18 June 2010

Dialectical Theology...

These issues of recognizing the two-fold nature of Theology...straddling as it were the Already and Not-yet, are core to understanding what some mean by Hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinists themselves will be sure not to see it, declaring dialectic tensions in theology to be irrational.

I will assert by not grasping this dynamic you are constantly faced with logical dilemmas...in your Bible reading (often called problem texts)...AND it gets even worse when you bring in Systematics.

Systematics is fine...but it has to be defined by Redemptive-History...giving us the context. The context not only in Redemptive-History but the scope or occasion of the verse(s) being dealt with.

So in 2 Peter when he says that God is not willing that 'any' should perish....the context is the delay of the Second Coming and our understanding of the present Common Grace order.

Election is not in view there. We're talking about the Revealed Will.

But Systematics often constructs a grid....loose ends become 'drivers'...probing questions looking for other loose ends to help connect the dots.

Potentially dangerous. It's better to stick with the Redemptive-Historical hermeneutic, and allow the 'system' to be a bit more fluid. I know that sounds loosey-goosey... but the Bible was not given to us as a Systematics text.

I think there's a reason for that.

And yes, if anyone's reading these posts....I don't fit it any of the camps.....very frustrating from my standpoint, but also a little affirming.

I think a lot of Protestantism has suffered from what could be called hypersolafideism. We are absolutely saved by grace through faith. Our works are absolutely nothing. We can contribute nothing. BUT on the other hand (as Tevye would say)....God governs through an administration...the language of salvation can be used in connection to it. We, living pre-consummation have all the blessings of Christ given/applied to us...but the eschaton has not arrived and we are commanded to make sure we don't deceive ourselves. Faith has to include Fiducia (Intellectual Assent alone is merely the faith of demons...sorry John Robbins)....and thus implies in this life we will live out our faith.

Sherman Isbell writing against the Hoeksema-ite antinomianism said it rightly....
the hyper-Calvinist views salvation as 100% God and 0% man.

the Arminian views it as 50/50....

The Bible teaches it's 100% God and 100% man. There's a dynamic for you.

It's God WORKING through us. Sola Gratia.....And a man is justified by works, not by faith alone. (smile)

I have some affinities with the Federal Vision folks regarding how we understand the visible/invisible distinctions and how that plays out in terms of Covenant Theology, Sacraments etc....though I came to these positions years before I had ever read any of their work...actually I've not bothered to read much of it. I listen to a lot of mp3's and I find that most Reformed people are on the hyper-invisible side of the spectrum and are absolutely NOT GRASPING what these men are saying. They are not teaching in any way, shape, or form a salvation by man's works. I listened to Scott Clark critiquing them and learned little about Federal Vision....but I did learn that R. Scott Clark is basically a hyper-Calvinistic Baptist, all externals are more or less meaningless. All theological categories are defined through the lens of Election.

At the same time, while rejecting the Framework Hypothesis I am indebted to Klinean structures concerning Redemptive-History which also shapes Covenant Theology. I see a sharp distinction between OT and NT...but also some continuity. The substance is the same...the forms are very different. I am in complete agreement with the Klinean camp on the necessity of understanding the merit of Christ's work as the 2nd Adam, the necessity of a works arrangement in Eden, the Common non-holy aspect of culture. Intrusion ethics...though not always agreeing with his interpretation of specific examples.

And yet I would say the Klineans tend to suffer from hypersolafideism, tend to have a low view of sanctification, and are often a little hyper-Calvinistic  (in terms of Election as a driver) leading to a very low view of the sacraments and visible covenant.

I view the Reformed Confessions as helpful guides...not chains. There is much good in the 3 forms and Westminster but also much that needs revision. Westminster's 3-fold division of the Mosaic Covenant has had a disastrous effect on Covenant Theology and understanding Redemptive History. The Moral Law is not the Decalogue. The Sabbath was a type and shadow fulfilled in Christ. Sabbatarians (I used to be a hardcore Isaiah 58-er) cannot argue the perpetuity of the Decalogue and then change it! The Sabbath was NEVER binding on the Gentile nations. Where's the covenant lawsuit in the prophetic denunciations of the nations? It's not a covenant lawsuit. They're arguing from the standpoint of Natural Law.....sufficient for the Common Grace order. Read Douglas Moo in the Point-Counterpoint series, 5 views of the Law. It's also interesting to note that Sacralist Walt Kaiser can't even grasp his argument and resorts to ad hominem. It's all he has. Moo completely rejects his framework and Kaiser can't seem to fathom it and just gets upset.

I think Sacralism is trying to create a Unified or Monistic System. Verduin argues rightly that this was actually a pagan concept. Israel was not a Monistic State in the way Egypt or Babylon. It was a Theocracy in the true Redemptive Historical sense. It was Eden again in type...it was unique. I think Van Til was wrestling with trying to create a philosophical system that was a comprehensive unity...a monistic system for Christianity. The problem is he over-taxes the Scripture. The Bible is redemptive-history a covenantal revelation for the Church...containing a gospel message (the Church/the body of Christ) for the world. It is sufficient for doctrine, for the life of the church.....it is not sufficient for the common grace order. It is sufficient for telling us, as Christians, how to view and live in the common grace order....that's Romans 13....It's not a doctrine of government in the sense that government can only punish evil, reward the good and bear the sword. That's a general view for us to understand our relation to it. It wasn't some idealized Republican Limited Government political structure. Maybe that's fine....maybe a monarchy is fine....maybe Communist China is fine....maybe Nero was fine. I think the point was on a certain level we don't care.....the government is God's tool to help the Common Grace/ Age of Restraint/ Age of Delay order to function. In that sense it is His minister....nowhere does it indicate it is part of the Holy Kingdom of God which is not of this world and unregenerate people cannot even see.

There is no such thing as a Christian Government, 'sacred' art or 'sacred' music....there is no distinctly Christian macro-economic system. Capitalism only works in a Pelagian Universe, where fallen men are morally upright. Socialism only works in a Pelagian Universe. No system works...all are doomed to fail. It doesn't matter....we go about our King's business. Our economic model....love our neighbour as ourself...give recklessly. Not a very good formula for success is it? Watching out for the people we sell things to or do work for? Thinking about them in the SAME way we would think about ourselves. Wow, that would mean we would have to be really fair, really selfless.....that's what we would want right? Doesn't sound like we're going to get very wealthy.....not a programme for world conquest.

Back to Van Til....he's trying to answer a dilemma that doesn't exist. He's so worried about autonomy.....He's asking the wrong questions. He, Kuyper too, don't recognize there is a difference between Christ's REALM and Christ's REIGN. They are not the same. All the universe is of course under His reign....as Creator/Governor. But only his Realm is Holy. Since we straddle the two we have to live as Holy Citizens even in the Common Grace/Providence realm. We are His Holy people....but the activities of the common grace world are common and will burn up in the end. It doesn't mean they are illegitimate...but they aren't Holy. He doesn't claim every inch as 'mine' in the sense of Holy Realm. The common grace realm is ruled by Natural Law....it is neither unholy or holy, but common....it is in a sense autonomous, because it is made up of a lost people...and though it drives Van Tillian's mad....it's not a problem. There are not philosophical constructs for the fallen world....there's a gospel. Since postmillennialism is a fiction, the hypothetical idealized social order....is a waste of time, a dangerous distraction. It's not going to happen.

The dilemma of Theonomy or Autonomy is a false one. I can see how the Dominionist-Reconstructionists sure picked up on Van Til's philosophical framework. He gives them the epistemological foundation for the Theonomic thesis.......the only civil government demonstrated in Biblical Revelation is the Mosaic Code...hence that's it for the nations.

A false dilemma (a need for monistic unity) drove a philosophy which led to a monistic epistemology which formed a non-historical, non-contextual hermeneutic.......and you end up with Theonomic Reconstructionism...... medieval monism with some serious kick....now undergirded with vigorous Biblical arguments....not like that old Thomistic-type Scholasticism. No Peter Lombard here.......you can argue purely from Moses.

Unfortunately they have not understood Moses in any shape or form.

The world is a composite on many levels....the tares are tolerated (Matthew 13). They need the gospel, not a monistic philosophical system to fix a fallen world.

The medieval Cathars and Bogomils were dualists.....quasi-Manichaean.

Waldenses and other dissenters were often charged with the same....because they were rejecting the Sacral order. There's a false dualism....like the Cathars....like the Zoroastrians. But there is a Biblical Dualism......a dynamic principle....this age and the age to come. The Kingdom of Heaven is not of this world. Or again as Augustine put it, The City of God and The City of Man.

Speaking of monism, I find the Monocovenantalists totally misunderstand the Covenant-law arguments of the book of Hebrews......and the Klineans totally misunderstand the visible-Covenant aspects of the book of Hebrews. I love Hebrews. I remember my good friend saying years ago....Hebrews and Romans, these are the two big ones, the keys as it were to the whole theology of the New Testament.

I'm with the Klineans in terms of the supremacy of the New Testament (like the dissenters)...understand it covenantally as the canon of the Church, superseding the Mosaic Code.

I see the New Testament sometimes dealing with Old Testament/New Testament division...sometimes as a single unit....sometimes as a Moses(type of Christ) leading to Christ....sometimes as Moses(alone) versus Christ.....sometimes as Moses(misunderstood by the Jews) versus a correct understanding of Moses(driving one to Christ)

The Old must be read in light of the New. The Apostolic Hermeneutic is our key. Both Post- and Pre-mil eschatologies suffer from inverted hermeneutics and are thus chiliastic....the hope of the Pharisees...total misunderstanding of the nature of the kingdom, defining it in physical, cultural, and geo-political terms.

Chiliastic Sacralism I believe is the imagery of the whore(the false sacralized church) on the beast(deified/millennial state entity)....thus with Kline I would say that is exactly what the Theonomic Reconstructionists are trying to do.

They want to recast the medieval order. They want to do it right this time. Doug Wilson says as much.

So...both of the big controversial camps have some of it very right and some of it very wrong. I suppose to many I will be the worst of the worse by embracing in part SOME of what both of them say.

In terms of the mainstream Reformed world.......they hold to a 19th century Calvinistic Theology a la the Hodges and Dabney.....and thus are entrenched in Scholastic Rationalism and are to my mind basically Hyper-Calvinistic Baptists. Roman Catholicism is all form. Most of Evangelical Protestantism does equal damage by stripping the form of any meaning.

I spent years reading Calvin and I think the much maligned Brian Armstrong is right, Amyraut was right about Calvin and I think Beza and Turretin represent the beginning of the shift. Amyrauldianism is NOT 4-point Calvinism. If anything it is a rejection of the 5pt model as overly simplistic and completely insufficient to communicate the full orb of Biblical truth. The 5pts are just one side of it. There are reciprocals. Total Depravity and Unconditional Election deal with invisible categories regarding individuals and are absolutely true. But with Limited Atonement....that's an invisible category and true, but has a visible reciprocal. There is a SENSE in which the atonement is universal in the revealed will of God. I'm sorry but 'world' and 'all' and 'any' mean just what they say. Both are true. There is a SENSE in which Grace can indeed be resisted. The are verses in the gospels that indicate as much. Again that's from a visible standpoint...almost like an empirical observation. I think Perseverance of the Saints properly understood encompasses both eternal security and potential of losing salvation (meaning no longer in visible covenant). And election can be said to be conditional but not based on foreseen faith, but based on the conditionality encompassed in the perseverance discussion.

It is much more complicated than the mere 5pt. model. Why use the grid given by the Arminians? Their 5 point construct is another reductionism. The Calvinist answer using their framework does the same thing.

We have got to get past the confessions, some of the Protestant hagiography...return to the Bible, get a right understanding of the Kingdom, a right understanding of how to read the Bible......thus we'll learn a lot more about WHO GOD IS. That's what it's about....not American politics, Romanticized Christendom, culture building or relationships.

When we know God, see His Kingdom as only Born Again people can see it.......then we'll start to be the salt and light everyone is so concerned about.

The Reformation was both a glorious and pitch dark chapter in church history. Another dualism.

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