Saturday, October 31, 2009

Letter From a Skeptical Friend: Part 2

You've all been demanding it, and now here it is: Part 2 of "Letter From a Skeptical Friend." You may recall that in August we posted a letter from a friend of ours named Wizard. In this letter, our friend expressed some doubts about the Christian worldview in favor of the atheist worldview. We have been waiting and waiting for his next letter, and yesterday I finally received his next list of theistic issues he wanted to bring up. In the letter, he briefly expressed a few concerns. Rather than listing all of them here (he brought up three main issues), I am just going to print the first problem he raises and then attempt to address it in the comments section, just like we did with his last letter.

I would like to briefly bring up the argument of morality again. Let me say from the start that I cannot think of an atheistic explanation for morality. I would also like to restate that the Biblical understanding is that while God ordains everything that comes to pass His intentions are always good even when the intentions of the creature (which bring about the ordained event) are evil. But God cannot be accused of evil because His intentions were good. I did want to bring up one more objection that can be raised. If R.C. Sproul is correct that if there is one maverick molecule in the universe then God is not sovereign, then from where do the evil intentions of man come? If the evil intentions of the creature is not ordained or ruled by God then would it not follow that God is not sovereign? Furthermore, it brings into question how God could know the intentions of man before hand if he did not ordain the intentions. If the evil intentions are a result of God's ordination then how does it make a difference that God's intentions are good? I get to the point where I feel that I have accepted the compatiblistic argument, but then I come full circle and cannot see how the argument really makes a difference so that is why I mention it again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2009 ETS Annual Meeting Schedule

The schedule of the papers being given at ETS this year can be seen here. Our very own blogger extraordinaire, Josh Walker, can be found on the left-hand side of page 14. He will be delivering a paper entitled, "Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews: A Pauline/Lukan Perspective." Congrats again to Josh Walker! If you are attending, be sure to come by and say hello!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jonathan Edwards on the Imputation of Sin (Part 3)

Edwards’ View of Imputation of Sin
Most of Edwards’ statements of this doctrine appear in his writings in Original Sin, though one can also find the vein of Edwardsian personality running through other aspects of his writing. Primarily, one sees his deviation from the Reformed tradition with the example of the tree and its roots.
So root and branches being one, according to God’s wise constitution, the case in fact is, that by virtue of this oneness answerable changes or effects through all the branches coexist with the changes in the root: consequently an evil disposition exists in the hearts of Adam’s posterity, equivalent to that which was exerted in his own heart, when he eat the forbidden fruit (Edwards 221).

In the context of this section of Original Sin, Edwards is stressing the fairness of the constitution of mankind, placing Adam as the root, and humanity as the tree that springs from that root. In a sermon on Revelation 19:2-3, Edwards stresses a person’s guilt, even if he is involved or has a hand in another’s sin. The question then arises, “did we have a hand in Adam’s sin?” According to Gerstner, “He goes on to prove not only that we had a hand in Adam’s sin but that it was our sin; we committed it.” George Parks Fisher comments regarding Edwards’ view, “The sin of apostasy is not theirs merely because God imputes it to them, but because it is truly and properly theirs, and on that ground God imputes it to them” (Fisher 284-303). If Fisher’s assessment holds, then Edwards’ view should not be regarded as a view of imputation but instead as a view of identity.

Listen to the undertones of Edwardsian Identity in the following quotation from his sermon on Romans 7:14:
Adam’s posterity came by the corruption of nature by God’s withholding his Spirit and image from them judicially for their breach of the first covenant. It is not derived down naturally but God withholds his Spirit from them in judgment for their first sin viz. for their eating the forbidden fruit…They are looked upon as having eaten the forbidden fruit as well as Adam. They transgressed in Adam and therefore are subject to the same judgment (Gerstner 327).

He here refers to us – Adam’s posterity – as having actually committed the sin of eating the first fruit. For Edwards, we have all eaten the forbidden fruit. We all – humanity as a whole – had our hand in Adam’s first sin. Gerstner comments:
“Edwards [here] is clearly departing from the Reformed tradition fundamentally, and seems fully aware of it. Here the problem is not that the reformed tradition tended to be silent about the subject, but that the solution it offered did not satisfy Edwards.”

His enemies have argued that it is unfair for us to suffer because of the sin of Adam. From a strictly pragmatic perspective, there is little room to debate that Edwards’ proposition entirely eradicates his opponents’ objection, if in fact, his thesis that we are all identified with Adam and guilty of his first sin can be shown to accord with scripture. In one sense, however, Edwards does not desire to prove that his view of imputation is true, but only to show that this is a possible answer to the charge of unfairness.

Our reaction to Edwards’ view of imputation of sin is probably mixed. Some will appreciate his view for the sheer novelty and originality. Some will reject his view, arguing that it is based on conjecture and not enough on direct biblical statements. Others will choose to adopt his view based on the effectiveness with which it dispatches the charges of unfairness (if such an argument should even be considered valid!). One perfectly reasonable question which we could ask is, what did other Reformed theologians following Edwards, think of his idea? Arthur Crabtree put forth this criticism:
It tells us that two things are identical if God wills them to be so. It tells that if his teaching conflicted with its teaching he must be in error. Obviously [Edwards] had no such notion concerning the doctrine of personal identity. He was aware that it was different from ordinary reformed thinking but he did not think it inconsistent with…the Bible, but, in fact, most satisfactorily explained it.

By John Gerstner’s estimate, Charles Hodge looked at Edwards as an immediate imputationist, and thus, did not correctly understand Edwards’ view in order to critique it. He “does not seem to grasp the immediate immediacy of Jonathan Edwards...Adam’s act was not even immediately imputed to descendants, but was the descendants very own” (333). This criticism also holds true for John Murray, who “located Edwards between the immediate and mediate views of imputation” (333).

It would seem that Edwards has received little, if any criticism for his personal identification of Adam and his descendants. This means one of two things: 1) It could mean that few of those who came after Edwards looked deeply enough in his writings to see this doctrine, or 2) The doctrine itself was not a real issue with preceding theologians, since – though it was certainly a unique route to travel – its destination remained the same as the classical view that all of humanity suffers because of Adam’s first sin.

We should view and judge Edwards’ perspective in light of his intention in formulating this view. It would appear that Edwards saw himself as a champion of the classic Reformed doctrine of imputation. He did, however, perceive what could be considered a “weak spot” in the doctrine, which he saw himself as “safeguarding.” In this light, we should look at Edwards’ view as an addition or addendum to what was already an accurate and biblical perspective on humanity’s sinful condition. His view was not a replacement, nor was it challenge, but rather an addition. My primary rationale for adopting this assessment is based upon the many affirmations, which Edwards makes, favorable to the traditional view. If Edwards thought that his view should subvert or replace the traditional view, then surely he would have spoken against it or challenged its validity, yet one does not find such offensive statements in Edwards’ published works, to be sure. As I stated earlier, it would seem that Edwards saw his contribution as complementing, not subverting classic orthodox imputation.

With regard to this matter, the words of Scripture are always our roadmap, and our inerrant guide to knowing truth about God. As such, I close with the words of the Apostle Paul, our great theologian and forerunner:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Romans 5:12, 18-19; my emphasis).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Epistemological Argument For an Old Universe

The Speed of Light is defined as “The speed at which light travels in a vacuum; the constancy and universality of the speed of light is recognized by defining it to be exactly 299,792,458 meters per second.” A light year is considered the distance that light travels (through a vacuum) in one year (9.46 x 1017cm). The nearest star (other than the Sun) is 4.3 light years away. In other words, we see this star as it existed four years ago, not as it actually is right now. The distance to the most distant object seen is about 18 billion light years. Hence, we can at least be confident, given the time that this light has taken to reach our planet, that the universe is, at the minimum, 18 billion years old. The distance to the galaxy M87 in the Virgo Cluster is 50 million light years. Likewise, when we look into a telescope and see M87, we are looking into the past and seeing M87 as it was 50 million years ago. But did M87 even exist 50 million years ago? Some Christians think it did not. Christian Reconstructionist Gary North clearly rejects the scientific measurement of the speed of light when he argues, “The Bible’s account of the chronology of creation points to an illusion. …The seeming age of the stars is an illusion…Either the constancy of the speed of light is an illusion, or the size of the universe is an illusion, or else the physical events that we hypothesize to explain the visible changes in light or radiation are false inferences.”*
1. If the entire universe is a maximum of 15,000 years old then the speed of light is not a constant 299,792,458 meters per second.
2. The speed of light is a constant 299,792,458 meters per second.
3. Therefore, it is not the case that the entire universe is a maximum of 15,000 years old.

Using modus tolens, we can see that one must either reject the constancy of the speed of light or reject the young-universe proposition that the universe has only existed for 15,000 at the most. However, there are other extra-scientific possibilities which should be considered before a final judgment is issued. For example, some such as Gary North, argue that astronomers’ measurements of the size of the universe are simply wrong. Often, as Hugh Ross points out, those arguing this point are under the misleading notion that scientists only use the unreliable redshifts to measure astronomical distances. However, scientists actually use a wide variety of methods to measure distances within the universe.

If, nevertheless, the young-earthers are correct, then the truthfulness of their proposition would require that the scientists’ distance measurements be off by more than 200,000,000 percent. This is very implausible. Entire textbooks have been written just on the measurement of distances within the universe, and one thing we are sure of is that the possibility of anything more than a 10-15 percent range of error for the calculations of the distance of stars is not only unlikely, but also contested by nearly all astronomers. Consider that this 200,000,000 percent error in calculation on the part of astronomers also applies to the actual scale of the universe if the young-earther is correct in offering this argument. If the argument is sound, then the universe is 200,000,000 percent smaller than astronomers have calculated.

Others have argued – and this is perhaps the most persuasive argument possible – that God created the light already in transit. In response, it is first important to note that the argument is not that God could not create the light already in transit. That is not in question. What is in question is the implications for general revelation and knowledge in general if God causes things to appear a certain way when they are not (or were not) actually so. This argument tells us that, though the speed of light is basically constant, it was created in transit to earth. Given this perspective, as an example, supernovas have never actually happened. Astronomers for the past thousand years have observed numerous supernova explosions, though these supernovas are millions of light years away. If the light from these supernova were created already in transit, then it is valid to conclude that we have been observing, with our eyes, events which have never actually occurred. Perhaps they are occurring today in some farthest reach of the galaxy, but no one on earth will know of their occurrence for millions of years. It should also be noted that this is fundamentally unscientific because it is non-falsifiable. There is no methodology which can be used to refute this particular approach to the problem, because its proponents can always say, when evidence is presented, “God just made it look that way.”

In support of this argument that God created the light in transit, the parallel is often drawn between the light being created in transit and Adam’s being created full-grown. However, this is not a parallel, because though Adam was created looking grown up, we have no records or visible evidence that he was ever a child for this to contradict. For the parallel to exist, there would have to be some sort of scenario where we can “see” Adam as an infant, though we know better than that. Such a scenario does not exist. Adam – it is alleged – was created with the appearance of having lived for many years, but this is not the same as the starlight problem, because we can actually see the stars as they were millions of years ago, yet it is being asserted that they did not exist millions of years ago. In order to be effective, the analogy of Adam with starlight must be parallel, though this is certainly not so.

My basic argument is that if one wants to deny that the stars which are millions of light years away existed as we see them, then they are not epistemologically justified in believing in the existence of the sun. In the same way that we see the sun several minutes after the light leaves it, we se distant stars millions of years after the light leaves them. There is only a quantitative difference between them. To deny the existence of these stars billions of years ago is to undercut the very science upon which the young-earth creationists attempt to build their own “scientifically” based approach to apologetics.

Let x be anything which can be seen with the human eye and y be any other object which can be seen with the human eye.
1. If x appears to have properties of existence yet does not, then one is unwarranted in believing in the existence of y.
2. One is warranted in believing in the existence of y.
3. Therefore, it is not the case that x appears to have properties of existence yet does not.
4. Therefore, if distant stars appear to have properties of existence yet do not, then one is unwarranted in believing in the existence of the sun.

The final argument which should be seriously considered is that which says that the speed of light was much faster thousands of years ago, though it now does take many light years for light to reach the earth from distant stars. From a scientific perspective, there is no question that the speed of light is constant, and according to all scientific studies and measurement, has always been constant for at least the last 14 million years. The question that must ultimately be answered is, has God constituted the universe in a constant way so that induction is possible? As Hume asked, do we have any assurance that tomorrow will be like today? Given the Christian worldview, we do, but this seems to be called into question by this response. If the speed of light has changed, then the possibility of induction seems to have been severely compromised. This may not seem so at first, but when one philosophically considers what happens when one falls back on the inconsistency of the universe to sustain their scientific hypothesis, they will find a fundamentally unscientific response couched in scientific terminology. Without induction, science is impossible, and without consistent laws of the universe, induction is impossible.
1. If one is justified in believing that the speed of light is not constant, then no one is justified in believing in induction.
2. The speed of light is not constant.
3. Therefore, no one is justified in believing in induction.

Those who hold to a young-universe perspective do so in contradiction to relatively simple astronomical observations. In response to these observations, they are forced to deny the consistency of science, and therefore to remove their own foundations for other scientific arguments which they then readily use after just having denied it. They rather conveniently pick and choose what data to use and what to refuse depending on whether the data at a given time suit their conclusions. This methodology not only sends a message to the unbelieving world that Christians are unwilling to be consistent in their argumentation, but also that we do not believe God himself to be honest or consistent in the universe that he has presented us. Even worse, this type of thinking leads us to the Gnostic, cultic notion that “there is no life, truth, or substance in matter,” if we choose to take the path which yields us a world of illusion. According to the book of Romans, God has made himself known to all men – not only in the Scriptures, but also in different ways throughout the physical, observable universe in which we live. The heavens declare the glory of God - none would doubt that. But do they declare the dishonesty of God? I submit that they do, if the universe is not tremendously older than the young-earthers claim.

*North, Gary The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987) 255.

Guy Waters on Christ the Center

The Christ the Center panel met with Dr. Guy Waters, associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, to discuss the importance of membership in a local congregation. The biblical basis for church membership was explored along with its connection to mutual support, discipline, accountability and observance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Also discussed was the significance of the non-communicant/communicant member distinction and its basis in Scripture. It was noted that aversion to local church membership among Christians is a relatively recent phenomenon and so this proved to be a very practical conversation. Especially in our time with the rise of the virtual church movement. The audio for the interview can be found here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Farewell, Ida

Everybody remember 'Ida,' the much-hyped missing link that proved evolution once and for all? Well, you can all forget it now, as well. MSNBC: ‘Missing link’ primate isn’t a link after all. Apparently, rather than being an ancestor of humans and apes, this creature is related to lemurs, which certainly disquaifies it from holding its much coveted 'link' status.

Somehow, I don't see this changing anybody's minds one way or the other. All I can hear right now is a thousand naturalists getting out their picks and shovels again, spending their lives digging in the soil for something to confirm the worldview they're predisposed towards.

Jonathan Edwards on the Imputation of Sin (Part 2)

The Importance of John Locke
The Edwardsian assessment of Adamic Imputation can only be properly seen in light of 1) the previously discussed apologetic challenges from which his view arose, and 2) the Lockian view of personal identity, which Edwards rejected. The reason for Locke’s importance will become clearer once a brief investigation has been completed. However, it is helpful to have an understanding of the fact that Edwards looks, and sounds just like his predecessors within the Reformed tradition, with regard to imputation. In an unpublished sermon on Romans 5:12-21, we read:
As this place in general is plain and full, so the doctrine of the corruption of nature, as derived from Adam, and also the imputation of his first sin, are both clearly taught in it. The imputation of Adam’s one transgression is indeed most directly and frequently asserted.

In another unpublished manuscript on Luke 13:5, Edwards refers to Adam’s sin, saying that Adam was our “representative who stood in our room.” Here, we see in Edwards’ writings, a strong tendency to use the language of the traditional Reformed view of imputation reflected in the previously discussed Federal Head view. It is only when pressed about the unfairness of God’s so constituting the nature of humanity, that Edwards elaborates, and thus, distinguishes his views – in a sense – from his predecessors.

Locke’s View of Personal Identity
It is perhaps impossible for us to gauge the immense influence of John Locke upon the thought of this great Puritan genius. In order to do so, we would have to read not only the hundreds of published sermons and books which we have available, but it would be best if we could also read the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of unpublished manuscripts which are, to this day, being compiled and transcripted by Edwardsian scholars at Yale.

One who is well versed in the writings of Edwards is aware of a strong influence that came in the form of the philosophical writings of John Locke, who died two years before Edwards was born. According to one of Edwards’ journals, he was so excited when he picked up An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding that as a teenager he read it through several times. As an empiricist, Locke did not believe in pre-existing notions or innate ideas. For Locke, all ideas are obtained either through the senses, or by reflection upon ideas – which still arrive via the sensory organs. This concept, in particular, impressed itself upon Edwards. Edwardsian scholars John Gerstner and Perry Miller believe that in many respects Edwards “christianized” the somewhat secular thought of the British empiricist.

Locke believed that a person’s identity consisted in this: continuation of consciousness. As long as a person held preserved memories of their own past, with no break in consciousness, then that person’s identity could be established or held certain. To be sure, there are many other aspects to Lockean identity. For example, Locke believed that transmigration of the soul was possible. Transmigration is the idea that a person’s soul could leave their body, and become united to another body. The person’s identity would remain the same, however, since the person’s consciousness never ceases operation. Entire books could (and probably have been) be written on the subject, but for the present purposes, this short summary will do nicely.

One of the very first recorded writings of Edwards was in a piece from his youth entitled 'The Mind'. Here, one quite plainly and simply sees the clear influence of Locke taking shape. Edwards writes:
Well might Mr. Locke say that identity of person consisted in identity of consciousness; for he might have said that identity of spirit, too, consisted in the same consciousness. A mind or spirit is nothing else but consciousness, and what is included in it. The same consciousness is to all intents and purposes the very same spirit or substance, as much as the same particle of matter can be the same with itself at different times (Edwards Works 1, cclxiv).

In this early writing, Edwards expresses a sympathetic tendency towards Locke’s view of personal identity. Here, one finds Edwards’ initial doctrine of personality, one that – as we shall see – Edwards eventually rejected in toto.

Edwards Rejects Lockean Personality
The contents of the following quote – though lengthy – are wholly relevant and extremely crucial to our understanding of Edwards’ own rendition of personal identity.
Identity of person is what seems never yet to have been explained. It is a mistake that it consists in sameness or identity of consciousness, if by sameness of consciousness be meant having the same ideas hereafter that I have now, with a notion or apprehension that I had had them before, just in the same manner as I now have the same ideas that I had in time past by memory.

Here, Edwards has offered us a somewhat fair representation of the view he is about to reject. The quote continues:

It is possible without doubt in the nature of things for God to annihilate me, and after my annihilation to create another being that shall have the same in his mind that I have, and with the like apprehension that he had had them before in like manner as a person has by memory; and yet I be in no way concerned in it, having no reason to fear what that being shall suffer, or to hope for what he shall enjoy. Can anyone deny that it is possible, after my annihilation, to create two beings in the universe, both of them having my ideas communicated to them with such a notion of their having had them before, after the manner of memory, and yet be ignorant one of another? And in such case, will anyone say that both these are one and the same person, as they must be if they are both the same person with me? It is possible there may be two such beings, each having all the ideas that are now in my mind in the same manner that I should have by memory if my own being were continued, and yet these two beings not only be ignorant one of another, but also be in a very different state, one in a state of enjoyment and pleasure, and the other in a state of great suffering and torment…Will anyone say that [these], in such a case, [are] the same person with me, when I know nothing of [their] suffering and am never the better for [their] joys? (Gerstner 325-326).

There is one more piece to this puzzle, which has kindly been put in place by John Gerstner in Volume 2 of his Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards. In his section on Edwardsian imputation, Gerstner quotes the above mentioned section of Edwards and then makes this crucial analysis:
It would seem that Edwards came to rest with respect to personal identity with the above doctrine that it is divinely constituted. It is closely related to the doctrine of continuous creation. Just as the only real difference between creation and providence is that creation is referred to the first time that God brought things into being, while providence is the term for all subsequent times, so the only difference between Adam’s sin and his posterity’s is that Adam’s is simply the first. His posterity’s sin is the same as his because their personal identity is the same, but it is the second, third, fourth etc. – a difference not in the thing itself but in the number of the thing (193).

For Jonathan Edwards, you and I were created as persons identified with Adam. In Edwards’ illustration, he is annihilated and two individuals with the same memories and consciousness that he had were created. Edwards argues persuasively that these two individuals would not be the same person, for they would not share consciousness but would instead live, one completely oblivious to the other. For Edwards, they would not be the same person, though they were identified with a particular person at one time: namely in the example, Jonathan Edwards. To be sure, this quote is not a refutation of Lockian personality, but is instead a rejection. Such a distinction is important, because it was not Edwards intention to refute, but instead to simply consider his definition inadequate.

What we find in the above-mentioned quote is a summary of Edwards’ thought that is concise and yet complex; the idea that our own personal identity is tied into the doctrine of continual creation. Writing about his own doctrine of continuous creation, Edwards wrote:
…God’s upholding created substance, or causing its existence in each successive moment, is altogether equivalent to an immediate production out of nothing, at each moment… (193).

But how does this teaching intersect with personal identity and imputation? Each person is at each moment being created by God. This means that the only way that any individual exists is by divine appointment. “We are constantly being recreated. God is constantly constituting our identity. Why be surprised if God appointed an identity of the human race with a particular individual? God alone is the Creator and identifier of men” (197).

The reason why Locke’s personal identity is so important in that it is through Edwards’ rejection of it that we find his basis for how God might identify humanity with Adam and his first sin. Let us now turn our attention to how Edwards applied this teaching.

To Be Continued...Next: The Conclusion of Edwards' View of Imputation

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jonathan Edwards on the Imputation of Sin (Part 1)

Orthodox Christianity will always have its opponents. This is due to the nature of humanity, which tends to reject the sovereign God in every possible way. In the 18th Century, Jonathan Edwards fought off such enemies of the faith. At this particular time, these people attacked the concept of original sin. Particularly – they asked – is it fair that I am responsible for a sin that Adam (the first man) committed? It is within Edwards’ answer to this incredible challenge that we find the thought of John Locke. Though in the final analysis, we shall see that Edwards’ answer trod its own path never before traveled. We will find that his answer actually stems from an eventual rejection of Locke’s view of personal identity over time. It is nonetheless crucial to grasp how this intellectual giant answered the challenges he encountered.

The Challenge
Attacks by Dr. John Taylor, a liberal arminian scholar from England, prompted the writings of perhaps the two greatest Reformed writings of the 18th Century: The Freedom of the Will and Original Sin. Both of these were written while Edwards ministered among the Indians in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It has been said by Notre Dame scholar George Marsden that The Freedom of the Will, in and of itself, prevented and even diminished the spread of arminianism in the American colonies for well over a hundred years. Further, he says, “its power…was a significant factor in the intellectual resilience and influence of Calvinism in America well into the nineteenth century” (Marsden 446).

In Dr. Taylor’s Attack, he charged that the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity is unjust and unreasonable for the rather simple reason that Adam and his posterity are not one and the same.

The Classic Responses
For the purposes of our present discussion, let us define the word “impute.” Romans 5:13 says, “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed where there is no law.” The Greek word, which Paul uses in this particular passage, is ellogeo, which is translated “to reckon, attribute, impute, put on account.” In light of this, let us define imputation of sin as “that by which God regards an individual as a sinner.” The Christian church has held many different views of how or why Adamic sin is imputed to his offspring. Briefly, let us broadly examine the general theories of imputation offered by Edwards’ opponents.

Pelagians and Socinians
The Pelagians, as well as the Socians deny any real connection between Adam’s sin and our own. For them, the only connection between Adam’s sin and the sin of the remainder of humanity is that of an evil example, which we all emulate, though we are free to stop sinning, if only we would choose to stop. Each individual is regarded as sinful as soon as they commit an actual sin in practice.

Semi-Pelagians and Early Arminians
The Semi-Pelagians and some early Arminians believe that all human beings have inherited a natural inability from Adam, but that these human beings are not responsible for their inability, and thus, no guilt attaches to it. It may even be said, under this view, that God is in a way under obligation to provide a cure for it. The Wesleyan Arminians admit that this inborn corruption also involves guilt.

The Federal Head
• God ordained that in the pre-fall covenant, Adam would stand in, not only for himself, but also for his offspring. Thus, he was head of the race, not only in a physical/parental role, but also in a federal role.
• The covenant commanded obedience, yet guaranteed that persistent perseverance for a certain period of time would be rewarded with a fixation of Adam’s state in one of permanent holiness and perfect happiness.
• Obedience to the covenant would have resulted in a just claim to life eternal, not only for Adam, but also for his descendants. Thus, there were many benefits to the covenant, but there were also many risks which were involved.
• Transgression of the covenant would (and did) result in the opposite of eternal life – eternal death. Just as the arrangement would result in life for his offspring, it also would (and did) result in eternal death to his offspring.
• “In his right judgment, God imputes the guilt of the first sin, committed by the head of the covenant, to all those that are federally related to him. As a result, they are born in a depraved and sinful condition as well, and this inherent corruption also involves guilt.”
• Only the “first sin of Adam, and not his following sins nor the sins of our other forefathers is imputed to us. Also, this teaching safeguards the sinlessness of Jesus” (Paraphrased & Quoted; Berkhof 241-243).

The Federal Head view tells us that God constituted humanity with one man as the “stand-in” or leader, upon whose decision humanity would rise or fall. Essentially, the Federal Head view says, God chose Adam to represent all of us. This view appeals to God’s right to constitute nature in whatever way He pleases. It is, largely, the traditional Reformed view.

The Next Installment: Edwards' View of Imputation

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Defending Presbyterianism

Jason Stellman has a new series of posts defending the glories of Presbyterianism. The first one can be found here. I found his post helpful and biblical. His conclusion, posted below, is a good summary of our pilgrim journey in this age.
So to sum up, the Reformed understanding of the relationship between the church and Scripture is anything but pristine, but it does accurately reflect the nature of life in this age before the consummation. Indeed, on that Day all the loose ends will be tied up and all our questions will be answered. But until then, we who embrace our pilgrim status and are enabled to boast in seeming weakness and glory in seeming shame are content to labor, to learn, to grow, all the while knowing that God will guide his church into all truth.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Carl Trueman on the Right Use of Media

This Thursday, October 15th, at 3 pm eastern we will be interviewing Carl Trueman on Christ the Center. Carl Trueman is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary and a regular contributor on Reformation 21. The topic of discussion will be the use of media. This topic is one that is timely and our discussion with Dr. Trueman should be good. You can listen to the live feed and join the chat room during the live interview here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Your Thoughts on Introducing Jesus Christ

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pulling Punches

This week, a friend of mine on Facebook, who is a member of the Church of Christ Disciples, requested some arguments in favor of women pastors. I, of course, did the opposite and began soliciting my own arguments. Here is what I said:

1 Tim. 2:12-14, man. Paul doesn't say that the women in ministry issue is cultural. He anchors his reasoning in the order of creation and in the Fall. If you want to be a hip modernist, then go ahead and tell yourself that God wants women to be preachers over men, but if you want to do justice to Paul's reasoning, then there's nothing wrong with... Read More changing your mind on this issue. Come over to the mean old-fogie side of the aisle. We're all grumpy sexist misogynists over here! ... "Come overrrrr to the daarrrrk siiiide...!"

One woman responded that even though she's the pastor, she doesn't teach "over" a man because she doesn't think of herself as being better than the men in her church. Another person, in discussing these verses, replied that this was just Paul's opinion and it holds no weight for the church. Another said, "Paul also has absolutely no problem with slavery. Does that mean I have Biblical clearance to travel to Sudan and purchase slaves?" One of the most troubling arguments set forth was this:

Paul argues that woman was "deceived" and ate of the fruit. But the man was not deceived, he knew what was right and blatantly rebelled. But his argument is flawed. Would you really rather have a woman teacher who can be deceived but willing to be given more info and corrected? Or, a man who will defy reality and God's Word and blatantly sin.

So not only is Paul expressing merely his opinion, but when he does express his opinion, his arguments are illogical. One of the responders said, "maybe Paul was just wrong on this issue."

The general tenor of the arguments being offered were emotional in nature. Everyone had some kind of great experience with a female pastor, everyone said they'd learned something good in that context, and therefore it must be okay. Pragmatism was the rule of the day. Many people argued that if these women felt the call to ministry that the Spirit wouldn't call them to something that was wrong.

It was at this point that I pulled my punches. Instead of speaking my mind, I let it go. Here is what I was going to say:

The Bible tells us how to know if something is from God or not. Let me give an example. A man feels an undeniable urge to have sex with his neighbor's wife. His poor sense of morality tells him that perhaps this is from God. Perhaps God wants him to do this thing. Now, how do we know whether this is from God? Well, I submit that it's easy. The Bible says that it is wrong to lust after a woman, the Bible says not to commit adultery, and the Bible is clear that we are not to covet our neighbor's wife. Easy; despite our strong personal inclinations, we submit to the written word because our emotions can be easily fooled without an objective standard to submit to.

Similarly, if there is a woman who feels an overwhelming desire to be the pastor of a church, there is a very easy way to tell if this desire is from God or whether she is being deceived to one degree or another. Look in the Bible. If the thing you desire is forbidden by God Himself, then He would be contradicting Himself to give you the desire to do said forbidden thing. Also, considering that the Bible does authorize women to teach children and other women, there is an outlet for the woman who feels she is gifted by God to teach others. This is not a desire that cannot be fulfilled.

Now, one might ask why I pulled back here. Why didn't I say these things to Disciples of Christ people? Well, there's a simple reason. These are pretty inflammatory things to say, given that I was comparing committing adultery with a woman being pastor. I think it's true, given that both things are against God's will and therefore sinful, but sometimes throwing gasoline on the fire just doesn't help much.

Also, for the record, when it comes to the idea of God "leading" or "calling" someone, I submit more to the thinking of Garry Friesen in his book Decision Making & the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View. I say this just in case someone reads what I'm saying here and thinks that I'm advocating the idea of God telling me to go to the store, telling me that I should eat oatmeal, or telling people that they should do this or that. It's a good book. You should all check it out.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Redeemer Church Jackson, MS

The church my wife and I attend, Redeemer Church PCA, has a new website, which can be found here. The new site is much improved. The information and resources are easier to locate and use. The sermons by our pastor, Mike Campbell (pictured to the left), can be found here and you can podcast them here. His current sermon series on James is outstanding! I highly recommend it.