Series of ‘Ask The Pastor’ Questions — Part I

Dear Pastor,

What’s “open theism”? Why might it be attractive? What might its danger be?

Open Theism is that belief that while God knows all things He can not know that which by definition can’t be known, which includes the future. This cornerstone belief of Open theism contradicts passages like Isaiah 46:10

Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

This denial cuts the heart out of the historic Christian doctrine of God’s Omniscience. This in turn calls into question the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. If God does not know the future omnisciently then it is difficult to see how it can genuinely be said that He controls the future is any substantive sense.

The Open Theists argument has been that the advantage of their system is it yields a God who cannot be charged with evil (how can God who didn’t know the future be held responsible for wickedness in the future?) and it allows for a libertarian free will that allows for genuine human involvement in creating the future.

Obviously its danger is that for every bit of libertarian free will that it gives to man it takes that much from God, thus shifting sovereignty from God to man. Also it becomes an open question of how a God who is neither omnipotent nor omniscient is worthy of being worshiped. If the best that God can do for those who have had evil visited upon them, is to sit down and have a good cry with them, then Open Theism brings the open question as to whether that God is worthy of our Worship.

What’s atonement? What are the classical ways of understanding / describing Christ’s atonement?

In Christian Theology Atonement is the means by which the justice and wrath of God are averted. In Christian Theology, because of the Fall, God and man are at enmity. Because of man’s sin the Holiness of God requires the justice of God to visit fallen man unless some kind of acceptable atonement can be found by which the wrath of God can be averted without calling into question God’s Holiness. In Christian theology God Himself provides the necessary atonement with the incarnation of the 2nd person of the trinity for the purpose of being the Elect’s, substitute, penalty bearing, sin-bearer thus serving as the propitiation that turns away the personal and just wrath of God from deserving sinners and as the expiation that bears sin away. The effect of the atonement is the reality of reconciliation between warring parties put into place by the work of satisfaction of the substitute. (Mt. 20:28)

Ransom to Satan Theory (Christus Victor) — This theory holds that the work of Christ terminates upon the devil. The atonement is provided to Satan. Satan holds men in thrall and Christ pays the ransom to Satan in order to redeem men and negate Satan’s claims. Some of the ECF held that God deceived Satan in the work of the Cross by tricking the Devil into accepting Christ’s death as a ransom since the Devil did not realize that Christ could not die permanently.

The emphasis in the Christus Victor theory of the atonement is Christ as triumphant over sin, Satan and death. Christ has come and triumphed and those who look to Christ triumph in and with Christ.

Mystical Theory — Here the emphasis falls not so much on the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ as it does on His incarnation. Christ in His incarnation and perfect life is the second Adam who reverses the course of sin that the first Adam set for humanity. The atonement of Christ is accomplished by Christ purifying the sinful fallen nature by the power of his divine nature and presenting that to the Father as the first fruits of a saved humanity. Men are atoned for as they are united to Christ by faith and experience ethical transformation.

Martyr Theory — The premise is that it is not God who needs to be reconciled to man but rather man that needs to be reconciled to God. In order to accomplish this Christ dies as a noble martyr and men are redeemed by being overawed by his example of faithfulness to truth and duty, which instills in them a determination to moral improvement to likewise be faithful to truth and duty. In this theory there is no connection between the death of Christ and the salvation of sinners in terms of Christ’s death being a payment for sin.

Moral influence Theory — This theory transfers the power of the atonement from the finished work of Christ to the response of men to the appeals that come forth from the work of Christ. Here the idea is that the atoning work of Christ will lead men to such a state of mind and heart that will itself be acceptable to God. It is that state of mind and heart underneath Christ’s moral influence that is accepted as atonement before God and not the atonement itself.

Governmental Theory — This view holds that Christ did not die for men’s sins but rather as a means of revealing God’s displeasure with sin and to show forth what men’s sins deserved. As such the atonement is not a satisfaction rendered up because of God’s intrinsically Holy Nature but rather in order satisfy the necessities of divine Government. This death of Christ thus does not forgive men but makes men forgivable if they will render up the kind of behavior that God requires. The death of Christ serves to uphold God’s moral government while leaving men to earn their forgiveness. The obvious problem here is that this theory moves from a Christo-centric means of forgiveness to a anthropocentric means of forgiveness. Christ’s death does not save men but makes them savable. The importance of the cross is eclipsed by our response to the Cross. In this theory the chief impact of the atonement is upon man and not upon God and so is subjective. It’s intent is not to provide forgiveness of sin but rather to be a deterrent to sin.

Commercial Theory — In this view sin is seen as withholding the honor that is due unto God. Should this kind of sin remain unpunished it would detract from the majesty of God (impugn His dignity). Consequently every sin must be followed either by punishment or by satisfaction. Man can not make the necessary satisfaction that is required by dishonor being done to the Great King’s name. God therefore, in showing mercy, provides the satisfaction Himself by becoming man in order to provide the only satisfaction that can meet that which man requires. The commercial theory is weak in expressing a relation between God’s honor which must be vindicated and His justice which must necessarily punish unatoned sin.

Penal – Substitution Theory — This is the theory that is taught by Scripture and so is embraced by Biblical expressions of the Reformed Faith. In the Biblical understanding of the atonement we find that God and man are at enmity with one another and reconciliation has to take place. The atonement that Christ provides is objective and by that we mean it terminates (is offered up to) the Father. It’s intent is first and foremost to propitiate God and to reconcile Him to sinners. However, there is also a reflex action in the atonement in as much as God is reconciled to the sinner, the result is that the sinner is reconciled to God (Romans 5:10). It is important to stress this primarily God-ward direction in the atonement if only because the primary error in all errant theories is that the atonement is seen as being primarily subjective and manward.

Second, orthodox views of the atonement require the ‘once for allness’ of Christ’s sacrifice. The atonement accomplished is unrepeatable and when applied by the Spirit of Christ is indefeasible. Justification is an accomplished fact and not a process. (Hebrews 7:27)

Third a Biblical view of the atonement requires us to see it as vicarious. Christ is our substitute and Vicar. He accomplished in our stead what we can not accomplish on our own. (Hebrews 9:28)

Fourth a Biblical view of the atonement requires forensic categories. Our sin is imputed to Christ and His righteousness (passive and active) is imputed to us.

Fifth, a Biblical view of atonement requires the sacrificial language of propitiation and expiation. Christ in His atoning work turns the personal wrath of God away from sinner while at the same time taking sin away. Further the language of sacrifice is seen in the whole idea that Christ is our ransom. Scripture teaches without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. The shed blood of Christ is the ransom price that is offered up in sacrifice that we might be loosed from our bondage.

What’s the place of the Ten Commandments in the Christian life?

The place of the Ten Commandments in the Christian life is both to continue to convict and remind us of our need for Christ who provides for us the only righteousness that is acceptable before the Father. The law continues to work in the Christian’s life to preach Christ in as much as it remind us that we remain sinners and that as sinners our only hope is in an alien righteousness.

The law however has what is called a ‘third use.’ This use of the law in the Christian’s life is to inform and instruct them in what is pleasing to Christ. The ‘third use’ of the law is to propel us in sanctification and Christ likeness.

The Puritans had a proverb that taught that the law sends us to Christ for justification and Christ sends us back to the law for sanctification. I believe that is a life long reality. Throughout our lives the law sends us to Christ to remind us that we are insufficient in and of ourselves to provide what we stand in need of, while at the same time out of sheer love of God and passion for His glory being known the law conforms Christians increasingly to Christ.

So, paradoxically enough, the place of the Ten Commandments in the Christians life is to remind that they are covenant breakers who need Christ’s covenant keeping righteousness while at the same time it is to propel them on in ever increasingly becoming covenant keepers in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit of Christ. We see this in the Heidelberg Catechism where the Law is given in the first section to convict of Sin but then in the section on gratitude it is given as the means by which we show our gratitude for being saved from the condemnation of the Law.

Is the Reformed faith “spiritual” enough? What is a Reformed understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit?

Depends what you mean by ‘Spiritual.’ If by Spiritual in that question you are asking if the Reformed faith is imbued with a sense of God’s majesty, splendor and awe, that radically energizes and captivates the Redeemed, then I would say there is no expression of Christianity that is more Spiritual than the Biblical faith which is sometimes synonymously called Reformed. The Reformed faith fills one with passion for the extension of the Kingdom and the desire to see all of creation Redeemed. The Reformed faith fills one with compassion for the lost and rebellious. The Reformed faith seeks to see everything in light of God’s light and to assess all things in relationship to who God is. The Reformed faith compels one to know God throughout ones life and then in turn to make Him known. The Reformed Faith believes that the ‘good,’ the ‘true’ and the ‘beautiful’ only come to fruition by submitting to the Biblical World and life view. If the Reformed Faith isn’t Spiritual enough then nothing is.

The Reformed understanding of the Work of the Holy Spirit is that he is to convict the world of Sin, righteousness and the judgment to come. His job is to make Christ known just as the son was to make the Father known. The Spirit also is the work of the Sanctifier in the lives of believers and the Church. He is the one who continues to cause us to thirst for Christ and He is the one who slakes that thirst with Christ. The Spirit is also spoken as the inheritance which is to come. He is given as kind of a promissory note of all the glory that believers will share with Christ. The Spirit is also the person of the Trinity that is the driving force in the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God. One way that the Spirit does this is by illumining the minds of God’s people and the Church in the reading of Scripture so that we might know how to apply God’s Law-Word to every area of life.

Ecclesiologists talk about the “institutional” and “organic” natures of the church, and the “visible” and “invisible” church. What are these about?

Institutional and organic are typically distinctions that are spoken of in relation to the Church visible.

Institutional Church — The Church as it is considered in its organizational role. This is the Church as considered from the vantage point of its structures, ministries, government, and institutional influence. The Church in its institutional capacity is the Mother of all believers and exists as an agency for the conversion of sinners and the up building of the saints.

Organic Church — The Church as it is considered in its relationships, communal life, confession of faith, and joint opposition to the World. The Church organic is the fellowship of the believers united by the bond of the Spirit.

Visible and Invisible are typically distinctions that are spoken of in relation to the all of those who are in the outward administration of the covenant vis a vis those who have the essence of the covenant.

Visible Church — The Church as it is seen before the World. The whole body of confessing members, both regenerate and unregenerate as known by God and gathered to worship. The Church as seen in its corporeal manifestation.

Invisible Church — The Church as known by God. This would be the true Church and encapsulates all the saints who are in the bosom of Christ.

When should and when should the church not speak on social issues?

First of all, I’m not sure what a ‘social issue’ is. Are there social issues that are not issues because of the different theologies held by different people that are making them a ‘social issue?’ In other words are social issues in reality theological issues under another guise?

I guess the short answer is that the Church should speak on social issues whenever the Scriptures speak on social issues.

How do you respond to someone who says, “Spirituality is Moses’ face glowing when coming down from meeting God on Mt. Sinai, and religion is Moses dragging two stone tablets with God’s commands on them”?

I would say that this is a false dichotomy.

First of all Moses’ face glowed with the Shekinah glory of God for the precise reason that He spent time in God’s presence. If we are now to shine with that Shekinah glory of God the only way to go about it is to likewise spend time in God’s presence just as Moses did and the way to do that is by spending time in the Scriptures and in prayer. There is no separating Spirituality from the fullness of God’s spoken Word and the presence of God in His Word. There is no separating Biblical and Christian Spirituality from Biblical and Christian religion and anybody who seeks to introduce a dichotomy between the two will likely end up in a very confused state. We can not get to Biblical Christian Spirituality apart from Biblical Christian religion. We cannot have the effects of Biblical Christianity (Biblical Christian Spirituality) without having the carrier of that Spirituality (Biblical Christian religion).

Letting You Listen Into The Conversation

Many of you know that the Reformed world in the USA is going through a really donnybrook of a battle between some who have styled themselves Federal Visionists and those who claim to be defending the historic traditions of the Reformed faith. Many of you know I have a problem with some of the beliefs of combatants on both sides of the contest. Below I reproduce a conversation I recently had with somebody on this division within the Reformed Church. The person who is pro FV comments are in italics.

For one thing, the majority of the PCA has not determined the state of the question or even the legitimacy of the charges against men like Steve Wilkins even if they have appointed a committee to do so. As usual, these things on closer examination fail to pass muster when we consider all the attendant factors.

KJ this is revisionist history. The PCA GA, by higher than 90%, accepted the committee report that clearly determined that FV was out of bounds. All that is happening with the Wilkins case is the application of that denominational decision. Actually, upon closer examination what fails to pass muster when the attendant factors are considered are KJ’s assertions.

Secondly, it is clear–whatever you or others think of the matter–that Federal Vision theology springs generally from normal received traditions in flux at differing points in the Reformed traditions we have to this point since the sixteenth century.

You can find almost anything as a ‘normally received tradition’ somewhere at some time in 500 years of Reformed history. So what?

Look, it’s this simple … If the gatekeepers in current Reformed denominations don’t desire FV then FV isn’t going to survive in those denominations. That is the way that all organizations work. Many Reformed denominations have determined that they don’t want FV getting into the water supply of Christendom through their channels thus bringing about the same kind of coup that dispensationalism won 100 years ago when it got into the water supply and infected everything.

The answer is easy here KJ. Let the FV people go build their own denominations. If, as many have said, ‘Ichabod’ is pronounced over the denominations that have given the old ‘heave ho’ to FV then in a short amount of time those denominations will dry up and FV will stand as champion on the grave of that which it detests.

I am too much of a historian to admit the idea that the Reformed tradition was fully developed and constant throughout its entire five hundred year length to this point. So, is it really a compromise of the doctrine of justification by faith? Maybe it is according to Muller who has his own limitations in looking at the Reformed histories and the corresponding traditions but I daresay that some of the men he has studied would be less impressed with his results.

Yes, and many men who study the works of those who don’t like Muller wouldn’t be impressed with their works. Again, I ask … ‘So What?’

Certainly, the Reformed tradition is still not fully developed, and who would contend that it has ever been constant? These are ‘Captain Obvious’ statements. Again, the point of the matter is that different groups desire different trajectories for their version of the ‘Tradition.’ Let each go their own way.

And yes the Federal Vision is, in its less thought out expressions, is a compromise on the doctrine of justification by faith alone.’

But to further throw a wrench in the works…let us do what you have supposed and grant the premise. I’m frankly not sure that this is the momentous occasion that the Reformation was in looking at ‘the article at which the church stands or falls’. Is the Church herself on the brink of destruction because sola fide is purportedly at risk in a denomination not .0000000000000000153254 percent of the entire Christian Body on this planet?

You don’t come to truth by counting noses KJ. By this reasoning something was amiss with Elijah since he was one of the .0000000000000000153254 percent of the entire faithful body in Israel. Being the avid student of history that you claim to be you surely realize that minorities often are those who save the day.

Remember the Mustard Seed.

Go ahead, drop a zero on the right side of the decimal from that percentage and include all the other Reformed bodies that have commented negatively on the FV and what do we have other than a very small group–something like the leaf way up high on massive oak that is hundreds of years old–telling the entire Church how she must view this issue.

Just imagine how small of leafs Luther and Calvin and Bucer, and Zwingli, and Peter Martyr and Bullinger et. all must have been. And yet …

No doubt a proper understanding of justification by faith alone is important and central to the gospel, but it is not equivalent to the gospel.

Is this like saying a proper functioning ovary is important and central to getting pregnant, but it is not equivalent to getting pregnant?

Well, sure, but no woman will ever get pregnant without a proper functioning ovary. Just so, no one will ever be saved without a gospel which casts all on Christ alone.

And, frankly the dismissing of the importance of justification by faith alone is troubling.

There are times when other more central matters have pressed to the fore in the history of the Church and I believe we face more important issues than this one especially when (let us come back to reality now) it is not immediately clear that the Federal Vision advocates are in every instance denying that which they have sought to affirm every inch of the way.

There is some truth there. I believe that public square a-nomianism (Radical Two Kingdom Theology) in the church is just as dangerous as FV. I believe that Feminism in the Church is just as dangerous as FV. I believe that humanistic psychology in the Church is just as dangerous as FV. There are many different ways in which the Church can be poisoned. I also agree that not all FV advocates are in every instance denying what they are being said to deny though certainly some of them do. Still, among all the dangers the Church faces FV is certainly a danger that the Church should react strongly against. Now, if she would only act against the other dangers.

The discipline present in Reformed churches carries with it a stench that originally belonged to her Roman subjugators.

That is always what the minority says when they are getting tossed out on their ears. Sometimes, no doubt, they are correct. Sometimes they aren’t.

If anything, the Reformed churches of our land are due for a major overhaul. I pray for revival. Repentance and true revival. The kind that would scare the crap out of the White Horse Inn guys. That would solve our problem a whole lot faster than the countless disciplinary actions sure to follow if the SJC and Mr. Inquisitor General Andy Webb gets their way.

I join you with the prayer for Reformation in head and members. I support the idea that every generation must re-interpret and re-apply the Reformed faith so that it remains the living tradition of the dead and not the dead tradition of the living. I also agree that the White Horse Inn guys would probably soil their undergarments with the kind of Reformation I envision. But for all that I am pretty sure that your vision of Reformation and my vision of Reformation are at such odds that we would be disappointed if either of our visions came to pass.

It is a good thing that God’s vision will come to pass when genuine Reformation comes and not Horton’s and not Webb’s and not Wilson’s and not Johnson’s and not McAtee’s.

Well … maybe McAtee’s

R2Kt Virus Is Spreading

In my reading today, I came across the following gem from a Westminster West graduate. (Remember Westminster West — Escondido, is the Seminary where the equivalent of the Streptococcus pyogenes is being incubated and disseminated so as to infect the Church with the flesh eating Radical Two Kingdom Theology — {R2Kt}.)

First he who is infected with R2Kt asks,

I wonder if transformationism in the spiritual kingdom is the mirror-image of its counterpart in the civil one?

Here we see one incipient problem in the R2Kt virus. By opposing completely the notion of ‘transformationism’ the R2Kt infected people are advocating non-transformationism. Are they advocating for a Gospel that leaves people and cultures unchanged? Or are they suggesting that transformation of culture is impossible? If pre-millennialism teaches a kind of reverse transformationism where the worst things get the better things are because that means that Jesus is close to coming back, and if the post-millennialism teaches a positive transformationism that teaches the better things get the better things are because that means that the present Kingdom of God is continuing to expand those infected with R2Kt with its a-millennial chaser, seem to be teaching a ‘things never changism’ because they seem to hold that transformation is Maya.

The comment quoted above seems to suggest that belief in some kind of transformationism is avoidable. It is as if they believe that theological convictions don’t by absolute necessity transform. It is as if they don’t believe that transformation can be characterized as positive or negative. If transformation can’t be characterized as either positive or negative then what standard could we possibly use to determine cultural progress or regress? Is it the case no matter how culture is transformed it always remains equally good and bad?

Once again we would say that this is a case where it is not possible to hold to a-transformationism. It is never a question of if Theological ideas will have cultural transforming implications. It is only a question of which Theological ideas will be embraced that will lead to some kind of cultural transformation. Those infected with the R2Kt bug seem to think that transformation is avoidable. Ironically though with the convictions that those infected by the R2Kt bug hold the result is indeed transformationism, for if the R2Kt bug spreads far enough the result will be the Church’s continued fleeing from the common realm leaving a vacuum to be filled by the adherents of other God’s who are far less shy and retiring about exercising direct hegemony over culture thus transforming it.

Finally, the problem with ‘Secular’ transformation in the civil Kingdom is not that such desire for transformation is inherently evil. The problem is that the putatively Secularist has married his desired Transformations with eschatological anticipations that are informed by a pagan theology. As many have noted what has happened in America is that Puritan Post-millennial theology has been retained among Humanist Secularists but it has been ripped away from its Christian and Biblical moorings and has been put into the service of anti-Christ theologies.

Just as postmillennial transformationists feel compelled to “redeem the city,” so many Americans (believing or not) feel the responsibility to “make the world safe for democracy.” The latter has been called “the white man’s burden,” and perhaps the former should be considered the Christian version of Manifest Destiny.

I will gladly consent to calling post-millennialism Manifest Destiny. It is the revelation of God’s Word that teaches me that it is the Manifest Destiny of the Nations to Kiss the Son lest He be angry and they perish in the way. It is the revelation of God’s Word that teaches me that it is the Manifest Destiny that we should pray ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ It is the revelation of God’s Word that teaches me that it is the Manifest Destiny that the Kingdoms of this World shall be the Kingdoms of our Lord. It is the revelation of God’s Word that teaches me that it is the Manifest Destiny that the Knowledge of the Glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Now, the problem with the old notion of the necessity of ‘making the World safe for democracy’ is not that we as Christians shouldn’t desire for the World to be safe, but the problem is that the word ‘Democracy’ has become a synonym with ‘non-Christian.’ Acutally, I have even less use for this idea then those infected with R2Kt.

Those infected with R2Kt virus have the same concept of Manifest Destiny though in their Theology. For them it is Manifest Destiny that nothing ever changes. For them it is Manifest Destiny that the good and evil grow equally together until the end when finally evil gets the upper hand. For them it is Manifest Destiny that the Church is to be silent when it comes to whether Communism is to be preferred of Constitutionalism, or whether Keynesianism is to be preferred over Market economies, or whether Education that locks God out as the beginning of all wisdom is to be preferred over Education that acknowledges the Lordship of Christ in every area of life. So, again, it is not a question of whether Christians will have a kind of Manifest Destiny or not but rather it is a question of which kind of Manifest Destiny will we support. I vote for the one in the Bible.

If what is good for the pious goose is good for the pagan gander, then the secular version of judgment beginning at the house of God may be the willingness to admit that we Americans don’t need to get to “Babylon By Bus,” we can just walk out our front door.

I am a post-millennialist and I couldn’t agree with that statement more. A genuine post-millennialist believes that we don’t call ‘evil,’ ‘good’ in order to lie to ourselves that the Kingdom is expanding before our very eyes. A genuine post-millennialist transformationist so desires transformation that he realizes that he must call a spade a ruddy shovel in order to push for transformation. I have said for some time now that America may well indeed be the modern incarnation of ‘Babylon the Great.’

Does that make me a pious goose or a pagan gander?

Of Pietistic Ghettos, Intellectual Confrontation, & Hurried Calls For Spiritual Decision

“Yet twentieth-century evangelicals have been unable rationally to lift this generation to a clear vision of the reality of the supernatural, not simply because of human unregeneracy but because of their withdrawal into pietistic ghettos and their hurried call for spiritual decision which often leaps over an effectual intellectual confrontation.”

Dr. Carl F. H. Henry
God, Revelation and Authority Vol. 1 pg. 114

Actually, since the problem that Henry cites continues in the widespread double whammy ‘success’ of the Pentecostal (Charismatic) / Church Growth ‘gospel’ the worse thing in the world that could happen would be for these ‘converts’ to move out of their pietistic ghettos. The ‘Gospel’ continues to go forward and the Church continues to be built by ‘the hurried call for spiritual decision’ and by ‘leaping over an effectual intellectual confrontation.’

Anecdotally speaking, I saw this again, up close and personal when attending a ‘Promise Keepers’ conference several years ago. The first night was dedicated to a ‘gospel presentation’ and when the altar call was extended the front was wall to wall people presumably ‘giving their hearts to Jesus.’ The only problem was that their was no gospel in the gospel message that was preached. These people couldn’t give their hearts to Jesus because Jesus was nowhere to be found.

Likewise, in our Churches today there is very little ‘intellectual confrontation.’ To be perfectly honest, you would face mammoth difficulties by trying to build a self supporting Church with an ‘intellectual confrontation,’ approach. The last thing our culture wants is to be confronted. Better to emotionally manipulate people into getting saved, then to spend the intellectual effort, and the time required to articulate the wonder of God and the prevalent and deceptive nature of sin. You see, if you leap over effectual intellectual confrontation to emotional manipulation you avoid the heavy lifting that intellectual confrontation requires of the speaker and the requirement of real change (repentance) demanded upon those who listen.

As long as the Church continues to operate this way we need to sincerely pray that God would keep us in the ghettos because the damage we could do if we get outside the ghettos and into the mainstream would be devastating both to the mainstream and to the reputation of the Christian faith. Contemporarily speaking, a guy like Mike Huckabee is a perfect example of the embarrassment accruing to Christians when somebody gets off the reservation.

I am not arguing for an hyper academic Church. People like me, who are not particularly sharp knives, would be lost in that kind of setting. What I am arguing for is a Church that is willing to think through both how sin subtly manifests itself and how Christ’s redemption should be a cure and reversal of that. I am arguing for a church that quits with the emotional propaganda in order to make headway among people. I am arguing for a Church that realizes that the Gospel has a trajectory that requires Christians to have the ability to be vigorous thinkers — even and especially among the ‘rank and file.’

Lord Christ, grant us Reformation in head and members.

Roman Catholics & Natural Law

“… The image was equated with the soul’s natural attributes, while the … likeness, was equated with man’s moral conformity to God; the former were retained after the fall, the latter lost. This disjunction of image and likeness, and their segregation in each case from innate knowledge of God, became characteristic of scholastic and Roman Catholic doctrine. The Roman Catholic view is that man was created morally neutral, and that original righteousness was a superadded divine gift. While the fall eliminates this divine bonus, it produces no radical distortion of man’s original nature. Since the fall leaves the natural attributes unimpaired, man’s grasp of theological realities by the natural reason is not seriously affected by sin. The compartmentalization of man through the sundered image and likeness moderates the impairment of human nature by sin, and allows to the natural reason a positive significance in theology which finally inverts the Augustinian epistemic priority for divine revelation.”

Dr. Carl F. H. Henry
God, Revelation & Authority Vol. I pg. 332

Alright, this explains why Roman Catholics (RC) can appeal to Natural law without blushing. Now, clearly they don’t have a leg to stand on from Scripture since there is no distinction to be made between likeness and image and since Scripture teaches the complete vitiation of man’s intellect in the fall. Secondly, no Reformed Theologian worth his salt would ever say that, ‘while the fall eliminates this divine bonus (original righteousness), it produces no radical distortion of man’s original nature.’ Now, since that is true, how do Reformed Theologians consistently get from a ruinous fall to the teaching of Natural law which depends on Thomistic Roman Catholic categories?

Henry notes the ‘compartmentalization’ of RC thinking and when he notes that we can’t help but immediately think of a similar ‘compartmentalization’ that advocates of Natural law thinking are likewise involved in. On one hand, redemptively speaking man needs God’s regenerating grace in order to understand aright special revelation, while on the other hand, in the other compartment, man doesn’t need God’s regenerating grace in order to understand and embrace God’s Natural revelation in the creation realm.

Can Reformed people consistently compartmentalize the Creation realm from the Redemptive realm in order to save Natural law theory? Does their inconsistency on this matter reveal an unwarranted captivity to categories alien to Reformed ideas regarding the extent of depravity?