Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
01/27/2007 - James WhiteI'm on the road again, but I'm not speaking anywhere. I'm actually off studying. Don't want to get too specific, but yes, it has to do with Islam. But, I should still have net access, so I will keep plugging away here.
Haven't seen how we can exegete Romans 5:1 via the "mind of the Church" yet, and, to be honest, I really doubt I will. Johnson's original statement is getting the same treatment we will hear from our national politicians for the next two years or so: spin. It was obviously an over-statement that really cannot be defended, and you just can't make the original statement work. So, when challenged, the spin starts and now instead of seeking the context in the "mind of the Church" over against the original context, now we are being told that it is important and helpful to consider what past generations have thought about a text. Of course, I have never said otherwise, and, if folks would even attempt some level of fairness (I truly don't believe the RefCath folks bother to read anything I write outside of my blog) they would know that I have no problem with avoiding re-inventing the wheel with each generation. But that wasn't what Johnson originally said, of course. We won't see any defense of that original statement because it is indefensible and, as stated, this "mind of the Church" as a hermeneutical methodology is nebulous and undefined.
I am reminded of my challenge to Doug Wilson in our Credenda Agenda debate many years ago. It sounds so wonderfully pious and warm and theological to speak of "the mind of the Church" or the "ecclesiastical text" and the like. You can really get folks worked up about stuff like that. I bet I could get quite a following if I was content to wander about in the feel-good land of puffy phrases and theologically loaded language. But I have this problem. See, I actually try to take my faith into the marketplace and present it as God's truth. I have to defend it. So, language like that, as nice as it sounds, has to be able to translate into reality. It has to work. When I asked Doug Wilson to take the Theodore Letis-inspired concept of an "ecclesiastical text" and actually show us how it works in real life in deciding a textual variant, he couldn't do that. It wasn't his fault, of course. It is just that while we may long for certain things, it doesn't mean that the object of our longing exists; further, even if we say it exists, it may just exist in our minds and on paper, but it doesn't exist in reality. The ecclesiastical text model can't do textual criticism. It can't get its hand dirty in the real world and actually accomplish anything. It can't answer questions, it can't defend itself. So, it's only worth is that generated by folks who wish it were true.
In the same way, Johnson's original claim sounded very pious and ecclesiastical and religious and the like, but, it can't make the transition from wishful thinking to reality. You can't do exegesis with it, especially has he used it originally. It just doesn't exist down here in the real world where you have to answer tough questions. And since Johnson will never offer an exegesis of Romans 5:1 using this "mind of the Church" as his sole guide, well, the point is proven.
Now, it is fascinating to watch the spinning going on over at the Oxymoronic Blog. I have been quite straightforward in my replies to Owen and Johnson. If you are new to his blog, you may think I've been too harsh. Consider the background and you might recognize I've been quite restrained. In any case, if you peruse the articles and the comments posted over the past few days dispassionately, simply analyzing the thought patterns and methodologies, you will discover that none of these folks have the slightest interest in actually engaging the text on the level I have presented in my rebuttals. None. In fact, there is a general tone of mockery of that kind of exegetical examination of the text (the form that starts with the original author's context, his intentions, his language, grammar, lexicography, syntax, narrow and broader literary context, authorial context, broadening out to the corpus of the author's writings, and finally to the New Testament as a whole) almost always (especially in the comments of Timothy Enloe, who cannot restrain himself from making these comments in every possible context) along with some kind of "gnostic" accusation or "anabaptist" insult or something along those lines. What is always accepted as axiomatic is my irrationality. I'm simply beyond reason they say. I will gladly let the reader compare and contrast and decide if there is any merit to the accusation. One thing is for certain: one side can quote the other and interact directly with their presentation. The other can't. You decide. ...
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01/25/2007 - James WhiteSteve Hays has commented on the exchange with the folks at the oxymoronic website here.
Johnson has attempted a response here, but, has only demonstrated that he has no answers, because he keeps shifting the ground, as I will demonstrate when time allows. Owen has likewise replied. Given his position he can do nothing more than keep proving my points for me, but as long as it remains useful as a warning to others, I will respond and keep pointing them out.
BTW, I call "Reformed Catholicism" the oxymoronic website not because historic Reformed folks did not claim consistency with the early church (they did); nor is it because the term "Catholic" cannot be used in a more general sense (it can). I call this website the oxymoronic website because it is so painfully obvious that for them, they neither hold to the heart of Reformed soteriology (their mockery of the solas is just one example) nor do they hold to the heart of [Roman] Catholic authority claims but they are always willing to give the benefit of the doubt to anything Roman but never to anything conservatively Reformed. Hence the oxymoronic nature of the name of the website, and the movement, in its modern form.
TQuid (James Swan) has an excellent and very useful blog entry here. It is so sad to see a young man falling for the circular arguments of Rome, as noted by James in this entry. I confess, however, a good bit of amazement that anyone can find de Sales overly compelling. He had the nuanced abilities of a jack-hammer or a baseball bat, and as David King notes, his arguments require the acceptance of their conclusions right from the start. TQuid is right to note, "There are more factors going on than simply a historical and scriptural search to determine 'truth'. I’m sure if I were to sit and talk face to face with this man for an hour, 'heart' factors would emerge." Exactly.
Finally, I was pointed to this loving blast from a student at Gordon Conwell. I had no idea I had managed to hi-jack the entire Reformed movement! Man those Reformed Baptists are nasty, and sneaky, too!
Greetings from the Atlantic Coast
01/19/2007 - James WhiteGreetings from Tom's River, New Jersey. A fairly uneventful (if rather bumpy) flight out here yesterday. Speaking this evening, tomorrow, and Sunday. Here are the details once again.
Just a quick "thank you" to the Calvinist Gadfly for this article this morning. I followed his links and was once again deeply touched to think of our brothers and sisters who this day languish in bonds for their love of Christ and His gospel. Oh how few who crowd into the mega-plexes of creature comforts often called "churches" in our land on a Sunday morning (unless the NFL playoffs get in the way) would give up family and friends and freedom! Remember these words:
Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:3)
I dare you to memorize that one. I would also like to link to the stories of these dear ones. I have likewise raised an eyebrow once or twice by preaching on Jesus' call to the crowds to "join the death march," which is exactly what He did in Mark 8:34-38. We need to remember that the Jesus who had compassion on the crowds in Mark 8:2 is the same Jesus who said these words:
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 "For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."Do we live in an adulterous and sinful generation? Sure do. Does Jesus call us to die to self, walk the opposite direction, join the death march to crucifixion, endure the mockery inherent in such an action? Yes, He does.
It's a little like the biblical concept of compatibilism: there is a vital, living, purposeful relationship between the sovereign and eternal decree of God and the actions of men in time. They are not contradictory, nor are they equal. This isn't the "train tracks that meet in eternity" routine (the train would still wreck if the tracks ever met, in time or in eternity). One truth conditions (God's creatorship and hence His purposefulness, resulting in the necessity of His decree) and forms the other, to be sure. But the truth is that God's sovereign decree exists, it is real, and man's will exists, and it is real, and the one gives the basis and foundation of the other. You cannot deny one without materially impacting your understanding of the other. Likewise, proclaiming God's love does not mean we have to define that love in terms of human sentimentality. God's love transcends merely human categories, and as such, co-exists in perfect harmony with His holiness, His justice, His grace, His mercy, and even His wrath. The strong call of the gospel to die to self and renounce self-sovereignty is not contradictory to the proclamation that God's salvific love is freely available to all who repent and believe. But skip the repentance, skip the dying to self, leave man in possession of self-sovereignty, and the result is spiritual poison, resulting in buildings full of unregenerate hypocrites, twice hardened to the true call of the gospel.
And the funny part is, those brothers and sisters suffering today under Islamic and atheistic regimes would not even understand why I am belaboring the obvious. Think about that.