So You Want to Understand Impassibility

CIGMany of my readers will be aware that during the last few years a theological controversy has arisen over the doctrine of divine impassibility.  Impassibility is the teaching that God, being perfect and immutable, cannot be moved.  The idea is expressed within many of the Reformed confessions by the assertion that God is “without passions.”  The idea is that God, who in his essence is perfectly blessed, can never suffer any loss.  Therefore the experience of suffering is contrary to the divine nature; God cannot suffer.  It is imprecise to say that God has no emotions; what in us may be called an emotion (such as love) is a virtue in God.  However, whereas in us emotion involves fluctuation and change in our disposition, God is changeless.  His love is like his power, his wisdom, and indeed his very being; it is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. Continue reading


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Identity Theft

PruittTodd Pruitt has responded to my post on the MOS blog, and I appreciate the serious engagement.  I am somewhat frustrated to be asked questions on a blog that does not accept comments, but I fully understand.  Comment threads breed problems, and I have turned them off on some of my own posts.  Consequently I’ll put my answer here.

Pruitt spends most of his post arguing that Baptist life is far too complicated to describe easily in an informal conversation such as an MOS podcast.  By “Reformed Baptist” they meant Calvinistic Baptists of various stripes.  I am certain this was an unintentional error, but it was an error nonetheless.  Using “Reformed Baptist” to refer to all Calvinistic Baptists is like using “asparagus” when what you intended to say was “vegetable.” Continue reading


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A Word of Advice to our Friends at MOS


This again!

Hoo, boy! I’m getting tired of blogging on the same subject over and over, but here we go again:

I wanted to be positive about today’s episode of Mortification of Spin.  Honestly, I did. Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and Aimee Byrd chatted about the difficulties facing credo-baptists and paedo-baptists who decide to marry, and that is a worthwhile discussion.  There was even much to commend in this particular episode: Continue reading


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The Reformed Baptist Myth


Motion to amend the motion on having a motion.

I’m writing from Rockford, Illinois, where I am this week attending the General Assembly of ARBCA – the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America.  ARBCA represents one wing of the Reformed Baptist movement, the confessional associationalists located in North America.  By “confessional,” I mean that our churches are defined according to the teachings of the 1689 Confession of Faith in all its particulars, and by “associational,” I mean that we are convinced of our duty to associate formally with one another for mutual help and support.  These concepts are closely related, both in that our confession (in chapter 26, paragraphs 14 and 15) requires association, and in that true association requires the confessional subscription in order that we might commend one another and commit ourselves to one another.

Time spent among the delegates of the ARBCA churches demolishes that set of opinions which I think of as “the Reformed Baptist Myth.”  According to this myth, Reformed Baptists have a very narrow understanding of the term “Reformed.”  We are assumed to be merely 21st century baptistic evangelicals who happen to affirm some form of what is called “the points of Calvinism.”  These points are supposedly all we ever preach about, talk about, or think about.  Such is the view of us which is all too common among the ignorant ones of the broader Reformed community. Continue reading


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Occam’s Razor and the Perpetuity of Evangelical Scandal


Because dressing like a high school kid makes me soooo down to earth!

Occam’s Razor is the name given to the logical argument that the simplest theory to explain any given phenomena is likely the correct theory.  Since our judgment is often obstructed, we need to shave away needless assumptions and bits of argumentation in order to arrive at a reasonable understanding.  Scientists debate the legitimacy of the Razor as an empirical tool; certain complexities in nature (think of the construction of the living cell) suggest that complex explanations of material phenomena are often correct.  It is nevertheless a useful philosophical tool, particularly as a foundational principle of the common sense by which we ought to live.  If I awake in the morning to find branches from my trees scattered about the back yard, it is simpler to assume that we had a strong wind than it is to believe that demons attacked my trees during the night!  The sensible man will automatically adopt the simpler theory.

It is in this solid common-sense manner that I propose we apply Occam’s Razor to the latest evangelical scandal, whatever that scandal might happen to be.  Last week it was Steven Furtick’s intentionally provocative “God broke the law for love” clip.  A few weeks earlier it was Andy Stanley’s nasty accusations against small churches.  Years ago it was Mark Driscoll’s braggadocio about his belligerent bus-driving technique.  And of course we aren’t allowed to forget Perry Noble’s “Highway to Hell” Easter service, mainly because he keeps reminding us of it. Continue reading


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A Note from your Wisconsin Correspondent: the Returns Are In.

cruz victory

Last Man Standing

I have made a more concerted effort to stay away from political advocacy on my blog, wanting the focus to be on church matters.  However, I live in what is perhaps the most interesting political state in the Union, and the last few weeks have been very interesting.  I am writing for the sake of my non-Wisconsin readers (no doubt the majority) to try to explain what exactly is happening here. This is Part III.

Yesterday Wisconsin voted, and as usual the totals looked a lot like the Marquette University Law School Poll.  A few highlights:

  1. Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump and John Kasich in the Republican primary: 48% to 35% to 14%. Of 42 delegates, Cruz has so far been assigned 36 (18 for the state, 15 for winning five of the eight congressional districts), Trump 3 (for winning one congressional district upstate) and 6 are yet to be determined (2 districts are still counting).  *Update: with the final count in, Trump and Cruz each took a majority in one of those remaining congressional districts.  Final tally: Cruz has 36 delegates, and Trump has 6.
  2. Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primary: 57% to 43%. The Milwaukee Northside did not come out in droves.  Sanders netted 45 delegates, and Clinton has secured 31.
  3. As usual, Scott Walker keeps winning elections. Both candidates who decided to run against him in their respective races were defeated.  In addition to Trump, Judge Joanne Kloppenburg has now lost two races for the state supreme court while running against Walker rather than her opponent; Walker appointee Rebecca Bradley was instead elected to a ten-year term.

Here are a few observations on the results.  It should be no surprise to anyone that I am delighted to see my state reject the Donald so decisively.  Rejection is what this is.  Wisconsin is hardly Cruz territory; after Walker dropped out of the race most influential Republicans in the state endorsed Marco Rubio.  In the end, though, our primary was Trump vs. Conservatism, and Conservatism won.  I have tried this week to report, however, not editorialize.  Allow me a few minutes to do the latter now that it’s all over. Continue reading


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A Note from your Wisconsin Correspondent: Mr. Trump Goes to Dairyland.


Enter the Donald

I have made a more concerted effort to stay away from political advocacy on my blog, wanting the focus to be on church matters.  However, I live in what is perhaps the most interesting political state in the Union, and the last few weeks have been very interesting.  I am writing for the sake of my non-Wisconsin readers (no doubt the majority) to try to explain what exactly is happening here. This is Part II.

2016 has been a most unpredictable political year.  Just when it seemed that conservatism was poised to make a national comeback, along came Donald Trump. Trump is not a conservative at all, but a modern-day Know-Nothing.  (That is not an insult, by the way; Know-Nothingism is an actual political movement.)  Last week, along with the other four candidates (in both parties) Trump arrived on the campaign trail in Wisconsin.  Today is our primary, and because it is the first in a few weeks and the last for a few weeks, it is being treated with outsized importance.

There are three things you probably know as we head to the polls.  One is that Trump has won more delegates than any other candidate so far, but without winning a majority of the votes anywhere.  His level of support differs state to state, but mainly it tops out somewhere around 40%.  Trump’s support, consisting mainly of people disengaged from the political process, is present in every state, and it exists here as well (although not, it would seem, in the big population centers of Southeast Wisconsin.)

Second, you know that Trump has had a “bad week.”  This appears to mean that he has flubbed various questions which are of interest nationwide, that his campaign manager has been charged with assault, and that it turns out his campaign staff didn’t realize the rules governing the nomination process.  (They’re geniuses, by the way; otherwise Trump wouldn’t have hired them.)

Third, you know that Trump is falling behind in all the Wisconsin polls.  What you don’t know is why, because it has little to do with the “bad week” as it has been perceived nationally.  Wisconsin looks on paper like ideal Trump territory: an industrial blue state.  Only he’s not making a good showing, and the reasons are not, so far as I can tell, showing up in the national media.  Here are Trump’s three losing battles which every Wisconsinite recognizes, but which Fox News et. al. haven’t figured out: Continue reading

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