Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review: Theology After Wittgenstein

Theology After Wittgenstein

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If I could describe this book in two words, it would be "intriguingly boring." It's intriguing mainly because of what the title infers. Ordinarily, one does not associate theology with the postmodern philosophy of Wittgenstein. Nor does one ordinarily think that Wittgenstein could help theological epistemology. Yet this road is what the author of this book attempts to pave. The reader moves from one chapter to another anticipating how all of this wittgensteinian philosophy affects theology proper. In the end it disappoints greatly, at least, as far as the stated theological insights are concerned. I actually thought of other insights which would have been more helpful than the ones the author listed in the final chapters.
This leads me to mention the boring aspect of the book: the conclusion. The conclusion is not just slightly boring. It's almost completely boring. But, if you have an imagination of your own, and you enjoy snip-its of wittgensteinian-presuppositionalism at its finest, you don't even need to read the boring chapters at the end of the book. Read the first two-thirds of the book and use your imagination for the rest.

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A Book Review: Speech and Reality, by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

Speech And RealitySpeech And Reality by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

No matter how profound Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy's linguistic insights are (as I've been told by many), his stream-of-consciousness writing style drives me crazy. I simply don't enjoy reading what he writes. It's all over the map and very difficult to utilize because of that.

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Grace Grows Best in Winter

"I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
Acts 9:16

We must learn to spin out comfort, peace, joy, and communion with Christ in our troubles. Grace grows best in winter. Crosses are a part of our communion with Christ. There is no sweeter fellowship than to bring our wounds to him. A heavy heart is welcome with Christ. The Lord has fully repaid my sadness with his joy and presence. It is a sweet thing to exchange my sorrows for Christ's joys. Losses for Christ are but goods invested in the bank in Christ's hand. Troubles come through his fingers, he casts sugar among them. I wonder many times that ever a child of God should have a sad heart, considering what his Lord is preparing for him. What God lays on us, let us suffer. Some have one cross, some seven, some ten, and some, half a cross--yet all the saints have full joy, and seven crosses have seven joys. The heaviest end of the cross is laid upon our strong Savior. The floods may swell, but our ark shall swim above the waters. Glorify the Lord in your suffering and spread his banner of love over you. Others will follow you if they see you strong in the Lord. Do not be faint and feeble soldier. Fear not, Christ and his crosses are two good guests worthy of lodging. Men would have Christ cheap, but the going price is firm. Christ and his cross are sweet company, and a blessed couple. My losses are rich losses, my pains easy pain, my heavy days are holy and happy days. They give me opportunity to testify to my friends. I should be satisfied that joy and sorrow share a part in my life. If sorrow shares the greediest part, I know joy's day will dawn, and do more than recompense all my sad hours. My dear brother, let God do what he wills now, and he shall make glory out of your sufferings and end them with consolation.1 

1.  Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Greg Bahnsen: More differences between the Priest and King

The separation of church (cult) from state in Israel can be seen by a number of differences between the priest and the king. The officials of the king included cherethites and pelethites (2 Sam. 15:18; 20:7), commander of the army, commander of the body guard, recorder, scribe (2 Sam. 8:16-18; 20:23-26; 1 Chron. 27:32-34; 1 Kings 4:1-6), counselors (1 Chron. 18:17; 1 Kings 12:6; 2 Kings 25:19; Jer. 52:25), overseer of public works (1 Kings 5:16), royal treasurer (1 Chron. 27:25-31), official tax collectors (1 Kings 4:7-19), and marshall of the court (1 Kings 4:5). Mettinger lists the major officials in Solomon’s court as: royal secretary, royal herald, friend of the king, house-minister, chief of the district prefects, and superintendent of the forced levy.17 These officers are clearly distinct from the officials of the temple priesthood,18 which were: high priest, suffragan priest, chief treasurer, overseer, gate-keepers, under-treasurers (these preceding being the council of the temple), heads of each course, heads of families of each course, and finally overseers of gates, guards, lots, and so forth.19 Therefore, the officials of the church did not overlap with the officials of the state but differed in each realm.  

So also did the duties and regulations differ between the ecclesiastical and executive realms of the Israelite state. The king tended to administration, justice, war, safety, foreign affairs, and commerce, while the priests were busy with consecration, the holy place and courts, ceremonial cleanness, sacrifices, cultic observances, and the like. Nowhere are the priests given rights like those of the king: to take a general levy and appoint officers thereunto (1 Sam. 8:11-17; 14:50; 2 Sam. 8:16; 20:23; 1 Kings 4:4), to take over property or oversee estates (1 Kings 4:6; 21:15; 2 Sam. 8), to lay levies on property owners and to tax agriculture and animal husbandry (2 Kings 15:20; 1 Sam. 8:15, 17; 1 Kings 4:5, 7; 5:2 ff.), to constitute the highest court of legal appeal (2 Sam. 8:16; 14:2 ff.; 15:2 ff.; 20:24; 1 Kings 4:3), to require forced labor or use conscription (2 Sam. 20:24; 1 Kings 4:6; 5:27 ff.; 9:21-22). However, the king was very certainly limited in his activities by the law of God (cf. Deut. 17:14-20). Consequently he could not carry out the functions of a priest. When the king takes it upon himself to ordain priests, they are idolatrous priests that need to be put down (cf. 2 Kings 23:5). When the king presumes to offer sacrifice to God he is condemned. Saul offers sacrifice against the command of God and thus must suffer the termination of his kingdom (1 Sam. 13:9-15). Uzziah trespassed the Lord’s commandment and offered incense upon the altar, and for this he was struck with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16-21). When Jeroboam offers sacrifice at the new altar he is judged by God and stricken (1 Kings 12:32-13:5). And when Ahaz offers sacrifice upon the altar, it is the new altar made after the pattern of an altar in Damascus—the altar to a pagan god (2 Kings 16:12 ff.). The only places where a king is said to offer sacrifice and the passage does not either have a causative sense (“had sacrifices offered”) or disapprobate the behavior are: David’s sacrifice at the coming of the ark to Jerusalem and Solomon’s sacrifice at the dedication of the temple. Both of these instances are laden with strong typological value, pointing to the work of the Messianic Priest-King, Jesus Christ, who is God come to His people to dwell among them (the symbol of the temple). Thus, these two incidents must be viewed as “positive” law or activity again; they quite clearly do not sanction the priestly activity of the king as a general or standing rule (witness Saul and Uzziah). Indeed, what gives these incidents their noteworthy and special nature is precisely the extraordinary character of the events.  

Therefore, it is proper to see a normal distinction between the duties and rights of the king and those of the priest, which in turn points to the separation of church and state. While the priest had to satisfy purity requirements, among which entailed no touching of dead bodies or drinking wine, the king was allowed both to engage in war and drink alcoholic beverage. The priest had to be a Levite, the king did not; in the Southern Kingdom he had to be from Judah. 

The succession of high priests always passed from father to son (cf. Neh. 12:10-11), but the succession of kingship did not automatically go to the son. Sometimes it went outside the royal line by popular choice (cf. 1 Maccabees 9:30-31; 13:8-9) or by usurpation (Judg. 9) or to a queen (2 Kings 11:1-3; 2 Chron. 22:12). The will of the people or human arrangements were foundational to the selection or election of a king (1 Sam. 11:14-15; 2 Sam. 2:4, 8-9; 5:3; 1 Kings 1:11 ff.; 12:1, 20; 2 Kings 11:12; 21:24; 23:30). David made a mutual obligation covenant between himself and the tribes who chose him as king, based on negotiations with the elders. The elders laid down legal conditions for the king (1 Kings 12:3 ff.), and a new king would be elected when there was dissatisfaction with the present ruler (1 Kings 12:16-20). Thus although Israel’s rulership was always subject to the will of God as spoken by the prophet (cf. 1 Sam. 9:26-10:1; 2 Sam. 7:8-17; 1 Kings 11:29 ff.; 16:1; 2 Kings 9:1 ff.), it was nevertheless true that there was reality in the political movements of the people or elders in establishing what is basically a constitutional monarchy in Israel. While the priesthood was based upon strict family descent, the heads of the tribes (Deut. 1:13), some of the judges (e.g., Judg. 11:4-11), and a significant number of the kings in Israel were elected or representatively selected by the people. As Martin Noth aptly puts it, the Israelites were “king-makers.” However, the people never had the prerogative to be “priest-makers”!   

The king’s palace was differentiated from the temple (and priestly residence; cf. 1 Kings 6-7). The draftee servants of the king were separate from the temple servants (cf. 1 Sam. 8:11-17; 1 Kings 5:13; Ex. 28- 29; Num. 3:28, 32; 8:18). The Levites were exempt from the census and draft (Num. 1:48-49). And at the most practical level, the temple tax and tithes were distinct from the tributes paid to the king. While the priests were supported by the voluntary contributions of the people, the magistrate could lay taxes upon the population and enforce them. First Kings 14:26 clearly indicates a distinguishing between state revenues and religious revenues. The Older Testament recognizes an offering on the firstborn (Ex. 12:17 ff.; 13:13; 15:19 ff.; Num. 18:15 ff.; Lev. 28:26), an offering of first-fruits (Ex. 23:19; Num. 18:9, 12 ff.; Deut. 26:2 ff.; 18:4), a tithe (Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 17:21-24; Deut. 12:6 ff.; 14:22-27; 26:13 ff.), atonement money (Ex. 30:11-16), and a temple tax (Ex. 38:25 ff.; 2 Chron. 24:6-11; Neh. 10:33). All of these went to the priests and are distinct from the king’s own taxation tithe (1 Sam. 8:14-17), import tax (1 Kings 10:15), vassel tributes (2 Sam. 8:2, 6; 1 Kings 5:1), gifts (1 Kings 10:2, 10, 24-25; 2 Kings 5:5; 20:12; 1 Sam. 10:27; 16:20; 2 Sam. 8:10), taxes levied on the people (2 Kings 15:19-20; 23:33-35; 2 Chron. 17:5; Amos 5:11; 1 Sam. 8:15, 17), and appropriations (Amos 7:1). Were there no separation of church and state, all collections from the populace would go into one coffer and be allocated by a single administrator, but this is not what we find in the Older Testament. When Israel was under foreign control at the time of Artaxerxes there was still a distinction drawn between church and state, for while tax was paid to the king (Neh. 5:4, 14-15) he recognized Levite-priestly exemptions (Ezra 7:24).

Another separation of church from state had to be observed with respect to the penalties imposed for violations of God’s law. While the magistrate had the power of the sword to execute appropriate criminals, the most extreme punishment imposed for the breaking of ecclesiastical law (i.e., ceremonial commandments) was excommunication.20 This did not belong in any sense to the civil arm to inflict.  

Was there a separation of church and state in Israel then? It appears that evidence supports an affirmative answer. 
The true view is that church and state were in equilibrio, and the Lord was the head of both. He was the civil head of the republic, and was also the head of the ecclesiastical system or hierarchy. These both had access to him by prophet and oracle, and found their only unity in him. Under his administration neither state nor church could dominate the other. . . . Two features are obvious. Neither church nor state derived its rights and franchises from the other, nor over the other. Neither could fill official positions in the other, or usurp the functions of the other . . . each had its own revenues.21  

There was also a recognized distinction between the personnel who comprised the national state and those in the spiritual church. This is evidenced by the doctrine of the remnant in the Older Testament (cf. Lev. 26:40-44; Isa. 1:9; 6:3; 8:16-20; 10:20 ff.; 14:21-27; 28:5; 37:30-32; 41:8-9; 42:18-43:13; 44:15; Jer. 3:12, 14; Ezek. 11:14 ff.; 33:24; 37:12; 36:26-27; Hos. 1:9-10; 2:23; 5:15-6:3; Amos 3:12; 4:11; Zeph. 3:9-13; Hag. 1:12; Zech. 8:6, 11-15). A person could have civic membership and rights (as well as social responsibilities) in the national state without being accounted as a good covenant-keeping child of God; the mention of the remnant draws a line between those who were in the state and church and those who were in the state only. As Paul explains it, “they are not all Israel which are of Israel,” and only a remnant of those who are numbered as the sand will be saved (Rom. 9:6, 27). So we conclude that there was a distinction drawn between the personnel as well as the officials of the state and church. As to the officials, there was an obvious separation between church and state regarding qualification, function, locale, support, organization, and servants.

All footnotes to Greg Bahnsen’s work cited above are found on pp. 395-400 of Theonomy in Christian Ethics [Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2002; first edition 1977]. The footnotes are cited below as found in his book.
17. Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, Solomonic State Officials: A Study of the Civil Government Officials of the Israelite Monarchy, Coniectanea Biblica: Old Testament Series, No. 5 (Lund, Sweden: CWK Gleerups Förlag, 1971).
18. The listing of the priests in 1 Kings 4:4 does not indicate that they were princes in the royal family, but simply among the chief officials in relation to the people. Mettinger does not treat them as state officers at all.
19. Merril F. Unger, “Hebrew Priesthood,” Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 3rd. ed. rev. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1961), p. 884.
20. Shearer, op. cit., pp. 146-147.
21. Ibid., p. 96.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Greg Bahnsen: Separation of Church & State

Brief consideration must now be given here to the relation of church and state as it bears upon the question of the magistrate’s responsibility in the current age to obey and enforce the law of God. This matter comes up in conjunction with two ways in which the magistrate’s moral obligation to God’s law is either questioned or denied. On the one hand, some will hold that the magistrate cannot be ethically bound to God’s law because that would break down the standing distinction between church and state; on the other hand, appeal to the alleged union of church and state in the Older Testament is often thought to be a factor sufficient to deny the magistrate’s current obligation to God’s law.

However, the Older Testament indicates a standing separation of church and state, and this fact should be recognized. There was a distinction between the work of Moses and that of Aaron (cf. Ex. 16:33-34; 29:1 ff.), for Aaron represented the people in distinctly cultic matters while Moses rendered general, civil leadership for them (functioning a king over the gathered heads of the tribes, Deut. 33:5). So also in restored Jerusalem there was clearly a distinction between Nehemiah the “governor” and Ezra the “scribe”; it is specifically because the civil governor could not regulate the religious life of the people that Nehemiah called for Ezra to return to Jerusalem.1 At the time of the Exodus the people were divided into tribes having one prince each and heads over the families (cf. Deut. 29:10);2 the princes were civil governors and military leaders (cf. Num. 1:1-16; 2:3-29; 7:2; 10:14-27; 13:3; 17:6; Josh. 9:15; 22:14; 23:2; 24:1), and the heads of the families under them were captains and then judges or officers (Num. 1).3 During the time of the Judges executive and judicial power stayed in the hands of the family and tribal heads (e.g., Judges 11:6 ff.; the elders’ transactions with Samuel);4 each city had a council of elders (Deut. 21:6; 25:8; Judges 8:6, 8, 14; Ezra 10:4) who worked separately but sometimes joined efforts (Judg. 1; 4:10; 6:35; 11).5 They were thus governed by the judges (1 Chron. 17:10; e.g., 1 Sam. 8:1) for 450 years until the last judge, Samuel (cf. Acts 13:20). Local affairs were in the hands of the elders who settled town disputes.6 With the institution of kingship the kings served as judges (1 Sam. 8:5; 1 Kings 3:16-28; 1 Chron. 18:14; cf. 2 Sam. 15:1-6) in addition to the other judges (Ex. 18:14-26; 2 Chron. 19:5, 8; Ezra 7:25). In fact, the kings do not seem to have had legislative power,7 but they were essentially judges or governors (the two being virtually synonymous: 2 Kings 15:15; 2 Sam. 15:41; 1 Kings 7:7; e.g., 2 Sam. 12:6; 14:4-11; 1 Kings 3:16-28; 2 Kings 8:3). Under Saul there was “no central government and the tribes, or rather the clans, retained their administrative autonomy.”8 Thus while cultic duties were assigned to the priests (Ex. 28-29), judicial-executive power resided in tribal heads (cf. 1 Sam. 8:4 ff.; 10:20 ff.; 2 Sam. 3:17 ff.; 5:1 ff.) who were later seriously consulted by kings (e.g., 1 Kings 8:1; 20:7; 2 Kings 23:1) and exercised influence over them (e.g., 1 Kings 12). Internal administration and guidance of the cities or tribes remained vested in the hands of the elders even after the exile (Jer. 20:1; Ezek. 14:1-5; 20:1). Now in these matters (i.e., pervasively the function of civil judgment) legislation originally came from Moses and not through priests; when it was adjudicated, the elders and judges are prominent. Therefore, the priests seem to be completely taken up with religious service and not leaders in the political order.

All footnotes to Greg Bahnsen’s work cited above are found on pp. 389-391 of Theonomy in Christian Ethics [Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2002; first edition 1977]. The footnotes are cited below as found in his book.
1. F. F. Bruce, Israel and the Nations: From the Exodus to the Fall of the Second Temple (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963), p. 107.
2. E. W. Hengstenberg, History of the Kingdom of God Under the Old Testament, Vol. I (Cherry Hill, NJ: Mack Publishing Co., 1871 [reprinted 1972]), p. 235.
3. J. B. Shearer, Hebrew Institutions, Social and Civil (Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1910), p. 81.
4. Hengstenberg, Vol. II, op. cit., p. 67.
5. Shearer, loc. cit.
6. Roland De Vaux, Ancient Israel, Vol. I (Social Institutions), tran. Darton, Longman, and Todd, Ltd. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1965), pp. 93, 138, 152-153.
7. Ibid., pp. 150-151.
8. Ibid., p. 95.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mosaic Polity: Separation of Church and State

There was a clear separation of "church" and "state" in the Mosaic covenant. Only the family of Aaron could serve as priests in the Tabernacle, and only the tribe of Levi could assist them. This meant that no officer of the state could be an officer of the church, and separated the two institutions definitively (cf. 2 Chronicles 26: 16-19). The law distinguished between civil punishments on the one hand, and ecclesiastical ones, such as "cutting off from the people," or excommunication, on the other.1 
Some have argued that "cutting off" is the same as execution, but this is impossible. Leviticus 18:29 states that all the abominations of Leviticus 18 are punished by "cutting off," but in Leviticus 20, these same crimes are discussed, with a variety of punishments. Only a few are capital offenses. Clearly then, "cutting off" does not mean execution. ...["Cutting off"] implies that God will deal with the sinner --God will cut him off-- but since the officers of the Church know that God has set His face against that person, excommunication [i.e. "cutting off"] must be the church's response. Thus, "cutting off" implies ecclesiastical censure.2 

1.  James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World [Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers; 1999] p. 202
2.  Ibid. fn. 7

Thursday, August 1, 2013

John Calvin & Isaiah 64:6 -- "All our righteousness is as filthy rags"

Commenting on Isaiah 64:6, John Calvin writes:
Some commentators torture this passage, by alleging that the Prophet, when he speak of the pollutions of sins, describes the Jews without exception, though there still remained some of them who were sincere worshippers of God. But there are no good grounds for this; for the Prophet does not speak of individuals but of the whole body, which, being trodden under foot by all men, and subjected to the utmost indignity, he compares to a filthy garment.
There are some who frequently quote this passage, in order to probe that so far are our works from having any merit in them, that they are rotten and loathsome in the sight of God. But this appears to me to be at variance with the Prophet's meaning, who does not speak of the whole human race, but describes the complaint of those who having been led into captivity, experienced the wrath of the Lord against them, and therefore acknowledged that they and their righteousness were like a filthy garment.1

To understand better what Calvin is describing, Isaiah 64:6 (ESV) reads as follows:
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like wind, take us away.

Commenting further on God's acceptance of man's works, Calvin writes:
The Lord having rescued man from the pit of perdition, has through the grace of adoption set him apart for his own. Thereupon, because he has begotten him anew and conformed him to a new life, he now embraces him as a new creature endowed with the gifts of the Spirit. This is that "acceptance" which Peter mentions2 whereby believers are, after their call, approved of God also in respect of works. For the Lord cannot fail to love and embrace the good things that he works in them through his Spirit. But we must always remember that God "accepts" believers by reason of works only because he is their source, and graciously, by way of adding to his liberality, deigns also to show "acceptance" toward the good works he has himself bestowed.3

1.  Peter A. Lillback, The Binding of God: Calvin's role in the development of covenant theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic; 2001] p. 185
2.  Acts 10:34
3.  Peter A. Lillback, The Binding of God: Calvin's role in the development of covenant theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic; 2001] p. 186