15 June 2010

#11 Dialectical Hermeneutics continued….

Augustine understood this to some extent. Maybe he wasn't conscious of a specific principle at work. Maybe he didn't map it out, but he obviously saw these things. He also expressed it in the City of God…two kingdoms, another dialectic. Sadly in practice, he like Luther, another professing Two-kingdom adherent was not always consistent. They lapsed into the Monism that has proved the legacy of Constantinian Sacralism. The Reformation vigorously embraced this. It was amended by many in post-Revolution America, but it never quite went away and in the last thirty years thanks to a Abraham Kuyper's influence on Rushdoony and Francis Schaeffer, it's back with a vengeance.



Calvin the student of Augustine retains some of this dynamic thinking. Why else would he refer to regeneration as both the instantaneous transformational work of the Holy Spirit, but then also use the word as a progression, a synonym of sanctification? Read the Institutes. Read the commentaries. Calvin must frustrate so many Reformed people. He must baffle them. Sometimes he angers me when he departs Scripture, or when he helps transform Geneva into a Sacral state, but he doesn't baffle me.

Why would he speak of Temporary Faith regarding the parable of the sower? This is Calvin, Mr. Election right? Yet here he speaks of a temporary faith………these people are saved and then lost. With a dialectical understanding, it's not a problem. Arminians have no problem, they just define it all in visible terms. Electio-centric theologies have a real problem with this. They explain it away. Their system demands it.

Why can Calvin title Bk III ch. 14 of the Institutes, "The Beginning of Justification and Its Continual Progress"? Justification has an already- not yet aspect too?

Because even though he doesn't elaborate the dynamic clearly even Calvin who is known primarily for the doctrine of Election understood its place.

Everyone talks about how he took election out of the doctrine of God and moved the discussion to the benefits of Christ. But no one seems to understand why? It's not the centerpiece of theology! He understood this.

Now Calvin got plenty of other things wrong or perhaps sometimes it's what he didn't say. But anyone immersed in Augustine as he was…some of it came through.
What is sanctification? Is it not but one facet of a jewel we may call salvation? Take the jewel, turn it, look at the different facets. Each gives a different perspective, but it is still the whole jewel. And just because you see the jewel one way by looking at a particular facet, that in no way negates the reality of the other facet-views. Each is synecdochical.

Full/decretive Sanctification is Salvation. That person has been fully set apart unto God. Sure there's more to it, but on one level we may reduce it to something this simple. We're not here talking about the issues surrounding Justification, atonement etc….

We're talking about being set apart unto God. Fully accomplished this is salvation. In time it is being done.

Justification is being reckoned righteous, a judicial declaration wherein an alien righteousness is appropriated to us. In the eternal we are indeed Justified. In time we have not yet been Justified. Time has not caught up, as it were, with eternity…not yet. Already but not yet.

Taking it alone, we can just focus on Justification. It is salvation. In this sense Sanctification is not necessary. That is, when we're talking about Justification because it also reveals a sense of whole-salvation…it almost seems like Sanctification is superfluous.

But it's not. This miracle called the rebirth, our reconciliation to God is complex especially as it interacts between the visible/invisible realms, time and space, sacramental form and actual substance, corporate and individual. Apparently even angels are in awe of it.

We have been saved, we are being saved, we are yet to be saved. The 'problem' texts are evaporating. The problems arise when we use the wrong lens.

Apply this now to Adoption, Union, Glorification.

Because we live in space and time, the lower register, the visible…the multiple aspects/benefits are applied to us progressively. In Christ we are already in eternity…yet applied there is a chronology. We are called. We are justified. We will be glorified.

The key to all this is the IN CHRIST part. Hence, the historically neglected concept of Union, the gem itself.

The trouble in James 2 is evaporating…we don't have to play word games to explain away the meaning of Justification. Paul is using the word forensically and James is quoting the SAME text. Justification now means vindication? No way. Works salvation? Of course not….not in the invisible sense.

Visibly? Works are not points, not merit (though I do accept the concept of merit….Christ indeed merited our salvation)… We're not the second Adam, we're not saving ourselves. The works James speaks of are the outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit's work in us. Evidences. Taken alone, think just in visible categories for a moment…that's the scope of James' point……….works are necessary for salvation.

We can't see the invisible, the heart…….visibly speaking, works save…we don't have to be afraid to say it. They are simply showing the invisible reality. It's as if….as if…..God could judge us just on the visible. Our filthy rags wouldn't save us, but the imperfect sinful works we do nevertheless show we are alive. If we are alive (spiritually of course) then we are reborn, justified, elect……

It's not works salvation, but I refuse to read that passage from the standpoint of election. James is not talking about election at all. It's not in his mind. Yes, James….His thought, his character do come out in the epistle…same with Paul, John, Peter. They are all valid…not their total thought. Peter sure made his mistakes right? But there is some validity to their personal judgments/frames of thought insofar as it is expressed on the pages of the New Testament, when they were under inspiration. James is approaching the whole issue from a different angle, a different perspective.

 
What does all this have to with Medieval Dissenters, proto-protestants like the Waldenses?

They did not teach the formula of Justification by Faith alone, but if you read about them you find them seemingly vacillating between systems that are on the one hand sacerdotal/medieval and monergistic/reformational.

I contend the theology of the Bible recognizes both systems. Either of them alone is problematic. The two held in tension….carefully worked through using the text….is the power of God!

How far had they worked this out? I don't know. But they seemed to hold to it. Not all, not universally, but you'll find it again and again.

They were also anti-Constantinian……for the most part. More on that later. Protestants, especially Baptist-types have a problem reading Patristics. Nevin pointed this out. The Early Church Fathers certainly were not perfect, but this way of reading the Bible……suddenly the Church Fathers make a lot more sense, and you can see how yes, they're focusing more on the visible side of the coin….proto-Roman Catholicism.

When I became a Calvinist, I felt like I had a new Bible. When I became free of Hyper-Calvinism, I felt like I got my Bible back….when I really understood the Dialectic Principle of Scripture….it was like getting a new Bible again….equally profound as when I grasped election.

When I finally set aside all the Constantinian presuppositions that hitherto I had not even realized I possessed….history changed. The Kingdom becomes more visible than ever. History comes alive…it's not pleasing to the flesh, but for the first time I felt like I could comprehend and rejoice in God's Kingdom. I could see it and how God's wisdom defies man's wisdom and desires.

Constantinianism allows us to glory in history, 'claim' sides and drive agendas for today.

Anti-constantinianism allows me to once more live in the New Testament and lay up my treasures in heaven. I don't see history in silly categories like we (the USA) are good and Iran is evil. That's not a Biblical worldview. The Biblical view is that we (the USA) are evil and Iran is evil. And that WE as Christians are not equal to the 'we' of the USA. We live here…we're in it, but not of it. We don't have to defend the Crusades, we don't have to be embarrassed about the Inquisition…none of that was the church.

There is a sense in which we speak of that as the church visible, but it is in the same sense that in the Old Testament the northern kingdom was God's people. They were in an outward sense, but theologically they were not. They were Yahwist, but apostate. Medieval and modern Catholicism are to be viewed the same way. There's a 'sense' in which may incorporate them into the discussion of the church…but from the spiritual standpoint they are not to be regarded…just like Elisha had no regard for King Jehoram (named after Jehovah though he was).

The Waldensians, Utraquists, Lollards and others who joined the Reformation gained much but lost much. The Reformation coming out of Catholicism brought with it Sacralism and Scholasticism…the core drivers for re-creating the medieval Monism.

There is so much more to talk about.

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