4.26.2012

Sanctifying The Common (2)

the structure/direction distinction and Christian cultural activity

In my last post, almost a year & a half ago, I explained that neotwokingdomism erroneously rejects the possibility of doing culture in a distinctively Christian way. The neotwokingdom position significantly depends on the view that since the institutional church and its activity are holy, cultural activity cannot be holy, or done Christianly, since culture is common. Michael Horton writes that “when God chose His people and instituted a form of worship, a clear distinction was made between “holy” and “common.” As Israel was “holy” and the nations were “common,” so God drew a line all the way down to pots and pans. Vessels used in the temple were holy; those used at home were common.”
Michael S. Horton, Where in the World is the Church?: A Christian View of Culture and Your Role in It (1995; rep., Phillipsburg, 2002), 85.

According to neotwokingdomism, the upshot for Christians today is that only the institutional church and its activities can be done Christianly. Advocates of this view hold that while a Christian's cultural activity can be good, it simply can't be holy in any way.

I pointed out how neotwokingdomism is contrary to the Reformers' (particularly Calvin's) views despite many of its adherents being fellow Reformed confessionalists, and how Calvin's view is in line with the view of neocalvinism. Here I elaborate further on this and what we mean in holding to a redemptive view of culture; that a Christian's cultural activities may be done Christianly, in a distinctively Christian way.

Cultural Activity
It’s important to keep in mind what we mean by “cultural activity.” We understand culture to be the secondary environment of human production within our natural environment. Being made in God’s image, designed to exercise dominion, humanity cannot help but act purposely, labor, and cultivate the creation (including ourselves) in some fashion and to some extent or other.
Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (1959; rep., Grand Rapids, 2001), xvii.

Our cultivative labor can be understood in terms of various layers. On the surface, as it were, we manifest observable behaviors, some of which we call customs, and we produce material artifacts of all kinds. At a deeper layer we develop communities and institutions for numerous ends, and these often reflect, at a deeper layer still, the numerous values according to which we discern what concrete activities to do and how to go about them. And at a base layer we embrace what may be called worldviews; basic understandings of what the world is and our different purposes within it. And these various layers exist in a dynamic of reciprocal influence. Our technologies and practices effect our beliefs and orientations, and vice versa.
G.Linwood Barney, “The Supracultural and the Cultural: Implications for Frontier Missions,” in The Gospel and Frontier Peoples: a report of a consultation, December 1972 , ed. Robert Pierce Beaver (South Pasadena, 1973), 48-55.

The activities within all these layers are all cultural activity. Both Christians and non-Christians participate in all these sorts of activities. By them we form the histories of our individual lives and of civilizations alike.

We might seem to beg the question if we admit that religion directs culture at the deepest layer. For, this very point, it seems, is at issue in the differences between neocalvinism and neotwokingdomism. While neotwokingdom'ers are sometimes loath to say they affirm the religious neutrality of culture, VanDrunen (for example) has spoken of rejecting “moral neutrality or autonomy,” which is not an identical matter.

Finer Distinctions
In distinction from the church and its sphere of activity, not only is there a civil or political sphere, but there are also other distinct sorts of common spheres, or kingdoms, if you will. For example, there are media, family, commerce, arts, school, medicine, social clubs, and various mutual aid societies. These are all distinct kinds of activity. Not only is each a legitimate area of God’s calling, but each area is a calling to something different. Each sphere has its own role to play and operates according to its own kind of rules in God’s design for societal division of labor, as it were. Of course the Lord calls one and the same person to activity in multiple spheres, but the proper character of the various responsibilities, in significant respects, remains distinctive in each case.
See my paper “Dooyeweerd's Conception of Societal Sphere Sovereignty.”

While there are hardly only two kingdoms in this sense, since there are several different common ones, neocalvinism recognizes that the church is distinguished and set apart from other spheres by its own distinct character which indeed has a special holiness. The neocalvinist view of “societal sphere sovereignty,” described in general terms above, should therefore be understood to be in precise harmony with and directly supporting, if not containing, the fundamental ideas of the Presbyterian doctrine of “the spirituality of the church.”

However, it is of crucial importance here to see that holiness has distinguishable senses. John Muether and Darryl Hart write that “sometimes Scripture describes this holiness in an objective or ceremonial sense (such as the tabernacle and the priests, who were holy because they were set apart for the worship of God), and sometimes in a subjective or ethical sense (such as the infusion of holiness through God's work of sanctification).”
D.G. Hart and John Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship (Phillipsburg, 2002), 30.

Louis Berkhof explains of hagios, the primary New Testament word for ‘holy,’ that “the word does not always have the same meaning in the New Testament. (a) It is used to designate an external official relation, a being set aside from ordinary purposes for the service of God, as for instance, when we read of "holy prophets," Luke 1:70, "holy apostles," Eph. 3:5, and "holy men of God" II Pet. 1:21. (b) More often, however, it is employed in an ethical sense to describe the quality that is necessary to stand in close relation to God and to serve Him acceptably, Eph. 1:4; 5:27; Col. 1:22: I Pet. 1:15,16.”
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (1938; rep. Grand Rapids, 1996), 528.

Structure and Direction
These two senses of holiness relate to neocalvinism’s basic distinction between “structure” and “direction.”
Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained (1985; rep., Grand Rapids, 2005), 59, 88, 97.
By the term structure, we refer to God’s creational laws or ordinances that are in force for other created things, constituting such things as the kind of creatures they are. Wolters helpfully clarifies that he reserves the term structure to refer to the law order for creation and cultural activity, rather than also using the term to refer to structures of creation and culture (that is, cultural products themselves).

As there are different kinds of created things, so there are also different kinds of creational laws. Some laws are directly compelling, such as physical laws, for instance the law of gravity. Other laws, while always in force, are appealing. That is to say, they can be disobeyed. These appealing sorts of laws especially apply to cultural activity and are frequently referred to as norms, such as logical norms, for instance the law of non-contradiction or principle of contradiction.

By the term direction, we refer to negative deviation from and positive conformity to the normative ordinances. In the deepest sense, the unregenerate are in a condition of mis-direction away from God in the fallen natures of their hearts through sin, and the regenerate are in a condition of re-direction toward God in the renewed natures of their hearts through Christ. Of course, this is not at all to say that regenerated persons are set back in the position of Adam’s pre-fall probationary condition, but rather that when they are united to Christ in his eschatological blessedness, they are turned from idols unto God. However, as the regenerate still sin, they can also deviate from creational norms; their cultural activity can be done antinormatively. Conversely, the regenerate may also, by their redemption in Christ, discern and act in accordance with the norms God ordained for culture.

The structure/direction distinction relates to the two senses of holiness in that what has been called the objective, ceremonial, or official sense of holiness is a matter of structure, and what has been called the subjective or ethical sense of holiness is a matter of direction. The distinct holiness of the church and its sphere of activity is official or structural. For instance, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is not a common meal. It is a specially set apart sort of meal. It has a holiness, by virtue of Christ’s appointment, that any given meal outside the institutional church does not and cannot posses. However, in the ethical or directional sense there can be holiness, or conformity to God’s norms, in cultural activity. This re-direction toward God that enables the regenerate person to discern and act in accordance with God-ordained norms for cultural activity is accomplished by redemption in Christ.

Noticing a relation between the structure/direction distinction and Meredith G. Kline’s categories concerning the image of God may be of further help in understanding the position that cultural activity can be done Christianly since cultural activity is cultivative labor grounded in humanity’s being made in God’s image. Kline exegetes from Scripture what he calls the official and the ethical dimensions of the image of God.
Meredith G. Kline, Images of the Spirit (1980; rep., Eugene, 1999). Kline also writes about an important physical component to the image that he describes as an expression of the official dimension. 

After the fall into sin, humanity retains the official dimension, continuing by God’s common grace to be his image as those who have an office of authority and exercise dominion (epitomized in making judgments). Yet by the fall into sin unregenerate humanity loses the positive ethical dimension of that image, no longer judging rightly. In the regenerate person the image of God is renewed in Christ, in true righteousness, holiness, and knowledge. In a biblical theological fashion, Kline has pointed out the structural (official) and the directional (ethical) in the imago itself. And for regenerate humanity, the renewal of the image in Christ provides for the possibility of holiness in cultural activity in positive accordance with God-ordained cultural norms.

Kline affirms this conclusion when he writes that the sanctification of culture by believers entails that their cultural activity “is done as a service rendered unto God. All their cultural activity... they are to dedicate to the glory of God. This sanctification of culture is subjective... [but] does not result in a change from common to holy status in a culture objectively considered. [emphasis added]”
Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (1993; rep., Eugene, 2000), 201.

So there is a structural distinction between that which is, in an official sense, holy and that which is, in an official sense, common. But there is also a directional distinction between that which is, in a normative sense, holy, and that which is, in a normative (or rather, antinormative) sense, profane. Culture as a sphere of activity is structurally common, and that cultural activity may be done, directionally, either in a holy or profane way.

It should be noted that advocates of neotwokingdomism and neocalvinism alike affirm that while the institutional church as a sphere of activity is structurally holy, that ecclesial activity may be done, directionally, either in a holy or profane way. For example, the Lord’s Supper, though as to its structure, is a holy meal, may be eaten in an unworthy (profane) manner, contrary to the Lord’s prescription.

Calvin's View
In 1 Timothy 4:3-5 Paul writes that some will depart from the faith, forbid marriage, and require abstinence from foods “that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” Calvin's comments on this passage offer insight into how Christians can do their cultural activity in a Christian way.
John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (22 vols., Grand Rapids, 1993), 21: 100-106.

Calvin asks why the passage states that the recipients of created things are those who believe and know the truth. What about common grace to unbelievers and the commonality of creation itself? Among Reformed confessionalists, neocalvinists have developed and articulated a more robust view of common grace than others. But common grace is not in conflict with the fact that, ultimately, the world belongs to Christians. This is the direct teaching of Scripture. See especially 1 Corinthians 3:21-23: “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

Calvin observes that God gave dominion to Adam and his posterity on the condition of obedience, and that unregenerate humanity has lost the right to use the gifts of God and defiles or profanes all things they use. However, Calvin says, the lawful use of created things is, through faith, fully restored to regenerate humanity in Christ.

Calvin highlights the structure/direction distinction in the passage. He distinguishes between the purity and goodness of created things because God created them (structure), and the use of created things (direction) that is consecrated, sanctified, or made holy to us by faith in God's Word and by prayer. Calvin emphasizes that Paul's argument is drawn from the (directional) contrast between holy and profane, and writes that the world “is unclean to us, till God graciously come to our aid, and by ingrafting us into his Son, constitutes us anew to be lords of the world, that we may lawfully use as our own all the wealth with which he supplies us... the use of all the gifts of God is unclean, unless it be accompanied by true knowledge and calling on the name of God.”

Moreover, Calvin notes that the normative use of food must be judged not only from the person who eats it, but also, he says, “partly from its substance.” This means that a Christian’s discernment of the sanctified use of culture involves discerning from creation or natural revelation, the norms that God ordained for cultural activity. See Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics (1976; rep., Phillipsburg, 2003), 55-82., especially Van Til's section concerning the necessity, authority, sufficiency, and perspicuity of natural revelation. See also Hendrik G. Stoker's “special problem” in “Reconnoitering The Theory of Knowledge of Prof. Dr. Cornelius Van Til” in Jerusalem & Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, ed. E.R. Geehan (Phillipsburg, 1993), 25-73., especially page 47.

Conclusion
Neotwokingdomers base their erroneous denial that a Christian can do cultural activity in a Christian way significantly upon the distinction between holy and common. Especially considering their understanding of this distinction, it is apparent how the idea of cultural activity being done Christianly would seem to them both absurd and highly injurious to the distinct character of the institutional church and its mission. In brief, upon neotwokingdom assumptions, to say that cultural activity can be done Christianly is effectively to deny the distinction between holy and common and thus deny the distinctiveness of the institutional church and the church’s mission and to illegitimately extend that mission to include cultural activity.

Regrettably, neotwokingdomers have not raised objections to such injuries out of a mere misconstrual from within their own suppositions. While a more consistent understanding and more rigorous application of societal sphere sovereignty and the structure/direction distinction would prevent it, some who have claimed support from or adherence to neocalvinism have in fact illegitimately promoted an extension of the institutional church’s mission into cultural activity. As certain neocalvinist notions have been variously co-opted by those who do not hold to confessional Reformed faith or practice, these notions have been weakened and distorted. As a more thorough analysis of the history and ideas involved would reveal, the culprit is not neocalvinism, but rather the so-called “Contextualist” missiology to which some have unhappily accommodated neocalvinist ideas.

Roy Clouser presents a more detailed case for how Christians can have a Christian view of culture and the creational/providenital order (also see his various essays, and book The Myth Of Religious Neutrality). Neotwokingdomers, such as Horton, Van Drunen, Hart and others, will have to deal with actual neocalvinist arguments if they want to make objections to something other than distortions and strawmen.

12.01.2010

Sanctifying The Common

distinctively Christian cultural activity contra the neotwokingdoms view

The earlier (or paleo-) "two kingdoms" view held by Reformation thinkers (Lutheran and Calvinist) is, in brief, that God rules people both immediately or directly by His Spirit (in the regenerate), and mediately or indirectly by authority delegated to human offices.  At least among the Reformed (Calvinists) who held this view, it was affirmed that Christians' activities in whatever area of cultural vocation can and should be done in a genuinely Christian manner, for the only alternative would be to do such things in a way at odds with the Christian faith.  This conviction is shared by neocalvinism.

The contemporary (or neo-) two kingdoms view of the relationship between Christianity and culture takes the distinction of kingdoms to be between the institutional church (conceived as the holy spiritual kingdom) and the state with all other non-ecclesial societal institutions (conceived as the common civil kingdom).  Creation or the providential order is correlated exclusively with the latter; and Redemption is correlated exclusively with the former.  This position holds that activities in non-ecclesial areas can in no way be holy; a Christian's cultural activity, while good, can never be done in a redemptive or Christian way.

Despite a shared commitment to the confessionally Reformed faith and covenantal redemptive-historical hermeneutic of Scripture, there are several significant points of disagreement between neotwokingdomism and neocalvinism regarding the relation of Christianity to culture.  It seems to me that the question of whether a Christian's cultural activity can be properly Christian is at the root of the disagreement.  I'm not interested in defending every view that has gone by the name neocalvinism or that has invoked a quotation of Kuyper for support. And not every so-called "transformationalist" view of culture is neocalvinist.  But it is my hope that fellow confessionally Reformed believers will be persuaded of a genuine neocalvinist position.  Perhaps the following considerations will be helpful.

To my knowledge the first expression in print of neotwokingdomism was Michael Horton's 1995 book Where In The World Is The Church? Horton writes:
Because God has created this world and upholds it by His gracious providence, there is no secular activity that is barred from Christians, unless that activity is specifically forbidden by God in Scripture. It does not have to be “Christianized” or “spiritualized.” For instance, we do not need to write Christian philosophy or Christian music, Christian poetry or Christian fiction, although we do need Christian theology, worship, evangelism, and ethics.
(p.70)
and
All of life is not sacred, but that which is simply common (ie, “secular”) is nevertheless valuable and honorable because it is part of God's creation. He is as much the Lord of the secular as He is of the sacred. Political activity is not “kingdom work,” but the advance of earthly cities was the original task given to Adam and his posterity in the cultural mandate... These are secular callings that have God's blessing by virtue of creation, not “kingdom activities” that have God's blessing by virtue of redemption.
(p.193)

More recently, in his 2010 book Living In God's Two Kingdoms, David VanDrunen writes that he hopes the neotwokingdoms vision will liberate his readers "from well-meaning but nonbiblical pressure... to find uniquely "Christian" ways of doing ordinary tasks" (p.27).  Most interestingly, VanDrunen affirms that Christians "should take up cultural tasks with joy and express their Christian faith through them.... [T]he effects of sin penetrate all aspects of life. Christians must therefore be vigilant in their cultural pursuits, perceiving and rejecting the sinful patterns in cultural life and striving after obedience to God’s will in everything.... Christians should seek to live out the implications of their faith in their daily vocations" (p.13-15).  And yet VanDrunen maintains that a Christian "does not have to adopt a redemptive vision of culture" to do so.

One might wonder how, given the ubiquity of sin and its effects in all areas of life, Christians can perceive and reject sinful patterns in their cultural activities and, moreover, express and live out the implications of their faith in and through such cultural activities entirely apart from any effect of redemption on their view of or actual participation in cultural tasks.  Neotwokingdomism may seem equivocal in holding that Christians should somehow express their faith through cultural activities, and maintaining, nevertheless, that faith makes no difference at all in how one does such activities.  VanDrunen even affirms "that Christians should transform culture in the sense that they seek to have a beneficial influence on this world as they perform cultural activities with excellence and interpret them rightly" (p.13 fn)  But, according to the neotwokingdoms view, it must always be kept in mind that the benefit, excellence, and right interpretation wrought by Christians in cultural activities has no distinct Christian character, and is not in any way a result of redemption.

Contrary to neotwokingdomism, Calvin's comments on 1 Timothy 4:3-5 may shed some light on the redemptive view taken up by neocalvinism.
vs.3 "by believers"
What then? Does not God make his sun to rise daily on the good and the bad? (Mat 5:45) Does not the earth, by his command, yield bread to the wicked? Are not the very worst of men fed by his blessing? When David says, “He causeth the herb to grow for the service of men, that he may bring forth food out of the earth,” (Ps 104:14) the kindness which he describes is universal. I reply, Paul speaks here of the lawful use, of which we are assured before God. Wicked men are in no degree partakers of it, on account of their impure conscience, which, as is said, “defileth all things.” (Titus 1:15)

And indeed, properly speaking, God has appointed to his children alone the whole world and all that is in the world. For this reason, they are also called the heirs of the world; for at the beginning Adam was appointed to be lord of all, on this condition, that he should continue in obedience to God. Accordingly, his rebellion against God deprived of the right, which had been bestowed on him, not only himself but his posterity. And since all things are subject to Christ, we are fully restored by His mediation, and that through faith; and therefore all that unbelievers enjoy may be regarded as the property of others, which they rob or steal....

vs.4 "every creature of God is good"
The use of food must be judged, partly from its substance, and partly from the person of him who eats it. The Apostle therefore avails himself of both arguments. So far as relates to food, he asserts that it is pure, because God has created it; and that the use of it is consecrated to us by faith and prayer. The goodness of the creatures, which he mentions, has relation to men, and that not with regard to the body or to health, but to the consciences. I make this remark, that none may enter into curious speculations unconnected with the scope of the passage; for, in a single word, Paul means, that those things which come from the hand of God, and are intended for our use, are not unclean or polluted before God, but that we may freely eat them with regard to conscience.

If it be objected, that many animals were formerly pronounced to be unclean under the Law, and that fruit, which was yielded by the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was destructive to man; the answer is, that creatures are not called pure, merely because they are the works of God, but because, through his kindness, they have been given to us; for we must always look at the appointment of God, both what he commands and what he forbids.

vs.5 "it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer"
This is the confirmation of the preceding clause, "if it be received with thanksgiving." And it is an argument drawn from contrast; for “holy” and “profane” are things contrary to each other. Let us now see what is the sanctification of all good things, which belong to the sustenance of the present life. Paul testifies that it consists of “the word of God and prayer.” But it ought to be observed, that this word must be embraced by faith, in order that it may be advantageous; for, although God himself sanctifies all things by the Spirit of his mouth, yet we do not obtain that benefit but by faith. To this is added “prayer;” for, on the one hand, we ask from God our daily bread, according to the commandment of Christ (Mat 6:11) and, on the other hand we offer thanksgiving to Him for His goodness.

Now Paul’s doctrine proceeds on this principle, that there is no good thing, the possession of which is lawful, unless conscience testify that it is lawfully our own. And which of us would venture to claim for himself a single grain of wheat, if he were not taught by the word of God that he is the heir of the world? Common sense, indeed, pronounces, that the wealth of the world is naturally intended for our use; but, since dominion over the world was taken from us in Adam, everything that we touch of the gifts of God is defiled by our pollution; and, on the other hand, it is unclean to us, till God graciously come to our aid, and by ingrafting us into his Son, constitutes us anew to be lords of the world, that we may lawfully use as our own all the wealth with which he supplies us.

Justly, therefore, does Paul connect lawful enjoyment with “the word”, by which alone we regain what was lost in Adam; for we must acknowledge God as our Father, that we may be his heirs, and Christ as our Head, that those things which are his may become ours. Hence it ought to be inferred that the use of all the gifts of God is unclean, unless it be accompanied by true knowledge and calling on the name of God; and that it is a beastly way of eating, when we sit down at table without any prayer; and, when we have eaten to the full, depart in utter forgetfulness of God.

And if such sanctification is demanded in regard to common food, which, together with the belly, is subject to corruption, what must we think about spiritual sacraments? If “the word,” and calling on God through faith, be not there, what remains that is not profane? Here we must attend to the distinction between the blessing of the sacramental table and the blessing of a common table; for, as to the food which we eat for the nourishment of our body, we bless it for this purpose, that we may receive it in a pure and lawful manner; but we consecrate, in a more solemn manner, the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, that they may be pledges to us of the body and blood of Christ.

So, just as neocalvinism holds, and contrary to neotwokingdomism, while the things of this life are common to believers and unbelievers, the lawful use of them is distinctively Christian.  Although good in themselves, by sin all cultural activities have been defiled, polluted and become unclean, profane. Yet through redemption by Christ and the Spirit's gift of true knowledge of God, in faith and prayer, a Christian's cultural activities may be sanctified, made holy and Christian.

This does not eradicate the distinction between holy and common, but we will have to leave further elaboration to a future post.  We will also address the distinction between "structure" and "direction" that is key to understanding what neocalvinism means in holding to a redemptive view of culture; that a Christian's cultural activities may be done Christianly, in a distinctively Christian way.

10.10.2010

Lot o' Tens

So it is the tenth of October two-thousand ten, at ten minutes after ten o'clock in the morning.
10/10/10  10:10am

4.15.2010

Recovering The Reformed Communion (2)

from Alexander and Rufus: Dialogues on Church Communion by John Anderson (1820)
excerpted pp.4-6, 21 and edited by Gregory Baus

Here is stated in summary what we believe to be the truth according to the Scriptures concerning sacramental communion of the church, often called close communion, taught and practiced by the genuinely Reformed Church.

First, the visible communion of Christians in any particular church or local congregation consists in their declared agreement to adhere to one public profession of the Christian religion, and in their joint endeavors to maintain and propagate that profession.

Second, this profession is a profession of the whole Christian religion. We cannot warrantably decline the explicit profession of one jot or tittle of it; since the authority of the Divine Testimony, which binds us to receive any part, binds us equally to receive the whole.

Third, while the profession of the Christian religion attained by a particular church, as well as her practice, is imperfect; and while much of her profession is rejected by many bearing the Christian name; it is necessary that the articles of her public profession, which are the matter of her communion, be ascertained with precision.

Fourth, every person who joins in the public ordinances of a particular church, and especially in the Lord's Supper, declares that he has communion with her in her public profession and acknowledges it to be his own profession. For the public profession that is made in the participation of the public ordinances of Christianity can be only one; that is, the profession of the particular church in which these ordinances are administered.

Last, persons cannot reasonably pretend to have communion with a particular church in her public ordinances, and especially in the Lord's Supper, while they openly persist in an obstinate opposition to any article of her profession. Persons may indeed share in that communion who have but a small measure of knowledge, but obstinate opposers to any article can have no communion in it at all.

The visible communion of Christians is expressed in Scripture by the holding fast of their profession, one profession only, not many or different professions (Heb 4:14; 10:23), by glorifying God with one mind and one mouth, speaking the same thing, joined together in the same judgment (Rom 15:6, 1Cor 1:10), and serving him with one accord (Zeph 3:9). Their communion among themselves in the exercises of religious worship, and in all the other parts of Christian practice, belongs to the joint maintaining of one profession of the Christian religion.

As the agreement of a number of men to unite their efforts for the raising of a weight, or for the working of a ship, may be called a mechanical communion; so the agreement of a number of Christians to adhere to and maintain one profession of the Christian religion is church communion. In the common affairs of life, there can be no rational communion among any number of persons, unless the matter about which they are to have communion be exactly determined. Thus, if it be the raising of a heavy body, it is necessary in order to communion in that work to determine by what means it is to be raised; whether by a lever, for example, or by a pulley, or by an inclined plane.

So in order to the communion of persons in a particular church, it is necessary that the articles of the public profession which she has attained and which constitute the matter of her communion, be ascertained by her creed, by her confession, or by her declaration and testimony; and that it should be one important part of the work of her ministers in their public discourses to explain and vindicate that profession. When a church is honest and faithful in the use of these means, it is easy to know what is the matter of her communion. Faithfulness in this respect is one principle mark by which a reforming may be distinguished from a backsliding church.

Christians are “to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” (Jude 3) for every article of the faith at whatever time delivered, whether in the Old or in the New Testaments, whether in the personal ministry of Christ, or afterwards by the apostles. When a particular church refuses to communicate with opposers of some of her articles considered more essential to salvation, and yet agrees to communicate with the opposers of other articles considered non-essential, this is contrary to the duty of earnestly contending for the faith, and resents injury done to Divine truth when opposition is contrary to their own salvation, but not whenever it is contrary to the authority and glory of God.

For a particular church, or her members, to have sacramental communion with the obstinate opposers of any of the truths or ordinances of Christ, as professed to be agreeable to his word, is inconsistent with that Great Commission Christ gave his ministers at his ascension, that they should “teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them” (Matt 28:20). For what are the things in which Christians are to have sacramental communion? The answer is in all the things which the apostles and other ministers ought to teach as the things of Christ –and these are not only some things, or the most important things, but all things that he commands. All that truly belongs to the Christian religion was delivered by Christ as the Great Prophet of the church; and the Divine injunction is, “Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you” (Acts 3:22).

Only such close communion is agreeable to the representation which the apostle gives of the partakers of the Lord's Supper. “We being many,” he says, “are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1Cor 10:17). According to these words our participation of one bread in this ordinance imports a joint profession of the Christian religion just as partaking of the sacrifices in the idol's temple imported a joint profession of idolatry. As Christians in receiving the Lord's Supper partake of one bread, so they make one profession of the Christian religion. The profession of receiving Christ as tendered in the Lord's Supper is a profession of the whole Christian religion. For it is a profession, not only that we rely on Christ as a Priest for pardon, but that we fully assent to all he teaches us as a Prophet, and that we cordially submit to all the laws and ordinances which he has delivered to us as our King.

The prominent scheme of sacramental communion that is not close communion differs from the apostle's communion in at least two respects. First, a public profession of the whole Christian religion is necessary to the sacramental communion of the apostle, for it implies a joint profession of receiving Christ as tendered to the partakers. Whereas the public profession of only those parts of the Christian religion that are termed essential is necessary to sacramental communion according to this non-close scheme. Second, the public profession of each communicant is the profession of all who partake of the same sacramental bread, according to the apostle. But according to this non-close scheme the public profession of some of the partakers may be different from, and in some respects opposite to, the profession of the rest.

The profession of religion which is made by the partakers of the Lord's Supper in any particular church is to be considered, either as a merely personal or as a joint profession. If it be considered as merely personal (the profession of each individual only), there may be as many different professions as there are partakers, and there will be no communion at all in the same profession. On this supposition the apostle could not have justly inferred from their partaking of that one bread that they are one body. But if the profession made in the act of communicating be a joint profession, then it must be the profession of the particular church by whose ministers this ordinance is dispensed. No other public profession of the Christian religion is or rightly can be made in the act of communicating in that particular church.

see also RECOVERING THE REFORMED COMMUNION part 1
and more about Rev. John Anderson

3.17.2010

Recent Miscellany

Back in January I visited my brother, Jeff, for a week at Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma. I posted their informational video (Ecce Fiat), so you can see a bit about life there. [ and see latest news article about them here ]

It was mostly below freezing, I had a cold the entire time, and I was only able to hang out and talk with "Br.Anthony" for about an hour a day.  But it was great to see him in person and get a firsthand sense of his environment and routine.  Here's a decent photo of him; he's sitting far left, face down towards book (as always).

I've now added the Epiphany season tune for Te Lucis Ante Terminum to a list of favorites. 

If you haven't checked out my & K's foodblog, give it a look.  We really enjoy documenting the cooking experience this way. For our recent entry I meant to have a photo of my taking a bite, but forgot, because the donuts tasted so good. We will probably include restaurant reviews at some point.

As of this past November, Owen and Lilly have a new baby brother, Daniel; and I'm an uncle a third time over. Love and thanks go out to my sister and bro-in-law for all their labor.

Some time ago, I posted Herman Dooyeweerd's online in-English bibliography.  If you fancy yourself Reformed and academic, and you haven't read any Dooyeweerd, you must.  I recommend beginning with The Secularization of Science.  His most accessible, book-length work is Roots of Western Culture.  In my bib, you'll find a link for the entire original publication of that book in PDF.

Four 2009 articles by Roy Clouser are also online.  [ See, too, Glenn Friesen's response to Clouser's essay on Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique ].  And, finally, a book of Robert Knudsen's * writings has been published.  Now, if only WTS would put his lectures online/iTunesU!

I was glad to see Robert Godfrey's pro-Kuyper/ian presentations in sessions 1 and 6 at Westminster Seminary California's conference Christ, Kingdom, and Culture.

Recently watched the UK independent sci-fi film Moon, and liked it quite a lot.  Hoping that Solomon Kane comes to the US.  I had fun discussing the weaponry with Aaron Larsen.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all, especially to brother Gary and Irish friends here and there.

3.15.2010

Bowling For Calvin

Sub-Sabbatarian Myth-Busting
this essay first appeared in the Nicotine Theological Journal, Summer 2009 (volume 13, number 3)

Being a thrifty Calvinist, I couldn't justify the expense of attending the Calvin500 events in Geneva this past July. I wish I could have gone. Among the other things I would liked to have witnessed was the mass of Calvin enthusiasts gathering after Sunday morning worship for a jolly pétanque competition.

In reality, I suspect no such Calvin-inspired game of boules actually occurred. But I wonder how many of the Reformed churchmen who may have luxuriated in the cafés or otherwise recreated that Lordsday afternoon during the conference felt reassured of their orthodoxy in calling to mind the common anecdote about Calvin's habit of "lawn-bowling" on the Sabbath (typically to the consternation of Knox --that silly, overwrought zealot).

I've probably been told the story more times than I've heard the 4th commandment read in worship. In my experience, even among those who hesitate to labor at their regular employment, or to employ others in servicing them at stores and restaurants on Sundays, many bristle against abstaining from recreations. All I need do is turn down an invitation to watch a film, sport, or to play a game on the Lordsday. Without fail I will be told how we are able to fellowship with others and glorify God by enjoying these activities, and inevitably the godly example of Calvin on the public greens comes into it.

The main problem with citing Calvin's Sabbath bowling practice, other than it being used to contravene Presbyterian standards, is that it is entirely unsubstantiated and contradicts Calvin's own stated views on the matter. Over a decade ago, Chris Coldwell (now general editor of the Confessional Presbyterian Journal) researched the legend with some thoroughness. In his essay titled Calvin in the Hands of the Philistines: Or, Did Calvin Bowl on the Sabbath? Coldwell surveys the relevant literature and historical record on the question.

An unambiguous conclusion emerges as we are guided back from recent references through prominent sources of preceding centuries to Calvin's own time. Coldwell's essay deserves a read by sabbatarian, sub-sabbatarian, and anti-sabbatarian alike, if only because the story is so persistently popular. I must note, for example, this folklore found its way onto page 342 of R.C. Sproul's Truths We Confess, A Layman's Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Vol. 2 (P&R 2007).

Is there a lesson here that we all should more critically assess received wisdom? Or is it that we should be more critical toward criticism of received wisdom? Or maybe the lesson is that formation of either doctrine or piety by anecdote is neither right nor safe. In any case, this is how Coldwell concludes:
“Calvin should be afforded the courtesy to speak for himself, and the tendency some have toward using the bowling myth to reinterpret him should be abandoned. While some evidence may be found in future to verify the tale, it seems unlikely. But, until such evidence is found, let us take the Reformer at his word that we should 'dedicate that day wholly unto Him so as we may be utterly withdrawn from the world.' 'If we spend the Lord’s day in making good cheer, and in playing and gaming, is that a good honoring of God? Nay, is it not a mockery, yea and a very unhallowing of his name?' ” 

Psalm 105: 1-12 / 1 Chronicles 16:8-19 in Common Meter

suggested tune: Tiverton by Joeseph Grigg (c.1765)
Oh thank the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among
the people.  Sing praises to Him. His wonders tell in song.

And boast now in His holy name. Be glad the hearts of you
who seek the LORD; seek Him, His strength, always seek His face too.

Recall to mind again His works of wonder He has done;
Marvels and judgments from His mouth, His chosen, Jacob's sons.

Oh seed of Israel, His servant, He is the LORD our God;
know that His judgments reach to all the places one may trod.

Remember this: His covenant forever --a thousand
generations are subject to that word of His command.

For this He made with Abraham, an oath to Isaac sworn,
a statute to Jacob confirmed, our cov'nant evermore.

Saying, “To you I'll give the Land; as your inheritance,”
when you were small and very few and still strangers in it.
~ metrical version by Gregory Baus, MARCH 2010
[traditional 1650 version here]

2.03.2010

Recovering The Reformed Communion

John Anderson (c.1748 - 1830) was born just south of Scotland's border near Tweed (perhaps the River Tweed, or Berwick-upon-Tweed).  He grew up in the "Associate" (1733 Secession) Church of Scotland (cf. Erskines).

Licensed and commissioned by the church in Scotland, Anderson arrived in Pennsylvania to assist the development of the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania (which was to form the Associate Synod of North America in 1801). He was ordained in 1788, serving as pastor for various congregations in the Beaver County area.

In 1794 Anderson was appointed to be the founding professor of the first Presbyterian seminary in the United States [the third theological seminary overall; the first being a Dutch Reformed seminary in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1784, and the second being a Roman Catholic seminary in Baltimore, Maryland in 1791].  This Presbyterian seminary eventually became what is today known as Pittsburgh Theological.

Anderson was said to be only 5 feet tall with a poor voice for public speaking, but he was a godly, powerful intellect and influential church leader.  He served as pastor and professor until 1819, retiring for poor health. Anderson's tremendous work, Alexander and Rufus: Dialogues on Church Communion, was first published in 1820.

Part One (initial 200 pages or so) of this book ably articulates the old school, confessionally reformed & presbyterian doctrine of "close communion."  This biblical doctrine is contrasted with the contemporary, latitudinarian teaching which holds
"that there may be several articles in the public profession of a particular church, which, however clearly founded on the Holy Scriptures, are not essential or necessary to salvation, and therefore ought not to be terms of church communion. 'The obviously vital doctrines of the gospel,' say they, 'which whoever renounces cannot be a Christian, are a sufficient basis of sacramental communion.' This scheme... has too long prevailed in the protestant churches, and deprived them, in so great a measure, of their purity and true glory."
(from the author's Preface)
Alexander and Rufus is available online at googlebooks and internet archive in its two editions. It is also copy-reprinted in its original 1820 version by Kessinger Publishing [here, amazon]; and copy-reprinted in its 1862 version by Still Water Revival Books [here and here].

What Anderson writes in this book can help the reformed churches realize that "while corruption is the native consequence of latitudinarian schemes, scriptural order in sacramental communion tends to make the visible church a heaven upon earth to the faithful, terrible as an army with banners to her enemies, and to her King and Head for a name, for a praise and for glory."  This is the way forward for churches wanting to reform and to be reformed according to the Word of God; the way to recover the Reformed confession and communion.

An essay by Anderson addressing the same topic, Of the Church's Toleration of Any Thing Sinful (1780) is also now available online. Short URL: http://tiny.cc/ctoats

also see PART 2

12.28.2009

End Of The Zeros


Before the year ends, I thought I should leave a new entry.

This will also serve to test whether blogger comments are now operative, since haloscan is done.

Year of our Lord two-thousand ten holds out the promise for new things, including more frequent content here.

All the best to you, dear reader.

6.15.2009

The Past Half Year

Let me catch you up. 2009 started out with a party (at 2640 & the Windup), as my lifelong friend, Keenan, was married. Friends and family are all happy that Rebecca is his wife. The bestman's toast I gave went something like this:
I've heard it said there are two kinds of love: the love of delight and the love of goodwill. We find each other delightful, but when that delight wanes we are resolved to continue behaving in the other's best interest. And marriage, among other things, is a sworn commitment to that effect, to will the other's good, even when there's less to delight in. We love Keenan and Rebecca, and we wish them the best. So here's to their mutual delight & goodwill, and a future of more joy than sorrow, more health than sickness, more plenty than want, more 'better' than 'worse'.
photo credit

Slightly didactic, but concise --don't you think? I reproduce it here because I gave it a lot of thought, and by the time the bubbly was swallowed it is likely my composition was utterly forgotten by everyone.

Later in January my brother Jeffrey entered Clear Creek Monastery, near Tulsa, Oklahoma. This was a grievous occasion. Besides the fact that, being an old school Reformed Confessionalist, I believe Romanist doctrine and Monastic-ascetic piety are contrary to the gospel... besides all that, it's hard to lose contact with the person closest to me. From my vantage point, it's very similar to him serving a life sentence in prison. We write letters and I can visit him for a few hours once a year or so. But the shared experience of life is now over. I wasn't ready for that.


If you're a friend of Jeff, you can write him too:
Br. Anthony Baus
Clear Creek Monastery
5804 West Monastery Road
Hulbert OK 74441-5698


February offered some cheer. My librarian and I enjoyed a Valentinesday local café tour, including the Choc-O'-Latte in Millerstown and the Espresso Yourself in Newport. We had a good time at the combination Hunting Shop & Family Restaurant in Thompsontown, the name of which escapes me somehow. Middle Pennsylvania was made for day-tripping.

In March I attended a regional ETS conference, where James Skillen spoke about political responsibilities and social justice. The part that most stands out in my mind is when he implied that all a state's coercive actions must be legitimized by satisfying something like the criteria for Just War. This seems right to me, and the interesting thing about it is that such a view can hardly be squared with the idea that civil government has responsibility for "administrating" a broad 'public' sector. (This latter idea is already refuted on the basis of a properly conceived notion of societal sphere sovereignty, of course).

Perhaps Gideon Strauss will be in a position to take the CPJ in a new direction as its new President. One can only hope that he might read and be persuaded by the New York Time's Bestseller Meltdown by Tom Woods. Here's Woods on C-SPAN BookTV.

In other news, Darryl Hart, paradoxical Luddite that he is, now blogs at OldLife.org.

I enjoyed my 36th birthday in early May with dinner at Brasserie Louis (a fancy restaurant in Lewisburg) and a meditative stroll through Shamokin Cemetery (an exquisite graveyard on a sweeping hill, lying above a Tim Burton-esque coal mining town).

I'm leaving out a mention of an early Spring traffic citation incident. I have nothing redeeming to say about it, although I am certain that even suffering under tyranny is effectual unto my salvation.

G.K. Beale was recently hired by Westminster Philly. Listen to his lecture on Christology and Scriptural inerrancy here. View a video interview with Beale here.
And John Fesko was recently hired by Westminster California. Listen to an interview with him by the Reformed Forum on justification here.