen (temporal) and the things that are unseen (eternal). If you put as much stock in the seen things as Jay and Jeff seem to, then I wonder if you are headed for the Corinthians’ theology of glory (which is why questions keep surfacing about how to account for suffering and success in efforts to connect our lives in this world with redemption).

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  141. Jeff, this is fair enough. But Jay has written about Christians being better plumbers because of faith. I seem to recall that you have also suggested such superiority for Christians in worldly occupations. Is it really personal to remind someone how prideful that point of view might sound to others (believer or non?)? Or is it a form of walking someone away from the cliff so that they articulate the superiority of Christians differently — or better, retract it altogether.

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  142. Zrim: Jeff, you say that prosperity gospel believes that the Bible is good for giving us how-to’s for life. Yet you also say that the Bible speaks to all of life and has direct bearing on the cares of this world. I’m sorry, but I’m having a heckuva time figuring out what the principled difference is.

    Is that quite true? I’d love for that difference to be clear to you. What has to happen to make it so?

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  143. Zrim: But I notice how you characterize social gospel being a “cover for unbelief for those who long since left the faith.” Yeow. Much as I may have an axe to grind against it, I’m wary of declaring proponents of social and prosperity gospel devoid of faith.

    Well, maybe I’m being uncharitable. But I was basing my comments on profession, not heart-condition. The social gospel I’ve heard has come from Methodist or Episcopalian pulpits from which the Gospel was not preached.

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  144. Lily: The verse you are chewing on appears to be referring to keeping our sin natures in check and serving our neighbors. … You fulfill the works you have been created to do in your vocations which means we serve others and it does include fixing widow’s toilets.

    Yes! Exactly so. So notice the coordination here: our salvation — being justified by God’s grace, by faith, and for nothing wrought in us — results in works that we perform in our vocations.

    Rather than: Our justification results in “religious” good works (sitting in a cardboard box?!), completely separate from our vocations.

    Does that make sense? What I’m getting at is that the doctrine of vocation is the place where our salvation and the cares of the world intersect.

    NOT, never, that our performance in the cares of the world affects our justification in the slightest, but that our salvation affects our conduct in the cares of the world.

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  145. DGH: I seem to recall that you have also suggested such superiority for Christians in worldly occupations.

    I don’t recall doing that. Refresh my memory?

    DGH: Or is it a form of walking someone away from the cliff so that they articulate the superiority of Christians differently — or better, retract it altogether.

    Well, I can appreciate where you’re coming from better now. But I can say it was a mistake to read Old Life this morning before church. I spent part of the worship service trying to figure out how we had gotten to “spiritual pride” all the sudden and wondering whether, in real life, I actually do try to parade faith around. And yes, a bit ticked off, too. 🙂

    If you can bear a provocative statement in the other direction:

    Why is it that you haven’t addressed the big issue head-on? *If* the wisdom of Proverbs is the wisdom of watching the ant — perhaps even including the fear of the Lord as a type of common-grace wisdom? — then what in the world is it doing in the Bible?

    Isn’t that self-evidently an overlap between general revelation and special revelation?

    You’ve been nibbling around the edges of this, but it’s time to meet it squarely.

    * If Proverbs is all about general revelation, then Scripture includes (some) general revelation.
    * If on the other hand, Proverbs is only special revelation, then some special revelation gives us wisdom about the cares of this world.

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  146. Jeff, we did have an exchange on plumbers and in that exchange you suggested — if not stated — that Christians would be (or should be) better than non-Christian plumbers. Perhaps you only extended that to morality and spiritual affairs. But if that’s the case, then you yourself fall back on a distinction between the spiritual and the temporal in your very idea of “cares of this world,” in which case you are drafting off 2k teaching.

    As near as I can tell, the wisdom lit. is in the Bible because God wanted it to be and part of that desire was using a people from the ancient near east where such wisdom was part and parcel of sacred writings. Call it accommodation. But I’d go a step farther and say that wisdom lit. is part of Scripture because it is part of God’s revelation. Yes, it is redundant with gen. rev. And no, it cannot do what spec. rev. does — just read Ecclesiastes — it’s all vanity. But 2k doesn’t pit gen. rev. against spec. rev. It simply says that reveal different things. One is proximate truth, the other is ultimate truth. 2k recognizes the tension. Fundamentalists disregard the truth of gen. rev. And transformationalists (evangelical and liberal) look at it all as ultimate truth and so are prone to regard gen. rev. and the affairs of this world as on the way to redemption.

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  147. Jeff,

    I am not explaining my thoughts well. Since I lack the skill and wisdom on how to dissect these things properly and am not very familiar with Reformed teachings, I think it best that I bow out. I am sorry for muddying the waters. As well known, even with the best of intentions can make some things worse instead of better. Pax

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  148. DGH: Jeff, we did have an exchange on plumbers and in that exchange you suggested — if not stated — that Christians would be (or should be) better than non-Christian plumbers. Perhaps you only extended that to morality and spiritual affairs.

    No, I don’t think that Christian plumbers are better than non-Christian ones, either individually or taken together as a whole. What is a “better plumber”? In whose eyes? According to what metric?

    I do think that a given individual who happens to be a plumber and who passes from death to life, will have his practice of plumbing influenced and changed, mostly in the moral dimension, by his change of kingdom. Sanctification happens, and that extends to business dealings as well as the rest of life.

    But beyond that I won’t go.

    DGH: But if that’s the case, then you yourself fall back on a distinction between the spiritual and the temporal in your very idea of “cares of this world,” in which case you are drafting off 2k teaching.

    It’s unsurprising that we would have *some* common ground. I’ll bet you even believe in the Trinity, and justification by faith alone!

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  149. Dr. Hart,

    Thank you for explaining your thinking in that comparison. If it’s not much trouble, would you reference something I could read to explain it further?

    Re: “this is one way to go.”

    Was I being too Lutheran in my explanation or just wandering in left field? I’m beginning to wonder if I’m making a complete mess of trying to explain these kinds of things. I have been thinking about your warning and trying to see where I would be heading towards a theology of glory (Corinthians or otherwise). It’s very possible that I am, but blind to it at this point. I would appreciate your insight on this. If it was my reference to Via Delorosa that was a warning flag – I meant it as shorthand for Christ on Good Friday not the Roman Catholic pilgrim sense.

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  150. Zrim,
    ” Is it in the other idea that to be implicit is to be unclear and indirect, which is to say somehow flawed?”
    No.

    I said that special revelation is more clear and more direct. That does not = general is unclear or indirect, but rather, less clear and less direct. When I say “improves upon” what I’m meaning is simiar to builds upon. There is nothing flawed in general revelation and I have never intended to made any statement that would lead to that conclusion. That is one that you have made on your own.

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  151. Jeff said, “I do think that a given individual who happens to be a plumber and who passes from death to life, will have his practice of plumbing influenced and changed, mostly in the moral dimension, by his change of kingdom. Sanctification happens, and that extends to business dealings as well as the rest of life.”
    Yes, I agree with this statement as well and wish I’d been able to communicate it as well. Thank you Jeff!

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  152. DGH: “What you don’t seem to recognize is that your formulation is almost as fundamentalist: something is true only if it conforms to Scripture; if it doesn’t, then it is worldly.”
    Actually, the formulation I gave was – that something is true only if it doesn’t contradict scripture, (as understood via reformed/Calvinistic hermeneutical approach). That is a different formulation than the one that you’ve ascribed to me. I hope the difference makes sense.

    I appreciate the definition of terms, which really helps a great deal in being able to get to an understanding of one another. I still have some questions on this worldly wisdom vs. Godly wisdom concept though. Will try to come back with my ideas a little later.

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  153. The social gospel I’ve heard has come from Methodist or Episcopalian pulpits from which the Gospel was not preached.

    Jeff, this is what I mean. I get that you have heard social gospel at the expense of biblical gospel in these venues. So have I. But it almost sounds like you’re saying you’ve never really heard social gospel at the expense of the biblical gospel in conservative Reformed/Presbyterian pulpits. I have, lots. Social gospel, like sin, is an equal opportunity aflliction. Whether this is your intention or not, it does help underscore this odd tick in P&R circles to think that social gospel is mainly the affliction of the liberals the way legalism is mainly the affliction of the Baptists. I’ve seen just as much legalism in my conservative Reformed cirlces as I experienced it in my old IFCA ones.

    Jeff and Jay, re this idea that our plumber friend will change morally upon regeneration: I presume you mean he goes from less moral to more moral. This does seem to suggest that to be devoid of faith is to be sub-moral. I understand that the converted are held to a moral standard on a ground different from the unconverted (i.e. the finished work of Christ on his behalf). I’d rather say that than to suggest that a redeemed creature is somehow more intrinsically moral than an unredeemed creature. This apparent emphasis on the intrinsic moral condition of the Christian, instead of the extrinsic work of Christ to which he is now bound in a new obedience of gratitude, might be what causes Christians to come off as arrogant.

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  154. Zrim: But it almost sounds like you’re saying you’ve never really heard social gospel at the expense of the biblical gospel in conservative Reformed/Presbyterian pulpits.

    Not much, no. But then again, I don’t get out much any more.

    But here’s the thing: if we’re talking about preaching, which is what I was talking about, then preaching the social gospel at the expense of preaching the gospel is, profession-wise, an expression of unbelief — perhaps not salvifically fatal, but unbelief nonetheless.

    So it’s not so much that social gospelites are out there in liberal-land and we’re in here in P&R-land; it’s that the social gospel (if I’m using the term in the same way you are) is actually contrary to the Gospel.

    Perhaps a definition: I’m using “social gospel” to refer to the belief that the good news of God is that his people are called to improve society.

    This of course is a direct replacement for the genuine Gospel.

    So we’re not talking drawing socialogical boundaries; we’re talking about theological proclamation.

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  155. Lily, the Via Delarosa reference threw me a little but otherwise your comment made sense to me. I’d say it might sound odd to some Reformed who are not used to natural law or two kingdoms distinctions. But your comment made sense to me.

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  156. Jeff, yes, that is one definition. But I can see how it keeps you from seeing much of it in our circles where social gospel isn’t so much a direct replacement for biblical gospel but an appendage, which in some sense is even more a danger in its subtlety. It’s always struck me as something of a parallel to the Catholic construction of justification where there is no direct replacement of faith with works so much as works are appended to faith. This brings us back to a previous suggestion that transformationism is the ecclesiological version of the soteriological error of faith (biblical gospel) plus works (social gospel). That usually earns plenty of howls.

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  157. Dr. Hart,

    Thank you for replying. I’m glad it made sense and wish I was a better thinker and writer. Please forgive me for my careless usage of Via Delorosa. It’s easy for me to forget you do not participate in Lent. That’s where my brain is right now and I’m often struck by how lame our shorthand phrases seem to be when trying to describe the indescribable during Lent. I wish there was a really good shorthand phrase that would better encapsulate the depth of what Christ went through in order to save us. Christ crucified, the passion of Christ, via delarosa… they all fall so painfully short… it seems to me that one could spend a lifetime trying to explain what is behind these phrases and still not do Christ justice.

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  158. Zrim,

    Re: “It’s always struck me as something of a parallel to the Catholic construction of justification where there is no direct replacement of faith with works so much as works are appended to faith. This brings us back to a previous suggestion that transformationism is the ecclesiological version of the soteriological error of faith (biblical gospel) plus works (social gospel). ”

    That is a superb way of explaining it! I’m howling,”Bravo!” And I’m with you on the subtle being more dangerous than the obvious. 😉

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  159. Dr. Hart,

    You may find this post by Joe Carter at First Things (and the embedded links) of interest. His thinking comes to the conclusion: “Evangelicals have every reason to use natural law arguments, we just don’t believe that in the end they’re going to be enough.” Perhaps this is part of the resistance to natural law?

    It’s beyond sad to observe this kind of thinking when even a small child can understand natural law (eg: if mommy had an abortion, I wouldn’t be here). All the more reason to stand strong with natural law for the sake of those who will receive the truth (even my stubbornly agnostic cousin will agree with natural law arguments though his libertarian beliefs have yet to bow to the Truth).

    Why Aren’t Natural Law Arguments More Persuasive?
    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/03/28/why-aren’t-natural-law-arguments-more-persuasive

    A related post by Joseph Knippenberg at First Thoughts may be of interest, too.

    Evangelicals and Natural Law
    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/03/28/evangelicals-and-natural-law-update

    I wish I could effectively address these kinds of things.

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  160. At this juncture, I would just like to quote Gene Veith on Luther’s doctrine of Vocation (it chapter 3 of his book, God at Work.) I agree with him 100%.

    “It has always seemed odd that a religious movement, the Reformation, that denied that salvation has anything whatsoever to do with good works should nevertheless inspire “work ethic” and a group of people, the Puritans, whose name has become synonymous with strict moral activism.

    “According to the Reformers and their understanding of the Gospel, we are saved sheerly by the grace of God, and we contribute absolutely nothing of our own actions to the work of Christ. In that mysterious exchange upon the cross, Jesus bore all of our sins, received all of the punishment we deserve, and imputed to us all of His righteousness. We come to God as sinners, not as doers of good works, and what we receive from Him is pure, free, and unconditional forgiveness.

    (Eph. 2:8-9) Though our relationship with God has nothing to do with our works, good or bad, and is indeed, totally God’s work, St. Paul continues, “For are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). By virtue of our creation, our purpose in life is to do good works, which God Himself “prepared for us to do as believers. We are “(God’s) workmanship,” which means that God is at work in us to do the works He intends. In other words, we are back to the doctrine of vocation.

    “Our relationship to God, then, has nothing to do with our works. Our relationships to other people, though, in the world God has placed us in, *do* involve our works. ‘In God’s sight it is actually faith that makes a person holy,” says Luther in his Large Cathechism; ‘it alone serves God, while our works serve people” (406). As theologian Gustaf Wingren (author of Luther, On Vocation) puts it, ‘God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.

    “Christians are citizens in both of God’s kingdoms. In His spiritual kingdom, we rest in Christ; in His earthly kingdom, we serve our neighbors… Now that we know God’s love and are freed from the bondage of our sin, and now that Christ is at work in us to change our sinful lives, we can love our neighbors.

    “It is dangerous, according to the Reformers, to confuse these two realms. We dare not come before God trusting in all the good works we have done. This is the way of legalism and hypocrisy. We come before God as sinners. If we trust our works, congratulating ourselves on how good we are, we feel no need for Christ’s forgiveness. But receiving Christ’s forgiveness is the only way we can be saved.

    “This is why all vocations are equal before God. Pastors, monks, nuns, and popes are no holier than farmers, shopkeepers, dairy maids, or latrine diggers. In the spiritual kingdom, … peasants are equal to kings. All are sinful beings who have been loved and redeemed by Christ. In God’s earthly kingdom, though, Christians do have different callings, and their complex relationship with each other become occasions to live out the love of God.

    “Again, Luther said that faith serves God, but works serve our neighbor. We often speak of serving God, and this is a worthy goal, but strictly speaking, in the spiritual realm, it is God who serves us. “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In our vocations, we are not serving God – we are serving other people. Luther excoriate the monastic hermits who claimed that they were doing such good works in spending all of their time in prayer and devotion. These are not good works at all, he said; who are they helping? To offer religious exercises as good works before God while hiding yourself away from other people who might need your help is to miss the point. Genuine good works have to actually help someone. In vocation, we are not doing good works for God – we are doing good works for our neighbor. This locates moral action in the real, messy world of everyday life, in the conflicts and responsibilities of the world – not in the inner attitudes or abstract ideals, but in concrete interactions with other people.

    “The purpose of vocation is to love and serve one’s neighbor. This is the test, the criterion, and the guide for how to live out each and every vocation anyone can be called to: How does my calling serve my neighbor? Who are my neighbors in my particular vocation, and how can I serve them with the love of God?”

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  161. Jay, and hallelujah. But how does this help the idea that faith improves the sinner’s ability to execute his vocation (as in an unbelieving father becomes a better father once he possesses faith)?

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  162. Zrim,
    The father as a believer would know and would have experienced the love of our Heavenly Father and would therefore be able to love in a way that is more complete than before he was a believer. This is not to say that the believer automatically is a better father, it is because the love of God compells us. As a good Luthern sister in the Lord always tells me, “we give grace in direct proportion to the grace we experience in Christ.” For me, that grace would be the chief differentiator.

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  163. Jay, so what is the connection here between our engagement in the world and being redeemed? If our works don’t contribute to salvation, then why did you earlier say that our works were at least signs of our salvation?

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  164. DGH, no, I absolutely did not say that “our works were at least signs of our salvation.”
    I did, however, say that Christians ought exhibit the fruit of the spirit, but that is not the same thing.

    I think you’ll want to go back and read the Veith quote, carefully, esp towards the end.

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  165. Jay, the theory of reciprocity sounds good and pious, but I’m still left having to tell someone that without faith he is incomplete in doing his created vocation, which sure makes it sound like the neo-Calvinist outlook VanDrunen describes: “…redemption tends to be indentified with the restoration of the original creation order and the re-enabling of human beings to develop the potentialities in creation toward an eschatological goal. The Christian’s task is Adam’s task reestablished. Cultural activity and the investigation of the laws of creation are therefore specifically Christian tasks, to be accomplished according to a Christian world-and-life view, with the goal of building even now the material for the age to come.”

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  166. I can see how you would think that but what I would disagree with is the idea that redemption=merely the restoration of the created order (even though there imay be some validity to that claim given the effects of the fall).
    What is important to remember is that our trejectory as believers is not hinged upon a return to pre-fall Eden, but rather toward the New Jerusalem, the city on the hill, etc.. We must continue to look forward to the fulfillment in Christ — the second Adam, not the first.

    I realize that too many folks harken back to Genesis alone to find their identity; however, I am not one of them. Genesis shows how all mankind was created and our common experience ref: the fall. Jesus Christ is the way of salvation and only believers have Him, know Him, have been given his nature… etc… (These are thoughts just rolling off my keypad, so I may have used a few words in correctly here…)

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  167. Jay, I agree with much of what you say about our trajectory. But I am trying to fit that together with your sustained point that grace somehow improves upon nature. The confessionally Protestant view is that grace renews nature, versus perfects—the Catholic view. The former maintains that nature is intrinsically very good even if conditionally totally depraved; thus sin is understood in moral and legal terms. The latter maintains that creation is intrinsically deficient; thus sin is understood in metaphysical and ontological terms.

    I can’t help but think that to say grace makes a fallen creature better at his vocation once redeemed has not only something more in common with a neo-Calvinist formulation than a paleo-Calvinist one, but also more in common with a grace perfects nature than a grace renews nature view. Both seem to have a less than robust doctrine of creation going on.

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  168. DGH: If our works don’t contribute to salvation, then why did you earlier say that our works were at least signs of our salvation?

    The Confession addresses that pretty well.

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  169. Zrim, you say that sin is understood in moral and legal terms, and not metaphysical and ontological terms. I’m not sure I understand your terms, if you’ll pardon the pun. Our Confession states:

    3. [Our first parents] being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.

    I see two factors delineated here: a legal imputation of sin, and a corruption of nature. Doesn’t this mean that our fallen natures are deficient? What kind of difference are you postulating that distinguishes between

    (1) Our natures remain intrinsically good, but conditionally depraved, and

    (2) Our post-fall natures are deficient.

    And which of those is consistent with “corrupted nature”?

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  170. Jeff,

    The Belgic Confession Article 14 affirms man’s high state at creation: “We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness– good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God.”

    What I am trying to delineate is what the mainstream Protestants (Reformed and Lutheran) had against the medieval doctrine of the donum superadditum (or “superadded gift”), which says that man was created with a certain deficiency in grace. This deficiency was remedied before the fall with the superadded gift, and most medievals taught that this superadded gift was lost in the fall. Thus, the fall became a “fall from grace” instead of “a violation of God’s law.” This flowed out of a medieval premise of a kind of “chain of being” between God and humanity, where God is on top and man at bottom. So man’s problem isn’t so much a moral-legal one as it is a metaphysical-ontological one. IOW, we lack a certain measure of divinity, which is why the medievals like Aquinas (and the Roman Church today) spoke of salvation as “divinization.” To be saved is to participate in the divine being. To be created is to be finite and to be finite is to be deficient and to be deficient is to be in need of “grace perfecting nature.”

    So I think it’s right to say that we are corrupt in both our spiritual and physical condition, but not in our essence. In our essence we do not lack but are very good (i.e. imago Dei). If we were to die ontologically that would seem to require annihilation. But we aren’t annihilated, we are punished, or glorified instead of divinized. We remain fully human in either case.

    And the significance here, it seems to me, is that there are different ways to suggest that our creation is somehow deficient. The medievals and modern Romanists want to say our created essence is deficient, the neo-Calvinists that creation needs to be redeemed, and Jay with his notion that fallen creatures become better at their vocations once converted. But I don’t think Protestantism wants to say any of that. I think it wants to say that faith simply puts us back in right moral and legal standing with God.

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  171. Zrim, thank you for the explanation. I wouldn’t use the same terminology, but I can appreciate and agree that we are not created deficient in essence. No superadditum here.

    My only nervousness is that I seem to see in the Confession that the *fall*, not our creation, created some kind of deficiency in our nature — whether that ought to be taken as essence or not is probably inside baseball.

    Can we push this a bit further and agree that our sanctification affects us morally (but not legally nor ontologically), and that our justification affects us legally (but not morally nor ontologically)?

    And if we’ve gotten so far with agreement, could we suggest that our glorification remedies whatever deficiency in nature is caused by original sin? And then, whether this remedy is ontological or not is a separate matter.

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  172. Zrim, I’m not sure why you would think that when I say that grace (meaning the unmerited love of God toward His elect) improves upon nature, somehow that is closer to saying that grace perfects nature. I don’t get that. Clearly, we will only be perfect in Heaven with our Creator. So, I scratched my head when I read your comment.

    As far as your reference toward neo-Calvinist vs paleo-Calvinist, I’d have to ask whether you’ve read Calvin’s Institutes? He does have quite a bit to say re: general/special revelation which I have found quite helpful.

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  173. But Jay, you sort of got us onto this discussion by trying to draw a connection between our engagement of the world and salvation. You implied that salvation has effects in this world. The other side has been arguing for otherworldliness. I think Luther comes down on the otherworldly side.

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  174. DGH ” I think Luther comes down on the otherworldly side.”
    DGH – really? Well, I suppose Veith and I am reading Luther much differently, as quoted:

    “In our vocations, we are not serving God – we are serving other people. Luther excoriate the monastic hermits who claimed that they were doing such good works in spending all of their time in prayer and devotion. These are not good works at all, he said; who are they helping? To offer religious exercises as good works before God while hiding yourself away from other people who might need your help is to miss the point. Genuine good works have to actually help someone. In vocation, we are not doing good works for God – we are doing good works for our neighbor. This locates moral action in the real, messy world of everyday life, in the conflicts and responsibilities of the world – not in the inner attitudes or abstract ideals, but in concrete interactions with other people.”

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  175. And one final note for clarification — NO, I did not draw a connection between salvation and engagement of the world. That, once again, is to completely twist every point that I have tried to impress. Sanctification, yes. Salvation, never.

    I know I was the one to originally speak out against presuming motives on others, but DGH and Zrim, you guys are making it really, really hard to presume charitably at this point. Sorry, but I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree if we can’t have an honest dialogue.

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  176. Jeff, sure, we can say that sanctification affects us morally, but my question for Jay is how does that translates into affecting us practically, as in faith makes us better fathers and magistrates? I mean, I just can’t get around how saying this is just another way of saying believers are superior to unbelievers. And when it’s put that way you guys protest. It reminds me of when you say the Bible speaks to plumbing and when I say that sure sounds like one can open the Bible and find something about plumbing you protest and do all sorts of calisthenics to explain that’s not what you mean. Then I suggest that maybe you could work smarter instead of harder and just not speak in such misleading ways by saying the Bible speaks to plumbing. Maybe if Jay (and you) doesn’t want to say that believers are superior to unbelievers he (and you) could do the same and not say that a man becomes a better father and magistrate once he has faith?

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  177. Jay, I just don’t hear many oldschool 2kers say things like you (and Jeff) have. I hear evangelicals and newschoolers speak that way. And they join up with Catholics to make faith bear on this world (ECT). Yes, I have read ICR and have also been helped with general and special revelation. I say things like, “General revelation is sufficient to govern civil life” and get booed by Jeff. Would you join him?

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  178. Zrim, your last comment proves that you have not been reading for understanding. I have agreed with Veith, Luther and Calvin in what I’ve written. I would NEVER join with Catholics and most definitely am not a ‘new schooler’ as you’ve put it.
    Perhaps, you should recognize that there is a difference between 2k and R2k and then find out what it is, so you can avoid the errors.
    Sorry, I know that sounds mean, but I’m at a point of frustration because of the false witness stuff.

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  179. Zrim: I mean, I just can’t get around how saying this is just another way of saying believers are superior to unbelievers. And when it’s put that way you guys protest. It reminds me of when you say the Bible speaks to plumbing and when I say that sure sounds like one can open the Bible and find something about plumbing you protest and do all sorts of calisthenics to explain that’s not what you mean.

    Wow. Do you really read what I write as self-serving calisthenics? That’s remarkably unfortunate.

    Have you ever considered any other possible readings?

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  180. Jay, the problem may be that you associate otherworldly with no activity in the world. But who ever said that? What Luther and 2k are saying is what Paul wrote about the distinction between the things that are temporal and passing away and the eternal things (salvation). But don’t let the neo-Calvinists hear about that. They’ll brand you with dualism.

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  181. Jay, what are you saying about sanctification and salvation, that they are divorced? This isn’t a question of motives. It’s a search for clarity of thought and speech.

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  182. Jay, I can sense your frustration, and I understand. But I’m not talking about whether you’d sign on to ECT. That would be the sort of inappropriate speculation you’ve rightly worried about. I’m simply talking about speech. I’m trying to understand how a self-described 2ker would speak like a neo-Calvinist or evangelical. I know you’ve agreed with Veith. And like I’ve already said, I don’t know how one can agree with Veith and then say faith makes one better at any given vocation. I can see how faith changes perspective on vocation, but I don’t understand how it can change intrinsic ability. For example, years ago when I began to understand my own vocations in a Reformational sense instead of an evangelical sense it was, and pardon the exuberance, quite revolutionary. But I didn’t become any better at my vocations than my unbelieving friends and neighbors. Indeed, if anything, I saw how I was still in various instances even outpaced. And that’s still true. Maybe I don’t have enough faith? That’s how my evangelicals, who also think faith improves people, would explain my shortcomings. I say it’s a conspiracy of abiding sin and natural ability. Faith makes me right with God, something which makes me categorically and eternally superior to unbelievers, but it doesn’t do the same thing temporally.

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  183. Jeff, all I mean is that it seems to me you do a lot of work to explain that you don’t mean what your neo leaning speech clearly implies. It’s not a matter of being self-serving but what I think is a poor use of language. And it’s simple: if you don’t want to imply that one can open the Bible and read something about plumbing then don’t say the Bible speaks to plumbing. It seems to me that paleo speech would have it that the Bible speaks to God’s people, not all of life.

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  184. Zrim: Jeff, all I mean is that it seems to me you do a lot of work to explain that you don’t mean what your neo leaning speech clearly implies.

    Could it be that you contribute to this situation?

    In general in life, people tell me that I’m a pretty clear explainer. And no-one confuses me with neo-Calvinists or transformationalists. Quite the opposite — in my church, I typically hold the old-life-ish line on many issues.

    Now, I will admit that my writing is less clear than my conversation.

    But I in my defense, it often happens that when I say X to you, it often comes back to me as Y. Often, Y is much more alarming than X, perhaps even with heretical overtones. Then as the conversation proceeds, you start to talk as if Y was actually what I wrote! (Scarily, sometimes others get confused as well and start attributing Y to me).

    Indeed, in my darker moments, I wonder whether you do it deliberately as a tactic to side-track the conversation from real issues: “Let’s get Jeff to defend himself from *this*.” Please forgive me if this is not the case — it’s not my baseline thought, just one that occurs when I’m particularly frustrated.

    I would prefer the kind of conversation in which we both believed the best of one another, and were much more conservative in assessing the implications of what the other is saying. I think that kind of conversation would be much more efficient, and less heated, and more charitable.

    Is that possible?

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  185. Zrim: It seems to me that paleo speech would have it that the Bible speaks to God’s people, not all of life.

    The phrase “speaking to an issue” is just an idiom, a common idiom, that means “saying something about that issue.” It’s commonly heard, as in “I can speak to that.”

    No-one gets it confused with the prepositional phrase: “I can speak to you about that.”

    It’s just that in English, the great obliterator of case distinctions, both phrases can be found and both have distinct meanings.

    And both are true of Scripture. The Bible speaks to God’s people, to their entire lives (in a very general sense).

    Zrim: And it’s simple: if you don’t want to imply that one can open the Bible and read something about plumbing then don’t say the Bible speaks to plumbing.

    But that would be false. The Bible speaks to plumbing in this sense, and only in this sense:

    (1) Plumbing is an action (or set of actions) that we perform.
    (2) The Bible speaks generally about our actions — In all that we do, we are to glorify God.
    (3) Therefore, the Bible speaks to plumbing; specifically that in our plumbing, we are to glorify God.

    I don’t see how that creates an expectation of finding *even more* in the Bible about plumbing?! Can you explain that part to me?

    But in any event, unless you deny (1)-(3) — which I doubt — then you can see why “the Bible does not speak to plumbing” is factually false. Right?

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  186. Jeff, if it’s just an idiom then I don’t know why all the effort to defend it. That effort suggests to me that it’s really a matter of defending a neo-Calvinist outlook, more or less. Wouldn’t it just be easier to admit you have some sympathy for neo-Calvinism? Maybe you fear admitting that for some reason?

    But I do think prepositional phrases sometimes carry much more theological freight than you seem to suggest: justification comes BY grace alone, THROUGH faith alone BECAUSE OF Christ alone. And some have suggested, I think rightly, that vowels make all the difference: sola scriptura is different from solo scriptura, which is a way of making a significant distinction between ecclesiastical outlooks and Biblicist ones.

    Similarly here. The Bible “speaking to” anything other than God’s covenant people seems to make all the difference between a paleo outlook and a neo outlook. The Bible speaking to anything other than God’s covenant people is the leading edge to coming up with Christian versions of whatever creational enterprise when the only thing that can be described as “Christian” is a person (or, collectively, church). I don’t think it’s merely idiomatic, so I’m going to stick to it the way I stick to by/through/because of/sola.

    But I do feel your frustration. You think it’s obvious that the Bible speaks to all of life and I howl. I think it’s obvious that general revelation is sufficient for civil life and you howl. But instead of this being about more heat than light or being uncharitable, I actually think, for better or worse, it’s about being consistently 2k or liking a good bit of 2k but also a good bit of neocalvinism.

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  187. Zrim and Jeff,

    As I’ve been following the conversation between you two, I have wondered if the law/gospel distinction would help clarify some things? I have not the skill or wisdom to clearly dissect things and seem to see things better in more of a whole cloth picture. I always seem to get into trouble when I try to explain 2k without incorporating law/gospel distinctions, vocation, and theology of the cross. Does using these terms have any value in being helpful to clarify things in the discussion?

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  188. Zrim: Jeff, if it’s just an idiom then I don’t know why all the effort to defend it.

    Because what the statement *means* is *correct*.

    Zrim: That effort suggests to me that it’s really a matter of defending a neo-Calvinist outlook, more or less. Wouldn’t it just be easier to admit you have some sympathy for neo-Calvinism? Maybe you fear admitting that for some reason?

    I have some sympathy for neo-Calvinism. Yes, I do. Why, some of my best friends are neo-Calvinists. 🙂 But more than that, I have sympathy for the notion that our lives on this earth are not simply marking time until we reach the eschaton.

    But my sympathy is also limited; I’m not postmil, for example. But I have very little sympathy for importing our secular lives into the worship service.

    I yam what I yam.

    Zrim: Similarly here. The Bible “speaking to” anything other than God’s covenant people seems to make all the difference between a paleo outlook and a neo outlook.

    I’m having trouble finding it, but I’m fairly confident that I read either Horton or Clark saying that “the Bible speaks to all of life, but not about all of life.”

    I think that’s the issue here. You mention that prepositions are important, and so they are.

    You read “the Bible speaks to all of life” as if it were “The Bible speaks *about* all of life” … and those two are not the same. FWIW, I think the neo-cals make the same linguistic error.

    Zrim: I actually think, for better or worse, it’s about being consistently 2k or liking a good bit of 2k but also a good bit of neocalvinism.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there could just be two parties, the neos and paleos? Then we could do theology by looking for “tells”, phrases that tell us which party the speaker is coming from.

    Too bad that this is not the actual situation. It turns out we have to attend closely to individuals and their particular statements.

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  189. Lily, I think you’re right. But in my experience, 2kers can get into trouble when they use the law/gospel distinction. We’ll say, “To the extent that law corresponds to culture and gospel to cult, to confuse culture and cult is a variant of confusing law and gospel.” And then everyone thinks we’re saying that theocrats, transformers, neo-Calvinists and evangelicals aren’t orthodox on justification. Maybe some aren’t, but not because they want a Christian culture. It actually takes something more explicit to earn that, if you ask me. Until then, I’m good with talking about variants of a fundamental error.

    Jeff, thanks. Your confession makes sense to me. I do believe Clark makes the statement in RRC something to the effect that “the Bible doesn’t speak about football but it does speak to football.” With nothing but love for Scott, I just think that’s unfortunate language for the same reasons I’ve given you. I think VanDrunen’s language is better:

    “For one thing, Scripture has always been delivered to God’s special covenant people, the Old Testament to Israel and the New Testament to the church. When Scripture gives its moral commands, it speaks to God’s covenant people and does not give them bare commands, but instructs them how to live as his redeemed covenant people. Even the 10 commandments begin with the introduction, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt….’ Thus I think we need to be careful that we don’t simply take the commands meant as a response to God’s redemptive love and try to enforce them as such upon the world at large.”

    http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/two-kingdoms-and-moral-standards

    The point seems to be a coventantal one, and I think that’s a better way to answer neo-Calvinism, especially for those who confess a covenantal theology.

    Too bad that this is not the actual situation. It turns out we have to attend closely to individuals and their particular statements.

    Yes, which is precisely why we’re here with you and Jay. When those who describe themselves as 2k and speak in neo terms it’s worth pursuing. But the point of the paleo and neo categories is simply to help navigate ideas, not to pigeonhole people. I understand that it may feel that way to you sometimes, but that seems to just come with the territory.

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  190. Zrim: But the point of the paleo and neo categories is simply to help navigate ideas, not to pigeonhole people.

    I do appreciate the effort.

    Lily: I have wondered if the law/gospel distinction would help clarify some things?

    Hm. I wonder what you have in mind. In the Reformed camp, the LG distinction is very narrow: That the Law (commands) contained in Scripture is meant to lead us to Christ, while the Gospel (promise) gives us the material for faith. And ne’er the twain shall meet!

    But in addition to that first use of the law (or second, depending on numbering scheme), we also say that there is a second use of the law, the civil. And a third use, the moral use, in which we use the law to determine what God’s will is for us in our daily lives.

    Thus Calvin:

    The third use of the Law (being also the principal use, and more closely connected with its proper end) has respect to believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. For although the Law is written and engraven on their hearts by the finger of God, that is, although they are so influenced and actuated by the Spirit, that they desire to obey God, there are two ways in which they still profit in the Law. For it is the best instrument for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this knowledge — Calv Inst 2.7.12.

    Notice here the daily use of the Law for guidance, and the use of the Law to confirm our knowledge of the law written on the heart.

    That’s what I’ve been arguing for.

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  191. Jeff & Zrim, I have offered a solution to a disconnect I continue to see here. Naturally, since the solution is mine, I am perplexed as to why it has not settled the matter for all people to the end of time. And this is it: the Bible does not speak to *technique,* i.e., it does not tell us how to solder pipes, how to properly vent, or how to clean out roots from a drain pipe. Thus, the Bible speaks to the plumber (a spiritual, moral being) but not to his technique. I’m pretty sure you both agree with this.

    We’ll talk about my mediation fee later.

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  192. Zrim,

    Thanks for replying. I wasn’t clear on exactly what your were saying. I think I’m scratching my head wondering exactly what you are saying mainly because I’m not familiar with the body of work behind your views. I have to chuckle about the situation because I think similar things happen when a Lutheran view (especially my poor version) is being explained. So… just for fun (thinking you might enjoy this one and hoping no one will want to burn me as a heretic!)… here’s a head scratcher quote that only makes sense with the body of work behind it:

    “Where [Moses] gives commandment we are not to follow him except in so far as he agrees with the natural law” ~ Martin Luther

    Jeff,

    It’s hard for me explain and I’m afraid I’ll muddy the water if I try to. And, yes, we have the three uses of the law. If I remember correctly, we number them differently and understand them in a slightly different way.

    Michael,

    So… are you going to put a mechanics lien on them if they don’t pay up? 😛

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  193. Michael, I’m confident Jeff agrees. But if so then I don’t know how “The Bible speaks to plumbing” really makes any common (linguistic) sense.

    Lily, if you want to see an evangelical scratch himself bald try, “Go and sin boldly.” The default setting is legalism so once the scratching stops the charge will be antinomianism.

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  194. Zrim, it’s much more fun to tease you (and much safer)! I also have no concerns that I would do your faith any harm. I would feel plain mean telling a clueless legalist to go and sin boldly -and- in danger of getting figuratively burned at the stake as a heretic!

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  195. Michael, it’s a good solution — I’ve endorsed it previously, so it’s nice to not be the only crazy one in the room. Thanks for offering it up!

    Zrim: But if so then I don’t know how “The Bible speaks to plumbing” really makes any common (linguistic) sense.

    Perhaps this would help.

    First, consider the statement “A prime number can be even.” It is rarely the case … there is exactly one even prime, 2. All others are odd. So the statement itself is not of common practicality.

    BUT

    It stands as a boundary marker that keeps us from arguing “Let p be a prime. Since p is odd…” — a good mathematician, or any other clear-thinking person, will say “stop right there. p might not be odd.”

    With me so far?

    Now consider “The Bible speaks to plumbing.” You know already what I mean by it: that plumbing is one of the many actions that the Bible says we are to glorify God with. Nothing more. No secret plumbing code.

    So why do I insist on it? Because it stands as a boundary marker that prevents us from saying

    (A1) “The Bible is silent about plumbing. Therefore, while plumbing, I may safely assume that the Bible has nothing to say to me.”

    Which would normally be the logical implication of the claim that the Bible is silent about plumbing. And which would also be a flat-out antinomian statement.

    So the point of insisting that “the Bible speaks to all of life” is to prevent us from thinking that some areas of our lives are areas in which we may disregard God’s commands. You agree with me, I think, that (A1) is impermissible.

    And the point of qualifying “the Bible speaks to all of life” so heavily, as I have done, is to prevent us from thinking that the Bible gives us specific how-tos for all of life. For it does not, and to seek such is unwise.

    Do you agree or disagree with me, BTW, that Calvin in Inst 2.7.12 appears to be saying that GR and SR are coordinated in the third use of the Law, such that SR confirms to us that our understanding of GR is correct?

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  196. Zrim, part of this is that I view plumbing as a set of actions. And anything that affects those actions counts as something that “speaks to” those actions.

    So for example, the plumbing code obviously speaks to plumbing. But so do laws about business, to the extent that one’s plumbing is a business. And if, for whatever reason, one’s wife became a plumbing widow, then one’s wife would say, “Let’s talk about your plumbing. I have something to say about it.”

    And clearly, some of God’s commands (should) affect how one goes about the job of plumbing: Whether plumbing for the glory of God, or using honest weights and measures, or working heartily as unto the Lord and not for the sake of men, or whathaveyou.

    That doesn’t imply *more* than is in Scripture; it just prevents us from downplaying what *is* in Scripture.

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  197. Oy Vey!

    Ok guys… is behaving our Ps and Qs: law or gospel? Is curbing our sin natures: law or gospel? Is love: law or gospel? (hint it’s all law – especially love for all the law is summed up in it)

    You are still in danger of saying that we are better than the heathen and saying we can obey the law better because we are Christians – capiche?

    If that isn’t enough…. think on how Christ raised the stakes on loving one another. It was no longer love our neighbor as ourselves, but love one another as he has loved us! Yikes! How successful are we at that?

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  198. P.S. It seems to me that we are all masters at trying to grasp at the fig leaves of the law to cover ourselves and feel better about ourselves. There is the ever present danger of smuggling works into salvation and subtly becoming like the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Everything we receive from God is a gift and it comes from outside of us. It’s all gift. Beware, the flesh is incredibly sneaky!

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  199. From the Old Life English Department we have “I don’t know how “The Bible speaks to plumbing” really makes any common (linguistic) sense.”

    From the Old Life Math Department we have “t stands as a boundary marker that keeps us from arguing “Let p be a prime. Since p is odd…” — a good mathematician, or any other clear-thinking person, will say “stop right there. p might not be odd.” etc.

    From the Old Life Lutheran we have “Oy Vey!”

    I’m going with “Oy Vey” on this one, and giving up on my quest for world peace.

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  200. Good choice, Michael. I’m thinking our English department could give us synonyms so we don’t wear it out and our Math department could quantify it for us? 😉

    P.S. I’ve got a bad case of silliness this week and I’m blaming it on the high pollen counts here in the South. Can I get away with using that as my excuse?

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  201. Lily: Ok guys… is behaving our Ps and Qs: law or gospel? Is curbing our sin natures: law or gospel? Is love: law or gospel? (hint it’s all law – especially love for all the law is summed up in it)

    So here, we’re speaking of the third use of the Law, right?

    And here, unlike in justification, curbing our sin natures is both law and gospel.

    Work with me, because I know that may sound foreign. Let’s start with Luther. Take a moment to peruse the Book of Concord VI, “The Third Use of the Law.” With regard to the third use, Luther says that we are (a) bound to the Law, and (b) enabled to obey it by the work of the Spirit.

    Here’s the really interesting part:

    10] But we must also explain distinctively what the Gospel does, produces, and works towards the new obedience of believers, and what is the office of the Law in this matter, as regards the good works of believers.

    11] For the Law says indeed that it is God’s will and command that we should walk in a new life, but it does not give the power and ability to begin and do it; but the Holy Ghost, who is given and received, not through the Law, but through the preaching of the Gospel, Gal. 3:14, renews the heart.

    12] Thereafter the Holy Ghost employs the Law so as to teach the regenerate from it, and to point out and show them in the Ten Commandments what is the [good and] acceptable will of God — Concord VI.10-12.

    So our obedience is *both* Law and Gospel: the command to love neighbor is law, obviously; but the ability to do obey the command comes entirely and utterly through the Spirit of Christ, via faith receiving and resting in the promises of the Gospel.

    The situation is similar in the Reformed camp. Take a moment to look at WCoF 13 and 19.6 – 7.

    Lily, here’s a practical application of this. Tonight, we were doing our Bible reading and looking at Ps 24:

    Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
    The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

    “Now,” I asked my girls, “who is the only person who has had clean hands and a pure heart?” (them: “Jesus!” — an easy guess, but they’ve heard me say this stuff before…).

    “So why can we belong to God?”

    “Because He died for us.”

    And there it is. Even the third use of the Law, the clean hands and pure heart and not trusting in idols, begins with a premise: that our obedience is sourced in Christ. We could call this “sanctification flowing out of justification” (as DGH does), or we could call it “being united with Christ” (as I do), but either way, the righteousness of Christ covers the imperfections of our obedience, and the Spirit of Christ works the heart of obedience in us.

    With regard to the Christian life and the third use, Law and Gospel work together and are not antithetical.

    Does that make sense?

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  202. Jeff, the way to avoid saying the Bible has nothing to say to me whilst I fill-in-the-vocation-blank-here or from thinking that some areas of my life are areas in which I may disregard God’s commands is to say that the Bible speaks to me, not my life generally or my vocations specifically. That goes right to the heart of it. Why go one-hundred-eighty-four miles out of your way with culturalist lingo that demands all that heavy qualifying? I mean, oy vey. But you’ve already admitted you have sympathy for neo-Calvinism, so I think that’s my answer.

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  203. Jeff,

    Re: “Work with me here”

    Please understand that I will do my best, but there are Lutherans much more capable than I in explaining these things from our perspective – OK? C.F. Walther’s book, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel is the best Lutheran resource if you wish to pursue this subject.

    Re: “So here, we’re speaking of the third use of the Law, right? And here, unlike in justification, curbing our sin natures is both law and gospel.”

    IMO, the third use of the law tends to be mischief maker and needs to be handled with care. The both/and view reminds me of the Roman Catholic error of cooperation in both justification and sanctification. I think this quote from John Gerhard may be helpful: “It is one thing to be justified on account of faith and another to be justified by faith. In the former view, faith is the meritorious, in the latter, the instrumental cause.” Faith is pure receptivity. Faith simply receives that which is offered.

    All uses of the law are law and never gospel. The Law tells us what to do or not do, and what we should be, but it never gives us the power to obey it no matter which use of the law we are discussing. Trying to obey God’s law proves to us that we our incapable of obeying his law perfectly and incapable of being holy, righteous, and perfect in what we do or do not do, or in what we are.

    It is the Word of the Gospel that mediates Christ’s benefits to us. Only the Word and Sacraments convey grace. It is pure gift and it is impossible for us to ever earn, deserve, or cooperate with it. Everything we are and have comes from him (he both created and redeemed us) and we cannot take credit for anything except sin. The Holy Spirit is the source of every good work never us. Like plagiarism, it’s dishonest to take credit for someone else’s work. I think David Scaer puts it best:

    “Sanctification is a Trinitarian act. God dwells in the believer in order to accomplish what He wants. The petition of the Lord’s Prayer that “God’s will be done” is a prayer for our own sanctification …. As magnificently monergistic as our sanctification is, that is, God works in us to create and confirm faith and to do good to others, we Christians are plagued by sin. In actual practice our sanctification is only a weak reflection of Christ’s life. Good motives often turn into evil desires. Good works come to be valued as our own ethical accomplishments. Moral self-admiration and ethical self-absorption soon replace total reliance on God. The sanctified life constantly needs to be fully and only informed by Christ’s life and death or our personal holiness will soon deteriorate into a degenerate legalism and barren moralism. God allows us Christians to be plagued by sin and a sense of moral inadequacy to force us to see the impossibility of a self-generated holiness. Our only hope is to look to Christ in whom alone we have a perfect and complete sanctification. “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

    I hope this helpful.

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  204. Jeff, we have been through this before, but it just occurred to me that there is a parallel between a Reformed hermeneutic and anti-federal readings of the Constitution. The latter read the Constitution as clearly delineating the powers of the federal government. If the Constitution is silent, then the fed’s don’t have that power. Your reading of the Bible goes the other way. “Do everything to the glory of God” means the Bible speaks to everything.

    Whatever your differences from Zrim on Old and New Life matters, your instincts at times do run toward neo- or maximalist interpretations of the Bible. Paleos’ instincts are constrained like their hermeneutics.

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  205. Jeff, this is key to the difference, it seems to me. You wrote: “I have sympathy for the notion that our lives on this earth are not simply marking time until we reach the eschaton.” This is why I think you sound neo at times. Paleos are comfortable with seeing this life as transitory and not ultimate. So if we are not marking time, what are we doing? If we are not exiles, then what are we? And if we are exiles, how are we doing anything but longing for our homeland and making preparations to get there? Or if we are exiles during a war, then we are waiting for the right regime to win and let us go home. But if we are trying to make a new home, how do you guard against making it ultimate (as in immantentizing the eschaton, turning America into the New Israel, or the city into THE site for God’s redemptive plan).

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  206. Jeff,

    I forgot to reference my David Scaer quote last night. You can find the complete article here:

    Sanctification: By Grace Alone
    By Rev. Dr. David P. Scaer
    http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar6.htm

    Lutherans don’t eschew good works and we don’t approach them in the same way as most of the Reformed approach them. Many Lutherans explain the difference between the Lutherans and the Reformed as one in which the Lutherans are more comfortable with mystery and paradox than the Reformed. The reasoning behind this seems to be because Lutherans are supposed to stop where God stops – in the sense that where God doesn’t explain something, we don’t try to explain it either. So, in sanctification, we don’t try to explain much and keep our focus on justification. We have the doctrine of vocation, which is where we focus on good works in service to our neighbors.

    I have wondered if the value for the Reformed in looking at of our view of sanctification is the way it might be a helpful corrective for those who are in danger of sliding into one of the “holiness” type movement views of sanctification and are tangled by the 3rd use of the law. The holiness movements have numerous different names, but they all seem to turn people inwards, focused on themselves, and thinking they can perfect themselves via zealous obedience to the law (instead of focusing on Christ for me and outside of me). Hence my usage of terms like Dudley Do-Right, the flesh is sneaky, the dangers of smuggling works into salvation, and my view of the 3rd use of the law’s ability to be a mischief maker. Holiness is God given and never man made. We wear it as a robe that is given to us because of Christ and we are complete in Christ. We focus on the sufficiency of Christ alone. The great exchange of Christ taking all of our sin and giving us everything that is his.

    My old Adam needs to hear the law, yet, Christ’s death covers even my Christian failure. Christ’s death is a functioning reality for me and will save me even though I cannot see much progress in my life (which is a very subjective view of sanctification). FWIW, I’m not convinced that I sin any less than when I was younger. My sins just seem to change as I age. For better of worse, my opinion is that there is safety in emphasizing the objective and letting the subjective belong to God. I am uncomfortable trying to peel back that curtain and trying to see or explain the hidden ways God works in our lives. I hope my comments have been helpful rather than muddying the water too badly. I think it best to point you back to your Reformed brothers in Christ and not comment much more on this (if that makes sense?).

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  207. Jeff,

    For clarity’s sake I need to add something to this statement: “FWIW, I’m not convinced that I sin any less than when I was younger. My sins just seem to change as I age.” (please add) just as everyone’s sins seem to change as they age – even the pagans’ sins change as they age. Thus, I am very uncomfortable at ever hearing Christians say they are better than pagans at anything. Pagans can see this lack of difference too and I think we alienate them and/or create impediments to hearing the gospel when we are tempted to say we are better in any way. The difference is what God has done by grace alone, by faith alone, and because of Christ alone – any deviation from the gospel seems to put us in danger. I hope this makes sense.

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  208. Lily,

    Thanks for the thoughts. You wrote: The both/and view reminds me of the Roman Catholic error of cooperation in both justification and sanctification.

    That’s why I’ve been careful every time to distinguish between the two. Justification does not involve cooperation; sanctification definitely does. The both/and view here is in reference to sanctification *only*, which corresponds to the third use of the Law. Does that make sense?

    Lily: All uses of the law are law and never gospel. The Law tells us what to do or not do, and what we should be, but it never gives us the power to obey it no matter which use of the law we are discussing.

    Yes, I agree. This is why our Christian obedience must involve *both* Law and Gospel, as Luther pointed out. The Law cannot give me the power to obey; it only tells me what must be obeyed, and points out my inability. The Gospel — specifically, the promise of the indwelling Spirit — promises us that slavery to sin is broken.

    If Christian obedience were a matter of Law only, then it would be impossible, right?

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  209. DGH, interesting thoughts. I would point out a key difference here between Biblical and Constitutional hermeneutics.

    The Bible actually *does* say “whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.” Whereas, the Constitution does not actually say, “Any powers not enumerated herein are delegated to the Federal government.” Quite the opposite, actually.

    So I appreciate the parallel, but at the same time would point out that I’m on firmer ground than the Federalists.

    DGH: You wrote: “I have sympathy for the notion that our lives on this earth are not simply marking time until we reach the eschaton.” This is why I think you sound neo at times. Paleos are comfortable with seeing this life as transitory and not ultimate. So if we are not marking time, what are we doing?

    Very good question. What are we doing? Why didn’t God, for example, save you and then *zap*, straight to heaven?

    As I read Scripture, we are tasked with two things: First, as sons of Adam, we are and continue to be stewards of creation. This, we share with unbelievers. Second, as sons of God in Christ, we are His body with a commission: take the Gospel to the nations. This is unique to the church.

    But neither is marking time.

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  210. Zrim: Jeff, the way to avoid saying the Bible has nothing to say to me whilst I fill-in-the-vocation-blank-here or from thinking that some areas of my life are areas in which I may disregard God’s commands is to say that the Bible speaks to me, not my life generally or my vocations specifically.

    That’s fine, but devoid of content. So the Bible speaks to me — what does it say?

    And as soon as we ask that question, then it becomes clear that the Bible says, “Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.” Which means that every action falls under the command “do it to the glory of God.”

    Which means that when the Bible speaks to me, some of what it says applies to everything I do.

    And we’re back to “speaks to all of life”, except with different words. I don’t see any improvement, do you?

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  211. Jeff,

    Re: “Justification does not involve cooperation; sanctification definitely does.”

    That’s where we part company and have different views. We see it as monergistic. It is the work of God (as justification is).

    Re:”The Law cannot give me the power to obey; it only tells me what must be obeyed, and points out my inability. The Gospel — specifically, the promise of the indwelling Spirit — promises us that slavery to sin is broken.”

    I’m not sure how to answer this because it looks to me as though you still think you can keep the law. It looks like you think you are getting better everyday and traveling on a linear line upwards on a sanctification ladder to heaven via good works. From my point of view, none of us ever keeps the law perfectly because our sin natures make it impossible to ever be sinless in thought, word, and/or deed in this life. That will not happen until Christ returns and the corruptible is exchanged for the incorruptible. As I’ve mentioned before, Lutherans repent even of their good deeds for they are not without sin and we are as vulnerable to pride, self-righteousness, and trusting in our good works as anyone else.

    I’m not clear on the differences between the Reformed and the Lutherans in sanctification, so I would think it would be better to hash things out with your Reformed brothers. I can only offer my understanding and there are others who are much more capable in explaining Lutheranism. I may be thinking we have more in common than we do in our understandings of sanctification and the law/gospel distinctions.

    Do the paleo-Reformed believe that sanctification is a cooperative effort? I thought that view was limited more to the Catholics, Wesleyans, and Holiness type movements.

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  212. Jeff, I’m not sure why the Christian life to you is always constituted by “Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.” In point of fact, if the HC 86-113 and WLC 91-148 are any measure of it, the Christian life is structured by the Decalogue. So the Bible tells a covenant member to keep all those laws as he goes about his life. (That’s what a covenant is, a binding between personal agents to do this and not do that.) You say my formulation is devoid of content, but I just filled it with quite a bit I think. You want to say the Christian life is “Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.” That is fine as far as it goes, but it really doesn’t tell me as much as the Decalogue does when it comes to how to live the Christian life. But maybe that’s the point of all-of-lifery, leave things wide open enough to pour in all of life.

    And I’m not sure what you have against marking time as redeemed creatures. It seems to me that this is a significant aspect of what it means to be living as pilgrims and exiles. That’s what pilgrims and exiles do: mark time, prepare, wait, endure, anticipate, compromise. But I do think these are the virtues that irritate a mainly activist piety.

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  213. Lily, I think we probably *do* have some Lutheran/Reformed differences. But sanctification is not seen as a steady climb towards heaven.

    Question 77: Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?

    Answer: Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputes the righteousness of Christ;in sanctification his Spirit infuses grace, and enables to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued:the one does equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection. — WLC 77

    Heaven is given always and only because of our justification. AND, importantly, our sanctification in this life does not change us ontologically. That is, one doesn’t become less of a sinner because one is sanctified. Rather, the grace given in sanctification is a work of the Spirit; if He were (hypothetically) to withdraw, we would go right back to the promptings of the sin nature.

    So what do you make of the Book of Concord section that I mentioned? It seems as if Luther is saying that our Christian obedience is both Law and Gospel … do you read it differently?

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  214. Zrim: Jeff, I’m not sure why the Christian life to you is always constituted by “Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.”

    Constituted? Not sure where you get that. “Normed by” is better.

    Zrim: So the Bible tells a covenant member to keep all those laws as he goes about his life. (That’s what a covenant is, a binding between personal agents to do this and not do that.) You say my formulation is devoid of content, but I just filled it with quite a bit I think …

    Yes, you did. That was much better.

    But now, I have to ask what is the real and actual difference between

    “keep these laws as you go about your life” (you)

    and

    “in every action you take, obey these laws” (me)

    ??

    I mean, for some reason, the first is double-plus-good and Old-Life-y, and the second is transformationalist. I don’t get it.

    Ya know, are you sure you’re not just picking at me out of habit?

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  215. Lily asked a good question which has always befuddled me in my conversations with Calvinists (a problem lies in the fact that there are many subtle distinctions between differing groups of those who call themselves Calvinists in regards to sanctification). “Do the paleo-Reformed believe that sanctification is a cooperative effort?” This is not easy to explain in a clear way. At least I was never clear when I was eaves dropping on the “union,” “justification priority” debates that went on for months at this site. One group makes a distinction between definitive sanctification and progressive sanctification. Definitive seems to be monergistic whereas progressive is synergistic. However, I am probably wrong in how I am explaining that. It can get to be quite theologically technical in trying to get to the truth of the matter.

    I was just listening to Rod Rosenbladt, Kim Riddlebarger, Michael Horton and Ken Jones debate this very topic from the book of Galatians on my way home from work today. I wish I had a photographic memory but unfortunately I do not. A point was made that the way you interpret the flesh, this age, the age to come and the spirit has vast implications for the doctrine of sanctification. It was something I had not heard before and I will have to give it a listen again tomorrow morning.

    Lutherans like Rosenbladt, Seinkbeil, Scaer, Walther, etc do explain sanctification like Lily did and leave it at that- justification, sanctification and glorification are all part of the package tied in with faith alone in what Christ did for us. We don’t come close in doing the Law in thought, word and deed. I know that probably does not do much in help clarifying matters.

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  216. Thanks, John, I appreciate you stepping in. Please do continue and correct me if/when I misrepresent anything?

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  217. Ooops, John. I meant to make it clear that I was also thanking you for answering my question. I will look forward to your thoughts on the debate by the WHI guys. Is it available to the general public?

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  218. Jeff,

    You did not refute my observation that it looked like you thought you could keep the law? And if, “sanctification is not seen as a steady climb towards heaven” why do I keep thinking you are treating it that way instead of a gift? And if, “one doesn’t become less of a sinner because one is sanctified” why do say you think Christians are better than non-Christians ethically/morally because they “cooperate” with the Holy Spirit?

    Honestly, Jeff, it gets confusing. When challenged by any of us, you return with a correct statement of doctrine and say you are orthodox, but then you wander off into things that are contrary???

    From my viewpoint, it looks like you are so focused on works that you have lost sight of the fact that you sin because you are a sinner not the other way around… and that you have lost sight of sanctification through the Word and Sacrament. I’m wondering if your math skills are getting in the way of seeing the whole cloth?

    [I would reword this, “the grace given in sanctification is a work of the Spirit; if He were (hypothetically) to withdraw, we would go right back to the promptings of the sin nature.” I hope I’m not being picky here, but I think it is much clearer to say that we are and can do nothing apart from Christ.]

    Re: The Book of Concord.

    As John pointed out, I’m trying to explain an orthodox Lutheran position and like so many things, it’s not easy to clearly explain a body of work in a comment box (especially since I’m not an expert).

    I would ask you which position you think glorifies God? Monergism that gives God all of the credit for good works -or- synergism that gives him partial credit for good works?

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  219. Flesh= our fallen nature inherited from Adam (including body and soul) and its relationship to this age; Spirit= has nothing to do with an ontological regenerated spirit within, biblically it is only referring to the Holy Spirit that mysteriously indwells the Christian and always points us to Christ and his work for us; the age to come is the Spirits down payment to us which actually causes our growth in sanctification and glorification when we die. We often mistakenly think of sanctification in terms of the fight between our fleshly desires and the regenerated spirit within- we look at it as an ontological battle inside ourselves. In reality, the battle has already been won in Christ and the Holy Spirit always points us to the work of Christ. The Law can no longer condemn us and our flesh no longer has power and dominion over us. We now have the liberty to serve and love others without trying to gain God’s favor by doing so. Our faith in what Christ did for us fuels our sanctification. Sanctification runs amiss when we consciously try to do the Law and measure ourselves by the Law. That is the gist got from listening to Rosenbladt, Riddlebarger, Horton and Jones argue from chapter 5 of Galatians.

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  220. Jeff,

    I’m sorry, I did not mean to forget your question: So what do you make of the Book of Concord section that I mentioned?

    Why do I have faith? Because God gave me faith. Why do I love God? Because he first loved me. Why do I do good works? Because he has worked in me to will and do his good pleasure. His Word accomplishes what he has sent it to do. When I respond to God’s commands, I am merely doing what I should do (as any servant should). I don’t get any credit for doing what I should do and like plagiarism, It’s dishonest to take credit for someone else’s work. Everything I am and have is because God’s mercy for me in Christ. Apart from him I am nothing. I only get to take credit for my sin and the way I foul up things on a regular basis in thought, work, and deed!

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  221. Hi Lily,

    And if, “one doesn’t become less of a sinner because one is sanctified” why do say you think Christians are better than non-Christians ethically/morally because they “cooperate” with the Holy Spirit?

    Zrim and DGH have attributed this to me, but I have not said it, and I don’t think it.

    In regard to cooperation and good works, here is our Confession:

    3. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them. — WCoF 16.3.

    From a Lutheran eye, does this guard God’s glory sufficiently?

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  222. Michael Mann,

    After falling and then rising again from that Blues song one can at least come away from it all perhaps cured from the love of Mammon. And after reading all the comments about the light of nature I am still miffed about it all. I just thought that Blues song was worth commenting on and it seemed to pass by unnoticed.

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  223. Hi Jeff,

    I apologize for attributing to you what should not be.

    It was a tongue-in-cheek question about which glorifies God – based on the theme you often remark on. I apologize for not making that clear.

    Re: WCoF 16.3

    I think it best to not comment on confessions other than my own.

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  224. Hi Lily,

    It’s fine, and I can understand where you’re coming from. What we definitely want to guard against is any sense that being saved gives us a special moral ability. I appreciate and affirm your holding the line in this regard.

    Take care,
    Jeff

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  225. Jeff, I’ve looked again and don’t see where you have said, “In every action you take, obey these laws.” Maybe I missed it, or maybe you said it in a different way. If so, there is no difference between that and my “Keep these laws as you go about your life.” But what I have seen you write here and elsewhere is, “Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.” And I don’t think that’s the same.

    And as far as attributing to you this idea that Christians are better at their vocations than others, it’s true that this was more an explicit assertion of Jay’s. But we do have this from you: “I do think that a given individual who happens to be a plumber and who passes from death to life, will have his practice of plumbing influenced and changed, mostly in the moral dimension, by his change of kingdom.” It is possible to read this as suggesting that a plumber with faith morally and vocationally outpaces one without faith.

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  226. …But then you say, “What we definitely want to guard against is any sense that being saved gives us a special moral ability.” Quite agreed. But then I don’t know how this co-exists with the stuff about one’s vocational and moral abilities being influenced and changed.

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  227. John,

    Thanks for the synopsis of Rod Rosenbladt’s part in the debate. I would love to hear those 4 men discussing the subject.

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  228. Lily,

    It was from their discussion at the White Horse Inn on the book of Galatians. It is probably in the archives at the White Horse Inn site. Or, you could call Modern Reformation and order it.

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  229. For the record, the exchange shows the exact opposite, Zrim.

    DGH: I seem to recall that you have also suggested such superiority for Christians in worldly occupations.

    JRC: I don’t recall doing that. Refresh my memory?

    DGH: Jeff, we did have an exchange on plumbers and in that exchange you suggested — if not stated — that Christians would be (or should be) better than non-Christian plumbers. Perhaps you only extended that to morality and spiritual affairs.

    JRC: No, I don’t think that Christian plumbers are better than non-Christian ones, either individually or taken together as a whole. What is a “better plumber”? In whose eyes? According to what metric?

    I do think that a given individual who happens to be a plumber and who passes from death to life, will have his practice of plumbing influenced and changed, mostly in the moral dimension, by his change of kingdom. Sanctification happens, and that extends to business dealings as well as the rest of life.

    But beyond that I won’t go.

    I think I’ll take a break now. Y’all take care.

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  230. Jeff, I agree that the Bible says that we should glorify God. But the way you read this is strange, at least to me. If you read “God loves the world” the way you read “do all to the glory of God” what would happen? Do you really want to pour as much as you do into the teaching about giving God the glory? And have you ever thought about how little direction the Bible gives toward carrying out that direction? How does a plumber glorify God? How does a math teacher?

    I’m not sure that your wondering about why God doesn’t take us immediately to glory upon conversion answers the question of what we do here as pilgrims and exiles. Why did God take so long to send Jesus? Why did God take so long (if you believe in an old universe) to create man? Maybe we don’t know the answer to those questions.

    But I’m fairly confident that every Christian is not called to the work of an evangelist. For those who simply change diapers, fix leaks, or teach history, waiting and hoping may be their calling, not changing the world.

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  231. John, glad you’ve hopped on the blues bandwagon. There are still plenty of songs that need to be sung, like “Walkin’ ‘Round the Desert Blues,” and “Sojourning My Blues Away.” Maybe everyone else around here is just too darn happy.

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  232. Lily said to Jeff, “I apologize for attributing to you what should not be.”
    That was very nice. And yet, mis-attribution seems to be the crux of mis-understanding throughout the comments on this post. Too bad.

    Jeff: “But beyond that I won’t go.”
    And neither did I, Nor will I. Blessings ya’ll.

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  233. Lily,

    Here’s Berkhof on the Reformed doctrine of sanctification. I offer it up in the spirit of “something to chew on.”

    It [Sanctification] is a work of God in which believers co-operate. When it is said that man takes part in the work of sanctification, this does not mean that man is an independent agent in the work, so as to make it partly the work of God and partly the work of man; but merely, that God effects the work in part through the instrumentality of man as a rational being, by requiring of him prayerful and intelligent co-operation of the Spirit. That man must co-operate with the Spirit of God follows: (a) from the repeated warnings against evils and temptations, which clearly imply that man must be active in avoiding the pitfalls of life, Rom 12.9, 16,17; 1 Cor 6.9,10; Gal 5.16-23; and (b) from the constant exhortations to holy living. These imply that the believer must be diligent in the employment of the means at his command for the moral and spiritual improvement of his life, Micah 6.8; John 15.2,8,16; Rom 8.12,13; 12.1,2,17; Gal 6.7,8,15.

    1. As appears from the immediately preceding, sanctification is a work of which God and not man is the author. Only the advocates of the so-called free will can claim that it is a work of man. Nevertheless, it differs from regeneration in that man can, and is in duty bound to, strive for ever-increasing sanctification by using the means which God has placed at his disposal. This is clearly taught in Scripture, 2 Cor 7.1; Col 3.5-14; 1 Pet 1.22. Consistent Antinomians lose sight of this important truth, and feel no need of carefully avoiding sin, since this affects only the old man which is condemned to death, and not the new man which is holy with the holiness of Christ. — Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, “Sanctification”, p. 534.

    (Not insinuating that you are antionomian, naturally, but only to say that there is an important doctrinal boundary to uphold on that side).

    Similar statements are found in Hoekema, Saved by Grace. I haven’t checked out Bavinck yet, but AA Hodge and Dabney both ignore the question of co-operation. They both, however, affirm that sanctification is progressive — NOT, as Dabney says, that our natures are made better, but rather that the work of the Spirit definitely causes a moral renewal in us so that as time goes on, we make progress in the faith and in holiness.

    I think those are a fair representation of Reformed thought on the matter.

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  234. Jeff,

    I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and consideration. Being Lutheran, it is difficult for me to fully appreciate the Reformed approach to sanctification since we approach sanctification differently. But, both traditions agree that sanctification is necessary and part of our salvation. We do have harmony there!

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