Does the Bible matter?

Here’s a post to a reformed discussion forum regarding Norm Shepherd:

I have had three friends convert to Rome thanks to talk like this and thanks to Scott Hahn. Not that that seems to bother anyone(I dont mean the RCUS guys here or Ted). One friend spoke this way about justification and works. It is very alarming and it is clear why Turretin said works are not part of justification. As for the Shepherd folks-you all are doing a great job. The pope should be very happy about this kind of talk. Make sure you all CC the Vatican so they can see that the counter Reformation is still working!

The author assumes, I suppose, these people are leaving for Rome because they hate God’s grace and want to earn them some of that there salvation. Perhaps. But is it not possible that they leave because the reformed folks they wish to talk to about issues of substance go ballistic whenever they catch a whiff of someone interacting with the countless passages of scripture that mention works in some relationship to salvation?

Nonrenewable Resource?

This article on underwater oil fields is full of surprises. Here are some quotes:

Deep underwater, and deeper underground, scientists see surprising hints that gas and oil deposits can be replenished, filling up again, sometimes rapidly.

Now, if it is found that gas and oil are coming up in significant amounts, and if the same is occurring in oil fields around the globe, then a lot more fuel than anyone expected could become available eventually. It hints that the world may not, in fact, be running out of petroleum.

The discovery of abundant life where scientists expected a deserted seafloor also suggested that the seeps are a long-duration phenomenon. Indeed, the clams are thought to be about 100 years old, and the tube worms may live as long as 600 years, or more, Kennicutt said.

Roberts added that natural seepage in places like the Gulf of Mexico “far exceeds anything that gets spilled” by oil tankers and other sources.

Analysis of the ancient oil that seems to be coming up from deep below in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that the flow of new oil “is coming from deeper, hotter formations” and is not simply a lateral inflow from the old deposits that surround existing oil fields, she said. The chemical composition of the migrating oil also indicates it is being driven upward and is being altered by highly pressurized gases squeezing up from below.

Quick! Sell your windmill stock!

Sanctification and Justification

I’ve read some pretty stern criticism of Norm Shepherd or, for instance, the view espoused by Don Garlington on Justification and Perseverance. As far as I can tell, there are those in the reformed camp who believe these men are proposing a faith + works view and thus denying the gospel.

A few comments and questions:

1) Regarding the new perspective on Paul: how does Romans 9:30-32 fit in? (What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.”) This passage seems to support an “old” view of Paul… i.e. that the Israelites were not simply following the law to maintain covenantal boundaries, but were seeking to establish their own merit through the law.

2) I recently wrestled with a particular sin, and found strength in that time of temptation by recalling that my God is the God Who Sees, and that sin is no longer my master, and that where sin remains the abiding master, well, it doesn’t look good from Don G.’s reading of Romans 2. As it happens, I resisted the temptation in that particular case. But I then became worried, based on the harsh criticisms I’ve read of Shepherd and others. Was I now trying to earn my salvation? By allowing eschatological judgment to factor in to my ethic, had I just compromised the Gospel by making Justification ethical? I became surprisingly distressed, and ended up spending some time in prayer simply affirming my utter reliance on the righteousness of Christ. Were my means of finding strength against the temptation dishonoring to God? Was I to resist the temptation out of thankfulness only?

3) Shepherd is accused of making statements that are believed to be “soft” on justification by faith. He is said to have made justification ethical rather than forensic and all sorts of other horrible things. If Shepherd is so dangerous, what does the average Bible reader make of:

–Jesus: Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

–Paul: There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.

–James: You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

I’ve heard countless answers to these passages to harmonize them with forensic justification, and I’m not questioning the explanations. Rather, I hear accusation after accusation that, although Norm Shepherd claims to believe in this or that sound doctrine, he doesn’t mean it, because look at what else he says, and look at his overall tone. Well, Jesus, Paul, and James would fall to the same criticisms if one approached them determined to find error and ignore the fullness of what they said.

Wright on Paul

I just finished the chapter on the hymn in Philippians 2:6-11 in The Climax of the Covenant by N.T. Wright. Once I got past the fact that he has quotes in four different languages (Hebrew, Greek, German, French… none interpreted because, after all, every Ph.D. in Biblical studies from a major school would know them…), I found it more or less earth-shattering. He spends numerous pages going over the 10 or so major strains of interpretation on that snatching/grasping word at the end of verse 6 and, after offering a synthesis of his own making, shows how the flow of the text fits in with Paul’s Adam-Christology as well as the creedal view of the Father and Son.

Basically, he has verse 6 saying that Jesus had something (e.g. part of the God-head), but he chose to not take advantage of it. So Wright creates a parallel with Adam, but makes much of the differences as well. At the end of the hymn, we find God exalting Jesus, demonstrating that Jesus had in fact revealed God. The particular point that hit home in a fresh way was the notion that Jesus’ humiliation unto death was not simply a means of our salvation, it was a revelation, in some basic, significant way, of who God is. Thus the admonitions before and after the hymn that call upon us to follow Christ are calling us live as God’s image-bearers. The humbling call of Christ is not simply to test us or sanctify us, it is in an essential way the outworking of being made in God’s image.

It’s really quite overwhelming.

Update to Theologia

You may have thought Movable Type had shut down my blog… actually, I’ve been working away at porting Theologia to MT. I decided to take the opportunity to finally learn CSS. Which of course made the whole porting activity about 10 times more challenging.

But it’s done now. Let me know if your browser goofs up the new layout.

Moving to Movable Type

I’ve decided to port to Movable Type given it’s ongoing support and recent addition of categories. It doesn’t matter all that much for cogito ergo blog, but my cms is quite central to Theologia and other work I may do. Thus, I’m using my blog as a means of cutting my teeth on MT.

I’ve still got a ways to go on the format, etc. I decided to do this initial port using a default template.

Jesus, Moses, and Elijah

Just a quick question for all of you. Why Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration? Is Jesus’ role as prophet being emphasized? For that matter, here’s another question. It is easy for me to understand king as an enduring office, and priest isn’t too hard either. But what is the role of prophet after the second coming?

Earning an inheritance?

From O. Palmer Robertson’s The Christ of the Covenants (page 175, footnote 7):

The language of Meredith Kline is misleading on this point. His desire to maintain the distinctive emphasis of the law-covenant may be appreciated. But his statements too easily could be understood in a legalistic fashion. He interprets Paul as saying that the Sinaitic covenant “made inheritance to be by law, not by promise — not by faith, but by works” (By Oath Consigned, p. 23).

The distinctiveness of the Mosaic covenant resides in its externalized forms of law-administration. But the law under Moses cannot be understood as opening a new way of attaining salvation for God’s people. Israel must maintain the law, not in order to enter the favored condition of the covenant of redemption, but in order to continue in the blessings of the covenantal relationship after having been empowered to do so throught their covenantal oneness-with-God experienced by grace through faith alone. Under both the Mosaic and the Abrahamic covenants man experienced redemption by grace through faith in the work of the Christ who was to live and die in the place of sinners.

I must confess, I find the concept of earning an inheritance oxymoronic.