Mark Jones Finally Agrees with Scott Clark

Turns out Reformed Protestant is better than Calvinist.

First, Clark:

The greatest problem of the acronym TULIP is that it “perpetuates a basic misunderstanding about the Reformed tradition: that predestination is the center of Reformed theology from which all else flows.” Here Todd is echoing the criticism by Richard Muller and others against the “Central Dogma” theory of the history of doctrine, i.e., that the Lutheran “Central Dogma” was justification and the Reformed “Central Dogma” was predestination and that two distinct, parallel systems were deduced from these dogmas. This historiography has been thoroughly debunked but it continues to undergird the way many evangelicals and mainliners (and too many sideliners!) think about Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

In contrast to the caricature created by the TULIP Billings makes an argument that will be familiar to readers of RRC, namely, that there is much more to being Reformed, that to be Reformed is to be committed to a sacramental theology, to a “catholic” vision that connects the Reformed tradition to the whole church, and he argues less persuasively that it entails a “kingdom vision.” He says a, “Reformed view of the church avoids seeing it as a colony separated from society, or as the particular aspect of society that relates to ‘being religious.’” The truth of this claim depends on what one means by “church.” If by it one means “the visible, institutional, organized church” then his language is somewhat problematic. If,however, by “church” he means, “professing” Christians, then most would probably agree with him. The question of a sacred/secular distinction has been much controverted in this space. Todd’s identification of a Reformed “kingdom vision” with the “cultural mandate” is open to discussion and even debate. After the fall are they identical? See Calvin, Institutes 2.2.13, 20 where he clearly made a distinction between the “secular” and the “sacred” and associated the latter with the kingdom of God while not disparaging the goodness of the former.

We should certainly agree with Todd when he says the “New Calvinists pick the TULIP from the Reformed field, overlooking the other flowers. There is much besides the TULIP in this spacious field that has grown from the seed of God’s word.”

Then, Jones:

Opposition to the term came from the Reformed as early as 1555 where Reformed ministers in Lausanne protested against the term “Calvinists.” The French Reformed theologian, Daniel Tossanus (1541–1602) also clearly rejects the term. Herman Selderhuis gives the following account, “In his writings Tossanus speaks continually about the ‘so–called Calvinists.’ Others call us Calvinists, but we are the catholic evangelical church, said Tossanus. Moreover, we were not baptized in the name of Luther, nor in the name of Calvin, but in the name of Christ.” 5 Again, the fear is clearly real, acute among Protestants, that God and Christ are jealous for their glory.

By the time of the Synod of Dort (1618), the Reformed were still sometimes referred to as “Calvinists.” At Dort, the preferred terms were, however, “Reformed” or “Contra–Remonstrants” – the latter a term coined in reference to the Remonstrant (Arminian) theologians who wrote up a Remonstrance that contained five theses that most likely came from Arminius’s Declaration of 1608. The five articles of the Remonstrants were debated at Dort, but these five articles may not do justice to the broader theological project of Arminius, even though he surely would not have disagreed with what was presented by his “followers.” As a point of fact, just as many “Calvinists” do not wish to be known by that name, so too many “Arminians” would prefer to be known as “Remonstrants.”

Oh, happy day, but I wonder if Jones knows he agrees with the disagreeables.

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Spotting the Difference

Those who don’t distinguish between the sacred and secular:

Daniel Kirk:

There’s a lot of that going on in the Lectionary readings for the second week of Christmas. My podcast guest, Eric Barreto, looks at the heavenly, cosmic imagery of Ephesians and warns us not to too sharply draw the line between heaven and earth. The heavenly reality is the one that God wants to bring to earth as well.

Rod Dreher (quoting Robert Louis Wilken):

Can Christian faith—no matter how enthusiastically proclaimed by evangelists, how ably expounded by theologians and philosophers, or how cleverly translated into the patois of the intellectual class by apologists—be sustained for long without the support of a nurturing Christian culture? By culture, I do not mean high culture (Bach’s B-Minor Mass, Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew); I mean the “total harvest of thinking and feeling,” to use T. S. Eliot’s phrase—the pattern of inherited meanings and sensibilities encoded in rituals, law, language, practices, and stories that can order, inspire, and guide the behavior, thoughts, and affections of a Christian people.

Those who do:

Steven Wedgeworth:

“[Piper’s] logic is badly confused, as he fails to distinguish between the spiritual and temporal realms, misunderstands the civic role of the family, and conflates the question of preservation of life with vengeance and bloodlust in general. Thus, he is unable to offer any sort of corrective and may actually give a cure that is worse than the disease.”

Mark Jones:

It seems to me that Christ principally kept this command by laying us up for himself in heaven (Jn. 10:10). We are his treasured possession (Deut. 7:6). He raised us up, where we are seated with him (Col. 3:1; Eph. 2:6). In this way, as in all things, he and the Father have the same purpose and will, namely, to lay up people (i.e., treasures) for themselves in heaven: “… [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18).

Alan Jacobs (quoting):

As a believing Christian, I have come to a point where I find articles like Scruton’s increasingly frustrating. That large numbers of Europeans no longer embrace the Christian faith is obvious. But in this article, Scruton neither explains, nor defends, nor advocates the Christian faith other than as an instrumentality to buttress a select group of nation states, or as an instrumentality to inform elements of a culture he would like to see preserved. At least as described, Scruton’s is not a Christianity of radical practices of self-giving love that animated the early communities of the time of Acts of the Apostles. It is a Christianity from the top down. a bureaucratized belief system in which the value proposition lies not in the transformation of individual lives, but in providing some sort of ethical coherence to societies. Now, it may be a good thing for societies to possess ethical coherence – but that is a consequence far, far down the causal chain, and a long distance from the mission and purpose of Christian belief. Starting the discussion where Scruton does, he makes Christian belief the servant of state and culture (whatever he may think he is saying) rather than a set of beliefs that precedes and is therefore independent of state and culture.

If you look for a pattern, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and liberal evangelicals blur. Protestants see the difference between heaven and earth (at least sometimes).

Today's Theme is Breadth

After hearing from Pastor Sauls on the valuable contributions from those who disagree, we read Mark Jones who has his own objections to the narrow road. Maybe Pastor Sauls qualifies as one of Jones’ Reformed irenics since the former is not beholden to Reformed orthodoxy. But I suspect Sauls would fall short because he doesn’t know enough historical theology. Those who do know the breadth of the Reformed tradition as Jones does are different from and less appealing than the Truly Reformed who read the Reformed confessions in a wooden manner (unlike someone trained in historical theology):

Among this group, I sometimes worry that their zeal for Confessional fidelity – a noble zeal, in and of itself – can sometimes reflect an overly restricted reading of the diversity of the Reformed tradition and our Reformed confessional history. They can read our confessions in a somewhat a-historical manner. Thus they tend to draw the lines of orthodoxy quite narrowly, excluding views from the tradition that have quite a bit of historical precedent. We must admit: our tradition has lots of diversity. Lots. And this diversity is present in the way our Confessions were formed, if one reads them carefully (e.g., the nature of Adam’s reward is ambiguous).

A recognition of diversity leads to an awareness of how narrow our conservative Presbyterian world in North America is:

When we consider the Christian world, and just how broad it is, it doesn’t make much sense for us in the Reformed Confessional tradition to be too narrow. We are, after all, a tiny minority. We should, as far as we are able, and without compromising our confessional heritage, embrace or respect other Christian traditions, viewpoints, and values. It is actually a firm confidence in our Reformed Confessional heritage that allows us to do this.

If I may be allowed a minute at the historical microphone, let me assert that historical theology is not church history. And church history teaches a couple of lessons that Dr. Jones’ historical theology apparently leaves out.

First, a confession is not a work of historical theology. It is a legal standard for a Christian communion. Does it mean that it doesn’t have a history or that context isn’t important for understanding the words and arguments of the Confession? No. But it does mean that a confession for a specific denomination functions in a very different way from a theologian highly regarded by people in a theological tradition. The Confession of Faith is a secondary standard for the PCA and the OPC. John Calvin and John Owen are not such legal standards. And the reason churches have confessions is very different from the aim that animates historical theologians; churches need criteria and consensus for ordination and discipline while historical theologians, like Dr. Jones at least, can marvel at the diversity.

Second, church history also teaches why some Presbyterian communions are narrow. The reason is that some Presbyterian communions became broad — as in Leffert Loetscher’s Broadening Church, the history of the PCUSA. In addition, one of the reasons mainline Presbyterians celebrated breadth owed in part to the discovery of Christians in other parts of the world and a concomitant recognition of how seemingly foreign the West’s creeds and confessions were to non-Westerners.

Dr. Jones may not be celebrating breadth and diversity in the same way, but when he lectures us about history, I wish he would take more history into account.

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.)

To Forgive or Not?

Forgiveness is much on my mind today after another day of cross-country travel and listening to NPR’s coverage of the Greek financial crisis. Who could forgive the Greek bank’s debt? Could someone in the international financial sector step up to forgive Greece the way that the families of Dylann Roof’s victims did? Would that kind of granting forgiveness stand up to the scrutiny that the AME church members has?

Someone else who needs forgiveness is Tullian Tchvidjian. I am glad to see that so far the bloggers in Reformed circles have decided to refrain from commenting on his recent admission of marital infidelity. It was an easy target — to see the man whom critics accused of promoting cheap grace and disregarding the law disregard the law. So far, only David Robertson, who must not have had any opinion about Greece, has weighed in:

I had had an interesting exchange with Tullian and his ‘Liberate’ ministry last year. Without really being aware of who he was, I had written a review of his book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. It wasn’t entirely uncritical. Little did I know what it was like to step into the murky world of the American mega-church pastor. The congratulations from those who seemed to want to hang Tullian out to dry were matched only by the cries of those who saw me as some kind of right-wing legalist who had no idea of grace. To be fair, there were many who did not fit into either category but who were glad to get an outsider’s perspective. Sadly, the popularity of that article only served to indicate the truth of the truism that the best way to draw a crowd is to start a fight.

So you might expect a degree of schadenfreude from me. In that case you will be disappointed. I feel gutted and saddened at the whole situation. My critique of the book is not proved true by Tullian’s fall, any more than it would have been proven false by his continued ministry. Surely sorrow, discouragement and prayer can be the only appropriate responses for the Tchividjian family?

To his credit, Robbo refuses to score points except to take on the megachurch (which really should score points against the Wilt Chamberlain of Presbyterian megachurches — Redeemer TKNY):

The trouble with the corporate model of church is that it leaves the CEOs (otherwise known as ‘senior pastors’) as a combination of business manager, advertising guru and celebrity personality. And that is a very lonely and isolating position. Maybe a return to a more biblical pattern of church, with elders and preachers as ‘under shepherds’ and answerable to the wider church, rather than the stakeholders (shareholders?) of the local corporate church entity, might provide a better context for accountable ministry.

And why doesn’t that apply to TKNY?

But back to Tullian. What if someone like me decided publicly to forgive Tullian? Would that make sense? Mark Jones makes me think it might:

We are all aware, I trust, that all sins are committed against God. Therefore, no one can forgive sins in the way that God can. He has a peculiar authority that we do not have. All sins, whether mediately or immediately, are committed against God. Sometimes the neighbour is the medium, but the sin is still against God. Why is this important? Because if we forgive our neighbour, this does not relate to the guilt of his sin, but rather to the harm that has been done to us.

So when the family members of the killed “forgave” Dylan Roof, we are not forced to have to look at their forgiveness and then argue that they have no right to do so because there is no repentance from Mr. Roof. Rather, we are to understand their offering of forgiveness based on the harm that has been done to them because of the loss they have experienced.

In effect, they are not telling Mr. Roof that he is now justified before God. They are saying, you have harmed us and hurt us; and we forgive you for this harm.

Tullian has harmed the name of Christ and was a minister in a sister denomination. For that reason, I can conclude that he harmed fellow officers in NAPARC denominations. And by Jones’ logic, I can forgive Tullian.

So we have three cases of forgiveness: financial, legal, and ecclesiastical. Which ones are legitimate? Which ones deserve scrutiny?

From DGH on The Death of Prayer Meetings Submitted on 2015 05 12 at 10:52 am

Mark, you are so good at quoting from historical figures that I’m a little taken aback by your throwaway reference to John Calvin. Since he had preaching services during the week, I’m surprised to learn that he advocated a mid-week prayer meeting: “Church history also gives us many good examples (e.g., Calvin in Geneva).”

Here’s a question, though. Say you are a congregation that already has two prayer meetings. Each one takes place on Sunday, one in the morning and one in the evening. These instances of corporate prayer, as you may have guessed, are part of the sanctification of the Lord’s Day. Are you advocating that we add another, for the sake of sanctifying Wednesday night (sure hope it doesn’t conflict with Hockey Night in Canada)?

Or what if you are part of a congregation that only has one service on the Lord’s Day — in the morning, for instance? Do you think a church should first start an evening Sunday service before adding a mid-week prayer meeting? Or is corporate prayer so important that Christians should leave their homes and offices for it, even though they may already pray in those non-church settings alone or with other Christians?

I am having trouble figuring out why you might advocate corporate prayer the way you do. For instance, you say that one reason is that people are too busy. But that’s the same argument that people use against a second service on Sunday. I can well understand that people have vocations that make attending church functions like Bible study, youth group, even catechism difficult. I can also well understand a session that is reluctant to add to a church member’s burdens, someone who already is committed to and practices keeping the Lord’s Day holy.

I don’t know why you don’t see the potential burden unless you don’t understand the doctrine of vocation. Isn’t it Reformed to think that someone is actually serving God by carrying out their civil, secular, professional, and family duties? If they perform those tasks on the Lord’s Day, then Houston we have a problem. But if they honor their callings during the week and cant’ attend a church function to which officers cannot attach a “thus saith the Lord,” are you really suggesting that to be truly holy and pious people need to pray together at the church building (instead of with their families or over the course of their work days)?

Maybe the problem is that you don’t appreciate the importance of Lord’s Day worship and week-day vocation.

Or maybe you simply have forgotten that all of life is worship (thanks to our southern correspondent):

The New Testament model for worship is not just about singing praises. It is living a life of service. It’s about far more than music. It’s helping your neighbor bring in the groceries, providing for the elderly, taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves, helping the poor and needy—these are all examples of biblical worship.

Actually, I’d prefer that you not follow this Framean understanding of every-square-inch liturgy, but you may want to recognize that your version of pietism is out of whack with the neo-Calvinist high intellect pietism. For neo-Cals, missing a mid-week prayer service is no problem since a believer must 24-7 be engaged in some means of grace. As you yourself have argued, grace can be a fairly expansive category that extends to God’s work of creation and providence. So if someone at church who is following Kuyper misses a prayer meeting because they are redeeming culture by watching Downton Abbey, which seventeenth-century theologian are you going to quote against them?

From DGH on Can Humans Merit Before God Submitted (2) on 2015 04 23 at 12:42 pm

Mark,

We need to stop meeting like this. I am still unsure why you keep pushing the dogmatic boundaries on grace, merit, the covenant of works, and the satisfaction of Christ. Perhaps you’ll recall that Rick Phillips tried to moderate your views a year ago. But you persist in ways that might have even caused Norman Shepherd embarrassment. He was not someone to show off.

Since you and Rick have gone round and around again, I only want to add two cents (same in Canadian dollars).

First, you insist that words need to mean what they mean.

Professor VanDrunen does not define “merit”. He seems to make the argument that because Christ, the true image bearer, merited before God, Adam, as an image-bearer, also could have merited before God. In his quote there appears to be a one-to-one correlation between the merit of Christ and the merit of Adam. This is questionable ground, in my view. He needs to define merit, otherwise we are left guessing, at best, what he means. Is he departing from what the Reformed scholastics meant by merit or agreeing with them?

Great. O lexicographer define thyself’s words:

There are important Christological reasons why Christ could merit, but Adam could not. If our understanding of what constitutes a meritorious work follows the Reformed scholastics, then the answer is quite simple: the dignity of Christ’s person (as theanthropos) explains why he, and he alone, could merit before God.

Sorry, that’s not a definition. So why hold Dave VanDrunen (or the objects of your criticism) to a standard that you don’t meet? Are you special like Jesus? Sorry if that’s a bit snarky, but in previous posts you have compared Jesus to believers, so it’s both fair and snarky.

Second, “voluntary condescension” is not grace. If we are going to insist on the exact meaning of words, then again you can’t pour grace into that phrase from the Confession (though I guess you can because Canada is a free country like the U.S.).

What I particularly don’t understand (howl if you like here) is why you keep stating that the covenant with Adam could not have been meritorious because the reward would have been disproportionate to the work he would have performed:

Finally, the rewards given to Christ are proportionate to the work he performed. Adam’s reward would have been far greater, assuming we say that Adam would have been granted heavenly life, than what he “worked for”.

But following your logic, was Adam’s penalty, his condemnation along with the rest of the human race, proportionate to his merely eating a piece of fruit? Yes, it was an act of disobedience. But one strike and you and your children and your children’s children are out is not an arrangement that brings to mind grace, no matter how much Canadians struggle with baseball. It sounds more like a threat or a curse arrangement. In which case, if Adam could earn everlasting condemnation simply by one act, why not everlasting blessing for the work prescribed by a just and powerful God?

Comments are still open.

P.S. A word of advice — let others decide whether your response is gracious.

From DGH on Can Humans Merit Before God Submitted on 2015 04 21 at 5:22 pm

Mark,

For the sake of your congregation, the PCA, the Alliance — not to mention yourself — please don’t write part 2. Do you really want to position yourself as Norman Shepherd 2.0? Aside from all that you’ve already written about the parallels among Adam, Christ, and us, and how we all — without sufficient qualification — graciously obtain God’s favor through good works, you now appear to be headed to the no-man’s land of Norman Shepherdville:

In other words, in order to keep the Adam-Christ parallels, we must not actually abandon the concept of grace given to 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.

David VanDrunen, in criticizing Norman Shepherd’s rejection of merit in the Garden of Eden, makes the following claim:

“It is not difficult to see how such a view, if taken seriously, makes belief in Christ’s active, imputed obedience impossible. If image bearers do not merit anything before God, then the true image bearer, Christ, did not merit anything before God, and his perfect obedience can hardly be reckoned ours as the basis for our justification” (CJPM, 51).

This paragraph by Professor VanDrunen will give me an opportunity in the next post to examine more carefully – I trust, in an irenic tone – some of his claims from a historical and biblical perspective.

But it is interesting to me that some recent defences of justification seem to approach the topic somewhat differently than what I find in the Early Modern era when it comes to merit and the Edenic context for Adam’s obedience.

The thing is, Mark, a historian knows the difference between the present and the past. And in the present Norman Shepherd has received round rejections from the Reformed churches. Just listen to the RCUS:

The whole crux of the matter is that Shepherd robs the gospel of good news. How can a man be justified before God? The good news is that Christ’s righteousness, namely, His perfect obedience and sacrifice upon the cross for the sins of His people, is freely imputed by God to all who receive Christ by faith alone, trusting in his saving work on their behalf. By fulfilling the law and suffering its curse, Christ obtains righteousness and eternal life as a free gift for His people.

Now, Mr. Shepherd, if Christ fully satisfied the justice of God and appeased God’s wrath against my sin, then what act of obedience would you have me do, or what act of disobedience would you have me avoid, in order to escape God’s wrath? The Bible says that the only means of escape is to reach out the empty hand of faith and receive the gracious gift. Yes, Mr. Shepherd, all it takes is a simple act of faith. ‘The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus forgiveness receives.’ Yes, Mr. Shepherd, salvation and justification do in fact take place at a certain point in
time – the moment a person believes! “Verily, verily, I say to you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). “And the publican, … saying, God be merciful to me a
sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified”! (Luke 18:13-14). “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”! (Acts 16:30-31). “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 9:13).
Justification does not take place at any other time than the first appearance of genuine faith in the human heart.

. . . Therefore, the question is this: Is justification by faith alone apart from obedience the one true gospel or is it not? John Murray believed that “it makes void the gospel to introduce works in connection with justification.”194 For precisely this reason, Calvin (and Luther too!) called the doctrine of justification by faith alone “the main hinge on which religion turns.”195 Turretin termed it “the principal rampart of the Christian religion. This being adulterated or subverted, it is impossible to retain purity of doctrine in other places. Hence Satan in every way has endeavored to corrupt this doctrine in all ages, as has been done especially by the papacy.”196 Take note: deny justification by faith alone, and it is impossible to retain purity of doctrine in other places! It is a downward slide.

If the RCUS is not good enough for you, how about your own organization, the Alliance, a parachurch agency that launched its existence precisely because justification by faith alone (read Norman Shepherd) was on the ropes. Thanks to the nifty new device that alliance.net has made available, I can find the Cambridge Declaration of 1996 that spawned ACE. It includes the following:

Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls. Today this article is often ignored, distorted or sometimes even denied by leaders, scholars and pastors who claim to be evangelical. Although fallen human nature has always recoiled from recognizing its need for Christ’s imputed righteousness, modernity greatly fuels the fires of this discontent with the biblical Gospel. We have allowed this discontent to dictate the nature of our ministry and what it is we are preaching.

Many in the church growth movement believe that sociological understanding of those in the pew is as important to the success of the gospel as is the biblical truth which is proclaimed. As a result, theological convictions are frequently divorced from the work of the ministry. The marketing orientation in many churches takes this even further, erasing the distinction between the biblical Word and the world, robbing Christ’s cross of its offense, and reducing Christian faith to the principles and methods which bring success to secular corporations.

While the theology of the cross may be believed, these movements are actually emptying it of its meaning. There is no gospel except that of Christ’s substitution in our place whereby God imputed to him our sin and imputed to us his righteousness. Because he bore our judgment, we now walk in his grace as those who are forever pardoned, accepted and adopted as God’s children. There is no basis for our acceptance before God except in Christ’s saving work, not in our patriotism, churchly devotion or moral decency. The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.

Thesis Four: Sola Fide

We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.

We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ’s righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.

I wonder, the way you are headed, if you can affirm what the Alliance does. I sure hope so. But your constant toying with a doctrine that stands at the center of the gospel leads me to think the RCUS’ words to Norman Shepherd might apply to you:

Does Shepherd Jones really want to maintain that the fathers of the reformation, who together wrote the Protestant Creeds, along with all their spiritual sons, men like Turretin, Hodge, Berkhof, and John Murray, have all misread Scripture and have all misunderstood the doctrine of justification by faith alone?

Those of us who read you fear that the answer is yes.

From DGH on Does The Gospel Threaten Submitted on 2015 03 24 at 12:22 pm

Mark,

You have me scratching my head again. If the gospel threatens, as you say:

God, as Adam’s father, threatened Adam in the Garden. His threat was an act of love (grace?), designed to keep Adam from sinning. Adam had good reason, then, to be afraid of God when he sinned. It would have been the “essence of impiety” not to have been afraid after he rebelled against God. Adam’s first sin was unbelief. But he clearly forgot to fear God, which was a factor in his unbelief. Adam doubted God’s threat to him as well as God’s love.

then when God said to Adam, “if you eat of the tree you will surely die,” we have the first expression of the Gospel — the protoevangelion as it were. And here I had thought that Genesis 3:15 was the first instance of the gospel:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.

Silly me.

While I have you, I have to ask about your math skills. In your reflections on China (and I do wonder what the sound of 1,000,000 Chinese Christians clapping sounds like) you say that the underground church in China is the size of 100,000 OPC churches. Did you mean the OPC with its total church membership (roughly 32,000) or number of churches/congregations (roughly 300)? If the former, my math says the underground church in would reach a level of 32,000,000,000. But if it is only the size of the number of OPC congregations, then the underground church would be 300,000,000.

Is this one of those metric system differences between the U.S. and Canada?

An Experiment

Although the exchange between Greg and Erik has had its moments, I do wonder if Old Life is taking up too much bandwidth with all the comments that sometimes ensue different posts.

So I am going to add a wrinkle to commenting at OL: anyone who wants to comment should limit him or herself to three comments a day per post. I suggest one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and perhaps a nightcap to round out the day’s activity. Yes, this could result in much longer comments within each thread. But it may also force commenters to distinguish between the substantial and the trivial.

Comments are still open but those making them are encouraged to show restraint. Call it a good work and Mark Jones will be happy.