I found the following quotation from Karl Barth in his Church Dogmatics I.2 on the problem of modern Biblicism. Biblicism may be described as the error of turning the excellent doctrine of sola scriptura of the Reformers into the erroneous idea of solo scriptura. It is also a distortion of sola scriptura, in turning the Bible into lifeless golden plates that descended from Heaven. The Bible is a divine witness to the revelation of Jesus Christ, and it is the highest authority and witness for all Protestants. In honest desires to praise and honor the Scriptures, and to emphasize its preeminent position in the Church, many Protestants make a false dichotomy between the Holy Scriptures and the tradition of the Church. And in the extreme cases, Biblicists receive Church History as if it were an enemy of the Holy Scripture, rather than a living witness to what the Holy Scripture witnesses too.
Agree or disagree with Barth, I found this summary helpful to describe the problem. I've divided it into three part, the first contains the large print introduction, the second paragraph contains a definition of Biblicism and quotations from a 19th century biblicist, and the last paragraph as Barth's response to Biblicism. I recommend reading atleast the last paragraph, which I have made bold.
Barth introduces the problem of reading the bible in isolation and independently against all traditions and authorities:
To get to the root of this matter we have to be clear especially about this point. Holy Scripture in its divine authority speaks to each generation in the Church in the form of a definitely defined Canon. To that extent it speaks with human authority, the authority of the preceding Church. But similarly, it never speaks to any generation or individual in the Church alone, as the naked, written word which has come down to us. It speaks to us as to those who belong to the fellowship of the Church and have a place in its history. Most frequently, perhaps, it speaks externally not as the word written and read but as the word preached. But even as direct readers we cannot withdraw from our particular place in the Church which has baptised and instructed us, or from its witness with regard to the understanding of what we now undertake to read and understand. If Holy Scripture alone is the divine teacher in the school in which we find ourselves when we find ourselves in the Church, we will not want to find ourselves in this school of the Church without fellow-pupils, without cooperation with them, without the readiness to be instructed by older and more experienced fellow-pupils: as fellow-pupils, but to be instructed. And basically the older and more experienced fellow-pupil is simply the Church teacher. He is, in fact, older and more experienced in a qualified sense of the words. He is not only a son but a father in the Church. We have to be instructed by him. But the fact that he is so is something which can only happen. We have to treat it as a presupposition. Therefore if we are asked how we came to accept the existence of these teachers, we can only reply with a counter-question: how can we be members of the Church and obedient to the Word of God and not do so? What is sure is that the Church hears—and it is only as its members and not as spaceless and timeless monads that we hear the Word of God in Scripture. But if we hear it as members of the Church, then we also hear the Church, and therefore we do not hear the echo of the Word of God only or first of all in our own voice, but in the voice of others, those who were before us in the Church. All others, and all who were before us? No, not all, but those who according to the confession of the Church have spoken and still speak in such a way that others had and still have to listen to them. Those, then, in whose voice, according to the confession of the rest of the Church, we have to hear the Church’s voice, whom we have to hear therefore with the authority of the Church. Can we deny in principle the existence of these older and more experienced fellow-pupils, and therefore the ecclesiastical authority of particular teachers? Surely not in principle. And even in practice we could not do so without the danger and suspicion that the real concern of the self-glorifying which we enjoy as those who hear only the Word of God is a secret emancipation from a genuine hearing of the Word of God rather than the assertion of that Evangelical Scripture principle of which we perhaps make such ostentatious parade.
Barth uses Menken to embody an exemplify modern Biblicism with the following quotations from Menken's 19th Century Biblicism:
An interesting peripheral phenomenon of Neo-Protcstantism is the peculiar behaviour of the so-called Biblicism whose existence and character are strikingly presented in Gottfried Menken (1768–1831) of Bremen, a writer who has never received sufficient notice in dogmatic history. Even in his youth the characteristic complaint was made against Menken that it was “his obsession to try to construct his Christianity out of the Bible alone” (Gildemeister, Leben und Werke des Dr. G. Menken, 1861, II, 7). That is the more or less explicit programme of this modern Biblicism. “My reading is very limited yet very extended; it begins with Moses and ends with John. The Bible and the Bible alone I read and study” (ib. I, p. 21). He is not concerned with “what is old or new, with defending or attacking, with assent to the doctrine of any ecclesiastical party, with orthodoxy or heterodoxy, but only with the pure and genuine teaching of the Bible” (Schriften, 1858f. VII, p. 256). And the Church? Menken prefers to avoid the word. For him and for all modern Biblicists it is a question of “Christianity,” “reality” the “truth,” the “kingdom of God.” The Church is “the eternally pure possessor and preserver of the divine.” Yet only too often its doctrine has “come under the influence of a passing philosophy or the superstitiously venerated theology of the fathers” (Schriften VII, p. 264). “In any case, where is the Church? Is it in the East or the West? Does it gather under the staff of the ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople or under the threefold crown of the Pope at Rome? Finding no rest or portion in the world, did it long ago retire with the ancient Syrian Christians into the heart of Southern India or with the Waldenses into the valleys of Piedmont? In the fellowship of the Holy Ghost did it infallibly and irrevocably express itself at the Diet of Augsburg or at the Council of Trent or at the National Synod of Dort? Or finally is the true and perfect idea of Christian truth and doctrine to be found in the Idea fidei Fratrum? These few questions point to many things and embrace a large part of Christianity; but many different events, and systems and confessions and millions of Christians are outside their scope: Nestorians, Monophysites, Mennonites, Arminians, Jansenists, Mystics and Quakers; and many others, who all make claim to the name of the Christian Church and the treasure of Christian orthodoxy. These few questions are enough to show that, if we are not ignorant, or if after the customary manner and usage of sectarianism which becomes almost second nature, when we use the word Church we do not regard the confession of the Fathers and the sum total of those who agree with it as the only Christian fellowship in which true doctrine is to be found and to which alone, therefore, or primarily the name of Church belongs, it is not easy even to know what the Church believes and teaches. At an informative glance at so many different periods, countries, languages, systems, costumes and customs, at the confusion and tumult of so many different and contradictory and warring sects, at the medley of so many different confessions and catechisms, it seems difficult and almost impossible to find a standpoint where with insight and material truth we can say: I believe and teach what the Church believes and teaches” (Schriften VII, p. 238).
Barth's response to Menken is as follow:
In these circumstances how can the Church have authority? “What is offered me as old is honoured by you as such only because it is found in a 16th-century catechism from the Palatinate or Saxony, or because an 11th-century Archbishop of Canterbury or a 5th-century Bishop of Hippo thought in this way and formulated and determined the matter accordingly. But if you could add to these human authorities a greater one in the utterances of a 2nd-century Bishop of Lyons, which you cannot, it would not make any material difference. For it does not matter to me to learn how Ursin or Luther or Anselm or Augustine or Irenaeus thought about the matter and formulated and determined it—they and their decisions are too new. I want that which is old, original and solely authentic: Holy Scripture itself” (Schriften, VII, p. 263 f.). If these statements and arguments had been handed down without name or context, we might suppose that their author was of the Enlightenment instead of the passionate opponent of the Enlightenment which Menken actually was. And we find a similar agreement with Neo-Protestant anti-confessionalism in the later writer J. T. Beck, and partly too in Hofmann of Erlangen, and occasionally even in A. Schlatter. What does this agreement mean? We obviously have to ask whether here the Bible individually read and autonomously understood and expounded is not set up with the same sovereignty as others have exalted reason or feeling or experience or history as the one principle of theology? In this context does not the special treatment of the Bible—to the extent that it does not come under the relativism with which the Church is considered—take on something of self-glorification? Are we not dealing with a pious, but in its audacity no less explicitly modern leap into direct immediacy, with a laying hold of revelation, which, involving as it does a jettisoning of the fathers, although it purports to be a laying hold of the Bible, is perhaps something very different from the obedience of faith which only occurs when revelation lays hold of us by the word of the Bible? By nature is this absolutism of the Bible any different from that other absolutism which constituted the decisive characteristic of the spirit and system of the 18th century as it culminated in the Enlightenment? And can it be very different in its consequences? Will those who will have the Bible alone as their master, as though Church history began again with them, really refrain from mastering the Bible? In the vacuum of their own seeking which this involves, will they perhaps hear Scripture better than in the sphere of the Church? In actual fact, there has never been a Biblicist who for all his grandiloquent appeal directly to Scripture against the fathers and tradition has proved himself so independent of the spirit and philosophy of his age and especially of his favourite religious ideas that in his teaching he has really allowed the Bible and the Bible alone to speak reliably by means or in spite of his anti-traditionalism. On the contrary, in the very Neo-Protestant peculiarities which we find at crucial points especially in Menken but also in J. T. Beck, we are instructed that it is not advisable for serious students of Scripture so blithely to ignore the 16th century catechisms of the Palatinate and Saxony, or that 5th century Bishop of Hippo, or to refuse the guidance and correction afforded by the existence of Church fathers, as that biblicist programme involves. Otherwise there may be too easy and close an approximation to all kinds of other modern Titanisms. The Biblicism of the Reformers, as distinct from modern Biblicism, did not make this approximation because not in spite but in application of the Evangelical Scripture principle it kept itself free from this anti-traditionalism. J. A. Bengel, whose name is often mentioned in this context, showed at this point much greater wisdom than his more recent followers. Of course, we must not ignore but properly respect the fact that this modern Biblicism did find itself in a relative opposition to Neo-Protestantism generally. It did give a necessary reminder of the Evangelical Scripture principle and in its own way it made an effective modern application of it at a crucial period. By way of it some important and true exegetical discoveries were made, and its outstanding representatives had a great personal dignity. But again that cannot prevent us from definitely rejecting its procedure in relation to the fathers as a basically liberal undertaking, just as we reject the thoughtlessness and lack of respect shown by all Neo-Protestantism in this regard.-- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I.2, Section 20.2, pg607-609
My family has been members for years at Mars Hill Church. I served there in various ministries, as a Deacon, and for the past two years as a Pastor. This summer, we left Mars Hill to join Trinitas Church, a church plant within the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Although there is great unity between Mars Hill and the PCA in the most important doctrines, there are differences as well. Of theses, Infant Baptism is the difference that I have been asked about the most by our friends, especially because this Sunday, my three children, Zoraida (4yrs old), Augustine (2yrs old) and Pascal (1month old) are being baptized.
Infant Baptism is not new to me, I have attended churches that practiced Infant Baptism in the past. I also have read many books about Infant Baptism's strong support in history and worldwide practice that were influential, and I've included some of those at the end of this post. Although it has been my conviction that Infant Baptism should be practiced for a long time, we have delayed the baptism of our oldest two children due to respecting and honoring our previous church's convictions on this issue, but now that we have joined a church within a tradition that honors and advocates for Infant Baptism, it is now appropriate and honoring for our children to be baptized. I have faith, and hope for the day when Jesus Christ will unify His Church such that Infant Baptism would return to this normal practice of Christian Baptism in all Christendom. Continue reading...
In a surprising passage in the Institutes III.14.14-15, John Calvin affirms supererogatory works (or superfluous works)! Is Calvin affirming the Roman Catholic merit system for justification after all? No. Calvin quotes the parable of the unprofitable servant (Luke 17:10) to remind us that all we do, even at our best, is still our duty and what is expected of us, such that if we do more than what was necessary and sufficient, it is truly a superfluous work, that has great value, but in no way does it merit for us or others a greater reward. Calvin also leans on Paul's example in 1 Cor 9:15, where Paul may have invoked his apostolic authority to receive what was due to him, but set that right aside for a greater gain at a self-cost.
14. How can boasting in works of supererogation agree with the command given to us: “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do?” (Luke 17:10). To say or speak in the presence of God is not to feign or lie, but to declare what we hold as certain. Our Lord, therefore, enjoins us sincerely to feel and consider with ourselves that we do not perform gratuitous duties, but pay him service which is due. And truly. For the obligations of service under which we lie are so numerous that we cannot discharge them though all our thoughts and members were devoted to the observance of the Law; and, therefore, when he says “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you,” it is just as if he had said that all the righteousness of men would not amount to one of these things. Seeing, then, that every one is very far distant from that goal, how can we presume to boast of having accumulated more than is due? It cannot be objected that a person, though failing in some measure in what is necessary, may yet in intention go beyond what is necessary. For it must ever be held that in whatever pertains to the worship of God, or to charity, nothing can ever be thought of that is not comprehended under the Law. But if it is part of the Law, let us not boast of voluntary liberality in matters of necessary obligation.
15. On this subject, they ceaselessly allege the boast of Paul, that among the Corinthians he spontaneously renounced a right which, if he had otherwise chosen, he might have exercised (1 Cor 9:15); thus not only paying what he owed them in duty, but gratuitously bestowing upon them more than duty required. They ought to have attended to the reason there expressed, that his object was to avoid giving offense to the weak. For wicked and deceitful workmen employed this pretense of kindness that they might procure favor to their pernicious dogmas, and excite hatred against the Gospel, so that it was necessary for Paul either to peril the doctrine of Christ, or to thwart their schemes. Now, if it is a matter of indifference to a Christian man whether or not he cause a scandal when it is in his power to avoid it, then I admit that the Apostle performed a work of supererogation to his Master; but if the thing which he did was justly required in a prudent minister of the Gospel, then I say he did what he was bound to do. In short, even when no such reason appears, yet the saying of Chrysostom is always true, that everything which we have is held on the same condition as the private property of slaves; it is always due to our Master. Christ does not disguise this in the parable, for he asks in regard to the master who, on return from his labor, requires his servant to gird himself and serve him, “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not,” (Luke 17:9). But possibly the servant was more industrious than the master would have ventured to exact. Be it so: still he did nothing to which his condition as a servant did not bind him, because his utmost ability is his master’s. I say nothing as to the kind of supererogations on which these men would plume themselves before God. They are frivolities which he never commanded, which he approves not, and will not accept when they come to give in their account. The only sense in which we admit works of supererogation is that expressed by the prophet, when he says, “Who has required this at your hand?” (Isaiah 1:12). But let them remember what is elsewhere said of them: “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” (Isaiah 55:2). It is, indeed, an easy matter for these indolent Rabbis to carry on such discussions sitting in their soft chairs under the shade, but when the Supreme Judge shall sit on his tribunal, all these blustering dogmas will behave to disappear. This, this I say, was the true question: not what we can fable and talk in schools and corners, but what ground of defense we can produce at his judgment-seat.
- John Calvin, Institutes of The Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 14, Section 14-15, [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.xv.html#v.xv-p43]
In Karl Barth's criticism of Capital Punishment, he provides a very good summary of the three best arguments for Capital Punishment, because he continues on to criticize and deconstruct each of them.
1) According to the first theory, which is not only the oldest and most primitive but also the most obvious and impressive, the purpose of punishment is to protect society and the individuals united in it against the criminal and possible imitators of his action by effectively removing the former in some gentler or more drastic fashion, by thus preventing him from further wrongdoing, and at the same time by setting a dreadful example before the latter in order to teach them that such acts are not worth while.
2) According to the second and more profound theory, punishment is meted out because the committed violation of the law objectively demands a retribution or expiation which must fall on the criminal himself, and this in such a way that he himself is more or less severely restricted in the enjoyment of his rights according to the measure in which he has offended against the rights of others or of society. Punishment is, as it were, a representation and proclamation in human and earthly terms of the retributive justice of God.
3) According to the third theory, originated and first held in modern Europe and America, the criminal is punished in order to bring him to an acknowledgement of his error, and to incite him to future amendment, by drastically confronting him with the nature of what he has done in the form of what is now done to him. Punishment thus has a moral, pedagogic and even pastoral purpose.
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III.4, Section 55.2, pg440
Here is a brief quotation from Barth's response against these arguments:
If the command to protect life is accepted and asserted in some sense in a national community, then it is impossible to maintain capital punishment as an element in its normal and continuing order. It is astonishing and disturbing fact that for nineteen hundred years there has been a Christian Church, and for four hundred a Protestant, which has not only failed to champion this insight but has continually opposed it. And it is one of the disconcerting blessings of the divine overruling of history that nevertheless it has been very widely accepted, being adopted far more readily and energetically by the children of the world than by the children of the light. But the dreadful abuse of capital punishment which has become rampant again during the last decades in the very heart of Europe, and in a form far exceeding the atrocities of the 16th and 17th centuries, is a clear indication that even the children of the world have not renounced this weapon quite so completely as might have appeared at the height of the 19th century. It is not too late, therefore, for the Christian Church to espouse this renunciation on a worldwide scale. It had every reason to do so from the very first on the basis of its central message, and if it is really true that Liberal opposition to the death sentence was too superficial to be finally adequate and effective, there is no reason why the Church should continue to hide its light under a bushel in this respect. For from the point of view of the Gospel there is nothing to be said for its institution, and everything against it.
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III.4, Section 55.2, pg445-6
This selection is from an extended ethical section in CD III.4, where he also addresses abortion, suicide, and just war.
Gregory of Nyssa (329-389 A.D.) is called The Star of Nyssa because of his immense genius. It's a marvel of history that the three Cappadocian Father's appeared at once. Gregory constantly praises his older brother Basil the Great, calling him "our Master", and without exception praises him constantly, and typically refers to Basil by honorific titles. Gregory of Nazianzus was "the other Gregory" and was influential leader of the church and master theologian as well. These three Church Fathers are principle theologians to this day in the Orthodox Church, but not only in Eastern Christianity but are venerated in all of the world. Not until Augustine, did a greater Church Father and Great Theologian than these three men appear.
Gregory of Nyssa was the Bishop of Nyssa and influential in the early church, and participated in the First Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) Gregory's works have been compiled in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 5 (NPNF2-5), Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc. (I'll refer to this complete volume henceforth as Dogmatic Treatises). In any great series, there is a low point, and unfortunately this volume has done a great injustice to the Star of Nyssa. The translation is over 120 years old, so it is difficult to read, and the text is lacking in section headings and organization, that makes the book very dry to follow. The volume begins with a helpful Prolegomena containing a Life and Writings of Gregory of Nyssa that I highly recommend, but it then it has the misfortune of jumping into the long books Against Eunomius, that are essentially Gregory's response to a resurgence of Arian ideas in a series of books by Eunomius. The original content by Eunomius is not provided, and reading any book that responds point-by-point to another book is taxing enough, so this major work of Gregory of Nyssa becomes a major impediment that compounds to the poor editing of this volume to anyone who would start reading Gregory of Nyssa. I admit that I gave up on reading the Dogmatic Treatises several times during this section do to its difficultly. The most interesting works are at the end of the volume, so I'd recommend reading the books within this volume from back-to-front, rather than from front-to-back.
I recommend reading the Prolegomena (Chapters I-V) first, especially the Sketch of the Life of S. Gregory of Nyssa, and then jumping ahead to On The Soul And Resurrection was one of my favorite works within Dogmatic Treatises, and then On Virginity, On The Making Of Man and The Great Catechism are also highly recommended selections. After these recommended reading, then I'd suggest his smaller works, such as On The Holy Spirit, On The Holy Trinity, On "Not Three Gods", and On Infants' Early Death. It may be more helpful to read Answer to Eunomius' Second Book, before reading the Against Eunomius books, because the arguments are restated concisely without the page-by-page review. Continue reading...
Oliver Crisp draws swords in his book, "Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation", and assails all of Edward's most controversial ideas, including Edwards famous writings on Occasionalism, Idealism in the Trinity, Continuous Creationism, Panentheism, Double Predestination and more! This book contains excellent summaries and critiques of Jonathan Edward's speculative theology. Crisp explains what Edward's believes, how others have gotten Edwards wrong all along, and exposes the real problems with Edward's novel ideas. I was surprised how critical Crisp was of Edwards over all, and even though Crisp was right, I had hoped to hear some arguments on how the problems may be worked through in Edward's theology but the results seem to be a cul-de-sac.
Here's an excellent example of how Crisp was able to summarize Jonathan Edward's position on Panentheism:
P1. The world exists "in" God. (Call this the core thesis.)
P2. God is not the world. God and the world are distinct entities. (The antipantheism thesis)
P3. God is essentially creative. He must create a world because it is in his nature to create a world. He is "disposed" to create a world. (The essential divine creativity. (The necessity of creation thesis.)
P4. Although it is radically contingent on divine fiat, this world is the necessary product of God's essential creativity. (The necessity of creation thesis).
P5. The world is created by eternal divine fiat, though it begins to exist in time. (The eternal creation thesis.)
P6. God must create the best possible world. (The best possible world thesis.)
P7. The created world is ideal; it exists in the divine mind. (The immaterial antirealist thesis.)
P8. God continuously creates the world ex nihilo. God eternally decrees that no created thing persists through time; each "moment" of creation is numerically distinct from the previous one; God constitutes these many world-stages as one four-dimensional entity, namely, "the world" (i.e., the created order). (The four-dimensionalist continuous creation thesis.)
P9. God is the sole causal agent, that is, the efficient cause of all that comes to pass. (The occasionalist thesis.)
- Oliver Crisp, Jonathan Edwards On God And Creation, pg142-144
Crisp does an excellent job exposition the problems with Edwardsian Divine Excellency, Occassionalism-Continuous Creationism, Consummation and many other topics. Maybe he will produce another volume on Edward's Ecclesiastical Writings! Overall, this is an excellent book, that anyone who has studied Jonathan Edward's speculative theology would deeply appreciate. Crisp may have won the battle, but the Sage of Northampton will win the war!
In a letter to Thomas Wipf in Zurich on October 31, 1963, Karl Barth wrote from Basel a helpful summary of the points of disagreements between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Karl Barth had many Roman Catholic friends, such as Hans Küng whom was a principle character at Vatican II. These seven concise points are a helpful list of Protestant protests, and the two appended warnings are also important to consider in each of these seven points:
The present situation (the council [Vatican II] and the inner movements behind it) is a warning that we must state the differences carefully. Are there really irreconcilable antitheses? Or are there differences only in emphasis?
Evangelical: Unconditional precedence of God's free grace over against the "good" being and action of men (even Christians).
Roman Catholic: Tendency to reverse this relation.
Ev.: The Bible has strictly the first word over against church tradition.
R.C.: Tendency to understand the Bible in the light of tradition instead of the opposite.
Ev.: The church is God's people within which are certain ministering functions ("offices").
R.C.: Inclination to regard these as a priestly hierarchy around which the people (the "laity") must gather.
Ev.: The church's unity rests on God's living Word (in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit), and only incidentally on legal ordinances.
R.C.: Inclination to understand spiritual order in terms of a legal order.
Ev.: Central significance of proclaiming (preaching) the biblical gospel.
R.C.: Prevailing concentration on administering the so-called "sacraments."
Ev.: Respect and gratitude for the existence of good examples of the Christian life.
R.C.: Veneration and invocation of the "saints."
Ev.: Centrality of Jesus Christ as true Son of God and Man.
R.C.: Apparent sharing of this centrality by Mary as the human mother of God.
Here are seven points where you may safely proceed so long as you are careful. Care is required for two reasons:
1. because many things are fluid in modern Roman Catholicism and may lead to agreements and then to modifications of the total picture;
2. because we Evangelicals for our part are not on top of our own cause and must look out lest the first might become last and the last first.
~ Karl Barth, trans. Geoffrey Bromily, Karl Barth Letters: 1961-1968, #126 Second Edition, pages 137-138.
Karl Barth's excellent explanation of three temptations of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness in the small print of his extended discussion of "§59.2 The Judge Judged in Our Place" of his Church Dogmatics IV.1, may be the best exegesis of this event I've encountered. (I've included a long quote of the text below.)
1) In succumbing to the first temptation, Barth explains, that Jesus would have failed to be truly man and for us. He would demonstrate that man could not be saved, if Jesus himself could not endure as a man. Failure meant that he was unable to live out the righteous life demanded of us because he could not endure temptation for even himself. How may man be saved, if even Jesus could not remain a sinless man without divine intervention? He would not be able to restore true humanity because he would have failed to live with our very fallen nature, so that would mean that no one would be able to live out the righteous life, and there would be no hope. If Jesus was unable to endure his own temptations as a Man, then he certainly could not have done so for others.
2) In succumbing to the second temptation, Jesus would not have overcome the world by becoming its leader, but would have only empowered an evil kingdom to endure eternally by becoming its highest leader. By ruling all the kingdoms, Jesus would establish these evil powers permanently and universally, and in opposition to the Kingdom of God. Jesus would not have been able to establish a new kingdom that would overthrow evil dominions that existed by ruling within that evil kingdom. In here, there are statements of the confession church who lived under the shadow of Nazi Germany.
3) Barth finds the final temptation the most mesmerizing of the three with analogies to temptation of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and also to Kierkegaard's leap of faith into the unknown. If Jesus succumbs to the temptation to jump from the temple heights, then he does so only to demonstrate to himself and to Satan that he is the Son of God and the Messiah, and reveals that he does not believe that he is who he has believed to be, and if he is unable to know that he is the divine son, then how can fulfill his passion for others? This temptation and the passion of Jesus would become a selfish act, to self-vindicate Jesus as the Son of God, rather than a Messianic act of deliverance, victory and atonement for us. Barth wisely notices that in the Passion, Jesus essentially does what Satan has tempted him to do... to leap into the unknown in the death of his Passion.
By succumbing in any of these three temptations, Jesus would cease to be Emmanuel, no longer God with us, and no longer God for us. Continue reading...
John Calvin is a heavenly minded man, and throughout the institutes, he pessimistic about the number of people who will be saved. The Reformation was a great revival but the few Reformed city-states that existed were Geneva, Strasbourg, Zurich and a few spurious others, and their sum population was nothing in relationship to the global population of the 16th century. In an unexpected place, among Calvin's famous excursion on the Lord's Prayer, he reveals a very optimistic eschatology! THY KINGDOM COME in Institutes III.20.41-41 explains that the Kingdom of God will advance until the second coming of Christ, and all of his enemies will be conquered and all of the saints will be sanctified in an increasing trajectory until the very end where the whole human race will reverence Christ the Lord. Optimistic Eschatologies like Post-Millennialism became vogue in the following centuries among the best Reformed Theologians, culminating (or rather ending) in the World Wars.
The bold print has been added to emphasis some of the interesting statements by John Calvin, in this key section of the Institutes, to provide insight into this illustrious reformer's own eschatology: Continue reading...
Peter A. Lillback suggested in his book, "Binding of God, The: Calvin's Role in the Development of Covenant Theology", that John Calvin had Proto-Covenant Theology ideas, because Covenant Theology was developed after Calvin by his followers. Calvin's teaching on Covenant Theology, especially in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, were more explanation of the use of the terms for "covenant" used in the bible: i.e., "covenant" is the Greek work, diatheke, and the Hebrew word, bereth, and the Latin word, testamentum. Calvin was a master exegete and his Proto-Covenant Theology was a ground breaking exegesis of these words, rather than a complete system that explaned everything in the way that the later Federal Theologians were to do. Calvin also explored other aspects of Covenant Theology, such as the two adams being covenant heads because that idea is clearly stated by Paul, however, putting the Two Adams together with all there terms was not present in Calvin as in the clear system of Federal (ie Covenant) Theology conceived in detailed form by Johannes Coccejus. Nor was the simplest forms of the Covenant of Works vs Covenant of Grace as is in the Westminster Confession completed in Calvin either. Nor were the relationship between the multiple covenants in Scriptures explained by his genius either, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Mosaic, Davidic, and the New Covenant.
Sometimes in some Reformed Churches today, the continuum between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is explained in terms of abrogation by say that the Mosaic consists in three parts: Moral, Judicial and Ceremonial where Jesus's Passsion had abrograted the Judicial and Ceremonial aspects but the Moral aspects remains which are primarily defined as the 10 commandments. However, there are problems with this explanation because, for instance, the Sabbath has moral, judicial and ceremonial aspects that cannot be divided up easily. The 613 Mosaic Laws likewise cannot easily be divided up in to this trichotomy either. It is similar to trying to find Q in the Synoptics Gospel, with all those problems. This strategy is useful for preaching Law, so the difficulties are usually ignored. Occasionally, I've had friends say that the Old Covenant is in full force in entirety, and try to work through all those problems contain. It's a hard problem, but the greatest error to make is to see the Old and New Covenants as two separate covenants, which is best represented by the aberrant Dispensational Theology and all its nonsense (and I'll leave the proof of this statement as an exercise for the reader.) Continue reading...