Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Subtlety of Modernity

Evangelicals are antimodern only across a narrow front; I write from a position that is antimodern across the entire front.  It is only where assumptions in culture directly and obviously contradict articles of faith that most evangelicals become aroused and rise up to battle "secular humanism"; aside from these specific matters, they tend to view culture as neutral and harmless.  More than that, they often view culture as a partner amenable to being coopted in the cause of celebrating Christian truth.  I cannot share that naivete; indeed, I consider it dangerous.  Culture is laden with values, many of which work to rearrange the substance of faith, even when they are mediated to us through the benefits that the modern world also bestows upon us.  Technology is a case in point.  While it has greatly enhanced many of our capabilities and spread its largess across the entirety of our life, it also brings with it an almost inevitable naturalism and an ethic that equates what is efficient with what is good.  Technology per se does not assault the gospel, but a
technological society will find the gospel irrelevant.  What can be said of technology can also be said of many other facets of culture that are similarly laden with values.  It is the failure to see this and to see how, in consequence, evangelical faith is being transformed that is now greatly straining its connections to historic Protestant orthodoxy.  It is precisely because I reject belief in the modern world that I am able to believe in the truth that this orthodoxy seeks to preserve.  It is because many evangelicals believe in the innocence of modern culture and for that reason exploit it and are exploited by it that they are unable to believe in all of the truth that once characterized this Protestant orthodoxy.  In the current typology, evangelicals are typically moderns in their orientation; this book is insistently antimodern.

--David Wells, No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, p. 11
This book was written in 1993.  But, over 20 years later, it reads as though it were written today.

Friday, January 09, 2015

God So Loved the Elect?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

[John Owen] conceives a hyponymous relation between world and elect here (i.e. world includes 'elect' as a subset).  This is not possible in John where the elect are defined against the world -- they are those given to Jesus by the Father "out of the world" [17:6], that is, 'elect' is a concept in John which is in opposition to 'world', defined over against it.  Owen's substitution would lead 3:16 to read "God so loved those He chose out of the world", which alters the sense of the verse significantly, in effect denying what the verse affirms, a love of the world.  World is a description of a qualitative state of rebellion against God, which does not have reference to anyone's relation to the decree of God, the latter being manifested in John by coming to Jesus, listening to His voice, believing in Him.  But when an individual does that he is, as stated above, no longer "of the world".  To make the 'world' the 'elect', even to view it as a mixture of elect and reprobate [i.e. in terms either of eternity or potentiality], is to commit a category confusion in Johannine theology, and one not without effects, not least being the complete loss of connotative meaning.  As [D.A.] Carson notes, to say that God loves only the elect and hates the rest, which is the motivation for making 'world' here equal 'elect', "would destroy the evangelistic thrust and the emotive incentive to belief based on God's love for the 'world', a love which sent the Son of God on His saving mission and robs the 'world' of excuse."

--Neil Chambers, A Critical Examination Of John Owen's Argument For Limited Atonement In "The Death of Death In The Death of Christ.", p.152-153

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Why There Must Be Duality within Humanity

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 
Genesis 2:18
The reason why the solitary existence of the man is not good is not because it forces the man to endure isolation and loneliness nor because he must face the challenges of life without human assistance--sentimental readings like these find little basis in the text--but because he has been endowed with the divine image and hence with the capacity to empty himself sacrificially into another.  Such an endowment cannot be enjoyed unless there is at least one other person.  For there to be an exchange of self-giving love, there must be duality within humanity.  As a lone human, Adam cannot manifest the divine image.

--Tim Savage, No Ordinary Marriage: Together for God's Glory, p.34-35 (emphasis added)
Biblical theology at its finest.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Only the Christian Knows This

The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it does not know that man is destroyed only by his
sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as quoted by David Powlison in The Pastor as Counselor