Thursday, December 30, 2010

Some notes on Jesus' baptism


Against the backdrop of John’s baptism for repentance, it does seem so strange that he should have asked Jesus why He should be baptized by him. I can recall from years ago having been asked why Jesus’ baptism was “the fitting way for [John and Jesus] to fulfill all righteousness,” and unfortunately, my answer was superficial. By wishing little more than to defend the truth that Jesus had nothing of which to repent, I gave what I believed was an answer which sufficiently defended that and in so doing no doubt left the questioner with a feeling of something to be desired. This post and ones which may follow it are products recent study on the subject of baptism and attempt to rectify that deficient answer as well as serve as an indication, for future reference, that baptism is inseparable from [biblical] history.

Comments by Kline

Christ’s baptism is one of those topics in which the problem is too much rather than too little information – to see the significance of Christ’s baptism requires not only a knowledge of redemptive history but also insight as to the way in which it is interwoven. In essence, the problem is knowing where to begin. As much as I dislike quoting authors, since I would rather show that I understand the content of their works by using my own words, in this case, I think I must make an exception. Therefore, I begin by citing Meredith Kline’s By Oath Consigned (pgs. 58-62), wherein he very ably strings together some observations regarding Christ’s baptism and covenant judgment worth mentioning:

//…As covenant Servant, Jesus submitted in symbol to the judgment of the God of the covenant in the waters of baptism. But for Jesus, as the Lamb of God, to submit to the symbol of judgment was to offer himself up to the curse of the covenant. By his baptism Jesus was consecrating himself unto his sacrificial death in the judicial ordeal of the cross. Such an understanding of his baptism is reflected in Jesus’ own reference to his coming passion as a baptism: “I have a baptism to be baptized with” (Lk. 12:50; cf. Mk. 10:38). Jesus’ symbolic baptism unto judgment appropriately concluded with a divine verdict, the verdict of justification expressed by the heavenly voice and sealed by the Spirit’s anointing, Messiah’s earnest of the kingdom inheritance (Matt. 3:16, 17; Mk. 1:10, 11; Lk. 3:22; cf. Jn. 1:32, 33; Ps. 2:7f.). This verdict of sonship was contested by Satan, and that led to the ordeal by combat between Jesus and Satan, beginning with the wilderness temptation immediately after Jesus’ baptism and culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection-vindication of the victorious Christ, the prelude to his reception of all the kingdoms of the world (the issue under dispute in the ordeal; cf. esp. Matt. 4:8ff.; Lk. 4:5ff.).

Further background for Jesus’ conceptualizing of his sufferings as a water ordeal (and at the same time an additional antecedent for John’s introduction of a water rite symbolic of judicial ordeal) is found in those supplicatory Psalms in which the righteous servant pleads for deliverance from overwhelming waters. Of particular interest is Psalm 69, from which the New Testament draws so deeply in its explication of the judicial sufferings of Christ: “I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.... Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up” (vv. 2b, iSa; cf. vv. 1, 2a, 14)... The suppliant Jonah found it possible to make literal use of this terminology of water ordeal in his appeal from the depths, and Jesus saw in Jonah’s trial by water the sign of his own judgment ordeal in the heart of the earth (Jon. 2:2ff. [1ff.]; Matt. 12:39, 40)…

Conclusions: John the Baptist was sent as a messenger of the Old Covenant to its final generation. His concern was not to prepare the world at large for the coming of Christ but to summon Israel unto the Lord to whom they had sworn allegiance at Sinai, ere his wrath broke upon them and the Mosaic kingdom was terminated in the flames of messianic judgment. The demand which John brought to Israel was focused in his call to baptism. This baptism was not an ordinance to be observed by Israel in their generations but a special sign for that terminal generation epitomizing the particular crisis in covenant history represented by the mission of John as messenger of the Lord’s ultimatum.

From the angle of repentance and faith, John’s ultimatum could be seen as a gracious invitation to the marriage feast of the Suzerain’s Son; and John’s baptism, as a seal of the remission of sins. Bright with promise in this regard was Jesus’ submission to John’s baptism. For the passing of Jesus through the divine judgment in the water rite in the Jordan meant to John’s baptism what the passing of Yahweh through the curse of the knife rite of Genesis 15 meant to Abraham’s circumcision. In each case the divine action constituted an invitation to all recipients of these covenant signs of consecration to identify themselves by faith with the Lord himself in their passage through the ordeal. So they might be assured of emerging from the overwhelming curse with a blessing. Jesus’ passage through the water ordeal with the others who were baptized in the Jordan was also one in meaning with the Lord’s presence with Israel in the theophany pillar during the passage through the Red Sea, and in the ark of the covenant during their crossing of the Jordan. And the meaning of all these acts of the Lord of the covenant is expressed in the promise: “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, 0 Jacob, and he that formed thee, 0 Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour” (Isa. 43:1-3a).

Viewed from a more comprehensive vantage point, John’s baptism was a sign of the ordeal through which Israel must pass to receive a judgment of either curse or blessing…

By his message and baptism John thus proclaimed again to the seed of Abraham the meaning of their circumcision. Circumcision was no guarantee of inviolable privilege. It was a sign of the divine ordeal in which the axe, laid unto the roots of the unfruitful trees cursed by Messiah, would cut them off (Matt. 3:10; Lk. 3:9). John’s baptism was in effect a recircumcising.//

Point of Interest

- John’s choice to baptize in the Jordan River itself has redemptive historical significance, since it is immediately upon crossing it that the Israelites who were baptized through the waters of the Red Sea were required by God to circumcise those who were born in the wilderness wandering, after which God is said to have “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” from them (Joshua 5:1-9). This, I believe, coupled with the facts that Jesus’ death is itself referred to as a baptism and a circumcision (Mark 10:38, Colossians 2:11) and that Christ’s baptism in the Jordan river itself pointed to His crucifixion, as will be shown in what follows, strengthens Kline’s contention that John’s baptism was a re-circumcision.

- Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection is that to which believers are united by spiritual regeneration, the metonymic reference of baptism and circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12, cf. Deuteronomy 30:6, Romans 6:3-11). A reason Christ’s death is referred to as a baptism and circumcision is that Christ’s baptism was a consecration unto His actual participation in the ordeal, similar to Yahweh’s covenant in Genesis 15 that He would bear the covenant curse (Jeremiah 34:18-20) should He fail to deliver with regards to His promises entailed in the Abrahamic covenant, a covenant ratified in Genesis 17 by the sign of circumcision and confirmed by God’s oath in Genesis 22 (cf. Hebrews 6:13-18).

- One becomes a child of Abraham – not because he has fulfilled the law – but because he has been baptized in Christ’s crucifixion-baptism-circumcision (cf. Galatians 3-4). One is cut off from the covenant community when the sign of the covenant is not applied to him, because to reject that to which the sign refers would require that he bear what Christ bears in the stead of believers: excommunication (Isaiah 53:8, Jeremiah 11:19). One is united to Christ – and, hence, to the rest of the invisible church – in regeneration, so it is only sensible that one is united to the visible church by means of the sign of regeneration – in this period of redemptive history, baptism.

- The crucifixion-baptism of He by whom all things hold together constituted an end of one epoch and the beginning of another. Indeed, one of the realities baptism symbolizes is an epochal shift (cf. 2 Peter 3:5-13) – a new creation, as it were. Such shifts, since the first creation, are accompanied by judgment (e.g. Genesis 9:11, Luke 12:49-51, cf. Psalm 18:4, 16, 42:7, 69:1-2, Isaiah 8:7-8, Jonah 2:3-6) as well as blessing. The signs accompanying these shifts are similar too (Genesis 9:12-17, Ezekiel 1:27-28, Revelation 10:1). The flood-baptism marked the first epochal shift since creation, and was therefore a new creation; the flood cleansed the earth from sin analogous to the way in which God “blots” out one’s iniquities through the washing of regeneration. The fire-baptism marks the last epochal shift, wherein all unbelievers will be burned for their sin as opposed to the sin associated with believers which will be burned, enabling the believer to stand pure and glorified in the midst of the new Eden, the culmination of the new creation. That which ties these epochal shifts together by having ushered in the last days is Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection signified by His baptism.

- Just as Christ received the Holy Spirit in His baptism, He purchased the graces and merits necessary for the salvation of those for whom He died by His crucifixion-baptism, both of which are applied to those people for whom Christ died by the Holy Spirit at the time of the Father’s choosing through regeneration, a signification of our baptism. As such, Christ’s baptism truly pointed to the new creation He would institute upon His resurrection from the death to which He was consecrated by His baptism similar to the way in which an individual’s baptism soterically points to new creation: having been united to Christ through the Spirit, Christ is able to act as our federal head and bear the punishment for our sins and become our righteousness.

- From a previous post:

//Christ’s baptism and allusion to the Holy Spirit as a dove in Luke 4:22 may recall one to the hovering Holy Spirit during creation (Genesis 1:2) and subsequent aerial imagery during typological [re]creations (Genesis 8:11, Exodus 13:21-22, Deuteronomy 32:11). The deluge, which was an undoing of creation, enabled Noah and his family to be saved by water (1 Peter 3:20) as were Moses and the Israelites (1 Corinthians 10:1-2) – that is, by waters which could on the occasion of this destruction effect a completely new creation. Baptism puts to death the old by creating the new, which is seen too in soteriological terms as well (Colossians 2:11-15): being dead in sins, God puts to death the old man by the regenerative grace of the always present Holy Spirit, after which the elect individual is immediately raised with Christ unto faith and righteousness (cf. Romans 6:1-4, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 2:1-6, 1 Peter 3:21-22). In the same way, Christ’s baptism anticipates that He will put to death the old, Adamic means of attaining righteousness, works, by the creation of new means, grace alone (Romans 8:32), which He will purchase for His people by obeying the covenantal stipulations by His own works.//

I would encourage those who are interested in further exploring baptism and biblical theology to check out Kline's book, Fesko's Word, Water, and Spirit, Horton's Introduction to Covenant Theology, and/or Beale's et. al. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice

I have elsewhere argued for limited atonement (cf. Reymond; Long et. al.), which has to do with the scope of the design and application of the benefits of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, hereafter referred to as “Christ’s sacrifice.” This post does not pertain to what Christ actually accomplished but rather to what Christ could have accomplished. In other words, it is a brief explanation of what the Calvinist means - or, at least, what I mean - when he speaks of the “sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice,” as well as a comment or two on a possible objection which could be made within the context of a Calvinistic soteriology.

Perhaps some people believe that the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice implies God designed the effects of Christ’s sacrifice to be universal in scope. However, this is not what the Calvinist means when he asserts the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice; Christ didn't intend to save reprobates by His sacrifice, nor can it be said that the fact that living reprobates have yet to be judged implies grace procured through Christ’s sacrifice. What the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice alludes to is the fact that, given His divine dignity and perfect obedience, Christ’s sacrifice was such that He could have acted as penal substitute for any number of sinners, had the Father so desired:

//Limited Atonement: the doctrine that the intention of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was to secure propitiation for the elect alone. While it is counter-factually true that “if the Father desired to save all men without exception, Christ’s sacrifice was such that all men without exception could have been saved,” it is in fact the case that the Father does not desire to save all men without exception; hence, the atonement is hypothetically sufficient for all, but actually efficient only for the elect.//

Update: I have erased the final three paragraphs to this post because I am no longer persuaded it was accurate to say that there are no sins for which Christ could not make amends.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Van Til's transcendental argument


Jamin Hubner, a blog contributor at, has posted a brief summary of Van Til’s transcendental argument. In the post, he distinguishes between four types of arguments: abductive, inductive, deductive, and transcendental (or, perhaps, presuppositional). While his remarks on the first three types of arguments are worth consideration - I would especially be curious to know whether or not he believes there is such a thing as an inductive argument which is not "poor" - what he has to say about Van Til’s transcendental argument merits a closer look.

Transcendental arguments

Mr. Hubner explains the criteria of a transcendental argument:

A presupposes B if and only if:

1. if A is true, then B is true.

2. if ~A is true, then B is true.

In other words, "A is said to presuppose B if B is true irrespective of the truth-value of A." Now it seems to me that a transcendental argument is a subspecies of deductive argumentation. The conclusions of a transcendental argument purport to follow from the premise(s); the transcendental argument is logically valid. Specifically, a transcendental argument is an apagogic argument, or an argument which purports that “in the case of A or ~A, B must be true; if B were false, neither A nor ~A could be true, which contradicts the law of excluded middle.”

Van Til’s transcendental argument

In Van Til’s words, the transcendental argument according to which Christianity must be presupposed is as follows:

“The only “proof” of the Christian position is that unless its truth is presupposed there is no possibility of proving anything at all.” (Jerusalem and Athens, 21)

Christianity, it is argued, must be true, for if it were not, one would not be able to prove anything. In order to show that a statement is true, one must presuppose Christianity.


Before evaluating this argument, it is necessary to know what the Christian position is. Mr. Hubner seems to understand it to be the position which believes in the Scriptures of the Triune God. If the conclusion of Van Til’s transcendental argument is sound, it would be a powerful proof of the logical necessity of Christianity.

The advocate of Van Til’s transcendental argument claims that he is able to prove that the Christian world-view alone can function as a sound epistemological presupposition. Given that there are an infinite number of alternative world-views, such must be shown to be the case. It is not enough to shift the burden of proof to the non-Christian, for to do so would be a defense of Christianity rather than a proof of it. It would be inductive reasoning – which is fallacious – to conclude that, given that a finite number of non-Christian world-views are evinced to be unsound, all other non-Christian world-views are likewise unsound. The burden of proof, then, is on the advocate of Van Til’s transcendental argument to show that no world-view other than the Christian world-view is able to justify knowledge claims.

In mathematics, a set which contains infinitely many numbers may be contained in another set which also has infinitely many numbers. For instance, the set of natural numbers {1, 2, 3, …} is a subset of the set of integers {…, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, …} even though there are an infinite number of natural numbers. Why is this relevant? It is indeed possible to conceive of reduction ad absurdum arguments which refute a set of world views infinite in number (cf. link) but do not refute all other possible non-Christian world-views; for instance, while an immutably omniscient being must be epistemologically presupposed - and so the infinite number of possible world-views which do not presuppose an immutably omniscient being are refuted (e.g. the set of natural numbers) - there is more than one possible world-view which purports an immutably omniscient being (e.g. the set of integers which are not natural numbers). Thus, while transcendental arguments in general can be sound as well as valid, the soundness of one transcendental argument does not mean that all alternative world-views to Christianity are or can be evinced to be unsound. The point is that the advocate of Van Til’s transcendental argument must show why it is the case that all the characteristics unique to the Christian world-view must be epistemologically presupposed.


It seems to me that this is the point at which Van Til’s transcendental argument fails to deliver the goods. In my admittedly limited experience, the following represent what I have seen from the advocates of Van Til’s transcendental argument:

1. The advocate of Van Til’s transcendental argument reverts to repeatedly asserting that logic presupposes Christianity instead of showing why it must presuppose Christianity, as seems to be the case in Mr. Hubner’s article. I recognize the article was only meant to be an introduction to Van Til’s transcendental argument, but an explanation as to why it is that the characteristics unique to Christianity must be presupposed is obviously necessary to the soundness of the argument. There is a distinct difference between asserting that Christianity must be presupposed and showing that Christianity must be presupposed. The aforementioned quote by Van Til, for example, is just an assertion. It is not a demonstration or proof.

2. The advocate of Van Til’s transcendental argument forgets the apagogic nature of the argument and instead grounds the proof on the claims of Christian doctrine. For instance, to argue that rationalism, empiricism, et. al. cannot be true solely on the grounds that they are not compatible with Christianity would not satisfy the conditions of Van Til’s transcendental argument. Such is tantamount to an attempt to disprove one (or more) epistemological axiom by means of another, which is question-begging.

3. The advocate of Van Til’s transcendental argument provides a[n alleged] proof whose conclusion is closer to those of classical apologists than to presuppositionalists, insofar as the proof in question does not aim to show that the characteristics particularly unique to the Christian position must be epistemologically presupposed. For instance, as has already been mentioned, the transcendental argument which shows the necessity of an immutably omniscient being does not meet the conditions which must be met in order for Van Til's transcendental argument to be found to be sound [I understand that Mr. Hubner does not think this]. It cannot be too emphasized that for Van Til's transcendental argument to be sound, it must be demonstrated that the characteristics unique to Christianity must be epistemologically presupposed.

Now, it is entirely possible that someone has provided such a demonstration and I have simply missed it. If that is the case, hopefully someone will point me toward the source. It should be kept in mind, however, that the proof for Van Til’s transcendental argument must be compatible with other sound transcendental arguments. So, for instance, if it is the case that the conclusion of Van Til’s transcendental argument cannot be deduced from divine revelation, the knowledge claim would suspect to the transcendental argument mentioned above (here is the link again).


It would be interesting to find that Scripturalism can be synthesized with Van Til’s transcendental argument. Should one presuppose Scripture for no other reason than that it is the self-authenticating word of God the Holy Spirit uses to regenerate an elect individual unto belief by which he understands that God is the source of truth, or should he presuppose Scripture as divine revelation from the Triune God for another – or perhaps a further – reason, viz. that it is demonstrably the only world-view which is able to justify knowledge claims?

The Scripturalist’s belief in God’s word is constantly affirmed by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the logical coherence of Scripture, and the failure of all other world-views. Transcendental arguments can be used, but the function of such arguments is to refute non-Christian world-views rather than to demonstrate the necessity of Christianity in particular. Advocates of Van Til’s transcendental argument perhaps agree with the Scripturalist to a certain extent – although there is diversity even within Van Tillianism – but they also insist that all alternative world-views are able to be critiqued in such a way such that they are all evinced to be unsustainable.

Either way, Christian presuppositionalists all should agree that Scripture is God’s word and ought not to be treated as something profane. Hopefully, both sides keep this in perspective when making hypothetical arguments and whatnot. Both Scripturalists and those who advocate Van Til’s transcendental argument should trust what Scripture states: Christianity is the only world-view able to justify knowledge claims. What is in question is the method by which Christians ought to go about demonstrating this in the realm of apologetics so as to remain faithful to the biblical mandate to defend the faith.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Common grace and God's love

Sometimes I will hear a Calvinist, in response to the question whether or not God loves all men without exception, distinguish between types of God's love. For instance: God has a love for those He has destined to constitute the church, His bride, that He does not have for reprobates.

However, this doesn't answer whether or not God loves reprobates. Indeed, emotional considerations aside (not many people like to talk about God's hatred of sinners &c., I get it), it is not clear as to how one could argue God loves reprobates. We know that God loves some who are as yet unbelievers, but there is a reason God loves them which cannot be ascribed to the reprobate: God sent Christ to die for them. Remember how God's love is demonstrated towards the elect:

Romans 5:8 God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins

God didn't send His Son to be a propitiation for all wicked men. He sent Christ to be a propitiation for the wicked elect. In what way, given the limited scope of intention for the atonement, could it be argued that God loves reprobates? Common grace is what one would suspect the answer to be. The idea of common grace is pretty common in Christendom, I think; the idea is that by simply letting one who is guilty of sin live (and not only live, but reap many so-called benefits like health, perceived happiness, etc.) when he deserves to die, God must be being gracious to them.

But what is grace? Unmerited favor. The "common grace advocate," then, is suggesting that God is displaying favor to or gracing the reprobate by allowing him to live &c. But I fail to see how this is favor. In fact, the fact that such alleged benefits will actually bring greater condemnation on the heads of the reprobates indicates precisely the opposite, for to speak of God "favoring" someone who not only will be condemned for the failure to make proper use and give proper thanks for that benefit which is said to evince God's favor but also has been unconditionally predestined by God unto such greater condemnation for having experienced that alleged benefit (also predestined) proves that it is not favor at all; thus, it's not grace at all. It makes no sense to view a temporal [perceived] benefit as an evidence of God's favor, given that such will actually and was predestined to necessarily yield greater condemnation for having experienced and rejected proper use of that benefit.

I could end the post at this point, but it is both instructive and uplifting, I think, to consider the parallel; if God's disposition to the reprobate is conditioned on who He has purposed them to be (condemned by sin), it makes sense that God's disposition to the elect is conditioned on who He has purposed them to be (justified and glorified in Christ).

Why is this important? Consider a generic unbeliever. Does God love him? How would you know? What would it mean for God to love an unbeliever?

I believe the idea that "God works together all things for one's good" (cf. Romans 8:28) is as good a definition as any to describe what is meant by the statement God loves an individual. Now, does God work things together for God for all men without exception? No - the elect alone. Did the demonstration of God's love - Christ's sacrifice - apply to all men without exception? No - the elect alone.

There is a correlation, then, between God's love and God's election or (equivalently) between God's love and who God has purposed the elect to be: justified and glorified in Him. For that reason, the above question - does God love the generic unbeliever? - is too vague. It is wrong to abstract God's love (or lack thereof) for an individual from God's purpose for him. To do so not only makes it impossible to give a coherent answer as to whether or not God loves all unbelievers, but it would be furthermore impossible to give a coherent answer why or how God can even love the elect unbelievers. As I've written elsewhere:

//Only if one accepts that God chose to elect men in Christ before He decreed the Fall does it make sense that a holy God can choose to save a people deserving of wrath: because they, the elect, had already been chosen to be vessels of mercy.//

Monday, December 13, 2010

Killing two birds with one post

There is currently a rather large discussion between Protestants and RCs over at GreenBaggins which has led to an opportunity for me to briefly note and rebut two of the more common RC arguments against Protestantism:

1. The first argument might be called "the argument from disunity." Generally, the RC claims that Protestantism leads to disunity; since the body of Christ is [intended to be] united, Protestantism cannot be true.

Reply: it should be apparent that the fact the RC is wagging a finger at so-called Protestantism undermines his argument. The RC isn't attacking a decentralized body; on the contrary, there must be a principle of unity by which the RC is able to identify that which he is attacking - Protestantism - and whatever that principle of unity is, even if it is a caricature, it undermines the claim that Protestantism leads to disunity.

2. The second argument is, essentially, as follows: "Protestants can't justify the canon they believe, because Protestants don't have an infallible Magisterium by which they are able to identify the canon."

Reply: I have recently noted the double standard the RC must here employ, since whatever the nature of evidence to which he appeals to identify the allegedly infallible Magisterium can at least be similarly - and often times "a fortiori" - used as the means by which the canon of Scripture is identified. I have also defended the Protestants capability to recognize the canon here, here, here, and here.

Simply put, because divine revelation must be the justificatory basis of all knowledge-claims (cf. here), God's word must be self-authenticating. If it were not, skepticism would be the inevitable, self-defeating result. This follows because any proposition which would purport to justify God's word as such would presuppose that it (the proposition) has been divinely revealed.

As I pointed out over at GreenBaggins:

//If OT saints were, without the justification of an infallible Magisterium, capable of discerning God’s commandments, why shouldn’t we who possess God’s written word be able to do the same? Was it unreasonable for Abraham to believe that God rather than Descartes’ omnipotent demon commanded that Isaac be sacrificed?

It seems to me that Scripture must be viewed as sub-revelation. God was as able to communicate who He was to the patriarchs without any need for mediation as was Jesus to the apostles (Hebrews 1:1-2). But the RC seemingly believes that the God-breathed Scriptures are not likewise self-authenticating. This is special pleading.//

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Molinism Revisited

Jamin Hubner at ProsApologian has posted an excerpt of an excellent critique of Molinism by Herman Bavinck. As long as one keeps in mind Bavinck's conception of middle knowledge is case specific, the second to last paragraph is as fine a summary of the problems of Molinism as I've read:

"The doctrine of middle knowledge, however, represents contingent future events as contingent and free also in relation to God. This is with reference not only to God's predestination but also his foreknowledge, for just as in Origen, things do not happen because God knows them, but God foreknows them because they are going to happen. Hence, the sequence is not necessary knowledge, the knowledge of vision, the decree to create (etc.); instead, it is necessary knowledge, middle knowledge, decree to create (etc.), and the knowledge of vision. God does not derive his knowledge of the free actions of human beings from his own being, his own decrees, but from the will of creatures. God, accordingly, becomes dependent on the world, derives knowledge from the world that he did not have and could not obtain from himself, and hence, in his knowledge, ceases to be one, simple, and independent - that is, God. Conversely, the creature in large part becomes independent vis-a-vis God. It did indeed at one time receive "being" (esse) and "being able" (posse) from God but now it has the "volition" (velle) completely in its own hand. It sovereignly makes it own decisions and either accomplishes something or does not accomplish something apart from any preceding divine decree. Something can therefore come into being quite apart from God's will. The creature is now creator, autonomous, sovereign; the entire history of the world is taken out of God's controlling hands and placed into human hands. First, humans decide; then God responds with a plan that corresponds to that decision.

- Reformed Dogmatics

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

RC (and OC) Hermeneutics and New Eve typology

In my last post, I mentioned that RC seems prone to a radical hermeneutic. This is in no case more evident than in Marian dogma. Here is one recent example of RCs falling over themselves looking for any support for the Immaculate Conception.

I have been having a discussion with an OC who, like several RCs with whom I have dialogued on the same topic, argues that Eve was a type of Mary. Now it seems obvious to me that the church, not Mary, is the helpmate to the last Adam in the same way woman/Eve was the helpmate to the first:

//…for the Christ to be the true second Adam, He must have a true bride with which to generate children in His image… Paul regards the church as Christ’s antitypical helpmate in Ephesians 5:21-33. It sounds obvious when one thinks about it, yet the implications are profound. It was no more good that Christ should bring about the goals of the dominion mandate – goals which His work alone could effect – than it was for the first Adam to attempt to do so. The church is woman in Genesis 1-2 (Isaiah 54:5-8, John 3:29), yet a woman who will no longer be seduced by Satan’s temptations (Revelation 21:2, cf. Ezekiel 16, Hosea). Paul’s revelation of the relationship between Christ and the church functions as an explanation of the ways in which they interact: Christ as head, church as body; Christ as authoritative, church as submissive. Believers are not to be static after salvation – in fact, it is not a stretch to suppose co-working with Christ is a means of conformity to His image, as such would reflect what would seem to be an appropriate inter-connectedness of biblical theology.// (link to original post)

Mary wasn't married to Christ. Mary isn't called the mother of believers (Galatians 4:26) - John 19:26-27 is an exceptionally poor proof-text on which to base such a claim. Mary doesn't spread the the gospel to the ends of the earth, fulfilling the garden-temple extension mandate by the believer-temple extension. The church is and does that.

But the bad arguments don't end there. From the website of the OC with whom I was speaking, we find typical OC-RC attempts to connect Mary-Eve:

1. Jesus called Mary "woman"; Adam's wife was called "woman"; therefore, Jesus was indicating Mary was the new Eve.

2. Woman entices Adam to sin on the seventh day of the first creation; Mary entices Jesus to perform a miracle on the seventh day after John proclaimed the Lamb of God had come; therefore, Mary is a better Eve than Mary.

On the other hand:

1. Jesus calls the Samaritan woman at the well "woman" - are RCs and OCs prepared to say that every time Jesus or the prophets address a woman as "woman," a typological connection to Adam's wife is intended? How ridiculous.

2. The numerological argument above may seem air-tight... However, the OC forgot to show Adam's wife tempted Adam on the seventh day, and he forgot to show that the new creation was inaugurated with John's proclamation rather than, say, Christ's crucifixion-baptism which tore the veil symbolizing our separation from God's presence.

At least he didn't argue that Genesis 3:15 referenced Mary (which is an assertion I have unfortunately encountered more than once).

I generally avoid writings posts which can seem to cast a shade over a group of people on the basis of select individuals within the group. But I can't help but note that the above sort of argumentation is representative of every RC and OC who has told me that Mary is the New Eve. This is just my experience, and I do realize that the fact I cannot account for how the adherents to such systems can actually believe what they write apart from the suggestion their system encourages a defensive-minded, radical hermeneutic does not imply there is no other answer, but if nothing else, hopefully some of these poorer arguments will be discarded.

UPDATE: TurretinFan guest hosted the 12/9/10 Dividing Line (link), on which he speaks at length on the RC arguments for Mary-New Eve typology, as well as its implications. He mentions some points I missed;. I had no idea that the RC catechism - a dogma-defining document - explicitly taught Mary is the New Eve. Another good point TFan makes: even if such a typology was valid (and the above should be sufficient to disprove that or, at least, prove that to speak dogmatically on a possible connection is absurdly presumptuous), RCs make eisegetical connections to suit their own doctrines. For instance, some RCs argue that since Eve was born without sin, so too Mary, if she is New Eve, must have been born without sin. But of course, Eve was taken from Adam's body whereas Jesus came from Mary's body, and this goes to show that to speak dogmatically about what connections between Mary and Eve must be true is arbitrary - if the relation between Eve's creation and Adam's (Adam -> Eve) differs from the relation between Mary's creation and Christ's (alleged new Eve -> new Adam), why should we not think that the creation of sinless Eve differs from the creation of Mary? And let us not forget that we are assuming that the typology is valid in the first place. Anyways, it was an interesting program and I recommend it.