Bavinck was pro-FV

So maybe I should quit with the provocative titles, but I'm feeling pert this morning.

Well, I'm finally plumbing the depths of my Reformed heritage, about 10 years behind schedule, reading Bavinck's newly translated work pictured here in preparation for a sermon on God's creation and covenant with Adam before the Fall. Bavinck wrote 100 years ago as professor at the Free University in Amsterdam. He followed Abraham Kuyper both in that position and theologically, as a rigorously orthodox Calvinist scholar.

If you don't know what FV means, go here for a short summary, which also relates to Adam, grace, baptism, communion, our children, and more.

FV-related Bavinck quotes follow:

"A creature cannot bring along or possess any rights before God....
There is no such thing as merit in the existence of a creature before God....
This is true after the fall but no less before the fall. Then too, human beings were creatures, without entitlements, without rights, without merit. When we have done everything we have been instructed to do, we are still unworthy servants (Luke 17:10)....
Human beings can nevertheless... assert certain rights before God... because God in his condescending goodness gives rights to his creature. Every creaturely right is a given benefit, a gift of grace, undeserved and onobligatory. All reward from the side of God originates in grace; no merit, either of condignity or of congruity, is possible. True religion, accordingly, cannot be anything other than a covenant: it has its origin in the condescending goodness and grace of God. It has that character before as well as after the fall."

Pg 570


Good quotes

From a recent issue of St. Anne's Public House...

"Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power."
P.J. O'Rourke

"I love to go to Washington, if only to be near my money."
Bob Hope

"When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That's relativity."
Albert Einstein

"Back of this this wine is the vintner. And back through the years, his skill. And back of it all are the vine and the sun and the rain and the Master's will."
Sign in a California winery

"Instead of giving money to found colleges to promote learning, why don't they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as the prohibition one did, why in five years we would have the smartest race of people on earth."
Will Rogers

"Prohibition is better than no liquor at all."
Will Rogers


The Nazirite Vow - Numbers 6

The Hebrew /nazir/ means "to separate oneself," and is the origin of the term - Nazirite vow.

The idea is a self-imposed temporary time of higher consecration to God for sanctification, by abstaining from wine (worldly pleasure), cutting hair (worldly adornment) and touching the dead, which makes one unclean. Paul apparently practiced this - see Acts 18:18 and 21:21-26. Samson was a Nazirite his whole life, but did not live it, killing a lion with his bare hands and eating from the honey in its corpse, and giving away the secret of his strength - long, never-cut hair. Samuel (1 Sam 1:11) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) also were made Nazirites from birth, or at least had elements of the vow upon them.

The Nazirite was an ascetic, but not a monk, being fully active in society. There are similarities to being a priest, who were also set apart to the Lord and could not drink wine in the temple. The high priest couldn't touch any dead body and his headdress was significant.

The growth of hair marks time, and was considered a symbol of one's vitality, so cutting it all off was a way to devote a set time of your life to God. This appears to have been a cultural practice, which God regulates and ties to the tabernacle.

In application, private pietistic activity ought to be linked with the public worship of God among His people as led by His representative (in OT, the priest). It is wise to consult and advise your pastor when "going beyond" regular prayer and fasting. Make known how God is at work in your life so we can all benefit, or so you can be guided or corrected.


Communion done right

This book started out in the dumps, but improved as I went. First the good, on sacraments:

"One cannot treat the Lord's Supper in an individualistic manner, but only as a covenant meal" (159)

Quoting Martin Bucer: "It should be possible for the deacons to conduct their work of providing for the poor in the congregation from this [Communion] collection alone. And this ideal would become reality if the festive character of the Lord's Supper came to full expression in our services" (160). This, by the way, is why the offering should be linked to Communion.

"In [pietism's] obession with the individual's inner piety, it loses much of the import of the feast as a sacred meal that actually binds us to Christ and to each other" (160).

"We need to make clear to our congregations that they cannot excommunicate themselves.... If members are not being disciplined by the church, they are worthy communicants. Paul's warning simply cannot be read as placing the choice of communing in the hands of individuals, who must then determine whether their faith and repentance are equal to the task" (161-2).

Then the bad.
Horton in his zeal to distinguish draws lines that are way too dark. Working from extra-Biblical practices of ancient international treaties, which could be problematic already, he discerns two kinds of covenant - law and promise - and identifies the various covenants in Scripture as one or the other. Adam and Sinai are law-based, conditional, depending upon our work. Abraham, David, Christ, these covenants are promise-based, unconditional, depending on God's work.

I think it is better to see a spectrum of emphasis here, rather than "either law or promise," reading the Galatians 4 dichotomy into all of covenantal history. This is a typically Lutheran view, which sees the law in far too poor a light, reading justification by faith alone, apart from law, into every subject of theology and passage of Scriptural interpretation, and generally casting aspersion upon the law. This view also dissects Scripture into either a text of law or gospel.

Better to view Scripture as both, depending on the spiritual state of the hearer. There was Gospel even in the curse that brought the Fall upon all mankind.

Better to note the mixture within each covenant, while acknowledging Horton's real distinction of emphasis on law or promise.
Adam had to believe God and His Word in order to obey the command in the Garden.
Abraham had to go to the promised land and put Isaac on the altar, by faith.
Israel had to believe God in order to obey. While Horton says the law cannot give life at the end of the book, that law says "these words are your life." Horton says the individual Israelite was in the covenant of grace - mercy shown via sacrificial system - but that national Israel was in the land on condition of obedience. Once they reached a certain level of disobedience, they were booted. Okay, but this seems a strange way to divvy things up...


The real foundation of politics

"The rights of the individual are not the touchstone of morality. God's law is the foundation of righteousness, and not a set of abstractions bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, God's law does protect the individual, explicitly, repeatedly, and clearly. The basics of this law can be communicated easily in the nursery, as children are taught to share, to respect the decisions of others, and so on, and these basics are the easiest part of the law for anyone to see. Even nonbelievers can see what C.S. Lewis called the Tao."

Douglas Wilson


Good books

I'm on a book-reading blitz, as our church is putting a book table together. Maybe I'll blog our selection when all's said and done. For now, this one looks promising...

Work, rest, and worship

This is one part of a conversation with a guy uncomfortable with ministers feeling like they are working on Sunday, when we have entered into rest in Christ.

Jesus said the priests profane the Sabbath in their service, that their work violates the 4th commandment, but that they are exempt (Matthew 12).

I agree there is development from OT to NT from work to rest. But I don't think it is legit to make this absolute. It is a change of emphasis only. We have not fully entered Christ's rest in the "already/not yet" sense. Also, it implies that the OT believers had to work for their salvation while we can rest in Christ. Careful. Solomon had rest on every side, but for the faithful, war will not cease until Christ returns.

But something about this still bothers me. When the kingdom is fulfilled, will there not still be work that is service to one another? I don't like trying to get away from that. Work is not part of the curse.

If you're saying there will then be no need for works of necessity on the Sabbath, that may be a different point. In the Consummation, we will all be served by God in worship - no need for anyone else to work, profaning the Sabbath? If so, I'd say that we have a foretaste of that now, but not the whole thing. Much like we have a foretaste of the wedding feast in Communion, but not the full reality. We are not yet at the end of redemptive history - there is more glory yet to be revealed.


The Church the Family Needs

"A family can't stand alone in a morally degraded and hostile environment. So God in His perfect wisdom has given us a community of families - the local Church - to help keep us pure from cultural defilement. The local church is perfectly designed to protect, support and teach each Christian family. Therefore Christian families need the local church. They need sound Biblical teaching. They need to be shown God's wonderful design for the Christian home. They need to see good models of fatherhood and motherhood. They need to be under the disciplinary authority of the church" (136).

The Church the World Needs

"The glory of the Gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first" (135).

Creative Obedience

"A spiritually alive church is always marked by fresh creativity in evangelism, worship, music, discipleship, and expressions of love. Yet many churches slowly strangle their spiritual vitality because they will not change their outmoded traditions and comfortable ways. Of course, divine, biblical principles should not be changed in order to be culturally acceptable" (106).


Covenant reading

I read this booklet/essay this past week. Very good. Murray's main point is to steer clear of viewing God's covenant of grace with man in Christ as a compact or contract of mutual agreement. He assumes (doesn't argue for the assumption enough) that viewing the covenant as a contract erodes God's sovereignty in initiating and establishing covenant with man. God has the right to create a covenant with His creation on His own terms, without consulting us or getting us to sign a contract first. He goes through the various covenants in Scripture - with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses/Israel, David, showing how God acts unilaterally to establish these covenants. An example, speaking of the covenant at Sinai: "the covenant is not to be regarded as contingent upon the promise of the people, so that the dispensing of the covenant had to wait for this promise.... The covenant had already been established and the blood was simply the confirmation or seal of the covenant established.... th Mosaic covenant also is a sovereign administration of grace, divinely initiated, established, confirmed, and fulfilled" (22).

This does not mean we don't do anything. "The reciprocal response of faith and obedience arises from the nature of the relationship which the covenant contemplates" (18-19). But these are not conditions of the covenant per se, but conditions of remaining in the covenant: "continued enjoyment of this grace and of the relation established is contingent upon the fulfilment of certain conditions.... Keeping the covenant presupposes the covenant relation as established rather than the condition upon which its establishment is contingent" (19).

He is also careful to point out that the central purpose of covenant:
"The spiritual relationship which lay at the centre of the covenant [of] grace disclosed in both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants reaches its ripest fruition in the new covenant.... covenant is not only bestowment of grace, not only oath-bound promise, but also relationship with God in that which is the crown and goal of the whole process of religion, namely, union and communion with God" (28, 31).

It's this kind of crazy talk (speaking with tongue in cheek) that has led to the Federal Vision. But that's for another day.


Let the Little Children Come to Me

Baby Pew Sitters
Christopher D. Hall on the Disservice of Children’s Church

"I understand the concept of “children’s church.” I sat in pews with small children before I was ordained. I know the constant juggling of Cheerios and crayons, the winces as plastic toys hit the tile floor, the random shrieks of babies, and the “whisper” of toddlers that carries halfway to the pulpit.

I’ve said prayers like this: “Our Father who art in . . . ssshh! Put that down . . . thy kingdom come, thy will . . . no, don’t color on that . . . Give us this day . . . ssshh! I said. . . .” It would be nice to have an hour of quiet, an hour of worship, an hour of attentiveness knowing that my children are hearing about our God and Savior.

Children’s church seeks to reach children at a level cognitively and emotionally appropriate to their age, all the while allowing parents to be attentive to worship, but it does a disservice to the children, disconnecting them from the church gathered as the complete Body of Christ, sacramentally present, serving the Body of Christ with our Lord himself. It does a disservice to adults, too, subtly giving them the impression that church is like the evening news or a PG-rated musical: adult fare that requires some maturity."

Go here for more.


Sermons online

Several recent sermons of mine are now online here. I've forgotten the recorder the last few Sundays, though, so we're not up to date...