Calvin vs. Barth

One of the things I have found in my short time reading John Calvin and others writing on Calvin is the Neo-Calvinism of the 21st-Century that seeks to read Calvin through the eyes and thoughts of Barth and his cohorts. Studying at a PC(USA) seminary the Calvin you get is the Calvin seen through the writings of Barth (and his student Tom Torrance) that looks nothing like the Calvin of the 16th Century. One of the critiques of the “Federal Calvinists” as Barthians like to call those of us that do not hold to their dichotomy of Calvin vs. the Calvinists, first really codified by R.T. Kendall, is they try to say there is no relation between the Puritans and the Calvin that they read. The book below, along with a couple others puts this fallacy to bed with great precision and along with current striking developments in Calvinistic theology and research that shows that the Barthian Calvin really is a construction of the Modern mind and the accommodation of Barthian thought to John Calvin.

I cannot recommend this book by Richard Muller entitled The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition highly enough. Along with others linked below.

After Calvin: Studies in the Development of a Theological Tradition by Richard Muller

Calvin and the Calvinists by Paul Helm

School Is Almost Here…

Tuesday September 9th begins the end of my Seminary career. By February I will be a graduated M. Div looking for a Pulpit from which to Preach the Gospel. As I continue on this journey to that end I hope for I would like to say a small thank-you to the readers of this blog for their comments and their prayers since I started this blog in 2005. Through you for your teaching, through it I have learned much.

Here is what my Schedule looks like for the Fall Term

TH 03 – Church and Sacraments (Pittsburgh Seminary)

OT 91 – Covenant Theology (Reformed Presbyterian Seminary)

ST 31 –  Doctrine of Human Nature (RPTS)

ST 41 –  Doctrine of Last Things (RPTS)

Here goes nothing…

Next Fall and a Break from Blogdom for a Week

Never too early to let y’all know what my class schedule looks like for next Fall. Registered today for these classes (3 at PTS, 1 at RPTS)…

At PTS:

TH 03 Church and Sacraments
Rev. Dr. John Burgess

A study of the role of the sacraments and the church in shaping and sustaining the Christian life. Particular attention will be devoted to the responsibility of pastors to provide theological vision for the church in contemporary North American society. Issues of conflict in church life will also be explored.

TH 22 Theology of T.H. Torrance
Rev. Dr. Andrew Purves

Study of major themes in the theology of a premier Reformed theologian of the second half of the 20th century. Special attention given to Torrance’s understanding of epistemology, his critical theological realism, some contributions in the area of doctrine, and his indebtedness to Athanasius, and the Capadocian Fathers.

CH 64 Reformed Dogmatics
Rev. Dr. Andrew Purves & Rev. Dr. Charles Partee

This course will study the dogmatic task within Reformed Theology, and the approach of selective theologians.

At RPTS

OT 91 Introduction to Covenant Theology
Rev. Dr. Dennis Prutow

This course will bring the student to a greater understanding of the role of Covenant Theology in the life of the Church and the Christian man.


Also as the title says I am taking a break from active posting for a couple weeks as I bare down for the end of the term and the end of the School Year.

May providence be on your side.

The Insufficiency of a Mainline Seminary

Rod Stewart sung a song that he placed on an album ca.1998 by the name of “Ooh La La”, (This rendition is with The Corrs, who are awesome by the way) which contains the eminently applicable phrase “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger…”. Well I think I can say with confidence this is utterly true of my choice of Seminary. Now friends of PTS do not take what I am about to say the wrong way for this is not directly a critique of your own journey but certainly a self-critique and the issues I bring up you may want to take a look at yourself from your own perspective (wow that sounds Pomo). However with that all said I want to give a little background to this conversation. First I came to this Seminary for all the wrong reasons. I came thinking that the purpose of Seminary was primarily to prepare me for the work of the Pastorate and to develop an academic mind that could withstand the rigors of unbelief and fulfill the challenge of Peter to the aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia in the face of persecution and questioning to be able to:

…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence… — 1 Peter 3:15

However what this mainline Seminary has done is provide plenty of questions without supplying any semblance of an answer to its students, it has made the mortal mistake of believing that its students come here already “converted” to the Gospel and that it is the duty of the local church and the student’s own studies (which I agree should be true) to have an a priori knowledge of this hope that Peter speaks. In other words it is not the mission of the seminary to prepare the students to preach the Gospel (and to teach what that Gospel is) but to preach of the “Gospel” to an already converted congregation. There is no focus in our primary coursework on reaching the lost, directing the equipping of the Saints, or expositing the Word of God to the People of God. Only on how to deconstruct the Word of God, skim over the ignorance of those who came before, wisely plucking the wheat from the chaff nary an eye shall see the “Pastoral Heart” of Westminster, the Puritans, or even the late John Gerstner who taught at this institution less than a generation ago.

Catch my drift?

Today as part of our “Church and Society: Local” course (which I think has been very beneficial) we went and visited the Allegheny County Jail to meet and listen to inmates who work through a chaplain’s program while incarcerated. Through the words of these unlearned prisoners I heard the doctrines of Providence, Total Depravity, Assurance, 3 Works of the Law, Justification, and Perseverance (and gasp!!! Innerency!!!) elucidated in a way I have never heard from a Ph.D. at Pittsburgh Seminary. I heard men beaten by life speak the Gospel as if it were REAL!!! As if it was truly transformational and life-changing. I was asked recently by a friend if I thought there were unconverted people in the room with me as I sit through classes at PTS and I sadly answered with a yes, thinking only the words of Christ in Matthew 7:21-23 and what the Confession speaks in Chapter 10, Section 4 which says:

IV. Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the word,p and may have some common operations of the Spirit,q yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved:r much less can men not professing the Christian religion be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they ever so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess;s and to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.t

p Matt. 22:14.
q Matt. 7:22; Matt. 13:20-21; Heb. 6:4-5.
r John 6:64-66; John 8:24.
s Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Eph. 2:12; John 4:22; John 17:3.
t II John 9-11; I Cor. 16:22; Gal. 1:6-8.

A New Term

Well the time has come for the 3rd Term of the 2007-2008 School Year. If things go as planned then this should the beginning of the three last terms of Seminary for me. I should graduate the end of Term II next year (Feb. ’09).

So here are the four classes and one Independent Study I am doing this term. Two at RPTS and the rest at PTS.

RPTS Classes

ST 41- Westminster Confession (audit)

ST 13- Doctrine of Revelation

PTS Classes

CS 02 – Church and Society – Local

OT 28 – Biblical Archeology

PS 03 – Homiletics

Now concerning the Independent Study it is not one for credit. One of the drawbacks of attending a mainline seminary that bills itself as having an ecumenical diversity is the lack of an Apologetics course being available in any capacity. So to rectify that I am going to read some Apologetical books. You can see on the side of my blog that I have already began that task. If you would like to see my progress just check out that pic.

Galatians 3:28

I’d like to take a few posts and ponder a look at what I see as verses that are misunderstood by not only the laity but also many scholars and clergy. The first one up on the rotation is Galatians 3:28. As a quick reminder here is the verse:

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NASB)

In today’s culture this verse is used by many people as a proof text for not only the full inclusion of women in all positions within the ecclesiastical offices but also to say that the New Testament church should no longer recognize separate gender identification. They take “neither male nor female” to either dismiss gender roles or gender all together. It is my contention that not only does the verse say no such thing but it has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with equality or gender. Paul’s point in this verse has nothing to do with saying Jews and Greeks, Slaves and Masters, or Men and Women are equal but that they are one in Christ Jesus. There is giant difference between equality and unity. If Paul’s point in this verse is to say that all of these distinctions no longer exist or are no longer applicable then he has contradicted himself in every one of his letters. Paul goes to great lengths in Romans 9-11 to describe the differences between Jews and Greeks. Paul in Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus describes in great detail the difference in roles (not worth) between men and women. Paul also calls out Overseers and deacons from the congregations of his churches to be set apart for leadership. One of the most favored pericopes of Paul’s in use today (1 Cor 12:12-31) is his imagery of the many body parts and their unity and usefulness in the body. Paul does not say all body parts are equal in their diversity but they are all equal in their worth to the function of the entire body. His point is that the body strength is its unity, not its diversity. This is vital for our understanding of the proper usage Galatians 3:28 because Paul is clear in saying that not all are called to do whatever they wish to do but only for what the Spirit has called for them. What right does a foot to be a hand? Or a Liver to do the work of the Lung? All are called to specific roles and functions with in the unified body of Christ. If one is called to be a Lung and they do not pull oxygen into the blood stream the whole body suffers from the effects of deprivation. This is serious business.

However even outside of the denial of the motive of equality for Paul’s writing this verse in Galatians is the context in which it is written. One of the common critiques of conservatives by liberals is that conservatives “do not understand the context” of a given passage that if we look at the entirety of a passage it will not have the restrictive meaning we give it. Well here is an example of a verse where liberals and moderate evangelicals take a given pericope and extract it from its surrounding context and use it for their own purpose. Paul is speaking in Galatians 3 of the unity of the salvation that is given by Jesus Christ through Grace by Faith. Working backwards verse 27 speaks of our one baptism in Christ (UNITY), verse 26 all are sons of God (we do not have space but one would be smart to look into the usage of Sons of God and what it means) because of faith in Christ (UNITY), verses 25-21 Paul is talking about the Law and Faith (UNITY), verses 20-15 the covenant of Abraham seed (UNITY). Not a word that precedes Galatians 3:28 speaks of diversity in the body or having anything to with the eradication of role but speaking to the foolish Galatians who have denied the unity of their faith. Verse 29 concludes and summarizes what Paul has been speaking of in this chapter. He says:

29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Paul, given the context of Galatians 3, cannot be speaking in Galatians 3:28 about an egalitarian worldview. The text does not bear this out nor can it, no matter the wiggling. We do a disservice to Paul if we take this out-of-context for our own selfish desires.