26 December 2011

Christmas, Communion, and the Incarnation 2

The Blessing of Communion

If it's a blessing, is it desirable or even prudent to neglect it?

Is frequent or regular Communion superstitious?

I could argue those who regularly abstain are either failing to understand its import or are themselves superstitious.

I'm thinking of those who believe having the Lord's Supper every time we meet or frequently approaches the realm of danger wherein we might be eating and drinking unworthily, failing to examine ourselves and thus falling under condemnation.

First of all, let's be realistic about self-examination. No one is going to do this perfectly. No one can say they completely apprehend what's happening in terms of Covenant symbolism and Sacrament. A 20 year old new Christian is going to have a profoundly different understanding than an 80 year old veteran Christian. Should the 20 year old be excluded then? Of course not.

Second, the issue of examination and discerning the Lord's body certainly hearkens to Scriptures like:

2 Corinthians 13:5 - Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

But largely I think the passage is dealing with the Corinthian failure to not recognize the composite nature of the Lord's body...meaning the members of the Church. They were focused on themselves, their own issues, and desires and were grossly missing what it was all about. There wasn't communion there because the group wasn't a united body. Taking the Supper was a mockery and thus they in reality... were not eating the Lord's Supper. (1 Corinthians 11.20)

Sadly this lesson has not been learned and many turn the Supper into a personal introspective exercise. Certainly they're not cutting the poor out of the fellowship or potluck (as we call it in America), but they can be just as guilty in failing to discern the body. I'm afraid the modern understanding of Church as the building, or understanding the people as audience watching a performance only enhances this lack of discernment.

It's also interesting many believe frequency leads to lack of discernment, unworthy participation, and thus the danger of 'drinking judgment'.

So they do believe the Sacraments are efficacious!...but only in terms of curse, not blessing? Misuse it and come under condemnation. Use it rightly in faith and...nothing.

Lack of frequency can be just as superstitious. And there's no doubt in some High Church circles they have become more than a little superstitious about it. The answer is not to remove it, but to correct the understanding.

The Supper shows the Lords death till he come (v26). It is supposed to turn our eyes heavenward and focus on the Lord, our dependence upon Him, our union with Him, and our hope in Him and His return.

It's not about us, wrestling with our own emotions and woefully inadequate self-evaluation and assessment. It's a powerful expression and reminder of the glory and wonder of the Incarnation and why our salvation is absolutely dependent upon this reality.

I could also talk about the heavily symbolic and sacramental language of John 6, but I think for now I will abstain. That I think would press some readers beyond the breaking point.

As I've said repeatedly...to Baptists I'm going to sound Roman Catholic...to Catholics, I'm going to sound like a Baptist. Maybe I'm just a muddled mess, or maybe both sides are very right but also quite wrong. Maybe they each see something of one side of the truth of the issue, but then because they only see the one side they add on additional doctrinal structures to compensate for the missing pieces? If anyone is interested I can point to some other stuff I've written that might help in trying to work through some of this.

In the end...the Baptists are wrong...but can still possess the Gospel. I can't say the same for the followers of Rome's Bishop.

When we innovate, when we develop new means of entering into the covenant, worshipping, or in this case celebrating the Incarnation, it can only lead to a detraction from the Means God has already provided.

When we think of Ecclesiastical Means and symbols to celebrate the Person and Work of Christ.....we should be thinking of the Lord's Supper and Baptism.

Instead when we think Ecclesiastical Means and symbols to celebrate the Incarnation...we think, Christmas.

Is it wrong to point a little extra focus on this for a day or a season of the year?

Aside from the Authority/Tradition dilemma... if we're doing it every single Sunday or even twice a week...then how do we need a special season?

See to me, the argument for needing the special Incarnation season means...you really don't appreciate the Incarnation, or at least might be in danger of the charge. If your Incarnational focus is only for 1 day or 4 weeks of the year....then you're not properly appreciating Christ the other 364 days or 48 weeks of the year.

The Incarnation is the very essence of the Gospel. Every aspect of Redemption flows through or focuses on this Truth.

If I were to create a liturgical calendar I guess we'd have to have Christmas every Sunday to properly appreciate the centrality of Christ's person and work to our faith and salvation.

But then...well, if we do it every week it won't be special, we won't get the warm tingly sensations that accompany the season...

We might treat Christ as mundane.

So let's only really focus on Christ during this special season.

I can't imagine a more destructive idea that puts the Gospel in danger of being overthrown.

I would rather just stick with Scripture and the Means God has provided. He's given us quite powerful symbols, if we would take the time to learn about them and practice them. They've been terribly abused by some and shamefully neglected by others.

This way of thinking about these issues would be one area in which I really do appreciate the Medieval Dissenters. Some Waldensians took on Baptistic characteristics, but many still maintained a high and robust sacramentology based on Scriptural Authority...not that of the Roman hierarchy. The Hussites also proved remarkably strong on this point. They recognized the perilous error of the works-based Romish gospel, but reading Scripture did not argue for a rejection of Means.

This was lost in the fog created by the Reformation and when Protestants combined Sacrament with Sacralism...Baptism equaling citizenship and all that goes with it...it's no wonder the Dissenters went ahead and purged not only the covenantal efficaciousness of the Sacramental symbols, but even the whole concept of Means. Concepts like covenant became purely metaphysical and eschatological categories. They lost their temporal/Not Yet import.

So to answer the question...I do celebrate the Incarnation. No hope without it. I wish Churches would celebrate more often the Person and Work of Christ and do so by simply employing the means God has provided.

While many Christians who celebrate Christmas also pay homage to the Incarnation, they inadvertently detract from the God ordained Biblical order.

This proves true on many fronts. I argue virtually every innovation ends up taking away from the revelation based pure and clear message and makes it all the more difficult to worship in spirit and truth.

Inevitably we end up arguing about the application and details of the man-made means or symbols we have introduced.

I remember sitting and listening to two Anglican priests discuss liturgical reforms, arguing endlessly about whether you should turn this way at this time, drape the cloth over your arm this way or that way, whether the bell should be rung after this line or before that one. It was quite amusing but also very sad.

We're not doing that with Christmas...I hear an Evangelical saying. We're not distracting ourselves and others from the true message of the Incarnation with all our fussing over plastic nativities, laws, state acknowledgment, trees in the 'sanctuary', Christmas programs, decorations, Merry Christmas v. Happy Holidays, and all rest.


Remember the reason for the season? Well, if Christ is the reason...in order to remember Him properly...we need to get Christ OUT of Christmas.

Practically speaking we must show patience and love, especially to the lost. But I assure you...you're more likely to get into a good conversation when you don't go along with it. It's arresting and people can't help but be inquisitive.
What's wrong with people spending time with family, having good cookies, drinking egg nog? Nothing. It's great. Let's call it Festivus, or Winter Festival. Then it's just Northern European culture. And I participate (or not) as a Christian. There's no threat to the theology of Scripture.
Call it a holy day, call it Christmas...then I have to look it all in light of Scripture, and we start running into problems. We're tangling with and substituting Scriptural concepts with cultural ones.

And even though I have both Biblical and historical legs to stand on...thanks to the Evangelicals...people immediately think I'm a cultist.

Even worse...that in rejecting Christmas...I'm an innovator!



Anonymous said...

Last year our 9 yr. old daughter decided to call it "Winter Celebration". She wants the presents (especially the ones she receives) and the cookies and candy and eggnog and parties.
And it is a cultural festival to us. We don't wish anyone "Merry Christmas" - but I might wish someone a good week or weekend or a happy holiday or tell them to take care or tell them "God bless"...but then I might tell them that at any time.

I see it as a cultural thing...my parents and siblings celebrate it and none of them are believers. I am a believer and do not celebrate it. I get together with them and we exchange homemade gifts and eat. They would feel bad if I didn't do that. But I'm not celebrating "Christmas" by doing it.

It did give me an opportunity to have a good conversation with a Christian friend of mine this weekend about Nimrod and the beginnings of the false Messiah that's been carried on thru the generations in various forms thru various pagan religions - culminating in the Mother/Son cult of catholicism. She wasn't aware of all that.

Thanks for the great articles, Proto.

Anonymous said...


I am not arguing with you per se as I will grant you that you COULD be right. I, like you have gone from Arminian Baptist to Reformed to not wanting to be associated with Reformed to........whatever I am now.

On this pilgrim path I have learned that Christ merited God's favor and that favor was given to me because of Jesus Christ.....the grace imparted to me was certainly unmerited. Paul speaks of "the grace wherein we stand" ..... What a wondrous thought. I stand IN Christ therefore I stand in grace! Do I need more?

"Means of grace" is not a scriptural phrase.....I grant you it COULD be a scriptural concept but I personally think it is some of Rome that the Reformers neglected.....with a few other things.

Baptism and the supper are indeed great and wonderful gifts with great blessing attached BUT I can't see where I do anything at any time to merit grace.

Maybe I am not "s'plaining" (Ala Ricky Riccardo) this well......does ANYONE see what I am saying?


Protoprotestant said...

Do you need more than the grace of Christ? Of course not. But how is that grace administered to us in time and space? Why do we still have some structures…like the Church and the Ordinances?

I refuse to define Church in a merely eschatological form…the elect. It’s more than that.

In the OT, the saints were given many more forms than now. I hesitate to say this because it can be terribly misunderstood…but the forms, the signs, the symbols…the myriad of ordinances in the OT were

Nothing and Everything.

In light of eternity, in light of the work of Christ, it did not matter if you circumcised or sacrificed. But God commanded it and it was the means by which the Covenant function here on earth in space and time. It wasn’t merely about a National obligation that would lead to sanction if disobeyed. It was both corporate and individual. Moses was rebuked for neglecting circumcision. The people were in sin when they failed to obey the dictates God had commanded.

In the NT it’s much more simple, but God still administers the Covenant through forms…essentially the Church.

On the one hand these things are nothing, putting your faith in them can detract from Christ. On the other hand, they’re everything, those that would neglect or discredit them is being disobedient and has misunderstood the NT Scriptures.

No Means isn’t a Biblical term and there’s a danger with that. Always is. Means usually refers to the aspect in which the Covenant is visible and works in space and time. It can mean more, but that’s not really what I’ve been talking about here.

The question is…is that administration of the covenant here in space and time meaningful. Does it matter? Well that is on the one hand simple to answer and quite complex. There are other theological issues that come into play. If you hold to a doctrine of Justification that practically speaking doesn’t really allow for concepts like sanctification or mortification…well then no, they can’t really mean anything. Some hold to this, but I’m pretty sure you don’t.

Protoprotestant said...


If there is Sanctification in something other than the eschatological sense, if there is mortification in something other than the eschatological sense…how does the Covenant applied interact with these…yes, processes? I’m saying this happens…therefore the Covenant with its signs and symbols are Means of bringing this about.

For others, this process isn’t really accepted and therefore the whole discussion of Means seems like straying into the realm of sacramentalism and works theology…which is a discussion worth having. As I’ve argued quite a bit I believe many have abused the doctrine of Sola Fide and turn it into a Foundation, a system-driver, a lens by which they interpret all of the Bible. I strongly disagree with this. Consequently I would be lumped in with others (like the FV group) and accused of teaching works salvation, the possibility of losing your salvation and sacramentalism.

You know I think the Reformers completely blew it on several points. I think the early guys with their Humanistic influenced hermeneutics had a better grasp of these issues. The later Reformed Scholastics seriously strayed on several key points. That doesn’t mean I agree 100% with Calvin on these issues. Not at all. But he was far better than someone like Turretin, let alone the later men like Hodge and Dabney. Of course that’s another can of worms because there are many who operate under the assumption that these men were more or less the same. They’re close, but the get there in very different ways.

So the sacraments have a blessing attached? A blessing isn’t grace? You see if grace is defined only in eschatological terms..then, no there can’t be any import right now. But if soteriology has some process-element…sanctification/mortification…then blessing can be viewed as imparting grace.
Does this stray a little toward Rome? Perhaps. I don’t think anyone would accuse me of flirting with Rome. I reject Rome and I partly-reject the Reformers.

I don’t see how a blessing can’t be grace. I suppose if you want to say it’s some kind of non-redemptive benefit…but then what is that? Nothing.

I was hoping someone else would jump in, so I waited until I got home tonight. I’m curious if anyone else has any thoughts.

I write articles concerning current events and politics…those are the most read.

I write articles about contemporary Church issues….those are pretty well read.

History….they’re read, especially if I tie it in with something contemporary.

Doctrine…not very well read. I don’t if it’s because most people just disagree, they think I’m wacky, or it’s too foreign…or I’m too obtuse. I don’t know. I put out these Christmas posts. The one about the Federal Holiday…it’ll get lots of hits. This series…probably not.

Feel free to shoot back. I know we don’t agree, but I also know whenever we’ve talked about it I can usually get you to at least understand what I’m saying. Did I say something different here that I haven’t said in the past?

Anonymous said...


I am in agreement with almost all that you say about the church and the signs EXCEPT the moment I repented and became part of the body of Christ I had GRACE......I believe a full measure, again not due to my merits but due to Christ's.

The ordinances of the body are a great blessing and are totally uplifting to us as both ordinances illustrate the work of Jesus Christ and the resulting grace wherein we stand. Not how we can get more but to marvel and be thankful for the grace imparted to us and why it was indeed imparted.


Protoprotestant said...

I'm agreeing with what you're saying...

We have the full measure eschatologically (Already)

But we have to persevere, keep repenting and believing, and be sanctified (not yet)

But even with the second tier...it's all grace. If we start thinking for a second that we've merited something, than we've misunderstood the gospel.

Anonymous said...

Hi there. (smile)This is a great conversation. I'm gonna try to get in on it.

When people start talking about the means of grace imparting some sort of seal (which is what I understand it to mean from church constitutions or confessions or whatever you call it)...that's where I get off the bus. The Holy Spirit is our seal and our foundation is the finished work of Jesus Christ...from what I can tell in scripture anyway.

I don't see that you are implying that thought of sealing here Proto in the sense that I've be lectured by protestants and catholics alike about. Please correct me if I'm wrong however in interpreting what you are saying.

Also, I just read a long ol' discussion last week or maybe the week before where a pastor was using 1 Corinthians 11 to back church membership...meaning see how important church membership is--if you are not treating your fellow members rightly ie-not discerning the body, then God can kill you...

I believe that the body referred to in 1 Corinthians 11 is Jesus Christ Himself and His broken body...rather than believers. I've included a definition below...if you follow the link, know that I had to ignore the real presence stuff. But I could agree with what I'm posting here anyway.

""In contrast, chapter ten has more bearing on the use of "SOMA" in chapter eleven than does chapter twelve because of the subject matter. Chapters ten and eleven are clearly related to each other in the discussion of the Lord's Supper as chapter ten speaks about the Lord's Supper in relation to idol worship and the meals associated with the worship of idols, while chapter 11 speaks about the relation of the Lord's Supper in the worshipping congregation.

The word "SOMA" is used five times (including the disputed time in v. 29) in chapters ten and eleven. If we do not count verse 29, three of the four references refer not to the Church, but to the Lord's Supper (10:17-Church; 10:16; 11:24,27-The Lord's Supper). This means that in the immediate context of verse 29 the only body that is referred to is the body of Christ in the Lord's Supper, vv. 24,27. The immediate context then favors "SOMA" as referring to the Lord's Supper, not the Church."


Dawn L

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a double entendre or something and by extension we can speak of the body of believers in Christ, but I think the literal physical and spiritual sense here is Jesus Christ. If you take His sacrifice and His broken body as an unholy thing, and you're a christian, I would expect there would be consequense. And here, there were. Death and sickness. Just like death came to Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit. Or like how christians can be handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so their soul will be saved. If a christian can think about His death without seeing his own sin and being thankful for His salvation and sorry for his sin, there's a problem and it will be reflected in the way he treats other members of His body among other things...this was an example of that. The Corinthians weren't exactly known as good example for christian livin'. Infact, seems to me they are the first to require God to set rules out for spiritual gifts. From them, we learn what NOT to do, but not necessarily everything to do, like how often or who administers yada yada yada. Seems like a matter of conscience to me.

Also, the context of the passages 27-32 is about Jesus, His flesh and blood...so if the body is the "church" then who is the blood? Also, when it comes to examining, verse 30 says if we do not examine ourselves rightly--not examine others rightly --meaning the manner in which we ourselves are eating the Supper--not how the other members are eating...this causes the sickness and death...etc. Discerning the body--again, I have to ask, what exactly about the members are we supposed to discern, divide, distinguish. separate and make judgments about? And how do those judgments have anything to do with the call to examine ourselves before we eat the Lord's Supper?

As far as being blessed by the Lord's supper. Well, I come from an SBC background from the age of 3, so sometimes I'm not defining things the same way as others might. You would have to describe more what you mean Proto. Do you mean storing treasures up in heaving blessings or physical earthly blessings? I would say there are lots of believers out there who have nothing but persecution, trials, hardships in the physical and they are faithfully and rightly taking the Lord's supper...but they surely have eternal blessings unseen for now.

Just because God tells us to do something, doesn't mean we are gonna get a pat on the back for doing it in the here and now. Remember when the disciples asked how to increase their faith and they were pretty much slapped down...we are to count ourselves as unworthy servants only doing what we have been asked to do...and I would assume, the Lord's supper is one of the things we are just told to do. I'm not even sure it is for Him so much as for us and others. It's been 2000 years! It's easy to forget something that happened 2000 years ago, shoot it's easy to forget something that happened 10 minutes ago. Best to remember, and easier to remember with symbols. And maybe our blessing is simply focusing our eyes on eternity, the non-physical already but not yet Kingdom and the One who saved us? Encouragement in the proclamation of the death, atonement...and resurrection of our Lord?

Dawn L

Protoprotestant said...

As always thanks for writing.
I largely agree with what you say but I go further and it may prove too far for you to stay on the bus. (smile)
Paul labours to compare our salvation to that of Abraham in both Romans 4 and Galatians 3. Circumcision was certainly a sign but he also calls it a seal. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is signified in the same way through Baptism in the New Testament. If Abraham's salvation experience and covenant relation was comparable to ours as Paul seems to suggest, I think a certain amount of idea exchange is valid.
And as I was trying to say earlier...putting one's faith in the signs and seals exclusively is to misunderstand the Gospel...Paul is also trying to show this. It's the heart that matters, the action of the Holy Spirit that matters.
Why then do we have these visible forms...which linguistically are (it would seem) interchangeable with the spiritual reality? This is where it gets confusing...but it doesn't have to be. There is something of a double meaning at working.
Paul says in Romans 9 they're not all Israel who are of Israel. In other words...they not all True Israel (which is only seen from the Divine Perspective before the End, and thus sometimes called Invisible) which are part of Israel (visible and temporal).
This doctrine of the Visible and Invisible Church has been abused by some but the concept is pretty clear if not explicitly stated in the Romans 9 verse.

Protoprotestant said...


The language which is sometimes unfortunately referred to as Sacramental deals with trying to explain this interplay between these two realities.
As far as blessing by making use of these signs and seals....I guess to keep it real simple I'll just say that in one sense we're already absolutely saved.
On that point we agree.
But I would also say we're yet to be saved......sometimes the NT speaks of our salvation as something yet future. We're adopted, but not yet adopted. We're sanctified but not yet sanctified.
But I would also say we're being saved. The Bible uses language exhorting us to die daily, to fight, to persevere. We're told without holiness no one shall see the Lord. Only the doers...will be justified.
Some would say this way of thinking overthrows Sola Fide. I firmly believe in Justification by Faith Alone...even though the wording isn't in the text. In fact the opposite wording is in the text in James 2. Nevertheless I think the doctrine is Biblical, but I think some have used it to then negate the validity of the Visible Forms actually working....as well as missing the process part of our salvation...sanctification.
We may just have to disagree on this point. You wouldn't be the first who has come here and agreed with me on the cultural issues...the Christian Right stuff, but then disagrees with me on these points.
For me...these broader theological concepts happened to coincide with my wrestling with Church History. One big Protestant critique of the Proto-Protestants was that they didn't explicitly teach Sola Fide.

Protoprotestant said...

Because Rome didn't explicitly deny it...though everything Rome stood for from the years 500-1000 denied it....they didn't do it officially, so they're allowed to pass. Waldenses, Lollards, and others are relegated to kind of sub-Christian groups because they too didn't teach Sola Fide. I think they believed in Justification by Faith, but because they were so committed to the totality of Scripture...no, they didn't quite teach it in the same formulation put together by Martin Luther. I don't think that means Luther was wrong, but the way he put it...could lead to a re-shaping of other doctrines the Bible teaches. My two cents on that.
I find your comments on 1 Cor. 11 to be quite interesting. Again, I think it's both...the body as in the believers as well as the body meaning Christ Himself. Our Union with Him is so complete that even water given the least of His is like giving the water to Christ Himself. It's a double discernment if you will. But I agree we're not supposed to be focused per se on the other people...at least not some kind of critical judgment. Communion is a corporate act...there's an aspect in which it is done as a group. It's not a private thing we do. Isn't there a reason for that?
The Bible does imply Church membership...again I would tie that to the visible signs we've been given which assume we're part of (assembling with) a local congregation. What most churches are doing with what the call Church Membership is nothing more than a Sectarian Bureaucratic Rite...extra-Scriptural and just like what I was talking about here...since it's extra-Scriptural, it actually takes away from the signs God has already given. Most Church Membership rituals are just dry, repeat Baptisms which help defeat its true meaning.
Great comments. I enjoyed pondering them, even if we don't quite agree.

Protoprotestant said...

Sorry...my comments are always too long!

Protoprotestant said...

And on that note...I have to add another! I can't help it. I just hope I'm not a windbag.

I just want to re-emphasize....PLEASE don't be offended. I'm afraid tones translate poorly in cyberspace. Sometimes someone can come across as being nasty and argumentative. If I did...in any way...it was my intention. If I'm being a stinker, I try to make it pretty clear.

And by the way...I would say the majority of folks reading here probably agree more with what you said...than what I did. (smile)

But we're all learning. For me...there aren't enough hours in the day!

Anonymous said...

Hi Proto.

Yes, we are written down before the foundation of the world, and being saved and sanctified in this temporal place for final glorification. We are saved, and being saved, but couldn't you argue that if it is written down before the foundation of the world, that it can't be changed? So really, always saved in eternity in a sense, but not always saved temporally?

I guess it would depend on how you view predestination and what that means. Does it mean that predestined has nothing to do with individuals...just that God has predestined a remnant people...and the who is not for sure...just a remnant, because that's what He's predestining, not necessarily specific names? Or, do you view predestination as being said and done? In that salvation is of the Lord, to choose, save and sanctify...effectively preserving you to the end. And if that's so, then justification is not a process, but sanctification is. Anyone who is justified, will be sanctified and they can coorporate, or things will get really rough. God chastens those he loves. And those who obey Him are blessed definitely in eternity, but temporally as well. I was looking at the definition of blessed...happy or well off.

I'm not off the bus yet, and don't be afraid of pushing to far (smile)I'm curious.

Cont below


Anonymous said...

I have no problem with agreeing to disagree on this one. I understand that there is discussion about how things done in the Old Covenant correspond to those done in the New and thus...it's a debate. But I'm curious...what are you truly thinking? Do tell.

I do understand that circumcision was called a seal...but the Lord's supper was not, nor was baptism. The Holy Spirit though, is definitely said to seal believers. Also interesting to me, when James stood up and gave his verdict on circumcision for gentiles, He said, no, you don't have to do it...he never said, hey, be baptized instead and make sure to keep the Lord's supper this often etc. That's how it works in this covenant. You know? The Old covenant had such specific rules and regs, and we just don't see that detail in the New. It's all about Christ...that's where the detail is revealed. I don't think it's a matter of they just assumed everyone knew, because everyone didn't know..they didn't even know if gentiles had to be circumcised.

You probably have already thought about this and maybe even written about it...but since you mentioned the OT and NT covenants mirroring eachother in some way (at least that's what I'm understanding you saying in some degree anyway)...is there any difference between Elect in the OT and Elect in the New? We know not all who are Israel are Israel. We know the Elect in the OT was the Nation, but not all were saved. That was the remnant of the elect.

So then, in the NT...when elect is used, does it mean saved people? As in Romans 8...or just people who have access to the truth, and have signs of being in the covenant community for example...infant baptism? They are elect but not part of the remnant or the true Israel necessarily. And if so, wouldn't that mean that in the NT, the elect were simply what we call the corporate church?

I personally don't think it does since in Romans for example, those in Jesus Christ are called elect, it's not a mixed bag as it was in the Old Covenant. The Holy Spirit bears witness that we are His. (Romans 8)There ain't no getting into a covenant relationship with God without it.

So if this is the case with elect, then what would that do to the idea of linking circumcision to something like baptism? Romans 4 says God's view, as the Scripture says, is that Abraham believed God and God accepted Abraham's faith, and that faith made him right with God. And then goes on to say that David said the same thing. That people are truly blessed when God, without paying attention to their deeds, makes people right with Himself. It then goes on to say something to the effect of did God accept Abraham before or after he was circumcised? Before. He was circumcised to show that he was right with God through faith before he was circumcised. That way, Abraham was the father of all who believe...even those who are not circumcised and to those who are circumcised and follow the faith that Abraham had before circumcision.

There are differences between the New Covenant and the Old, and though we can overlap meaning, I don't think we can compare and find exact corespondance between the two just because of fundamental differences in the ways the two covenants were/are carried out. Unless of course...we are willing to say that elect in the new covenant, doesn't mean saved. It just means "churched" so to speak. All of Israel were the covenant people, but out of that covenant people, were the remnant...the true Israel. Now, just going to church, taking communion and getting baptized in the NT, doesn't even make you a covenant people, just a fake if you don't believe...you are not considered part of Him in any way shape or form. You can't be called elect after Christ came unless you are His. So just thinking about the word elect has me curious as to what might make me get off the bus. You're gonna have to let us know your specific thoughts if you can one day.


Anonymous said...

oops. Just saw your last comment. You're tone is fine. But thanks for making sure. Hope mine is ok also. I get to typing and sometimes, when I've reread what I've said, I can see how it might be cause for offense.


Cal said...

Just a quick comment on Election:

I thought Barth had an interesting point on the center of election being Christ and Him crucified. He was both blessed by God in being Israel and cursed by bearing the iniquities of the world. God Himself hung on that tree. Through Jesus Christ, being the New Israel, those who belong to the One body belong to being the Elect One. Just as nations are spoken of as the individual who founded them (Jacob=Israel, Esau=Edom etc.), the nation promised to Abraham through his seed blossomed to be the nation of Christ Jesus (His Church).

Jesus said he would "draw (literally drag) all men unto [Him] when [He's] lifted up" yet not all are saved. Election is in the heart's response to grace.

My 2 cents.

Protoprotestant said...

With regard to Election….
Yes I believe absolutely in Divine Predestination, but I don’t the Scriptures present that doctrine as a foundation upon which we develop and define all other theology.
It’s given to us as a comfort, a sign that our redemption is sure and that God is sovereign.
What happens is…a lot of people take election and make it the lens through which all Scripture is viewed. John 3.16 becomes a problem because it says world or 1 Tim 2 is a problem because it says God desires all men to be saved….or 2 Peter 3, not willing that any should perish.
I think both are true and can explained on some level by looking at some verses from a Decretal standpoint, and some from a Revealed standpoint. They’re not in conflict, nor is there a contradiction.
Predestination is true, it’s just sometimes misused and employed in such a way to actually undo and overthrow portions of Scripture.
There’s another sense in which Elect can refer to visible Israel (in the OT) and the Visible Church in the NT. Paul calls the Ephesians elect and unveils something of the Divine workings, but he also knows (Acts20) there are wolves among the flock.
Election is almost always given to us in terms of a general principle. Sure we know Abraham, Isaac, David, Paul and others were specifically chosen, once the Apostolic age ended we don’t have that kind of vantage point anymore. We shouldn’t really think in terms of who is elect and who isn’t. From our standpoint, in terms of the Revealed will…everyone we encounter is or could be elect. Our job is use the means God has provided…the preaching of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit works (in a mysterious way we cannot understand) through those means and draws people in.
Now how does election play out in terms of sanctification? You’re right if someone is elect (I’ll play this side of the coin for a moment)…then they’re saved. Jesus has paid for their sins and even if they kicked and screamed in resistance (kind of like Paul) the call is Irresistible….they will come.
On the other hand when the NT is talking about Sanctification….I don’t think we’re supposed to then read that in light of election (through that lens)…when the NT is talking about election it’s for another purpose. I want to avoid the systematizing tendency which divides up and categorizes the Scriptures…everything fits into nice boxes as per the laws of logic.
It’s not that Scripture is illogical, but I think when we get into the spiritual realm of theology…we can’t subject it to the same kind of logic that we use when we’re building an engine or developing an economic theory. The math for the temporal realm I don’t think can be used with Divine Revelation. Otherwise I think we’re subjugating Scripture to an alien standard. I think what happens is we’re in danger (and creeds can present this danger, though they’re also helpful) of putting a standard over Scripture. If the method is wrong, as I argue many people’s use of election is….then we’re in trouble.

Protoprotestant said...


So predestination is said and done before the foundation of the world, but we don’t know its details in terms of who is or isn’t elect. Thus what use is it? A comfort, something that gives hope, awe, drives us to worship. It’s not meant to be used as a roadmap in working out the details of justification, sanctification, baptism, things like that.
There are some in the Reformed world who would violently disagree with me….most would agree in part, and a few would strongly agree. This is an old issue, really going back to the 1600’s….if not much farther.
As far as OT/NT….and if you’re interested I can point you to lots of stuff I’ve written about it….I see both unity and disunity. I do largely follow the general Reformed understanding on this issue. I see unity in substance…one Christ, one gospel……but a great difference in form.
Some Reformed see a lot more continuity than I do…….like Theonomists.
Some a lot less………like Reformed Baptists……which is where I’m guessing you’re coming from?
The idea of unity is strengthened in some of the parallels with the forms. I know RB’s disagree but I do see these connections in passages like Acts 2.39, 1 Cor. 5.7, Colossians 2.11ff and many more.
Because of my understanding of Forms…visible and invisible Church…I can see how these things work…at least to my mind (smile)….where the visible signs can be said to be very necessary and yet not necessary at all.
Just like in the OT…sacrifices didn’t save…..but to be saved you needed to be a Jew operating within the covenant which meant you were doing sacrifices…but what really mattered was your heart…but if your heart was right you obeyed the forms that were given.
It’s kind of a circle or to put it another way…two sides of a coin.
Systematicians try to reconcile the two….I say, don’t. We can’t.
So because of the continuity….I understand the OT signs and seals to parallel the NT…I understand them to be kind pre-Pentecost signs of the Holy Spirit at work….I think the NT signs which also signify the work of the Holy Spirit can be understood in a similar manner. That’s why in so many passages we find these parallels. Abraham was born again just as we are…but in the Old Covenant the sign and seal with circumcision. The OT had MANY more ordinances. Thankfully and wonderfully we only really have two.
You mentioned paedobaptism…….this may stretch your tolerance a bit….but yes, I could say a child can be part of the Covenant but not actually part of the Covenant. It was much the same in the OT. But I would also say…it’s the same for adults. How do we ultimately tell if they’re in the Covenant? Again, we can’t see who’s elect…only God knows that. The best we can tell is that they persevere, they contine repenting and believing.
That’s why I think perseverance is a better concept than eternal security. Many think they’re the same but they’re not. Now since I believe in election…of course I believe in eternal security right?

Protoprotestant said...

and one more....

The elect are saved…no worries. But it’s dangerous to tell someone they’re elect….here it gets real confusing….Christians in general are called the elect. But Eternal Security tells someone they’re ‘absolutely’ elect…kind of like they’re predestined, even though many who subscribe to that doctrine don’t believe in predestination.
How do they know that? Consequently there are many who are false converts who are given a false assurance. Out of that doctrine comes Carnal Christianity and some other bad concepts.
I understand what you’re saying with regard to election and how it would relate to baptism and circumcision. I don’t think they should be integrated…I don’t think baptism should be understood in light of election. Does that make any sense? That may be confusing.
I think the real problem with a lot of this stuff is the imposition of Aristotelian type logic on the text. We can’t help it…we’re Westerners…it’s how we’re taught to think. But then you end up with all kinds of problem texts…the universal passages…the losing your salvation passages etc…
Remnant…….I think that’s an overarching theme throughout Scripture and very pertinent today. This kind of throws the wrench in everything. I would say as Christians we’re supposed to be baptized, communing people in a Church….that’s normative. But just like in the OT, there are times of apostasy when the ‘forms’ cannot be followed….Jews couldn’t go to Temple, couldn’t keep Passover….and there are times in Church history when Christians can’t attend Church etc….
In that case we’re reminded they are after all in the end….just forms, just signs and symbols for us.
But many then say….see, they don’t really matter and kind of relegate them to non-importance. I’m not saying you do that, but I know many who do. We can’t do that.
So when Reformed guys beat people over the head and say…unless you’re part of a Church (in the Biblical sense not in the sectarian sense they mean) you have no right to call yourself a Christian…they’re right…….except when they’re not (smile)
Because not everyone’s situation falls in line with the normative pattern. If you have a church you could be part of but blow it off because you don’t think it really matters too much……that’s very wrong.
On the other hand if you attend an apostate church because you think you have to check a box on Sunday morning….that’s wrong too!
Am I making any sense? I know some folks here know what I’m saying, but I also know this is a real different way of thinking compared to what many are used to.

Protoprotestant said...

Ah…Karl Barth. For one of the most influential theologians of modern times he’s not easy to understand is he?
My understanding of Barth is admittedly largely based on others interpretations. I’ve read only a little of his works. I’ll explain what I understand and please feel free to tell me I’m wrong. I’m not an expert on Barth.
I understand Neo-Orthodoxy as a kind of having your cake and eating it to. Barth’s essentially in line with liberal theology but through his dialectic he allows Scripture to retain meaning. Its meaning is found in the realm of Heilsgeschichte…salvation history vs. that of regular geschicte or history.
So for Barth Christ can be said to be Risen Again but at the same time he would say his actual body lay dead in the tomb. I’m not sure how he gets into and reconciles the whole time/eternity issue and I understand his concept of Divine Revelation or Word to be found in the Bible, but it’s not the actual words? I know he’s also a universalist....and his concept of Revelation…isn’t it restricted to the Salvation-History realm…sort of the upper register. He speaks of it being Christocentric and thus there really is no room for Natural Law. I guess what we might call that…he would say is Word-based rather than geschichte based.
It’s so problematic because he sounds really good sometimes but he’s not using the terms and words the way the Bible does (no doubt he would have disputed that)…nor are they being used the way they have historically been understood.
This was why when he was preaching back in the 20’s and 30’s….one Sunday the conservatives would listen to him and say…this guy is great!....and then the next week say….this guy is terrible! He’s a theological liberal!
Ultimately I guess I understand him to be quite unorthodox and unbiblical….it’s theological liberalism but using terms and concepts which still allow the Bible to retain some kind of theological use.
I can see why he’s very popular and apparently there’s a growing number of evangelicals (at least they are at present) who really like him. His theology allows the Bible to speak and yet not be in conflict with science etc…. Also his concepts of universalism do very well with the modern audience. The issue is… is he accurately reflecting Biblical teaching? If not…then he’s quite dangerous. I hope you see that.
That said, it’s very interesting that Neo-Orthodoxy breathed a certain vitality into the dead liberal orthodoxy found in the German speaking world. Barth resisted the Nazis, and contrary to the arguments of the lying Theonomists…he blamed Constantinianism for the German people’s acquiescence. Obviously the record of Bonhoeffer is quite interesting as well isn’t it? You can read the Cost of Discipleship and be very moved but then read some of the other stuff and are left wondering….do these guys even understand the gospel?

Protoprotestant said...

So what I mean by having your cake and eating it too is….you can deny the literal reading of the Bible and yet still use it quite deliberately to structure theology.
There are some BIG fundamental issues there. Obviously some of these very issues are being revived right now with the Emergent Church. As I’ve written elsewhere, I appreciate the fact many of them have realized the dangers of power and Constantinianism, the whole kind of forced structure on society idea…which has given some of them an appreciation for the Anabaptists and some of the older pre-Reformation guys I really appreciate. But I don’t think they’re saying even remotely the same things or have even remotely the same understanding of Scripture. They’ve got the ethical imperatives but I’m not sure they’ve got the same Christ? Does that make sense? And with some of them it ends up just being kind of a left-Constantiniansm…which hey, compassion and humanity is better than bombs, but the issues are the same.
Most of the Reformed world’s critiques of Barth come from the Van Tillian camp. The Christ the Center podcast has done several programs, some quite recent, on Barth and Van Til’s critique. Obviously the big Barthian scholars say Van Til got it all wrong. I don’t know. I’m not much of a Van Til fan either, but I would certainly be miles closer to him than Barth….as I understand him.
Have I totally misunderstood Barth? I realize a Barthian advocate is not going to approach the issues as I am…but in terms of a total re-casting of the traditional understanding of how terms are defined, what the Bible is…the relationship between Salvation History and History….am I even close?
If I am….and you’re aware enough of all this to answer that….is this your understanding? As you can imagine I get frustrated because I too am talking about Dialectic Theology but what I’m talking about is Metaphysical realities and categories and how they interact with the Temporal sphere. I’m talking about the tensions that arise between the Already and Not Yet, between Decretal Will and Revealed Will, Forms and substance.
Barth seems to be (unless I’ve got it all wrong) talking about a supernatural realm which is kind of abstract I guess and a temporal/physical realm which is almost unrelated. It can completely contradict.
Of course I too can say someone can be in the Covenant (in a visible sense) and not in the Covenant (in an eternal or invisible sense)……but I’m arguing within the sphere of Scriptural revelation. I’m saying the Bible teaches both sides of this and trying to explain it. Barth’s dialectic seems to place the Bible and all it reveals of Christ in a different sort of a-historical, even a-reality category and then interact with a temporal reality which totally contradicts on a fundamental level ….not just Form but actual substance.
And finally, please don’t get ticked. If I’m slamming what you think, don’t take it personal. I don’t mean it personally, I’m just trying to explain how I’ve understood this. I’m looking forward to you opening this up some. We probably aren’t going to agree, but I’m quite eager for what you might say.

Protoprotestant said...

To all readers,

Sorry my replies are so long, but these aren't issues that can dealt with in a sentence or two are they?

I hope someone finds these issues to be interesting and these discussions helpful.

Cal said...


First, I'm not going to take offense at what you say. You're reasonable and I'm relatively thick-skinned. Debate wears me out and sometimes I'll walk away and feel physically exhausted, but that's not happening here, just a piece of info.

I'm not Barthian but I do find a lot of interesting things coming from men like him, Brunner and Ellul. In fact, of any theologian, Elull is probably one of my favorite to read (though I disagree with his universalism).

Speaking of universalism, Barth was not overtly so, though his best friend Brunner slammed him for it. Barth was what you call a "hopeful universalist". In the Election of Jesus Christ (being double predestinated, bearing the blessing and curse of being Israel and under the weight of thhe law), there was the possibility all could be saved, but not guaranteed. No one knows but God, so all Barth could do was hope. Brunner disagreed, so neo-orthodoxy had diversity of thought.

I've never read Barth agreeing with men like Bultman who took Christ as the "true myth". He's the one who plainly affirmed that the body of Jesus could still be in the tomb, and him still rising. I think that's all junk and the Apostle Paul has my back :).

Barth also was more akin to men like Niebuhr in regards to state relation. He took Romans 13 as a recipe for how Christians should react, if the government is no longer bearing the sword to be a terror to 'evil', then it must be resisted. While he saw the deadness of the state churches in Europe, and like Brunner, thought them dead, Barth didn't disown the legacy entirely.


Cal said...

As to Natural Law, I don't think he'd be so opposed to the conception you understand (and is presented in Scripture) as Common Grace. The Restraining Providence, using other terms. Barth is a little extreme in the total removal of the Created order, but he is right in affirming that God is the Wholly Other. Sin has so cut off the Created that we may be able to fathom something, we know nothing. Reading Aristotle's account of the Prime Mover, or Heraclitus about the governing Logos. These men were absolutely brilliant and grasped certain mechanics of the world. And yet, they knew nothing.

It took Divine Revelation for Israel to even begin to understand what I AM is. I'm not sure if any neo-Orthodox write about this but I know Brunner was no fan of Natural Theology. My point is that if we follow that conclusion, we can discern the Divine by Nature, I think the conclusion we as man in a world marred is the route of worshiping created things. We just can't make that step and we debase ourselves instead. Watch how men waxed on and on about Nature's god during the enlightenment, we have heads rolling and rivers of blood through the streets of Paris with Robespierre as the High Priest of Reason. The best he could do was imitate Moses.

The Holy is something we can't conceive of, we attribute it to beasts and stars and all sorts of things.

To me, I just think that some of the convenant theology you write about just doesn't focus on the radical nature of the Cross. I think you're right on a lot but this I part ways a bit. I enjoy some of the neo-orthodox writers because they focus on this. The fascinating thing is the cocoon they emerged from. They all came from the liberal backdrop, inculcated with certain concepts and views of Scripture and burst out proclaiming Christ Jesus. Did they have it all right? By no means, but it is interesting. It is what bothered conservatives. How can Brunner say that he doesn't rely on Scripture being fully inspired and yet place everything on Jesus. It is perplexing, perhaps a bit inconsistent, but it was certainly a breath of fresh air.

Emmergents may adopt the Neo-Orthdox (a term Barth and Brunner didn't particularly like) but they miss their point. Men like Barth or Brunner, I think, wouldn't want to be associated necessarily with the fuzzy thinking going on there. Again, back to Ellul, he was apart of the World Council of Churches and thought that all the politics and activism was antithetical to what was the Gospel and resigned. Christ and Him crucified and the resurrection of the dead. That is the message. The pluralism, pragmatic religiosity, politics, activism and in the end, violence, is all worldly.

Cal said...

Quick compulsive note:

When I said I disagree with your covenant theology, it was in certain details. I agree with the theme over all that there is both unity and disunity between the two. Just wanted to make that clear.

Anonymous said...

Proto...I again can not disagree with alot of what you said. We agree on many things, my disagreements I think I expressed already, so no need to rehash.

Yes, the closest "denomination" I would label myself would be reformed baptist...


Anonymous said...

This was an interesting read. This Book about the King James Version of the Bible shows how various words were intentionally mistranslated to promote the authority of the church and the king. Here's the free online e-book.



Protoprotestant said...


Yeah the KJV was a state-church publication. James wanted rid of all those annoying notes in the Geneva Bible.

The Pilgrims and many others wanted nothing to do with the Authorised Version of 1611.

Eventually it won out. The KJV makes some translational mistakes in places.

The Geneva was recently republished but sadly they included the notes. I wish they would have left them out and gone ahead and made some improvements.

I've never liked how the KJV translates YHWH as LORD and Adonai as Lord...giving a nod to Jewish superstition about the name of God.

The Geneva Bible doesn't distinguish between LORD and Lord....which though wrong at least helps you distinguish while you're reading the text.

I use the NKJV for most things. I wish they had ditched the 'King James' label. He was a very evil man and it's something of a disgrace to have his name attached. Nevertheless for me it's the issues of the NT text. For that reason I'm not very keen on most of the newer translations. The ESV, NASB, even the old 1901 ASV are great translations....just the wrong text.

I agree that the Anglicans messed with it a bit, but be careful....DeMar and others have their agenda too!

I think the NKJV is based off the right text, and uses good translational principles, and corrects some of the errors found in the KJV.

My two cents.

Feel free to comment further. I'm curious for your take on the Bible translation issue. Do you think the KJV might have led some to embrace positions akin to mine? Just asking.

Not that I care much for these labels but....

An Arminian is going to peg me as a Calvinist.

A lot of Calvinists are going to peg me as an Amyrauldian. I've argued elsewhere that Amyrauldianism is not 4 point Calvinism. It's more a question of theological method. The 5pts were formulated in response to the Arminian 5pts. I agree with the 5pts...but I'm not very keen on that way of presenting those truths. I don't think the Scriptures present those issues with that kind of formulation. I think points only deal with the Decretal side of the questions and are thus something of a reductionism.

Reformed Anglicans consider me almost a Baptist...very low Church, very oppposed to their understanding of tradition and worship.

but a lot of Reformed, even Presbyterians would consider me almost Anglican in my understanding of Sacraments and means.

I kind of embrace both extremes, but solidly reject the middle of the road understanding you find with most Presbyterians. To be honest, most of them are really Baptists who happen to apply water to covenant children.

I guess that's why I'm drawn to Waldensians, Lollards, and Hussites...kind of a High Church theology worshipping in a barn or out in the woods.

When I first became a Christian...within a matter of weeks I embraced Calvinism, but for quite awhile I was a hyper-Calvinist. I toyed with and was intrigued by Dominionism and Theonomy, but thankfully I was reading way too much Bible and their arguments fell flat. I was still intrigued though...only later did I come to see that not only were they wrong...but perilously so.

Protoprotestant said...

I know what you mean about debating. I’ve largely quit ‘getting into it’ at other sites. It just takes up too much time and becomes very exhausting. If I think there might be some profit to it…then fine. Otherwise, I’m inclined to just let it go.
I guess I should call that arguing. What’s happening here is more along the lines of friendly debate. I just throw those little feeler notes in at times to make sure nobody is misconstruing my tone or intention. I KNOW nobody is agreeing with my 100%...that’s not why people come here. They come here…probably because it’s something a little different? I’m just guessing.
Anyway, Barth is admittedly fascinating. I wish I had more time to look into his theology. I’m not going to agree with him, but he’s a giant still looming over the theological scene. All those guys, Brunner, the Niebuhr’s have some interesting observations…I just think they have some fatal flaws.
Ellul interests me. I’ve not read him…but I’ve read about him and he seems a little different perhaps? I have his commentary on Jonah sitting on my shelf…one of several books I haven’t had time to get to.
I’ve heard this criticism of Barth, Brunner, and others of that stripe….that in the end Christianity ends up just being ethics…that’s really all you’re left with.
It’s no surprise I guess that people like Tillich went ahead and just pretty much reduced all of theology to these questions. God just becomes the ground of our being….a term, a concept we use when we’re talking about metaphysical questions, primarily ethics.
Over the years I’ve talked to many United Methodist, Episcopal, and PCUSA pastors and bring up names like Tillich. I’m always startled to hear them go on about him on glowing terms. I wonder are they really just Agnostics or do they not understand what this theology represents? I wonder how many little old ladies sitting in the pew would be shocked to find out their pastor uses Biblical language but doesn’t really believe in any of it!
I don’t think that was the case with Barth, but I fear that’s where his theology can lead. Ellul has attracted my attention because I resonate with his comments about Christians and power. And yes Bultmann and his camp turned Christianity into a lovely very moving myth. When you press some of these mainline pastors you’ll be real surprised at their answers especially if you know what questions to ask. They’ll stand up and say…Christ is Risen, everyone will answer Christ is risen indeed…and yet the guy believes Christ is in the grave.
I appreciate the point about Romans 13. Yes they obviously thought resistance was in order. Verduin points to Barth’s assessment of Constantinianism but you’re right as well….he (and the other Neo-Orth.) weren’t quite in line with Verduin either. His views (which I share) are probably more Anabaptist when it comes to the issue of the state.
Yes I would agree Natural Law is…in the end…worthless. But the question for me is not to look for some kind of answer. I think it’s there to make man accountable and to make the Common Grace order to work. If you bring in the Christian State question, then Natural Law is always going to be insufficient. I thought perhaps wrongly that with Barth the issue was the whole idea of Revelation….he’s rejecting any kind of mediate revelation which would have to include the words of the Bible. Not their content but the idea of the words themselves.

Protoprotestant said...

I think I may have detected something of that in the Ellul book on Jonah. I remember right at the beginning he was pretty eager to state the Word is not tied to discourse, to statements. He speaks of it being Power…to transform.
It sounds good……..but….it might not be, depending what he means by it. If that’s Barthian-talk I can see why it caused so much confusions. You’re nodding along and then all of the sudden…hey, wait a second. What do you mean by that? I still look forward to working through it at some point.
There is the danger with just a Natural Law of falling into animism, pantheism and other forms of idolatry. Zoroastrianism is interesting that way…a bit different. I can see why scholars who don’t believe in the Scripture try to draw connections between post-exilic Judaism and Mazdaism. Wrong of course but if they’re treating the Bible as just another jumble of historical development then I can see why they would pursue it. Zoroastrianism though dualistic (in most forms) belies a spirituality and concepts of the Divine that are a bit different than what most other ancient cultures came up with.
Regarding your last paragraph….great comment about Ellul, thanks for sharing that. And with regard to Barth…he’s so complicated it’s no wonder there are many camps trying to claim him or showing interest in his ideas. I can tell you one thing…he’s not going away. The dialectic he espouses takes theology to a different level and softens the edge on a lot of dilemmas.
I’m always worried that when I say dialectic, people are going to think I mean…like Barth. Dynamic also works, but then some will take the connotation of changing and unstable….which is another idea I don’t wish to convey. Dialectic is a good old term…used in different ways. Abelard’s theology was dialectic, Hegel’s historiography was dialectic….but everybody means something a little different.

Cal said...

Haha, we both are probably misunderstanding Barth!

Barth made a very firm stand that the radical indwelling of Christ was, as the Bible says, a Spiritual change, a new heart etc.

As I know it, he would've virulently (and maybe he did?) disagree with Tillich. They both started on a similar road, but Tillich skipped onto another road. I think Barth would've been confused to see why so many agnostics being paid for priestly services call on his name. Barth (I think) saw what men like Bulttmann were doing is exactly what led to the 'Deutche Christen'. You gut the historical reality of the Cross (at which Barth would say is the most radical action historically) and there's no stopping anyone. Christ was an Aryan and hated the Jews and led the charge? Sure! Christ is actually spiritually enlightened half-alien? Yes, he is acting as the Cosmic lord (ala Raelism). It is all muddled.

Now I've not read much of Barth, but I'm an ardent fan of Ellul. He looked at Barth, saw some very good things, but also noticed the bad. He is lumped in with him, but they do differ. Over the issue of the word, Ellul writes a book about how we can turn actual words, concretely written down, into idols. It sort of circulates around how there are people and groups who pray in "King James English", or think that Scripture is a book of magic incantations that (as a book I saw in a magazine) "get the devil off your finances, relationships and more". Can't make this stuff up! The Word of God, while contained in writing, is not dependent on language. Sort of abstract but I hope you get what he's trying to approach. He's not pointing to what the neo-pentecostals are doing as anything close to being write. He's saying don't make an idol out of the text.

Also, I think he captures an idea about the freedom of God and freedom of man which, essentially, ends up being like a polish on the twin biblical realities of the Lord's sovereignty and mankind's responsibility. He writes it in "Politics of God and Politics of Man", you read it free online. It sounds like one of those awful modern political tracts but its a deep work.

Cal said...

Natural Law is tricky to get its true value. It is pretty clear (scripturally and experientially) that everyone has some concept of Creator. Even Dawkins posits the idea that aliens may've been at work in seeing Humans develop. And then there is a lot of talk of multiverse. A rose by any other name? They're all talking about gods whether they really want to admit it or not.

However Paul lets the Athenians know they were excused for their ignorance. They did not have the Revelation. But Israel fulfilled has taken place, the Messiah Jesus is risen and the Gospel moves forth. They need to repent and believe! None of the Israelites try and reason with the other ANE cultures. They won't be talked into understand YHWH.

Back in High School, I wrote a final paper on Zoroastrianism and I found it compelling back then. But it's funny how most suppose the Persians must have left the imprint on the Jews and not the other way around. Ahura Mazda was an ancient deity of sun in Persia, it was only much later on when it took the henotheistic dualism flavor. It wasn't officially endorsed until Darius, so who knows what happened.

Protoprotestant said...

I understand what you're saying regarding the word. I guess I will have to ponder it some more. While reading the translator's preface to the Ellul book on Jonah, the translator talks about the issues regarding the historicity and veracity of Jonah. He talks about the problems of literalism with a text like Jonah and resolves the problem with an admonition. We need to avoid putting our faith in words and not in Christ. Christ is the object of our faith he seems to say....not the text.

I'm not sure if this what Ellul would mean, but I do have a problem with the statement made by the translator.

Christ Himself validates the words of the book we call Jonah as Scripture. The translator mentioned canonicity but I took it as more an issue of tradition or historical perception. If I take a literalist position with regard to Jonah, I wouldn't say I'm putting my faith in the words of the text...and somehow subtracting from my faith in Christ. The reason I literally believe the text and can trust in it completely is because of Christ.

Would Ellul perhaps say I'm making an idol of the text?

The Word isn't tied to language...I can agree I think...but didn't God in terms of Administration, His Means of communicating Special Revelation to us...tie it to words? I'm not being rhetorical, I'm pondering. Your thoughts?

Celestial Darwinism...don't you think that's driving much of what NASA does? I think Evolution is looking to make the leap. The traditional theory is such a failure, so patently absurd...it's much easier to make a leap of faith and just explain the origins via celestial categories. They so desperately want to find extraterrestrial life. I think it's more our of philosophical necessity than anything.

The multiverse stuff is pretty fascinating...Plato meets Einstein. But you're right, it's the same thing.

Of course we believe in a sort of multiverse don't we? Even fallen man can come up with some pretty impressive ideas...but sadly they turn them into idols.

With Zoroastrianism...you're raising those issues that are still being debated? Was Zoroastrianism a reform of an older Magism...perhaps found among the Medes? akin to the Yazdanism found among some of the Kurdish sects?

Ever heard of Zurvanism? Was that the older form of Zoroastrianism or was that a later synthesis with Chaldean mythology? Zurvanism places a higher principle above the dualistic cosmology of Zoroaster...but it's almost Pantheist....kind of akin to Vedic India. It's quite interesting...and frustrating. That whole pre-Hellenistic era in Central Asia and India is muddled.

The Achaemenids were Zoroastrian but some believe the Sassanians to have Zurvanistic tendencies. The Parsees today apparently have abandoned Zurvanism...which is quite interesting considering it would be far more compatible with their mostly Indian context.

These questions fascinate me....why did metempsychosis appear in Vedic India and Hellenic Greece around the same time? Or was is actually pre-Vedic? Did Pythagoras and the Orphics get it via India?

I've got several old books dealing withe ancient world....trade routes, idea transfer, travel...wonderfully complex, far beyond what most people imagine.

Speaking of Darius...was his formalization of Mazdaism a repudiation of the Magi coup under pseudo-Smerdis?

My kids love this stuff. The ideas are too complicated but they're learning the history. Herodotus is a big hit. Who can fail to be enthralled with Cambyses and the lost army?

Cal said...

Haha, that's funny about the commenter on Ellul's work. Maybe he expressed that opinion earlier but from the several works I've read, he doesn't even interact with the historical problem. He would probably would've said exactly what you said. Christ is what gives the text worth, it is valid.

Now I guess there is a intellectual humility. Jonah is one of those texts that is suspect historically. Now, as for myself, I think Jonah historically is valid. Ok, but what about parts of Genesis and Job? I've read some compelling cases that Job is somewhere on the level of a play. And of course, citing as you do Meredeth Kline on the front page, you know of his working with Genesis.

Ellul's issue would be some of the people who obsess with timecharts and tables of plotting out Scripture. Say someone's faith is based on whether the Earth is 6000 years old or not. Ellul would say if that's your problem, then you don't even have faith in Christ. You have it backwards.

For biliolatry, his issue is saying that the word themselves have power, not the Word behind the word. There are some who build a stack of cards on the 1611 Authorized Version. Every letter is inspired, and the translator of the Textus Receptus was inspired. That way it is perfect. It is like Roman Catholocism and the Vulgate. There is so much obsession with the dressing, that no one understands. You may have no idea what you're saying in Latin, but its pious. That's his contention, I think.

As for His tying the Word to words, you're right but the Church didn't always have the Written Word, it was oral before. And not every Christian was absolutely sure about every book, you have the Shepherd of Hermas, and doubt on the Revelation to John. I'm not doubting canon, but we can't worship literacy. Don't get me wrong, I think the Scriptures are inspired and the fact I can own a copy and read them is awesome; but I don't think me being literate made me Christian. I wonder about the Catechism schools in the 2nd and 3rd century. There was the temptation to become partisan but not everyone could read for themselves and someone needed to teach them.

The multiverse is very interesting. There are some physicists who posit that the rules of our universe are ours alone. So then it becomes impossible to test the multiverse hypothesis because no other universe operates the same. Yup, cosmic platonism.

Don't know an extreme amount of the background of Zoroastrianism, but it is really interesting how all the different ideas tie in to eachother. I now laugh when I read articles about "trying to reclaim our western heritage". The history is so fuzzy. I don't think many writers would be comfortable talking about reincarnation but that's exactly what many Greeks thought, before all the move East in Hellenism. The past is a realm of boundless knowledge! :)

Cal said...

When I say if Jonah is historically valid, I mean in terms of category, not if it was written as fake history.

Protoprotestant said...

Okay I get what you mean about the Word. Yes, there are some who focus on the Word in a way where to put it simplistically…they miss the forest through the trees.
I wrote a post on the Framework Hypothesis. Though I really like Kline, I don’t agree with the Framework. BUT…I understand (and this is important) his reasons for it are textual, an issue of hermeneutics…not accommodation to science. Kline’s focus of forms, structures, chiasms, his knowledge of Hebrew, all that…drives what’s happening there. Perhaps some lock into it because it is rather convenient in light of modern scientific discussion…but I don’t think those who really hold to it are guilty of that.
That said, they’re not in any way questioning the veracity of the text…they’re simply saying it’s not meant to be read literalistically.
I agree with regard to the charts and all that. I am uncomfortable with those Literalists who treat the Bible as a data mine for scientific data, or those who treat Scripture as a historical sourcebook…and try to validate theological arguments from the historicity of the text. The text is historically accurate but when Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel use it to argue for the veracity of miracles and so forth…they’re actually treating the text as common, like it’s Durant or Herodotus instead of canon.
Okay I see what you mean…I do know people who pray in Elizabethan English because it seems more Holy. In fact (referencing back to Dawn’s comments)…I don’t agree with the KJV translator’s idea of making the language extra high and lofty. God will take care of his own glory, our ideas about what sounds High add nothing. Koine was the vernacular. That doesn’t mean we need a translation into Appalachian, TexMex, or Ghetto…but the Bible should be in the common tongue. The language of the KJV was not the common speech. They elevated it…deliberately.
It reminds me of Bin Laden. He and Al-zawahiri and others of that mindset want time to stop in the 8th century or so. Many Muslims worship the word-text…many memorizing the Arabic Koran though they don’t speak Arabic…they just learn the phonetics. But with the Al Qaeda guys they even want to emulate archaic expressions and intonations.
Hey, maybe if we want to get real holy we should translate the text into old Anglo-Saxon …the real root of our Anglo-American civilization. Reading the Bible would sound just like Beowulf…which I wouldn’t mind reading in the original.
The Church didn’t always have the whole canon…true, there were some books that were disputed, but most of the canon was settled without difficulty. One thing though, any time you have Christians rooted in Scripture-Authority…they always have promoted literacy. The Waldensians and others were remarkably literate and had all kinds of underground Scriptoria, translated the Bible into the vernacular etc…
I guess I wrestle with what you might call ‘worshipping’ literacy. I realize there are folks in the 3rd world who are still illiterate but if we grasp the Word-communication concept of Revelation…the desire to read would be overwhelming I think. But I grasp what you’re saying.

Protoprotestant said...

There are traps in hyper-focusing on the word. Not that we can pay too much attention to the text’s message…but focusing on the words alone can turn into another episode of missing the forest through the trees. Boy that last statement could be misunderstood!
Western heritage….what’s that? (smile) If you asked the Greeks and Romans wouldn’t they appeal to the Egyptians and Phoenicians? But then don’t you have to include Sumer? There’s no end to those types of questions. The questions themselves belie an agenda.
I knew what you meant about Jonah. Providence sometimes guides history to make it look like a parable. Under inspiration, prophets structured and interpreted the narrative. Whenever I’m talking to someone and issues regarding Jonah, Genesis, the Exodus, plagues of Egypt…any of it come up. I pretty much refuse to engage and battle those details. The key issue is…Jesus Christ. If He is God Incarnate, His testimony to the inspiration and canonicity of those texts pretty much solves any problems. If He wasn’t then we have far bigger problems than 6 day creation.

Protoprotestant said...

Hey it's an hour to 2012. I'm in EST.

Tonight we've watched The African Queen and in typing these comments I missing a riveting episode of The Waltons. Yes...good times at our house tonight.

Well...let's hope the Mayans were wrong! If Rick Santorum wins in 2012...then maybe they were on to something! (wink)

Cal said...

"Whenever I’m talking to someone and issues regarding Jonah, Genesis, the Exodus, plagues of Egypt…any of it come up. I pretty much refuse to engage and battle those details. The key issue is…Jesus Christ. If He is God Incarnate, His testimony to the inspiration and canonicity of those texts pretty much solves any problems. If He wasn’t then we have far bigger problems than 6 day creation. "

I think here you and Elull would agree 100%. His lack of popularity is due to the fact that he wrote in French and only recently his works have been translated.

Not that it matters at all what you or I or Ellul thinks, but the whole thing pivots of Jesus Christ. For a lot of theologians Christ is some cover for ethics, relationship etc. That is why I like reading Ellul, he's not a detached intellectual, everything he writes and says flows out of being Christian.

Merry New Year!

Anonymous said...

"I agree that the Anglicans messed with it a bit, but be careful....DeMar and others have their agenda too!"

Oh do they ever! Take over the world for Jesus! I noticed his name...I had to ignore it.

"Feel free to comment further. I'm curious for your take on the Bible translation issue. Do you think the KJV might have led some to embrace positions akin to mine? Just asking."

Which positions are you talking about? You have lots of positions on things...many very good positions IMO. If you mean the sacraments...yes. I do believe the church uses the sacraments and membership as a mechanism of control. In addition, I believe one of the most effective methods of control comes through manipulating the conscience by replacing the Holy Spirit with a temporal corporate institution, traditions and creeds and covenants. I'm not saying it's all bad because it's not. Some of it is practical. And things are instituted to get rid of extremes, but in effect, become the opposite extreme.

In the case of the KJV, there are goups out there that see this version as INSPIRED itself!!! It's an idol of sorts to them. Oh my. The church is a mixed bag of believers and non believers and the people who teach and preach are a mixed bag too. No suprise there, but these tares have really played havock on God's people with all their philosophies and commentaries and books about scripture....How can there not be problems? It's a pickle of a situation. IMO, each man needs to listen to their conscience when it comes to things like this, and compare translation with translation because it's not just the KJV. If I knew Hebrew and Greek, no problem. I'd read the Bible in the original. But I don't, so I'm at the mercy of the translators. If something seems off, maybe it is, and there is nothing wrong with researching the situation; but we are told if we ever question anything, then we are rebels or extremists, or haters of God and His people. What's funny, is sometimes this comes from the same men who say to be good Bereans. (smile) Keeping authority in the hands of preachers, popes and kings. Just something to be aware of I guess.


Anonymous said...

Sacramanetal Wine License Application...


"Wineries who specialize in sacramental wine over 16% alcohol by volume can contact the Liquor Control Division and ship wine to our warehouse who will then distribute the sacramental wine to State Agency Liquor Stores where the priests, rabbis, pastors, ministers, officials of the churches or other established religious organizations may purchase the sacramental wine directly in these areas. Wineries who specialize in sacramental wine under 16% alcohol by volume can ship their wine to licensed tabel wine distributors who will then distribute to retailers for purchase by priests, rabbis, pastors, ministers, officials fo the churches or other established religious organizations."



"In order to meet the needs of various religious groups in Ontario, the LCBO appoints sacramental wine vendors to keep for sale, sell and deliver sacramental wine for use only in religious ceremonies conducted by persons (such as priests, ministers or rabbis) authorized to preside at such ceremonies in a regular place of worship such as a church, synagogue or temple. Sacramental wine vendor authorizations, awarded through an application process, often have a term of two year and an application fee of $100 (to offset LCBO administrative costs).

Sacramental wine (defined as wine only, spirit products of any kind, or liqueurs of any kind, are not permitted for importation or sale) is intended for use in religious ceremonies and may not be sold for use or consumption at any social events, including social events or occasions associated with or ancillary to religious ceremonies whether held on or off the premises of the place of worship. Social events include, without limitation, receptions outside of religious wedding, baptismal, first communion, bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah and ordination ceremonies.

Wine, spirits and other beverage alcohol used for social events must be obtained through a government store. Sacramental wine vendors are not permitted to advertise, promote or market the purchase, sale, keeping for sale or delivery of sacramental wine. Also, they are not permitted to sell sacramental wine that is carried on the LCBO's General List of products.

The business activities of sacramental wine vendors are subject to audit by the LCBO's General Audit Department and oversight by the Policy and Government Relations Department. Oversight can include inspections as well as end-use and spot audits of vendors and their customers to verify that sales are being made to authorized persons for authorized purposes.

Sacramental wine vendors arrange their own direct beverage alcohol importations into Ontario. Each month, they are required to pay a fee to the LCBO equal to 15 per cent of the gross sales of all sacramental wine sold in the previous calendar month. In addition, vendors in the program must remain compliant with certain restrictions regarding pricing, marketing and packaging, for example, ongoing compliance with the LCBO’s minimum price provisions."


This product below gave me a chuckle:

Save time and money! Prefilled communion cups have communion wafer and grapejuice in a sanitary, disposable single serving container.


Communion wafers:

"However, it is reported that one single manufacturer produces the communion wafers for over three quarters of the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran churches in the United States, Canada, England and Australia. That manufacturer is The Cavanagh Company which is a family business located in Rhode Island."



Protoprotestant said...

I just meant if you thought perhaps the translational issues associated with the KJV, regarding the word Church v. congregation…stuff like that, if that plays into the overall thinking of people like me who probably put a little more weight on the Ecclesiastical side of doctrine...it’s not an easy question to answer, and probably not a fair one….people are motivated by very different reasons. Answering it myself, I’d guess I’d say…maybe for some. Some who are looking to buttress a more High Church ecclesiology and a more concrete covenant unity might prefer certain Greek words to be translated a certain way.
For others, no. I hope I’m letting the text drive me, not vice versa. But I guess everyone would say that as well.
I agree with you that the Church has used sacraments and membership as a means of control. This is one of several points I struggle to convey to a lot of people I’ve known. Good and Biblical doctrines can be abused and made into something bad. The tendency is to react and re-cast the whole doctrine. This is what I was doing a poor job in trying to explain….I have what would be called a quite high view of the Sacraments…but my understanding is dynamic. I can say they’re everything and mean it…and yet at the same time from a different perspective say they’re not all that important. I think some folks take the one side of the argument and run with it…and others take the others side and run with it. Either way, each camp has some of it right, some truth in what they’re saying. It’s a truth that I think needs to held in balance…not a compromising balance, but more of a balancing act on a razor or a tight rope. There’s two sides which can’t be reconciled.
Of course there are many who due to their ideas concerning reason and logic will flat our reject such unresolved tensions or dialectics.
Yeah if I was proficient in Hebrew and Greek I suppose I would just read the originals. Very few people are. I think the translations are sufficient…with a bit of caution. We have many good tools today that allow us to look up difficult passages and words and using many resources we can be pretty confident as to what it’s saying. Even just some basic Greek is helpful…knowing the alphabet so you can look at a Greek NT, learning some tenses and words…makes some of the commentaries and helps really come alive and be all the more helpful. I would always say use different ones, because they’re not all perfect. Strong’s is a good concordance but doesn’t always get it 100%...and oftentimes it’s context which helps define the sense of the word…in which case lots of commentaries can help. Today with the internet…wow, there’s so much we can look at.
The KJV only people get really hung up on the English text and thus grossly misinterpret many of them. They take an English language spin at times and completely change the meaning. I used to be friends with some of those guys and it was frustrating and fascinating to watch them interact with the Bible. There were times I wanted to throw my hands up in the air. Ever heard of Peter Ruckman? I’ve got a heresy shelf in my library…his book on Manuscript Evidence holds a prominent place alongside Rushdoony and some others. With Tim Lahaye I can never decide if his stuff belongs under ‘heresy’ or just in ‘science fiction’….that was a joke.

Protoprotestant said...

I hold tenaciously to the perspicuity of Scripture and I’ve had to invoke it more than once when arguing with Protestant leaders who lord their authority over my conscience. They often try to dominate bearing the weight of tradition…tradition built on Luther’s appeal to perspicuity and attack on tradition.
They’re scared to led individuals follow their consciences because they believe the form of the Church will be rent asunder. I always try to remind them the Holy Spirit holds the Church together. Man-made forms may or may not be helpful, but the fate of the Church (so to speak) does not depend on their forcing people to conform. If it’s a matter of blatant sin or schism…fine. But often they’re trying to control or wield their authority in a manner far beyond what is given to them in Scripture.
I’ve heard of Reformed guys rolling their eyes at the Berean appeal. Shame on them. If you’re teaching the truth the Berean spirit should never be a threat to you.
Thanks for the communion element links. What a circus.
Probably disappointing to you, I must admit I’m not a teetotaler, and I actually do think wine is what is prescribed for communion. Grape juice as we know it didn’t exist until modern times. But I don’t mean to get into an argument about alcohol. I do think it’s deplorable that the Church would look to or even play the game with the state regarding not only wine but taxes and all of it. If these churches believe they NEED to use a certain type of wine…then do it. If the state says you need a license…too bad.
I feel the same way about the whole 501c issue, but that opens up a whole discussion about bank accounts and buildings and salaries. I think this has all gone way wrong. The Biblical model is so simple…too simple I guess for modern people. A Church doesn’t need any of that stuff.
So while I hold to a rather high view of Communion…I have no interest at all in special wines, silly little wafers, or the Cavanagh company which as far as I’m concerned can shut their doors! That’s pretty sick…making a nice profit are they on God’s people?
I’ll stop now, before I say something I shouldn’t. But again thanks for sharing those. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…there’s always more.
Reverent simplicity….hard to find isn’t it?

Anonymous said...

"I just meant if you thought perhaps the translational issues associated with the KJV, regarding the word Church v. congregation"

My answer to that then simply would be yes…but you're right because it's not an easy question to answer. Not everyone has been affected to the extent that others have. Some people are by nature more questioning than others...and history shows that that kind of thinking can get ya killed.

I think we bring our traditions into reading the text for sure and I think somehow we also let our preferences drive the text as well as experience...not even purposefully sometimes, it's just that everything is so engrained. I think a good example like you talked about later is that eschatology stuff by Lahaye and where to stick it on your book shelf.

"I think some folks take the one side of the argument and run with it…and others take the others side and run with it."

We humans love to do that don't we? We don't like tension. So we do things like split up verses rather than reconcile them..again, that eschatology example you give at the end of your comments...

"We have many good tools today that allow us to look up difficult passages and words and using many resources we can be pretty confident as to what it’s saying."

Yes. Those study tools are helpful...and harmful too I'm finding. Only in that at times I find they can be distracting, maybe others don't get distracted like I do. But all in all, I have learned a great deal with the advent of on-line bible programs where you can compare scripture translations and like you said, greek english dictionaries. But you're right. You have to be careful.

"Ever heard of Peter Ruckman?"

The baptist KJV onliest...

As far as Lahaye...Ha! You need a tension shelf for things you can't decide...is this heresy or sci-fi. lol. That's a good one.

"I’ve heard of Reformed guys rolling their eyes at the Berean appeal."

Oh yeah, and then throw in gender...and well you're better off than me because at least you are male. Me, I'd be called a flaming rebellious feminist to shut me up. I would never comment on blogs like Pyro or Frank Turks cartoon blogs. Those guys are BRUTAL in the name of Jesus. Ouch. I'm not a flaming feminist btw...

"Probably disappointing to you, I must admit I’m not a teetotaler, and I actually do think wine is what is prescribed for communion."

I'm not a teetotaler either and I don't believe it's biblically accurate to impose teetotaling on other people. I say...make your own wine...bypass all of that retail/state stuff. Make your own bread too. And have the head of your family administer communion if you have to. I just don't think the church must be the one to do it.

"I feel the same way about the whole 501c issue, but that opens up a whole discussion about bank accounts and buildings and salaries."

501c...the church-state dirty little secret.

"Reverent simplicity….hard to find isn’t it?"

Yes. Hard to find. And...I just think it's gonna get worse and worse. I don't see an improved future for the visable church. But...with each day that goes by, the time shortens and I get closer to seeing my Lord. So, I'll take it.