Read This and Think Holy Plumbing?

All the benefits of Christ lead plumbers to see their craft in this text?

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph. 1)

When you work with basin wrenches, everything looks like a mounting nut.

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What’s a Plumber to Think?

In which category, flesh or Spirit, fall washers and gaskets?

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8)

Epistemological Self-Consciousness, Intellectual Theonomy

What kind of a worldview does a wren exhibit when it sees the neighbor’s cat crouching in preparation to pounce and flies to the nearest telephone line? Is the bird’s knowledge of the feline species somehow diminished because he can’t theorize about his knowledge of cats and their objects of backyard prey?

What about a baseball player who can spot the difference between a curve and a four-seam fastball, all within a nanosecond, and swing his bat while uncoiling his body to launch the baseball into the right field stands? If the batter can’t explain his theory of hitting, if the Phillies won’t hire him when he retires to be a hitting coach, does that make his knowledge of crushing mistake pitches illegitimate? Does every batter have to be a Ted Williams for his hits to be certain and his runs-batted-in certified? Did Richie Allen not win the American League MVP for 1972 because he could not theorize about what he did in the batter’s box?

I have contemplated these two sets of questions recently while continuing my reflections on neo-Calvinism, worldview thinking, and a certain sector of the Reformed world’s infatuation with philosophy. Countless times I have encountered the argument that someone’s knowledge is not really knowledge because they have no epistemological foundation for it. The public high school teacher may be able to teach algebra but because she doesn’t know where the truths of math come from, she doesn’t really understand math. Or the elected official may understand that human life should be protected and vote for harsher penalties for manslaughter but unless he understands that human beings are created in the image of God, his vote is inauthentic.

Perhaps the best bumper sticker expression of this outlook comes from the Greg Bahnsen quotation that adorns Rabbi Bret’s blog:

In various forms, the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist is that the Christian worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. When the perspective of God’s revelation is rejected, then the unbeliever is left in foolish ignorance because his philosophy does not provide the preconditions of knowledge and meaningful experience. To put it another way: the proof that Christianity is true is that if it were not, we would not be able to prove anything.

But as the two examples above indicate, creatures have knowledge and understanding of the created order all the time without being able to give a theoretical account of such ideas or activities. Why isn’t knowledge of math and batting the human equivalent of the instincts and cunning that birds show when fleeing cats? Granted, human beings are more than natural; we have souls, minds, language capacities. But even these higher ranges of human existence are part and parcel of the way human beings operate on planet earth. Those higher ranges are natural to human beings. I see no compelling reason why we need to spiritualize of philosophize human activities that are simply analogous to what other creatures do.

Some neo-Calvinists and theonomists will object that such an understanding of human activity denies God and the relationship that all people have with him by virtue of creation. In other words, human beings should do everything that they do to the glory of God. To fail to connect the dots between algebra and doxology is to operate in a world of autonomy from God.

One possible response is to say that God may be as delighted by the batter’s ability to hit the ball as he is by the wren’s capacity to elude the cat. Which is to say that human beings in their creatureliness, in the games they play, the poems they memorize, the bridges they build, and the voyages they take, delight God because he created human beings precisely with the capacity to do these things. And if all of creation can praise to God, from the movement of the stars to the way cats clean themselves, then why can’t human life in its naturalness also give God glory as creator whether or not a human being is engaging in eating or playing or learning self-consciously to the glory of God. Why can’t it be the case that even despite the sinful natures that afflict all people, their existence and range of activities as created beings delight God simply as the fulfillment of his creation and providence in the same way that creatures without souls also give glory to God in accomplishing the ends for which they were created?

Of course, the paleo-Calvinist answers to these questions seem plausible to this paleo-Calvinist, but I would also venture an example from the spiritual world that could throw a wrench into the seemingly perpetual philosophical motion machine of neo-Calvinists. Aside from the batter or the wren, what about the regenerate believer who can’t tell the difference between Plato and Kant? What about the Christian who is not given to self-consciousness? Is his plumbing any less valuable or virtuous because he can’t conceive of a philosophically coherent system that will explain how his knowledge of the leak and his experience with fixing such leaks depends upon the ontological Trinity? If he simply begins his day asking for God’s blessing, thanks God for strength and sustenance, goes about his job, provides for his family, and leads family worship – that is, if he simply goes about his routine and seeks to honor his maker, but cannot fathom the theories that would turn his activities into the self-actualized doings of an epistemologically self-conscious believer, does that make his knowledge of plumbing, his love of family, and his enjoyment of pizza invalid?

I hope not.

Lay Plumbing

Since relocating to Michigan I have not only had to think about whether Christians plumb differently from non-Christians. I have also had to think and act plumbingly.

First, I had to purchase a toilet auger to unblock a clogged septic line.

Then, I had to figure out how to displace a large puddle that had emerged in our “Michigan basement” after several heavy rains. A wet-dry shop vacuum allowed the removal of 14 gallons of water fairly easily.

And then I needed to consider the various features of dehumidifiers in order to prevent such puddles in the basement from repeating and growing. And this has led to further consideration about installing a sump with its related pump in order to allow the dehumidifier to keep working without having to empty its water receptacle.

In which case, a sump pump might allow putting the washer and dryer in the basement, as well as the installation of a sink for the sorts of cleaning and rinsing that are less than desirable in the kitchen or bathroom.

If I did not know better, I would be tempted to think that God is mocking my repeated (and perhaps overused) point about Christian plumbing (or the lack thereof). But at least this much can be said in defense of 2k: so far the creational wisdom of the local hardware store staff has yet to steer wrong this mortgage payer who is not doctrinaire about water and its movement within and outside the home.

If Only Kuyperians Were As Reasonable as Godfrey

Over at Confessional Outhouse, RubeRad (what’s up with those names?) has a quotation from Bob Godfrey’s address at the Westminster California conference on Christ and culture. Here it is:

As is often true in the history of the church, we [Kuyperians and 2K-ers] may not all perfectly agree what the Bible says, but I think we’re all agreed with the principle…The Bible is authoritative in everything that it says, about everything that it talks about. But I think we are also all agreed that the Bible, while authoritative in everything that it talks about, is not exhaustive in everything it talks about. The Bible tells us some things about history, but it doesn’t tell us everything about history. I believe it tell us some things about geology, but I don’t think it tells us everything about geology. I would suggest that it’s really only in three areas that we can say … it also speaks comprehensively, or completely, or exhaustively; we as Reformed Christians are committed to the proposition that that everything we need to know about doctrine and salvation is told to us completely in the Bible. … Secondly, we would say that the Bible is exhaustive in what it teaches us about worship. … And thirdly, the Bible tells us all we need to know about the Church and its government. … But I think we can probably agree as well, whatever our approach to Christ and culture, that the Bible does not speak exhaustively about politics. It says a lot of things about politics, it says a lot of things that are relevant to politics, but I don’t think any of us would want to argue that the Bible tells us absolutely everything we need to know about politics. Does the Bible even indisputably teach us whether we ought to have a democracy, or an aristocracy, or a monarchy? John Calvin says it doesn’t. … I don’t think anybody … would want to argue that every aspect of a platform proposed for a civil election could be derived from the Bible; I don’t think anyone would argue that. … So the Bible is authoritative in all that it says, but it doesn’t say everything about anything except salvation, worship, and church government.

I for one do not know a single advocate of two kingdom theology who would not affirm this. And the good thing about this statement is that it keeps first things first — doctrine, worship, and polity — while allowing for differences on other matters because the Bible itself does not pin down those other areas of human endeavor.

What is odd about RubeRad’s post is that he follows up Godfrey’s quotation with one from John Frame, that RubeRad regards as compatible:

Christians sometimes say that Scripture is sufficient for religion, or preaching, or theology, but not for auto repairs, plumbing, animal husbandry, dentistry, and so forth. And of course many argue that it is not sufficient for science, philosophy, or even ethics. That is to miss an important point. Certainly Scripture contains more specific information relevant to theology than to dentistry. But sufficiency in the present context is not sufficiency of specific information but sufficiency of divine words. Scripture contains divine words sufficient for all of life. It has all the divine words that the plumber needs, and all the divine words that the theologian needs. So it is just as sufficient for plumbing as it is for theology. And in that sense it is sufficient for science and ethics as well.

This strikes me as the typical Frame theological method of taking an inch and turning it into a mile. So people will agree with the idea that divine words are sufficient, some divine words apply to plumbing, and — voila — the Bible becomes as sufficient for plumbing as for theology. Hello!??! Do plumbers really need to study the Bible to plumb the way that theologians do to understand God and his revelation? As Fred Willard’s character in Waiting for Guffman said, “I don’t think sooooo.”

Either way, if more Reformed folks would follow Godfrey’s counsel than Frame’s logic, we might actually find that two-kingdom theology is not radical and that Kuyperian rhetoric is often bloated. Can we get a little reason around here?