In which I make a brief appeal to Natural Law…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 27, 2008 by Ron Smith

Clark appeals to Natural Law to defend traditional marriage, lest we think the passing of Prop 8 would be a move toward theocracy (God forbid). But he appeals more to traditional wisdom than to natural law. He mostly asserts that his position is in line with natural law and demonstrates (quite aptly, I might add) that this has traditionally been recognized to be the case. Here is an example of such an argument:

” I argue that the state should regulate marriage on the basis of natural, creational law and that those who advocate pushing back the boundaries of marriage to include homosexual marriage are advocating the recognition of the violation of natural, creational law recognized in the West by pagans and Christians for two thousand years.”

When I asked him to distinguish this argument from the fallacy of Traditional Wisdom, his response was

“People know it [Natural Law] because its [sic] revelation. Not everything that people people [sic] think they know is true. Hence the fallacy you cite.”

Is it me, or did he essentially say, “It is only a fallacy if it is false?” I don’t know how else to understand that statement. 

This is the closest thing to an actual natural law argument I could find:

“The contributions of the same sex would produce no offspring. Only heterosexual relations can produce offspring. Biologically considered, it [sic] homosexuality is a dead end.”

This may be considered a valid appeal to Natural Law, but I think it proves more than most advocates of traditional marriage would accept. One problem with this argument is that this would also forbid infertile couples from marrying. On this argument, why ought the infertile heterosexual couple be allowed to marry and adopt orphans, while the homosexual couple is forbidden to do so?

Here, he even appeals to a utilitarian ethic:

“If nature or creational boundaries are no longer normative for marriage and family then what norms are there? All social relations devolve to mere convention (will), become arbitrary, and constantly re-defined.”

His use of the word “devolve” is hardly unbiased. What of those who would use the word “evolve”? How does this argument counter those who indeed want to constantly redefine marriage? Why ought not marriage be redefined with every passing generation? Why ought one’s disfavor of the idea of redefining marriage supersede another’s favor of the idea of redefining marriage?

I know, the post title indicated I would make a brief appeal to natural law, and all I have done so far is express my “Barthian-theonomic skepticism” concerning natural law theory. Ok, this is the only time I will do this. Ready?

When God created man in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, He did not leave man with the rule of Natural Law alone. God walked with sinless Adam and spoke with Him and gave him His Law (Gen 2:17; WCF XIX.I). Therefore, the necessity of special revelation for the life of man in the creation is a creational norm.

Frame makes this basic argument (and much, much more!) here.

And finally, lest my disdain for Clark’s argumentation in any way be misunderstood as disdain for his (apparently intuitive) position,


FV, TR, Presumption, Assurance, and Despair

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by Ron Smith

I do not intend to make an argument here. There is plenty of that elsewhere on this blog and in numerous other sources. I just want to point out something that occurred to me this morning that I find interesting and maybe helpful concerning FV and TR perspectives. If I lost you on that last sentence, reading on might help define for you some distinctions between FV and TR emphases.

The TR brethren typically frame God’s promises in the context of eternal, decretal election, while the FV brethren typically frame God’s promises in the context of historical, outward, objective covenant. The TR believe that the FV “covenant promises” lead to presumption, while the FV believe that the TR “election promises” lead to despair.

The TR brethren typically frame scriptural warnings in the context of reprobation, while the FV brethren typically frame scriptural warnings in the context of historical, outward, objective covenant. The TR believe that the FV “covenant warnings” lead to despair, while the FV believe that the TR “hypothetical warnings” (only a reality for the reprobate, hypothetical for the elect) lead to presumption.

So for the FV, promises and warnings are typically framed in the same context (covenant), while for the TR, promises and warnings are typically framed in opposing contexts (election/reprobation).

Note what the PCA Study Committee on FV/NPP/AAT considers the FV position promotes:

“The Committee views the FV position as ultimately leading to presumption or despair, not assurance. At the heart of their belief is the view that water baptism serves as the means for uniting each participant to Jesus; those baptized receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation except final perseverance. Our concern is that some of those who are baptized will simply presume on God’s grace, “continuing in the covenant” without “apostatizing” but also without justifying faith (cf. Matthew 22:1-14); others will be driven to despair, working for a salvation out of “covenant faithfulness” instead of resting and receiving Jesus alone for their salvation.” ~ “The Report” pg 34

Their concern is a legitimate one. We can agree on this. Where we disagree is that I don’t see this concern as something unique to the FV.

Election vs. Covenant Promises
For the TR, affirming the promises that accompany baptism (Acts 2:38-39) *to all baptized Christians, head for head*,  will lead the Christian to presume that he is “in” on the basis of his baptism and that this status is sufficient for salvation.

For the FV, affirming the promises that accompany baptism *only for the elect* will lead the Christian to wonder in despair if that includes him individually. A contemporary Christian folk band of a reformed baptist persuasion by the name of Caedmon’s Call expresses this sentiment in a song entitled “Prove me wrong”. The song’s opening verse goes like this:

Sometimes I fear maybe I’m not chosen
You’ve hardened my heart like Pharaoh
That would explain why life is so hard for me

And I am sad Esau hated
Crying against what’s fated
Saying father, please, is there any left for me

Hypothetical vs. Actual Warnings
For the TR, expressing the scriptural warnings that accompany baptism (Acts 2:40) *to all baptized Christians, head for head* in a “this could happen to you” fashion denies all sorts of Calvinistic points of doctrine and leads the Christian to despair, constantly wondering whether or not he will be able to do the work of covenant faithfulness sufficient for eternal salvation.

For the FV, expressing scriptural warnings in a hypothetical, “you’re elect, this can’t happen to you” fashion is akin to teaching a child he cannot be physically hurt or killed. The child, presuming himself to be impervious to harm, will attempt more and more dangerous feats until he inevitably proves his teacher wrong. Likewise, the Christian, presuming himself to be impervious to spiritual harm, will attempt more and more feats dangerous to his soul until he finally falls away in his sin.

Presumption, Assurance, and Despair
I think both persuasions can agree that there is a continuum of faith and fear with presumption on one end (faith without fear), despair on the other end (fear without faith), and assurance somewhere in between (faith and fear). Saving faith trembles (WCF XIV.II). I also think we can all admit that there are challenges to both systems that can lend toward one extreme or the other or both. Are there no presumptuous or disparaged among the TRs? Are all the congregants in FV churches fully assured of their salvation? No and no.

The main challenge I see is the number and diversity of souls being ministered to. To put it in the simplest terms I can think of, innately, some folks are too happy and some folks are too sad. The former spend too much time beholding God’s goodness and not enough time beholding His severity (Romans 11:22), and the latter have the opposite problem. There are those who tend to doubt their salvation and need to be encouraged with covenant promises, and there are those who tend to think church membership is salvific in itself and need to be threatened with scriptural warnings. And because there is a heteronomos at work in our members, those who need badly to give heed to the warnings typically latch on to the promises and vice versa.

One of the criticisms I constantly see coming from the most outspoken FV critics as well as those brothers who don’t know any better is that the FV has made the gospel confusing. I think we FVers can agree with the TR sentiment that the gospel is simple and should be presented clearly and plainly. We don’t deny this. But can the TRs brothers agree with the FV sentiment that people are complex?

The Aim of Covenant Promises and Scriptural Warnings
All that to get to this. The aim of covenant promises is to produce faith. The aim of scriptural warnings is to produce fear. These respective ends are what God intended them for. The interesting thing that occured to me this morning is that the TR brethren’s complaint against the typical FV application of promises and warnings is essentially that of over achievement. The FV application of promises, in the mind of the TR, leads to too much faith and not enough fear (presumption), while the FV application of scriptural warnings leads to too much fear and not enough faith (despair). Conversely, the FV complaint against the TR application of promises and scriptural warnings is that it (albeit unintentionally) tends to produce in the hearer the exact oppostite of what God intended.

So if both the TR and FV brethren’s concerns on this matter are granted, which I am willing to do for more than the sake of argument, who is misusing God’s Word? Who is using God’s promises and warnings in the way they were intended to be used (even if in an imbalanced way, giving more heed to one or the other), and who is using them in a way contrary to God’s design?


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 27, 2008 by Ron Smith

I just finished listening to my pastor’s sermon series on Hebrews again and I commend it to you. It can be found here:

Here’s a good 2 minute snippet from the sermon titled “Consider Jesus” on Hebrews 3:1-6:

The Proverbs: from Father to Son

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 4, 2008 by Ron Smith

While formulating a response to this, I thought of some things I hadn’t before. Compare the following 2 passages:

Proverbs 3:1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
       but keep my commands in your heart
 2 for they will prolong your life many years
       and bring you prosperity. |
 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
       bind them around your neck, 
       write them on the tablet of your heart. 
 4 Then you will win favor and a good name
       in the sight of God and man

Luke 2:51 Then [Jesus] went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

It seems clear to me that Luke deliberately parallels Proverbs 3 here. He points out that Jesus grew in wisdom, and the Proverbs are for the attaining of wisdom (Proverbs 1:2). These thoughts led me to another.

When Jesus studied the Proverbs, with all the exhortations following the address, “My son…“, I wonder what He thought…

Message to Uncle Saul: It’s not over until America is free again

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 23, 2008 by Ron Smith

And if we the people think we’re free, we have very low expectations. If all we want out of life is to go to work 9-5, come home, have dinner, fall asleep in front of the idiot box with a 6-pack, and repeat process tomorrow, then Uncle Saul is our man. He will make that happen for us and all the while, we’ll be singing his praises and having barbecues in his honor for the life of liberty and abundance he has graciously granted to us. After all, how gracious a keeper he is to let us keep half of our property.

But we need to open our eyes. We need to be made aware that the founders of this country waged war against a tyranny that amounted to a fraction of the oppression exercised by the American Federal Government today

Once our eyes are open, what we need to do next is repent. How did we get here? Over the course of the last two centuries, we have slowly turned away from the worship of the one true God to the worship of demos. This is why spreading democracy sounds so much better to us than spreading theocracy. We don’t want Theos to rule over us. We want to rule ourselves. This is why we are all too happy to celebrate America’s holydays and violate God’s Sabbath. This is why it is of no offense to us when an alleged “neutral” education, provided by this messianic government, fails to acknowledge the greatness of our God in all subject matter, and thereby teaches the insignificance of our God in all subject matter. And this is why God is giving us over.

1 Samuel 8:7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; … they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” 10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

This is exactly what Saul (among other wicked kings) did to God’s people (1 Sam 14:52; 1 Sam 22:7; 1 Kin 21:7; Ezek 46:18), and it is precisely what Uncle Saul is doing to us today. Note how in God’s economy, 10% taxation is included in His threat to give His people an oppressive governing authority and is said to be the equivalent of slavery. 10% tax was still considered oppressive in America until the War Between the States when taxes became as high as 10% to contribute to the war effort, and that only for the wealthiest of Americans. Now half of America’s income goes to Uncle Saul in the form of taxes to local, state and federal bureaucracies.

10% taxation is oppressive as well as blasphemous for one simple reason: the tithe. God himself requires as an act of worship, a tithe of all his people’s first fruits. When Uncle Saul begins requiring that much and more, he is essentially claiming to be God and requiring us to worship him with a percentage of our increase. And that is what this government has done, affording it the means to pursue other global messianic ends. This is why, as the mp3 linked above exhorts, if we are not giving God his tithe, we have no room to complain when this government takes five tithes from us. This is what God said He would do to us if we reject Him as King. We need to repent of our false worship and return to the living and true God. Only then will any effort like the one promoted next be of any benefit to us.

The political party of Reagan died with him. I am sad to say it, but it is true. The party that stands in its place can hardly be said to be standing for liberty. They would merely aim their tyranny in a different direction than their liberal counterparts. So the choice this election seems to be, “Which tyrant do we want to rule over us?”

But the party can be resurrected and along with it, the liberty it once stood for. Join the Revolution.

Saving Faith as Paradox

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 5, 2008 by Ron Smith

According to the Westminster Confession, by Saving Faith,

“a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.” WCF XIV.II

So, if our faith is to be saving faith, we must at once tremble at God’s threats and believe God’s promises.

But one will say, “If you have faith, you have nothing to fear. God’s promise of eternal life is yours.” This is the first step toward apostasy: “It can’t happen to me. I am immune to temptation, sin, or the ultimate sin of falling away.”

But God says,

“If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.”  Ezekiel 33:13

And yet another will say, “If you believe with certainty that God’s promises are directed toward you, and even teach your children to believe that God’s promises are directed toward them, you are presuming upon God’s grace. No one can know with any certainty that he or his children are elect.” This is the first step toward apostasy: “What if I am not elect? What if I am only part of the visible covenant? My father cannot even tell me for sure if I am in a real relationship with Jesus. If I am not, then what I am doing here?”

But God says,

“If I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right … he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.” Ezekiel 33:14-16

Saving faith comes when both promises and warnings are embraced. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God (Romans 11:22).

Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 5, 2008 by Ron Smith

According to Luther, it is a foolish thing to try to define faith and works separately:

Here is an excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546 Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith

“Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this “faith,” either.

Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.  Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever.  He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.

For further reading on Luther’s definition of faith, here is an article by an RC brother by the name of Peter Kreeft who states that when Luther used the word “faith”, “Luther used it in the broad sense of the person’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. It included repentance, faith, hope, and charity.”  If this is true, and I think the quote above lends itself to that conclusion, then Luther’s Sola Fide was over and against extra-biblical works (like indulgences) devised and demanded by a corrupt priesthood, rather than over and against repentance and a living faith working in love.