Baptism and Fulfillment

February 28, 2009


In browsing through old issues of the Princeton Theological Review, I came across this article from 1905 by T. F. Fotheringham, “The Doctrine of Baptism in Holy Scripture and the Westminster Standards.” Fotheringham’s thesis is that the dominant understanding of baptism in Presbyterian circles of his day is wrong (nothing’s changed). Baptism for infants and for adults must have the same meaning, he argues. The language of scripture is clear that baptism is about fulfillment, thus infant baptism cannot merely indicate promise (OT category). It’s an interesting read.

In other words, he realizes what Baptists and Catholics have been saying all along: baptism indicates union with Christ, adoption by the Father, and sealing by the Holy Spirit.

God’s Use of the Bible

February 24, 2009

Bijbel Hersteld Hervormde Kerk

Here is a nice reminder on the Bible’s intrinsic-extrinsic authority:


Only God can authenticate his word. We can try, of course. We can develop all sorts of theories of inspiration and devise all sorts of proofs of why the Bible must be true and hold all sorts of rallies in supposed “defense” of the Bible. These may make us feel more secure when we already believe, but they have not been notably successful in persuading the unconvinced. If the word of God, in its original spoken or later written form, does not come with intrinsic authority, nothing else will finally suffice.

…When we are being bluntly honest with ourselves, we know that what makes us most resist dealing seriously with Scripture is not fundamentally the Bible’s pre-scientific worldview or its historical obscurities. It’s the way it fingers all too accurately where we fall short here and now. What troubles us is not what is not clear, but what is. As Mark Twain puts it, “Many people are bothered by what they don’t understand in the Bible. I, however, am greatly disturbed by what I do understand.” And W. C. Fields said, “I have spent a lot of time searching through the Bible for loopholes.” By contrast, to affirm the biblical story in all its discomfiting clarity is to say with Karl Barth,

“Every verse in the Bible is virtually a concrete faith-event in my own life….I have been personally present and have shared in the crossing of Israel through the Red Sea but also in the adoration of the golden calf, in the baptism of Jesus but also in the denial of Peter and the treachery of Judas….And we shall have to answer this question alone: whether, after the Word of God has sought to provide us with this movement and meaning, we have perhaps evaded it?” (Church Dogmatics, I/2, T&T Clark, 1956, p. 709)

Marguerite Shuster, “A Book with a Difference,” in God, Creation, and Revelation: A Neo-Evangelical Theology (Eerdmans, 1991) by Paul K. Jewett, pp. 167-8.

The Airborne Toxic Event

February 21, 2009

Such a cool song.

“Sometime Around Midnight” by The Airborne Toxic Event

Click here for a superb performance with the Calder Quartet on Letterman.


February 19, 2009


A brilliant aphorism on doubt:

“[Doubt] is altogether a pernicious companion which has its origin not in the good creation of God but in the Nihil — the power of destruction — where not only the foxes and rabbits but also the most varied kinds of demons bid one another “Good night.” There is certainly a justification for the doubter. But there is no justification for doubt itself (and I wish someone would whisper that in Paul Tillich’s ear). No one, therefore, should account himself particularly truthful, deep, fine, and elegant because of his doubt. No one should flirt with his unbelief or with his doubt. The theologian should only be sincerely ashamed of it.”

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Eerdmans 1992), p. 131.


February 18, 2009

“You cannot learn humility from books. You learn it by accepting humiliations.”

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta

Tradition and Reality

February 18, 2009


If you want to observe a highly interesting discussion on the Catholic conception of Tradition, go here. The 19th-20th century development in Catholic theology from a more, as they say, “static,” to “dynamic” (or “open”) view of Tradition is significant for all Christians to understand, because we are all (whether Evangelical, Catholic, or Orthodox) in the same boat in needing to re-situate our dogmas in the contemporary historical and scientific setting. The Catholic Church has, on the whole, done a better job than anyone else, steering a course between historical positivism and biblical positivism, respecting both the evidences of nature and the miracle of revelation.

Thus, in the discussion, linked above, between Arturo and Jonathan et al., I believe Jonathan is right. I don’t see how “slippery slope” accusations are helpful. It is true that Jonathan etc. are applying a kernel-husk method to protology, but does this necessarily extend, to be consistent, to christology? Not when the historical is constitutive of the dogma, and this is where the debate centers. Is the historicity of the Edenic Fall necessary for an orthodox understanding of creation, evil, and moral responsibility? Those who deny the historicity here are not inconsistent to also argue that the historicity of Christ’s bodily resurrection is necessary for an orthodox understanding of creation, justification, and reconciliation. Those who think otherwise cannot simply point-out that the apostles and most early fathers taught a Creationist protology, as if the apostolic deposit of faith contains its own inherent restrictions against a different scientific and historical setting. After all, we do allow different philosophical and semantic settings. If you believe that Tradition, for it to have any meaning, must not allow such paradigm shifts, you must argue why this is the case. That’s what I’m not seeing from the opposition. In fact, the Catholic Church especially should find such development to be unproblematic. For example, all Catholics allow for a rather extensive openness in the Tradition to accommodate the social and ecclesial situations that, in Catholic perspective, require the universal jurisdiction and infallibility of the pope (or the seven sacraments, or Mary’s sinlessness from conception, etc.). Since this is the case, why not polygenesis in human protology? I don’t see any rules restricting this development, which seems rather in line with how the Catholic Church has developed in the past.

God and Rocks

February 12, 2009

It is Darwin’s 200th birthday, and you can celebrate by buying, for the Creationist(s) in your life, this book:

The Bible, Rocks and Time

The authors, Young and Stearley, are professors of geology at Calvin College. The purpose of the book is to give a long (500 pages) and decisive (based on evidence) geological account for why evolution is unavoidable if you wish to keep your intellectual sanity. Biblical exegesis is also dealt with, including the obvious ANE (ancient Near East) weltanschauung utilized in the Hebrew revelation.

We Delight

February 10, 2009

Take delight in the LORD
And he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 (TNIV)

We delight in the law of your Word
We delight in the Son who was perfect from birth
We delight in the day He’s returning to earth

We will bow our hearts because we are free
As we raise our hands to give you glory
Father of life and love and infinite worth
We’re delivered by blood that flows from the tree
Draw us near to You, vessels of Your mercy
Before the invention of man, glorious Trinity

We delight in the law of your Word
We delight in the Son who was perfect from birth
We delight in the day He’s returning to earth

We will lift our eyes to the cloud and the flame
Lord, You guide our steps and restore us again
The nations of man will rejoice in the God of the wilderness

“We Delight” by Caedmon’s Call, In the Company of Angels (2001)


Existentialism makes people feel smart. You don’t have to be particularly smart, and certainly not particularly well-read, but if you are one of the few enlightened ones who perceive the blind absurd competing with our illusions of optimism — then you are a cut above.

That’s how I psychoanalyze the rationale behind the Academy’s nominations for the Oscars, especially in the last few years. What makes this year’s nominees particularly interesting is not the movie nominees themselves (needless to say, a Jerry Bruckheimer film is not nominated), but that the one undeniably intelligent and, moreover, existential movie of the year — The Dark Knight — did not receive a nomination for best picture, best screenplay, or even best producer. It is truly incomprehensible. I can’t understand it except that the Academy simply will not recognize brilliance if the masses love it. It is as if popularity is a litmus test and the Academy knows that the masses cannot recognize excellence. There is surely no other explanation.

Or maybe The Dark Knight was too intelligent for the Academy. Maybe they just didn’t get it. Most of what passes for existentialism in the cinema is not actually dealing with authentic existential themes of moral dilemma. The “moral” as a serious category has long-been rejected by the artistic intelligentsia that forms the Academy. So when the Joker tries to reveal the absurd telos of created reality, linking this to evil as blind mechanistic forces — maybe that just went over the heads of the Academy. The masses may not know, either, what I just said, but they do, in general, take morality and its grounding (meta-ethics) seriously. The average person, I suspect, grasped the moral profundity in The Dark Knight, along with the cool action sequences. The Dark Knight took seriously that humans cannot be treated as means in a relative utility, even if such an ethic ultimately requires a hope beyond the absurd that runs adjacent with fallen humanity. There has never been a movie that dealt with these themes with the precision and power of The Dark Knight.

We should all protest the Oscars this year and not watch (of course, there has never been much reason to watch). The Best Motion Picture this past year was The Dark Knight, and everyone knows it. The Oscars have gotten it right in the past, a lot of times actually — Rebecca, My Fair Lady, The Godfather I and II, Rocky, Chariots of Fire, Amadeus, The Silence of the Lambs, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, to name a few. It is a shame they will fail to add The Dark Knight to that list.

The Bible or science?

February 7, 2009


The Baptist Standard has an interesting and sad article on Kurt Wise — one of the very, very, very few “scientists” who have received top-notch advanced education in the natural sciences yet have rejected the evolution paradigm of any sort. So, what moment was decisive in Kurt’s decision? Here it is:


Wise, a Harvard graduate who studied under paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, gave up his dream of teaching at a major university because he could not reconcile claims of science with his faith.

At one point, Wise took out a newly purchased Bible and a pair of scissors. Beginning at Gen. 1:1, he cut out every verse that would have to be removed in order for him to believe in evolution.

Months later, he cut out his final verse and one of the last verses in the Bible, Rev. 22:19, which read, “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

Wise describes what happened next: “With the cover of the Bible taken off, I attempted to physically lift the Bible from the bed between two fingers. Yet, try as I might, and even with the benefit of intact margins throughout the pages of Scripture, I found it impossible to pick up the Bible without it being rent in two. I had to make a decision between evolution and Scripture. Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong, or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible.”

Dawkins called Wise’s story “pathetic and contemptible.”


Dawkins is right. Well, maybe “contemptible” is a bit strong, but “pathetic” is right. I truly cannot imagine a more lame account of someone struggling with reconciling their faith with science. Dawkins puts it well: “All he had to do was toss out the Bible or interpret it symbolically or allegorically as the theologians do. Instead, he did the fundamentalist thing and tossed out science, evidence and reason….” Interestingly, Wise has long noted that the science indeed does support evolution and that Creationism has yet to yield a sufficient counter-thesis. In the meantime, he has to reject the intelligibilities of the world as it presents itself to us.

Sad. So sad.

And to top it off, Southern Seminary, the flagship SBC seminary and one-time serious theological academy, hired Wise a few years ago to head their Center for Theology and “Science” (okay, there are no quotation marks). We’ve come a long way since people like David Mueller (Barth scholar) or even E. Y. Mullins (greatest Southern Baptist theologian ever) taught at Southern.


E. Y. Mullins, ora pro nobis