15 June 2010

#9 Augustine and Hermeneutics part 2

Now, Rome is very theologically Nominalistic……..all is VISIBLE. They do not acknowledge the two tier structure I presented in the last post. Things are what they are. And when they're not…like in the case of the Eucharist, well, they really are… they just engage in sophistry to explain away the issue of the accidents. What I mean is the bread and wine only seem like bread and wine; they are actually the literal body and blood of Christ.

Sacraments can't be symbolic of something else….forms pointing to a universal. Nominalistic thinking will not allow for such a Platonic category. But in this case it's not Plato, it's Paul! So, in a strictly nominalist, visible realm based way of thinking, the Sacrament actually DOES the thing it is associated with. Baptism isn't just a sign or symbol, the visible Word. It actually in and of itself saves. The Eucharist in and of itself saves. Someone is either a Catholic or they are not. To discuss whether someone REALLY believes is moot. They are baptized….period.

When the laws of logic are applied to a strictly lower tier visible system…you have to end up with ex opere operato. If Scripture and tradition are authoritative, you would have to end up with a charismatic Magisterium. You can't say the visible forms (Magisterium) could err and differ from an eternal truth/reality. The Visible has to be it……so the Magisterium must be governed by a special providence. It has to be the actual thing, the eternal truth made visible. There's no two sided thinking here.

So, the church is a very tangible thing. Interesting this is very much how the Jews thought. They thought just because I'm circumcised, a son of Abraham, I'm good to go…totally missing the issue of the heart, the spirit. It was all outward, visible. Rome is the same way. Why is she that way? Ah, that's a long story.

Baptistic and Hyper-Calvinistic theology is completely focused on the INVISIBLE. All externals are useless because the Spirit alone gives life. Read 'The Preached Covenant' by Sherman Isbell. He would detest the theology I present here, but this article dealing with anti-nomianism particularly in relation to Hoeksema is excellent. Antinomianism here does not mean loose-living lawlessness. Rather it is the rejection of the external means. This theology starts either with internal salvation or for Hyper-Calvinists its driving cause…the doctrine of election. Election is made the centerpiece of all theology and all theology is read through that lens.

Baptism can't really mean anything, because that would logically contradict election. The Supper can only be memorial because an external thing can't affect someone's spiritual state…that would contradict the premises of election applied. Interesting if one applies this reasoning to things like prayer.

Obedience can't really be necessary, because that would contradict election by Divine Grace. Logically coherent. So is the Roman system. But neither is being faithful to the Bible's FULL message.

To these thinkers, things like Covenant and Election can only be defined in their absolute INVISIBLE senses. Sadly, the Bible uses them much more freely. Like Clark says…being baptized doesn't mean you're in the covenant…because he can only define covenant in the eternal/invisible sense.

This theology in my opinion has a core issue of hyper-rationalism. It's forcing Aristotelian categories into the eternal register.

My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways………

It is no wonder Gordon Clark in his book on the Incarnation called Chalcedon nonsense. Two natures in one person does not compute. I don't understand how he or Robbins could have professed belief in the Trinity. Listen to Robbins describe the mind of Christ! Startling stuff. The hyper-Calvinistic god they worshipped was very small indeed. Though he would decry Nominalism, in Clark's case a Platonic Epistemology practically deifies Logic and in the end this epistemology is self-defeating. And interplay or tension between time/eternity or substance/form cannot function in that system. One side of the scale will in the end triumph and turn the other pole or side into an abstraction. Platonic Epistemology may crown reason as the way to determine truth, but in the end it functions as a theological nominalistic system. This theology cannot allow for an particular election and a plural or composite visible administration. The visible church ends up an abstraction, because only particulars are concrete. For the Hyper-Calvinist The Particular is election, the crown or core out of which the entire system flows and is developed.

Why do I call it hyper-Calvinism? Phil Johnson's primer on Hyper-Calvinism is helpful. The historic manifestation Spurgeon did battle with, is just a symptom of a core way of thinking. Johnson gets it.

It is an abuse of the doctrine of election. Election is like one of those heavenly windows opening. We are allowed a glimpse in for a moment to observe with wonder the mysteries of God. It is meant to be a doctrine of comfort for God's people. A doctrine to inspire awe and worship. It was not meant to be made into the centerpiece of all theology. Christ is the center, not election.

John 6.37 says 'All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.'

There's the election side. If you're elect, you WILL come.

And the visible/revealed side……..come, I won't cast you out!

There are two sides to this. We don't have to explain away World in John 3.16. In the revealed sense, just as God says Thou shalt not kill…….he says Jesus has come and died to pay for the sins of the whole world. He loves the world.

There are other verses pointing to the election side….Ephesians, Romans etc….you know them.

He desires ALL men to be saved….not all kinds of men.

Not willing that ANY should perish……..not any of the elect? Not any..it's a universal.

Let the Scriptures speak. And then we can also proclaim the other side…….where he hardens the heart of Pharaoh, raises up Judas to fulfill the Scriptures etc… creating the creatures of wrath. Both are true.

I recently heard RC Sproul on a radio program declare that 2 Peter was written to the invisible church, dealing with the dilemma of the "any' in chapter 3. It's not a dilemma. There are no epistles written to the invisible church. This is his rationalism trumping the meaning and scope of the text.

There's a certain Reformed Baptist fellow who has set himself up as some sort of modern day Epiphanius. Sadly, he is almost as clownish. I listened to him quote the first half of John 6.37 over and over, but his hyper-calvinism won't allow his to wrestle with the second half.

Those are just recently heard examples on my part. One hears them from Calvinists on a regular basis. Thankfully, some do seem to grasp something of the two-sidedness when it comes to evangelism. Many accept the Free Offer...even though their overall system shouldn't allow them to.

That's my point…so many already employ the dynamic, the dialectic when it comes to evangelism or the Incarnation…but they don't see an operative principle that actually applies to all of Scripture.

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