Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Mystery-Averse Minds

In case you haven’t noticed, Christianity is riddled with dilemmas and perplexities. For instance, Christ tells his followers to have nothing to do with the world but then he leaves Christians in the world. Another is that Christ wins by defeat; by dying on the cross, Satan’s apparent victory, Christ snatches believers from the grip of the evil one. Yet another is the doctrine of the Trinity. Still another is that Christ is Lord and Christians should submit to a counterfeit lord by the name of Nero. If you wanted intellectual consistency, then you’d likely end up abandoning orthodox Christianity.

The intellect defying mysteries of Christianity do not prevent critics of 2k from pointing out 2k’s apparent inconsistencies. Neo-Calvinism’s condemnation of all dualism fortifies critics in their quest to iron out all of Christianity’s wrinkles and gives them the upper hand in public relations contests since St. Joe the Home Schooler is more likely to trust a simple and direct answer to his questions than one that begins “well, yes and no.”

A recent attempt to catch 2k in the clutches of inconsistency came from Steven Wedgeworth at his new blog, The Calvinist International. He asks whether a seminary that trains pastors belongs to the spiritual or temporal kingdom and follows the reasoning of Ryan McIlhenry from an article in Mid-America Journal of Theology, not a journal that one associates with fans of the Federal Visions (but opposition to 2k makes for strange bed bugs). At a conference at Westminster California, David VanDrunen responded to this question in ways inconceivable to the perplexity challenged. Dissatisfied by VanDrunen’s response, Wedgeworth argues:

. . . VanDrunen attempts to soften things with a general admission of complexity and a denial that “every single plot of ground” can be put into one kingdom or the other, he does not admit the more obvious point: his specific expression of the two kingdoms cannot be coherently applied in the world. This is because he is still attempting to distinguish the kingdoms along the lines of vocation. Churchy callings and, specifically, Bible-teaching, are the business of the spiritual kingdom, whereas more ordinary jobs like committees, administration, and custodianship are the business of the worldly kingdom.

But what business does a common institution have training up the leaders of the spiritual kingdom? Indeed, under the terms of de jure divino Presbyterianism, this would mean that the spiritual kingdom of Christ is in fact dependent upon the worldly kingdom for one of its essential marks. Is VanDrunen now also among the Constantinians?

Notice that VanDrunen’s response was complex. But the actual 2k doctrine, elaborated by Wedgeworth’s interaction with Calvin and Luther, will not admit of such complexity. In which case the proponents of 2k are really not 2k after all.

But once again, history to the rescue. You don’t have to be 2k to understand that the work of seminaries does not fit easily in any of the modern categories of politics, education, or religion. Back in the 1940s the OPC debated whether to adopt Westminster Seminary as a denominational institution. Each of the committee members who studied the matter and rejected the idea of an ecclesiastically overseen seminary — R. B. Kuiper, John Murray, and Paul Woolley — appealed to the neo-Calvinist notion of sphere sovereignty, an indication that they may have been channeling Kuyper more than Machen. And each member recognized that a seminary does not belong to the church, nor to the state, but — get this — to the family, a common institution that belongs to both believers and unbelievers. According John Murray (in his portion of the report):

The teaching of the Word of God given in the family and in the Christian school will indeed, as regards content, coincide with the teaching given by the church, but this coincidence as regards content does not in the least imply that such teaching should be given under the auspices of the church. In like manner a theological seminary should teach the whole counsel of God. A great deal of the teaching must therefore coincide with the teaching given by the church, and, furthermore, a great deal of it is the teaching that may properly be conducted by the church and under its official auspices. It does not follow, however, that the teaching of the Word of God given in a theological seminary must be given under the auspices of the church. The mere fact that, in certain particulars, the type of teaching given is the type of teaching that may and should be given by the church and may also properly be conducted under the official auspices of the church does not rove that such teaching must be conducted under the auspices of the church. This does not follow any more than does the-fact that the teaching of the Word of God given in the home and in the school is in content the same as may and should be given by the church prove that the family and the school should be conducted under the auspices of the church. A theological seminary is an institution which may quite properly be conducted, like other Christian schools, under auspices other than those of the church, and a great deal of its work is of such a character that the church may not properly undertake it.

So if Reformed theologians not known for advocating 2k recognize that the formal academic training of ministers does not easily fall within either the temporal or spiritual kingdoms as designated by the earthly institutions of state and church, is it really a problem that 2kers offer complex answers to questions about to which kingdom Westminster California belongs?

Which leads to one last quibble. My impression of Mr. Wedgeworth is that he is a nice enough fellow and does not intend to bray or holler the way some anti-2k bloggers do. But when he complains that VanDrunen’s “expression of the two kingdoms cannot be coherently applied in the world,” my jaws tighten. When will the critics of 2k acknowledge that the teachings of Calvin or Richard Hooker cannot be applied coherently to our world either, or that 2k looks a whole lot more coherent after the revolutions of the late eighteenth century than do Constantinian politics applied to a mixed body of citizens? Again, for the gazillionth time, the problems of state churches and the demands of diverse populations led all the Reformed churches to drop the Reformation’s teaching about the Christian responsibilities of the magistrate. This may mean that all the Reformed communions are incoherent in their application of 2k theology. But that problem is not the peculiar possession of 2k’s advocates. I’d encourage pastor Wedgeworth to send a letter to NAPARC.

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39 thoughts on “Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Mystery-Averse Minds

  1. It is very interesting that Wegeworth argues this specific point, because if he takes the Kuyperian track, holding to sphere sovereignty, then the fact that seminaries’ ecclesiastical ties are somewhat vague poses as much problems to his argument (which on the face seems selectively neo-cal) – if seminary education existing outside the auspices of the church is where 2k waters get muddy, then they are equally muddy for our transformational friends, because it is not the church proper that is exerting influence on the world, or even itself through the work of the seminary.

    Seminaries are probably the exception (probably better said as an outlier) that proves the 2k rule – there are vocations that exist within the church geared specifically to the building up of the spiritual kingdom, and there are vocations that exist in the world that are geared to the maintenance of the civil kingdom. This doesn’t mean that the believer who has a worldly vocation has no interest in the building of the spiritual kindgdom, we do so through our tithes and offerings, service within the church, and personal witness in the world – but it is not entirely clear that this is the province of our worldly vocations.

    As a waiter I don’t see my job in the restaurant as an exercise in spiritual kingdom expansion – it is simply to provide excellent service to craft a memorable guest experience. Even where my interactions with my co-workers leads to opportunities to give faithful testimony to Christ, this doesn’t fall properly within the function of the job. Rather, it is simply the outworking of the spirits work in and through me as an individual – the office of waiter is not endowed with any special spiritual commission. In the civil kingdom vocations aren’t responsible for building up the spiritual kingdom, it isn’t in the “job description”, whereas the individual, and the vocation (church office) are both commissioned with the task of building the kingdom in very specific ways prescribed by Scripture which far exceed faithful testimony, and tithe contributions.

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  2. D.G. Hart: In case you haven’t noticed, Christianity is riddled with dilemmas and perplexities. For instance, Christ tells his followers to have nothing to do with the world but then he leaves Christians in the world. Another is that Christ wins by defeat; by dying on the cross, Satan’s apparent victory, Christ snatches believers from the grip of the evil one. Yet another is the doctrine of the Trinity. Still another is that Christ is Lord and Christians should submit to a counterfeit lord by the name of Nero. If you wanted intellectual consistency, then you’d likely end up abandoning orthodox Christianity.

    RS: I hope you did not mean this in any literal sense. It makes God out to be inconsistent in His revelation of Himself. 1) Christ tells His followers that the worldly system is antithetical to the spiritual way, but He leaves them on planet earth (world). 2. The death of Christ was only an apparent defeat to those with worldly sight, but it was the victory of God from beginning to end. 3.The doctrine of the Trinity is in no way a dilemma, but instead is a beautiful and consistent doctrine in the hands of Athanasius and those like him. 4. Christ is Lord and as the sovereign Lord of all He says give allegiance to Nero (whom He put there) but do not bow to him as lord. 5. Orthodox Christianity is intellectually consistent and therefore should not be abandoned. It was the neo-Orthodox who did not think it was intellectually consistent, but they left Orthodoxy in order to maintain their rational consistency. The problem, however, is that their rationality was only consistent with the worldly system and the mind of fallen man. No, in the strongest terms, I have not noticed that Christianity is riddled with dilemmas and perplexities as you describe.

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  3. RS,

    I seriously doubt that DGH is equating mystery with contradiction here. From the human perspective these truths are knowable, but we cannot attain to complete knowledge of some doctrines such as the Trinity, they always carry with them an element of mystery. This is why the Reformed typically draw the distinction between archetypal and ectypal theology, and the Creator/creature distinction. So I am not exactly sure what your beef is here.

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  4. Richard, thanks for confirming my impression that pietists, whether of the intellectual sort, the experimental kind, or the transformationalists — they all wear piety on their sleave — prefer truth in bumper sticker proportions.

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  5. Speaking of slogans, DGH, do you have a quick and short response to Littlejohn’s criticism of your Nevin biography? Despite praising your efforts, Littlejohn seems pretty confident in knowing why you can’t see the cultural transformationism he locates in Nevin. He puts it in a soundbite—Hart’s worldview teaches the radical spirituality of the church and this keeps Hart from seeing the obvious.

    In the Schaeff library today in Lancaster, I noticed that the preface to Littlejohn was written by this fellow who believes in the radical spirituality of magistrates like George Washington and Constantine to complete Christ’s work on earth from the top down.

    My soundbites are not so good. That’s why I tend to put them in other people’s mouths. It’s not that I know so much to put it into a slogan. The problem is already knowing the problems with what I am saying—that’s makes life difficult.

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  6. D.G. Hart: In case you haven’t noticed, Christianity is riddled with dilemmas and perplexities. For instance, Christ tells his followers to have nothing to do with the world but then he leaves Christians in the world. Another is that Christ wins by defeat; by dying on the cross, Satan’s apparent victory, Christ snatches believers from the grip of the evil one. Yet another is the doctrine of the Trinity. Still another is that Christ is Lord and Christians should submit to a counterfeit lord by the name of Nero. If you wanted intellectual consistency, then you’d likely end up abandoning orthodox Christianity.

    D. G. Hart: Richard, thanks for confirming my impression that pietists, whether of the intellectual sort, the experimental kind, or the transformationalists — they all wear piety on their sleave — prefer truth in bumper sticker proportions.

    RS: I did not confirm anything like that for you at all. Let me quote for you your own statement again and one that was given in context of the Trinity: ” If you wanted intellectual consistency, then you’d likely end up abandoning orthodox Christianity.” A consistent theory is one that does not have contradictions in it. If you call that piety, then I am a pietists of a strong order. A contradiction (or intellectual inconsistency) is not the hallmark of truth but is rather the sign of error. If you want a bumper sticker, then have one that says that “Contradictions are intellectual charlie horses.” Contradictions does not a good historian or theology make.

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  7. Jed Paschall: RS, I seriously doubt that DGH is equating mystery with contradiction here.

    RS: Perhaps, but he also used the term “intellectual consistency” and said that if you wanted that you would likely end up abandoning orthodox Christianity. A consistent theory or doctrine is one without contradictions in it. A mystery, in biblical terms, is something that is not fully known.

    JP: From the human perspective these truths are knowable, but we cannot attain to complete knowledge of some doctrines such as the Trinity, they always carry with them an element of mystery.

    RS: Certainly they are not completely knowable, but that is not the same thing as being inconsistent.

    JP: This is why the Reformed typically draw the distinction between archetypal and ectypal theology, and the Creator/creature distinction. So I am not exactly sure what your beef is here.

    RS, quoting Berkhof: “Alongside of the archetypal knowledge of God, found in himself, there is also an ectypal knowledge of Him, given to man by revelation. The latter is related to the former as a copy to the original, and therefore does not possess the same measure of clearness and perfection. All our knowledge of God is derived from His self-revelation in nature and in Scripture. Consequently, our knowledge of God is on the one hand ectypal and analogical, but on the other hand also true and accurate, since it is a copy of the archetypal knowledge which God has of himself” (Berkhof, ST, 35).

    RS: While there is a distinction between archetypal and ectypal knowledge, that does not mean that the true knowledge of God comes to man in some form of contradiction or inconsistency. God is perfect in wisdom and can reveal Himself without contradiction or inconsistency. What would it say about God if He did reveal Himself with contradictions and inconsistencies?

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  8. mcmark, as if Littlejohn lacks a w-w that predisposes his reading of Nevin. BTW, I’ll stand by my interpretation if only because Nevin was good friends with James Buchanan, the president some consider the worst in US history because he followed the Constitution and did nothing about the sectional crisis. Buchanan was not transformer/activist.

    Do you have a link to Littlejohn?

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  9. D. G. Hart: Richard, don’t tell me how my mind works.

    RS: I was not aware that I did.

    D.G. Hart: BTW, Unitarians wanted intellectual consistency, as do Arminians.

    RS: So Reformed people don’t need consistency? The desire for consistency is the hallmark of heretics? The human mind craves consistency and it is normal, but the question is whether things are consistent with the Bible and the character of God. Unitarians are consistent with humanistic minds, but not consistent with God and the Bible. Arminians are consistent with a God who has stepped off of the throne and allowed ‘free-will’ on it, but not a sovereign God or the Bible which teaches free-grace rather than ‘free-will’. Calvinists, on the other hand, have wanted a sovereign God and one that is consistent with Himself and Scripture. It is inconsistency that leads one to abandon rationality and orthodoxy.

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  10. Richard, do red flags ever go off in the minds of pietist-logicians about the cravings of the mind and affections? But the confessional-Calvinist is more inclined to think the fact that the mind craves should give more pause, since it is no less steeped in sin than any other human faculty and thus given to all manner of idolatry.

    Still, maybe the categories are better cast as continuity and discontinuity. The fifth and sixth commandments still abide, but they are also disrupted by NT commands to lay down our lives if we mean to gain them and despise mom and dad should they interfere with our discipleship. That doesn’t seem like consistency as the world understands it. Are you sure by defending consistency and rationality you’re not trying to appease the flesh? But careful, the gospel doesn’t make much sense to a hard wiring for law either.

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  11. Zrim: “The fifth and sixth commandments still abide, but they are also disrupted by NT commands to lay down our lives if we mean to gain them and despise mom and dad should they interfere with our discipleship”

    mcmark: Hear Hear for the discontinuity, since the old things were types of the new. Not all covenants are the same covenant, even when all these covenants are given by the same God. And no, this discontinuity does not mean that we believe God has had more than one gospel.

    I can’t help wondering if Zrim used to be a credobaptist and is moving back in that direction. Not that you need to be a credobaptist to notice that there are two covenants in the book of Hebrews.

    Is this where I get reminded that paedocommunion is the parallel/reverse mirror of my credobaptim? Not that water is thicker than blood. More like– the blood of Christ was shed for some of those of all bloods, but not for all of any blood???

    God is our only Father, and Christ (who is God) is our Father, and the Holy Spirit mediates His presence/absence.

    He is not here; He is risen.

    I will be with you always.

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  12. Zrim: Richard, do red flags ever go off in the minds of pietist-logicians about the cravings of the mind and affections?

    RS: If course, but as with all things (confessions included), they must be brought to the bar of Scripture.

    Zrim: But the confessional-Calvinist is more inclined to think the fact that the mind craves should give more pause, since it is no less steeped in sin than any other human faculty and thus given to all manner of idolatry.

    RS: But the believing mind craves consistency as well and when the words of Jesus and Paul are read, we see the desire for consistency as well.

    Zrim: Still, maybe the categories are better cast as continuity and discontinuity. The fifth and sixth commandments still abide, but they are also disrupted by NT commands to lay down our lives if we mean to gain them and despise mom and dad should they interfere with our discipleship. That doesn’t seem like consistency as the world understands it.

    RS: Indeed, but the Gospel is also foolishness to the world and we are not to stop preaching that apparent foolishness to them. In fact, however, the Gospel is the only consistent place where the attributes of God shine forth in a display of harmonious glory. But unbelieving minds don’t behold that.

    Zrim: Are you sure by defending consistency and rationality you’re not trying to appease the flesh?

    RS: I would say that defending inconsistency and irrationality is quite the opposite of seeking to love God with all of our minds. By the way, I am not accusing you are asserting that. I just found your expression rather odd. Many times it is not the desire for inconsistency and rationality that is wrong, it is what we are trying to be consistent with that gets us into trouble.

    Zrim: But careful, the gospel doesn’t make much sense to a hard wiring for law either.

    RS: But the Gospel makes perfect sense in light of the glory of His grace. A hard wiring for law is very inconsistent with the Gospel of grace alone and with God’s saving sinners to the praise of the glory of His grace. So again, much depends on what we want to be consistent with.

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  13. Marky Mark, yes this is the place where I remind you of the mirror errors of paedocommunion and credobaptism. We are still to mark our children as covenant members every bit as much as we are to esteem life and honor our parents (continuity). But water instead of blood and females as well as males, and redemption outpaces creation (discontinuity).

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  14. Richard, I don’t know how the gospel can be called foolishness if one is trying his darnedest to satisfy the cravings of the intellect by making it rational and consistent. If you want to say the gospel “makes sense” to the extent that it is in accord with the incomprehensible love of God, fine. In fact, this seems good to counter worm theology on steroids. But if you want to construct an apology to unbelievers that has the effect of making them stupid, lazy and foolish to reject the gospel then I think you’ve wandered into a theology of glory.

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  15. Zrim: Richard, I don’t know how the gospel can be called foolishness if one is trying his darnedest to satisfy the cravings of the intellect by making it rational and consistent.

    RS: It appears as foolishness to those who don’t truly believe, but it is the wisdom and power of God to those who do. The Gospel is not given to satisfy the cravings of all intellects, but it is a declaration of God in a way that is consistent with God. One cannot make the Gospel rational enough to satisfy the cravings of unbelievers, but that does not mean that it is not truly rational and consistent.

    Zrim: If you want to say the gospel “makes sense” to the extent that it is in accord with the incomprehensible love of God, fine.

    RS: It is consistent with the love of God which goes to depths that we cannot know.

    Zrim: In fact, this seems good to counter worm theology on steroids. But if you want to construct an apology to unbelievers that has the effect of making them stupid, lazy and foolish to reject the gospel then I think you’ve wandered into a theology of glory.

    RS: John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

    It would certainly appear to be inconsistent with the truth of Christ to insist that to strive for consistency means one most likely will abandon orthodoxy.

    1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.

    RS: Those who think they are wise in the ways of the world must become foolish in the eyes of the world in order to have true wisdom. The hallmark of true wisdom is not found in inconsistency.

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  16. Zrim,

    I must not be getting the ‘gospel’ because you’re earwigishness is nothing if not a type of worm theology on steroids. I’m trying to keep the ‘devil down in the hole’ and hear(get it) you are all burrowed in feet up on the ottoman and drinking my beer.

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  17. Richard, confessional Calvinists don’t try and reconcile God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. They just live with the tension of two seemingly at odds concepts. Same for being simul justus et peccator. And as Calvin said, believers go to their death bed with an unbeliever still resident within. That means we still have an intellect that wants to conceive the gospel as “truly rational and consistent.” But if so then where is there any place for true amazement and wonder and marvel? Or do you really want to behold the cross and say, “Well, of course”? And here I thought we confessionalists were supposed to be guilty of ho-humism.

    If the suggestion of inconsistency seems impious to you then how about paradox?

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  18. This sounds like a convenient excuse to make up for convoluted, incoherent, self-contradictory theology.

    Good theology is clear and understandable. God doesn’t intend to confuse us.

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  19. Who’s us kimosabe? This makes sense of life and makes redemptive history something beyond a trivial pursuit game. It’s perfectly clear and all grown up.

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  20. Zrim: Richard, confessional Calvinists don’t try and reconcile God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

    RS: They should.

    Zrim: They just live with the tension of two seemingly at odds concepts.

    RS: But they are not in tension. It is true, however, that people just don’t like to move to the point of where the two do not have tension.

    Zrim: Same for being simul justus et peccator.

    RS: Not the same category.

    Zrim: And as Calvin said, believers go to their death bed with an unbeliever still resident within. That means we still have an intellect that wants to conceive the gospel as “truly rational and consistent.”

    RS: No, that means you (generally, not you sepecifically) are willing not to love God with all your mind and settle for contradictions.

    Zrim: But if so then where is there any place for true amazement and wonder and marvel? Or do you really want to behold the cross and say, “Well, of course”?

    RS: Of course there is a place for true amazement and wonder, but those things don’t happen in contradictions.

    Zrim: And here I thought we confessionalists were supposed to be guilty of ho-humism.

    RS: You are

    Zrim: If the suggestion of inconsistency seems impious to you then how about paradox?

    RS: Paradox may be okay as long as it does not involve covering up intellectual laziness or contradictions.

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  21. John Yeazel: Here is a good web site for you to browse through Richard- especially the article on Nadere Reformation- click luther on the right hand side at the site; 3rd article down:

    http://furtherreformation.com/

    RS: Thanks for thinking of me. It was a fascinating article that I intend to go back and read a few more times. For the moment, however, I noted a complete lack of Scripture in the article and a complete trust in the author’s own interpretation of all those involved. When Luther wrote, he was big on using Scripture to show the basis for his thought. To understand Luther, I would think, one must wrestle with the Scriptures that Luther dealt with as the basis for his thought. Historical categories and theological categories are important, but we must always remain faithful to Scripture. It is also interesting to note that there appears to be no room for another thought of the Reformers, which is that of the church always needing to reform.

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  22. jonsheldon, of course. But God doesn’t speak to us in syllogisms either. Has it ever dawned on you that the Bible is not a systematics textbook?

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  23. D. G. Hart: jonsheldon, of course. But God doesn’t speak to us in syllogisms either. Has it ever dawned on you that the Bible is not a systematics textbook?

    RS: Actually, Paul does use some logical arguments. Of course the Bible is not a systematics textbook, but then again it is not a history book nor a confession either. If the systematics do not use Scripture, which is supposed to be our chief authority, then there is nothing biblical to judge them by.
    Isaiah 8:20 “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”

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  24. Richard, there’s that accusation of laziness again. I always wonder whether the Reformed pietists and logicians ever realize how much they sound like some unbelieving detractors that mock Christians for holding religious faith as being covers for intellectual laziness or emotional weakness. But when I read something like…

    For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

    Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

    …I wonder what the logicians think who want to oppose the wisdom of the world on its own terms. The Bible plainly says here you can’t.

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  25. Zrim: Richard, there’s that accusation of laziness again.

    RS: No accusation at all, though I must admit that I used it on purpose. I used it, however, with just a bit of a dry smile thinking of some past posts here. Here is what I said: “Paradox may be okay as long as it does not involve covering up intellectual laziness or contradictions.” Note that there is no accusation there, but simply saying that paradox is okay as long as it is not used to cover up two things.

    Zrim: I always wonder whether the Reformed pietists and logicians ever realize how much they sound like some unbelieving detractors that mock Christians for holding religious faith as being covers for intellectual laziness or emotional weakness.

    RS: Which actually sounds more like an accusation to me than what I wrote. However, since it is impossible for the all-knowing and all-wise God to lie, it is impossible for Him to have or reveal a real contradiction. So there is some problem with those who are ready to accept contradictions as (so it seems) a hallmark of orthodoxy. But on the issue of emotional weakness, you might consider this thought from Warfield. “The illustrations which Hodge emplys in this extract are not his, but Finney’s own, and they may help to indicate to us the thoroughness with which he cleansed our affectional movements from all moral character” (Works, volume VIII, p. 191). In the context you might understand that Finney was a Pelagian and as such sought to do away with the affections from our character. This should give you great pause when discussing emotional weakness.

    Zrim: But when I read something like…
    For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

    Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

    Zrim: …I wonder what the logicians think who want to oppose the wisdom of the world on its own terms. The Bible plainly says here you can’t.

    RS: But in the context of our own discussion, the attempt is not to oppose the wisdom of the world on its own terms, though that may be what is happening. The attempt is to say that there is no contradiction in God Himself who is Truth and He does not reveal Himself in contradictions. There is no unity movement in the world as to its wisdom, but instead it has those who do nothing but logic and those who despise logic. Using the verses you gave, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God.” Christ is our wisdom from God and as such He is not a contradiction and His teachings do not have any real contradictions in them. There is no contradictions in wisdom and there is no wisdom in contradictions. To say that A is not A at the same point, at the same time, and in the same category is not wisdom, it is simply the foolishness of post-modernism or perhaps deconstruction. For the Bible to be the infallible Word of God there can be no contradictions in it or it is not infallible.

    But back to the text. Do you really think that God is foolish and teaches foolishness? Consider what is being said in the text. But if contradictions are acceptable, then this text is meaningless as well as the whole Bible. When Christ is said to be our wisdom, if contradictions are true (whatever that may mean) then it would be just as true to say that He is our foolishness. When it is said that Christ is God’s wisdom to us, if contradictions are true then it would be just as true to say that Christ is not from God and just as true to say He God’s foolishness. Apart from denying that contradictions have a place in rational thought and the revelation of God the supreme Mind who revealed Himself by words and the Word, there is no way of asserting that there is truth and no way of asserting truth in words.

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  26. Wedgeworth ;”this would mean that the spiritual kingdom of Christ is in fact dependent upon the worldly kingdom for one of its essential marks. Is VanDrunen now also among the Constantinians?”

    I wonder what Wedgeworth does with WCF 1:6; ‘and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature’. This ‘dualism’ gets played out in the same chapter on the NECESSITY of special revelation for knowledge of salvation and the necessity of that special revelation to be illumined by the Holy Spirit for a saving understanding and then follows that up with a section on how not all things in scripture are plain in themselves or clear unto all.-so much for the egalitarians.

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  27. Richard, the point of promoting comfort with mystery and paradox is not to affirm contradiction and inconsistency. It’s to remind human beings what is means to be finite creatures. I understand limitation is not the long suit of pietists, logicians, and activists, but it is something that figures large in the confessionalist mind, small as it may be.

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  28. Zrim: Richard, the point of promoting comfort with mystery and paradox is not to affirm contradiction and inconsistency. It’s to remind human beings what is means to be finite creatures.

    RS: Indeed it is good to know that we are finite creatures, but we also need to be reminded that God is infinite. The understanding of Scripture does not depend on my finite mind, but on the illuminating power of God in giving understanding. He can reveal mysteries which He did in Colossians 1:24ff). He can make what appears to be a paradox disappear when He is the divine teacher in the soul. By the way, that is one of the teachings of the New Covenant (Jer 31 and Heb 8:10ff). There is no real comfort in mystery and paradox, there is only comfort in Truth Himself.

    “A paradox is a statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which (if true) defies logic or reason, similar to circular reasoning. Typically, however, quoted paradoxical statements do not imply a real contradiction and the puzzling results can be rectified by demonstrating that one or more of the premises themselves are not really true, a play on words, faulty and/or cannot all be true together…The word paradox is often used interchangeably with contradiction.”

    A mystery teaches us that something is yet to be revealed, while a paradox teaches us that we are getting something wrong. This should drive us to study and pray more rather than be comforted by it. Paul prayed for this: “17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Eph 1). If we prayed like that and sought God like that we would not be satisfied or comforted with mystery and paradox.

    Zrim: I understand limitation is not the long suit of pietists, logicians, and activists, but it is something that figures large in the confessionalist mind, small as it may be.

    RS: The problem with your limitation, however, is that despite your good intentions your limitation is in the wrong place. Indeed human beings are finite and limited, but mystery and paradox are not limitations to God. He can wipe away mystery and paradox by opening minds and hearts to a sight and taste of His glory. When confessionalist say that we can rest in mystery and paradox, they are actually placing the limitation on God. Christ is still our Teacher as our Prophet. I would argue that it is the confessionalist that limits things and is too easily satisfied with far too little if s/he is satisfied with a confession, mystery, and paradox.

    Here is Paul again: “17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph 3). The love of Christ surpasses knowledge as to its depths, but we must strive to know this love. This love of Christ is not a mystery or a paradox, but the dimensions of it are so great that we can grow in knowledge of it for all eternity and not exhaust it. Finding comfort in mystery and paradox is to be limited in pressing on to know God as we are to know Him.

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  29. Richard, I thought paradox was ok so long as it wasn’t used to cover up intellectual laziness. Now it seems to be categorically out. Is this an example of your dry humor, as in a sarcastic play on paradox? But I don’t know what you do with the commandment to honor parents and hate them at the same time. We’re only supposed to do both, not figure out how familial love and hate co-exist.

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  30. Zrim: Richard, I thought paradox was ok so long as it wasn’t used to cover up intellectual laziness. Now it seems to be categorically out. Is this an example of your dry humor, as in a sarcastic play on paradox?

    RS: When people find two teachings that appear to contradict each other, they can know that the two actually do not contradict each other and so call it a paradox for the moment. But I would argue that should not rest in that paradox. But again, paradox can be used as a way to give up (okay, I will try not to use laziness) searching for the answer or as a way to cover over a real contradiction. I think it should be thought of as a momentary (though may last a long time) category for something God has not revealed yet.

    Zrim: But I don’t know what you do with the commandment to honor parents and hate them at the same time. We’re only supposed to do both, not figure out how familial love and hate co-exist.

    RS: Jesus, in His winsome way of not wanting to run people off, said this:
    Luke 14:25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them,
    26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

    We immediately know that something is up when Jesus says something like this. On the one hand many want to throw it out of the window because in a parallel passage (Mat 10) He says this: 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” So people simply toss the Luke passage out and say it means to be sure and love others less than Jesus. That is not really satisfactory.

    Deut 13:6 “If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods ‘ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. 9 “But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 “So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

    RS: I would argue that the concept of hate in Luke 14 would mean that if God calls you to do something, then despite your love for your parents and family you are to obey God even if it appears as hatred to others and even those you love. For example, if you are called to go to the cross and suffer crucifixion for the glory of God, that will appear as if you hate your life, but in fact the reality of it shows a love for God and for neighbor. Jesus was the great example of that one. If a person is called to go to a place that will cause their death and they leave aging parents behind, that may appear as hatred toward the parents. But it is not in reality because it is love for God. Jesus did that with His earthly mother.

    I don’t think that the love versus hate command is really a paradox and we should try to figure it out in order to obey both. We know that we are commanded to love our parents, our spouses, our kids, and other Christians. In fact, if we don’t love our brothers we are told that we are children of the devil (I John 3:10). Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. They should never hate them. However, if obedience to God calls, then one must obey God even if it appears that one hates his parents, wife, children, and even his own life. We are at God’s disposal and command at any and all points to be His to live or die as He pleases. That may appear to be hatred for those we are commanded to love, and if we did that out of love for self it would be hatred, but when it is out of love for God it is not hatred despite the appearance.

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  31. Richard, I find nothing much objectionable in your extended answer on what it means to live with both the fifth commandment and Luke 14. But it seems to me also far from intellectually satisfying, since it’s just not consistent to simultaneously command to love and hate the same person. Nuance is needed, but also a certain kind of comfort with a certain kind of inconsistency. Which, I have to say, seems to be at least partly at play in your answer, which makes me wonder why you blow whistles when confessionalists do the same.

    Ok, some objection: I think when we are told to hate it really does mean to hate, as much as love means to love. Making “love for God” swallow up “hate for family” seems to be a way to resolve the tension as opposed to live with it. Could it be that “hate for family” is a hard teaching?

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  32. Zrim: Richard, I find nothing much objectionable in your extended answer on what it means to live with both the fifth commandment and Luke 14. But it seems to me also far from intellectually satisfying, since it’s just not consistent to simultaneously command to love and hate the same person. Nuance is needed, but also a certain kind of comfort with a certain kind of inconsistency. Which, I have to say, seems to be at least partly at play in your answer, which makes me wonder why you blow whistles when confessionalists do the same.

    RS: To put it mildly, you received the short answer to the issue and I tried to get at the heart of the problem. In doing so, however, I don’t see that there is any kind of inconsistency at all between the two passages. This means that I don’t blow whistles when confessionalists do the same. A person that is called to go to a certain ministry may be accused of hating an elderly parent if s/he does so and that person must be willing to be accused of that and even give the appearance of that. But that does not mean that the person really hates the elderly parent. Loving God is in fact the greatest love one can give another.

    Part of the very same context is counting the cost to make sure a person is willing to be a disciple of Christ. I might add that confessionalism may not do this, but then you would point out that hardly any of the pietists do this either. So we can simply say that hardly anyone actually asks people to count the cost these days. But Jesus did so.

    Luke 14:31 “Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand. 32 “Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

    RS: Again, note the conclusion (this is a logical argument). The conclusion is that no one can be a disciple of Christ if that person does not give up all his own possessions. Before the passage on hating parents, Jesus sent out to invite people to the banquet who made excuses not to come. Jesus is telling people what it takes to be a true follower of His and is setting out the demands and making it clear that people need to count the cost of what it means to be His disciple. To follow Christ one must be willing to leave parents and all things and give up all their possessions. He is setting out what it means to follow Him and love Him with all of your being.

    Zrim: Ok, some objection: I think when we are told to hate it really does mean to hate, as much as love means to love. Making “love for God” swallow up “hate for family” seems to be a way to resolve the tension as opposed to live with it. Could it be that “hate for family” is a hard teaching?

    RS: It is a hard teaching no matter what one does with it. However, Jesus has clearly commanded men to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Does Christ ever hate the Church? No, but some of His commands to them appear to be hate to the world. Christ even commands His disciples to love their enemies. So His command to hate if it really means to hate in the same way and category as His commands to love and honor our parents, spouses, and children make for an obvious and glaring contradiction that simply leaves all morality hanging at the whims of sinful people. We could do terrible things to others and simply say we are hating them as Jesus commanded. So I am simply saying that your position is a contradiction that leads to excuses for many immoral actions. I am saying that my position takes away the contradiction and fits with the rest of Scripture.

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