Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Building the Church - Charles H. Spurgeon's

I want you to notice this, that they were breaking bread from house to house, and ate their food with gladness and singleness of heart. They did not think that religion was meant only for Sundays, and for what men now-a-days call the House of God. Their own houses were houses of God, and their own meals were so mixed and mingled with the Lord's Supper that to this day the most cautious student of the Bible cannot tell when they stopped eating their common meals, and when they began eating the Supper of the Lord. They elevated their meals into diets for worship: they so consecrated everything with prayer and praise that all around them was holiness to the Lord. I wish our houses were, in this way, dedicated to the Lord, so that we worshipped God all day long, and made our homes temples for the living God...

Does God need a house? He who made the heavens and the earth, does he dwell in temples made with hands? What crass ignorance this is! No house beneath the sky is more holy than the place where a Christian lives, and eats, and drinks, and sleeps, and praises the Lord in all that he does, and there is no worship more heavenly than that which is presented by holy families, devoted to the fear of the Lord.

To sacrifice home worship to public worship is a most evil course of action. Morning and evening devotion in a little home is infinitely more pleasing in the sight of God than all the cathedral pomp which delights the carnal eye and ear. Every truly Christian household is a church, and as such it is competent for the discharge of any function of divine worship, whatever it may be. Are we not all priests? Why do we need to call in others to make devotion a performance? Let every man be a priest in his own house. Are you not all kings if you love the Lord? Then make your houses palaces of joy and temples of holiness. One reason why the early church had such a blessing was because her members had such homes. When we are like them we will have “added to the church those who were being saved.” - Charles H. Spurgeon

found on The Assembly of the Church. According to Alan's post this is from a sermon entitled "Building the Church" (or "Additions to the Church") concerning Acts 2 which Spurgeon gave on April 5, 1874.

Is this the picture of your house?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Divisions ...

I am currently reading a book on the Italian reformation: Firpo, Massimo. Riforma Protestante ed Eresie nell'Italia del Cinquecento. San Donato Milanese: Editori Laterza, 1993. In the last chapter, the author focuses on Anabaptist movements in Italy. There was a close tie between these movements and the Moravian church, and therefore the author spends some time quoting texts from the 1500s about the Moravian church. From the comments made, it would seem that the Moravian church was quite the sight. See for yourself (all translations are mine):

The Anabaptist Giuglio Gherlandi in October of 1561, a year before his capital sentence was executed in a Venetian prison, stated: "I have tried to find a people who were freed, by the gospel of truth, from servitude to sin, and who would walk in new life and heavenly regeneration by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and who were empowered by God, through the Holy Spirit, to resist sin [...], this people are his holy church, immaculate, separate from sinners, without a wrinkle or spot or any such thing; that, which like at the time of the apostles Peter and Paul was in Jerusalem, now is in the country of Moravia."

In the small village of Cinto, people stated about the Moravian Church, that in those faraway lands "are certain Churches [...] that govern themselves with great charity and great love, and in those places all are allowed to live according to Christ and to hold to whatever opinion one has and likes without fear, and the ones who are in some need are always helped by their brothers."
But, even with such accolades, the Moravian church was plagued with an issue: division. So much so as to make the Venetian artisan Marcantonio Varotta doubt the veracity of the Moravian movement.

"I left Moravia," he would tell to the inquisitor in Udine in January of 1567, "because while I was there, for about two months, I saw many faiths and many sects, one against the other, one condemning the other, all producing catechisms, where all wanted to be ministers, and some pulled this way and some pulled that way, and all wanted to be the true church. In a single small place called Austerlitz, there were thirteen or fourteen varieties of faiths and sects. So, I started to consider the fact that these heresies could be false and that the faith of the Roman church could be true."

Unfortunately, divisions still plague the church today. Some are due to preferences; some are due to differing philosophies of ministry; some are due to theological issues; some are socially acceptable, some are not. It would seem that for Varotta (and for many throughout the centuries) divisions are not a good witness of Christ's redeeming work in His children's lives. I am not suggesting that there is nothing important enough to divide over. I am not inciting us to do away with denominations. What I am asking is that, as believers in Jesus Christ, for the sake of His Kingdom, we learn from each other and love each other, even when we do not see eye to eye on everything. Basically, my prayer is that we strive to portray to the world the (single) body of Christ. Our unity amidst diversity is something that only Christ can do. That is part of our witness to the world that Christ has transformed us.

"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." - John 13:35 (NKJV)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Wrapping up with two more historical views)

To finish the historical analysis, I would like to look at two more instances: the 1689 Baptist Confession and a recent book on the topic.
Looking at the 1689 Baptist Confession, we see again that like Calvin and Aquinas, the authors of the confession related ceremonial laws with moral duties when they stated: "ceremonial laws [which] ... also gave instructions about various moral duties."[1] But, basing themselves most probably on the thoughts of Calvin, they also used these created categories. Since this is a confession of faith, as stated above, we should not expect to have a defense of the tripartite division of the law; instead we have Scripture references listed in support of their statement. In support of the ceremonial law, the following Scriptures are cited: Heb 10:1, Col 2:16-7, Eph 2:14-6. Yet again, the understanding of these Scripture hinges on the use of the terms for the law. As mentioned before by Moo and Hoehner, there is little to no indication that these are referring only to ceremonial laws, and therefore are deemed not to be sustentative proof for a tripartite division of such laws.
When reading modern theologians of the reform variety, the tripartite division of the law is also often assumed and rarely explained. In his presentation of the reformed perspective in the Five Views on Law and Gospel book, VanGemeren assumes the traditional tripartite division of the law when he states: “The laws of the Old Testament have also been commonly categorized as moral, ceremonial, and civil. Each one of the Ten Commandments expresses the moral law of God, whereas most laws in the Pentateuch regulate the rituals and ceremonies (ceremonial laws) and the civil life of Israel as a nation (civil laws)."[2] What VanGemeren fails to do, is to defend his view Biblically. Instead, he points to Calvin and the Westminster Confession, who themselves had accepted the tripartite view from earlier sources. This deserved Moo's criticism that VanGemeren assumed his tripartite position "without arguing the case. [Even though] this distinction, vital to his whole argument, is nowhere clearly stated in the Bible."[3]
In the next post I will start looking at generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption. In the meantime, do you know of anybody else who tries to defend the tripartite division of the law?

In this series:
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Introduction)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Historical Overview)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Analyzing Aquinas' arguments)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Analyzing Calvins' arguments)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Wrapping up with two more historical views)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Entertain generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Some final thoughts)

[1] Samuel E.Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 3rd ed. (Webster: Evangelical Press, 1999), 232-3.
[2] Greg L.Bahnsen et al., Five Views on Law and Gospels (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 30.
[3] Ibid., 85. To be fair to VanGemeren, it seems very common for modern reformed theologians to rely on the formulations of Calvin and the Westminster Confession.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Analyzing Calvins' arguments)

As for Calvin, he stated that he gathered his tripartite view of the law from the "ancients who adopted this division, though they were not unaware that the two latter classes [judicial and ceremonial laws] had to do with morals."[1] Therefore, like Aquinas, Calvin admitted that the laws which he called ceremonial and judicial had to do with morals, even so he, like Aquinas, adopted, defined, and used different categories for them. Unlike Aquinas, who tried to justify his reasoning through logic and some Scriptural exegesis, Calvin seemed to have relied on the wisdom of the ancients. It is of interest to note that Calvin did not say that the ancients justified this tripartite division of the law with solid Biblical arguments, but only that they "did not give them the name of moral, because they might be changed and abrogated without affecting morals."[2] It is almost as if he assumed that the motivation of the ancients was derived by a need to fit their purpose, instead of being derived by the clear teaching of Scripture. Since this abrogation pattern is clear in Aquinas, could it be that Calvin suggested that this tension between the Decalogue's not being changed and the changing work of Christ was the motivation for Aquinas' arguments trying to justify a tripartite law? Possibly, but we have no proof of it.
In Calvin's theology, the law ultimately was divided as follows:
The moral law, ... is the true and eternal rule of righteousness prescribed to the men of all nations and of all times, who would frame their life agreeably to the will of God. ... The ceremonial law of the Jews was a tutelage by which the Lord was pleased to exercise, as it were, the childhood of that people, until the fullness of the time should come when he was fully to manifest his wisdom to the world, and exhibit the reality of those things which were then adumbrated by figures (Gal. 3:24; 4:4). The judicial law, given them as a kind of polity, delivered certain forms of equity and justice, by which they might live together innocently and quietly. And as that exercise in ceremonies properly pertained to the doctrine of piety, inasmuch as it kept the Jewish Church in the worship and religion of God, yet was still distinguishable from piety itself, so the judicial form, though it looked only to the best method of preserving that charity which is enjoined by the eternal law of God, was still something distinct from the precept of love itself. Therefore, as ceremonies might be abrogated without at all interfering with piety, so, also, when these judicial arrangements are removed, the duties and precepts of charity can still remain perpetual."[3]
Therefore the moral law found in the Decalogue is timeless, but the ceremonial law and the judicial law are not. In this description, Calvin quotes Gal 3:24 as a supporting Scripture for his treatment of the ceremonial law. This passage, which in the letter to the Galatians comes at the end of a section on the purpose of the law, states: "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal 3:24 NKJV). It is hard to envision that this passage, written to a predominantly gentile church, was referring only to the Jewish nation, as Calvin would have it seem.[4] Also, the context of the passage does not seem to allow for a purely ceremonial understanding of "the law," but to a more holistic understanding of the law. Therefore it is hard to agree with Calvin's definition of the ceremonial law based on this passage. As a matter of fact, if this passage is read in light of verse 25, where Paul writes: "But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Gal 3:25 NKJV), one could understand this section of Scripture as arguing for a view where we are no longer under a tutor for the "whole" law, and therefore one does not need to hold to a tripartite division of the law.
In the next post, I will look at some more modern uses of the tripartite law, and their justification, or lack there of, for using it. In the meantime, if you are better acquainted with Calvin and his writings, do you know of anywhere else where Calvin does a better job of defending the tripartite division of the law?

[1] Calvin Institutes 4.20.14.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., 4.20.15 (emphasis mine).
[4] In all fairness, one must at least consider the possibility that Paul here could have been using the term "we" to refer to his Jewish heritage rather than to him and his audience. While this interpretation would be more in line with Calvin's thought, it does not seem to square with the general sense of the passage and the specific use of "all" in verse 22.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Today's Medical Industry

I recently had to have outpatient surgery for a tonsillectomy. This is what I woke up with!

At first, I thought that this was an indictment on our medical community. You know, one of those cases where you go in for a simple tonsillectomy and instead the surgeon made a mistake and performed plastic surgery to turn my "hobbit feet" into beautiful feminine feet.

But, I had to stand corrected since my throat was hurting and all: obviously they had taken away my tonsils. It is then that I realized that in today's economy, private clinics are looking for that edge, which will get them customers. I was not aware of it, but apparently the clinic I went to, was having a special: cut out your tonsils and while you are under anesthesia, you get a free pedicure.

Actually, this is the handy work of Brandi M., my good friend and surgical technician on my case, who thought it would be funny to have her co-worker paint my toes while I was under. I'll get you back, Brandi ... I'm not sure how yet, but I'll get you back!

Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Analyzing Aquinas' arguments)

The question that now begs to be answered is: are the arguments given in favor of a tripartite law acceptable, after all, the mere fact that many have accepted this division as a fact since the Middle Ages does not justify its acceptance. Therefore, to understand if it is appropriate to divide the law into three parts, I will analyze the arguments offered by the proponents of such a perspective, starting with Aquinas.

In his six article approach to "Of the Precept of the Old Law" (Q99), Aquinas started by defending that the law is made up of many precepts and not of only one precept. He did so by pointing to the plural "ordinances" used by Paul in Eph 2:15 when he wrote about the law of commandments.[1] This point is well presented and defended. The only comment that can be made about this point is that he could be accused of using Eph 2:15 selectively to prove his point of multiple precepts while ignoring the implications of Eph 2:15 when it comes to the wholeness of the law. While the author would agree with Aquinas, that Scripture here refers to "ordinances" plural, the author would also agree with Hoehner, in his commentary on the book of Ephesians, when he points out that the "term o nomo" must refer to the whole Mosaic law and not just the ceremonial law as some suggest," and as such, he argues that "it is a false dichotomy to distinguish between the moral and ceremonial laws, making only the ceremonial laws inoperative."[2]
Aquinas then proceeded to point to the Decalogue to support his claim that the Old Law contains some moral precepts because moral precepts are necessary to make man become good, so that he can be in friendship with God who is supremely good. He thus argued that "it was necessary for the Old Law to include precepts about acts of virtue: and these are the moral precepts of the Law." [3] As we saw in the previous post, some disagree with Aquinas about the statement that the Old Law contains only "some" moral precepts, but with that exception, one cannot fault his position just yet. Some discomfort is felt by the modern evangelical when Aquinas augmented his argument with a philosophical argument for the need of moral principles in the Old Law. To do so, he used the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus[4] to maintain that God cannot have a friendship with man "unless man become good."[5] This latter argument can be seen as unnecessary, and its use of apocryphal literature makes it more suspicious to the modern evangelical. But, if one ignores this part of the argument, the claim that the Old Law contains moral precepts is a valid one.
Aquinas continued by seeking to prove that there are precepts which are not moral, but ceremonial. He did so by looking at Deut 4:13, 14, where Moses stated that God declared to Israel His covenant, that is the Ten Commandments, and that the LORD commanded Moses to teach the Israelites statutes and judgments, that they were to observe. Aquinas is translated here as using the phraseology "ceremonies and judgments," instead of the NKJV's terminology, "statutes and judgments," and this is where he seems to get the term ceremonial law.[6] The Hebrew term used here is qx, which BDAG defines as "something prescribed, a statute or due," or as an "enactment, decree, ordinance," or a "law in general."[7] This same term is used in the next chapter of Deuteronomy when the Decalogue is introduced with: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. ... You shall have no other gods before Me ...." (Deut 5:1-7, NKJV, emphasis mine). Therefore Aquinas' insistence on the use of qx as meaning ceremonies[8] is deemed not to be well founded since the Decalogue (the commands associated with the moral law according to Aquinas) are introduced with the same term that Aquinas wants to use to identify ceremonial laws. Frame, a proponent of the tripartite law, further furnishes a critique of Aquinas' use of the ceremonial term when he writes,
It is misleading to define "ceremonial" etymologically as "laws pertaining to ceremonies." Many of the laws commonly grouped under the "ceremonial" category, such as dietary laws [and] clothing laws, have nothing to do with "ceremonies." And some laws having to do with ceremonies, such as the "regulative principle" and other doctrines concerning public worship, are commonly described as moral rather than ceremonial laws.[9]
It would therefore seem that Aquinas' argument for the presence of ceremonial decrees is invalid on many fronts. In addition to this, when Aquinas replied to the objection[10] that "human actions are called moral, ... therefore it seems that the Old Law given to men should not comprise other than moral precepts," he simply answered that "human acts extend also to the Divine worship: and therefore the Old Law given to man contains precepts about these matters also."[11] This is circular reasoning; instead of defending his statement that Divine worship is not a moral concept, he arbitrarily put it in a different category and then used its being in that category to justify the existence of that category. In this same section, Aquinas admitted in the reply to another objection that "to worship God, since it is an act of virtue, belongs to a moral precept," but he then differentiated the worship of God from the precepts prescribing the worship of God, which are in themselves not moral, but ceremonial.[12] Here again, Aquinas seemed to change categories without substantial justification. He conveniently created a new category, but did not justify its existence.
Aquinas next proceeded to argue for judicial precepts by looking at Deut 6:1. Here he interpreted the words commandment, statutes, and judgments as referring to moral, ceremonial, and judicial law.[13] This is the same terminology used in Deut 4 and Deut 5 (as seen above) and Aquinas here used a similar weak reasoning with judicial precepts as he used above with moral precepts: he again conveniently created a new category, but did not justify its existence. In addition, he augmented his argument by pointing to Rom 7:12, "therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good," as additional substantiation of his tri-partition. Here he related "just" with the judicial precepts, "holy" with the ceremonial precepts, and "good" with the moral precepts.[14] Moo, in his commentary on Romans, does not allow for such an interpretation, for he says that "Paul brings together as essentially parallel terms 'law' and 'commandment'; both referring to the Mosaic law, the former as a body, the latter in terms of specific commandments that Paul has cited in v. 7 as representative of the whole."[15] If Moo is correct, then the term "holy," associated with the entire law in the first part of the verse, cannot in the next breath refer only to ceremonial laws, as Aquinas purported it does. Here again, Aquinas admitted that the "act of justice, in general, belongs to the moral precepts," but then, in a similar manner as with ceremonial precepts, he differentiated between the determination of the acts and the acts themselves, concluding that the determination of the acts belongs to the category of judicial precepts.[16] Just as with ceremonial acts, it must be stated that this change of category is not substantiated. Ultimately, it is very interesting that Aquinas himself agreed that the ceremonial and judicial precepts have their basis in the moral law, and yet he worked very hard to separate them into different categories from the moral law.
Aquinas finished his defense of the tripartite law with his fifth article, in which he investigated the possibility of the presence of a fourth division of the law. His arguments against a fourth division are similar to the ones made above and do not add much to the discussion of this blog series. Some more discussion is found in questions 100-108 of the Summa. In these questions, Aquinas continued to develop his ideas about the tripartite law and specifically postulates arguments on the duration of each kind of precept. Aquinas believed that "the precepts of the Decalogue cannot be changed by dispensation,"[17] and yet he also believed that when Christ came, a change had to have happened in the law for, according to Aquinas: the New Testament law is different from the Old Testament law;[18] "the judicial precepts are no longer in force";[19] and that "the Old Law is said to be 'for ever' simply and absolutely, as regards its moral precepts; but as regards the ceremonial precepts it lasts for ever in respect of the reality which those ceremonies foreshadowed."[20]
In the next post, I will look at Calvin and his defense of a tripartite law. In the meantime, what do y'all think. Are Aquinas' arguments valid? Am I being too severe with him? Did I miss something?

[1] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A1.
[2] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians - An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 375-6.
[3] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A2.
[4] Aquinas referred to Ecclesiasticus almost 250 times in his Summa, often using the introduction "it is written."
[5] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A2.
[6] Ibid., FS.Q99.A3.
[7] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brow-Drivers-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 349. The author takes this occasion to point out that he is not a Hebrew scholar, and therefore some of the nuances of the language might have escaped him as he makes arguments based on the Hebrew text.
[8] It should be noted that the insistence on the word ceremonial which transpires in the English translation, might, or might not be as strong in the original Latin, but no matter what term was used in the original, it is hoped that the translators represented Aquinas' ideas correctly, as it is with these ideas that the author is interacting.
[9] John M. Frame, "Toward a Theology of the State," Westminster Theological Journal 51 no 2 (Fall 1989): 204n.
[10] The format of the Summa starts with a series of objections to his article, followed by the defense of his article and answers to the objections aforementioned.
[11] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A3.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid., FS.Q99.A4.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 440.
[16] Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A4.
[17] Ibid., FS.Q100.A8.
[18] Ibid., FS.Q107.A1.
[19] Ibid., FS.Q104.A3.
[20] Ibid., FS.Q103.A3.

Great sandals ...

During the summer, I like to wear sandals with my shorts. I tend to be rough on clothes, and my last pair of sandals needed to be replaced. So, my wife convinced me to buy a pair of Keen Newport Sandals, even though I thought that they were UGLY, and still do, but I went along with her and agreed to buy them and try them. At first, they felt tight, but after a day or two of walking in Paris, they formed to my foot and became quite comfortable (BTW - after you machine wash them, they get tight again). To be honest, though, I really was not 100% sold on them until we took a 4 1/2 hour hike in the French Alps, going from an altitude of about 4300 ft to an altitude of about 6600 ft. They did great! They were very comfortable; they had a very good grip on/in: trails, rocks, icy-cold streams, grass, wet grass, and even snow; ... I really have no complaints.

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