Monthly Archives: June 2010

Amazing Grace

I finally saw this movie.  The pietistic slogans were somewhat tiresome in the beginning.  It got much better.

Some things I thought were especially interesting. One learned the Wilberforce was considered less than a nationalist–antiwar, opposed to fighting the American colonies, willing to negotiate a peace with Napolean.  This cost him.  You also saw both his impatience and his patience in gradualism verses immediate perfection. The movie was good at showing his balancing act.

It also showed how weird America-style individualism is.  We have our aristocracy but they are not the kind that own all land so that the rest are tenants.  The origins of the welfare state make a lot more sense in thinking to the social change that modernity brought to a society with a “landed” class.

Did Clement (with his whole church) have amnesia?

Proving an unbroken chain of succession in the Roman Catholic Church is, by the strict definition, impossible. But the strict definition is pretty useless for most things, so I don’t see much reason to use it to defend Protestantism on the issues of teaching authority and succession. If Roman Catholics can make a credible case that there was an unbroken succession of bishops in Rome, then we should grant that point and move on to argue about other things.

Of course, that is an argument for church historians to make and for us to read about when we have time.  I haven’t read Luther on the “Babylonian Captivity of the Church” nor any replies.

But I have read Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, and that ends the issue as far as I’m concerned.

Clement did not know he was the Pope and did not act like the Pope.  I’ve seen some point out how much weight Clement gives his own authority, but that just seals the deal. He doesn’t give himself anything like Papal authority nor does he show any sign that he holds an office instituted by Christ to have authority over the Corinthian church.  His belief in the relative importance of his own church, in comparison to the Corinthians, if that is what he believed, only proves that we are seeing early in the development of the myth of the Papacy.

If the Papal office was instituted by Christ, then Roman Catholics must believe that there was a Great Fall from the pristine doctrine and practice of Peter and maybe Linus, and only afterward did the Church recover the fullness of the truth in the third and fourth centuries.

And, just to be clear, you can use a developmental argument for the Papacy or you can argue that it was instituted by Christ in Matthew 18. You can’t do both. They contradict one another.

A note on the (too-short) quest for the true succession

If someone claims that there is found in Scripture a need for an infallible teaching authority for the Church which is a legitimate succession from the original NT Church, the first question that comes to mind is: “If you need this to understand the Bible, then how did you arrive at this conclusion?”

Is your conclusion authoritative? Are all Bible believers obligated to agree with you.

But if someone claims this reasoning means they are obligated to become Roman Catholic, then another question surfaces, “How do you know that the Roman Catholic church has this teaching authority and this unbroken succession?”

This is where the quest for truth succumbs to some serious and questionable shortcuts.

Because to agree with Roman Catholic claims one must claim that either:

  1. all such claims for the Roman Catholic pope are self-authenticating so that all people know they are true whenever they are declared and only disbelieve them through self-deception, or
  2. the proper results studying the history of the Church from the time of Jesus to the present day.

But no one I know of argues for (1) and no one I know of ever thinks of going to the trouble of bearing the burden of (2).  I’m not sure but I don’t think this was always the case.  One gets the impression that the early Reformers and their opponents concentrated on exactly this point.

Nowadays (2) is appealed to in theory but truncated in practice.  Really, since we know there must be a succession, and RCs have some sort of claim that they are it, we simply must take them at their word because we know there has to be one and no other candidate is on the field (unjustly ignoring the Eastern Orthodox in my opinion, though I’m not EO either).

But maybe we know nothing of the kind.  Maybe the fact that Roman Catholic claims are false should send us back to question our conclusions about Scripture telling us we need a succession and an infallible teaching authority.

And maybe the very fact that the succession claim means that all Christians are allegedly obligated to do this kind of study of Church history itself makes the conclusion seem doubtful.

Mark 4.30-32 and the growth of the Kingdom

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, and when it is sown, it grows a magic invisible plant and becomes larger than all the garden plants but puts out large invisible branches, so that the birds of the air fly right by it without noticing.

And it produces no shade.

(Or if you prefer the truth: Mark 4.30-32)

The Future of Jesus 8: When is Jesus King of Kings?

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I’m not sure if this belongs in “eschatology” or not (except in Vos’ sense).  But here goes. I’ll go ahead and put this in the same series as the other “Future of Jesus” entries.

There are a lot of disagreements about how the book of Revelation should be interpreted.  My point is not to rehearse them.  My point is that they don’t matter as far as the question of Jesus’ kingdom is concerned.  Revelation as a letter comes from

Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth (Revelation 1.5).

Jesus is not becoming king at some point in the future. To be more pointed, he is not becoming the king of all nations on earth at some point in the future.  He already is. The book of Revelation presupposes he already holds that office.  It doesn’t predict it will happen because it already has.

This does indicate that maybe Revelation, at least at some points, is recapitulating the past rather than predicting the future.  In Revelation 11, for example, we read, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”  This indicates that, in the vision of chapter 11 at least, the vision is providing an explanation of the past, how Jesus came to be “the ruler of the kings on earth.”

But even if some other explanation can be found, the fact remains that Revelation is a letter dictated to the Apostle John by someone who is already “the ruler of the kings on earth.” Period. End.

So, to be clear: every single human being on earth, whether Muslim, Secularist, Buddhist, Jew, or Christian, lives under a global Christocracy.  And since the incarnation is real, this is also a global theocracy. Nothing needs to become anything to bring this about. It already happened. It is history. To bring this series full circle, it is the basis for the Great Commission.

So the future of Jesus is dependent on the past of Jesus: he has already been installed as the king of the universe.  What next?

Does Jesus simply want these kings under his rule to be oblivious to his authority. Does he want to rule them with the kind of judgments and plagues we read about in Revelation, without any opportunity to actually acknowledge his lordship? Or does he want them to be discipled?

Again, we’re back at the beginning: Jesus wants them discipled.

If “active” obedience is imputed, it is not to make up with an insufficiency in the passive

I want to make a few comments about “the imputation of the active obedience of Christ,” or the rhetoric about it or the way people are treated who do not affirm it.

  • The Roman Catholic Error is not about denying the imputation of the active obedience of Christ.  The reason why Roman Catholic theology lacks assurance is because they don’t fully affirm the imputation of the passive obedience of Christ. They think believers must pay for their sins in Purgatory by their suffering.  So the imputation of the active obedience is not the issue.
  • I don’t see how active can be separated from passive since Christ was a willing sacrifice. I can’t figure out a way that Christ’s passive obedience can be isolated from his active obedience so that only the former is imputed to sinners.  So I do not deny the imputation of Christ’s active obedience.
  • People who claim that we can have no assurance of salvation without the imputation of the active obedience of Christ sound like they have no confidence in the efficacy of Christ’s sufferings. Why wouldn’t the blood of Jesus be a sufficient source for assurance of salvation?  Why must I declare the bitter suffering and death of Christ insufficient for being assured that I am saved?  I don’t get it.
  • If Christ died to forgive our sins, then there is no obedience left to be demanded of us as a condition for our salvation. Why do we keep hearing that, without the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, we must produce our own perfect obedience in order to be saved?  That makes no sense at all. It is true God hates sin and demands perfect obedience. But God has satisfied the penalty of violating that demand by carrying out the full curse for sin on his own son.  There is no demand left.  Jesus paid it all.  Consider the hymn, Nothing but the Blood. When congregations sing this hymn are they being encouraged to to believe that we must produce perfect obedience? No, we are convinced that God has dealt with the penalty for all such disobedience so that there is no such demand on us anymore as a condition for salvation. If God killed his own son to save you what more assurance can you ask for?

Again, I don’t see any way that we can separate out the active and passive obedience.  But neither do I see any way that we must say that one supplements the other or that each does a different job in our salvation.  The curse on sin is satisfied; their can be no further demand for perfect obedience unless the blood of Christ is useless.

To sum up: If you trust Jesus as Lord and Savior then all the demands that God’s holy nature places upon you as a condition for fellowship with himself have been met by Jesus.  The penalty for all disobedience has been paid so there is nothing left to demand of you. Faith itself is not something you offer to God to become good enough to be worthy of his friendship, but rather a means by which you are united to Christ so that his sacrifice applies to you.  Your sins of omission have been forgiven as much as your sins of commission.  God has no further obedience that he could demand of you to escape the penalty of death because the penalty has been satisfied in Christ and by Christ.

For further consideration: Zacharias Ursinus and the Imputation of the Active Obedience.

Adam was God’s son and servant

This issue will not be resolved by simply citing Luke 3:38. We do not, in that text, have any indication whether that was a pre-lapsarian (pre-fall) or post-lapsarian relationship.

via Was Adam a Servant or a Son Before the Fall? || Feeding on Christ.

On the contrary, the issue is most certainly settled by Luke 3.38.  Here it is in context:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

The chronology of when Adam might have been given the title of “son” (“whether that was a pre-lapsarian (pre-fall) or post-lapsarian relationship”) is irrelevant. The relationship is by virtue of origin. Seth is Adam’s son because he came from Adam and Adam is God’s son because he came from God.  In both cases they received their life from the other.  There is no suggestion here that there is some kind of “adoption.”  The issue is birth and origin. Adam was God’s son by virtue of God’s creation.  Adam after all was created in the image of God, and that is a mark of sonship: “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5.3).

However, none of this means that we have to choose absolutely between son and servant.  There are times when those two relationships can be mutually exclusive, when a servant is not a son (as when the Prodigal Son asked to be let back in the home).  But Paul says that all children are like servants in their immaturity (Galatians 4.1).  Sons obey their fathers.

Nor does this term have any bearing at all on “the covenant of works.”  When Paul claims to be a bondservant of Christ he is not claiming to be in a covenant of works with Christ (Romans 1.1).  So tying the alleged status difference of son to servant has no bearing on anything.  It is confusion to even frame the question in this way.

Jesus was both the son of God and the servant of the Lord from the time (and before) he was born. Paul was both adopted by grace as a son and graciously called to be a servant of God.  Adam could be both as well.