Book Notes

Leaving Egypt

A quick plug for my old friend and professor, Chuck DeGroat. I am getting myself a copy soon.

Making Righteous

“Augustine often states that justification includes the idea of ‘making righteous,’ not simply ‘declaring/reckoning’ as righteous.” How closely does Augustine anticipate Martin Luther? McGrath emphasizes an important distinction:

Augustine has an all-embracing transformative understanding of justification, which includes both the event of justification (brought about an operative grace) and the process of justification (brought about by cooperative grace). Augustine himself does not, in fact, see any need to distinguish between these two aspects of justification; the distinction dates from the sixteenth century.

Marcionism and the Justification Debate

Marcion argued that the works of believers will not be weighed by God in the final judgement. Origen objects, and argues that faith and good works are ‘two complementary conditions of salvation that must not be separated.’ And what is Thomas Scheck’s conclusion? Scheck concludes that “on the theme of justification, faith, and works, Augustine does not differ substantially from Origen.”

Justification: Five Views

In wondering why there isn’t a Lutheran view represented in the Five Views book, the editor observes:

Our response is that Horton’s traditional Reformed view is functionally identical in all the significant theological aspects to the traditional Lutheran view.

The New American Militarism by Andrew Bacevich

Front CoverI first heard of Andrew Bacevich about two years ago. I came across one of his interviews with Bill Moyers. Moyers always asked the right questions. His liberal bias was so obvious that it actually made for good television. I was so fascinated by his style that I bought one of his books and reviewed it. But it was that lengthy interview with Bacevich that consolidated my allegiance with the Old Right. Here was a Vietnam Veteran who laid out his presuppositions with intense vigor and who had personally lived the pain of the Iraq war in the death of his son. It has now been several years since that interview and recently I ordered a copy of Bacevich’s The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War. 

The preface to the book is quite stimulating since Bacevich lays out his background and what led him to interpret America’s wars through these lenses. After years, as a conservative political writer for Weekly Standard and National Review (both ardent neo-conservative voices), Dr. Bacevich began to dissolve his relationship with the conservative literary establishment (xi). In the end, Bacevich came to realize that “the Republican and Democratic parties may not be identical, but they produce nearly identical results (xi).”

Bacevich is a conservative with all the credentials, but his vast background (Historian, international relations expert and former US Army Colonel) has led him to different conclusions about the U.S. military pursuits around the world. His conclusions are bound to make both the left and the right uncomfortable.

Not an Addendum

Ian Hewitson, defending Norman Shepherd, insists that baptism is a point of transition from death to life. Though this transition does not happen only through baptism, “neither can it be restricted to regeneration (200).” Shepherd quotes John Murray in Christian Baptism:

Baptism is not an addendum to discipleship but that by which discipleship is consummated…Since discipleship is not consummated without baptism we must regard baptism as an indispensable mark of the church. The person who refuses baptism and declines the reproach of Christ, which it entails, cannot be received as a member of Christ’s body.

To the common and infantile charge that this appears Romish, Shepherd writes:

The position here advocated should not be confused with the sacramentalist doctrine of baptismal regeneration…Baptism is not to be construed here as the instrumental cause of our union with Christ, as in the Roman Catholic sense of ex opere operato. Union with Christ is accomplished not by virtue of baptism but by virtue of the power of the Spirit.

For Shepherd, the Spirit is sovereign over the means of grace (205).

Given For You

I spent a semester with Keith Mathison in Orlando doing an independent study on Luther and Calvin’s sacramental views. I read and re-read his fine book. Almost five years later I have picked it up again only to be refreshed by Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper. In his for foreword to Keith Mathison’s Given For You, R.C. Sproul writes:

The light of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is in eclipse. The shadows of postmodern relativism have covered the table. For the Lord’s Supper to be restored to the spiritual life of the church there must be an awakening to its meaning, significance, and power. I know of no greater instrument apart from Scripture itself to bring this renewal to pass than the pages of this book.

Another good reason to buy or download a copy on kindle.

Ecclesiastical Self-Critique

Robert Jenson (Prolegomena III) observes that communities do not care for self-critique. The church is also one such community. This is why the Reformation was such a blow to the church of the day. Jenson writes that the “Reformers’ emphasis on the practical role of theology was correlate to their demand for churchly self-critique. (11).” The Reformation forced the church to look deep within the corridors of tradition and ask whether they had been faithful with the mysteries of the gospel. The modern ecclesiastical scene needs a healthy dose of self-critique.

C.S. Lewis and Food

The food theme is not as prevalent in Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia as they are in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I have chronicled a bit of the delicious appetite of Tolkien for food here. Yet, as I make my way through Lewis’ Chronicles I came across a brief delicacy in the meeting between the Sons of Adam and Eve and the beaver family. Their meeting leads to a festive meal described in this manner:

There was a jug of creamy milk for the children to enjoy (Mr. Beaven stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with the potatoes, and all the children thought–and I agree with them–that there’s nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago. And when they finished the fish Mrs. Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the over a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle onto the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out…”And now,” said Mr. Beaver, pushing away his empty beer mug and pulling his cup of tea toward him, “if you will just wait till I’ve got my pipe lit up and going nicely–why, now we can get to business.”

This is a fairly descriptive scene. Much like Tolkien, business/war come only after a feast.

The Contradiction of Division

Robert Jenson observes in the preface to his Systematic Theology, Volume I that “to live as the church in a situation of a divided church–if this can happen at all–must at least mean that we confess we live in a radical self-contradiction and that by every churchly act we contradict that contradiction (vii).” Jenson notes that theology can only done in the “unitary church of the creed.” Theology is ecclesiology. Theology functions best in the context of ecclesial harmony.