The Puritan Fetish

Why do Reformed Protestants think appealing to the Puritans settles it?

Why does Patrick Ramsey think John Ball’s view of justification is significant?

While denying the Roman Catholic doctrine that love is the life and soul of justifying faith, John Ball (1585-1640) strenuously affirmed that justifying faith cannot be without love. Faith and love are distinct graces which are “infused together” by the Holy Spirt at regeneration and “the exercise of faith and love be inseparably conjoined (Treatise of Faith, 45-46).” Where there is justifying faith there is love: “As light and heat in the Sun be inseparable, so is faith and love, being knit together in a sure bond by the Holy Ghost (pg. 38).

If faith and love are distinct yet inseparable, so it is sometimes argued, “then Faith alone doth not justify (pg. 56).” The presence of love at the moment of justification implies that it is along with faith a co-instrument of justification. Ball responded to this objection by appealing to a common turn of phrase regarding the role of faith in justification: faith alone justifies but the faith which justifies is not alone. Or as it stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith: “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.”

And why does William Evans think the Puritans founded America (tell that to the Virginians)?

America was founded by Puritans. They viewed themselves as in covenant with God, as a new Israel. They thought that the covenant promises made to Israel applied quite literally to them. They thought that if Americans were obedient God would bless our land, just as he blessed ancient Israel. That’s why many American Christians love to quote 2 Chronicles 7:14: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This is where American exceptionalism, our notion of America as a special, chosen nation originates from.

But if Evans is right about the amillennialism, why don’t we abandon the Puritans (who were a tad preoccupied with being a chosen people)?

The point should be clear to us now—with the coming of the Messiah, the notion of the “promised land” is christologically defined. The promise of “land” is fulfilled concretely in Christ, who rules over the world as God’s kingdom, and his people. A principle of redemptive history is that when God takes something away, he replaces it with something much, much better.

All this should be a warning to us not to identify the Promised Land with any particular nation, or particular piece of real estate. The covenant promises of God regarding land do not apply to America as a nation in covenant with God, or as some sort of new Israel. God’s plans are not going down the tube because of America’s present unfaithfulness. We know that ultimate individual and collective transformation are God’s work that will not be completed until Christ comes again, and that, while real (albeit provisional) successes are at times realized today, this eschatological horizon implies that the ministry of the church is not going to usher in the millennium.

Advertisements

The Liturgical Calendar Jesus Founded

Maureen Mullarkey confirms Puritans’ objections (via Rorate Caeli):

It is easy to forget that Christmas as we know it is something of a latecomer. It was not celebrated in the early Church. Christians in the first two or three centuries understood themselves to be an Easter people, persecuted inheritors of the promise of the Resurrection. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the heartsblood of the faith. Within a community marked for martyrdom, it was the death date that earned commemoration. Death marked the day of initiation into eternal life, into the stunning mystery of Christ’s victory over death.

Absent the Resurrection, there was no counter to the words of Jeremiah: “Cursed be the day on which I was born.” Origen was emphatic on the matter:

Not one from all the saints is found to have celebrated a festive day or a great feast on the day of his birth. No one is found to have had joy on the day of the birth of his son or daughter. Only sinners rejoice over this kind of birthday.

Prior to the fourth century, there is scarce, if any, written evidence of an annual celebration of the Nativity on December 25th. Not until the fourth century—as newly unshackled Christianity spread northward from Jerusalem, north Africa, and the Mediterranean, into central and northern Europe—did popular custom ingest facets of those pre-Christian winter festivals that greeted its arrival.

Will Believers be Judged for Not Knowing English Historical Theology?

Apparently, Mark Jones believes Lee Irons stands condemned:

I am flabbergasted at the cocksure way by which Irons makes these claims. He castigates Piper for several errors, but ends up making a few blunders himself. One in particular stands out.

He says: “Faith has never been viewed as a condition of justification in Reformed theology…” (emphasis mine).

This is simply false.

So it looks like God won’t be pleased with Lee’s works on judgment day.

But will God look favorably on Jones’ own high estimate of his historical theological chops?

Most of the Early Modern Reformed did not view Romans 2:7-11 as hypothetical, contrary to what some in the Reformed camp today have suggested. Rick Phillips has addressed this question in the past, but I remain concerned about some historical and exegetical issues made therin; his post also strikes me as far too defensive. Better, in my view, is the approach taken by Richard Gaffin in By Faith, Not By Sight.

Should this cause people to despair regarding the future judgment? Only if one is a bona fide hypocrite. Christ will rightfully condemn the hypocrites in the church (Matt. 25:41-46). They are marked out as those who did not do good works. They are those who neglect the weightier matters of the law (Matt. 23:23).

I mean, if believers are going to be judged by their good works as Jones says is writ large in English Protestantism, doesn’t that conclusion apply to blog posts? Is it evidence of saving faith or a good work to mock other believers on grounds of the history of English theology?

Sure, this post may even be evidence of my own sinfulness. But I’m not the one promoting obedient faith.

(On the upside, Dr. Jones has abandoned the third-person bi-lines, sure evidence of holiness.)

Resoluteness is Next to Godliness

Tim Challies never uses the word sanctification in connection with New Year’s resolutions, but why you would encourage Christians to pray about resolving to improve oneself (like walking more and talking less) is uncertain:

HOW TO MAKE A RESOLUTION THAT STICKS
Do you want to make a resolution that sticks? Then here’s what you can do:

Make 1 resolution and make it a specific and realistic one—big enough to be meaningful, but small and defined enough to be attainable.

Decide what habits you will need to break and what habits you will need to form in order to succeed.

Create a plan that will train you in that new habit while replacing any negative habits.

Tell a friend about your plan and ask him to check in with you on a regular basis.

Plan in advance how you will meet with temptation and how you will deal with failure.

Pray consistently and persistently.

Some critics of white evangelicalism complain that the movement is too middle-class, that it baptizes habits that attend success in the business and economic world as fruit of the Spirit.

Again, Challies does not mention the s-word. But he has prepared sanctification spread sheets before. I’m beginning to wonder if the New Calvinists can tell the difference between Jonathan Edwards’ post-conversion resolutions and Ben Franklin’s advice for self-improvement. (In point of fact, I’m not sure I can.)

Another Coincidence?

Islamic Calvinism.

Religion in Kayseri plays a central part in people’s lives. The city has a traditional reputation; the only place to get a drink is at the international hotel. But where in the past in Turkey business was dominated by the country’s secular elite, which firmly kept religion out of the boardroom, in Kayseri it has a central role.

And it seems to be a winning combination. Kayseri is booming. It holds the world record for the number of factories opening in a day – 190. The city boasts 50 out of 500 of the wealthiest people in Turkey.

But you would use never guess it walking on the streets of the city. There are few expensive cars, as ostentatious behaviour is frowned upon. Kayseri does have a rather puritanical feel to it. But that shouldn’t be a surprise, according Gerald Gnaus of the European Stability Initiative (ESI).

Gnaus recently published a report which draws a parallel with the 19th century Calvinists. Gnaus argues Kayseri buries the widely held belief that Islam and capitalism are incompatible.

“Many people in Western Europe — very serious thinkers too — have held that Islam is a fatalistic religion and that it suits a trading economy but not an industrial economy,” Gnaus says. “What we found in Kayseri is that on the contrary, the kind of characteristic traits that Max Weber attributed to the Calvinists – very hard working, very sober, not given to ostentatious displays of wealth – are the characteristic traits you find in businessmen in Kayseri.”

The term “Islamic Calvinism” caused a bit of a stir in Turkey, being angrily denounced by some in the Islamic media. But in Kayseri, most seemed quite happy with the label.

Mustafa Boydak is the head of the Kayseri chamber of commerce. He also runs one of the largest companies in the city Boydak. He also sees parallels with the 19th century puritans:

“In Calvinism there is this understanding that work is a form of worship, and Kayseri people share that understanding. Islam also teaches us to be tolerant, and open to new ideas, which is very important in business, and to people living here. But Christianity shares this ideal, and the influence of Christianity here is important. For centuries many Christian Greeks and Armenians lived here and were very involved in business, and this too has shaped people’s ideals.”

I’m not sure about the tolerance bit, though Mustafa Akyol makes as good a 2k case for Islam as any Western 2ker does for Calvinism. But when it comes to work ethic, the Turks would put many residents of Massachusetts to shame.