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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Wright on Justification in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (After Thoughts)

Back in 1997 or 1998 when I first read What Saint Paul Really Said, as a good friend of mine from Marquette University often liked to say—I was scandalized. Back then I was so entrenched in my reformed thinking that this book offended me. Almost ten years later, tons of research in Paul’s epistles, deeper research into the Catholicity of the Reformation, a deeper and formal study of hermeneutics (inside and outside the classroom), and my studies in Luther's theology, I’m not as scandalized with this second reading.

For the last ten years I have struggled with certain aspects of reformed theology, especially as it has been presented by contemporary thinkers (i.e. the confusion between the gospel proclamation and the doctrine of imputation, the casting away completely of Church Tradition as if it had no importance at all, etc.). Moreover, when I always came to the texts of Paul (and the book of James), there were various things that just did not “click” within my reformed framework, certain texts that did not make sense in light of certain thinkers/reformed commentaries. After reading Wright for the second time certain things about Paul’s Epistles just jumped out at me and they made more sense. It was as if I was in a dark room and could surmise the things that were in the room with me, and knew where they were located and to a certain extent what they were, but then someone came into the room and turned the light on and my vision cleared up a bit.

All that being said, the question remains, am I totally convinced by Wright’s small work? Not completely, but it has at least opened my eyes to a newer way of looking at Paul. Furthermore, many of the Pauline texts that “baked” my mind when I read them many years ago and confused my “reformed” senses suddenly made much more sense. So, with this history of entrenchment in reformed doctrine I can fully understand that when someone who is in that same position reads Wright they seemed “scandalized.” As it was stated in the comments to one of these posts, a person simply cannot read Wright’s work once and then suddenly be convinced by it — “it takes an extended discussion face to face walking through numerous texts after much reading to make some progress” as David declared. This work by Wright is a culmination of about 25 to 30 years of researching Paul’s text and hammering out the issues to understand Paul’s thought. However, I would also venture to say that someone cannot read Wright's work once and then suddenly be unconvinced by it. There is simply more to it than that.

In summation, I think what Paul is getting at, in a very broad sense, is the gospel is the proclamation of the Jewish Messiah who is Jesus, and His fulfillment of the Law, His life, death and bodily resurrection. As Wright describes it, “The gospel itself is neither a system of thought, nor a set of techniques for making people Christians; it is the personal announcement of the person of Jesus. That is why it creates the church, the people who believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. ‘Justification’ is then the doctrine which declares that whoever believes that gospel, and wherever and whenever they believe it, those people are truly members of his family, no matter where they came from, what colour their skin may be, whatever else might distinguish them from each other.”

Regardless of your theological background, whether reformed or not, I do recommend Wright's work to you. It is at least worth considering.


Blogger David Wilkerson said...

Todd I said I would say a few words about Romans but I forgot. I said plenty I know. Wright on Romans 2 is great and I think makes good sense of the chapter but still leaves a few questions. You discussed Romans 4. It is key (to the Reformed case) and I focused on it at Duke.

That Paul launches into a discussion of Abraham is not primarily because he was an example of faith to follow (as if Paul was just looking for an example of anyone having faith in the OT). He is being discussed because he is the father of the people of god. The relationship to him is key for Israel. He was commanded to circumcise and kept the Law before it even existed according to the writer of Gen. (The writer claims in 26:5 that Abraham kept the statutes and laws of God. Clear retrojection of Torah back in time.) The Judaizers have already, shall we say, broached this subject with Paul. They are not innovaters, Paul is. Reformed arguments think Paul is maintaining the status quo by just reminding readers 'how people were always saved'(i.e. by faith). Paul is innovating however, not by suggesting a new way to be saved, but by separating the people of God from the Torah. As in Acts 15(which comes out of this mess), the issue was not how people were being saved (by God's Spirit clearly as James in Jerusalem says) but why is Paul letting them break the law all of Abraham's children are commanded to keep. So now Paul needs to have a discussion of who are Abraham's children and how is he accounted their father. What Paul writes no OT writer could or would have agreed with. (Read that again, wow, I'm being provocative again). So unlike the method of salvation through God's grace (which hasn't changed) what has changed under Paul's ministry is how the people of God are demarcated in other words -which group are they, by what signs can we tell who they are.

This is so manifestly obvious to me now there is really no chance a difficult verse or two(and there are some) could make me suddenly say 'oh well, the traditional reformed view is correct' The reformed position is no longer a viable historical interpretation of the text in my opinion. Nor do I see many scholars advocating it anymore except for a few holdouts who for professional reasons can not shift on this. Not to put too fine a point on it, but saying that Paul is inconsistent or impenetrable would be better than the Reformed position. But once again I have digressed... (more)

3:26 PM, March 03, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

David you state:
"The reformed position is no longer a viable historical interpretation of the text in my opinion."

I realize there are perhaps other issues that might keep you Protestant, but based on what you stated above what keeps you from becoming Roman Catholic?

Jill? 8-)

3:55 PM, March 03, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

On Romans 4:1, I think Richard Hays' essay on the translation is insightful. He suggests it should be translated as "Have we found Abraham to be our forefather according to the flesh?"

This gets the question to be what the debate was in Galatians(with all of the other parallels) and what the remainder of chapter 4 will be about namely Abraham's seed and who they are. It uses the word flesh in the manner Paul usually does, referring to the Jewish privileged status in the prior eschatological age(kinsmen according to the flesh 9:4). Importantly, the issue of Abraham's fatherhood comes up again in Romans 9:7-8 with the same opposition of flesh/promise children as in ch.4. But the question in Ch.9 is EXPLICIT in verse 6 "Who is Israel?" not "how did Abraham get saved" which is not even mentioned at all. The entire discussion is all legitimation of Gentiles into Abraham's family, it is ecclesiology not soteriology. So clearly ch.4 should be taken as an investigation of how Abraham's fatherhood is properly expressed not an investigation of Abraham's experience of saving faith (He was already saved in Gen. 12 for goodness sake!), as if saying, "what did Abraham find was the way to get salvation - through fleshly works or grace. Though v4-5 may feel like it at first, the extended "irrelevant discussion" of when Abraham's seed was blessed reveals the matter. The discussion is not about effort versus trust after that to the frustration of Reformed readers, but rather some "genealogical nonsense".
[Incidentally I still don't see how you get around the idea that the Reformed position has Paul necessarily arguing for justification by meritorious trust. Paul is speaking about something Abraham 'did' to be credited righteous, not something God did, such as regenerate him.]

This post is pure 'stream of conciousness' gold. Sorry.

4:08 PM, March 03, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

Verse 4:2, talks about 'boasting' of being justified by works. Not Pelagianism, but the same language Paul always and everywhere attaches to claims of Jewish privilege because of the Torah not perfection.

Paul then latches on to the word 'reckoned' in verse 3. If Abraham had done the 'work' required (which all Jews thought he did) he would have been considered righteous (in good covenant standing). But Abraham did not 'work' in Paul's opinion because as he says elsewhere he couldn't keep the Law which didn't come for 430 more years. Instead Paul highlights that he simply believed 'in the God who justifies the 'ungodly' (a sociological not a moral term - one who doesn't follow this god. Abraham wasn't wicked at this point but just entering a covenant as a Gentile.)
Notice how Paul doesn't highlight grace in v4-5 at all when he has the opportunity to. He was going to say apparently that a worker gets his wages deservedly (by merit, I suppose), and a believer gets righteousness as a favor or by grace without working or earning it. But since he doesn't care about trust vs. effort but rather works of the Law vs. faith as community marker he says the believer's "faith is reckoned as righteousness". His belief in God (without Torah) is considered his loyalty to the covenant and just like Abraham it is reckoned because it is not all of the works of the law required. Of course in Genesis 15 the writer did not mean anything but 'considered' and he meant nothing deficient by it as Paul is inferring in this context.

Similarly in v.6 Paul quotes Ps. 32 because of the word 'lawless'. He has David supposedly blessing Torah-less men apart from the works of the law. Of course in context David is blessing Torah keepers whose sins are covered by keeping the Torah and its provisions. Elsewhere David would say blessed is the man who delights in the Law. He is not singing about the imputation of another righteousness here, but like in every Pslam the fruits of being righteous i.e. forgiveness. The Reformed see imputation in the quote because Paul says reckoning is there. Good. So when the Psalmist says 'forgiveness' they say he must mean 'imputation by implication'. But of course forgiveness does not equal the transfer of God's righteousness. But like the old saying 'if all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.'
This is a polemical use of texts like NT quotations generally are. The words contained are essential. Paul sees reckoning(imputing) in the text because he sees 'law-less' being forgiven and blessed. Not God's righteousness being transferred to them. That is not there or anywhere else.(more)

5:12 PM, March 03, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

Like I said. Arguments won't settle this but Kuhn-like paradigm shift. Kuhn said we change scientific models by which model best accounts for the data and explaining the other's shortcomings. So the proof of the pudding will be in the eating(Wright's favorite saying). Who can account for the way Paul is talking?
If the explanation so far has not persuaded the reader, then verse 9 should. Paul immediately asks who the blessing is upon. The perfect or the sinner? No. The worker or the truster? No. The circumcised or the uncircumcised? Surprise! Paul is concerned about what ethnicity the blessing is pronounced upon and not whether or not effort is used to obtain it. V.10 'how was it reckoned' by grace? No. by faith? No, but WHILE uncircumcised. Paul wants to know Abrahams's ethnic state when he was blessed. He then acknowledges that Abraham went on to be circumcised so he can be the father of the Jews as well. Notice he doesn't speak of any 'reckoning' in regard to the circumcised because they don't need to be reckoned something which they already are that is righteous. Of course Paul now let's them know that the law wasn't what mattered anyway but that they 'followed in the steps of faith of our father Abraham'. Still works mind you just not circumcision mind you. Similar to the 'obedience of faith' (ch 1 and 15) which Paul wants the Gentiles to learn. Nothing imputed just participated. Then he goes on (v13) to say the promise was to inherit the 'world' which he has changed from 'land' in Genesis because he wants to internationalize the message. He says that promise didn't come through Torah of Moses but through the righteousness (of God, no) of faith (i.e. the covenant of non ethnic faith). V.14 says if Torah keepers are the heirs then the promise to Abraham is nullified because they have been shown to be under its curse (?collectively?, ?individually? or by exile as Wright has it, I am not sure here). But if we could be free from the Law or have no Law there would be no curse. So Paul says this is why it is by faith so it can be in accordance with GRACE. And what does that mean? Grace means that the promised inheritance(not righteousness) is for all the descendants not just the Jews but ALSO those who are of the faith of Abraham. Notice he says it goes to both groups (those of the Law and those of faith of Abraham). The reformed want it just for faith. Because they see Abraham as a model sinner convert. Paul sees him rather as a proto-Gentile. The Jews are just assumed to be righteous heirs. v. 16 ends with Abraham is the 'father' of us all. This is the focus and gives a relevant answer to the question of verse 1, 'have we found Abraham to be our forefather according to the flesh?' No. This is makes more sense than the idea of looking into 'what Abraham found according to his flesh (works). (more to come after dinner)

6:06 PM, March 03, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

What keeps me from coming Catholic? I often ask myself that question. Hauerwas at Duke used to ask his classes the same thing after he would make a real significant point. It was jarring. I think I may be Catholic someday. I could just as easily turn up Anabaptist. I'm Methodist now!

But in any case be careful not to get into the Reformed/Catholic dichotomy. Just because I reject the Reformed 'reading' here doesn't mean I am advocating 'the Catholic position'. That's a trap set by all NPP opponents. We've got to get out of the 17th century context of debate.

6:12 PM, March 03, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

Having established how Abraham was the father of many nations, Paul moves in v17 to show what it was exactly that Abraham 'believed' God about.(remember we are taking words from the Genesis prooftext) It wasn't in God's mere existence that Abraham believed, he had been confronted by Yahweh so he better believe that much! Here again reformers might be upset to find that Abraham is said to be believing not that God would justify him, or save him, or forgive him...surely he did these things and it is assumed(doesn't everyone expect this from their god). But Abraham's faith, which was reckoned as righteousness, was his trust that God could produce a child and then many nations from an old couple like Sarah and him. His faith(trust) has potential levels(unlike reformed justifying faith) and is commended as not "weak" (v.19) and then as "strong" (v.20). (I actually think sexual activity is implied as part of Abraham's faith with the reference to his "contemplating" his and Sarah's body. Quite a 'work' indeed. Meritorious when comitted with a 100 year old woman. But that's just my little bit of fun.)
In v.20 Paul shows what the choice was for Abraham. It was not to trust or work, it was to believe or waver in "unbelief". But Abraham believed. Now comes the only 'Therefore' I never heard a reformed teacher point out and talk about how significant they are in Paul. Abraham believed in the promise of the child's conception 'therefore ALSO it was reckoned to him as righteous.' He not only got the promised reward he also got counted righteous for believing it so intensely. I think Paul could have agreed with James' idea of justification by works(deeds not Torah).
So that's how you get imputed righteousness right there. Believe in God's eschatological promises against all appearances in the here and now. Your justifying faith is shown in your believing and living according to Yahweh's promises as Abraham did. An unfaithful life would be called 'wavering in unbelief'. It requires effort and determination. These words are 'written for us' Paul says because like Abraham, we (having heard the proclamation of the resurrection - 'life to the dead'v17,'Jesus our Lord from the dead'24)also believe in (Israel's)God(and his promises of inheritance).
The final v25 is difficult and open to many interpretations and obviously leads to the Adam/Christ subject matter of Romans 5. But I think it's a loose quote or reference to Is 53. Jesus is said to die for our sins and here is the curious part...'was raised because of (or for) our justification.' Resurrection and justification are not immediately obvious partners. Perhaps Paul is already thinking ahead to Rom 5:18 where 'justification brings life for all men' although there it may just be a reference to his death. Paul often says the Law was supposed to give life as Leviticus says. But it only brought death. So Jesus died and was raised to put us in right standing - alive not dead. He 'MADE us righteous'. Rom 6 then tells how baptism unites us to that death and life of Christ. He doesn't give us anything(like his life of good works), we participate with Him and through Him(thus Christ IS essential, in Galatians Paul can say Christ lives and that he himself is dead). We die and are resurrected to life 'born again'. Then Ch6:17-18 tells what the new life under grace and out from under the curse of the law is like. Not a life of thankfulness for something in the past(some 'finished work') but rather a participation, a slavery to righteousness and an actual new heart(Jeremiah 32 realized).

Thus ends my thoughts on the crucial chapter 4(and some ramblings). I hope someone appreciated it, Todd. Wake up, Todd. I know it helps me just to write it all out sometimes.

10:59 PM, March 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You said, “Rom 6 then tells how baptism unites us to that death and life of Christ.”

Now, I’m not discussing Justification and the NPP here, it’s really just a question about your view of baptism in general and your statement that Paul tells us how we are united to Christ, namely through baptism. Maybe a better way to say it… has the NPP changed your view of baptism…?
ie- baptismal regeneration/Federal Vision etc..
(Please understand that I’m not mocking, but rather, I’m genuinely curious.)

I have been accused on this blog of “proof-texting” or building a case on one or two verses etc. Is it possible that you may be liable to the same accusation here in Romans 6:3-5.

Now I know there are quite a few commentators, and many of them good men, who say that Paul is now talking about water baptism, and some say that Paul is actually
talking about the mode of baptism and even who the right recipients of baptism should be etc.. I know it’s a legitimate position among some commentators. But it seems to me that Paul is using baptism here as an illustration. The baptism analogy is to signify our union with Christ. Paul has not discussed baptism up to this point, (noticeably absent before and after ch. 6) and he doesn’t discuss it after this point, and not every time baptism is mentioned, does it mean water baptism.

NAS 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 – “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;”

Now, if baptism always means water baptism, who were the only
people “baptized” in the sea when the children of Israel passed through? The children of Israel went through a “waterless” baptism if you will. The Egyptians were the only people immersed in water. So what is Paul speaking of when he speaks of baptism into Moses? He is stressing that the children of Israel were united to Moses. My point is that it could be possible that Paul is merely stressing a union with Christ, symbolized in baptism, rather than explaining how one is united to Christ through baptism? Am I in dis-agreement with you here? Not sure.

Is it possible that Paul is using baptism here as an illustration?

Now, maybe, I’m understanding you wrong, or we are actually saying the same thing here. Maybe, a little clarification is what I’m looking for. Thanks.


11:12 AM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...


"(Please understand that I’m not mocking, but rather, I’m genuinely curious.) "

I appreciate the sentiment, and good to see you lurking (and posting). One follow-up to the discussion of Rom 4 and the rest before I speak to your interesting baptism question. I had a verse in the back of my mind pertinent to the imputation debate but couldn't remember it. Well I skipped Sunday School to find it, but of course don't infer that skipping Sunday School necessarily results from the NPP. Although.....

Anyway, here it is... Psalm 106:30-31... referring to Numbers 25. A real doozy, but that discussion can continue through private e-mail.

1:47 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

On to baptism....

Yes my reading of Wright did move me to a slightly more Anglican view of baptism but of course there is no solid "Anglican view of baptism". So I would say I most often speak like a Catholic but expect people to live according to a more Reformed model. And then like Barth I privately feel that with the American church practicing the faith so poorly that believer's baptism is the only aunthentic way to practice the faith considering the current context. But then I see the Baptists..(sigh).

You ask if I am perhaps liable to the proof texting charge and I assure only my opponents are. But more seriously I think Paul is referencing water baptism in the same way he did in Galatians 3 where he said in Baptism the Galatians had put on Christ. And in 1 Cor 12:13 again Paul discusses baptism and it is tied to inclusion in the body (though significantly he does say "by one SPIRIT" suggesting spirit baptism, but then does the following "one spirit we drink" reference the cup?). And again in Col 2:12 baptism buries us and resurrects us to life. In 1 Cor 1 Paul even thinks followers may be confused that they are baptized "into" the name of Paul. It seems to be a ritual that enacts something like 'good old pagan' ritualistic participation apparently. Where else does Paul explain how or where we die or how or where we are raised to new life? These things happen "in Christ" but what about me? So Paul's union with Christ/body of Christ language which pervades his theology seems to be accomplished in baptism not (simply)signified by it. I see no other claims made to the instrumental cause of being "in Christ" which you might expect besides the explicit claims made for baptism. So I don't think it's proof texting at all, but rather consistent with his pattern of arguing and his explicit arguments. It is interesting that Paul doesn't speak extensively about baptism, but he says explicitly in 1 Cor 1:17 that baptism is not his mission but rather to preach the gospel message to the Gentiles. Even though Matthew 28's "Great Commission" puts baptism as a priority for all the other apostles. It seems curious that Jesus would command baptism (when he left out much else) if it was not terribly significant beyond symbolism.

2:34 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny point on Sunday School... I didn't know if that was NPP or just being Methodist (;

2:58 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well see, I understand your points from other passages... my point was whether or not Paul is actually explaining how one is united to Christ in Romans 6, since it's so obviously absent in the rest of the letter.

It would seem to me that the apostle doesn't describe "how" but only tries to make analogy of what being "united to Christ" is.

An argument about a certain point in baptism may be made, but it would be hard to do that from Romans 6.

Again, I'm not sure of your current understanding on baptism from your last post, thus my argument about 1 Cor. 10- to stress the importance of being united. Seems to me that Paul was concerned about divisions in Corinth- "So I hear some of you guys are divided" (my paraphrase).

In 1 Cor. 1- Paul says we were "all baptized into Moses", "all ate the same spiritual food", "all drank the same spiritual drink" etc... to show that unity of the body under Moses. It seems to me that it's possible, that's all Paul is doing in Romans 6- stressing the idea of what it means to be united to Christ.

The issue in 1 Cor. 1 that you brought up, being baptized "into Paul" seems to makes my point as just being an analogy to describe unity, or an illustration to describe unity. "1 Cor. 1:10 "I urge you, brothers and sisters,10 by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose."

I guess the only point is, that not all the time that baptism is mentioned is it water baptism, but sometimes it may be just an illustration for the reader to understand being united. I hope that makes sense.

3:19 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

On your reference to 1 Cor 10...(There is hardly a better NPP text by the way.) Paul is reading the Exodus stories as examples and warnings to us (v.6.11), a clear allegorical reading yes but he can do these things. So yes the people were all "water" baptized and even ate the Lord's Supper together apparently(v3). Yet they went and participated in demons, so Paul warns us not to participate with demons or immorality because in the Lord's Supper, guess what, we participate in his blood and body (his death and resurrected body, maybe, at least implicitly if it's like every other reference to his body).

Interestingly Wright suggests that John the Baptist is baptizing down at the Jordan and preaching of the coming kingdom because he is wanting to purify Israel so that they may symbolically reenter the Land, recross the Jordan arising out of the Jordan and "do it right this time", return finally from the long exile. Jesus is baptized and becomes a leader of this group (coinicidentally a new "Joshua" in Hebrew). He does it because he is an Israelite born under the curse with the rest of them. But now he is going to "fulfill all righteousness" of the Law. (NOTE he actually needed to do this, no fake symbolic action just for us to see.) When Israel did that, LIFE in the land could finally be realized as promised. The Law promised LIFE but couldn't deliver. But the Spirit on Jesus makes this possible (cf. Romans 8:1-3). The Law's promises of life are constantly on Paul's mind.

So I mention Jesus's baptism to show that the significance would have been to arise from the water alive, dried off, and ready to enter the land. As Joshua's crossing the Jordan recapitualted the Exodus(please don't make me type it out), John's and Jesus' baptism recapitulate it again with a new Joshua and a new Moses. The idea that baptism = surivival of a water ordeal or judgement I got while still thoroughly reformed from Meredith Kline, a name you no doubt know.

1Pet3:20 is also comfortable likening the flood(or ark) to baptism. Noah and his family are saved (by the ark) but they endure the water judgement dry as well. Baptism is the same sort of thing. And here it "saves" you. But not only that it saves you "BY THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST". I can only assume this shows knowledge of Paul's idea of uniting you to the living Christ through baptism.

What else can be said? In Acts 22:14 Paul recounts how Ananias told him he had been "chosen" him (let's assume he minimally is accepted by God at this point) But now he needs to "get up be baptized and wash his sins away." You could say he doesn't need to clean up like 1 Peter says because its just a symbol of a prior reality i.e. Paul is forgiven. But I think, and this is still sketchy, that he needs to do it to remove the curse of the Law (the larger problem the Jews have which is what Christ deals with in Gal 3 and 4, he dies for Jews to benefit Gentiles) by joining himself with Christ in death and resurrection.

So it seems to be a second necessary act and it regenerates you if that means including you in the new life of Christ, but I quickly have to point out you can always stop participating, be kicked out, or be "participating" and found wanting in deeds someday (judgement begins in the household of god, judgement by works etc., not all Israel are Israel principle).

I always like F.F. Bruce's take on baptism I think found in the Encyc. Brittanica where he says there is just such a close identification between salvation and baptism, repenting and baptism, hearing and baptism in the early chruch, that not being baptized was unthinkable. So the language just fits the opera ex operata sort of mindset. Throughout Acts its "repent and be baptized", "I believe why should I not be baptized" etc. always hear, believe, and then be baptized. People weren't just urgently trying to "symbolically reenact" what just happened, they were wanting to accomplish something apparently necessary. To become united to the body of believers, who are the body of Christ, to be in Christ. I imagine God can surely work around this system through things like the Catholic idea of a 'baptism of desire' and I would add a need for a 'baptism wihtout desire because of extreme cultural ignorance'.

3:36 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm not sure I understand your position on baptism, but that's okay, I'll digest it some more later.

My only point was that in Romans 6 and 1 Cor 10, that it is possible that Paul is simply using baptism as an illustration for being united. "Don't you know you are united to Christ" (Rom 6) and "Don't you know that they were united with Moses" so Corinth- stop being divisive- ie.. 1 Cor. 10. I appreciate your comments.

Side note: I've read WSPRS now three times- twice in the last six months and once two years ago. I'm now reading Waters book and will be back in fray... so to speak- when I'm done with that. We have some severe differences, and I think some that will not be reconcilable (for me). But I just thought I would tell you, because I have seen it said (paraphrasing) that when someone doesn't get Wright the first time that's understandable, but if they look at it again... then they might get it etc... I'm not coming into the NPP argument just reading Wright once... just so you know. A few months ago I saw Sinclair Ferguson speak on the matter for three hours... I'm slated to read Stehndal and Davies as well...Thanks.

4:57 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

I would also recommend Climax of the Covenant and Wright's commentary of Romans (in the New Interpreter's Commentary Set). And Although I have not read this work as of yet, I was recommended (and actually bought a copy) of Wright's latest work Paul in Fresh Perspective.

And, as Chris suggested, over at Mike Bird's blog is an article he wrote and published titled Incorpaorated Righteousness. If you need to link to that check the comments in the first article I posted on Wright.

5:08 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

I must admit to having trouble following your last response.

You said:
"my point was whether or not Paul is actually explaining how one is united to Christ in Romans 6, since it's so obviously absent in the rest of the letter. "

Romans 6 is explicitly saying baptism does join you to Christ's body,death, and resurrection. How is it relevant if Paul doesn't say it again. Are you implying he needed to, that baptism should have been emphasized more heavily? Paul is busy in this letter not telling people how to be saved or get united to Christ but rather proving that Christ has come and accomplished what the Law couldn't do and what that means with respect to maintaining the Jewish Torah now for God's people and what that means for Israel's future. So why mention baptism again?
Isn't it significant that when Paul mentions baptism elsewhere that it always is what incorporates you into the one body of Christ? If that's true can't we build from all these things a fairly coherent view of Paul's idea of how the union with Christ is accomplished. And if that is consistent with the language of the other writer's and what we know of baptism's importance historically, is that not suggestive?

Again you write - "the apostle doesn't describe "how" but only tries to make analogy of what being "united to Christ" is."

Spell that analogy out. I am trying everything I can think of. I guess Paul would be saying "Shall we live in sin? don't you know that you died to sin, remember how your baptism looked like Christ's death, and remember how you came out how you looked like him being resurrected. Well that was to show you that you were (already) united to Christ." But he simply does not say that. We have to account for the words he is using.
Why not just talk about not going on in sin because of being united to Christ and never bring up baptism. Paul seems to say in 6:5 "because we have done this rite in the likeness of his death we have new life and hope of further resurrection."

It is no accidental illustration or analogy because elsewhere he repeats the same pattern of baptism incorporates one into a person. It is presented as the instrumental cause everytime.

The doctrine of Paul's baptism that I am suggesting does indeed rest on the few verses I listed but the alternatives appear to disregard the plain wording of the ones we do have.

If Paul wants to highlight the symbolic value of a sign we know how he does that. As in Romans 4, he would say circumcision is a sign of something Abraham already had by faith. He doesn't talk that way of baptism. It is not the sign of a union already had by _____. I take his silence on other ways to be united to Christ as significant.

5:20 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

In my opinion What Saint Paul Really Said is a lousy introduction to this and does indeed take some time to understand. Hopefully Wright's new book is better in this respect. Climax is great but Todd says now hard to find. I know I ruined the RTS library copy by underlining. The Romans commentary and new Paul book are probably the best options.

I can only tell you Gage that I know Ligon Duncan (Systematics 3), Ferguson (whom I admire, Systematics 2), Guy Waters (classmate in NT studies, now at a small Reformed school). You will find you are swimming in a small pond of NPP deniers who have a professional interest not to mention a huge amount of ego invested in this. This is not true generally of those in the NPP camp as they are under no professional pressure and havn't committed there lives to a faith dominated by its now peculiar reading of Paul. They could freely embrace whatever the next journal suggested.
Note how few Biblical Studies/ NT scholars you find associated with this. So many reformed NT scholars are shockingly disengaged from any recent studies (except Thielman, Waters). It's a sad commentary that it took so long and took a newbie like Waters to tackle the issue head on. I can tell you firsthand that many OT faculties at Reformed schools are pleased as punch about the NPP because its speaking a language that is very familiar to them but has been silenced by the "Theology of the NT". And it doesn't effect them professionally.

I fear Evang.Theo.Soc. and all Reformed scholars are in a permanent state of defense now until they can integrate this scholarship with the WCF and I still hold out hope that it is possible. (I hope after this was done that the WCF could quietly then be left behind for a new simpler, less-detailed, less divisive confession.)
Nothing significant had come out of Reformed NT scholarship for nearly 30 years. Perhaps this is a wakeup call and a rude one at that.

5:54 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Actually, I was wrong about Climax you can still get it at Amazon, new or used. My bad.

7:11 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

Gage, I think I now may get what you are saying. You are saying Paul is illustrating his point by using the example of baptism. I had thought you meant that Paul was saying that baptism itself merely illustrates or signifies some other reality.
Indeed I think you are arguing for that second point ultimately, correct?

If I understand correctly I still think you are left with some difficulties.

Here are some attempts to read them as illustrations:

In Romans 6:2 where Paul wants to show that we have died to sin, he could be saying "you know your dead to sin don't you? for example, your baptism is a joining in the death of Christ". It would then perhaps not be the sole thing that unites you to Christ's death. But there is no avoiding that it is at least one way among other things that also joins you to his death. Paul says in v4 "we have been buried with him through baptism". If there is another way this "really" occurs, Paul never touches on it. He doesn't link faith to union as much as even I would like him too. I swear I am not a closet Catholic.

The 1Cor 1 text does seem amenable to your reading. Paul would be saying "be united! for instance there is only one baptism, so you guys should all be together regardless of who you like best" He could have chosen prayer with its one object as an example as well. Though I think being baptized into a person's(Jesus or Paul's) name is claiming something more than who said the blessing or what name was pronounced, so that even here we may have an example of participation(union) with the 'name'. But that gets into the whole 'name' theology stuff which I'll admit I never got a good feel for at seminary.

The 1 Cor 10 passage is not about unity of Israel but rather their susceptibility to immorality, idolatry, and ultimately cutting off in judgement which is instruction to us. So here I think the mention of baptism reflects some strange allegorical parallel in Paul's mind with being in Moses/in Christ. It adds nothing to my point except again Paul's putting people "in" someone with baptism. It causes it. Though here we could say it is vague in meaning.

Now 1 Cor 12 is about unity. Paul says there is one body. Maybe he looks for something to show this and says "well, look, there's baptism which is into ONE body". But here again baptism might illustrate his point about church unity at Corinth, but it does so because baptism is the very thing that creates the one body of Christ (again Gal 3:27ff, 1 cor 12:12,27)

Gal 3:27 - Paul has just said they are all sons of God through Christ. Now he could be saying "You know it's only 'through Christ' because...for instance, you were all baptized into Christ." I suppose you would say he could have said 'you all eat the body of Christ' or 'pray to Christ'. In any case you would argue the union with Christ would not have been effected by baptism but by faith really in the previous verse. But curiously Paul doesn't say that.

I think here we have something like the two step theology I was referring to earlier. Paul says they are certainly sons through faith in Christ(unless its "the faith of Christ" see HAYS), but that they are clothed in baptism and essentially become one, the one Christ Jesus, the son, Abraham's one seed. I think this reading just seems to fit better with the text. Paul doesn't seem to be illustrating anything with these baptism references but rather defining how "in Christ" occurs through them.

I hope I have understood you somewhat correctly. I attempted to be as fair as possible but it's hard to think in another paradigm, but I recall some of this. These readings seem forced though, in my view, in the interests of protecting a theological model with a preconceived notion of what baptism should or should not do.

12:09 AM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, you said,
"I can only tell you Gage that I know Ligon Duncan (Systematics 3), Ferguson (whom I admire, Systematics 2), Guy Waters (classmate in NT studies, now at a small Reformed school). You will find you are swimming in a small pond of NPP deniers who have a professional interest not to mention a huge amount of ego invested in this."

I don't think it helps your argument to say that those who deny the NPP do so out of some sense of ego. That doesn't seem fair to me. It seems to question the conviction of these men, who happen to disagree with NPP. It is close to an ad hominem argument. "Well they obviously don't hold to NPP because of their own ego, or they may lose their pastorate, or prominent teaching position." I heard Sinclair in person- He doesn't strike me as a man who has much of an ego (other than any normal depraved man has)- he actually believes NPP is in error. An Ad hominem argument could me made against Wright and others as well. For instance- I could say, "Wright is so ecumenical, and wants so much to be a person who bridges the gap between Rome and Geneva, that he will do anything to get there." I also could say that "The Church of England is so weak, that nobody cares what he says, so he brings his new ideas to the America's where he will be listened to." I know you wouldn't think that would be fair.

As far as the current agreement among NT scholarship goes... I'm not sure of your claim, for one, that would take more convincing, but even if I granted that NPP opponets were in a "small pond", it is not a force of argument that holds much weight for me personally.

If they are wrong, then they are wrong. Seems to me that Luther was in the minority at Worms. Huss was in the minority, as was Wycliffe. However, that doesn't prove that they were wrong to me. It is my perception that the more weighty argument is that the NPP turns on its ear, the last 500 years of Reformed Scholarship ie.. Calvin, Luther, Bucer, Beza, Warfield, Edwards, Charles Hodge, Berkhoff, Westminster Divines, Owen, Venema, Packer,Pink, Ferguson, Boettner, Charnock, Sproul, etc..

That seems to have more weight with me at least, than what the current class of NT scholars say. In other words, I would have more of an concern, personally of dis-agreeing with the Reformed Theologians since the reformation, then a new class of NT professors.

I know some current theologians who proclaim the openness of God theory, which I reject,obviously. Swimming in that small pond is actually quite alright with me.

Note: I mean no offense, honestly, so please don't take offense. These are my thoughts on the matter, from a purely historical perspective. Maybe my thoughts would change if I was seminary trained, other than a reading, hack, lay observer. But it seems unfair to me to characterize some modern day reformed folks opposed to NPP on the basis of ego, or position of prominence. I am opposed to NPP, and have no dog in the fight. I actually am just a salesman, who loves the Gospel of Christ. I put myself somewhat in the shoes of Ligon for instance... If I were in his position, right now, knowing what I know, I too would be arguing against the NPP. Now, that's me, but I think it also may be that those opposed to NPP have at least in their mind, as in mine, a good reason for opposing NPP other than the fact I may have to seek ordination in a different denomination.

By the way, I appreciate your thoughts on baptism. I think we disagree somewhat, but you have cleared up my confusion on your position. Thanks.

10:11 AM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I had another thought on "being in a small pond". It seems to me that Reformed Scholarship and seminaries have always been in a "small pond".

But what would you say about those who are NPP enthusiasts going to reformed/confessional churches, or teaching in a reformed and or confessional seminary? I am thinking about someone who may teach at Westminster for instance... just a hypothetical...

Wouldn't there be a lack of integrity for someone teaching in a school or church that has WCF as their confession, while holding NPP. I am most curious about this aspect, since you have said that the NPP is gaining ground in reformed circles.

For example- If I "converted" to NPP, I would not got to a Presbyterian Church, much less serve in one... or teach in a presby seminary etc...

Your thoughts...? I am curious because of what you said,
"(I hope after this was done that the WCF could quietly then be left behind for a new simpler, less-detailed, less divisive confession.)"

I have a friend who is a NPP enthusiast who is trying to be accepted in a presby denomination... I told him that it is not appropriate in light of WCF 11. Your thoughts?

10:42 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

Two responses - first on NPP deniers, then on NPP enthusiasts in their camp.

When I mentioned "ego" as a factor, I meant it in the neutral sense in which everyone has an ego, a sense of self. The current group of NPP critics have their ego, their lives, and identity wrapped into their confessional heritage which is tied directly to the issue at hand. It is of course hard, I remember!, to admit you may have been arguing beside the point, your passion sometimes misspent, your arguments even for the wrong side, your fathers in the faith wrong as well. This is difficult. It is no minor tweak. It would be impossible to even see at first. You have to unlearn old definitions like learning a new language. Particularly difficult if you combine a paycheck into it as well. Then add celebrity cult status and now we are reaching a point of near impossibility. I respect Sinclair Ferguson immensely as I said, but he is a theologian first and considering his age and status I don't see him changing his views. Now Sproul(my former Sunday School teacher), I have seen him try to destroy fellow faculty if not a seminary(then leave), destroy his own pastor and church(then leave) and have seen him in debate and can confidently say that his ego(in the most negative sense) prevents him from backing down. Good lecturer though.

This is altogether unlike the position of the NPP debate for Dunn, Wright, Hays et al. Many of these figures have changed denominations, teach in schools of different faith commitments, but in no case does doctrinal precision on these matters determine their Christian identity. Orthodoxy is not being called into question by their research. In Wright's case I would grant you, that his rising celebrity here in the states and to some extent England would make it unlikely that he would change his views. But the choices before Wright are not to return to the "small pond"(I can't stress enough how that's not an option) but rather if he is not correct about Paul then how do we save Paul from being torn to shreds by more liberal critics for inventing Chrisitanity and slandering Judaism. So Wright has constructed the argument in such a way that to yield on his "exile" thesis would perhaps in his opinion endanger orthodoxy as it is built on Paul. I don't agree with Wright here as there are ways out through apocalyptic theology among other things. This theological attachment is even less among other writer's of the disorganized group called the NPP (many of whom are secular).

Completely beside the point, have you read Wright's devotional work? I remember reading Peter Enns (OT professor Westminster PA) give rave reviews to them when it was still safe before WSPRS was out. I'm telling you those OT guys know when they see NT theology they like. Enns said it was the best exposition of NT literature he had seen, which was a of course a slap to all the NT professors he knew. The day the green light is given to the NPP in reformed circles, there will be no mass defections from seminaries(except some sys theo. guys like Ligon-Duncan who will retreat to a yet smaller group of "faithful") but a sigh of relief from many.

(This next part gets "over the top" but hey...I don't want to delete it.)
Reading your list of Reformed luminaries can indeed seem imposing. But I can't help but be struck that the "small pond" of reformers began running entire countries(England, essentially Scotland, Geneva), then when that was no longer politically tolerable, the luminaries continued their social influence in Great awakenings. The next set of leaders influenced great institutions like Princeton but found themselves eventually shown the door for their (increasingly outdated) beliefs, and founded their own smaller schools with a smaller group of churches served, here the luminaries are hardly noticed since their job is not to do anything new but simply "keep the faith". Their academics too often feel no need to interact with mainstream scholarship until it infringes on their tradition's turf. Then they are awakened from their dogmatic slumbers in an ugly mood. Lacking influential political, social or academic luminaries, minor celebrities with reduced influence tour preaching to the faithful a rather reactionary message always embattled from without. The movement has taken on a rather "ethnic" sort of form in its zeal for the truth. Oh how the mighty have fallen! Now, "reformed" christianity (in the narrow sense) is embodied by a small faction of North Americans. They mock ecumenism making a virtue out of necessity. Their ecclesiology is thin compared to the once great reformers. So there you have it. You can tell I'm scarred, but I say it with a smile.
But the irony of the situation is doubled if Wright is correct about Paul on justification. That doctrine meant the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles was gone and people of all status were united as one in Christ. Now a relatively tiny sect has used their view of that very doctrine to make a renewed ethnic church cut off from all of christendom. Even the reformers could not have meant this to happen.

More constructive post to follow.

5:12 PM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.... Intersting perspective- but I don't drink kool-aid (smiling here).

What about my last post about the practical implications of joining a Presby church or teaching in a confessional church and holding NPP...in light of WCF for example- etc. I'll wait to see.

7:51 PM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

David States: "But the irony of the situation is doubled if Wright is correct about Paul on justification. That doctrine meant the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles was gone and people of all status were united as one in Christ. Now a relatively tiny sect has used their view of that very doctrine to make a renewed ethnic church cut off from all of christendom. Even the reformers could not have meant this to happen."

I think the above is very telling and quite true to a large extent. The reformers (especially Luther) did not intend to begin new factions by the hundreds, and new denominations by the same numbers.

As Friedrich Heiler (Luther/Reformation scholar) stated, "It was not Luther's idea to set over against the ancient Catholic Church a new Protestant creation; he desired nothing more than that the old Church should experience an evangelical awakening . . . Luther and his friends wished, as they were never tired of emphasizing, to be and remain Catholic."

8:17 PM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

Here is an anecdote to let you know that we still have something in common. I have spent the evening with my wife's sister and brother in law who work for a Calvary Chapel affiliated ministry. I have been working on them for months to understand theology. I gave them my (RTS) seminary materials that I thought would be helpful. This of course quickly moved them into the reformed camp. So they recently started attending Ft.Worth Pres (PCA). At any rate I spent tonight comforting them because today they found out they were both losing their Calvary-related jobs for that decision. So I still am proselytizing and making martyrs for the reformed cause. I can't be that bad.

11:14 PM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

>What about the practical implications of joining a Presby church or teaching in a confessional church and holding NPP...in light of WCF <

First I would say that the term "new perspective on Paul" has become something like "Puritan" was in its days of origin. A term your enemies use for you. I believe it was a James Dunn article title. I have never used the term of myself nor does Wright I believe nor did Hays or Sanders at Duke. But NPP's opponents use it making it sound like an organized theological movement exists. It suggests innovation which is always suspect (perhaps rightfully to some degree).
What we are really talking about is exegeting Paul differently. Arguing about his historical setting. The nature of Judaism. Working on the best grammatical-historical reading of the text as Calvin recommended. It is unfortunate that a reading of Paul from 1520-1648 has reached an unquestionable confessional status. The WCF for many presbyterian groups is semi-canonical. The Bible that could call it into question on points can hardly be read without its given interpretive scheme. New discoveries like the redemptive historical nature of scripture which Reformed schools all affirm is difficult to integrate to the WCF in ways and has truths all its own and yet one is forced to continue to affirm the WCF's statements as "also" true. Yet the new discoveries are never given equal status. Exercises like biblical theology praticed by Vos et al are stifled and bloom elsewhere because they too can't be integrated easily into a static system like the WCF. So one would hope that eventually the weight of material and years would weigh on the WCF and the community who follows it and would cause a call for change. The only way out I see is for the Presbyterians to file it, like the mainline church did, in the influential documents section of the book of order (helpful in its day, of some value now but only in some analogical sense). Until then Gage I am afraid this is not a confessional community but a nostalgic one believing itself to be reading and performing the Scriptures but constrained by the Puritan eyeglasses never to learn anything new. The varied and wonderful story of God's faithfulness to his creation which is the gospel and its continuing unfolding in the church has been flattened out and reified into a system of salvation. Our portion of this drama has become mimicking a detailed script from four hundred years ago (I am borrowing a Wright analogy here, yes I have drank the Wright kool-aid).

Until such changes, life must go on. How are reformed scholars to manage? I left - thinking it perhaps dishonest to stay but I wasn't sure. But I was certain that the environment was hostile to my position.
This has echoes of the Norm Shephard controversy at Westminster in the 80's who started taking the OT seriously and had people gaining and losing their election or some such thing. Shephard was shown the door, but some like Gaffin aren't sure it was entirely necessary if I understand correctly.
One could take exception to the chapters, but I doubt that's going to fly. I suppose someone can keep things as a 'private heresy' (Richard Pratt teaches this somewhat) submitting oneself to the judgement of the tradition. So here you believe you may be right, but think the tradition trumps your private judgement. So you submit without being thoroughly convinced. But I don't see how one wouldn't teach the NPP since it arouses the passions in 100% of its ex-reformed adherents. That would be wrong and I imagine caught quickly.
I think more people are convinced that imputation of righteousness can be upheld 'also'. They understand the historical context of Paul's argument about ethnicity and exile etc. But they still read Romans 4:4-5 in a WCF context (Thielman, Leithart?). They feel like faith is opposed to works in Ephesians 2 without mentioning the Law so the reformed view ends up being what Paul was talking about anyway. The Jewish problem Paul was having is analogous to Pelagianism they think. They will teach majority new Paul exegesis but always reaffirm the WCF. This is how many of my classmates thought. (Some of them have even wanted me to come and teach there churches a class or two on this!). I think Thielman implicitly encourages this. Is it dishonest or just intellectually lazy not to see how radical the NPP is? I don't know but not many Presbyteries could catch it once it was being practiced anyway. It wouldn't have huge practical impact it would just seem like the pastor really knew his NT background material.
Another group might make the more Roman Catholic/sophisticated mental play that the WCF is a historical document. In its context imputation made sense and of the historical options it was most appropriate. Now we have come on to some new info and our view of justification and imputation has changed. But what the old doctrine sought to protect is not endangered by this new teaching and what it promoted I essentially promote. That is to say I am not promoting the opposite opinion which the Confession was written to denounce. But the WCF was not written with any understanding of my position so it can't be a response to it. Here they might say grace is safe guarded, Christ is still essential, merit has no place, union with Christ unites us to an alien righteousness. I could see someone already ordained justifying their views this way to themselves. But for new ordinands, this could all only work with a very cooperative presbytery which could happen decades from now in places where Richard Pratt-influenced students have extended influence.
To my knowledge no stink has been raised yet about any pastor teaching this stuff, and yet it must be going on among the federal theology guys and some churches in Alabama (website I've seen), and my former RTS classmates(???). I know the latter use Wright's book on the Lord's Prayer and other devotional material. Surely legal challenges are forthcoming on many fronts. Or are the practical implications so harmless (my suspicion) that presbyteries are willing to let things develop as long as no one is outright publicly denying the WCF in front of the congregation. All one has to do is ignore it, most congregations would thank you (particularly the female half in my experience). If they jumped on an entire congregation then they might always threaten to go Ref. Episc. and that might call off the Inquisition.

To me it wasn't worth, but I had other issues. Most of my friends who were completely convinced went Episcopal, other friends who were half-covinced just didn't want to hear anymore until they were ordained because they had gone too far into school and debt to turn back now. I don't know your friends situation, but I would think he would be happier elsewhere. Especially if he takes it to as radical an extreme as I do.

One more thing, you asked about people "joining" or "going to" a presbyterian church and believing the NPP. I hope this was not intended. Surely the PCA is not requiring doctrinal precision for baptism or membership transfer, or God forbid, attendance. That's outrageous if the person professes Jesus as their Lord and has a modest outward conformity, can recite the Apostles' creed in good faith and and is not physically violent during services. The membership vows should not include these minutiae however important they may seem. Even the Trinity or deity of Christ (both surely more fundamental) are only implied by phrases such as "Son of God" which can be taken many ways. We really are first and foremost worshippers of God and followers of Jesus. "Getting in" should not be anymore complicated than repenting and acknowledging God's kingdom in Christ. Much of the rest is quibbling over precision. Or maybe I'm just tired...Good night.

1:30 AM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting on your friends... who go to FW Presbyterian... I'm a member of FW Presbyterian as well. Who are your friends, so I can extend the rh of fellowship? It's good to see you are still doing God's work in proseltyzing them..(:
(Smiling here)

On the point of those who hold to NPP "going" or "joining" a presbyterian church. I too do not believe that membership requires theological precision. The church would be empty if that were the case- and would also be less than evangelical. On that point we agree and I believe we also agree with the PCA. But I do believe that teachers/ or those seeking ordination do require theological precision to some extent.

I had more in mind, the ethics of one who holds NPP teaching in a presby seminary or seeking ordination in a presby denom.

In the case of a teacher or one seeking ordination...

I have in mind a friend of mine seeking ordination, and someone like you and Todd.
To me for someone who is a NPP advocate, who wants to join a presby church- would be habitually unhappy. I liken this to me hypothetically wanting to join a baptist church. I may be allowed to join, although some reformed baptist churches would expect my daughter to be re-baptized, and I suspect my wife and I to be re-baptized in order to join, although we we both "immersed" in baptist churches.

These are hurdles that would personally prevent me from joining, although I may find it necessary to just "attend".

Knowing the confession, if I was a NPP advocate- it would seem hard for me personally to join a PCA church. Although I may still be allowed to join and disagree with WCF Ch. 11 on justification, I'm not sure it would be right. I am placing more importance on Ch. 11 vs. taking an exception on something like the Sabbath or Civil Magistrate.

Note: Traditionally there has always been exceptions on those aspects of the confession (sabbath/civil magistrate) for those seeking ordination, and a non issue for those just seeking membership. But on Ch. 11- this may be a sticky point for members who deny the confessional standards on justification. I personally would advise someone seeking membership who denied the reformed view of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ to join somewhere else.
It would certainly be a point of division for those teaching or seeking ordination.

Knowing that, if I was a NPP advocate, it seems to me that I should try to join an EP church. The concern is on the ethics of holding NPP and trying to join/teach/or be ordained in a church that is confessionally against NPP.

I guess this is an issue for me because of a friend that I know that is struggling with this right now. I also have the baggage of seeing a baptist member try to get a PCA church to be baptist. Even if the baptist was right- it seems unethical to me. I'm just curious is it a simple choice? Ie.. Shouldn't a baptist go to a baptist church, and shouldn't a NPP advocate go to a church that is amiable to the NPP, or at least not confessionally against it?
Is the issue not as black and white as I see it?

It seems to me the idea of the regular layperson having NPP views is at least a gray area for wanting to join a presby church. But it doesn't seem gray to me for those teaching/ seeking ordination.
Your thoughts?

9:40 AM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

On FW Pres., my wife's sister is Stephanie Rohloff (brown hair late 20's) and her husband is Chris. He is a tall, large, bearded guy can't miss him. I shared their info in confidence.
Of course Dustin Salter(TCU-- RUF) was a close classmate, and fellow member of St. Paul's pres. He was never in the Wright brouhaha at RTS that I recall. I ran into him recently at the bookstore at SW seminary. It was nice to catch up and I hope we have a chance to continue talking. He seems to have sectioned off the discussion from his ministry as one he can live without, but I could be wrong. He has been influenced by Pratt however who taught us similar things from the OT which he would follow by saying "If you say it like I just did, I will come to your presbytery and defend you until the end."

10:54 AM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

Like I said I agree with you that your friend would be unhappy and it would be difficult to do reformed/NPP teaching well and ethically. But I do think some people who are committed to inerrancy with Calvinism, infant baptism, and wants theology in an evangelical key might find the PCA to be their best option. For them, I think they might find a number of mental evasions(which I detailed) which are ethically gray at best. I suppose there is a lot of cognitive dissonance going on for them. If the NPP is vindicated they will be seen as heroic, if not then they were wolves' in sheep clothing all along. (This reminds me of what Gen. Curtis Lemay said after WWII. He was in charge of the Army Air Corps that destroyed nearly 50% of every major city in Japan, civilians and all. He said if we won, he'd be a hero. If we had lost, he would have been found a war criminal. So how did he feel as he planned each mission?) Obviously if the NPP is denounced explicitly by General Assembly they must leave or shut up entirely.
I opted for freedom and happiness, but the PCA has such potential as a denomination I sometimes would like to influence it still as well. It's enough for me to influence lay people I know through dialogue. Maybe lay people will lead an uprising, or vote with their feet. If a major Bible church ever gets into the NPP (unlikely I know), well first it would be a reformation for them, but I think they would become a force to be reckoned with. If it didn't prove to be a fad, many PCA churches might find new found "flexibility".

I really truly don't think things are completely settled into black and white categories yet because the NPP, (like charismatic gifts, theonomy, and denial of six day creation did) needs time to play itself out and position itself theologically. An important factor...Wright has tremendous credibility now among evangelicals more broadly for his defense of the historical Jesus and the resurrection that I think many won't want to burn bridges with him. He can get a pass for his views on Paul until obvious and egregious error is involved. He is impressing the pants off most who read or hear him. He is also much more careful than I am here. I think that may be a prudent decision on his part not for book sales but because he loves the church. I love the church too, but with tough love.

You would know PCA politics better than me now, but I am guessing from President Chapell's letter at Covenant Seminary website and elsewhere that he is encouraging students to go slowly in accepting NPP(although he talks of PCA folk already embracing it), but also it seems to go slowly in condemnation. It has its upside and downside according to him. "We'll know it by its fruits" he might say.

11:56 AM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks David. I will not mention anything in regards to your wife's sister and her husband. I am sincerely just wanting the opportunity to extend fellowship/meet them. It's an area of my life that is weak, and I am purposefully trying to improve. What you said in confidence will remain in confidence.

I just know that someone attending a new church or joining a new church, it can be hard to be a new kid on the block. It was especially hard and a time of grieving occured for me leaving a church after 14 years of involvement. I know it can be hard.

On PCA politics- not sure- Chappell is often received by mixed emotions... but rest assured, there are many, myself included who are NPP detectives ready and willing to sniff out any and all sympathies to Wright...
(: I'm having fun here)

Thanks David, enjoyed the conversation.

12:39 PM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage and David,

I have been keeping up with your dialogue in these and other comments and have benefited greatly - you both have added some great dimensions to my thinking on this issue.

My wife and I are actually looking for churches outside of the PCA and OPC (mainly due to the points Gage has brought forth) and moving more into Reformed Episcopal or mainline Protestant of some sort (perhaps a more conservative PCUSA church).

The PCA, unfortunately, is now split - to a certain degree - over the NPP. Albeit, I have no vested interest in the PCA denomination - especially since our exodus from the last PCA church where we were members - along with Gage and his family - which was, to a small degree, more like a group of ex-Baptists trying to be PCA, though we did love that church.

Anyway, time will tell whether the PCA will ultimately embrace the NPP or at least some form of it (i.e. Mike Bird's article is a fairly well balanced article - though I am still reading it and re-reading it to make sure I understand his points very well).

At various conferences (PCA conferences) I have attended where Horton, Ferguson, Sproul, et. al. were speaking, I would hear people ask them very pointed questions about the WCF (I cannot recall the specific questions at this moment, just the end results and how they answered - this was 12 to 15 years ago) and these guys did not answer these people's concerns very well. At that time this caused me to begin to question the WCF and how it was received and viewed within these denominations. Moreover, I saw then and still do today how the WCF is treated as if it is an "unquestionable confessional" document - which in my mind was no different than what I thought was going on in the Catholic Church (at that time in my thinking anyway).

Of course, in these denominations and maybe amongst those who I know well within these denominations, they might perhaps see my move away from the WCF towards the NPP as a denial of the gospel - although that really seems absurd to me.

But that is where I stand at this stage anyway. You both have given me much to think about - and I have kept my views quiet for several years now simply based on the fact that I am tired of debate and controversy (remember I went to SES for nearly 4 years - the "Mecca" of debate and such). It gets old having to defend everything I believe or even research to consider adhering to - unfortunately in the last PCA church I was a member I had to keep quiet about some of the things I was considering or researching - and that should not be the case for me or the denomination - thus our move away from all that.

1:34 PM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd you said,
"maybe amongst those who I know well within these denominations, they might perhaps see my move away from the WCF towards the NPP as a denial of the gospel - although that really seems absurd to me."

Todd- if I am included in those who you "know well with these denominations" let me say this:

First, it would not be a move away from the WCF that would lead me to believe that you deny the gospel. My points of emphasis in the related blogs with David were to say, to deny WCF Ch. 11 means you "aren't presbyterian nor should you be." In my view being presbyterian means something... namely, not being in disagreement with the WCF Ch. 11. I personally don't care if someone disagrees with the confession, my Lutheran friends have issues with it as well. But they are consistent in the fact that they aren't trying to be presbyterian.

Whether or not you are moving away from the gospel is a different issue, and I have blogged ad nauseum on that issue. My question was geared toward the idea that NPP advocates have moved away from being Presbyterian and should not be presbyterian.

What constitutes being presbyterian is the issue for me in my blogs on this subject with David. To me, a NPP advocate (especially a teacher or one seeking ordination) can't be consistently and eithically presbyterian if he denies WCF Ch. 11.

The Book of Church Order may help here.

PCA Book of Church Order- 19-3. Questions for Licensure.

1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scripture?

I'm not sure how an advocate of NPP could answer question two in the affirmative.

The confession is an not an "unquestionable document". I have never heard it taught as such. However, it is just that there has to be consistent adherance to it to be a teacher/ or ordained minister. Even those seeking ordination in the PCA have exceptions or scruples, in certain instances of the Confession. Historically, it's just not accurate to say that it's an "unquestionable document". When the Confession was first adopted in the US- In 1729 the first organized synod of Presbyterians in America, voted to adopt it as their confession and then the majority of the ministers immediately took exceptions on Sabbath Adherence and The Civil Magistrate. But they would never allow an exception of Ch. 11.

Since the adoption of the Confession the Presbyterian Church has always taught that the WCF is a statement of faith-.

I don't see the OPC of being different than the PCA on this issue.

From OPC.org- Officers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church take a vow to "sincerely receive and adopt" these confessional documents "as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures."

Edited with an Introduction by Michael Marlowe
© 1996 by Michael D. Marlowe

"In 1729 the first organized synod of Presbyterians in America, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted the original Westminster Confession, with some reservations, as its official statement of doctrine, requiring every candidate for ordination to disclose any disagreement with the Confession, in which case the Presbytery must refuse him ordination if it finds him to be in disagreement with "essential and necessary articles."

The key here is "essential and necessary articles" I submit justification and imputation are necessary and essential articles, no matter if the NPP says they aren't.

Is the Confession Divisive?
I have to answer yes, in some cases. Where people do not agree with statements of faith in the Confession of Faith, there may well be, and has been, division. But then nothing is more divisive than the Bible itself. Think of the trouble the prophets of the Old Testament got into at times when they faithfully proclaimed the Word of the Lord which came to them. And remember the division Jesus caused when he began to define the truth concerning himself in John 6:66, ‘From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him’. Only twelve left, and one of them an imposter. The living Word had divided them. However, the true believers were united in Christ and his words. See vs.67-69

"A little revolution now and then is a healthy thing, don't you think?" - from Red October- Tom Clancy.

3:46 PM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage states: "First, it would not be a move away from the WCF that would lead me to believe that you deny the gospel. My points of emphasis in the related blogs with David were to say, to deny WCF Ch. 11 means you "aren't presbyterian nor should you be." In my view being presbyterian means something... namely, not being in disagreement with the WCF Ch. 11. I personally don't care if someone disagrees with the confession, my Lutheran friends have issues with it as well. But they are consistent in the fact that they aren't trying to be presbyterian."

I understand what you are saying, Gage, and I agree (but I am sure you would mean an agreement with more than merely ch. 11, would you not?)

Gage states: "The confession is an not an "unquestionable document". I have never heard it taught as such."

True. The PCA/OPC, etc. (and yourself) may not teach the confession as an "unquestionable doctrine" but they (maybe not you) act as if it is (I've witnessed this first hand) . . . in a practical sense it is treated as such. I think that those Presby's who adhere to the WCF do so to have a confession or a set of standards, so to speak, you are correct in saying a structure is needed within the denomination. That's true of any denomination (this is in fact a very Catholic way of thinking).

Gage states:
"Whether or not you are moving away from the gospel is a different issue, and I have blogged ad nauseum on that issue. My question was geared toward the idea that NPP advocates have moved away from being Presbyterian and should not be presbyterian."

I agree, you are not saying anything new here.

Also, no need for the history lesson regarding the PCA Book of Church Order, I agree with your points on that. :-)

Gage states:
"Is the Confession Divisive?
I have to answer yes, in some cases. Where people do not agree with statements of faith in the Confession of Faith, there may well be, and has been, division. But then nothing is more divisive than the Bible itself. Think of the trouble the prophets of the Old Testament got into at times when they faithfully proclaimed the Word of the Lord which came to them. And remember the division Jesus caused when he began to define the truth concerning himself in John 6:66, ‘From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him’. Only twelve left, and one of them an imposter. The living Word had divided them. However, the true believers were united in Christ and his words. See vs.67-69"

No issue with me regarding the WCF being divisive - Federal vision adherents have proven that to be the case, etc. However, your example of John 6:66 has nothing to do with the WFC. Moreover, I am not rejecting the teachings of Jesus, nor am I rejecting the gospel message that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, who lived, dies, and was resurrected, and who also declared that we should repent and embrace the Kingdom of God. That is what Christ taught, I agree and believe.

With reference to your quote from Clancy, love it! Great quote "A little revolution now and then is a healthy thing, don't you think?" That quote really applies to the view of the NPP doesn't it? (chuckles out loud) 8-)

4:16 PM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That's true of any denomination (this is in fact a very Catholic way of thinking)."

Ahhh... I love the ecumenical language here...8-) very NT Wrightish of you.

However, I'm still protesting- hence- I'm still protestant. 8-)

I think you would agree that there has to be a sense of some "necessary and essential" doctrines that are non-negotiable. I just happen to believe that Ch. 11- is one of those "necessary and essential" doctrines for being presbyterian. Thus the need for having a set of standards in a denomination. Todd you said..."I am sure you would mean an agreement with more than merely ch. 11" Yes, I would agree. Ch. 11 is the sticky point for NPP enthusiasts, that's why I used it as an example.

Next- I was not trying to equate John 6 with the WCF- I know it has nothing to do with the WCF, obviously. My point was that sometimes proclomation of truth divides. That's my only point there. Some theologians today, are arguing for a nicer gentler Jesus who caused no divisions- my point was sometimes division is a good thing, ie... John 6.

On the clancy quote- you NPP advocates cannot steal that quote from me 8-). I had it first. I think with the ecumenical leanings of many today- that quote is aptly applied to those who hold to the historic confessions, surely a historic reading of Clancy would support my idea... (Ha!)

In the Album- Rattle and Hum- Bono said in his opening mantra on "Helter Skelter"- "Charles Manson stole this song from the beatles, and we're stealing it back."-
The Clancy quote in this sense is mine! Although I will allow you to enjoy it.... out of Christian charity of course. :()

7:32 AM, March 09, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage states: "that quote [Clancy's] is aptly applied to those who hold to the historic confessions"

Gage, which confessions would those be?

8:53 AM, March 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of those that agree with me.

2:34 PM, March 09, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage that's very telling!


2:43 PM, March 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least I'm honest... and you do understand, that in all things, I like to have fun...

2:54 PM, March 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh I forgot... and I'm just trying to stay in (the covenant)... ():

How am I doin?

2:56 PM, March 09, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

That would depend on which confessions adhere to you (big smile and chuckle over here)


btw - you never answered my question about Steph . . . when is your number two due?

4:35 PM, March 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well- after reading Sanders... I feel pretty good about it...

Steph's due May 20th- with our Son-
John Calvin Thomas Browning- you knew it had to be a name like that didn't you..?

4:54 PM, March 09, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Well, we will continue to pray for a safe and healthy delivery.

He's going to have a cool name ;-)

7:22 PM, March 09, 2006  

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