Basic Reformed Stuff 3: “General” and “Special” Revelation

Open Book!

As discussed in the LAST TWO POSTS of this series, the “true religion” is the revealed religion, the “preached” religion; it is “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations” and is a religion which “we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom” (Col. 1:26,28). And as we will see, it is in fact the revealing and preaching of Jesus Christ Himself, in both Old and New Testaments, for “there is no salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) and “no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27).

As such, we must next discuss what exactly “revelation” is. For starters, the Greek word we commonly translate “revelation” is apokalýptō, from the roots apó, “away from” and kalýptō, “to cover.” Literally speaking, it means to take away the cover, revealing what is hidden, veiled, or obstructed, especially the inner concealed make-up. In Greek texts it often means to show forth the unseen, immaterial, deep nature of something—what cannot be known by the senses alone.

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Basic Reformed Stuff 2: Religion is Doctrine AND Practice

Open Book!

In our LAST POST we argued that religion is not only not a bad word, but is implanted into the very nature of man, God having revealed Himself in man and all of His creation. The Scripture teaches that this leaves men without excuse before God, but also that fallen mankind is nevertheless unable by natural light alone to truly know and worship God as He truly is. True religion is revealed religions—it is the mystery of Jesus Christ as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments (see Col. 1:24-28; Acts 4:12; Jn. 1:18). All men worship; the only question is whether they worship the creature or the Creator (Rom. 1:19-25).

Here, we will briefly address whether true religion is primarily intellectual, or primarily practical, allowing us to offer a proper definition of “religion” in the Biblical sense, and also justify our claim that the proper object of this series ought to be religion, not doctrine simpliciter.

So, is religion primarily intellectual? Continue reading

Answering Four Common Laymen Objections to ESS Critics

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[This post was originally published nearly 2 years ago on a different blog site, but has since been removed. So that my readers may still have access to this article, I have republished here under a different title.]

As the layman class, of which I am a member, begins to come to terms with the possibility that their Sunday School teacher may have led them astray by teaching that the Son of God has been subordinate to the Father for all eternity, recurring questions and rejoinders are nevertheless heard in small groups and church foyers across the reformed-ish world.  They may have already come to terms with, for example, the multiple wills objection[1] and have become thoroughly convinced of the historical novelty of ESS/EFS/ERAS[2], even rightly concluding that the Council of Nicea and Athanasian Creed roundly contradict the teaching.  But, being students of the Scripture, submitting admirably to its authority, and seeking peace within the Church of God and charity towards those who may err, I have in my experience heard the following responses to ESS/EFS/ERAS critics over and over, and have read very little direct response to these rejoinders at the popular, accessible level:

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What Is & Isn’t Being Said: 2. “Race” and the Racialized Society

Race

[I have since added some needed clarification to this post, beginning with “Correcting (my own) Normativity of Whiteness: 1. From the Arrival of the First African Slaves to ‘Partus Sequitur Ventrem’.”]

As we concluded the last post,

[T]here is nothing particularly pernicious about the social construction of race as such, any more than there is in the construction of genos, ethnos, or phulé [in the New Testament]. The insidiousness of the concept comes when a society, consciously or unconsciously, constructs racial distinctions for the very purpose of division, systematic subjugation, and a permanent caste system. And this brings us to our next post, “What Is & Isn’t Being Said: 2. ‘Race’ and the Racialized Society”.

We will now discuss “race” in the racialized society as we find it today, particularly in the United States. I ask only that you forgive the relative length of this piece; it will prove fruitful context for the topics that will follow. Also, I would like to make explicit that this discussion is in no wise intended to ignore the plight of other minority people groups in American society. Much of what is said here can apply to the experience of other race and ethnic groups as well, though there is a very definite distinction of degrees, length of history, and legal specificity within racialized institutions. As Condoleezza Rice once said, “I do think that America was born with a birth defect; it was slavery.”

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What Is & Isn’t Being Said: 1. “Race” and the Bible

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As there has been much discussion over the topic of Racial Reconciliation in recent months, I thought I might do my best to clarify what is and isn’t being said by RR advocates such as myself. Of course, I cannot speak on behalf of everyone pressing the case, but I hope to at least clarify some of the terms, phrases, and assumptions being debated. This might constitute a lengthy series, but if it proves to be beneficial to any interested in this discussion, I will indeed continue—hopefully at least two topics per weekTopics will include “race,” “white privilege,” “color-blind,” “institutional racism,” and more. Feedback is welcome. 

1. “Race” and the Bible

Many argue that the concept of race is unbiblical and is nowhere to be found in the Scripture. While I understand the intent of this claim, specifically to reject any basis for “scientific racism,” I think there is a complex of concepts in the Scripture which nevertheless capture what well-meaning English speakers mean by “race.” We find throughout the Scripture similar concepts of “kind,” “kindred,” “tribe,” “nation,” etc., attributed to men, and not just as Old Testament categories, as is commonly thought.

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Why Racism is Material Heresy and Ought to be Formal Heresy : Outline 2, “Is Christ divided?”

Communion of Saints

[We have summarized Outline 1 in our last post as follows: Christ bore the whole of human nature by bearing the nature of a specific race. If races as such can differ by superiority and inferiority, then they, by the very meaning of race, must differ in nature (substance). So, Christ either only bore the substance of one race, or races as such cannot differ by superiority or inferiority. 

The focus of the first outline was quite narrow and restricted only to the claim of superiority or inferiority of races. Here we will expand out to include another form of racist belief and confession. For methodological concerns, including the elusive definition of “racism” and “race,” please see the beginning of “Outline 1” and “Responding to Questions/Objections.” As before, the target is clearly specified; if your particular brand of ideology does not fall under the stated target, then the critique does not apply.

And again, please remember this is just an outline. It is my prayer and hope that others will expand on these concepts, and that churches would consider how to implement with wisdom.]

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Why Racism is Material Heresy and Ought to be Formal Heresy : Outline 1

Cappadocians 1

[Many, upon reading this piece, have noted that there is no formal definition of “racism” or even “race” included. This is by design, though I see that it could be confusing. Defining “racism” as such is admittedly difficult and would alone constitute matter for an essay much longer than even what appears here; and even if that were accomplished, there would still remain much disagreement. Therefore, the approach of these outlines is to target and identify specific claims that most would acknowledge as “racist,” regardless of how fuzzy the edges of the set of ideas in question may be. For example, this outline deals only with claims of superiority or inferiority between races (as the next deals with Kinist expressions). If one’s specific brand of racist ideology does not include nor imply a claim of superiority or inferiority, then clearly this post does not capture that specific ideology. (Though arguments of implication may often be successfully employed to demonstrate that superiority/inferiority is in fact being claimed, though not directly.)

Further, the concept “race” itself is not defined, but for much the same reasons. The argument of this particular outline proceeds on the assumption that if one believes and confesses superiority or inferiority among races also is assuming that there is such a thing as “race”; this does not logically imply that there is in fact such a thing as “race” (though I think the concept is legitimate and useful if handled correctly as a social construction and as colloquially employed). The reader will see below that, working with the understanding of one who claims superiority/inferiority, race would minimally (not maximally!) include common progeneration. So, rather than defining the term, given abundant disagreement, I assume only what would be minimally included by one who would employ the term to claim superiority/inferiority.

And last, the reader should note that there is no specific race or ethnicity targeted in what follows; any claim by anyone that any race can be superior or inferior to any other falls within the scope of criticism below.]

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