29 February 2004

collect for lent 1

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

27 February 2004

oh, very kewl


25 February 2004

the problem of modernity

This looks interesting.

I'm planning on attending the talk. Anyone in the Philly area care to join me?

a poem

"Ash Wedensday" by T.S. Eliot.

ash wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es et in pulverem revertis.

23 February 2004

scots divines on baptism (part iii)

Robert Boyd of Trochrig, after studying under Rollock at Edinburgh, went to France where he studied and taught in several schools of the Reformed Church there, including the theological schools of Sedan and Samaur. After his return to Scotland, Boyd was made principal and professor of divinity at Glasgow University, though he later taught at Edinburgh for a time before his death.

In general, Boyd saw the sacrament of baptism as an "efficacious seal and instrument" by which God "confers and applies" what he signifies (Commentary on Ephesians 753). Thus, according to Boyd, in baptism Godapplies Christ's blood to our hearts and consciences first by sealing in us the remission of sins, then by renewing us in Christ's image, both by mortifying the old man in us by the efficacy of his resurrection and life or by inspiring us to new life with Christ. Thus, without the blood of Christ, we cannot obtain regeneration, and without the Spirit of Christ, his righteousness is not imputed to us. (753)As with other Reformed divines, we see here that baptism confers a two-fold benefit: remission of sins and regeneration. Again, "regeneration" refers not so much to the initiation salvation in some discrete act of the Spirit, but the ongoing death to sin and renewal of life in Christ. Indeed, Boyd appears to place regeneration, in this sense, logically or temporally subsequent to remissions of sins.

As a young man John Forbes of Corse studied in the Netherlands, gaining a profound knowledge of the church fathers, and where he was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry. Forbes was later a professor of divinity at the University of Aberdeen and considered one the most prominent Reformed scholastics of his day. During the conflicts involving the Covenanters, Forbes fled to the Netherlands where he completed his most celebrated work, Instructiones Historico-theologicae.

In this treatise he gives some attention to the sacraments and baptism. He refers to the sacraments as "means of salvation and instruments enjoined by Christ" (Lib. X, cap. 4). Much of what Forbes says regarding baptism echoes his Scottish predecessors, but with regard to regeneration in relation to baptism, he makes a three-fold distinction (which has parallels in some of the continental Reformed divines).

First, there is a federal holiness enjoyed by those born of families within the covenant and on the basis of which such children are to be baptized. Second, Forbes speaks of a "sacramental and visible regeneration" with regard to those who are "regenerated and holy through baptismal regeneration and sanctity." Third, there is a spiritual and invisible regeneration that entails interior renovation and salvation.

According to Forbes, not all who enjoy sanctification and regeneration in either or both of the first two senses necessarily enjoys it in the third sense. As an example of a person who received only sacramental and visible regeneration, but not spiritual regeneration, Forbes points to Simon Magus. This baptismal regeneration is the "sanctification" of which Hebrews 10:29 speaks.

Nonetheless, regeneration in the third sense is not to be abstracted from the second, for it is by means of baptismal regeneration, received in faith, that spiritual regeneration is received and wrought. Thus Forbes maintains that we, therefore, should not doubt the salvation of one who receives baptismal regeneration and perseveres in the covenant by faith to the end.

This completes my brief survey. I didn't cover all the various divines I might have addressed, nor did I go into as much detail as I might have. Hopefully, however, this gives some taste of the various currents in baptismal theology of the early Scots Reformed.


Does anyone out there have any expertise on the nature of British copyright law?

If I have a book that was published in Edinburgh and London in 1895 and was never republished nor had its copyright renewed, would it be in the public domain now?

Is it a matter of when the author died? If so, what if the book is a collection of essays with multiple authors or was published under the auspices of an organization that still exists?

I've tried looking online but haven't found much in the way of answers to these specific questions.

22 February 2004

scots divines on baptism (part ii)

Robert Bruce of Kinnaird, an associate and friend of Andrew Melville, was a successor to John Knox in the pulpit of St. Giles in Edinburgh and several times moderator of the General Assembly of the Scottish Church. Most of his reflections on baptism appear in his series of sermons from 1591 that was later published as The Mystery of the Lord's Supper.

As is evident even from the title of the book, Bruce prefered the terminology "mystery" (as a translation of the Greek musterion) to that of "sacrament." He described the Christian mysteries as "hands appointed to deliver and convey the thing signified" (45) so that there is a "mystical and spiritual conjunction" between the sign and reality (52). With regard to both baptism and the eucharist, Bruce maintained that "the whole Christ, God and man, without separation of natures, and without distinction of his substance from his graces" is present and offered to those who receive the sacraments (45).

Concerning baptism in particular, Bruce states that "the fruits of the sacrament are remission of sin, mortification, the slaughter of sin, and the sealing of our adoption to life everlasting" (74). Bruce, however, distinguishes between the "substance" of the sacrament (which is offered to all men who receive the sacrament) and the "fruit" of the sacrament (which is enjoyed by those who receive it in faith). In baptism, "the substance from which these fruits flow is the blood of Christ," and yet we must "distinguish between the blood, which is the substance, and the remission of sins, the washing, and regeneration, which are the fruit that flow from his blood" (74-5).

Again, as with Calvin and Craig, there is here an affirmation that Christ and his benefits are truly offered and presented in baptism and therefore given unto remission and regeneration for those who receive the sacrament in faith. It is also evident, again, that "regeneration" takes the broader meaning of dying unto sin and growing in newness of life.

After graduating from St. Andrews and serving briefly as the regent there, Robert Rollock was appointed to what would later be the University of Edinburgh, where he soon became a professor of theology. He preached at the East Kirk and, later, several other parishes, as well as serving on various committees of the General Assembly and once as its moderator.

In his Select Works, Rollock defines baptism as "the laver of regeneration or washing of our new birth or regeneration of the Holy Ghost" (vol. I, 443). Rollock distinguishes between outward and inward washings in baptism. The outward washing of baptism is one "in which God puts out his hand to save us" and, as such, is "an instrument that God takes in his hand and whereby he applies to us inward washing of the Holy Spirit (Col 2:12; Rom 6:4)" (443-44). Rollock adds that "If this outward means is despised, there will be no regeneration" (444).

Moreover, Rollock emphasizes the permanence of our baptismal washing, the benefits of which are not tied to the moment of administration. Rollock writes,It is vanity to think that the force of baptism consists in the administration of the action only. No, it never leaves us from the time we have received it until we are placed with Jesus Christ. Have your eye still on baptism for it is a means by which the Lord will save you (444)Like his predecessors, then, Rollock sees baptism as a means by which regeneration (again, construed broadly) is offered and received, not only when the water is upon us, but also for our whole lives.

21 February 2004

scots divines on baptism (part i)

I've been reading up on some of the earlier (pre-Westminster) Scots Reformed theologians regarding their doctrine of baptism.

The place to begin, I suppose, is to recall what the 1560 Scots Confession of John Knox teaches regarding baptism. It states,...so we utterly condemn the vanity of those who affirm the sacraments to be nothing else than naked and bare signs. No, we assuredly believe that by Baptism we are engrafted into Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his righteousness, by which our sins are covered and remitted... (Chapter 21)This is in keeping with, for instance, the teaching of Calvin who could write, in his 1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent,We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. That this may be more clear, let my readers call to mind that there is a twofold grace in baptism, for therein both remission of sins and regeneration are offered to us. We teach that full remission is made, but that regeneration is only begun and goes on making progress during the whole of life. Accordingly, sin truly remains in us, and is not instantly in one day extinguished by baptism, but as the guilt is effaced it is null in regard to imputation. Nothing is plainer than this doctrine.Of course, there are various qualifications one must make with regard to these assertions, for instance, they are not directed toward instances of utterly unbelieving reception of the sacraments. But the basic Reformed teaching is clear: Christ and his benefits are offered to us and received in the believing reception of baptism. Furthermore, it is a distinct question what effect the sacrament might have for those who receive it unbelief or who only believe temporarily and later apostatize.

Whatever the theological complications, the outlook of Calvin and the Scots Confession is carried forward in the writings of the Scots divines who followed. There are five divines, in particular, whose views I'd like to briefly summarize: John Craig (1512-1600), Robert Bruce (1554-1631), Robert Rollock (1555-1599), Robert Boyd of Trochrig (1578-1627), and John Forbes of Corse (1593-1648).

John Craig, like Martin Bucer, had once been a Dominican Friar, but after his conversion to the Protestant cause, fled and returned to his native Scotland. He co-pastored with John Knox in Edinburgh and later became a chaplain to James VI. Craig is probably best known for his Catechisms of 1581 and 1592.

The larger Catechism of 1581 was approved by the Church of Scotland and, in the abridged form of 1592, remained the primary catechetical tool of the Scottish church until the publication of the Westminster Catechisms some 50 years later. Regarding the sacraments in general, the 1581 Catechism states:Q: Do all men receive the favour of God by means of them?
A: No. Only the faithful receive it.

Q: How then are they true seals to all men?
A: They offer Christ truly to all men.
Like Calvin, Craig maintains the true objective offer of Christ in the Gospel ordinances of baptism and the eucharist, though only the reception of Christ unto salvation for those who receive him in the sacraments by faith. The Catechism continues futher on:Q: What is the signification of baptism?
A: Remission of our sins and regeneration.

Q: What similitude hath baptism with remission of sins?
A: As washing cleanseth the body, so Christ's blood our souls.

Q: Wherein doth this cleansing stand?
A: In putting away of sin, and imputation of justice.

Q: Wherein standeth our regeneration?
A: In mortification and newness of life.

Q: How are these things sealed up in baptism?
A: By laying on of water.

Q: What doth the laying on of the water signify?
A: Our dying to sin and rising to righteousness.

Q: Doth the external washing work these things?
A: No, it is the work of God's Holy Spirit only.

Q: Then the sacrament is a bare figure?
A: No, but it hath the verity joined with it.
In light of what we have already seen, the basic affirmation here is the following: the remission of sins and regeneration are joined with the external washing of baptism, so that the Holy Spirit works remission, imputation, mortification, and newness of life for all those who receive the sacrament in faith. Note that "regeneration" here does not seem to be used so much in the narrower sense of later Reformed dogmatics (with reference to the initial, immediate, and instantaneous work of the Spirit) as it does in the sense that Calvin used in his Antidote to Trent (with reference to the ongoing process of mortification and sanctification).

Craig's 1592 Catechism also adds the following:Q: How long, and by what way doth baptism work in us?
A: All the days of our life, through faith and repentance.
Here we see the common Reformed emphasis that baptism is efficacious not only when the water is upon us, but for our whole lives. As Calvin writes, "we are not to think that baptism was conferred upon us only for past time, so that for newly committed sins into which we fall after baptism we must seek new remedies of expiation in some other sacraments...But we must realize that at whatever time we are baptized, we are once for all washed and purged for our whole life" (Institutes 4.15.3).

Through Craig's Catechisms, then, the emphases of Reformed sacramental teaching and piety continued to be present within the Scottish church.

18 February 2004

mode of baptism

Were it not for the fact that some Baptists regard baptism by any mode other than submersion as invalid, the question of the mode of baptism would be a somewhat peripheral issue, given the weightier questions of the meaning and efficacy of the sacrament.

Still, some remarks on the matter may be in order. I have very little expertise in the details of ancient Christian architecture (baptistries, fonts) and usage. But here are a couple of casual observations on which I would be happy to be corrected.

First, though the Greek term "baptizo" can mean "to dip or immerse or submerge," various studies have indicated that this need not be taken in a woodenly literal sense and thus could be applied to various sorts of situations in which a person or object was soaked with liquid.

It is also possible that, within the religious context of Judaism, the term had begun to take on specialized ritual meanings that applied it more broadly than merely submersion into water. Such meanings would likely have carried over into Christian usage.

Thus, it seems to me that the issue of the mode of baptism is not decidable on a purely etymological basis.

Second, early evidence seems to indicate that the symbolism of baptism is rather strongly tied to the notion of "living water" (that is, flowing water), more so than the particular way in which such water would be applied. In the case of water flowing downstream, the symbolism of being plunged into the water ("buried with Christ in baptism" and insertion into the name of the Trinity) would intersect nicely with the symbolism of living water being poured out from above (the baptism of the outpoured Spirit).

We have indications from the New Testament, in the few places where the geography of baptism is given in any kind of detail, that baptism did take place in a stream or river of water (e.g., John's baptizing in the Jordan; Lydia and her household by the river outside of Philippi, Acts 16:13-15).

The question would then be how the earliest church would have handled situations in which such flowing, living water was not available in adequate quantities. Would the symbolism of burial and insertion trump that of outpoured life or vice versa or was there a way of properly preserving both?

We read in the Didache (which is often quoted in this connection),Concerning baptism, baptize in this way: Having said all these things beforehand, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living water. If there is no living water, baptize in other water; and, if you are not able to use cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water three times upon the head in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.Several different scenarios seem to present themselves here. Ideally, the Didache envisions plunging a person into a (presumably chilly) flowing river. If that isn't available, "baptism" is done in a pool of cold water and, if that isn't available, warm water. I suspect cold water here was seen as more akin to that of a flowing stream. And if none of those options is available, then triple pouring is to be used apart from any kind of pool.

The ambiguity that remains (since the rubrics are minimal), is what exactly it meant to "baptize" in a pool of cold or warm water. Given the flowing water in the first case of the river and the flowing water in the last case of pouring, it seems unlikely that the cases of the cold or warm pool would involve simply submerging the baptizand apart from flowing water.

What little that has survived from the earliest depictions of Christian baptism often pictures the baptizand as kneeling (or standing) in a pool (or even a stream) with water being poured over him from the pool. Such an action would involve liberal amounts of water and the baptizand would become thoroughly drenched, thus preserving the symbolism of burial and insertion, along with that of outpouring. This perhaps is what the Didache is assuming, though we cannot know for certain. We do know, at least, that it reflects the practices of the pre-Constaninian church, which carried over also into a later time.

In addition, it is fairly certain is that this practice of pouring copious amounts of water over a person kneeling in a pool is described in terms of "immersion" (immersum) in Latin texts. This is confirmed by the shape and size of baptismal fonts and artistic depictions in an era when the terminology of immersion was still widely in use. As such, "immersion" is broader than "submersion."

Third, even in a era in church history when "immersion" in this sense was typically practiced, it was not seen as absolutely necessary to the valid administration of the sacrament. Cyprian, Tertullian, Hippolytus and others speaks of pouring smaller amounts of water in order to baptize in extraordinary cases (those ill or confined to bed). In such a case, the symbolism of living, poured water seems to have taken precedence over that of burial and insertion, given the circumstances.

With this background, I think I would like to see baptisms in churches involving more generous amounts of water, particularly in the case of older converts. Such liberal use of water would not only better symbolize the riches of God's grace in Christ, but also bring together the outpouring of the Spirit with insertion into the death and resurrection of Christ and the name and life of the Trinity.

Of course, this would also involve changes in church architecture to accomodate the larger font and the water. Some interesting examples of this can be viewed over at WaterStructures Baptismals. Many of these designs draw upon ancient Christian traditions and symbolism (eight sides, cruciform, etc.). They also, for the most part, incoporate a smaller pool for use with infants, along with a larger pool for adults, often with water flowing in between. I'm not sure I care for all of these architectural innovations, but I find some of them rather intriguing.

17 February 2004

the necessity of baptism

Some comments on one of Alastair's blogs, regarding the importance of baptism, reminded me of what the Reformed tradition has taught about the necessity of baptism.

The Reformed tradition has typically maintained that baptism is ordinarily (though not absolutely) necessary for salvation. Calvin writes in his Antidote to the Council of Trent:We, too, acknowledge that the use of Baptism is necessary--that no one may omit it from either neglect or contempt. In this way we by no means make it free (optional). And not only do we strictly bind the faithful to the observance of it, but we also maintain that it is the ordinary instrument of God in washing and renewing us; in short, in communicating to us salvation. The only exception we make is, that the hand of God must not be tied down to the instrument. He may of himself accomplish salvation. For when an opportunity for Baptism is wanting, the promise of God alone is amply sufficient.Similarly, Turretin writes in his Institutes:Our opinion, however, is that baptism is indeed necessary according to the divine institution as an external means of salvation (by which God is efficacious in its legitimate use), so that he who despises it is guilty of a heinous crime and incurs eternal punishment. But we believe it is not so absolutely necessary that he who is deprived of it by no fault of his own is to be forthwith excluded from the kingdom of heaven and that salvation cannot be obtained without it.Both of those strike me as rather strong statement of baptismal necessity, particularly given our contemporary evangelical context.


I'm in the midst of grading papers, thus the paucity of blog entries. I'll resurface shortly.

13 February 2004

no pics

If you're wondering why my blog is coming up without graphics and my personal website is unavailable, it's because the power is out over at La Salle University due to a nearby gas-line explosion. Read more here.

update: Well, things seem to be working again.

no-carb pizza?

Ok. So I keep hearing these adds for "no-carb pizza" presumably for people who are doing the Atkins thing. They describe it as having "no dough, no crust."

I'm not sure what the heck the concoction is, but it surely isn't pizza.

I find it odd that people want to diet and adopt peculiar eating habits (no carbs, being a vegan, etc.) without giving up certain foods they like.

gallican confession on baptism

Since I've got baptism on the mind still, a quote from the French La confession de foi:XXXV. We confess only two sacraments common to the whole Church, of which the first, baptism, is given as a pledge of our adoption; for by it we are grafted into the body of Christ, so as to be washed and cleansed by his blood, and then renewed in purity of life by his Holy Spirit (Rom 6.3-4; Acts 22.16; Tit 3.5; Eph 5.26). We hold, also, that although we are baptized only once, yet the gain that it symbolizes to us reaches over our whole lives and to our death, so that we have a lasting witness that Jesus Christ will always be our justification and sanctification (Rom 4; 6.22-23). Nevertheless, although it is a sacrament of faith and penitence (Mt 3.11; Mk 1.4; 16.16; Lk 3.3; Acts 13.24; 19.4), yet as God receives little children into the Church with their fathers (Mt 19.14; 1 Cor 7.14), we say, upon the authority of Jesus Christ, that the children of believing parents should be baptized.This confession was first penned by Calvin, revised and expanded by his student, Antoine de la Roche Chandieu, and adopted in 1559 in Paris by the first National Synod of the Reformed Church of France.

12 February 2004

lost and found

Argh. I had been looking high and low for over a week for a theology book I had mislaid and had been in the midst of using. I checked my office, my bookbag, under the seats in the car, the lost and found at church, the clutter in our home office, on top of the china cabinet...all to no avail.

Well, this morning Claire was trying to pull some books on and off a lower shelf in one of the rooms and there it was, the book I had been looking for, randomly inserted among works of Anglo-Saxon, Russian, and French existentialist literature. Go figure. I don't see "librarian" among Claire's future career choices.

11 February 2004

website updates

At the suggestion of a couple of folks, I've added a number of articles, essays, reviews, and so on to my personal website. None of these are entirely new and most have appeared on this blog at some point.

This involved some reorganization of the indices to what what I've written, including a new category for "Reviews" and changing the "Cultural" category to "Arts and Culture." But for reference, here is a list of the all the new materials (organized alphabetically):
  • Annunciation

  • Cast Down the Peoples, O God

  • Covenant Conditions

  • D.A. Carson on Deconstruction

  • Deconstructing the Secular

  • Ex Opere Operato

  • Fix

  • In Broken Bread

  • Madonna and Child

  • Nominalism and the "Modern"

  • Of Holy Communion

  • Of Derrida, Rousseau, and Wanking

  • On Spiritual Gifts

  • Ritual, Word, and Synagogue

  • Sacraments and the Solas

  • Table of Plenty

  • Taking a Risk

  • There Is Another King

  • Turretin on Baptism

  • "Zdq" in Isaiah
  • I've got a few more to add at some point, but decided to stop at twenty for the time being.

    philosophy as a way of life

    Our department here at La Salle is sponsoring a spring term lecture series with that title. The first speaker came yesterday--the Venerable Losang Samten, a Tibetan Buddhist who was once the personal attendant to the Dalai Lama and who remains a ritual dance master, as well as a ritual artist of sand-painted madalas.

    I wish the talk had been a little more tightly organized, but it was a helpful introduction to the intersection between Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, spirituality, and ritual arts. I do find it interesting the ways in which certain symbolic motifs run through many of the world's religions: eastern gates as entrances into the holy, sacred mountains and ascents, water flowing out, four directions, blue as a sacred color associated with holiness and the divine, and so on. Many of these same motifs show up in biblical typology, Christian architecture, Byzantine painting, and the like, though often functioning in very different ways within the overall context.

    There's also something a bit disappointing about the need to turn to something like Buddhism in order to raise questions about philosophy as a way of life. With the rise of the modern era, the discipline of philosophy (which had always also been theological) became more and more detached from the kinds of ritual and liturgical practices in which it had always been rooted both in the ancient world (e.g., the esoteric teachings of Plato's Academy or the manuals of discipline of the Stoics) and in the medieval (e.g., the liturgical hours and liturgies of monastic communities where the intellect was exercised in prayer and practices of reading Scripture).

    Modern philosophy is, in large part, philosophy de-ritualized and tamed. Perhaps in the context of postmodernism, with its transgression of various boundaries and dichotomies, practices of philosophical and theological reflection can once again be rooted in a way of life.

    07 February 2004

    kerr on aquinas

    Fergus Kerr, the Scottish Dominican theologian, has helpful volume on Thomas Aquinas, After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism, which I have read along with a number of his essays on Thomas and his book on Wittgenstein. I also had the privilege of hearing Kerr speak at a conference at Villanova last semester, with some opportunity to chat with him informally.

    Kerr is a wonderful interpreter of Aquinas and much is to be learned from him. Thanks to Alastair, I've discovered a lecture of his given at Boston College in 2002: "God in the Summa Theologiae, Entity or Event?" Both audio and video are available.

    I've heard and read Kerr discuss this topic elsewhere and his presentation is quite helpful, not to mention dryly humorous, with occasional impatient jabs at modern theology. I also can't help but admire how Kerr expresses his evident erudition as a rather modest and laid back, almost casual, sort of scholarship.


    I took Claire to the New Jersey State Aquarium today, along with the Camden Children's Garden that runs alongside it. She appeared mesmerized by all the fish--big and small, long and short, plain and fancy--gliding through the light-patched waters.

    Some fish she found very funny and squealed at. She didn't seem to keen on getting her hand wet, however, in order to pet the sharks or touch the starfish and crabs. She seemed especially to enjoy the seal show that was just starting as we came in, as well as watching the penguins swim and flutter about in the water (which made me think of Rick).

    Today was also the kick-off for Black History Month and so the main atrium of the aquarium had events scheduled all day. We only got to hear a Dixieland jazz band--to which Claire danced and gleefully clapped her hands--as well as watching a very rhythmically exciting drill team.

    The gardens were not at their best, given that it is early February and we just came off a week of very cold temperatures, snow, ice, and pouring rain. While today was comparatively warm at 45 degrees, the gardens seemed rather soggy and beaten down. Still, there were a lot of things to climb on and look at, particularly the butterfly house.

    Claire's at a point now where she wavers in between attachment and independence. Much of the time she wanted to be left on her own to walk around and explore. Other times she decided to take my hand or wanted to be carried (mostly so she could see things higher up), always letting me know when she wanted back "Down!"

    In any case, Claire and her Daddy had a special outing together, leaving us both tired after two and a half hours. Unlike me, however, Claire got to nap for most of the afternoon. Ah well, back to doing dishes.

    06 February 2004

    more writing

    I've added "Covenant Conditions" to my website.

    I still would like to unfold the last part of it further, but that will have to wait. Perhaps some of my engagement with the themes of incarnation, participation, and salvation will be of use here.

    update: For what it's worth, I now have added "'Zdq' in Isaiah" to the website.


    I've begun to format some of my more substantive blog entries into essays on my website where they can be found more easily and are printable.

    So far I've only done "Turretin on Baptism" and "Sacraments and the Solas." I'm in the process of formatting the set of entries on covenants and conditions.

    Are there any suggestions out there regarding other entries that people remember and think might make good and helpful short essays to have available online in another format?

    radical orthodoxy and theosis

    I posted some initial sketchy thoughts on this (mostly summary of others), over at the RadOx roundtable.

    This is tricky business in some ways, particularly since I am trying to think it through from within largely Western Christian theological categories, though, despite the protestations of folks like Lossky, there are many deep resonances between earlier medieval thought on this in the Latin church and the theology of the Christian East.

    I find Aquinas' trinitarian theology and christology particularly interesting, though difficult, in this regard. Sometimes Aquinas is painted as overemphasizing the oneness of God at the expense of the threeness of the Persons and reducing the Persons to "mere" relations within the divine unity. I regard that as a mistaken portrait, but it does point out some of the difficulties in expositing Aquinas on the topic.

    05 February 2004


    Ok, so I added one of those "site feed" thingummies. I'm not entirely sure what it is, but someone asked me to add it. It's over there on the left at the bottom. Enjoy.

    domestic travel

    Here's a map that depicts the states in the US (in red) that I've actually visited, set foot in, or at least driven through. I should probably check out something west of the Mississippi River one of these days.

    create your own visited sites map

    04 February 2004

    interesting conference

    In May, Drew University (Madison, New Jersey) is sponsoring a conference entitled "Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification/Theosis in the Christian Traditions."

    Speakers include Dr. Andrew Louth (University of Durham, England), Fr. John McGuckin (Union Theological Seminary), Sr. Verna Harrison (St. Paul’s School of Theology), and Dean James Pain (Drew University).

    I sent in a proposal for a paper on "Participation, Postmodernism, and Radical Orthodoxy." Who knows if they'll accept it or not, but I plan to attend the conference either way. Perhaps I'll try to work out some of my thoughts on the topic further over on the RadOx Round Table discussion at the Disseminary.

    single dad

    Until Monday I've got Claire to myself while Laurel goes to visit her mom in Florida for her mom's birthday. I'm a bit jealous of the foray into a warmer climate (most of January was below freezing here), but I look forward to some special Daddy and Claire time together (with some help from friends and family while I teach).

    She's growing up to be quite the little girl, jabbering away all her favorite words, loving to play hide-and-seek and tag, setting her dolls and stuffed animals on seats all over the living room as if she's throwing a grand party, and dancing and marching around to music she likes.

    03 February 2004

    sola fide, sola gratia, solus christus

    I posted a version of the following in the comments on another blog a while ago, but thought it bore repeating, given that some seem to interpret any kind of robust sacramental theology as in tension with the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

    One could argue, on the contrary and along with the Reformers, that a strong doctrine of sacramental efficacy is necessary in order to uphold and defend the Reformation solas. The argument would go like this:Of course we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The question is where Christ is to be found.

    The Reformation answer is that Christ is to be found in the places in which he has promised to be: in his Word and in his Sacraments. It is in the Word of the Gospel-- held out to us in proclamation, preaching, blessing, and absolution as much as in Baptism and the Supper--that Christ has promised to be present, offering himself to us, and there to be found by faith alone.

    The medieval church had arguably eclipsed the Gospel by offering God in Christ to people in accordance with their own vain imaginings and inventions: through indulgences, through works of supererogation, through penance and satisfaction, through obligatory disciplines, through the saints and the blessed Virgin. And a god our own imagining is nothing but an idol.

    The Reformation's recovery with clarity of the Gospel of grace opposed this idolatry by returning God's people to those places in which Christ had promised to be and there recieving him only by faith. The objective presence of Christ in his Word and Sacraments, received by faith, gives us a sure place to rest our faith, not dependent upon our own inventions and experience. The externum verbum of Word and Sacrament is a necessary corollary of the alien righteousness we receive in Christ extra nos.

    If we do away with a strong doctrine of sacramental efficacy, we obscure the doctrines of grace, turning people back once again to the quicksand of subjectivity: experiences of conversion, feelings of spirituality, good works, holy living, an internal sense of forgiveness, signs and traces of some immediate work of the Spirit in our souls, and so on. Thus the Gospel once again becomes one of moral transformation, a righteousness before God that is inherent rather than imputed.

    The Reformation solas, therefore, positively require that baptism saves because the Christ who is offered to us in the Gospel has graciously promised to be found and received in baptism only by faith unto the remission of sins. If you offer me a Christ who is not found in baptism, that is not the Christ of the Gospel, but one of our own invention.
    Now, that is all probably more strongly worded than I would typically be inclined to put things. Yet, I hope it indicates how the issue of a high regard for sacramental efficacy, taken in itself, is decidedly not one of denying the Reformation solas, but one of affirming them.

    turretin on baptism

    Turretin defines baptism in the following way:the first sacrament of the Christian church, by which upon the covenanted, having been received into the family of God by the external sprinkling of water in the name of the Trinity, remission of sins and regeneration by the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit are bestowed and sealed. (Institutes 19.11.9)An awkward sentence structure, but an interesting definition.

    Earlier in his sacramental discussion, Turretin asserts that sacraments "work grace...morally and hyperphysically, inasmuch as they are signs and seals which in their lawful use hold forth and seal grace to believers." This is because, for believers "God by the power of the Holy Spirit" acts in the sacraments "truly performing and fulfilling in [the recipient] whatever he promises and figures by the signs" (19.8.5).

    Turretin, moreover, is clear that this sacramental efficacy is, for him, not merely the occasion for grace (God working internally in the believer alongside and with the external sacrament), but truly an "instrument" for grace (God working in and through the sacrament).

    A difficulty, however, seems to present itself with regard to the grace of regeneration as something granted by baptism, since Turretin tends to think of regeneration largely in terms of an initial, punctiliar work of grace, by the Holy Spirit, through the instrument of the Word, so that ordinarily regeneration precedes baptism in adult converts (cf. 15.4) and thus "baptism is posterior to regeneration" (19.19.24). If this is so, then how can Turretin define baptism as a sacrament in which "regeneration" is "bestowed and sealed"?

    Two aspects of an answer present themselves. First, while there is a difference between the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, Turretin does not regard them as external or extrinsic to one another, since the sacraments themselves are an administration of the Word.

    He writes, "God does not trifle by instituting bare and empty signs; but as by the vocal word he really performs what he promises, so in the sacrament (which is a palpable and visible word) he gives by the thing itself that which the signs represent" (19.1.12). In the sacramental Word, the sacrament is both instituted and promises are made. It is in the "perspicuity and truth" of the sacramental promise that the efficicacy of sacraments lies (19.1.15). Thus, as the Word of promise in the Gospel may be savingly believed upon in preaching, so also may it be savingly believed upon the sacraments.

    Although Turretin goes on to distinguish between the preached Word and the sacraments, suggesting that while preaching "produces faith," sacraments merely "confirm faith" (19.2.6), his prior comments seem to deconstruct any kind of absolute opposition between the two. Turretin's own exposition, therefore, seems to suggest that the call of the Gospel received through the preaching of the Word comes ordinarily to fruition through an exercise of faith in receiving the sacraments, in which the Gospel is believed upon and which, at the same time, confirms and strengthens that faith. Still, this believing upon Christ in baptism is not typically initial belief and is not temporally coordinate with regeneration, but is an effect of it and posterior to it.

    Nonetheless, when Turretin speaks of baptism bestowing regeneration, we might understand him to say that ordinarily we should objectively regard the calling that occurs through the preached Word as regenerating the person in baptism unto saving faith, so that Christ is believed upon in baptism and that same faith is confirmed by the Spirit. There will be, of course--subjectively speaking--all kinds of variations with regard to those who, for instance, die in faith while prevented from receiving baptism or who receive baptism hypocritically. But objectively speaking, Turretin does speak of baptism as bestowing regeneration.

    Second, it is also important to note that Turretin can use the term "regeneration" in both narrower and broader senses. The narrow sense refers to what we have been discussing: the initial work of the Spirit by which a person is enabled to savingly believe upon Christ as he is presented in the Gospel. But more broadly, Turretin says that the "Holy Spirit is repeatedly promised and given also to believers" and that this is "the progress and increase of regenerating grace" by which the Spirit acts "to promote and perfect the good work which began in them" (15.5.20). Thus believers experience the ongoing "actual mortification of the old and vivification of the new man" as part and parcel of regeneration itself (15.5.21).

    In this broader sense as well then, baptism can be said to bestow regeneration. For baptism is not efficacious only when the water is upon us, but "through the whole course of life even up to death" (19.20.25) and into eternity where God acts "to abolish sin altogether in man...and to clothe him with perfect righteousness and immortality" (19.19.24).

    And so, Turretin writes, "by baptism is sealed to us the remission not only of past and present, but also future sins" (19.20.12) so that the "promises of cleansing and blotting out sins" received in baptism are also "referred to sanctification," which occurs "gradually and successively" (19.20.26). The "death to sin" received in baptism is with regard both to justification in which sin "is perfectly remitted and in no way imputed" and to sanctification in which "sin dies or rather is mortified by degrees" (19.20.25). In both these ways then, "we are said...to die with Christ in baptism" so that through baptism sins "are wholly removed as to guilt and gradually as to stain" (19.20.25, 27).

    In these ways then, Turretin rightly can speak of baptism "bestowing regeneration."

    02 February 2004


    I've had a couple of fillings done recently and had a question. What's the longest time you've spent in a dentist's office to get a single filling (including time in the waiting room, in the chair, etc.)? What's the shortest?