A short reply to Brandon Adams re: R Scott Clark

I want to address a few points in this article by Brandon Adams. Adams seems to be suggesting in his second section (“Or is he?”) that other paedobaptists disagree with this statement (and the previous section) from R Scott Clark:

“The comparison and contrast is not between Abraham and the new covenant but between Moses and the new covenant. The covenant that God made with Abraham was a covenant of grace, the covenant he confirmed with the “blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb 13:20).”

He then notes a disagreement about Republication of the Covenant of Works. The problem is that even those who disagree with a complete republication would agree with Clark’s statement above.

Note Clark has written elsewhere:

“It is not the case that, because Paul associates circumcision with Moses, there is no fundamental difference between the Abrahamic administration of the covenant of grace and the Mosaic.”

So R. Scott Clark allows for the Mosaic covenant to be an administration of the Covenant of Grace, though a temporary addendum (Gal 3:17) to it. There really are no orthodox paedobaptists who disagree with this point.

The disagreement extends primarily to whether and how, the Mosaic covenant was a republication of the Covenant of Works, and the quotes of Winzer you supply following are addressing that issue, which is not really the view you brought up in your first section.

Later he states:

“Notice that Calvin speaks of “the covenant” in the singular. He is clear: The Old and New Covenant were the same covenant.”

But that’s simply untrue and Clark provides the proof. http://heidelblog.net/2014/11/calvin-on-the-distinction-between-the-old-and-new-covenants/

As Calvin states: “Hence, in general, the Old Testament [covenant] is the name given to the solemn method of confirming the covenant comprehended under ceremonies and sacrifices. Since there is nothing substantial in it, until we look beyond it, the Apostle contends that it behoved to be annulled and become antiquated, (Heb. 7:22,) to make room for Christ”

Both Calvin and Clark agree that the Mosaic and the New Covenant flow ultimately from the Covenant of Grace that God gave to Abraham.

In essence, none of his arguments really hit the target he intends. All involved agree that “Moses flows from Abraham”.  The rest of the article then builds on these errors and misapplications.

Betteridge’s Law and Psalmody

Dr. R Scott Clark has now reposted an article from 2008 titled Could Instruments be Idols? in which is argued: 

 In other words, how are we going to use Moses’ or David’s instruments without killing Aaron’s lambs or engaging in holy war?

The same way we sing the same songs of Moses and David using the words of Moses and Daivd without it.

The same instruments we want to borrow from Moses come covered with the blood of bulls and goats and resonating with the sounds of holy war against your local Canaanite city. 

As does the words sung. How can we sing about going to war, about God smiting his enemies and the like without “engaging in holy war?”    Well, of course one could argue that as Reformed believers who recognize that that church is typified by Israel, we engage in spiritual warfare daily through prayer and the preaching of the Word.  It seems that one wishes to acknowledge type and shadow in one instance but deny it in the other.

(Of course the Huguenot actually DID take the battle psalms into battle.)

How are we going to do what the medieval church did, borrow Mosaic elements (and for the same reasons) without gradually reproducing the Mosaic worship system just as the medieval church did?

The inconsistency in this argument is staggering. Everything here argued against instruments can likewise be argued against the usage of Psalms in worship.

Maybe the Reformed in the 16th and 17th centuries knew what they were doing when they rid our worship of instruments and of uninspired songs?

You already provided examples in a recent post proving this contention to be false, to quote:

The Strasbourg Psalter of 1545 seems to have included some non-canonical songs… 

The songbook used in Heidelberg in 1563 and 1573 seems to have contained non-canonical hymns… 

The Church Order of Dort (1619) provided for the singing of a song that may have been a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer or it may have been a non-canonical song… 

How many exceptions to a rule must exist for the rule to be baseless?  I’m reminded of Betteridge’s law, an adage which states: “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”

Hesitant debate… A Capella

In the past, when I’ve strongly debated with Dr. R. Scott Clark, I eventually found myself agreeing with him. It is with this in mind that I hesitantly approach the subject he has recently been discussing on his blog and spoke of in his good book Recovering the Reformed Confession.  Since the RPW is a topic of interest within Reformed circles, and since he addresses some of the questions I’ve posed, I wanted to point out a couple logical problems I see with one of his arguments.

Firstly, instrumental worship remains a difficult issue, and the arguments supporting exclusive a capella worship seemingly amount to arguments from history, arguments based on worship in the New Testament, and fulfillment of type and shadow.  I recall my grandparents, who belonged to the Pelagian group Church of Christ, argued similarly (there are no instruments in the New Testament), but one has to remember that the anabaptist Campbellite cult has no real understanding of covenantal structure, much less worship and argues against Paedobaptism on the same basis.

Dr. Clark writes:

It is often asked (as I myself asked Bob Godfrey 23 years ago), “Why do you want us to sing Psalms but you won’t let us do what they say?” (i.e., play instruments). After all, Psalm 150 lists a number of instruments.

Yes, exactly. Doesn’t it seem odd that we sing God’s commands while simultaneously denying them? I recall holding a similar view in regards to the Sabbath not too distantly. I couldn’t consistently read the ten commandments, sing about, and worship God on the Sabbath while denying it’s ongoing nature in the New Covenant era. I think one needs to parse these arguments carefully.

Clark’s answer is:

 The difficulty that the Reformed saw with this line of reasoning is that it proves too much. They were convinced that the period of types and shadows had been fulfilled in Christ. This is why, in the new covenant, the church did not seek to kill the Canaanites. That commission ended with the death of Christ. In the “once for all” (Heb 7:27) death of Christ the bloody sacrificial ministry of the Levitical priesthood ended. 

While this is true of specific commands, why does it apply specifically to something commanded in the very Psalms we use to worship?  Again, the issue is about the Regulative Principle of Worship, not “killing Canaanites”. If the Bible commands specific actions in worship, then they are to be followed unless they’re typified by Christ and fulfilled therein or expressed in some other manner in the New Covenant. Where do we find in Scripture the usage of instruments to worship YHWH fulfilled by Christ?

Clark continues:

In the “once for all” (Heb 7:27) death of Christ the bloody sacrificial ministry of the Levitical priesthood ended. Jesus’ priesthood was greater than Aaron’s and Levi’s. Those priests had to sacrifice for themselves. Jesus did not. His sacrifice was for us.

Amen, and yet, the Psalms were sung as part of the temple liturgy, so why are they still used?  Were not their usage also done away with by Christ’s sacrifice? Quoting Paul here doesn’t change the question, even though Paul said we are to worship with “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”, and though Clark presents a good case for all three of those terms relating to specific portions of the Psalms, the argument could be made that Paul is referring to new psalms etc.  (I don’t necessarily buy it, but my point is, if Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled it, why are we singing it?)

An argument from history is then presented:

The Reformers knew their history, that the early church accepted these principles and worshipped without musical instruments for the first 7 centuries—8 if we count the Apostolic church.

This argument is however flawed. Firstly it suggests that the early church didn’t use instruments because they believed the type fulfilled, but in reality the early church wanted to distance themselves from the pagan worship around them. They saw “the use of instruments in Jewish worship as a “childish” weakness, less glorifying to God than words of praise.” 

We must be careful not to emulate the early church or the Reformers simply for the sake of being historically correct, but like the Reformers we should evaluate their practices with Scripture as our authority and reform when necessary.  We should be very careful in regards to the possibility of gnostic thinking when it comes to how we approach things.  Just because the pagans do something, doesn’t make it automatically unChristian.

As for exclusive Psalmody, in the footnotes to his post, Clark acknowledges that the Reformers did in fact sing non-inspired texts (a major portion of the argument for exclusive psalmnody) when he writes:

The Strasbourg Psalter of 1545 seems to have included some non-canonical songs. The songbook used in Heidelberg in 1563 and 1573 seems to have contained non-canonical hymns. I investigating whether non-canonical songs were sung in public worship. The Apostles’ Creed was the only non-canonical song sung in the Genevan liturgy but it was sung in place of the reading of the Word or as a summary of the Word. When the conjugation responded to the Word they also prayed or sang the Word. The Church Order of Dort (1619) provided for the singing of a song that may have been a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer or it may have been a non-canonical song. It is lost.

So as early as 1545, Reformed congregations were singing non-inspired songs including the Apostles’ Creed.  The fact that it was sung instead of read doesn’t change the fact. Plus, the fact that none less than the Church Order of Dort provided for a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer should put the “Reformers did it” argument to rest, in that there was clearly a variety of opinion on the matter.

On another post, Dr. Clark replies to a comment:a

[This] seems to assume a couple of things, e.g., that 1 Tim 3:16 is a hymn. It may be. It also seems to assume a different relation between the canonical and post-canonical periods than I do. The church did things, under the direct inspiration of the Spirit, that we do not do in the post-apostolic age. In the apostolic age the NT Scriptures were in the process of formation.

So, the whole “how they worshiped in the New Testament church” argument is hereby undone.  If the New Testament church sang new inspired hymns and they were even written in Scripture (and I’ll grant that Clark says “may”), then the claim that EP is a return to New Testament worship is baseless.

I’m very thankful for Dr. Clark. His work on the nature of the New Covenant and paedobaptism was instrumental in pushing me over the fence. That said, the portion of Recovering the Reformed Confession that focused on psalmnody and instrumental worship was a major speed bump in what was a fantastic treaty on confessional Christianity, it stuck out like a sore thumb.  (I also feel the same about Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s fantastic book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith. She also took a major sidetrack into the discussion.)

R. Scott Clark on the New Psalter Hymnals for the URC

R. Scott Clark mentions some interesting issues regarding the upcoming new Psalter Hymnals for use in the URC congregations. Apparently there is the suggestion that the new Psalters will use gender-neutral language in place of strict literal Biblical language.  Keeping in mind that RSC is for a capella, psalms and inspired hymns only, a position I’m in no way convinced of, the issue of editing the psalms for gender neutrality is a serious one. We’re not singing Fanny Crosby, we’re singing the Word of God.  Our psalms should conform to the most literal yet metrical language they can.

Again, this may just be a question of the RPW gone wild, for if God says “all men” in a verse specifically addressing nations, we know that he includes women in that. If the Scriptural text is ambiguous as to the gender, we should be also, but if Scripture specifically addresses “men”, we should honor God’s Word and do likewise.  Part of this is a question of how one translates the languages of Scripture.

I’ve not done the research, and while I’m concerned that there may be a sense of KJV-Only fundamentalism in the argument, some of the cited examples are troubling. 

One of the principle guidelines of the committee states: “When Scripture is set to music, the words must remain faithful to the inspired text.”1 This principle has been violated in a song from the Psalm section of the PH now put into the hymn section of the HP. This song is #150 in the PH: “Let children hear the mighty deeds Which God performed of old, Which in our younger years we saw And which our fathers told.” It is based on Psalm 78. Psalm 78:3 is God’s word; it is translated “our fathers have told us” in the NIV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, and ESV. The original Hebrew noun is “ab”, masculine gender. However, HP# 223 defies this very clear reference to the masculine so that “fathers” becomes “parents.” This violation of God’s Word is also evident in HP# 69. – “URCNA Hymnbook Proposal: Gender-neutral Language?”, by Sheila Ypma, The Outlook, March 2011

 The basic gist here is that the text of Psalm 78 reads:

1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
   incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
   I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3things that we have heard and known,
   that our fathers have told us.
4We will not hide them from their children,
   but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
   and the wonders that he has done.  (ESV)

The point of the text is not a generic “our parents” but specifically points to our fathers generally meaning the patriarchs of Israel, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, etc.  While the concept does include the father of individual believers, since it was the men who were responsible for the education of children, the Psalm goes on to specifically mention Jacob commanding the fathers to tell the children to set their hope in God.  In this case fathers is gender exclusive while children is not.  The text of the Psalter should follow this pattern.

That said, we use the blue hymnal currently in our church and it’s clearly old and many are falling apart. The language of the Confessions in them is different than that used by Westminster on their website and in their recent app. I tried to answer a HC question this past Lord’s Day evening and was out of step with the others who were using the blue psalter, this is a different issue though.

Our church could just order new ones but we’ve been told the new and improved one is coming. We’ve seen copies of the new Sovereign Grace (Stuart Townend) tunes in our bulletin, I’m not sure if those will be in the new Psalter hymnal or not, and while they’re good… they’re not great when played on a pipe organ.

So let me offer an easy solution to this. The URCNA should move ahead with the new psalters and get rid of the CRC ones but before doing that they should conform the psalters as much as possible to the ESV or NKJV in use in a majority of URC churches. The Psalms will be familiar to the singers and conform likewise to the text. 

Then , let’s agree on one version of the confessions and put them in there, publishing that version online and elsewhere.

Finally, let’s do away completely with the light-blue songbooks… 😉

R. Scott Clark Misunderstands… I think…

R. Scott Clark has responded, sorta-of, to my previous post. I again am thankful for the chance to interact with him and what’s being said.

Let me correct a few things right off the bat. I’m not anonymous, I’m Micah Burke, a member of Zion United Reformed Church, and a paedobaptist (though formerly a “Reformed” Baptist) and my Facebook profile link is included on the side of the page notes. Professor Clark didn’t see that, and I can understand the misunderstanding, especially given the fact I have gone as Lockheed elsewhere.

I am not well read on the issue of two-kingdoms but from my understanding there must be an inconsistency between claiming that the Reformed Confessions call for a two-kingdoms view and acknowledging that many of the Reformers had theocratic views.

The 16th and 17th-century Reformed theologians held several views that most of us would not want to hold today (e.g., theocracy, perpetual virginity of the BVM, geocentrism). We’re not bound to the mistakes of the past but to the degree the tradition helps us to understand what we confess, we should learn from them.- R. Scott Clark, Heidelblog

That said, I think Professor Clark is missing the forest for the trees in this post. My point is that Clark is inconsistent on what is definitional of Reformed. Clark seems to acknowledge this…

He’s unhappy that I want to exclude theocrats and Baptists from “Reformed” and he argues, in effect, that I’m being selective.

But then goes on to posit:

I revised neither the Westminster Confession nor the Belgic Confession. The American Presbyterian church revised the WCF and the Dutch and American Reformed churches revised the Belgic on theocracy. Those were ecclesiastical acts not the expression of mere private opinion.

But the WCF specifically defines creation (for example) as occurring in 6 days. As Dr. Kenneth Gentry notes:

Some Reformed Christians deny that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days. This denial brings them into clear contradiction with the Westminster Standards, which teach that the Lord God created the heavens and the earth “in the space of six days” (WCF 4:1; LC #15, SC #9). – Reformed Theology and Six Day Creation, Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

But in Recovering the Reformed Confession, Clark argues that the WCF’s language can be interpreted otherwise, as another blogger notes here.

So here’s my point, it really seems like Clark, and Clark alone is the final arbiter of what is “Reformed”. Others seek to define it more loosely (Baptists) and some want to define it more strictly (RCUS/6-day creationist types).

That said, it’s is difficult to understand how Clark wants to recover that which he is unable to consistently define. If the theology, piety and practice of the Reformed is defined what the Reformers taught and believed, yet what they taught and believed differently than Clark (theocracy for example) then Clark’s understanding of what is definitional of “Reformed” must be questioned.

Clark writes in his most recent post:

RRC is not a plea to backward but to be Reformed in our time.

Clark seems to simultaneously argue for both a static meaning to the term Reformed (contra Baptists) and a changing meaning of Reformed (contra 6-day creationists). This if “Reformed” can only be accurately defined by a fellow in the 21st century who admittedly holds to positions he are contra the Reformers, it is difficult to understand why others (Baptists for example) are excluded from defining it for themselves.

Now, granted I’m not interested in post-modern redefinitions, and I certainly believe that “Reformed” has a meaning founded in the historic Protestant Confessions, but it is simply inconsistent to define something as central to Reformed theology, piety and practice that is opposed to the teachings of the Reformers while holding something that was central to a Reformed Confession as otherwise.

Finally, and this has come up in discussions elsewhere recently, Clark writes:

We cannot speak the good news of a suffering Savior with one hand an a (rhetorical) Constantinian sword in the other.

This seems a strange thing to say from this layman’s viewpoint. Are we not provided both the Law and the Gospel in Scripture itself? Was the God-ordained theocracy of Israel somehow completely opposed to the Gospel?

I’m not arguing for a theocracy, and I guess this is where the two-kingdoms issues comes into play. I figure there’s a lot more reading in my future.

R. Scott Clark vs. T-Fan – 2 Kingdoms and more…

Prof. R. Scott Clark writes in response to TurretinFan:

I understand that the two-kingdoms distinction is new to a lot of people. That does not mean that the two-kingdoms distinction is new. We are neither kittens nor babies. When we cover our eyes, that doesn’t make the world go away. It means our eyes are covered. Our (collective) ignorance of traditional Reformed distinctions (e.g., Creator/creature, law/gospel, covenant of works/covenant of grace) doesn’t make them novel: it makes us ignorant. What we must do, what I’ve been trying to do, is to overcome (my own) ignorance of our tradition and to put to that tradition to use in our own setting.

As I argued in RRC, one of the real problems here is Reformed Narcissism. It is quite common for folk to reason thus:

I am Reformed
I think x
Therefore x is Reformed

Given my recent reading of RRC, I would believe that his syllogism would equally apply to his own views especially regarding Framework vs. 6-day-creationism, a capella vs instrumental worship and a couple other issues.

That doesn’t mean RSC is wrong on these issues, his writing has certainly caused me to think through the issues, but in a book specifically titled Recovering the Reformed Confessions one would expect arguments for recovering and adopting the Reformed Confessions. While I feel there is much in RRC to appreciate, the few times where Clark steps out and identifies his own views seem to distract from the main argument and thrust of the book.

But this is my concern with Professor Clark, he wishes to identify “Reformed’ per the confessions, he draws the line at 1646 with the WCF (even though it has had many edits since then even in the version accepted by the OPC) and denies that the 1677 and 1689 London Baptist Confessions are “Reformed”.

Thus cannot one likewise take his argument against TFan and apply it to him?

I am Reformed
I think only the WCF and 3 Forms of Unity are Reformed Confessions
Therefore only those confessions are Reformed

Now, I might be simplifying things too much, he might accept Anglicans as Reformed even though they later denied the WCF, but I think this is where the issue needs clarifying.

RSC continues:

The 16th and 17th-century Reformed theologians held several views that most of us would not want to hold today (e.g., theocracy, perpetual virginity of the BVM, geocentrism). We’re not bound to the mistakes of the past but to the degree the tradition helps us to understand what we confess, we should learn from them.

This is quite true… but if those things were codified in a Reformed Confession and yet are now denied by RSC, couldn’t it be argued that he isn’t Reformed given his own argument?

Finally, Professor Clark writes:

The distinction between the two kingdoms is one of those valuable resources we need to recover but before folk start commenting on these questions they do need to do some basic reading.

He seems to be saying here that Two-Kingdoms is part-and-parcel of Reformed theology that needs recovering (aka part of a confession) and yet just acknowledged that many of the Reformers held to theocratic views.

That said, I certainly agree that more reading is needed on all sides. I think Professor Clark should read more of TurretinFan’s work, regardless of his anonymity.