Monday, April 27, 2009

The Unio Mystica and the Duplex Gratia in the Soteriology of John Calvin

This is part one of a series of posts on Calvin's theology of union with Christ and it's relationship to the two-fold grace of justification and sanctification. I have not forgotten the posts on the Mosaic Covenant, but they will have to wait until this paper is done. These are posts are only drafts of my paper, and thus any feedback would be encouraged.

No one reading John Calvin’s theological treatises can read him without seeing the absolute necessity of both justification and sanctification (or typically “regeneration” in Calvin’s language) in the Christian’s life.[1] However, the question of how these two soteric blessings of the ordo salutis[2] relate to one another has not only been an area of disagreement between Christian theologians (e.g. Catholic vs. Protestant) but even among those seeking to discern Calvin’s own position. Although most Calvin historians have generally agreed upon the importance of both the forensic (e.g. justification) and transformative (e.g. sanctification/regeneration) aspects of redemption in Calvin’s theology, Calvin scholars have disagreed on how justification and sanctification relate both to each other and how these two benefits relate to Calvin’s doctrine of union with Christ.[3] Thus Cornelis Venema writes, “Perhaps the single most controversial question, however, in the interpretation of the “twofold grace of God” [i.e justification and sanctification] is that of the relation between justification and sanctification.”[4]

In what way does sanctification relates to justification and in what manner does justification and sanctification relate to Calvin’s theology of participation into Christ? These are the primary questions this paper seeks to address. Consequently, I will seek to place Calvin’s doctrine of sanctification and justification in proper perspective to the unio mystica as well as inquiring into the nature of the relationship justification and sanctification in Calvin’s soteriology. In this paper, I will argue that Calvin’s ordo salutis, or application of redemption, cannot be properly understood without first recognizing the architectonic principle of the unio mystica as the means of the believer’s receiving Christ and subsequently the principal grace of justification and sanctification. Secondly, I will argue that for Calvin, justification does not have some sort of “power” to bring about sanctification in the believer; rather, only through our union with Christ’s person and work can a person be sanctified. In fact, without first properly understanding how justification and sanctification relate to the unio mystica, the subsequent question of the two benefits relationship to one another, cannot be properly answered. To put it as bluntly as possible, if you misunderstand the duplex gratia’s (the two-fold grace of justification and sanctification) relationship to the unio mystica, you will inevitably misunderstand the relationship that justification and sanctification have to one another in Calvin’s thought.[5] In other words, Calvin’s ordo salutis cannot be understood without recognizing how it relates to the historia salutis.[6]

The Unio Mystica in Calvin’s Theology
Princeton seminary professor David Willis once wrote:
Calvin’s doctrine of the union with Christ is one of the most consistently influential features of his theology and ethics, if not indeed the single most important teaching which animates the whole of his thought and his personal life.[7]

Other Calvin scholars have also recognized the important role union with Christ plays in Calvin’s theology.[8] Calvin himself testifies to this importance explicitly when he writes in the Institutes, “That joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts—in short, that mystical union [unio mystica]—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed.”[9] As we shall see, the way that the unio mystica functions in Calvin’s soteriology explains to a large degree the nature of the union. This is a point that seems to be overlooked by those who claim that some Calvin scholars have overemphasized Calvin’s doctrine of union with Christ.[10] The importance that Calvin places with respect to the believer’s union with Christ cannot be overemphasized; rather it is of the “highest degree of importance.”

In seeking to understand the nature of this unio mystica, we must first discern its function in Calvin’s theology. In book three of the Institutes entitled, “The Way in Which We Receive the Grace of Christ: What Benefits Come to Us from It, and What Effects Follow”, Calvin suggests at the outset that “First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.”[11] In other words, Calvin would have the believer understand that it is not enough for Christ to have accomplished salvation pro nobis (for us) in redemptive history. Although according to Calvin “we steadfastly hold that in Christ’s death and resurrection there is righteousness and life for us” if Christ remains extra nos or outside ourselves, what Christ did in the cross and resurrection is of no value to us.[12] We may put it in these terms: What God accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection (historia salutis) is useless to man (ordo salutis) if Christ remains extra nos. The question that book three of the Institutes proposes can be states thus: What is the relationship between the historia salutis or the history of redemption and the ordo salutis or applied redemption. For Calvin it is clear, the only way one can receive the benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection is through our being made partakers of Christ’s body and blood which is nothing else but the unio mystica. Calvin forcefully puts it this way, “And indeed, I do not see how anyone can trust that he has redemption and righteousness in the cross of Christ, and life in his death, unless he relies chiefly upon a true participation in Christ himself. For those benefits would not come to us unless Christ first made himself ours.”[13]

At this point is should be clear enough—Calvin believes union, participation, or partaking of Christ, in short the unio mystica, is logically prior to the Christian’s reception of the benefits of redemption. The unio mystica is the bond which connects the Christ pro nobis to the Christ in nobis. Note as well that this logic cannot be reversed. Participation in Christ is not the result of the benefits of redemption but rather it is the means of receiving the benefits of “righteousness” and “life.” For Calvin, there is no salvation for the Christian without the unio mystica. The reason seems quite evident, namely, the Gospel’s substance is Christ’s person and work. The effects of partaking in the substance of Christ’s person are “redemption, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal life, and all the other benefits Christ gives to us.”[14] The fine Calvin scholar, Francois Wendel, summarizes this point well when he writes,

[According to Calvin] No doubt Christ, by his death, has obtained for us the possibility of effectually receiving the benefits that God intended for us, but this, according to Calvin, is as yet no more than a kind of potential grace, which man, while he is a sinner and therefore separated from Christ and a stranger to him, cannot receive automatically. The benefits that the Christ won on our account do not remain abstractions. Contact with God can be established only on the personal plane and by the inter-mediation of Christ. It is therefore indispensable for us to begin by entering into relations with Christ…[15]

Now that the function of the unio mystica has been explicated, one is now able to discern its nature.[16] In letter correspondence between Calvin and the Italian Reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562) during March and August of 1555, Calvin affirms Vermigli’s distinction of three types of union with Christ.[17] The first type of union is a “very general and feeble” incarnational union.[18] Calvin in response to Vermigli affirms this type of union with no further comment when he writes, “that the Son of God put on our flesh in order that he may become our Brother, partaker of the same nature…” although it is not his intention to discuss this type of union any more in his letter to Vermigli, suggesting its generality and “feebleness.”[19] This incarnational union, however, is important to take note insofar as it is the ground of the subsequent communion the believer has with Christ. Although all men without exception participate in Christ’s flesh in this “incarnational” manner, it is not until the “moment we receive Christ by faith as he offers himself in the Gospel, [becoming] truly members in his body,” that Christ’s person and work becomes effectual in the believer.[20]

This definitive, that is immutable, second intermediate or mystical union, thus grounds the “life” which “flows from him [Christ] as from the head.”[21] This, flowing of Christ’s life into the believer, is something that occurs subsequent to this “intermediate union” and is ongoing in the life of the believer. This succeeding third union with Christ can thus be termed a “Spiritual union.” It is Spiritual because it is through the Spirit of Christ that we commune with Christ’s person in heaven. Both this intermediate (mystical union) and subsequent ongoing participation in Christ (Spiritual union) is described variously in Calvin’s writings as the relationship between the head and its members[22], a husband and wife[23], the corner-stone and subsequent stones built upon the chief corner-stone[24], the first-born among many brethren[25], and the vine and branches[26]. All of these metaphors point to both the definitiveness of this union with Christ that believers have by faith (mystical union) and the subsequent participation (Spiritual union) they have in Christ’s person and work.

In short, the nature of this unio mystica (including both the mystical and Spiritual union, see footnote 16) can be summarized as that Spirit-wrought ingrafting into Christ by faith, grounded in the union which the believer has in the flesh with Christ, whereby all of the benefits of Christ’s person and work are communicated to the believer, resulting in an ongoing fellowship and communion with Christ who is in heaven.[27] Calvin would more than likely add that this unio mystica is a profound mystery which on the one hand ought to be marveled rather than inquired into more deeply, and on the other hand ought to be sought after for the sake of “feel[ing] Christ living in us.”[28]

[1] It ought to be granted that “the Reformers all but universally agreed that conversion brings both justification and sanctification” A. N. S. Lane “Twofold Righteousness: A Key to the Doctrine of Justification?” in ed. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier, Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 216. Note as well Ronald S. Wallace’s very chapter structure (Chapters 1-3) at the beginning of his book Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock,1997).
[2] The term ordo salutis can and has been used in various ways. I will be using it in its broader sense as synonymous with applied redemption as opposed to its more narrow sense of the logical or sometimes even temporal logic of the individual blessings of applied soteriology (e.g. regeneration, adoption, justification, sanctification, glorification)
[3] E.g. some have argued for a relative priority of justification as it relates not only to the transformative benefit of sanctification but also to union with Christ itself. Michael S. Horton argues this very thing in his book Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ (Louisville/London: Westminster John Knox, 2007). Horton writes, "Regardless of whether union temporally preceded justification, Calvin is clear that the latter is the basis for the former" (pg. 143) Cf. J. V. Fesko in Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008) where he writes, “[For Calvin], justification, not union with Christ, is the foundation upon which the believer’s salvation is established.” (pg. 279) Suffice it to say, I think this view of Calvin is a Lutheranizing of Calvin instead of a proper understanding of Calvin.
[4] Cornelis Venema, Accepted and Renewed in Christ: The "Twofold Grace of God" and the Interpretation of Calvin's Theology (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 23.
[5] I would suggest that most of the problems in Calvin studies related to the issue of the relationship between justification and sanctification occur because of a defective view of the role of the unio mystica in Calvin’s theology.
[6] The term historia salutis, first coined as far as I can tell from the Dutch Reformed scholar Herman Ridderbos, refers to the history of redemption or redemption accomplished in contrast to the ordo salutis or redemption applied. Thus, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection would be considered historia salutis whereas the believer’s appropriation by faith of Christ’s person and atoning work would refer to ordo salutis.
[7] Quoted in W. Duncan Rankin’s article “Calvin’s Correspondence on our Threefold Union with Christ” in ed. Robert L. Penny, The Hope Fulfilled: Essays in Honor of O. Palmer Robertson (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008), 233.
[8] See for example Mark A. Garcia, Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin’s Theology, Studies in Christian History and Thought (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2008); Marcus Peter Johnson, “Eating by Believing: Union with Christ in the Soteriology of John Calvin” (PhD diss., University of St. Michael’s College, 2007); Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life, where the whole book is structured around the believer’s union with Christ as the ground of the Christian life (see particularly pages 17-27).
[9] Calvin, Institutes, 3.11.10.
[10] This opinion has been supported particularly by Thomas Wenger, "The New Perspective on Calvin: Responding to Recent Calvin Interpretations," JETS 50/2 (2007): 311-28.
[11] Calvin, Institutes, 3.1.1.
[12] Calvin, Institutes, 3.11.12.
[13] Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.11.
[14] Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.11.
[15] Francois Wendel, Calvin: Origins and Development in His Religious Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1963) 234. Italics added.
[16] Calvin does not often delineate between “mystical union” and “spiritual union”. These are often used as synonyms. However, Calvin does distinguish the two in the letter correspondence with Vermigli which is discussed in this paper. Thus, after discussing this letter, I will not continue differentiating the two unless noted.
[17] In the foregoing discussion of the letter correspondence between Vermigli and Calvin, I follow very closely the discussion in Rankin, “Calvin’s Correspondence”, 232-250; Garcia, Life in Christ, 273-287; B.A. Gerrish, Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1993) 128-129. Because of the deficient English translations of the letter (cf. Rankin, “Calvin’s Correspondence”, 236), I will be quoting from Rankin’s, Garcia’s, and Gerrish’s English translations from the original Latin works.
[18] This is Vermigli’s language found in Garcia, Life in Christ, 281.
[19] Calvin quoted in Garcia, Life in Christ, 284.
[20] Calvin quoted in Gerrish, Grace and Gratitude, 128.
[21] Ibid. 128.
[22] Calvin, Institutes, 3.1.1, 3.1.3; John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, trans. William Pringle, in Calvin’s Commentaries Vol. XXI (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 286-287.
[23] Calvin, Institutes, 3.1.3, 2.8.18; Calvin, Galatians and Ephesians, 318; John Calvin, A Sermon of M. Iohn Caluine vpon the Epistle of Saint Paul, to Titus, trans. L.T, (London: G. Bishop and T. Woodcoke, 1579) n.p,, accessed Tuesday, ‎April ‎14, ‎2009.
[24] Calvin, Institutes, 3.15.5; Calvin, Galatians and Ephesians, 245.
[25] Calvin, Institutes, 3.1.1, 3.1.3; John Calvin, Epistle of Paul to the Romans, trans. Henry Beveridge, in Calvin’s Commentaries Vol. XIX (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 318.
[26] John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, trans. William Pringle, in Calvin’s Commentaries Vol. XVIII (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 106-107.
[27] I did not have time to emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit and faith in the unio mystica. See Garcia, Life in Christ, 163-165, and William B. Evans, Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology, Studies in Christian History and Thought (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2008) 14-16.
[28] Calvin, Galatians and Ephesians, “For my own part, I am overwhelmed by the depth of this mystery, and am not ashamed to join Paul in acknowledging at once my ignorance and my admiration. How much more satisfactory would this be than to follow my carnal judgment, in undervaluing what Paul declares to be a deep mystery! Reason itself teaches how we ought to act in such matters; for whatever is supernatural is clearly beyond our own comprehension. Let us therefore labor more to feel Christ living in us, than to discover the nature of that intercourse.” 325; Cf. Calvin quoted in B.A. Gerrish, Grace and Gratitude, “…the sacred unity by which the Son of God engrafts us into his body, so as to communicate to us all that is his. Thus we draw life from his flesh and blood, so they are not undeservedly called our “food.” How it happens, I confess, is far above the measure of my intelligence. Hence I adore the mystery rather than labor to understand it.” 128.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gospel Coalition 2009 Audio

The video and audio are now available here for the 2009 Gospel Coalition. The conference was great. The speakers were excellent. I would make sure to listen to Bryan Chapell and Ligon Duncan. Keep in mind, when listening to Chapell, he had no notes with him, amazing!

I was able to have dinner with Ligon Duncan. That was great. We talk about everything from PCA polity to Ph.D. programs. I was also about to steal about 30 minutes of Phil Ryken's time. Thanks to fellow staff member Mike Lynch, I was able to tour the IPV warehouse. That was pretty neat to see how that all work. Also, Mike and I had lunch at a haunted restaurant, the Country House. We sat at table 13, the one that is said to be haunted (but I do not buy it). I was able to get tons of free books (thank you Steve from P&R). Free books are always cool. As you can tell, I had a blast. I would highly recommend attending the Gospel Coalition next time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Covenant Theology Part 5

Mosaic Covenant summary listen here

1. Preamble
Deuteronomy 1:1-5
2. Historical Prologue
Deuteronomy 1:6 – 4: 49
3. Ethical Stipulations
Deuteronomy 5:1 – 26:19
4. Sanctions
Deuteronomy 27:1 -1 30:20
5. Succession Arrangements
Deuteronomy 31:1 – 34:12

Of the Davidic Covenant listen here

The Davidic Covenant is the final Old Testament administration of the Covenant of Grace. It promised that David seed would sit on the throne of Israel and fulfill the Covenant of works on behalf of the people. The covenant promised that upon full obedience to God the King would enter into the Melchizedek priesthood and intercede not only for the Jew but also for the Gentile.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gospel Coalition 2009

Since my schedule was not busy enough, I decided to attended two conferences back to back this month. Last week I attended the Twin Lakes Fellowship (see the posts below). This week I am attending the Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago. Two friends (Jason Hollister and Jason Dalton) and myself leave tomorrow morning at 7:30 am for an eleven hour plus drive from Jackson, MS to Chicago, IL. I will be part of a group from Reformed Theological Seminary that will be exhibiting at the conference. If you are attending look for the RTS booth and stop by to say hello. I will try to post while I am in Chicago, but if not, I will post a review when I return home.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Audio for Twin Lakes

The audio is now available here from the 2009 Twin Lakes Fellowship. Make sure you listen to Dr. Derek Thomas on Romans 11. It was outstanding. The conference was great. I was able to meet some great new brothers (Nick Batzing, Brain Tallman and Burk Parsons) and had a great time of being encouraged and challenged by some godly men. Praise be to God!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SBTS on N.T. Wright

Denny Burke brought some of the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary together to discuss N.T. Wright's new book Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. The discussion panel includes: Tom Schreiner, Mark Seifrid, and Brian Vickers. You can find the audio and more about this here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Twin Lakes Fellowship

I will be attending the Twin Lakes Fellowship conference, which starts today and runs until Thursday. I am really exited to hear Ron Gleason's seminar on Bavinck, Ligon Duncan's seminar on Systematic Theology and Pastoral Ministry and Derek Thomas' sermon on Romans 11 . You can follow the conference here. Hope to see some of our readers there.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thoughts on the Mosaic Law: Part One

First Principles for Discussing the Mosaic Covenant and its Relationship to the Law and Gospel Issues

1. God’s law is perpetual, because it’s based on the holiness of God. This is the right understanding of the relationship between section 1 and section 2 of chapter 19 in the WCF. Thus the reference to “this law” in section 2 is referring to the moral law established by God’s holiness as principle/rule not as the covenant of works reduplicated in the Mosaic Law.

2. Man has always been obligated to obey God’s law in its fullness; whether in the Garden of Eden or in the heavenly Jerusalem. Thus, both believers and unbelievers are called to be holy as God is holy (see point 1).

3. Without this perfect holiness no man will see God. Thus, anyone who can be perfect as God is perfect can be in the presence of God. Alternatively, anyone who is not perfect will not be able to be in God’s presence.

4. Consequently, there is always a sense of the covenant of works principle operating in all dispensations of redemptive history. That is, if man can be perfect they would inherit for themselves eternal life. In this sense, one can argue that there is a covenant of works principle in the Mosaic Law, although this is no different in the Abrahamic or New Covenant.

5. Man is unable, because of his sin, to obtain eternal life by fulfilling the law’s demands. Thus the covenant of works principle was only able to be filled by Adam in the garden and the Son of God, Jesus. This is why some have called it a “hypothetical” principle.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Only" or "Only Begotten"?

Probably the most well known Bible verse is John 3:16. This Bible passage contains the Greek word monogenh/ß, which the King James Version translates “only begotten.” Within the study of New Testament Greek, the meaning of this Greek word is debated. This is why the English Standard Version translates this word in John 3:16 as “only.” The reason for the debate is that scholars are divided on the roots of the word (i.e. its exact etymology). Those who agree with the KJV’s rendering argue that the word monogenh/ß is made up of the two Greek words, mo/noß, which means “only” and genna¿w, a verb meaning “to beget.” Hence the translation of the KJV “only begotten.”

Those who agree with the rendering of the ESV agree that monogenh/ß is made up of two words. They would argue that the second word is not the verb genna¿w but the noun ge÷noß, which means basically “kind.” Giving us the rendering “only” or “only one of a kind,” for John 3:16 as the ESV does (as well as the NASB and NIV). The standard New Testament Greek lexicon BDAG agrees with this second understanding of monogenh/ß. There are at least two reasons why the ESV rendering is to be preferred. The first is the fact that monogenh/ß has only one “n,” which seems to link it more closely to ge÷noß. And secondly, which is more persuasive, the term monogenh/ß is used in Hebrews 11:17 which states that Abraham “offering up his only (monogenh/ß) son” Isaac. We know from the Old Testament that Isaac was not the only begotten son of Abraham, since Abraham fathered other children. However, Isaac was the unique son of Abraham. Isaac was the son of promise. From these two reasons, “only” and not “only begotten” is the preferred understanding for monogenh/ß.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Covenant Theology Part 4

Abrahamic summary listen here

Covenant call (Gen 12)
Covenant ratification (Gen 15)
Covenant administration (Gen 17)
Covenant confirmation (Gen 22)

Of the Mosaic Covenant listen here

The Mosaic Covenant was made 430 after the promise to Abraham after the exodus of the Hebrews from the land of Egypt. This covenant although was a further administration of the Covenant of Grace and was it self a re-administration of the Covenant of Works to Israel as a Nation under God. The Covenant had sanctions and stipulations that allowed the Jews to remain in the land and to be a blessing to the gentile nations of the world as long as they were obedient to the commands of the covenant. Israel was the son of God like Adam and therefore received the blessings and responsibilities of keeping the covenant of works as a nation. During this epoch of redemptive history the individual Israelite was saved by believing the Covenant promise that was given to their forefather Abraham.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

R.T. France's Commentary on Matthew (NICNT)

For my devotions I regularly read through a commentary along with the English text which helps me to think through and meditate on a particular text instead of reading the Scriptures lackadaisically. Of course, the drawback to this is that I only go through a pericope (e.g. 15 or so verses) or so a day. However, I do get a tremendous amount of benefit from my reading. R.T. France's commentary on Matthew in the NICNT has been particularly enjoyable for my devotions. I will give three reasons:

1. France interacts with other Biblical texts, even those which are later in the canon of Scripture. Thus, a theme which Matthew will cover (e.g. the necessity of repentance) will be substantiated by 1 John's similar theme. In other words, France doesn't just read and interpret Matthew in its own context apart from the rest of the Bible but he also uses the broader canonical context, especially those that further explicate a particular theme found in the latter of the New Testament in his exegesis. This is one of the hermeneutical principles that makes one a fine exegete in my opinion!

2. France doesn't get wrapped up in minutia. Sure, he does address small translation issues and the like, but usually they are kept in footnotes rather than the body of the text. This makes for an enjoyable and a relatively quick read as opposed to a slow and boring read.

3. France both reflects on the theology a text teaches as well as it's practical application for the 21st century. This is what separates his commentary from most others. France is not afraid to address the "theological problem" that a certain text may suggest. Although he at times will eschew a particular question as inappropriate for a text to "deal with", generally he addresses the theological problem head on. France also seeks to give relevance to texts that don't immediately seem to have any relevance for today. Thus, the pastor will find this a great blessing for sermon preparation.

France has wrote an excellent commentary that ought to be commended for the seriousness by which he approaches the Scriptures.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Highlights (or "Lowlights") from the "Atheism" Episode of Family Guy

I said I'd watch it, and I did. So here are, in my opinion, the highlights from the "controversial" episode:

1. Brian the dog argued against God's existence using this argument:
a) God is an old man with a beard.
b) The Hubble space telescope can see everything in the universe.
c) The Hubble space telescope didn't see an old man with a beard.
d) Therefore God doesn't exist.

2. After Brian refuses to become a Christian, Meg tells the local news station, which reports on Brian's "heresy." The town of Quahog refuses to sell booze to Brian and continually heckle him with cruelty and thrown garbage. This isn't even remotely funny. I mean, nobody I know freaks out when someone says they're an atheist. I mean, they might respectfully disagree, but even here in the Bible belt this attempt at humorous hyperbole is stretching things a bit.

3. After Brian feigns faith in God, Meg takes him to a book burning (since that's what Christians are always doing) and declares: "Come on, Brian; we have to destroy everything that's harmful to God!" What books do they burn? Origin of the Species, Stephen Hawkings' A Brief History of Time (personally one of my favorite books; I never felt my faith in God to be harmed by it, but whatever), and (this was a funny one, I admit) Logic for First Graders.

4. Meg's faith is easily shaken when Brian uses the problem of pain on her. At first, Brian points out (in his own colorful way) that if there were a God, why would he put her on this earth at make her so unattractive.
Meg: "I'm... made in His image."
Brian: "Really? Would he have given you a smoking hot mom like Lois only to have you grow up looking like Peter?"
Meg: "Well..."
Brian: "And what kind of God would put you in a house where nobody even respects or cares enough about you to even give you a damn mumps shot!?"
Meg: "Oh no...You're right, Brian."

Wow. She caved quite easily. I would have said, "Yes, God might have put me here and made me unattractive and given me a family that doesn't care." That's not so hard to imagine, is it?

Anyway, I'm not so sure we ought to look to shows like this for our philosophical outlook (actually, I'm certain of it), but I'm always fascinated by how our culture thinks it can get away with characterizing people who are believers. The straw men were to be expected, especially considering that you can't have humor without exaggeration, I'm just sad that it was so easy to anticipate. I thought that maybe - just maybe they'd throw an actual good argument or zinger in there to get me thinking, but alas we'll just have to wait. Apparently, the problem of pain is still the clearest and most simplistic weapon in the atheistic arsenal. Turns out, there really is nothing new under the sun.

The Bread is the Body

*UPDATE* The following article was published as an April Fools Joke.

I have been following the discussion on paedocommunion between Lane Kiester and Doug Wilson on their blogs. I found Doug's post on 1 Corinthians 10:17 to be very persuasive. The following section in particular was very convincing.
Lane asked where I got the identification behind my statement that "all who are bread should get bread." One commenter at his site correctly identified it as 1 Cor. 10:17. Lane responded to this by noting the placement of commas in various Greek editions, and another commenter pointed out quite correctly that the commas are not part of the original text. Be that as it may, commas or no commas, I cannot see any way to read that text which does not identify the entire body with the entire loaf. And all forms of paedobaptist exclusion of some baptized members from the Table are a refusal of bread to bread.
Based on this argument I have re-thought my position on paedocommunion and am now embracing it. I know this will cause a lot of discussion, but I want to follow where the Bible leads.