Good but Different Americans

With Ash Wednesday comes Lent and different rationales for turning up those practices that increase holiness. George Weigel opts for the difference that Lenten practice makes:

Friday abstinence was once a defining mark of the practicing Catholic, and Lenten pork roll raillery aside, it ought to be again. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is not renowned for its traditionalism, but some years ago the bishops mandated a year-round return to Friday abstinence south of Hadrian’s Wall, and good for them for doing so. If our baptisms really set us apart for Christ, then we should live a different temporal rhythm than the rest of the world: not to advertise our righteousness, but to remind ourselves, each other, and those who might be curious about these Catholics and their ways that we’re, well, different. And at a moment in Western cultural history in which the tsunami of the Culture of Me threatens to overwhelm everything, putting down behavioral markers of difference is no small thing. From Friday abstinence, who knows what might grow?

Well, these days at First Things someone might ask if Friday abstinence could lead to the kidnapping of baptized children from non-Roman Catholic parents.

Or how about the royal absolutism of French monarchs?

For those keeping score at home, liberalism is on the ropes at First Things, which is odd for a magazine that used to be (along with Weigel) firmly in the Americanist camp of U.S. Roman Catholics.

The problem is not Lent or abstinence from meat. I have great respect for minority groups that maintain their religious ways in face of a society that does little to encourage or foster such practices. The Amish and Orthodox Jews, for instance, who continue to maintain family and spiritual traditions without trying to Americanize their traditions are (or should be) obviously admirable in their fortitude and conviction.

But transferring such admiration to Roman Catholics comes with a catch. That snag is that Roman Catholic piety for a long time was not simply a way of being a good Christian before God but also came with expectations about society, the political order, and the church’s authority. To sever personal piety from Rome’s global reach or cultural aspirations was never possible, the way it has been for other faiths outside the political order that brought them into existence. The reason is that fellowship with the Bishop of Rome and all the affairs in which he had his hands was necessary to be a good Roman Catholic.

So Weigel’s proposal for being more distinct is no neutral proposition when Roman Catholicism in its most distinct expression was not necessarily a respecter of the sort of freedoms that allow the Amish and Orthodox Jews to practice their faiths. Like Neo-Calvinism, Roman Catholicism is not content with a personal faith. Religion is not a private affair but needs to take root in all areas of life — and there goes political liberalism.

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84 thoughts on “Good but Different Americans

  1. dgh–The way I (mmmeeeEEEE) interpret this is to say that the baker who does not want to bake and decorate a wedding cake (why not an inferior one?) for a gay couple should NOT base her appeal on her own conscience but on the teaching of her church

    dgh–Their piety FOR A LONG TIME was not simply a way of being a good Christian before God but also came with expectations about society, the political order, and the church’s authority. To sever personal piety from Rome’s global reach or CULTURAL ASPIRATIONS was never possible, the way it has been for OTHER faiths outside the political order that brought THEM into existence.

    Does this mean it’s ok for us to “decouple” the sermons and commentary of John Calvin from his relationship with magistrates in Geneva and France? In a DIFFERENT way that maybe we would not give a political pass to John Knox or John Owen?

    Lassere—“A striking example of how hard it is to draw a line between lawful and unlawful war is to be found in Calvin’s thoughts on whether French Protestants might defend themselves by arms against their enemies, the Dukes of Guise. The day after the massacre of Vassy, Calvin frankly encouraged and helped the Huguenots to organise their army, finding many fine pretexts, resting on great principles, to authorise such action. But quite soon afterwards, in April 1563, he wrote: “I shall always recommend that arms be abandoned and that we should all perish rather than return to the confusions that have been experienced.”

    http://www.bringthebooks.org/2010/12/lasserre-on-calvins-advice-to-huguenots.html#links

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  2. Carl Truman –“For Roman Catholics, the challenges of our cultural exile are different. Rome has somehow managed to maintain a level of social credibility in America, despite holding to positions regarded as intolerable by the wider secular world when held by Protestants.”

    There is no salvation for any of the rest of us without a Luthern or Reformed discipline that accepts the Trinitarian means of grace administered by the Roman Catholic church. To suspend somebody from the Lord’s Table in an environment where the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbolic gesture is scarcely a serious sanction

    James Rogers— Calvin sought a model of civil society that was built upon mutual dependence, cooperation, and intercommunion. Earthly citizenship, Calvin believed, should be patterned after heavenly citizenship. For Calvin and Nevin, the social body constitutes an organic whole from which each part of member finds significance.

    Maybe John Calvin was more of a NT Wright kind of Jerry Falwell.

    https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2016/05/mercersburg-theology-eucharistic-union-and-civil-society

    NT Wright–“When Jesus talks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus really did mean that this was the time for God to become King and reign in a way that not only challenges Caesar’s kingdom but challenges Caesar’s type of kingdom.When you put it in context, it is anything but a mandate for a church/state split,”

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  3. ““When Jesus talks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus really did mean that this was the time for God to become King and reign in a way that not only challenges Caesar’s kingdom but challenges Caesar’s type of kingdom.”

    Yes, because N.T. was there, right?

    I think Jesus would scratch his head at all the SJW and Kingdom talk, really. But I wasn’t there either, so I wish everyone who relax just a little and quit trying to save every square inch, and maybe just worry about their immediate neighbor’s health insurance and food stamps and their individual own soul, versus the education rights of DREAMERS and of 19 year old girls to play on lacrosse teams of funding that matches that of their brothers.

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  4. mcmark, that’s easy. 1789 proved that you could keep Calvin’s content without his political patrons. Since the papacy itself was (and continues in its 900 acres) to be its own political patron, separating Roman Catholicism from the papal states or Vatican City has yet to be tried. That’s why I say, the papacy should rotate. One year in Rome, another in Omaha, another in Sao Paulo.

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  5. Curt, it’s wrong. Jesus and Paul and Peter did not address politics — unless you want to talk about submission to the emperor and paying your taxes.

    Is that what you had in mind? Or does your imagination wander to those theonomic prophets like Amos and Isaiah? Sure it does.

    What you haven’t figured out is why Jesus and the apostles, who knew the prophets better than any of us, didn’t appeal to the prophets the way you do.

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  6. D.G.,
    Why do you think that because Paul and Jesus didn’t address politics that is wrong for us? Paul did address poverty and not just poverty in the Church. He did address the issue of law in term of whether he deserved to die. It seems that for you to conclude that because Jesus and Paul never addressed politics, then there have been no historical changes or no new issues that have come about since their time. But we have new changes and issues. We live in a time when the Gospel has been well-spread to almost the whole world. In addition, we now have democracies. Now if because Jesus and Paul never addressed politics, then are you concluding that the Scriptures, which talk about all of life in general, do not have anything to say about we how we decide for whom to vote?

    James address the exploitation of people by those with wealth. The OT prophets addressed social justice issues as well as political leaders. And they did so not just with leaders of covenant nations, but with leaders of the neighbors of Israel and Judah as well. Are there no social injustices because we are now in NT times? Or didn’t John, in Revelation, talk about political leaders and how they would be judged?

    Furthermore, does the command to love one’s neighbor imply anything about our politics? After all, I am sure that the description of Christians being in exile as the Jews were in Babylon influence the political views and activities of some 2kers.

    Personally, I don’t think this is an issue about Jesus and Paul for you. This is an issue of over use of the Regulative Principle and how it has made you a very concrete thinker in terms of understand what the Bible has to say about our lives today. But being concrete thinker, as I have pointed out about the conduct of the Good Samaritan, does not tells all we need to know about loving our neighbor as ourselves. For if you look at all that the Good Samaritan did for the victim, you’ll find that not all of it was done by following explicit commands or examples. Rather, much of it was done out of love. And the question, when it comes to our political views and activities, is this: What’s love of neighbor got to do with it?

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  7. Curt: Why do you think that because Paul and Jesus didn’t address politics that is wrong for us?

    Precisely because of the principle that you have already agreed to: It is wrong to bind people’s consciences to matters not taught, by explicit word or direct implication, in the Scripture.

    It’s not just that Paul and Jesus didn’t *explicitly* address politics. It is also that they did not *imply* any political system — communist, socialist, democratic, republican, monarchial, oligarchial, or decision by random lottery.

    You want us to love our neighbors. Well and good; we agree. But now: Does the fact that I must love my neighbor tell me whether it is better or worse for my neighbor to have strict or loose gun control? Laws that restrict porn or laws that permit free speech? Laws that subsidize college for all, or laws that leave college price-setting to the free market? Laws that restrict drug consumption, or laws that permit it?

    Those questions, the actual implementation details of loving one’s neighbor, are not addressed in Scripture, either by direct statement nor implication.

    And every time someone pokes their head up and waves the flag of “Christian politics”, it turns out to be just like the Quest for the Historical Jesus: the supposedly Christian political theory turns out to be the pet theory of the author, pastiched onto Scripture for moral authority.

    Bluntly put: Christian politics is legalism. It is the binding of the conscience to matters not taught in Scripture by explicit command or good and necessary inference.

    The Scripture teaches us *to* love our neighbor. In most matters, it does not teach us *how* to do that. And in the matters that Scripture does address — for example, the parable of the Good Samaritan, or commands to believers in James — it addresses the behavior of the individual, not public policy.

    In your mind, your 2k opponents here are “overly concrete” thinkers who miss the demand of Scripture on politics by being obtuse.

    In reality, we see something that you don’t: The Scripture has a narrative arc that makes no mention of public policy outside of theonomic Israel. We are paying attention to issues of theme, genre, audience, and historical context that you want to flatten out.

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  8. dgh–Their piety for a long time was not simply a way of being a good Christian before God but also came with expectations about society, the political order, and the church’s authority. To sever personal piety from Rome’s cultural
    aspirations was never possible, the way it has been for other faiths OUTSIDE THE POLITICAL ORDER that brought THEM into existence.

    dgh–1789 proved that you could keep Calvin’s content without his political patrons

    mcmark—you could? Not me. I don’t want a “content” which flattens all the post-fall covenants into one covenant in order to equate “the visible church” with “the covenant that includes some of the non-elect” I am not sure who you are talking about in 1789, but the content also has changed whenever there is a transition from the one (Roman) visible church (however many patrons) to more than one (Protestant) visible churches whose members and patrons base their social and political decisions on the teaching of their churches (not their individual conscience)

    “Protestant Establishment survived in New England well into the nineteenth century. Disestablishment came to Connecticut in 1818, but not until 1833 in Massachusetts. New Hampshire enacted a toleration act in 1819, but authorization for towns to support Protestant ministers remained on the books, unenforced, for the rest of the century.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/north-carolinas-proposed-state-religion-isnt-as-unprecedented-as-it-sounds/274646/

    I am not saying that all who want to include some of the non-elect into “the visible true church” or into “the one covenant with different ways to administrate it and relate to it” are doing so in order to ” maintain a level of social credibility” (although I can’t rule that out from your remarks of those of Carl Truman’s). But I don’t see how in the world you think Calvin has the same content before and after church-state split, and then complain about Roman Catholics still lacking a church-state split???

    dgh—the papacy should rotate. One year in Rome, another in Omaha, another in Sao Paulo.

    mcmark–Is this rotation something like the relocation of Machen’s legacy from Westminster Philadelphia to the now unified OPC? Is this “rotation” something like John Frame’s “DIFFERENT perspectives”? or Scott Clark’s DIFFERENT WAYS of relating to the same one new covenant ? (sometimes contrasting Abraham and Moses, and other times letting it slip that there are conditions even in God’s “administration” with Abraham and Abraham’s two sons)

    Acts 7: 2 “Brothers and fathers,” Stephen said, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia and said to him: Get out of your country and away from your relatives… 4 “Then Abraham came out of the land ….After his father died, God had Abraham move to this land you now live in. 5 God didn’t give Abraham an inheritance in this land but God promised to give it to Abraham as a possession, and to his descendants after him… 6 God spoke in this way ( Abraham’s descendants would be strangers in a foreign country, and they would oppress them 400 years. 7 I will judge the nation that they will serve as slaves, God said. After this, Abraham’s descendants will come out and worship Me in this place. 8 Then God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision

    Genesis 17: My covenant will be marked in your flesh as a lasting covenant. 14 If any male is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that man will be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

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  9. “the supposedly Christian political theory turns out to be the pet theory of the author, pastiched onto Scripture for moral authority.”
    Exactly. In some sense, I have more respect for the reconstructionists (as nutty as their politics are) because they adopt very hard to accept political principles that they believe scripture requires. They conform their politics to their understanding of scripture rather than adopt readings of scripture that support their political priors.

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  10. Curt, of course the Bible doesn’t tell us about everything in our lives today. That’s the point. If the Bible is silent, then so should those be who minister or claim the Bible as their authority.

    If want to be a lefty, fine. It’s a free country. Just don’t tell me it’s Christian. WWJD.

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  11. D.G.,
    Why is the Bible silent on some of the issues we face today? Is there more than one answer to that question? For if the Bible silent because some of the issues we face today were not faced directly by those whom God used to write the Bible, then we should assume that we are free to do as we please or that we need abstract from what we have learned from the scriptures to what we face today? For example, does the command to love one’s neighbor, with the definition that the Good Samaritan parable gives to to the concept of neighbor, affect our political views, voting and activities? Do what the OT prophets wrote about injustices influence our political views, voting and activities? Or are we free to hold to political views and vote and pursue political activities that benefit us without regard for how they affect others, especially the poor and the vulnerable? Again, what does love thy neighbor got to do with it?

    Certainly, there are issues the Scriptures are silent on that we should be also. But are there different reasons for the Scriptures being silent so that we have to further think why the Scriptures are silent? Your answer implies that there is only one reason.

    I find it ironic you seem to follow a literalist’s approach to interpreting the Scriptures, which would indicate that you generalize the Regulative principle to applying the Scriptures to all of life, and yet you use the Regulative principle in interpreting the Scriptures just in terms of worship.

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  12. -Post’s link says: putting down behavioral markers of difference is no small thing.

    That’s for sure.
    Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry…and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

    -D.G.Hart says Like Neo-Calvinism, Roman Catholicism is not content with a personal faith.

    It isn’t?
    we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another; that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
    The glory which You (Father) have given Me (Jesus) I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

    -Joe M says I think Jesus would scratch his head at all the …Kingdom talk, really.

    Jesus didn’t talk about the kingdom…. alot?
    From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He said pray this way “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

    -Jeff Cagle says The Scripture teaches us *to* love our neighbor. In most matters, it does not teach us *how* to do that.

    It doesn’t?
    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

    -WWJD?
    So that the world may know that I (Jesus) love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. I glorified You (Father) on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known

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  13. Jeff – excellent comment.

    Ali – you quoted 2 Timothy 3:16 in response to Jeff, but ended it mid-sentence and conveniently left out verse 17: “that the MAN OF GOD may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The context of the passage is undeniably about living a Christian life, and specifically about the pastor’s role in helping his flock live Christian lives. Scripture is indeed profitable for the “training in righteousness” of other Christians, not our atheist neighbor. We should tell our neighbors of the hope found in the Gospel when appropriate, but “loving” our non-believing neighbor does not entail constantly exhorting them from Scripture. That’s the MacArthur in you coming out. And Scripture certainly does not dictate how we show love through societal structures or political views, as DGH, sdb, and Jeff have aptly pointed out already.

    General question for everyone: what do you make of the fact that many Protestants of all stripes are adopting Lenten practices? I personally don’t participate in Lent, but know many mature Christians who do. Is this a positive sign of ecumenicism or a form of idolatry? Or is it neutral? Or none of the above?

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  14. Church and state were different even in the Mosaic economy. If the 1789 American experiment is based on free-will (no instruction for the state mediating institution from the churches) and if water regeneration depends on faith, and if faith depends on “freewill”, then how do Lutherans get faith before they get regeneration and lose their original sin? And how do Lutherans (sometimes) lose their watery regeneration? Was the loss of their (daily) new birth a result of the failure of God’s grace, or was their return to a state of condemnation (no different than the original position) a result of their “freewill”?

    Since “freewill” plays such a big part in being “good Americans”, does this mean that Romanists and Lutherans are more likely to fit into an experiment in which nobody waits for God or God’s church? By our freewill we promise each other to kill those who would kill us, and we can do this without naming any particular God with any specific law….Why be biased against those denominations (voluntary associations, Machen) that happen to be a little different?

    Oliver O’Donovan —“Public theology has an apologetic force when addressed to a world where the intelligibility of political institutions and traditions is seriously threatened.”

    Marilynne Robinson—“I am interested in American institutions and reforms that began in the Puritan Northeast. Oddly enough, the states that banned and opposed slavery after the Revolution, as they could not do while they were colonies under British law, the states that advanced women’s rights and achieved levels of literacy never before seen in the world, the states that practiced the purest forms of democracy yet seen in the world, are thought of as peculiarly harsh and intolerant.”

    https://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/5181/marilynne-robinsons-apologia-gloriae/

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  15. Vv says Ali – you quoted 2 Timothy 3:16 in response to Jeff, but ended it mid-sentence and conveniently left out verse 17: “that the MAN OF GOD may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
    -Conveniently? V17 just reinforces that we are not just told “to’ love but equipped about it (how to), so why would I conveniently leave it out.

    Vv says The context of the passage is undeniably about living a Christian life, and specifically about the pastor’s role in helping his flock live Christian lives.
    -Again, so why accuse ‘conveniently”- makes no sense ,vv

    Vv says Vv says Scripture is indeed profitable for the “training in righteousness” of other Christians, not our atheist neighbor. We should tell our neighbors of the hope found in the Gospel when appropriate, but “loving” our non-believing neighbor does not entail constantly exhorting them from Scripture.
    -I believe what I said above is – the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. And the exhorting was in response to Jeff’s belief that scripture just tells us to love. There are many ‘how’ exhortations. That is often Curt’s point, which you never acknowledge as valid with him.

    Vv says That’s the MacArthur in you coming out.
    -If the example of John MacAruthur (for the most part) ‘came out’ in me, I would be honored, because I believe his desire is to imitate Christ. vv, the Spirit would never accuse John MacArthur like you seem to be doing.

    Vv says And Scripture certainly does not dictate how we show love through societal structures or political views, as DGH, sdb, and Jeff have aptly pointed out already.
    -Jeff’s premise was that scripture tells us “to” love, not ‘how’ to which is what I disagree with. We would not even know what love is except that the Lord tells us, which it tells to believer and nonbeliever alike.

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  16. Curt,

    For example, does the command to love one’s neighbor, with the definition that the Good Samaritan parable gives to to the concept of neighbor, affect our political views, voting and activities? Do what the OT prophets wrote about injustices influence our political views, voting and activities? Or are we free to hold to political views and vote and pursue political activities that benefit us without regard for how they affect others, especially the poor and the vulnerable? Again, what does love thy neighbor got to do with it?

    I may be wrong, but I’m not sure anyone is denying that love of neighbor should be a factor in making political decisions.

    The difficulty is that it is not always clear which public policies best enable us to love our neighbors. An unbridled welfare state? Earned Income Credit or mandatory minimum wage? Freer markets or a more constrained and regulated economy? Government-backed student loans or private?

    It’s just not entirely clear. I try to take into consideration how best to love my neighbor with my vote, but I can guarantee that my votes regarding economic policy are very different than yours. Does that mean I don’t love my neighbor?

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  17. Ali – let’s cut to the chase: your point in responding to Jeff by quoting 1 Tim 3:16 was that we love our neighbor by using Scripture to exhort them. That was clearly your point, and if it wasn’t you did a horrible job communicating what your point actually is. If your point is that Scripture does tell us the “how” of loving our neighbor, then you need to say so and provide examples to support your argument. It’s poor rhetoric to quote a tangentially related passage of Scripture with no accompanying analysis.

    And Curt’s point is that the “how” to love includes specific government policies, which is what many of us dispute. Should we help our needy neighbors financially? Sure. Should we welcome them into our homes and care for them appropriately? Of course. But as Robert pointed out, it is extremely difficult to determine how to demonstrate love for neighbor with our political votes. If you disagree, I would love to see some analysis from you, ideally based on Scripture and/or historical theology.

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  18. Donald Trump—“Faith is central to American life and to liberty. Our founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Our currency declares, “In God We Trust.” And we place our hands on our hearts as we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proclaim we are “One Nation Under God.” OUR RIGHTS are not given to us by man, our rights come from our Creator . . . That is why the words “Praise Be To God” are etched atop the Washington Monument, and those same words are etched into the hearts of our people.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/protestprotest/2018/02/calvinism-un-american/

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  19. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: If your point is that Scripture does tell us the “how” of loving our neighbor, then you need to say so and provide examples to support your argument.

    vv, please read Genesis through Revelation and I hope you don’t get side tracked on premarital and extramarital activity, because I’m asking you to please read those books for the purpose to learn about what our Creator says about actual LOVE.

    Have a good weekend

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  20. Ali – we all agree on what the Bible says – it’s not helpful to tell me to read the Bible to get your point. What I’m looking for is exegesis that explains how we are to love our neighbor, especially in a political context. It appears you are unwilling or unable to provide any such exegesis or analysis.

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  21. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: Ali – we all agree on what the Bible says –

    I don’t think so. Not if we don’t think the bible tells us more than ‘to’ love.
    If we did agree on that though, we could agree it should be a very, very short book-maybe a small single-sided triple-spaced pamphlet and maybe accompanied by a single exhortation – something like “God says to love, so do that (if you want to)”.

    It seems not only do we not agree on the bible’s content, we also don’t agree on who the bible is for. It is for Christians and potential Christians -faith comes by hearing; that would include us, even before God saved-us, atheists, agnostics, unsaved adults, children, and infants(even including the nonbelieving- infant-baptized)

    Does God want all of His image bearers engaged and influential in their country? Yes.

    On two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets… and everything.

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  22. Great, Ali. in 100 words or less lay out the biblical program for gun control (if any) and immigration restriction (if any) for 21st century capitalist Western pluralistic democracies. This should be a piece of cake.

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  23. JRC: The Scripture teaches us *to* love our neighbor. In most matters, it does not teach us *how* to do that.

    Ali: It doesn’t?

    That’s correct, it doesn’t. In *most matters* — the bazillion choices in life such as wearing red vs blue vs bright orange, supporting BLM or not, watching anime over live-action, taking German vs French vs Spanish, choosing to frequent OldLife or spending time elsewhere — Scripture does not teach us which choice is preferred.

    It *does* teach us to use our goods as though the world were passing away (1 Cor 7). It *does* teach us to glorify God in all things. It *does* teach us to love our neighbor. Those are, in educational parlance, “higher-order goals.” That is, God tells us an end goal, which is “love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Tim 1.5).

    He does not give a lot of lower-order instructions about how that is to happen. We know some things, such as “don’t lie”, “don’t hate your brother”, “don’t show preference to the rich.” We are not told many other things.

    Paul: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

    Amen. But now, be careful not to transfer the quantifier. Just because all Scripture is inspired and profitable, does not mean that it tells me all answers to every question I might have. It turns out that we need practice to discern good and evil, in addition to reading the Word and putting it into practice.

    Ali: we also don’t agree on who the bible is for. It is for Christians and potential Christians -faith comes by hearing; that would include us, even before God saved-us, atheists, agnostics, unsaved adults, children, and infants(even including the nonbelieving- infant-baptized)

    Actually, we do agree: The Bible is for Christians, and it is also for potential Christians. However, it has two different messages to those two audiences.

    To the non-Christian, the Bible has Law and Gospel. The Law tells the non-Christian one thing: this you must do, in order to live. And since the non-Christian cannot, he must also hear the Gospel: Christ obeyed the law on your behalf, provided that you believe on Him. (@McMark: before you get upset about “free offer”, parse the logic carefully).

    To the Christian, the Bible also has Law and Gospel. In addition to the functions above, the Law tells the Christian how to live out of love for God, as one who is saved by grace. The Bible cannot tell a non-Christian how to live as one saved by grace.

    Ali: Does God want all of His image bearers engaged and influential in their country? Yes.

    Verse?

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  24. @Curt

    For if the Bible silent because some of the issues we face today were not faced directly by those whom God used to write the Bible, then we should assume that we are free to do as we please or that we need abstract from what we have learned from the scriptures to what we face today?

    You are posing a false dilemma. The fact that the Bible is silent on some issue (for whatever reason) does not entail that we are free to do as we please. It means that the Church lacks the authority to discipline members over the issue. Reason also provides guidance on how we should organize and govern the polis. Holding nutty political views (say anarcho-libertarianism) may get you banished from polite society, but it shouldn’t get you barred from the table at church.

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  25. Jeff–To the non-Christian, the Bible has Law and Gospel.

    Richard Gaffin, by Faith not by Sight, p 103–”The law-gospel antithesis enters NOT BY VIRTUE OF CREATION..but as the consequence of sin…The gospel is to the purpose of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis IN THE LIFE OF THE BELIEVER…”

    John Murray, The Covenant of Grace— “The continued enjoyment of grace and of the relation established is contingent upon the fulfillment of certain conditions. Grace bestowed implies a subject and reception on the part of that subject. The conditions in view are not conditions of bestowal. They are the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing is inconceivable….the breaking of the covenant is unfaithfulness to a relation constituted and to grace dispensed. By breaking the covenant what is broken is not the condition of bestowal but the condition of consummated fruition.”

    John Wesley, Working Out Our Own Salvation—“Allowing that all persons are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing that there is no man in a state of nature only. There is no man, unless he has quenched the Holy Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace he has.”

    Mark Jones– “The definition of grace as God’s favor in the place of demerit is, I believe, wrong-headed because Christ received God’s grace. Christ was also endowed with the habits of grace in order to keep the terms of the covenant. In order to keep the Adam-Christ parallels, we must not abandon the concept of GRACE GIVEN THEM BOTH but actually affirm it. It has been a peculiar oddity that some assume that the parallels between the two Adams means that Adam could not have received the grace of God because Christ did not. But this view is based on the fatal assumption that God was not gracious to Christ in any sense.”

    Mark Jones—Adam’s obedience WAS MADE POSSIBLE not because he obeyed simply in his own strength, but also because Adam had assisting grace from God….Adam persisted in the garden by grace and ‘grace was not taken from him before he had sinned.” http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/merit-could-adam-merit-anythin.php

    Jeff, I thank you for your continued interest. I know you don’t like my quotations without some summary from me of why I am using them. I am asking you if “the offer” itself is grace? Does'”common grace” include “the offer of saving grace”

    Do the non-elect who hear “Christ died for you provided you…” receive more grace (and thus more condemnation) than the non-elect who do not hear the offer?

    Do the non-elect who hear “Christ kept the law for you provided you…” receive more grace (and thus more condemnation) than the non-elect who do not hear the offer?

    Mark Jones is saying that Christ was under grace, and to me that means that it was not strict justice that satisfied God’s law by Christ’s death. Mark Jones is also saying that Adam was under grace, and to me that means that grace failed because Adam didn’t keep obeying the gospel. I don’t know which one of these two statements is worse!

    Gaffin is saying that the law-gospel antithesis enters only as a consequence of sin, and to me that means that Adam’s sin was as much about not believing the gospel as it was about obeying the law.

    Mark Jones is saying that Adam did not sin because God took away grace, and to me that means that God took away grace because Adam sinned .

    To explain a bit more, Jeff, I do disagree with people on both sides of the “could Adam earn lie from the law” question. I say that Christ earned life for the elect by Christ’s death (for the sins of the elect—and if you believe the gospel, even your believing the gospel was purchased by Christ’s death).

    I Peter 1: 18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the FATHERS….but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 Christ was chosen before the foundation of the ages but was revealed at the end of the ages for YOU WHO THROUGH HIM ARE BELIEVERS in God who raised Him from the dead

    2 Thessalonians 1: 7 Reward with rest… will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, 8 taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t OBEY THE GOSPEL of our Lord Jesus.

    On one side, those like John Murray and Mark Jones deny that Adam could merit life from the law, because they say Adam was under grace even before Adam’s sin.
    On the other side, many deny that Christ could merit life from His death because they insist that Christ could only merit life “by keeping the law”. Those who affirm “the covenant of works” are not saying that Christ’s death satisfied “the covenant of works”. What they are saying is that Christ keeping the Mosaic law is what satisfied “the covenant of works”.

    Romans 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
    Romans 3:31 is someties used to support “use of the second table as the standard of conduct” for Christ’s creatures. But in context, Romans 3:21-31 is the doctrine of a definite (not only sovereign but also just) atonement, because Romans 3:31 teaches that Christ’s death was a law-work, a satisfaction of law for the sins of the elect.

    The gospel is not about an “end-run” around God’s law. Christ’s death not only took the law head-on, satisfying its curse for the elect but also purchasing faith for everyone for whom Christ died so that all these elect believe the gospel. Christ’s death was not something provisional, depending on what some sinners would or would not do with that death. Christ’s death even provided the work of the Spirit needed by all those who believe and continue to believe the gospel.

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  26. Jesus didn’t talk about the kingdom…. alot?
    From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He said pray this way “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

    Yes. He also said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
    He also said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
    The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to tell us to submit to and honor the emperor (either Caligula, Claudius, or Nero) – none very savory gentlemen. Nowhere does the NT advocate for resistance (a common stance among many Jews in that era). One might think that resisting evil tyrants would be one way to love one’s neighbor, yet the NT doesn’t in suggest that we should.

    I don’t think so. Not if we don’t think the bible tells us more than ‘to’ love.

    No one is suggesting that the bible only tells us to love. God’s word reveals all sorts of things. But it does not reveal everything. If I want to know how to legally build a house, I go here. I’m pretty sure that you can search the Bible and never, ever find how to properly build a house. If you want to follow the law and love our neighbor by building a safe wall, you might start with regulation R602.1.1 and note that “Sawn lumber shall be identified by a grade mark of an accredited lumber grading or inspection agency and have design values certified by an accreditation body that complies with DOC PS 20. in lieu of a grade mark, a certification of inspection issued by a lumber grading or inspection agency meeting the requirements of this section shall be accepted.” Now, you might think that it is a terrible idea that a certification of inspection should be accepted in lieu of a grade mark. And I might think that this is a reasonable accommodation. And VV might think that it is outrageous that any kind of grade mark or certification of inspection is required. The church doesn’t get to decide who is right and discipline dissenters because the Bible doesn’t have anything to say about the certification of sawn lumber. There are literally millions of laws and regulations that govern residential construction, commercial construction, medical policy, hygiene, fire safety, criminal justice procedure, rules of engagement, and on and on and on it goes. And the Bible has absolutely nothing to say about the optimal number of smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, maximum capacity, number of exits, sterilization procedures for medical instruments, how often one should wash one’s hands, and so forth.

    Now the Kuyperians make grand claims about how EVERY square inch of the earth, EVERY job, EVERY endeavor should be brought under the authority of Christ. But if the Church is the body of Christ and the manifestation of Kingdom on earth, then this means that everything is under the Church’s jurisdiction. There really are people who take this to its logical end and exclude any and all neutral territory. It sounds quite spiritual, but it is in reality legalism. The scope of the Church’s authority is limited because Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. The church does not have any institutional interest in whether a member thinks that sawn lumber should be identified by a grade mark or whether inspection in lieu of a mark is acceptable.

    That does not entail that the Bible has nothing to say about how we live. It has lots to say. For unbelievers, it condemns them because they discover that they can never live up to God’s standard. For believers, it leads us to the gospel and gratitude to Christ for having kept the law on our behalf and shows us how to live. But it mostly shows us principles, for the most part scripture does not give us concrete dos and don’ts.

    Now if you disagree with this analysis (or VV’s or Jeff’s – I think we are mostly on the same page here), provide a biblical case for it. Condescending orders to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation (as if we don’t read and reflect on scripture) help no one. Given how often you have misread comments here and had to be corrected, I would think you would engage a bit more humbly and make sure you first understand our position before going on the attack.

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  27. sdb,
    First, I am not posing a false dilemma. Why? Because I have already noted that there are multiple reasons why the Bible is silent on issues. There isn’t a single reason. Sometimes, it as you say, the Church has no basis for mandating what believers should do. But sometimes is not all of the time. Sometimes, the Bible doesn’t address specific issues because they were not face by those God used to write the Bible. I have already noted two of those issues.

    Second, applying regulative principle can result in making us literalists when, in fact, we need to think abstractly. That has been my whole point about the parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable, the Good Samaritan had to think abstractly in terms of what it meant to love victim he came across. There were no specific Biblical guidelines for him to follow. Rather, he had to follow the rule of love. So along with concern for the poor, which is a concern expressed by both the OT prophets, Jesus and Paul, some of our practices and beliefs should be governed by love of neighbor realizing who was the neighbor to the victim in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

    Third, one of the faults attributed to religiously conservative Christians is that they are sanctifying selfishness. Limiting whom we are to love and freeing people to love wealth are ways we reinforce those attributions. Focusing on individual sins while denying corporate sins is another way we reinforce those attributions. Here we are talking about the reputation of the Gospel and providing stumblings blocks to those who otherwise might listen to those preaching and teaching the Scriptures.

    Finally, it is true that Christians aren’t directed into specific political parties or ideologies by the Scriptures. At the same time, it is clear which ideologies or which parts of ideologies we should oppose if we are to avoid being confomred to the world.

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  28. Robert,
    Please see my note to sdb. Part of it covers your concerns. I would add that when we see economic structures that foster economic exploitation, militarism and interventions that replace democratically elected leaders with tyrants, and economic practices and ways of life that attack the environment, then it is clear what we should oppose. What cloudy is what we should support.

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  29. First, I am not posing a false dilemma. Why? Because I have already noted that there are multiple reasons why the Bible is silent on issues.

    You are missing the dilemma you posed: If the Bible is silent on an issue EITHER we are free to do as we please OR we need to abstract from the scriptures principals to guide us on issues unique to our era. These two options do not exhaust our options. The Bible does not tell us whether the Sun orbits the Earth or whether the Earth orbits the Sun, therefore, the church does not have the authority to condemn my conclusion on the matter. That does not mean that I am free to believe either option. Rather there is a different source of information I have access to arrive at the truth of the matter. The same might hold true for a wide swath of public policy questions before us.

    Sometimes, the Bible doesn’t address specific issues because they were not face by those God used to write the Bible. I have already noted two of those issues.

    I missed those. Can you remind me what they are?

    Second, applying regulative principle can result in making us literalists when, in fact, we need to think abstractly. That has been my whole point about the parable of the Good Samaritan.

    I quibble with your exegesis of the parable of the Good Samaritan, but let’s say the point is that we should have the broadest understanding of who are neighbor is and that we are to “love” (i.e., consider the welfare of) everyone around us. I agree that we should love our neighbor as our selves. That doesn’t give us any guide for politics. It doesn’t tell us that the way we help the poor is through governmental advocacy, it doesn’t tell us how to prioritize trade-offs, what the most effective policies will be, or who should be managing support for the poor.

    The fact that the church does not have the authority to mandate a particular path does not entail that we don’t have other authorities to whom we are beholden.

    Third, one of the faults attributed to religiously conservative Christians is that they are sanctifying selfishness.

    Only by lying liars who lie about their ability to divine the motives of people whose politics they dislike.

    Limiting whom we are to love and freeing people to love wealth are ways we reinforce those attributions.

    I don’t think anyone is arguing there is any limit to whom we are to love. We are to love EVERYONE. Our friends and family, strangers on the street, and our neighbors (including the child molesters, kids who shoot up schools, those who advocate for more guns in society, Ayn Rand acolytes, and snarky blog commenters who disagree with all of our political views).

    Focusing on individual sins while denying corporate sins is another way we reinforce those attributions. Here we are talking about the reputation of the Gospel and providing stumblings blocks to those who otherwise might listen to those preaching and teaching the Scriptures.

    So I should compromise my political convictions because my political views purportedly cause offense to people who share your political priorities? That’s a curious stance. Do you face the same obligation? Your leftwing political views are a stumbling block for these guys. Let’s not forget that all that love your neighbor stuff is what offended Nietzsche (and seems to be a sticking point for a number of neo-pagan alt-right types).

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  30. I would add that when we see economic structures that foster economic exploitation, militarism and interventions that replace democratically elected leaders with tyrants, and economic practices and ways of life that attack the environment, then it is clear what we should oppose. What cloudy is what we should support.

    Exploitation is awfully subjective. What you call exploitation, others call opportunity. Perhaps disagreeing isn’t a mark of good faith?
    -One is going to have a really hard time putting together an exegetical argument against militarism and Real Politic. -There is nothing in scripture that confers the legitimacy of office on the basis of majoritarian politics. Vassal treatises were acceptable in the OT – perhaps they could be acceptable today. Personally, I think interventionism is a terrible idea, but it isn’t a terrible idea because of what we learn from scripture and Christians who support interventionism are not sinning.
    -Taking care of the environment is a really good idea for a variety of reasons. There is no basis in scripture of environmentalism though. An appeal to loving your neighbor doesn’t help either. Loving your neighbor by banning fossil fuels makes your neighbors poorer by making energy more expensive, puts a lot of people out of work, etc… Now perhaps that is what we should do But I can understand why some might be less concerned. They would be wrong, but they wouldn’t be sinning.

    So it isn’t at all clear to me what I should oppose.

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  31. Amen Curt.

    cw l’unificateur says: This should be a piece of cake.
    -Anything in life is a piece of cake? Wish I’d known that sooner

    Jeff Cagle Ali: Does God want all of His image bearers engaged and influential in their country? Yes. Verse?
    -Alternative: not engaged and influential where one lives(as the Lord leads)
    Matthew 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

    sdb says: Condescending orders to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation (as if we don’t read and reflect on scripture) help no one.
    -If one thinks God condones premarital and extra marital sex (eg), that it can be parallelled to responsible alcohol consumption, as if consuming another is not despicable, and that it loves, glorifies, reflects God…then yes, much more reflecting is needed, in my opinion

    Just checked – the Westminster larger catechism does not even mention a single time, man’s response of love to God. Incredible. Maybe that’s why one loves to promote the ear-tickling serious error ‘one-way love’ or ‘no strings attached’ and some buy in.

    Since God is love -and eternal life is knowing God -and there are only two great commandments on which everything hinge -and seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (love), through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence… suggesting to read Genesis through Revelation with the goal of seeing and studying God’s character consistent with His perfect love seems like a good idea.

    Since God’s plan for His children is to become conformed to the image of His Son (God is love) and we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit, saying to read Genesis through Revelation with the goal of seeing and studying God’s character consistent with His perfect love seems like a good idea. I think I gotta go it.

    But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
    The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
    Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

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  32. sdb,
    No, exploitation is really experienced by a great a number of people. When the economic system makes people into disposable objects for profit, you have exploitation. When the economic system says that you either accept poverty wages or be unemployed, you have exploitation. When you have trafficked labor, you have exploitation. When your own nation overthrows gov’ts or helps dictators stay in power because it helps our nation’s business interests, you have exploitation.

    There is nothing subjective about it. People are exploited and you say that their exploitation is subjective for only one reason: they are being exploited instead of you.

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  33. Curt,

    No, exploitation is really experienced by a great a number of people.

    Well, a lot of people say they are exploited, but the question is are they really being exploited?

    When the economic system says that you either accept poverty wages or be unemployed, you have exploitation.

    If you are so concerned about poverty, are you advocating for a $10,000 per hour minimum wage? That would make us all fabulously wealthy, right? I’m waiting for the people who whine about poverty wages to actually propose something that will help. Or maybe Jesus was right that we will always have the poor among us…

    When your own nation overthrows gov’ts or helps dictators stay in power because it helps our nation’s business interests, you have exploitation.

    I agree with this, but you’re describing every government that has ever existed in the history of the world.

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  34. McMark,

    Mark Jones is saying that Christ was under grace

    Mark Jones is simply wrong on this. As he is on many other things. I mean, you can say creation was a gracious act because God didn’t have to make the world. But beyond that, to say Christ was under grace is to come perilously close to affirming the RC doctrine of what man was like before the fall.

    Gaffin is saying that the law-gospel antithesis enters only as a consequence of sin, and to me that means that Adam’s sin was as much about not believing the gospel as it was about obeying the law.

    I’m not sure you’re reading Gaffin right here, but I could be wrong. You have to say that the law-gospel antithesis enters only as a consequence of sin because if there is no sin, there is no gospel and no need of the gospel. And you have to say that law and gospel are opposed only in justification. The gospel frees us to observe God’s commandments in our sanctification.

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  35. @Ali

    Jeff Cagle Ali: Does God want all of His image bearers engaged and influential in their country? Yes. Verse?
    -Alternative: not engaged and influential where one lives(as the Lord leads)

    That’s not the alternative. Paul enjoins us to work quietly with our hands and mind our business. He also tells us to honor the emperor and submit to the government. Peter tells us to always be ready to give a reason for our hope. Jesus tells us to let our light shine before men. All of these are consistent as they form a picture of believers not working to change an empire, but to live their lives quietly while sharing the gospel with those around them. Over the course of a few centuries, that may lead to political changes, but it is by no means guaranteed.

    sdb says: Condescending orders to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation (as if we don’t read and reflect on scripture) help no one.
    -If one thinks God condones premarital and extra marital sex (eg), that it can be parallelled to responsible alcohol consumption, as if consuming another is not despicable, and that it loves, glorifies, reflects God…then yes, much more reflecting is needed, in my opinion

    Perhaps, but that isn’t the topic of conversation here. As I recall you didn’t have an exegetical answer to VV’s charge that porneia does not encompass fornication. Perhaps if you were less snarky and condescending (dare I say loving?), you would get a hearing from VV on this?

    Just checked – the Westminster larger catechism does not even mention a single time, man’s response of love to God. Incredible. Maybe that’s why one loves to promote the ear-tickling serious error ‘one-way love’ or ‘no strings attached’ and some buy in.

    Incredible indeed. You might check WLC 102, 104, 110, 160, 16, 182, 185, and 191. Your determination to find fault leads you astray.

    Since God is love -and eternal life is knowing God -and there are only two great commandments on which everything hinge -and seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (love), through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence… suggesting to read Genesis through Revelation with the goal of seeing and studying God’s character consistent with His perfect love seems like a good idea.

    There is a way that seems right… The questions on the table is what the scripture tells us about *how* to love our neighbor. You charged VV with just not knowing what the Bible has to say – trying to apply a patina of spirituality to your suggestion now looks more like an attempt to save face. Perhaps you would find it helpful to reflect on WLC 143-145.

    Since God’s plan for His children is to become conformed to the image of His Son (God is love) and we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit, saying to read Genesis through Revelation with the goal of seeing and studying God’s character consistent with His perfect love seems like a good idea. I think I gotta go it.

    I’m not following you here. Yes, we should all reflect on his Word – his Word is life. That doesn’t change the fact that telling someone to just go read the Bible when they disagree with you is decidedly uncharitable (unloving).

    But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
    The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
    Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

    Yep… as they say, charity begins at home. It is easy to be charitable towards one’s fellow man in the abstract. The true test of one’s love is whether one is charitable towards others when they aren’t terribly lovely (especially on the internet).

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  36. @Robert Do you know if commenters here not named dgh are allowed to hand out “dings”? If so, then ding, ding, ding! If not, then I’ll just say I concur!

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  37. I am glad that we agree that Adam was not under grace. Obeying the law is not believing the gospel. The grace of the gospel is not an increased ability to obey (more) the law.

    The creature’s obligation to obey the law is not based on the creature’s ability to obey the law. The not yet Christian’s duty to obey the law is not based on that sinner’s potential to become a Christian. The Christian’s profession of having already been justified before God’s law by Christ’s death does not change Christ’s definition of sin or the Christian’s obligation to obey divine law.

    Despite Stoddard’s halfway covenant”, the “potential Christian” is neither commanded nor invited to “the means of grace”. Sinners are not under law because of some offer of grace that might potentially leave them (more?) condemned. By the imputation of Adam’s sin, all of us sinners are born under law but our beginning in condemnation does not eliminate our duties to obey the law and to obey the gospel.

    Lutheran Mark Seifrid—-According to the puritan perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. …. The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous. The puritans regard the “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us.
    …In contrast, we find a radically different anthropology in Scripture . The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written.

    http://equip.sbts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/sbjt_102_sum06-seifrid1.pdf

    Calvin ( Institutes 3:2:20)— “In God faith seeks life: a life that is not found in commandments or declarations of penalties, but only in a freely given promise of mercy. For a conditional promise that sends us back to our own works does not promise life unless we discern its presence in ourselves.”

    Dan Fuller (p 81, The Unity of the Bible) “In commenting on Genesis 2:17 -do not eat from that tree–Calvin said, `These words are so far from establishing faith that they do nothing but shake faith. I argue, however, that there is much reason for regarding these words as well suited to strengthen Adam and Eve’s faith…In Calvin’s thinking, the promise made in Genesis 2:17 could never encourage faith, for its conditionality could encourage only meritorious works.”

    Daniel Fuller, Gospel and Law— To maintain an adversative relationship between Romans 10:5 and 10: 6-8 necessitates either conceding that the Pentateuch can state such opposites or that Paul, while holding to the intended meaning of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5, nevertheless ignored the intended meaning of Deuteronomy 30:11-14

    John Murray ( Appendix B “Leviticus 18:5” from his Romans commentary)–”The problem that arises from this use of Leviticus 18:5 is that the text does not appear in a context that deals with legal righteousness as opposed to that of faith. The text is in a context in which the claims of God upon his redeemed and covenant people are being asserted … It refers NOT to the life accruing from doing in a legalistic framework but to the blessing attendant upon obedience in a redemptive covenant relationship to God.” How could the apostle have taken a text which, in context, appears to refer to sanctification works of a redeemed person within the covenant community, and apply that text to individuals seeking the righteousness of justification on the basis of their doing the law?”

    John Murray, The Covenant of Grace— “The continued enjoyment of grace and of the relation established is contingent upon the fulfillment of certain conditions. Grace bestowed implies a subject and reception on the part of that subject. The conditions in view are not conditions of bestowal. They are the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing is inconceivable….the breaking of the covenant is unfaithfulness to a relation constituted and to grace dispensed. By breaking the covenant what is broken is not the condition of bestowal but the condition of consummated fruition.”

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  38. Ali, your search of the WLC was incomplete. Qn 102 is the first of several mentions of our obligation to love God.

    Further, no-one here accepts anything close to a “one-way love” theology.

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  39. Robert–You have to say that the law-gospel antithesis enters only as a consequence of sin because if there is no sin, there is no gospel and no need of the gospel.

    mcmark- There was no gospel before Adam sinned. There was no offer before Adam sinned. There was law before Adam sinned. Adam sinned against God’s commandment.

    Robert—And you have to say that law and gospel are opposed only in justification

    mcmark–I have no reason to know what you mean by “only in justification”. First, you would have to define “sanctification” and not simply by saying “that which is not justification”. Second, you would have to explain what “are opposed” means. The law is not grace. The gospel is not the law. But law and gospel are both in God’s purpose. Christ’s death satisfies the law for the elect. God’s redemption of the elect is not done by lawbreaking or something illegal. God is both just and justifier of the elect ungodly. God’s sovereignty does not eliminate God’s righteousness.

    Romans 3: 21 But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law

    Romans 3: 26 God presented Christ as a Propitiation to demonstrate God’s righteousness at the present time, so that God would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.

    Romans 3: 31 Do we then cancel the law through faith? Absolutely not! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

    John Murray, “Justification”, Collected Writings—While it makes void the gospel to introduce works in connection with justification, nevertheless works done in faith, from the motive of love to God, in obedience to the revealed will of God will be the criterion of reward in the life to come. (i) This future reward is not justification and contributes nothing to that which constitutes justification. (ii) This future reward is not salvation. Salvation is by grace and it is not as a reward for works that we are saved. (iii) The reward has reference to the degree of glory bestowed in the state of bliss, that is, the station a person is to occupy in glory and does not have reference to the gift of glory itself… These works could not be rewarded of grace if these works were principally and intrinsically evil.

    John Murray did not always agree with the John Murray quotation above about “works in connection with justification”.

    Gaffin— For Calvin, in the application of redemption, a) the inception of union with Christ is antecedent to both justification and sanctification, and b) justification and sanctification, the latter in its inception, are coincidental…Union carries with it justification and sanctification. Being united to Christ “in faith” effects justification and sanctification.

    Calvin–3.16.1 Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker in his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces [1 Cor. 1:13]. Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy, he bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other. Thus it is clear how true it is that we are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness.

    Gaffin– Union is broader and deeper than either justification or sanctification(the Spirit’s renovating work) . It needs to be appreciated that in Calvin (and Scripture) in the application of redemption the organic embraces both the forensic and the renovative….The reason for treating sanctification before justification, Calvin says, is to make clear “how little devoid of good works” justifying faith is. Sanctifying faith, faith disposed toward holy living, is the same faith that justifies. Certainly, this does not mean that faith justifies because it sanctifies ….Faith as justifying and faith as sanctifying are not different faiths, nor are these exercises somehow separable.

    http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=140

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  40. R. Scott Clark March 27, 2009 —Mr Murray’s doctrine of definitive sanctification is essential to Dr Gaffin’s doctrine of existential union.

    https://heidelblog.net/2009/08/what-is-definitive-sanctification-and-is-it-reformed/#comment-9487

    Brandon Adams–“John Murray recognized that the principle found in Leviticus 18:5 and Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12 must be the same. Murray argued that if the principle found in Leviticus 18:5 is part of the terms of the Covenant of Grace, then that principle is not part of the terms of a Covenant of Works…. As John Murray began to work through Westminster’s.. appeal to Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12, we see progression in his thought in the wrong direction – towards a false gospel of justification by works. Murray slammed on the breaks, but without a consistent explanation as to why – leaving it to his successors to work out.”

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  41. @Ali My reference to WLC 16 above should be WLC162. Sorry about that. While the Westminster Standards are a terrific summary of the main teachings of scripture, I prefer the Three Forms of Unity – this is more of stylistic difference I think. I’m not a nimble enough theologian to identify any particular discrepancies between the English and Continental standards. When our kids were in elementary school, we used the Heidelberg Catechism to instruct them. Our middle/high schoolers use the WSC for the catechism portion memory program that our church runs, so we are working with that now with our kids. At any rate, that is all background for this portion of the Belgic confession that I think also addresses your concern about love of God quite explicitly. I think it is consistent with what is taught in the Westminster standards, but perhaps makes the point you are concerned about more explicitly. It is from Article 24 on Sanctification:

    We believe that this true faith, produced in us by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates us and makes us new creatures,[58] causing us to live a new life[59] and freeing us from the slavery of sin. Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned. So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,”[60] which moves people to do by themselves the works that God has commanded in the Word.

    These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by God’s grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification— for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place. So then, we do good works, but not for merit— for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not God to us, since God “is at work in [us], enabling [us] both to will and to work for his good pleasure”[61] —thus keeping in mind what is written: “When you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.’“[62]

    Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works— but it is by grace that God crowns these gifts. Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work. So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.

    [58] 2 Cor. 5:17
    [59] Rom. 6:4
    [60] Gal. 5:6
    [61] Phil. 2:13
    [62] Luke 17:10

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  42. Curt, it is hardly literalist to read a text and see that it is talking about sin and salvation, not gun control.

    Just admit you want the warrant of holy writ for your “socialist” politics.

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  43. Curt, “I am not posing a false dilemma. Why? Because I have already noted that there are multiple reasons why the Bible is silent on issues. There isn’t a single reason.”

    Neither are there many reasons for the Bible’s silence. You don’t know (nor do I).

    The constitution is silent on marriage. So the founders didn’t think marriage was important?

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  44. Curt, “When the economic system makes people into disposable objects for profit, you have exploitation.”

    That’s like, your interpretation, man. There are other interpretations.

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  45. Wow, this has gotten to be quite the busy thread.

    McMark: (1) I am asking you if “the offer” itself is grace? (2) Does’”common grace” include “the offer of saving grace” (3a) Do the non-elect who hear “Christ died for you provided you…” receive more grace (and thus more condemnation) than the non-elect who do not hear the offer? (3b) Do the non-elect who hear “Christ kept the law for you provided you…” receive more grace (and thus more condemnation) than the non-elect who do not hear the offer?

    (1) Not in the sense of being accompanied by a work of the Spirit. In a very limited sense, it is gracious (ie, giving the opposite of what is deserved) to declare the only means by which they might, hypothetically, be saved.

    (2) No, those two theological terms are usually taken as antonyms.

    (3) See (1).

    I think what’s possibly confusing you is that you want to take God’s point of view and man’s point of view simultaneously. God knows who is elect. From His point of view, arranging for a non-elect person to hear the gospel — which has no lasting effect — is not offering anything that they will accept. So the words “Whosoever believes in me will not perish…” are accompanied with God’s knowledge, and indeed determination, of who the whosoever will be.

    Men don’t have the luxury of knowing that information. So when we share the gospel with others, we are freely proclaiming God’s grace. When we proclaim that “whosoever believes…”, that could include, as far as we know, every single hearer.

    So there are multiple errors to avoid. The first is obviously Wesley’s, to say that everyone *can* believe and already has sufficient grace to believe. That’s simply not true, per John 6.44. The second is to stare so hard at the truth of election that we try to make the elect status a precondition for our actions. That is an error because it conditions our actions on something entirely unknowable. In so doing, it obviates the command of Christ to preach the gospel to all the nations.

    Acting as a human requires thinking as a human: We don’t know who is elect. So when we offer the gospel, we most certainly offer it freely and to all. As Paul says: “I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” In wishing for all of them to become Christian, he isn’t complaining about God’s election. Rather, he’s simply speaking according to the knowledge and job that he has: To preach to all.

    Likewise, when we baptize our children, we are giving them a sign that is a promise from God: If you believe, your sins will be washed away. That sign is given to them not because we *know* that they are elect, nor because we believe that baptizing them makes them so, nor even because we suspect that they have “infant faith” (which is certainly possible, but is probably not the norm).

    Rather, that sign is given to them because God said to do it. Earlier or in another thread, you said that Reformed folk flatten out the post-fall covenants in order to defend baptizing our children. That’s exactly backwards. We baptize our children because we understand God’s command to Abraham to apply to us, because we are children of Abraham.

    Abraham applied the seal of faith, circumcision, to his children because of God’s command. He didn’t refuse to give them the sign until they had the faith. He didn’t peer into the deep recesses of God’s hidden election and demand that his children show themselves elect as a prior condition.

    So also, because we are children of Abraham, we do as Abraham did. We apply the seal of faith, baptism, to our children because of God’s command. We do not refuse them the sign until they convince us that they are elect.

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  46. McMark: Mark Jones is saying that Christ was under grace, and to me that means that it was not strict justice that satisfied God’s law by Christ’s death.

    I agree with your interpretation of MJ and join you in rejecting that quote. I think Turretin does a much better job with the covenants. In particular, he makes a sharp distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace in this way:

    (1) The CoW is “of nature” — it depended upon Adam acting out of his own nature, unassisted. By contrast, the CoG is “of grace” — God graciously enables the fulfillment of the condition (faith).

    (2) the CoW is “of works” because the reward was contingent on the works of the covenantee. The CoG is “of faith” because the reward is contingent on the works of another, imputed through faith.

    (3) The CoW is “legal” because the condition was obedience to the command. the CoG is “evangelical” because the condition is to trust in another.

    If you can, I strongly recommend reading Turretin, for two reasons. First, he is very clear and level-headed, and I was greatly edified by the reading of it. Second, he represents the 18th cent consensus Reformed view, and indeed the view that came over to America through Old Princeton — Hodge the elder assigned Turretin (in Latin!) to his students. So if you want to have a better historical understanding of the Reformed faith, Turretin is a must-read.

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  47. There are those who never think we disagree, they just think I am ignorant and confused and don’t understand.

    Jeff—I think what’s possibly confusing you is that you want to take God’s point of view and man’s point of view simultaneously. God knows who is elect.

    mcmark—The gospel tells us that God has an elect people for whom Christ died. The gospel does not tell us who is elect and not elect. Those who continue to believe the false gospel until they die are not elect. This makes it important that the gospel tells us that all will be justified (and stay justified) for whom Christ died.

    The truth of election is not “I am elect”. Nobody who has not believed the gospel knows that they are elect. The “truth of election” is that Christ died only for the sins of the elect.

    God imputed all the sins of all the elect to Christ. The gospel is not that Christ died for everybody and offers to save everybody. Nor is the gospel that God offers to save those for whom Christ never died (as a propitiation or to purchase faith in the gospel)

    Even if our parents are Mormons, the Bible still commands us to believe the gospel and promises us that those who believe the gospel will be saved. Not all the children of Abraham are children of Abraham. (you can read it in Turretin, or in Romans 9).

    But the gospel is NOT—if and when you are ready

    The gospel is God saying: When God is Ready
    God already elected you (or not)
    Christ already died for you (or not)

    The gospel is NOT -well if God has an elect, then It doesn’t matter what I believe or I don’t even need to believe

    The gospel is Christ saying, I am ready, into your hands I hand over my spirit
    The gospel is Christ saying–, now when and as I please, I will NOT sin like Adam did, now I am pleased to OBEY the Father by my DEATH for all those the Father has given me.

    That’s God’s perspective. That’s the gospel God has revealed to us. It doesn’t tell us that we ourselves are loved and elected. We can’t know that until after we believe the gospel. But our believing the gospel does not cause God’s love to happen. God’s love causes the believing to happen because God’s love caused the death for the loved to happen.

    The gospel tell us that the good news, the only grace, is the Father giving His Son for all those who will not perish.

    Nathan J. Langerak, –What Mark Jones means by “consequent conditions” is that they are new conditions of salvation imposed on the saved person because the person is now saved No benefits applied by God before faith is exercised by the sinner ? Is not faith itself given by God and purchased by Christ before faith is exercised? What about regeneration?

    https://rfpa.org/blogs/news/the-charge-of-antinomianism-3-against-an-unconditional-covenant

    Jeff–In a very limited sense, the offer is gracious to declare the only means by which they might, hypothetically, be saved

    mcmark–1. You didn’t answer my questions about possible “even worse sanctions” for those given the offer (or born in the covenant”
    2. The “limited sense” is limited to NOTHING. The Holy Spirit does not every use the false gospel to save sinners. But even with the true gospel, without the Holy Spirit there is no grace for those who will perish. Or do you agree with Wesley that at least now it’s kosher for God to condemn sinners now that God has given them “grace in a limited sense?
    3. An atonement in which no sins were imputed to Christ and in which no wrath was taken away by propitiation is not good news, does not give glory to God, and is not revealed in the Bible.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. dgh–Roman Catholicism in its most distinct expression was not necessarily a respecter of the sort of freedoms that allow the Amish and Orthodox Jews to practice their faiths. Like Neo-Calvinism, Roman Catholicism is not content with a personal faith. Religion is not a private affair but needs to take root in all areas of life — and there goes political liberalism.

    mcmark—Now that the WCF has been revised (decoupled from its earlier distinct expressions) is it a “respecter of freedoms that allow” in the sense of benevolent “tolerance “(grace) or is the revision of the WCF itself a positive affirmation of “political liberalism”? I keep asking that question. Or have we become so liberal that the answer depends on if you are dgh or somebody else who wants some of both Tables of the Ten Commandments enforced?

    Do we confine ourselves to revision of the WCF in terms of magistrates or do we talk about Leviticus 18:5 and WCF 19:6?

    Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs, and binds them to walk accordingly;[b] discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives;[c] so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin;[d] together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience.[e]
    It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin:[f] and the THREATENINGS of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.[g]
    The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof;[h] although not as due to them by the law, as a covenant of works.[i]
    So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace.[j]

    [a] Rom. 6:14; Gal. 2:16; Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:4, 5; Acts 13:39; Rom. 8:1
    [b] Rom. 7:12, 22, 25; Ps. 119:4, 5, 6; I Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23
    [c] Rom. 7:7; Rom. 3:20
    [d] James 1:23, 24, 25; Rom. 7:9, 14, 24
    [e] Gal. 3:24; Rom. 7:24, 25; Rom. 8:3, 4
    [f] Jam. 2:11; Ps. 119:101, 104, 128
    [g] Ezra 9:13, 14; Ps. 89:30, 31, 32, 33, 34
    [h] Lev. 26:1 to 14 with II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 6:2, 3; Ps. 37:11 with Matt. 5:5; Ps. 19:11
    [i] Gal. 2:16; Luke 17:10
    [j] Rom. 6:12, 14; I Pet. 3:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, with Ps. 34:12, 13, 14, 15, 16; Heb. 12:28, 29

    VII. Neither DO the forementioned uses of the law oppse the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it;[a] the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that, freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.[b]

    [a] Gal. 3:21.
    [b] Ezek. 36:27; Heb. 8:10 with Jer. 31:33

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/murray-on-lev-185-why-did-john-murray-reject-the-covenant-of-works/

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  49. I see that Jeff and McMark are finally getting around to talking about the doctrine of election. I’m confused as to why it took so long to get there. There were numerous threads where the commentary just stopped when election was brought up or questions regarding election were asked. While you guys are on that topic maybe someone can give a clear definition of hyper-Calvinism too.

    Does ones view of election determine how someone might respond to the revision question of WCF 19-6? A history of how the WCF came to be and why each section was written the way it was is an important part of the whole scenario.

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  50. McMark: There are those who never think we disagree, they just think I am ignorant and confused and don’t understand.

    I don’t think you’re ignorant, and I’m not saying it to offend. Clearly, at least one of us is confused about the Biblical teaching of covenants. It might be me. It might be you. It might be both.

    I’m simply trying to identify what seems to me to be a point of confusion. I would humbly ask you to consider the possibility that you have not been very clear in your writings about the implications of the fact that the church as God sees it is not the same as the church as man sees it. As a result, some of your critiques seem to presuppose that credobaptism solves certain problems, such as the governance of the church, that I don’t think it actually solves.

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  51. McMark: Nathan J. Langerak, –What Mark Jones means by “consequent conditions” is that they are new conditions of salvation imposed on the saved person… (and follows a link to an article about the unconditional covenant).

    So one of the reasons I object to the “wall of quotes” style is that by quoting Langerak who argues against Jones, the discussion ends up in rabbit trails. I don’t agree with Jones on several points, especially in his book on Antinomianism. So if you quote Jones disfavorably, how am I to respond? Are you attributing Jones’s views to me? Or just venting about Jones into the ethernet?

    I would much rather have you step out from behind the curtain of quotes and speak your own mind directly. Do *you* think that the covenant of grace is unconditional? Then let’s talk about that.

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  52. I don’t know how anyone who delves deeply into Reformed theology does not end up really confused about what the Gospel is. It seems to me that is why people like Mark Jones end up accepting such a broad range of doctrine as within the parameters of Reformed Orthodoxy. I guess the same could be said of Catholic theology too. Maybe a confession of biblical faith should center around the question, what is the Gospel? How do we know we know the true biblical Gospel?

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  53. mcmark, the revision of WCF was compatible with liberalism, as in a reduced footprint for government (anti-monarchy and consolidation of power in the national capitol).

    Not sure what that has to do with WCF 118. Everyone is under God’s law. Govt’s law is not the same — much smaller jurisdiction.

    I think you know that.

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  54. @ JohnY: I know what you mean. It strikes me that both the WFC and the HC, as well the Canons of Dort, are much less speculative than various theologians, including ones that I like.

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  55. D.G.,
    What is literalist is to say one can’t apply the Scriptures to political issues because neither Jesus nor Paul did. It is literalist because it does consider the reasons why that was the case. We should note that the Good Samaritan was not a literalist when helping the person who was robbed. He didn’t just stick to do exactly what God commanded. Rather, his decisions were based on love of neighbor. So, what is wrong with basing politics partly on not neglecting the vulnerable?

    It is selective, not literalist, because one fails to note that the OT prophets did and to both the covenant nation of God and the other nations. There is a selective and rigid in thought to think that neglect of those who are vulnerable is no longer counted as wrong today because we are in NT times. It is selective and rigid to excuse oneself from supporting political views that would help those who are in need to supporting only those political views that serve oneself. You have a great excuse to only support those political views that take care of you regardless of how others are affected. You have a great excuse to not care about the harm and injustices done to those by your own nation’s domestic and foreign policies while being vigilant in judging as to whether people are keeping the Sabbath as you believe it should be kept or whether or not churches can use musical instruments in worship or some of the other things you are so exacting on. But all you are doing is fitting some of the patterns exhibited by Israel when it was condemned by the prophets for neglecting or oppressing the vulnerable. But the requirement to care for the vulnerable becomes much more limited to those who live during NT times, according to you. However, working for the prosperity of the place in which one is in exile is still in effect today as it was when Israel was in exile.

    Again, what’s loving one’s neighbor got to do with it? For it seems that your first concern isn’t loving one’s neighbor but determining whether you are required to do what you don’t want to do. Does belief in and following Christ call us to be even more concerned with ourselves than before or does it call on us to love our neighbor more?

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  56. Curt,

    For it seems that your first concern isn’t loving one’s neighbor but determining whether you are required to do what you don’t want to do.

    You can’t love your neighbor rightly until you know what it is that God wants you to do. Legalism can be a problem, but so can over-sentimentalized notions of what it means to love your neighbor. Just because your neighbor thinks something is loving, doesn’t mean that it is.

    IOW, neighbors don’t get to demand how we love them. Divine revelation does that.

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  57. Robert,
    It isn’t a one-way street. Loving one’s neighbor can also tell us what to do. Again, go to the example of the Good Samaritan. How many of the things he did for the victim were specifically mandated by what was in the OT? Romans 2 tells us how people who don’t have God’s Word sometimes excel those who have God’s Word by acting on their consciences.

    We should note, because it is all too obvious to many outside of conservative Christianity, that our conservative Christianity has led some of us to be more and more self-absorbed as we become so preoccupied with whether we have done our religious duties.

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  58. Robert,
    We can observe exploitation. And as for people’s claims, we can listen. The real issue is, do we want to find and end exploitation where it really exists or do we prefer to maintain the status quo?

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  59. CD: Rather, his decisions were based on love of neighbor. So, what is wrong with basing politics partly on not neglecting the vulnerable?

    Because it is bait and switch. The good Samaritan cared for his neighbor. He didn’t organize the community to rally for better laws.

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  60. D.G.,
    Therefore sin is not involved at all regardless of what the gun control law are? If that is true, then shouldn’t we be free to enact tougher gun control laws to reduce the mass shootings and gun violence in our nation? Or does wanting to reduce the mass shootings and gun violence in our nation reveal a desire to love one’s neighbor? And if the answer to the latter question is true, then isn’t sin involved when we don’t want to love our neighbor?

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  61. Vae Victius,
    Love of neighbor doesn’t always tell us which specific policies are necessary, but it does provide a direction for the policies we should pursue. And policies that help those who have at the expense of those who are vulnerable show a direction that is not in keeping with loving one’s neighbor

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  62. CD: If that is true, then shouldn’t we be free to enact tougher gun control laws to reduce the mass shootings and gun violence in our nation?

    YES!

    That’s the point. You keep positing the false alternative: Either the Bible informs our politics, or else we are free to do what we want.

    You keep missing the third, true, alternative: OR else we are free to love our neighbor in the manner that seems wisest to us.

    So yes, we are absolutely free to advocate for stricter gun control laws. We are also free, if we believe such laws will not help, to love our neighbor by opposing those laws.

    CD: Or does wanting to reduce the mass shootings and gun violence in our nation reveal a desire to love one’s neighbor? And if the answer to the latter question is true, then isn’t sin involved when we don’t want to love our neighbor?

    Yes, and yes. But the missing, false, premise is that loving one’s neighbor automatically entails support for stricter gun laws. And that’s where the legalism of “Christian politics” comes in.

    True: We must love our neighbor
    True: Loving our neighbor entails wanting our neighbor’s welfare.
    False: Our neighbor’s welfare will be increased by stricter gun control (this is possible, but not certain)
    hence False: loving our neighbor entails desiring stricter gun control.

    And so the net effect is that you obligate the Christian as a matter of religious duty to support gun control. That’s actually wrong to do, and it’s a corruption of the gospel.

    A much better way is to tell the Christian: Love your neighbor. Use your best wisdom to do so.

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  63. Curt Day says: Ali,Thank you.

    Curt – you’re welcome. I know we all want to help each other…
    not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

    We have the mind of Christ.

    As Paul said/prayed: Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    —–
    …….
    The Lord informed Abraham that “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous” (Genesis 18:20).

    In light of the passage, the most common response to the question “What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?” is that it was homosexuality. At the same time, it is not biblical to say that homosexuality was the exclusive reason why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were definitely not exclusive in terms of the sins in which they indulged.

    Ezekiel 16:49-50 declares, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me…” The Hebrew word translated “detestable” refers to something that is morally disgusting and is the exact same word used in Leviticus 18:22 that refers to homosexuality as an “abomination.”

    While homosexuality was not the only sin in which the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah indulged, it does appear to be the primary reason for the destruction of the cities. While Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of many other horrendous sins, homosexuality was the reason God poured fiery sulfur on the cities, completely destroying them and all of their inhabitants. To this day, the area where Sodom and Gomorrah were located remains a desolate wasteland.
    Sodom and Gomorrah serve as a powerful example of how God feels about sin in general, and homosexuality specifically. (excerpt got?s)

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  64. Ali – two points. First, I know my views on Scripture’s teaching of extramarital sex are a major bugaboo for you, but at least try to state my beliefs correctly. I never said Scripture “condones” extramarital sex – I said Scripture does not prohibit extramarital sex, and therefore we should not bind consciences on that matter like the signers of the Nashville Statement did. That was the context of the discussion.

    Second, you completely missed sdb’s point. We can learn a lot of things by reading the Bible cover to cover, but in an area where we clearly disagree you have to provide some exegesis and analysis to make your case. You still haven’t done so, despite repeated requests from multiple commenters here.

    Jeff, McMark, and Robert – I’m still amazed that anyone cares what Mark Jones thinks about anything. His basic logic and ability to develop an argument are weak, and his theology is often confused, if not plainly wrong. I agree with you all, he is definitely wrong about Christ being “under grace,” which strikes me as nonsensical if not Nestorian on some level.

    Curt – but there is even disagreement about which policies help the “haves” at the *expense* of the “have nots.” Is there an example in our laws today? If anything it seems the haves are heavily taxed for the benefit of the have nots.

    Jeff and JohnY – I see your point, but at the most basic level, wouldn’t most Christians agree that the Gospel is the good news that Christ defeated sin and death through His obedience on the cross and subsequent resurrection, and that we access the gracious gift of salvation through repentance and faith? Wouldn’t RCC, EOC, and most Protestant churches agree with something similar to this definition of the Gospel, even if they disagree with the precise mechanics?

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  65. Vv says We can learn a lot of things by reading the Bible cover to cover, but in an area where we clearly disagree you have to provide some exegesis and analysis to make your case

    When you repeatedly make that same request always of your brothers, I might see that perhaps indeed, you are not partial .

    Jeff and JohnY – I see your point, but at the most basic level, wouldn’t most Christians agree that the Gospel is the good news that Christ defeated sin and death through His obedience on the cross and subsequent resurrection, and that we access the gracious gift of salvation through repentance and faith?

    exegesis and analysis please

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  66. Jeff–The church as God sees it is not the same as the church as man sees it. As a result, some of your critiques seem to presuppose that credobaptism solves certain problems

    mcmark–Actually I don’t. The church is not the gospel. The subjects of water baptism are not the gospel. Christ’s death one day saving all for whom Christ died is the gospel.

    The problem is that we have a lot of folks (Reformed or Lutheran or credobaptist) who want to be “confessionally correct” but who don’t want to talk abut the good news of God’s election to lasting life.

    They say things like—“Jesus will save all those who find the payment for their sins in His death.”
    Look. maybe that does not sound like the antitheses in Dordt, but does it flatly deny the Confessions?

    Let me ask what happens to the payment Jesus made for the sinners who don’t find their payment in his death?

    Do they have an idol Jesus who attempted to pay but failed?

    Did Christ really pay for everybody , so that God turns out to be not just to give all for whom Christ the remission of sins and the all things, including the gift of believing the gospel?

    What will happen to a Reformed church when the Arminians born in itscovenant are told that their salvation (or not) depends on God, and not on what they found or accepted ? What would happen if these evangelicals were told that they still worship an idol?

    This is why, as john y suggests, the quotation from Nathan is not a “rabbit trail”. You will never come to terms with the legalism of Mark Jones until you start talking about John Murray and “the offer of the conditional covenant”.

    Nathan is not a credobaptist, but his concern is about election controlling “the covenant”. Do Shepherd and Gaffin and Beale agree with John Murray about Leviticus 18:5 being just as much about “sanctification” and “staying the covenant” (the not yet aspect of justification)?

    1. I am not interested in another discussion about “conditionality” in “the covenant” and the history of that in theology.

    2.. Not all covenants are the same covenant. Not all the children of Abraham are the children of Abraham. You know this, Jeff, but you only sometimes choose to remember it. Then you retreat to frames—“in some sense”, the non-elect are in the covenant, and “in another sense”, the non-elect were never in the covenant.

    3. I keep saying that salvation is NOT condItioned on the sinner. Salvation is conditioned only on God’s election of certain sinners, and because of God’s love, Christ died as the payment for their sins and as the purchase for their regeneration and faith.

    4. A visible church cannot know for sure who is elect. But a true visible church can know that God has elected some sinners and that Christ has not died for those who are not elect. This is good news, even though the news does not tell us which sinners are elect. This is good news, because it teaches us that Christ’s death is just and that Christ’s death saves . The promise of the gospel is not that as many as believe any gospel or in any Christ will be saved. The promise of the gospel is that whoever believes in the Christ revealed in the gospel will be saved.

    Waldron—John Murray’s lecture on justification contained in the Collected Writings affirms that works only have to do with the degree of reward in glory, while in his Romans commentary John Murray affirms that the judgment by works which has the twin consequences of eternal life and wrath is not hypothetical. I see no way to evade the fact of some contradiction between the two statements.

    https://cbtseminary.org/is-there-a-future-justification-by-works-at-the-day-of-judgment-10/

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  67. btw,just this Sunday, our pastor decided to have a ’bulletin’ (not normally done anymore) with a cover saying:

    What is The Gospel

    The “Gospel’ is the central message of the Christian faith. Gospel means “good news” and the good news is that we can be at peace with God.

    But there is some bad news. We were made to reflect the character of God (Genesis 1:27) but we have failed in that calling (Romans 3:23). The Bible names this failure “sin” and it distances us from God. So there are a lot of people running around thinking they are okay with God when they are not. And if you die without knowing Him, you are separated from Him forever. This is what we can hell.

    But while in this state of sin (Romans 5:8), unable and unwilling to return to God, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take our place in the punishment of all this sin we have committed. Jesus died on the cross as our substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21)

    Why Should You Care?

    We should care because, unlike everyone else who has ever died, Jesus did not stay dead, He offered us the chance to do the same.

    So we stop pursuing the things He does not like and repurpose everything in our lives to pursue Him, because we trust Him when He says that He will give us life that lasts forever.

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  68. DGH– the revision of WCF was compatible with liberalism, as in a reduced footprint for government (anti-monarchy and consolidation of power in the national capitol).

    mcmark– And even though you knew that, your post above suggested that Calvinists and Lutherans have always been less Constantinian and more liberal than the Papists. Something like–the Rome can’t attempt to influence culture and escape their past. And then the suggestion that the Reformed and Lutherans are better suited to be the right kind of Americans, at least if they don’t want to influence culture in the way that Carl Truman and Jerry Falwell admire the way Roman Catholics do it.

    I don’t get it. If Americans can have military bases around the world, and the Reformed can be good Americans, why can’t Roman Catholics have their own franchises around the world? And why do you keep wanting to minimiZe the differences between Lutherans and the Reformed when it comes to the use of law in “sanctification”?

    DGH–Not sure what that has to do with WCF 118. Everyone is under God’s law.

    Do Christians have a new ability and disposition that gives them a DIFFERENT relation to law than non-Christians do? Don’t you agree with John Murray and Gaffin and Beale? Them not Christians can’t act like Christians, but Christians don’t want to sin no more….???

    “The promises of the law in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof; although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.”

    Lutheran Mark Seifrid–The confusion of creation and redemption is the confusion of creation and grace, the confusion of justice and mercy. The sins of which we are aware, dangerous though they may be, are not the most dangerous ones. These hidden faults are more deeply rooted in our person and being than we can imagine, and finally consist in the desire to do away with God and to possess that which properly belongs to our neighbor.

    Mark Seifrid–Admittedly, this perspective robs “progress” of its ultimacy. The goal and end of the Christian life is given to us already at its beginning in Jesus Christ. But this displacing of “progress” from its place of primacy prevents us from taking upon ourselves burdens that we were never meant to bear. What those need who do not feel themselves to be sinners is the careful, gentle, yet direct exposure of their sins—not merely the faults of our society or problems in our culture but the root sins of self seeking, pride, lust, envy, greed by which we deny God and mistreat one another.

    Mark Seifrid—-In his eagerness to resolve the question of the unity of Scripture, Calvin speaks of the Law as ….not bringing death but serving another purpose. According to this perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. ….The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous.y.

    Luther finds a DIFFERENT anthropology in Scripture. The picture of the human being is either darkness or light, without any shading of tones. There is no “intermediate state” in which we receive instruction but escape condemnation. In so far as the Law deals with our salvation (and does not merely guide our outward conduct), it pronounces our condemnation. The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/protestprotest/2018/02/calvinism-un-american/#Em5OXvg5MgcjGdRl.99

    dgh–Roman Catholicism in its most distinct expression was not necessarily a respecter of the sort of freedoms that allow the Amish and Orthodox Jews to practice their faiths. Like Neo-Calvinism, Roman Catholicism is not content with a personal faith. Religion is not a private affair but needs to take root in all areas of life — and there goes political liberalism.

    But maybe you were not really talking about Roman Catholics or even Lutherans, but really only about all those baptists who still don’t like Mark Dever.

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  69. McMark: You’re sounding a little hysterical here. Do you want to talk about conditionality, or do you not? Do you feel offended that I suggest that you might be confused? Then perhaps you should not accuse me of having selective memory.

    When Paul says that not all who are descended from Abraham are children of Abraham (Rom 9.8), he follows that up with “those who are the children of the promise” who are counted as offspring. Who are those? Romans 4.13 – 16. Gal 3.7 – 9, 29. Those who have the faith of Abraham are Abraham’s offspring. Those who are Christ’s, are the children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise.

    So regardless of how many covenants one might wish to count, it is clear that Christians are included in the covenant God made with Abraham.

    I would rather break this conversation off and give it a rest, then have it move on a trajectory towards shouting. Your last post seemed very angry to me. Is it time for a break?

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  70. Let me ask those who adhere to the Reformed confessions at this site if Ali’s Pastor’s bulletin statement about the Gospel would pass an ordination exam from an Confessional Reformed Seminary? When the doctrine of election is left out of the good news Gospel a conditional Gospel quickly moves in to fill the void. I’m not that concerned if that sounds hysterical or idiosyncratic. I’d rather fear God in regards to what is the Gospel than I would fear man.

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  71. @ JohnY: I think the statement “Jesus offers us a chance…” would get a hard look.

    Despite what Mark wrote, the PCA is very clear on the difference between limited atonement and hypothetical universal atonement.

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  72. May I be so bold as to remind readers at oldlife of a truly hysterical comment that I copied and pasted on my facebook page from one reader at oldlife:

    Mark Mcculley says: “it is not uncommon for them to dismiss the reality of justification by Christ’s blood without seeing a life of moral improvement.”

    Angry guy argument starts here: “Despite your rather convoluted attempts to mangle 1st John 3 into conformity with your permissiveness, there is no such thing as a justification that does not provide new life in Christ. There is then no such thing as new life in Christ that nobody can see forever.

    Look man. Take a piece of brotherly advice. Turn your computer off, get a bible and lock yourself away with the Lord and His word. Confess this craving for the recognition of men to him and don’t come out until you can leave it at His feet.

    I am being serious. When you know who you are in Christ, you will be able to use his obvious gifts to His glory and rest confident that He will give you the audience you were born for. It will probably be far smaller than you presently wish, but the knowledge of His pleasure upon your service to Him will infinitely more than compensate. I promise. And far more importantly, so does He.”

    Mark Mcculley

    How can I take brotherly advise, when you don’t know if I am morally improved enough to be your brother, and when I don’t know if you know and believe the gospel yet?

    God’s commandments are not burdensome for the justified elect because those joined to Jesus Christ are united with His death to the law because Jesus Christ’s death has satisfied God’s judgment for those God has justified. The new life lived by the justified does not (even in part) satisfy God’s law. To gain assurance by one’s morality is not to trust Christ’s atonement.

    Romans 6: 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let NOT SIN THEREFORE REIGN in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 DO NOT present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who HAVE BEEN BROUGHT from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT UNDER LAW but under grace.

    I John 4: 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

    If you think that you are in the world as Christ is in the world because of improved morality then you do not yet know the gospel which is about the punishment of Christ by death is for the elect the end of religious fear based on the need for constant moral improvement.

    I John 5: 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

    Faith in what? Faith in our moral improvement? Continual believing in our continual moral improvement? Or is it the faith that results from the new birth which trusts in the propitiation made by Christ? Or is it faith in Christ’s death PLUS faith that your faith is working so that you are morally improved?

    I John 4:10 0 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

    John Y: Then the guy referenced a quote from Calvin:

    “Therefore, if you would duly understand how inseparable faith and works are, look to Christ, who, as the Apostle teaches, (1 Cor. i. 30,) has been given to us for justification and for sanctification. Wherever, therefore, that righteousness of faith, which we maintain to be gratuitous, is, there too Christ is, and where Christ is, there too is the Spirit of holiness, who regenerates the soul to newness of life. On the contrary, where zeal for integrity and holiness is not in vigour, there neither is the Spirit of Christ nor Christ himself; and wherever Christ is not, there in no righteousness, nay, there is no faith; for faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification.”

    Calvin in his letter to Sadeleto – September 1, 1539

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  73. Of course I am angry at ‘confessionally not denying” folks who won’t talk about the good news of election. But only liberals start taking about “not nice tone” instead of the content of the confessions. . I am not going to start talking about how my mother raised me, but if your psychologist thinks you need a break, go for it…

    Better yet, I would rather that you focus on ALL that the Bible has to say about PLURAL promises to Abraham. God promised Abraham one child, Christ. But God also gave circumcision and a promise of land to Abraham’s children. God did not promise all the circumcised that they would have faith in the gospel and lasting life. God’s law did promise that those children who were not circumcised would be cut off. As John the Baptist pointed out, God did not promise that all in Christ’s “genetic incubator” (with circumcision) would receive the lasting life of the age to come.

    The circumcision Abraham received is a sign of more than one thing. We can debate about if the circumcision Abraham personally received (after faith in the gospel) was a seal to Abraham about his personal faith or about if that circumcision was simply an objective sign pointing ahead to the blood of his one child who would die to obtain the righteousness of faith (and faith), but what we CANNOT say is that circumcision was either a seal saying that any specific child of Abraham had such faith or that the circumcision was only gospel (offer) but never law.

    Romaans 4: 11 Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while still uncircumcised. This was to make Abaham the father of all who believe

    (is this a promise to all who believe, or is it a promise to Abraham)

    but are not circumcised, in order that righteousness be credited to them also. 12 And Abraham became the father of the circumcised, who are NOT ONLY are circumcised but who ALSO FOLLOW in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had while he was still uncircumcised.

    Galatians 3: 7 understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. 8 Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through YOU . 9 So those who have faith are BLESSED WITH Abraham, WHO HAD FAITH.

    Galatians 3: 12 (quoting Leviticus 18:5) But the law is not based on faith; instead, the one who does these things will live by them.

    Galatians 3: 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed,who is Christ.

    The justified elect (Christians) are the seed of Abraham in Romans 4:12 above and in Galatians 3:7 above, but not in Galatians 3:16 . Notice also that “promises” in Galatians 3:16.

    Does “the promise” in 3:17-18, 22, 29 mean “the promises”? All the promises? Some of the promises? Which promise?
    29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.

    Galatians 4: 4 God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, in order that WE RECEIVE ADOPTION AS SONS.

    Did the justified elect (Christians) become children because they were already children, or because their parents were already children?

    Galatians 4: 8 when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved…. 9 But NOW SINCE you know God, or rather have BECOME KNOWN by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt….?

    Galatians 4: 21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law? 22 For it is written that ABRAHAM HAD TWO SONS, one by a slave and the other by a free woman…. 24 These things are illustrations,for the women represent the two covenants.

    Hebrews 8:6 But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a BETTER COVENANT, which HAS BEEN legally enacted on BETTER PROMISES

    John Owen,—No man was ever saved but by virtue of the NEW COVENANT, and the mediation of Christ in that respect….Believers in the gospel were saved under the old covenants but not by virtue of the old covenants

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/re-did-the-covenant-of-grace-begin-in-the-new-covenant/

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  74. Jeff,
    You should think about your statement here. After all, how close is that statement to what is said in Judges 21:25:


    In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

    Now compare with what James says in chapter 2, verses 14 and following:


    14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

    Now, is your statement about how we are to love others closer to what it says in Judges or in James?

    Now let’s the gun laws issue. With the number of shootings that occur in America vs the number of shootings that occur in Western nations that have imposed stricter gun laws, is it realistic to think that stricter gun laws give us a legitimate opportunity to reduce gun violence? See, waiting until some change is certain only makes no change most probable. Compare that with considering treatment for a difficult to treat disease. The treatment may not cure the disease, but that isn’t the issue. The issue is whether the treatment gives us a realistic opportunity to controlling the disease. Again, waiting until some change is certain only makes no change most probable. And is making no change to a problem most probable a way of loving our neighbor?

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  75. @ Curt: It is closer to neither.

    Use context: In the book of Judges, what did men do as they saw fit? They worshiped idols, abused women, attacked one another. That has nothing to do with what I said.

    In the book of James, he speaks to individuals about their actions towards the brother right in front of him. At no point does he discuss legislation. So again, nothing to do with what I said.

    But now in Romans 14, concerning disputed matters, Paul says this: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

    *That* sounds like what I said.

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  76. @ Curt: Those who know about treating diseases will tell you that you don’t treat “just because you might have a chance that it would work.”

    Treatments have success rates and side effects, and if the chance of a serious side effect is great enough, the treatment is contraindicated *even if it might work.*

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  77. Ali – regarding exegesis of my definition of the Gospel (which was a very basic definition), take a look at Romans 1:16-17. For the exegesis look no further than your own MacArthur Study Bible, where these verses are said to “crystallize…the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    Jeff and Curt – as someone who treats diseases daily, I can tell you that Jeff is correct. Not only that, but some diseases are not treated simply because the strain on hospital resources is too great to justify a slim chance at saving a person’s life. A classic example is patients who present with ruptured aortic aneurysms, which carry a very high mortality rate even with optimal intervention, and depletes the hospital’s materials, particularly blood products. In those cases we often let the patient’s die rather than undergo a near-futile, heroic attempt to save them. The point is that even when it comes to the possibility of saving a life there are other considerations besides just that patient’s life, and there are rarely black & white answers in such situations. The same is true of something like gun control, where the issues are very complex. I would like to see safer gun laws enacted, but the government not passing gun laws is not sinful. Foolish and dangerous maybe, but not sinful.

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