Golf Clap, Curmudgeon

The Christian Curmudgeon offers up some sane advice for those given to the immodest impulses of pietism and activism.

So there you have it. If you experience “entertainment addiction,” here are two paths to recovery. Pietism: Confess, pray, read the Bible, join a group, evangelize, think about death. Activism: Repent, take dominion, educate yourself, figure out applications, do something productive, make some money. Detach from this world as much as you can, seek the vision of God, and don’t let pleasures distract you. Or, take dominion, accomplish as much as you can for God, and don’t let pleasures derail you.

Now, all this makes me feel a certain amount of guilt. I don’t read the Bible, pray, witness, study, work, or produce – enough. Nor do I “make right use of this present world,” including its lawful pleasures. I would never say, “Here. Live life the way I do.”

Nevertheless I do have counsel for the person who wrote to Piper, and I think it’s Biblical. Read Ecclesiastes. Education, wisdom, work, pleasure, accomplishment, and righteousness have their places and their limits. Life is serious, but don’t take it too seriously. Make the best of things you can, but don’t count on anything in this world. If you live, you’ll get old. Then you’ll die and leave it all behind. It’s all vanity. Only God is above it all. So don’t ever forget him. Fear him. Keep his commandments.

Not pietism, not activism. Realism.

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41 Responses to Golf Clap, Curmudgeon

  1. Mike K. says:

    Great read, thanks for the link.

  2. Pooka says:

    This is awesome. So nice to read. But I have the hardest time with Ecclesiastes too. It’s virtually impossible not to take things all too seriously, most of the time. There should be an off-switch installed that can be employed when the “I can’t take much more of this” factor starts setting off alarms. And then it’s standard procedure to overreact with some therapeutic pietism or energizing activism, either of which usually exasperates things – they’re like cover-ups for the bigger issue.

    OK-GO sings “this too shall pass” but I never really believe such things until it’s too late.

  3. Jeff Cagle says:

    It’s a good post.

    If I may answer your GB question here: So, Jeff, I wonder if you think it’s too much to ask that the gospel actually inform all domains of spiritual life? I just find it odd that you would want to work so hard to make sure we can say that the Bible speaks to every area of civil life but then dissent when it is suggested that the gospel informs every area of spiritual life (ecclesiology, eschatology, doxology, etc.)

    No, I agree: the gospel is the architectural center of the spiritual life.

    The dissent is in the area of Christian liberty. I don’t believe that “the gospel is the center” gives you, me, or anyone else, the magical ability to perceive gospel unfaithfulness in those with whom we happen to disagree.

    Or put another way: gospel unfaithfulness is the disease. It might manifest itself in theonomy, or postmillennialism, or amillennialism, or even “being Reformed.” But those characteristics are not the disease; they are simply ways that the disease might manifest itself. Apart from the disease, they might well be benign (or in the case of being Reformed, beneficial).

    What you want to do is to take certain theological stances as proxies for gospel faithfulness, just as a worldviewer wants to take certain behaviors as proxies for “Christian worldview.” Both are wrong, because both are over-reading.

  4. Zrim says:

    Jeff, when I say that theonomy is a variant of law-gospel confusion, it seems pretty close to your notion that gospel unfaithfulness manifests itself in theonomy. In other words, theonomy is unbiblical. So is Pelagianism (soteriology), revivalism (doxology), credo-baptism (sacramentology) and popery (ecclesiology). Where we might yet differ is that I’m willing to see theonomy be dashed like the rest of those manifestations of gospel unfaithfulness. I guess that makes me a radical or something, but I just don’t see why anybody would want to tolerate symptoms of diseases if they don’t have to.

    And despite what you may think, it’s not a way to magically peer into the souls of its adherents. It’s simply evaluating whether a teaching measures up to the Biblical and confesional teaching and compelling otherwise healthy souls to reject what is unbiblical and unconfessional and affirm what is biblical and confessional.

  5. Jeff Cagle says:

    I must have been unclear. By analogy:

    My youngest has complained a lot of stomach pain. If there were an underlying disease (Crohn’s, GI blockage, appendicitis, etc.), then it would be manifested in stomach pain.

    As it turns out, however, stomach pain can also be a symptom of “being six years old.” It might well signify absolutely nothing.

    In other words, stomach pain by itself is non-specific and is not a reliable marker of disease.

    In the same way: postmillennialism is consistent with an underlying Glory Theology. But it can also be caused by other considerations. Hence, it is not a reliable marker for underlying disease.

    What you are doing is taking a symptom like postmil and asserting that it must be the marker for an underlying disease.

    It appears to the outside as a kind of over-realized “knowledge” of people’s spiritual condition, based on unreliable markers of spiritual disease.

    Of all of the views I mentioned above, I certainly oppose theonomy the most. To my mind, it would seem hard to avoid putting God’s people right back under the Law if I were a theonomist. And were my church to hire a theonomic pastor (?!), I would have a hard time staying.

    Theonomists disagree, however, that they are Galatianists — somehow. So where does that leave me?

    (1) I cannot assume that I’m right and they are wrong, based on my own say-so.
    (2) My church, the PCA, has *not* ruled theonomy out-of-bounds.

    So for now, I engage with theonomists and push them to reconsider, yet without making definitive assertions about their views being inconsistent with the gospel. Even though I suspect they might well be.

    This is an important distinction. Telling other people, flat out, that their views are inconsistent with the gospel is just about the most serious charge that can be leveled. It requires the highest standards of evidence, and the backing of church judicial decisions.

    I sense in E2k a willingness to get out ahead of church courts in these matters.

  6. Zrim says:

    Jeff, sorry to get repetitive, but I think after your last comment I need to reproduce what I said over at GB: On the one hand, I’d want to be cautious about implying anything undue against those who explicitly and forthrightly confess sola fide. On the other, and by the same token, I think it’s warranted to maintain that theonomy (and its variations) has a worrisome blind spot for the law-gospel distinction when it comes to ecclesiology.

    I do appreciate your point that theonomy hasn’t been ecclesiastically ruled out-of-bounds. But I’d also remind you that the Seventh GA of the PCA in 1979, even as it stopped short of ruling it unorthodox, did reject theonomy as a standard of orthodoxy. And the RCUS in 1987 adopted two recommendations, the second which said, “It is the position of the RCUS that the Heidelberg Catechism teaches that the ceremonial and judicial laws instituted by Moses have been entirely abolished and done away with by the coming of Christ, as far as it relates to obligation and obedience on our part. The moral law, however, has not been abolished as it respects obedience, but only as it respects the curse and constraint.” So it’s not as if the church courts have never taken up the issue.

    Analogies are only so useful. And while I’m a big fan of caution, I also don’t see how any system that effectively wants to revive the laws Christ fulfilled, thus rendering his messianic work quizzical at best and useless at worst, deserves kid gloves. It does seem to me that theonomy (and its variations) wants to make friends out of the powers of this world and the ways of the Spirit, even as the Bible seems to teach that these two are opposed to each other–as opposed as law is to gospel. So maybe it’s just that, while we both oppose theonomy, one of us is more willing to marginalize it.

  7. Jeff Cagle says:

    But I’d also remind you that the Seventh GA of the PCA in 1979, even as it stopped short of ruling it unorthodox, did reject theonomy as a standard of orthodoxy.

    So what implications can one draw from this fact? Is theonomy permissible or not?

    It strikes me that seeking to marginalize that which is permissible is just another way of treading on liberty.

    It also concerns me that marginalization is your goal — an essentially political move.

  8. Zrim says:

    Jeff, it strikes me that theonomy stands on shaky theological ground. Technically, I see your point about permissibility and liberty, but that strikes me as a little wooden or academic for someone who admits his own opposition.

    If you say you oppose it (and you do–you even say you’d have a hard time staying in a church that called a theonomist to its pulpit), then I don’t know why you’d be concerned about its being marginalized. Theonomy may be permissible, but I don’t think that means it’s free from criticism. I also don’t think it means those who oppose it have any obligation to give it cover. It can defend itself as far as I’m concerned. It’s not as if theonomists show 2kers any mercy, so why return a non-favor?

  9. sean says:

    Hey question for Zrim and Jeff C, slightly off-topic. Aside from TUAD’s continual ‘pestering’ was there anything going on at greenbaggins that was particularly untoward? Granted there wasn’t much agreement and lots of denying of the others positions and starting points, which though it may not allow for a lot of extended or investigatory discussion, is pretty par for the course between adversarial positions. Theonomy/ 1k doesn’t live well with law/gospel, strict 2k considerations. Nothing really new on that front. Anyway, was kinda surprised at the reaction but I also found it revealing and really was just a continued extension of the discord that’s been going on on that particular score between graduates of WSC and WTS and obviously those who favor Frame’s developments. Not sure If Lane was surprised by the degree to which it existed or just really was offended in his sensibilities. Not saying he was right or wrong, just kinda surprised.

  10. Zrim says:

    Sean, I wouldn’t have described anything as particularly untoward. I would say that it did seem more like a human conversation where there were high points mixed in with low points, distractions, attempts at humor, whining and complaining, etc. Some venues don’t seem all that comfortable with how human beings actually give and take and can get embarrassed by it, I guess. For my own part, I’ve always thought blogdom a breezy medium and best used that way, like a dinner table or living room. I think some take it too seriously. I’ve also seen some behind the scenes exchanges, and I’ll just say that it seems to me some take themselves way more seriously than their ideas.

  11. sean says:


    That was my impression as well. I like to rack it up to a greater breadth of liberty of conscience. That and having a great appreciation for P J O’Rourke and Mencken and the sort.

  12. David R. says:


    The same thing happened about a year or so ago I think it was when he shut down a 2k thread that was going in a similar direction. I actually kind of saw it coming.

  13. Bruce Settergren says:

    I just skimmed through about 70% of the thread. I, too, was a bit surprised that the boss over there shut it down. I’ve seen a whole lot worse at GB – not that I hang out there all that much – and didn’t actually see anything like what the boss listed for his reasons for shutting the thread down.

    My non-theological take is that I don’t see how it’s possible for me to change the world if I’m stuck in traffic 2 1/2 hours per day and have 5 little league games to watch per week. Although I would appreciate it if the transformationalists could get the American-Idol contestants to sing in tune. That would be nice.

  14. Zrim says:

    Bruce, I’d appreciate Keller transforming the price of Heinekens at the US Open. But if I can’t even get my own drive-through orders not to return to me void…

  15. Bruce Settergren says:

    The funny thing about your drive through orders is that the last time I was in GR, my wife and I drove up to a MacDonalds off South Kalamazoo for two coffees and it took three exchanges to get it straight. I was thinking of the Z-man the whole time we sat there.

  16. Zrim says:

    That’s because the McD’s on Kalamazoo haven’t been transformed yet. They’re just being sanctified.

  17. Jeff Cagle says:

    Howdy Zrim,

    Here’s the point: when you talk about marginalizing theonomy, or transformationalism, or whatnot, it somehow always ends up as an attempt to marginalize theonomists or transformationalists. Particular individuals are targeted for mockery and accusations of “latent legalism.”

    The problem with this is that those individuals have been recognized by the visible church as being gospel ministers. And as obnoxious as they may be (and they really are obnoxious at times), they deserve the respect due their office. That respect is not observed.

    A mission to maintain gospel purity, however well-intended, cannot lose sight of the fact that we are fellow members of the body of Christ. We belong to one another, and it takes the decision of church court to undo this fact.

    Accordingly, we owe it to one another to oppose one another’s ideas with gentleness and respect, and directly, face to face. Not by third-person proxy.

    Surely you don’t imagine that you are the first person to have ever gotten a gospel bee in his bonnet? What is the principled difference between yourself and, say, Hermann Hoeksema, who preached loudly that anyone believing in the Good Faith Offer of the Gospel is a latent Pelagian? Or Luther, pounding the table at Marburg and declaring that Zwingli “has a different Spirit” because he did not accept consubstantiation?

    If I may be very blunt. You have a practice of insinuating gospel unfaithfulness. What is at stake in that practice is the doctrine of the visible church. Does the church have the authority to make such declarations, or can individuals strike out on their own?

    Do you imagine that the rest of us are incapable of forming our own conclusions about theonomy? Surely by now you’ve noticed that I resist it vigorously, face-to-face. Tell me why I should go beyond this and try for political maneuvering whose effect would be to disgrace third parties.

  18. Zrim says:

    Jeff, I understand you think it’s me, but I think you overstate things. My aim isn’t to marginalize people, it’s to see consistency in our doctrinal formulations. Maybe I’m wrong about the parallels and applications, but can you really fault the aim? No, I do not think anybody is incapable of forming his or her own conclusions about theonomy, least of all you. I’m not sure why you ask this. I understand you resist it vigorously. What I don’t understand is how someone can resist a doctrinal formulation vigorously if he doesn’t think it is out of accord with the principles of orthodoxy. If it’s not out of accord with such principles then he should probably moderate his vigor. But if he keeps his vigor he must think it is out of accord, in which case I remain a little flummoxed as to why he’d fault another who is just as opposed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: theonOMY and transformationalISM get in the way of theonomISTS and transformationalISTS who make an otherwise good confession.

    The principled difference between me and the men you cite should be obvious–they matter. And I do not perceive myself as “striking out on my own.” I’m just discussing here.

  19. Jeff Cagle says:

    Zrim: My aim isn’t to marginalize people, it’s to see consistency in our doctrinal formulations.

    It’s a laudable aim. I’m asking you to consider ways in which your discourse achieves more of the former than you might perhaps wish. And I’m asking this of you because I have some hope that you might listen.

    Zrim: What I don’t understand is how someone can resist a doctrinal formulation vigorously if he doesn’t think it is out of accord with the principles of orthodoxy.

    The key here is to distinguish amongst three things.

    (1) A doctrinal formulation that appears to be (or IS) out of accord with orthodoxy. This, we resist.

    In my own case, I resist theonomy, especially Bahnsenian “pure” theonomy, which is admittedly out of according with the Westminster standards.

    (2) A catch-phrase which might or might not belong to a particular doctrinal formulation. These, we watch.

    Someone who says, “The gospel is the law” gets my attention. But then, what does he mean by it?

    (3) A person who speaks language that might or might not be consistent with a particular doctrinal formulation. These, we encourage, correct, build bridges — not demean, or marginalize, or mock.

    It’s simple really: people are not empty vessels for ideas.

  20. mikelmann says:

    Jeff, I very much appreciate the point of view you represent here, as you speak very much as an elder-churchman. I get it.
    This is something on which I’ve gone back and forth. Frankly I learn less in very staid, very cautious conversations than when issues are allowed to be discussed in a lively fashion. You know what I’m talking about – discussions full of disclaimers, euphemisms, and religious-talk (“brother,” “in Christ,” etc.) Such discussions can be so cautious that issues are never really fleshed out.
    I’m not suggesting that slander is ever permissible or we are to be oblivious to the effect of our words. But is there a genre – let’s call it a blog – where the participants come in understanding that it can be a bit of a brain-storming session at times and there will be pushing to develop issues? Anyone terribly prickly should stay away, and anyone who likes that kind of thing can join in, even anonymously. Or not?

  21. Zrim says:

    Jeff, I’m glad to be counted as hope-worthy. Your points are all well taken. For my own part, I think there are such things as variations on a theme, distinctions without differences, and degrees of greater or lesser veracity. I consider theonomy is one such theme that has distinctions and degrees. There is the pure kind you speak of, then there are variations and degrees of it, and all of it owes, I think, to some measure of law-gospel confusion.

    But it’s worth pointing out that “gospel unfaithfulness” has been YOUR term, not mine. All I have said, and all I want to say, is that you don’t get to theonomy without first confusing the categories of law and gospel. It seems to me that you have jumped ahead and put the accusation of “gospel unfaithfulness” into my mouth. I think I’ve been pretty clear that a theonomIST can have an otherwise orthodox confession on justification. But my point is that such a confession depends on a robust distinction between law and gospel. It seems to behoove that same person to reconsider his theonomy since it depends on a gross confusion of those categories.

    MM’s point is also well taken. Speaking of distinctions, there is cautious and then there is dainty. There is being honest and there is being uncouth. Those aren’t always easy to manage, but I hope to be counted amongst the cautious but honest and not the dainty and uncouth.

  22. sean says:

    Jeff C says;
    “It’s simple really: people are not empty vessels for ideas.”

    Jeff, I appreciate that you may be an equal opportunity critic on this score, but that particular comment you made, really has a lot more applicability to the philosophical/syllogistic commenters amongst us, than the conversational ones. And somebody also needs to explain to me how it is that passive/aggressive, patronizing interactions fall within the bounds of “Godly” interaction but non-coarse direct confrontation or disagreement is somehow beyond the pale? I’d much prefer the latter to the former.

  23. Jeff Cagle says:

    Direct is fine. The objection concerns mockery and trying to influence A to marginalize B.

    As to “passive/aggressive” and “patronizing”, I would say those are out of bounds also.

  24. sean says:

    Jeff C,

    The problem on the marginalizing bit, tends to surface, particularly on an issue like theonomy because they self-admittedly acknowledge that “everyone likes/has their own brand”. It becomes really difficult in that scenario to talk about theonomy objectively, say Bahnsenian, and not to that person’s nuance or ‘take’ which obviously is intimately tied to their own personality or subjective thought process. But certainly malevolent mockery is inappropriate, though acknowledging that point is a bit akin to responding to the question of “are you still beating your wife?” I’m not sure I would want to own that the factual ground of the premise of the question was ever established, but for the sake of argument……………………………………

    Let me ask another question, acknowledging beforehand that a combox can make the exchange more flat or wooden, is satire or even sarcasm, a legitimate form of discourse on a “religious” blog?

  25. Jeff Cagle says:

    Well, I would imagine that Zrim would question whether a blog can be “religious” — has the Confessional Outhouse been redeemed? 🙂

    Let me speak in terms of my own weaknesses for a moment. In theory, I consider a wide palette of expression to be OK for a teacher. It’s legitimate to use discourse, exhortation, direct challenge, irony, humor, perhaps anger (carefully circumscribed!).

    But I sometimes find myself putting my foot in my mouth when I venture into negative territory: sarcasm, public criticism, “heat.” Without giving detail, it is sometimes the case that I simply misjudge what a particular student needs to hear. And the results … personal story omitted … sometimes leave me with nothing to say but “I was wrong and I’m sorry.”

    So I put things like sarcasm in the “risky” category. Done right and well with a person whose boundaries one understands, it’s effective. Done poorly, without regard for boundaries and ‘landmines’, it causes damage. Doing it well over the ‘Net is *very* hard.

    That’s not exactly a cut-and-dry answer, but it’s how I think about it: risk v. reward.

    Also, I want to be really clear about something. My ground assumption is that James is right that no man can tame the tongue. Perfection is impossible here.

  26. Jeff Cagle says:

    Just to add a bit more to that thought: a blog is a public conversation. So I think about blog-sarcasm in the exact same way as public sarcasm. It carries a whole different set of overtones from private sarcasm.

  27. Jeff Cagle says:

    Well, OK, let’s tease this apart.

    (1) How can one have confusion over the distinction between law and gospel without being unfaithful to the gospel?

    Clearly you see these as distinct, but how?

    (2) Are you sure that theonomy begins with a law-gospel confusion? I can see how it might end there; but must theonomists don’t pitch their brand by starting with “Let’s rethink the lines between law and gospel.”

    In fact, Bahnsen begins his discourse “What is Theonomy?” with the question of the standard for ethics, and then segues to

    When any of us come to Christ for salvation, it is with a sense of our sin and misery before God. Our very need of the Savior arises from a conviction of sin, brought home to our hearts by the Holy Spirit showing our guilt for violating God’s commandments. As Paul wrote, “I had not known sin except through the law” (Rom. 7:7). The law defines what sin is (1 John 3:4). As such the law cannot be our personal vehicle for gaining favor with God. It rather aims at Christ as our only righteousness, tutoring us that justification must be by faith in Him (Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:24).

    So theonomy teaches that since the fall it has always been unlawful to use the law of God in hopes of establishing one’s own personal merit and justification, in contrast or complement to salvation by way of promise and faith. As Paul said, it was “through the law” that he learned to “die to the law” as a way of self-salvation (Gal. 2:9). Commitment to obedience is but the lifestyle of faith, a token of gratitude for God’s redeeming grace. “By grace you have been saved through faith… not of works…. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God previously prepared that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).

    In What is Faith? J. Gresham Machen urged that “a new and more powerful proclamation of that law is perhaps the most pressing need of the hour…. A low view of laws always brings legalism in religion; a high view of law makes a man a seeker after grace. Pray God that the high view may again prevail” (pp. 141-142).

    It seems to me that Bahnsen is sensitive to and correctly proclaims a law-gospel distinction.

    (Keep in mind that I think he’s wrong, wrong, wrong about theonomy — this is not a defense).

    So … what’s the ground for your claim?

  28. sean says:

    Jeff C,

    I’ll have to think more about the public/private distinction. And to your point about it being done right/well or poorly, well yeah! duh ;). The public/private bit takes on an even additional weight in a combox, because a number of commenters essentially use other’s responses as a virtual straight man, from which they deliver their punch line. Which always makes me wanna reach through the interweb and punch someone in the mouth. That, to me, is rude and condescending. That’s why I hate all the baited syllogisms that get recycled and presented as sincere conversation advancers or clarifiers. They’re generally anything but and often defended on the grounds that lurker’s need to know the truth. Yeah, well, let lurkers take the plunge and engage the discussion, right now we’re talking here(yankee dialect). Anyway, thanks for the thoughts.

  29. Jeff Cagle says:

    I feel a ‘kindred spirit’ moment coming on. 🙂

  30. Zrim says:

    Jeff, the difference is between personal and political application. Reformed orthodoxy understands salvation to be a purely personal project. Only that which is made in the image and likeness of God is a target of salvation. It has nothing to do with geo-political salvation. It seems to me that the first mistake of theonomy is to expand salvation from personal to include political, making political nations as well as personal agents the target of salvation. The second mistake is to put those nations back under law, not gospel.

    So when Bahnsen makes a personal application, I don’t see anything with which to quibble. It’s when the project gets expanded to geo-political nations and is prescribed law that things go off the reservation (i.e. flies in the face of WCF 19). This is what I mean when I say theonomy get sin the way of a theonomist’s otherwise good confession.

    P.S. it might be better to not use the “reply” button and just do it old school. Otherwise, some comments can get easily missed.

  31. Jeff Cagle says:

    OK, I’m with you on ‘flies in the face of WCF 19’ and ‘salvation is not geo-political.’

    But I don’t see where geo-political salvation is alleged by Bahnsen. (Again, I’m probing the alleged law-gospel confusion).

    Seems to me that he would say, ‘Of course salvation is personal — I laid that out in para 2. We’re talking about Jesus’ kingship and the law, not salvation.” Actually, he would say it in a Bahnsenian way, but I can’t manage the style.

    So if I were to put my Bahnsen hat on, I would just retort that you had failed to read carefully. So tell me how Bahnsen’s hat gets knocked off.

  32. Zrim says:

    Jeff Bahnsen, I did not fail to read carefully. I read what you provided and said I had no quibbles. Nothing in what you provided alleges geo-political salvation. But the larger project of THEONOMY, a project in law and not gospel, is a project in getting geo-political nations to be obedient to the judicial laws that have expired in Christ. The only reason I can think of as to why anybody would want to put anybody or anything back under that law is to earn salvation. If legacy counts for much, I can unleash some Kuyper on your project.

    Jeff Cagle, I don’t mind the push back, but it is curious to me how someone who is “vigorously opposed to theonomy” and thinks it’s ‘wrong, wrong, wrong” would do so to fellow opposition. You have been blunt with me, so I trust I can be with you: you have a habit of trying too hard. I get it, you don’t like the law-gospel confusion point. But, while I appreciate your desire to watch out for others, I don’t think it’s not as uncharitable as you imagine. Provocative, sure, but not out of bounds. So if you don’t like then ignore it.

  33. Jeff Cagle says:

    Bluntness appreciated. Alright, so let me circle back to the central question. What is the distinction in your mind between “Confusing the law and the gospel” and “being unfaithful to the gospel”?

    I would think that those should be synonyms.

    (P.S. Sadly, you won’t cure the habit of “trying too hard.” I don’t understand something until I understand it.)

    (P.S.S. “I don’t think it’s not as uncharitable …” Tee-hee)

  34. Zrim says:

    Jeff, you’re forgetting who you’re talking to: I don’t believe in cures for the effects of sin, just forgiveness and patience.

    But lemme try this: I think of the LGD as a means to an end, a tool if you will. I think of “gospel faithfulness” as an end. How someone who misuses the LGD tool over there gets to “gospel faithfulness” over here is a bit of mystery to me. I’m grateful for gospel faithfulness over here. I just want to see the LGD tool used correctly over there as well.

    P.S hardy-har-har.

  35. Jeff Cagle says:

    Well, OK. So one of Lane’s significant posts was his famous “Retraction” post.

    In it, he argues that if one denies LGD in the text of Scripture, one denies sola fide.

    Now … he’s using LGD as a tool to arrive at a particular conclusion that I happen to agree with for an entirely different reason (Federal Vision demolishes invisible/visible church distinction; hence requires ‘faithfulness’ as a component of faith). So I can’t fault him in the particular.

    But any denial of LGD? This is precisely what I’m concerned about, so I hear your words and Lane’s as saying the same thing differently.

    So if I’m understanding, you are *not* in agreement with Lane that denial of LGD is denial of sola fide. One might accidentally get to sola fide by other means.

  36. Zrim says:

    Jeff, I am in agreement with Lane. To my mind, the categories are soteriology and ecclesiology. Sola fide pertains to the former, 2k-theonomy pertains to the latter. When in soteriological matters one denies the LGD, I don’t see how he doesn’t end up denying sola fide (and embracing one form or another of neonomianism). When in ecclesiological matters one denies the LGD, I don’t see how he doesn’t end up denying 2k (and embracing one form or another of theonomy).

  37. Jeff Cagle says:

    So … denial of sola fide is *not* gospel unfaithfulness?

    We’re breaking down here.

  38. Zrim says:

    Jeff, I’m flummoxed. No, to deny sola fide is gospel unfaithfulness. How one gets to either affirm or deny sola fide seems varied. What one does with the LGD seems to me one of them. Maybe I wouldn’t put it quite like Lane does, namely “to deny the LGD is to deny sola fide.” I’d rather say that I don’t know how one denies it and ends up at sola fide. That seems more cautious, in fact. Isn’t that what you want to hear, more caution?

  39. Jeff Cagle says:

    More caution, yes, possibly. Here’s where I’m stuck. We have four different phrases floating around:

    (1) “Law-gospel confusion” (of which theonomists are guilty on your count)
    (2) “Denial of law-gospel distinction” (ditto, per above)
    (3) “Denial of sola fide”
    (4) “Gospel unfaithfulness” (my phrase, a reference to Paul’s “falling away from grace” in Galatians).

    In my mind, (3) and (4) are equivalent. If one gets to (3) and means it, one has abandoned the faith. And is chargeable in the church courts, as well.

    It seems that in your mind, (1) (2) and perhaps (3) seem to be equivalent. And significantly, it seems that you put denial of E2k as equivalent to those as well.

    If we put those together, a charge of (1) would entail a charge of (3) and therefore (4), which explains perhaps why I react so strongly to (1). If I imagine adopting your point of view, it would entail believing that anyone who denies the LGD has fallen away from grace.

    And my further point, going to the “more caution” point, is that several fine sola-fideists take issue with some aspect of the law-gospel distinction. So I’m currently skeptical that (2) and (3) are equivalent.

    So I’m asking you to help me understand your language better — why would accusing someone of (1) not be a backdoor way of accusing them of (4)? And partly, I’m asking you to satisfy my skepticism: Why should I necessarily believe that (2) and (3) are the same?

    (BTW, it makes sense to me that all-or-almost-all who deny sola fide would deny the LGD; just not the converse.)

    (And keep in mind that the LGD itself is not unanimously defined. Luther and Beza would have it that all of Scripture is either Law or Gospel, finis. Lane (I believe following RS Clark) would have it that God’s commands in regard to justification are law, or gospel, or both, and separating their functions is the key to understanding them properly)

  40. Zrim says:

    Jeff, I’m not sure what more I could say that I haven’t already. But I’m not sure how you’re getting from me that a denial of 2k is a denial of sola fide without doing a lot of unnecessary calisthenics. What I am saying is that a denial of 2k seems to entail a confusion of law and gospel. I understand that suggestion worries you, but may I assure you it’s not a backdoor way of accusing of gospel unfaithfulness? It’s only a way of suggesting serious problems involved in sorting out matters pertaining to ecclesiology.

  41. Jeff Cagle says:

    Well, OK. I will take your assurance at face value. Thanks for your patience with my drilling down.

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