Part 2: Shouldn’t we move away from tradition and get back to Scripture?

In the previous post, we went through some common objections to the Reformed tradition. In this installment, we will come to terms with the fact that we all have our traditions, whether they are biblical or not. As the Reformed Baptist pastor, apologist, and author,   Dr. James White says so well:

“the people most enslaved by their traditions are those who believe they don’t have any”.

This is simply just to say that  we all come to the text of scripture, along with everything else,  with presuppositions about how we should interpret it. We don’t read the Scripture in a vacuum, or in some neutral fashion, because according to Scripture, it’s impossible, as we will see in a quote from Van Til.

So why is the Reformed tradition superior? Well, it certainly isn’t because of the men that subscribe to it, or attest for it.

It is because of the emphasis that Scripture is our final authority in all matters of faith and life.  Even though we make use of church councils, creeds, and confessions, made by men, and even our own reasoning, we keep these things in subservience to the Word of God, which is the ultimate standard, or rule. Simply stated, the Reformed faith is consistent Christian Theism.

Cornelius Van Til, in his book,  A Christian Theory of Knowledge sums it up very well;

It is Christ as God who speaks in the Bible. Therefore the Bible does not appeal to human reason as ultimate in order to justify what it says. It comes to the human being with abso­lute authority. Its claim is that human reason must itself be taken in the sense in which Scripture takes it, namely, as cre­ated by God and as therefore properly subject to the authority of God…  The two systems, that of the non-Christian and that of the Christian, differ because of the fact that their basic as­sumptions, or presuppositions differ. On the non-Christian basis man is assumed to be the final reference point in predic­tion… The Reformed method…begins frankly “from above.” It would “presuppose” God. But in presupposing God it can­not place itself at any point on a neutral basis with the non-Christian… Believers themselves have not chosen the Chris­tian position because they were wiser than others. What they have they have by grace alone. But this fact does not mean that they must accept the problematics of fallen man as right or even as probably or possibly right. For the essence of the idea of Scripture is that it alone is the criterion of truth [1]

What Van Til means here is that the Reformed method, in principle,  is ultimately committed to the Triune God of Scripture in our approach to all things.  This means the Reformed method begins, on authority, with the truth of the Triune God’s existence, and that He has communicated with man in covenant fashion.

Again, it is the self-conscious commitment to Sola Scriptura that the Christian should commit to. Not to be confused with Solo Scriptura which is simply the “me and my bible and none else approach”. This is internally inconsistent as exegesis and exposition of the text of Scripture would lead one to reject that notion. Rather it is Sola Scriptura which says “The Scripture alone is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, it is the only source for Christian doctrine, It’s truths are accessible to all, as it is perspicuous and self-interpreting.

I am not aware of any other tradition who does any of what was described above. So to the question asked “Shouldn’t we move away from tradition, and get back to Scripture?” I would respond that the question needs to be qualified. If it is a tradition of men that the question references, and has it’s basis in a Philosophy after man, then I would agree with it. However, if by “Tradition” it meant “The Reformed tradition, and its outworking into Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Philosophical Theology and Apologetics, and Historical Theology” then I would answer no, because The Reformed tradition is self-consciously committed to Christ, through His Word, and it’s aim is to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and it is that which we strive to do as consistent Christian theists every day.

[1] A Christian Theory of Knowledge, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969, pp. 15, 18, 43.)

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“Jesus Loves Me”

In growing up in a Southern Baptist church, one thing I can really look back on and appreciate is the traditional hymns. Some of the best theology that I learned as a child was through the ministry of the singing of hymns. Here at Kingdom Children, I would like to make it a common theme to reflect on the hymns that have been given to us by God as a means of learning about Him. By hymns, I refer to the lacing of Scriptures in lyrical form. In this edition we will be reflect on the Hymn “Jesus Loves Me”.

Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so;(1)

In this very line, we sing about what is, what we know, and how we know it. As surely as we believe the content of what is being sung here, so certainly this is the way it is. How is it that we know? Well the bible tells me so! What do I mean by the content of Christ’s love?  Look at the next line.

Little ones to him belong,
They are weak but he is strong. (2)

The Scriptures that come to my mind, personally when singing this line, are Romans, Chapter 5, verses 6-11.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (3)

Here we see, that we are the little ones. By we, Paul is referring to those who are united with Christ by Grace through Faith, which can be seen in Romans 6. The focus of our attention for now is Christ’s Love.  “For while we were still weak” ..what is meant here? We can gain insight from how the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul describes us elsewhere. In Ephesians chapter 2, verse 1, we are called “dead in the trespasses and sins”. In verse 2 Paul goes on to describe this deadness as “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience”. Look at how our weakness, and lack of ability is being contrasted to Christ, The God-Man’s strength!

{For} at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (4)

Even though we were weak, spiritually dead, and are naturally opposed to God. Christ, at the right time died for us, the ungodly! This is how He demonstrates His love for us! Which one of us would die for someone who was unjustly condemned to die?  Could you imagine laying down your life for someone like that? It would be a very tough decision, that I, personally, would crumble under. Given the situation, I know I wouldn’t. Paul say this hardly happens. He goes on to say that one might be bold, daring, and adventurous to die for a good man. Someone who was an upstanding citizen, and did things for others . Yet Christ, The Creator, and Judge of the Universe, Lived Righteously, was crucified, and bled for our ungodly hearts and souls. This is why we sing “Jesus Loves Me”

Why did he do this? For our justification!

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received  reconciliation.(5)

What does this Justification entail? It means that God’s wrath no longer abides on us, due to our sin. God has declared us Just, by faith in His Son (Rom 3:22). While we were enemies of God, because of our sinful state, we have been reconciled with Him, by the death of His Son. By Faith, Having now been justified  by His life, His death, and His resurrection! Because of this, we rejoice, sing, and reflect on these hymns! Our standing before God is like that of Christ’s, because He loved us!

Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so. (6)

(1) http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=851
(2) Ibid.
(3)Rom. 5:6-11 ESV
(4)Rom. 5:6-8  ESV
(5)Rom. 5:9-11 ESV
(6)Ibid.

Part 1: Shouldn’t we move away from tradition and get back to Scripture?

I found it to be necessary to start with this question as the first post, as:

1) This blog’s aim is to bring awareness to the Reformed tradition

2) This blog’s aim is to teach the Reformed tradition as the most consistent, and loyal position to the Scriptures.

i.e. Reformed Theology is consistent Christian Theism

A complaint one would  hear about the above statements, is about the label. I can understand the problem one would have in the label. The Scripture that would come to mind at this point is Paul’s letter to Corinth:

3. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4. For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? (1 Cor 3:3-4)

This Scripture is usually argued that “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos” takes place when one labels himself as Reformed/Calvinist or Arminian. That is, the division Paul is speaking against to the Corinthians who were doing this, speaks to us for being “Reformed” or “Arminian”. It is an understandable complain but it hasn’t gone unanswered. One answer is that Paul was not speaking to doctrinal division, but rather pride. (1)

I won’t go too in depth with this, because it is clearly stated in the above link. For a brief example, one would pride themselves in one apostle, and another person would pride themselves in another apostle of the same foundation. Consequently, one member would find themselves to be better than another, not because of doctrinal differences exactly, but because they studied under one particular apostle. So the attention went primarily to who they were and what they did, rather than what the apostles taught.

A point to make is that Paul did appeal to his apostleship and teachings, and even taught the overseers/elders to do the same, over against false teachers and apostle, so that the flock would have a sure foundation to hold to.

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Phil 3:17) ESV

{Likewise}urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, (Titus 2:6-7) ESV

For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. (1 Cor 4:15-16) ESV

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, (1 Thes 1:6) ESV

just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am also of Christ. (1 Cor 10:33-11:1)

I’ll end this with the  following comments that are taken from John Calvin’s commentary on 1 Corinthian chapter 11 v. 1

Here there are two things to be observed — first, that he prescribes nothing to others that he had not first practiced himself; and, secondly, that he directs himself and others to Christ as the only pattern of right acting. For while it is the part of a good teacher to enjoin nothing in words but what he is prepared to practice in action, he must not, at the same time, be so austere, as straightway to require from others everything that he does himself, as is the manner of the superstitious. For everything that they contract a liking for they impose also upon others, and would have their own example to be held absolutely as a rule. The world is also, of its own accord, inclined to a misdirected imitation, (κακοζηλίαν) (2) and, after the manner of apes, strive to copy whatever they see done by persons of great influence. We see, however how many evils have been introduced into the Church by this absurd desire of imitating all the actions of the saints, without exception. Let us, therefore, maintain so much the more carefully this doctrine of Paul — that we are to follow men, provided they take Christ as their grand model, (πρωτότυπον,) (3)  that the examples of the saints may not tend to lead us away from Christ, but rather to direct us to him.(4)

 

(1) "You Follow Calvin? Well, I follow Christ!"
(2) Κακοζηλία as it is used here is an "absurd invitation"
(3) πρωτότυπον as it is used here is "the original"
(4) Calvin's Commentary on Corinthians- Volume 1