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Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.


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Friday, 5 October 2012

Over a dozen reasons why the argument for Exclusive Psalmody doesn't stand up, Part 5

Here is a fifth reason why the arguments for exclusive psalmody do not stand up:

5. Progressive Revelation argues against Exclusive Psalmody. 
Here is what the renowned A. A. Hodge had to say about Progressive Revelation in his Outlines of Theology: 
The progressive character of divine revelation is recognised in relation to all the great doctrines of the Bible. One of the strongest arguments for the divine origin of the Scriptures is the organic relation of its several parts. They comprise more than sixty books written by different men in different ages, and yet they form one whole; not by mere external historical relations, nor in virtue of the general identity of the subjects of which they treat. but by their internal organic development. 

All that is in a full-grown tree was potentially in the seed. All that we find unfolded in the fulness of the gospel lies in a rudimental form in the earliest books of the Bible. What at first is only obscurely intimated is gradually unfolded in subsequent parts of the sacred volume, until the truth is revealed in its fulness. This is true of the doctrines of redemption; of the person and work of the Messiah, the promised seed of the woman; of the nature and office of the Holy Spirit; and of a future state beyond the grave. And this is specially true of the doctrine of the Trinity…


Therefore in the light of the doctrine of progressive revelation the Psalms, no matter how much they set forth Christ and redemption, can not do so in the full light of the New Testament. To argue otherwise is to reject this important principle of progressive revelation. To only sing Psalms is to sing that which contains less than the full light of New Testament teaching. The light of the Gospel gets brighter the further along in time we go, until in New Testament times we reach the fulness of that light. However the Psalter is part of the Old Testament revelation. As A. A. Hodge points out it can only in a 'rudimental' form set forth the gospel and that only 'obsurely'. Even the doctrine of God is not fully set forth in Old Testament revelation. 

To argue that the Psalms contain the fulness of gospel light would necessitate the Lord setting aside this important principle at various times. Some of the Psalms, one at the very least, go back to the time of Moses; others are possibly from as late as the time of Daniel and Ezra.

The argument that an exclusive psalmist can see things in the Psalter that the original writer did not, doesn't fully stand up either. It is true that we have the privilege of interpreting the Old Testament by the New Testament and therefore we can have a fuller understanding of what the Old Testament promises meant. But this is still not sufficient to maintain that the Psalter contains the full light of the gospel. To claim this would necessitate the words of the New Testament as well as the understanding which the New Testament gives us. Yet the very thing that exclusive Psalmists do not allow you to do is use the words of the New Testament in song. It is the words, as well as the reality of Christ appearing in flesh, that aids and increases our understanding of the gospel. The fuller and full gospel revelation of His Son is contained in the verbally inspired words of New Testament. 

Furthermore, the Old Testament revelation has a different emphasis. The Psalms, along with the rest of the revelation that accompanied the Old Testament dispensation, are best suited to teach the holiness of God and the sinfulness of the sinner. This was the purpose of the law. The Old Testament revelation is not best suited to set forth the full glory of Christ, His salvation and work of reconciliation. This was never the Old Testament's primary purpose. It certainly gives hints of that reconciliation through the blood of the cross but its primary purpose was to teach the sinner that they are at a distance from God. Hence the Old Testament system of worship with the worshipper only being able to come as far as the brasen alter and from there standing in need of a Levitical priest to act on their behalf.

As Paul reminds us in the book of Hebrews this was an imperfect or incomplete system. If it was perfect and complete it would not have passed away and been replaced by a better system.

The Puritan Stephen Charnock had this to say about the nature of Old Testament revelation:
Though God commanded love in the Old Testament, yet the manner of giving the law bespoke more of fear than love. The dispensation of the law was with fire, thunder, etc proper to raise horror and benumb the spirit, which effect it had upon the Israelites, when they desired that God would speak no more to them. Grace is the genius of the gospel, proper to excite the affection of love. The law was given 'by the disposition of angels,' with signs to amaze; the gospel was ushered in with the songs of angels, composed of peace and good will, calculated to ravish the soul. 

Instead of the terrible voice of the law, Do this and live; the comfortable voice of the gospel is, Grace, grace. Upon this account, the principle of the Old Testament was fear, and the worship often expressed by the fear of God; the principle of the New Testament is love. "The mount Sinai gendereth to bondage," Gal. 4:24; mount Zion, from whence the gospel or evangelical law goes forth, gendereth to liberty; and, therefore, the Spirit of bondage unto fear, as the property of the law, is opposed to the state of adoption, the principle of love, as the property of the gospel, Rom. 8:15; and therefore the worship of God, under the gospel or New Testament, is oftener expressed by love than fear, as proceeding from higher principles, and acting nobler passions
. [Taken from his Sermon on Spiritual Worship based on John 4:24 and found in volume one of his works.]

To only sing psalms is therefore to sing that which contains something less than the full light of the gospel and which is suited best to emphasising the distance that the sinner is from God. Surely then by singing Psalms only in our praise we are excluding a proper emphasis upon that which is to be the character of the New Testament era. 

I believe this is why we read of new compositions by those who lived later in time and especially those who lived at the commencement of the New Testament era. Their new songs reflected the change of dispensation from that of the law, fear and bondage to that of grace, love and liberty. 

By all means sing Psalms, which are designed to emphasis the holiness of God and the distance that a sinner is from God, but also sing hymns that reflect the reality of the New Testament age, that Christ has come; the veil is rent in twain and we have boldness to enter into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus; that the fulness of the gospel is now with us and we now worship in the context of a complete system. 

Well may we now sing: How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a Believer's ear…. Yet to sing Psalms only we would never, ever, in all our praise, be able to take the sweet name of Jesus upon our lips nor sing as those in heaven do of being redeemed by precious blood. 

There is surely something wrong with a belief and practice that forbids this happening!

Previous posts on this subject:
1. The terms 'Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs' inEphesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16 do not refer to the 150 Psalms of the Book of Psalms.
2. Old Testament and New Testament saints did not live by this exclusive psalmist rule.
3. The angels and glorified saints did not sing the psalms.
4. There are possible remnants of hymns/canticles/doxologies quoted in the New Testament.

25 comments:

Andrew Stewart said...

Dear Rev. Mr. McClung,

I do not advocate exclusive psalmody at all; your series on this subject has been informative and contains much that is sensible. However, I am perplexed by your theological assessment of the Psalms in particular and the Old Testament scriptures in general.

If the "Old Testament revelation is not best suited to set forth the full glory of Christ, His salvation and work of reconciliation", why do the New Testament writers use the Old Testament for that very purpose, and in doing so claim to say nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen (e.g. Acts 26:22,23; 1 Corinthians 15:3,4; etc.)?

Why does the LORD Jesus Christ repeatedly ask His disciples in regard to His death, resurrection and ascension, "Have ye not read?" That is, it's all laid out in great detail *in the Hebrew Scriptures*.

If the gospel in the OT is at best "obscure" or partial or rudimentary then are the New Testament writers guilty of eisegesis? What gives them the right to treat the OT *in itself* as an independent witness to the gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ if it's not that? They're not interpreting the OT according to the NT; they're interpreting it according to itself as a detailed revelation of Christ ... which is held up over and over again as its clear original meaning (e.g. John 5:39).

If the Psalms and OT do not contain the full light of the gospel, are they inferior to the NT? True, Paul and Hebrews speak of the Old Covenant (i.e. Mosaic Law) as inferior to *Christ Himself* and the New (or ancient, eternal) Covenant embodied in Him -- because the Law's purpose was never to make people trust in *the Law* for salvation but in *the One to whom the Law pointed*: Christ.

And how could any OT Israelite do that if the Law is "only" or "mostly" or "primarily" about highlighting the sinner's condemnation and separation from "a holy God"?

When they see their sinful state, what's the remedy? What do they do with the few "hints" they've been given of a vague reconciliation? To whom do they run? Where do they turn? In what or whom do they trust? The sacrificial animals? "God in general" (i.e. without personal distinctions)? A concept of salvation/reconciliation? Obscure or misunderstood promises? Or the Person of Christ clearly set forth (not just as the Promised One but also distinctly as the Person making the promises, the LORD sent from the LORD [aka Angel of the LORD], the One very much present with them then and there)?

Do Moses, David, Isaiah, etc. think there's something more foundational to the being of God, more important that we need to know, than *who* the living God is: Three Persons united?

Why was Moses willing to suffer with the ancient Church because of Christ (Heb 11:26) if Moses didn't know Him or only knew of Him vaguely? Where'd the writer to the Hebrews get that from? Did David really see ahead and speak of Christ's resurrection in Psalm 16 (Acts 2:29-31)?

Most of all, what does this understanding of revelation say about the LORD Jesus Christ? Is He merely the *best* or *fullest* revelation of God? Is there true knowledge of God available outside of Him? OR is He *the* Word, *the* Image of the Invisible God, *the* Sole Revealer and Revelation of the living God, the *only* Mediator of the Father?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew

The truth of the Gospel, sufficient to save, is to be found in the Old Testament. It is however set forth in figure and in shadow, Heb 9:9; 10:1. It is there in seed form. The shadow is an outline of the substance. All of the Gospel truths are to be found in shadow form in the OT. However, it takes the NT to give the complete and full revelation of these things.

Take the illustration from a child being converted to Christ. As a child they can come to a sufficient knowledge of the gospel to save their soul. However that is not the sum total of what they will learn of Christ or the Gospel. Their knowledge of the things of God as an adult christian will be much superior to what they knew as a child. This is the very picture that Paul employs in Galatians to illustrate the difference between the OT dispensation and the NT dispensation, cf. Gal 4:1-.

The OT is not the complete revelation of the Gospel. This is why the Jews today stumble so much at Christ. It is partly because they have not received the NT revelation that develops and make clearer the teaching that is found in the OT. To give an example, the doctrine of the Trinity is to be found in the OT in seed form. However, the fullest definitions of the Trinity are to be found in the NT. As we know the Jews refuse to accept that God is one essence but a trinity of persons. The same could be said for the doctrine of the Godman. That again is found in seed form in the OT but in its fullness in the NT. Our knowledge of the things of God is greatly enhanced by virtue of having the NT revelation.

There is no contradiction in saying this and acknowledging that the New Testament writers quoted the OT to prove their case. The NT writers, under inspiration, gave new revelation which developed the truth of the Gospel much more fully than in OT times. It is only with this complete revelation, OT & NT, that we can know God more perfectly.

Brian McClung

Andrew Stewart said...

Thank you for your response.

It is true that Paul in Galatians 3 and 4 paints the Church's period under the supervision of the Law as its childhood years or schooldays. The Church reaches the point of maturity and adulthood with Christ.

But that is not the same as saying that Moses had the theological knowledge of a toddler compared to Paul! (Think of what the Face-to-Face LORD says of Moses in Numbers 12:6–8.)

Or that Abraham was the equivalent of an unborn baby! (Abraham, who managed to keep the Law perfectly even before it was given (Genesis 26:5) ... i.e., he did what the Law required ... i.e. he trusted in Christ. And he is held up as the model of faith in Christ (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4)!)

Just because we come after David chronologically, it doesn't mean that our knowledge of God is deeper or more complete than his, or that his is only partial in comparison to ours!

It's abundantly clear in the Psalms that he knew and loved the same Christ as we know and love today. Who of us wouldn't want to know Christ as intimately as David did?? He was let in on the very thoughts of Christ as He hung Godforsaken on the Cross (e.g. Psalm 22).

To think of OT saints as theologically less informed than we is to impose on the Bible the Enlightenment myth of progress that posits a gradual development in man through various stages from primitive polytheism to monotheism (to the end of which process Trinity may or may not be added).

When "Old Covenant" and "New Covenant" in Scripture are compared, with the scales tipped in favour of the latter, it's not simply that "Old Covenant" = "Hebrew Scriptures" and "New Covenant" = "Greek Scriptures"! (We should stop accusing others of having a low view of Scripture if we think NT's superior to OT!)

Rather, it's the inferiority of Moses/the Law to Christ that is being highlighted. The Law could never save -- its whole purpose was *to point away from itself to Christ* who reveals our sinfulness and condemnation ... *to Christ* who takes this on Himself ... *to Christ* -- the LORD our Righteousness -- who gives us Himself in return for our sin and judgment and death.

Andrew Stewart said...

I may be wrong, but I don't see how the claim that the NT writers "gave new revelation" stacks up with Acts 26:22 for one. The apostles insist that they're saying nothing more than what Moses and the prophets were saying. They are models of exegesis, laying out the simple meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures, which, according to Paul, are able to make us wise unto salvation which is through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15)! If Jesus and the apostles don't teach us how to do hermeneutics, who will?

The Gospels spend most of their time reporting "that it happened just as the OT said it would" ... not calling our attention to "new revelation".

Jesus and the NT writers tell us time and again that the best place to understand Jesus is to go to Moses ... not the other way around! With repeated cries of "haven't you read ... ?" Jesus seems to think the OT is very clear about Him and His mission.

The NT only summarises the intricate details of the Person and work of the Promised Seed that are laid out in Leviticus, Psalms, Isaiah et al. That's why we have so many memory verses that sum it up so well -- with the NT we have to memorise whole books and chapters, so rich and meaty and detailed is its witness to Christ.

It seems odd to claim that Jews stumble at Christ because the OT doesn't reveal Him clearly enough! The Bible never provides anyone, Jew or Gentile, with an excuse for not trusting in Christ. Unbelief is always sinful madness.

It's perhaps worth bearing in mind that people who have both OT and NT refuse to believe in the Trinity! And no-one in the NT struggles with the doctrine of the Trinity! If it's a "new revelation", why isn't there more head-scratching going on? Jesus constantly uses terms from Moses and the prophets when teaching about His relationship to the Father and the Spirit, because, of course, that's where the doctrine of God is so clearly and carefully explained for us.

The OT lays the foundations, teaches the basics, gives us the essentials. This doesn't mean that it's baby food, otherwise to call Jesus "our Rock and Foundation" would mean there's something deeper beyond Him.

If we think the OT is teaching a different doctrine of God ... well, I smell Marcionite heresy!

If we assume the OT doesn't have much to say about the Trinity, then we have assumed there's something more basic and foundational and essential to the doctrine of God than the Three Persons ... and if so, aren't we running dangerously close to modalism?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew

I am sorry that you don't believe in the long held doctrine of Progressive Revelation. I am not saying anything new or novel.

Both Reformed Theology and Dispensational Theology both hold to this doctrine, albeit, on different terms. Reformed Theology believes progressive revelation is observed in the 'degree' of the knowledge that is progressively revealed. Dispensationalists believe that progressive revelation is observed in the 'nature' of the knowledge that is progressively revealed.

As Charles Hodge said:
The progressive character of divine revelation is recognised in relation to all the great doctrines of the Bible. What at first is only obscurely intimated is gradually unfolded in subsequent parts of the sacred volume, until the truth is revealed in its fulness.

Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian religion stated the same:
Accordingly, at the beginning, when the first promise of salvation was given to Adam (Gen. 3:15), only a few slender sparks beamed forth: additions being afterwards made, a greater degree of light began to be displayed, and continued gradually to increase and shine with greater brightness, until at length all the clouds being dispersed, Christ the Sun of righteousness arose, and with full refulgence illumined all the earth (Mal. 4). Inst. Bk 2 ch 10, sect 20.

By the death of Christ, the veil of the temple was rent in vain, the living and express image of heavenly things, which had begun to be dimly shadowed
forth, being now brought fully into view, as is described by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 10:1). To the same effect, our Saviour declares, that “the law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it,” (Luke 16:16); not that the holy fathers were left without the preaching of the hope of salvation and eternal life, but because they only saw at a distance, and under a shadow, what we now behold in full light. Why it behaved the Church to ascend higher than these elements, is explained by John the Baptist, when he says, “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” (John 1:17).
Bk 2, ch 7 sect 16.

I can't put it any better than these stalwarts of the faith so I respectfully rest my case!

Brian McClung

Andrew Stewart said...

Dear Rev. Mr. McClung,

I don't have an issue with progression per se.

What I do object to is a presupposition that the progression starts from Christless "revelation" then somehow ends up at Christ -- as though Christ Himself is not Revelation.

Certainly specific details about the timing and circumstances of the Messiah's life and mission are revealed and written down at different points for the blessing and encouragement of the Hebrew Church.

But the core gospel is always clear and explicit and utterly Christocentric.

Someone has recently said that the OT is not a progression *towards* Christ but the progression *of* Christ as He strides towards His incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and reappearing.

Andrew Stewart said...

Calvin's principles of Old Testament interpretation set out in the Institutes are wonderful. Like Luther, he clearly sees that the purpose of all of Scripture is to present Christ. (Often, however, Calvin's expositions are inconsistent with those principles.)

Although I think he overstates at times the degree to which the gospel was "concealed" in the OT (as in your quotation), at least Calvin is emphatic that the beams of light in the OT are cast by Christ.

Here are some of his other statements on OT revelation:

"God has confirmed his people in every possible way during their long waiting for the great Messiah, by providing them with his written law, containing numerous ceremonies, purifications, and sacrifices, which were but the figures and shadows of the great blessings to come with Christ, who alone was the embodiment and truth of them. For the law was incapable of bringing anyone to perfection; it only presented Christ, and like a teacher spoke of and led to him, who was, as was said by Saint Paul, the end and fulfillment of the law" (Calvin's Preface to the French Bible).

"Even the Old Covenant declared that there is no faith in the gracious God apart from the Mediator ... The law plainly and openly taught believers to seek salvation nowhere else than in the atonement that Christ alone carries out. I am only saying that the blessed and happy state of the church always had its foundation in the person of Christ ... Since God cannot without the Mediator be propitious towards the human race, under the law Christ was always set before the holy fathers as the end [objectum] to which they should direct their faith" (Inst. II.6.2).

Old Testament saints "had and knew Christ as Mediator, through whom they were joined to God and were to share in His promises" (Inst. II.10.2).

"Faith in God is faith in Christ. God willed that the Jews should be so instructed by these prophecies that they might turn their eyes directly to Christ in order to seek deliverance ... apart from Christ the saving knowledge of God does not stand. From the beginning of the world he had consequently been set before all the elect that they should look upon him and put their trust in him ... God is comprehended in Christ alone ..." (Inst. II.6.4).

"madmen ... twist this passage to prove that the people in old times were given nothing but [empty] shadows. First they assume that the people of Israel were only a figure [form without content] of the church: and from this they conclude that everything God promised and did among them, every good, every punishment, was a mere figure of that which was to become actual after the coming of Christ. This is but a pestilential madness, an atrocious injury to the holy fathers, and a more atrocious injury to God. The people [of Israel] was a figure of the Christian church; but it was itself the true church; its condition was a sketch of our own; but as such it had even at that time the proper character of the church. The promises made to it anticipated the gospel, so as in fact to include it; its sacraments served as figures of our own, but even in that age the inherent efficacy of their presence made them true sacraments. In short, those who used rightly the doctrines and the signs given them were endowed with the same spirit of faith as we ourselves" (Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10).

Andrew Stewart said...

You wrote:

"The Psalms, along with the rest of the revelation that accompanied the Old Testament dispensation, are best suited to teach the holiness of God and the sinfulness of the sinner. This was the purpose of the law. The Old Testament revelation is not best suited to set forth the full glory of Christ, His salvation and work of reconciliation. This was never the Old Testament's primary purpose."

This statement raises the issue of the purpose of the OT Scriptures. Luther:

"There is no doubt that all the Scripture points to Christ alone" (WA, 10:73).

"All of Scripture everywhere deals only with Christ" (WA, 46:414).

It also provokes consideration of the nature of divine revelation. I repeat: is Jesus *the* Revelation of God or just *a* Revelation of God -- merely *the best* or *fullest*?

But another issue it prompts is that of the nature and object of saving faith.

It made me wonder: if only hints, but not the full glory of Christ, are set forth in the OT, where is the OT believer's trust?

It's difficult to see how a believer can have a loving, trust knowledge of Christ given how sketchy *at best* information is about Him at a given moment in time.

Is their faith in God's holiness?

Are they saved by their assent to the Law's condemnation of them?

Do they trust in the priests, rituals or sacrifices?

Do they trust in God's promises of a vague salvation or promises about a distant, shadowy figure?

How would you answer, and how does your answer fit with the understanding of revelation you have outlined here?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew

If you don't have a problem with Progressive Revelation then wherein lies the problem and this drawn out 'conversation' which seems to have been to no profit and a pedantic waste of time?

The comments of mine that you quote are no more nor less than that stated by the different men that I have quoted. Or do you cast them aside as you do with John Calvin?

All that is in a full-grown tree was potentially in the seed. All that we find unfolded in the fulness of the gospel lies in a rudimental form in the earliest books of the Bible. What at first is only obscurely intimated is gradually unfolded in subsequent parts of the sacred volume, until the truth is revealed in its fulness. This is true of the doctrines of redemption; of the person and work of the Messiah, the promised seed of the woman; of the nature and office of the Holy Spirit; and of a future state beyond the grave. And this is specially true of the doctrine of the Trinity…

A.A. Hodge speaks here of the gospel lying in 'rudimental form in the earliest books of the Bible' and that 'What at first is only obscurely intimated is gradually unfolded in subsequent parts of the sacred volume, until the truth is revealed in its fulness.

Stephen Charnock goes further than this and highlights the different emphasis of each dispensation. I repeat his quote:
Though God commanded love in the Old Testament, yet the manner of giving the law bespoke more of fear than love. The dispensation of the law was with fire, thunder, etc proper to raise horror and benumb the spirit, which effect it had upon the Israelites, when they desired that God would speak no more to them. Grace is the genius of the gospel, proper to excite the affection of love. The law was given 'by the disposition of angels,' with signs to amaze; the gospel was ushered in with the songs of angels, composed of peace and good will, calculated to ravish the soul. 

Instead of the terrible voice of the law, Do this and live; the comfortable voice of the gospel is, Grace, grace. Upon this account, the principle of the Old Testament was fear, and the worship often expressed by the fear of God; the principle of the New Testament is love. "The mount Sinai gendereth to bondage," Gal. 4:24; mount Zion, from whence the gospel or evangelical law goes forth, gendereth to liberty; and, therefore, the Spirit of bondage unto fear, as the property of the law, is opposed to the state of adoption, the principle of love, as the property of the gospel, Rom. 8:15; and therefore the worship of God, under the gospel or New Testament, is oftener expressed by love than fear, as proceeding from higher principles, and acting nobler passions.


If this is so and it is the consistent testimony of Reformed Theology that it is, then the OT while it includes the 'rudiments' of the gospel does not include the fulness of the Gospel and therefore the Psalms do not include the fulness of the Gospel and therefore to sing psalms is to sing something less than the fulness of the gospel.

Brian McClung

Andrew Stewart said...

I may have done a feeble job but my main concerns in raising the issue have been:

i) the doctrine of revelation -- Jesus Christ is *the* Word, *the* Image, *the* perfect Revelation of God to us. Only God can reveal God.

ii) the doctrine of Scripture -- that the sole purpose of all of Scripture in all its parts is to clearly bear witness to the LORD Jesus Christ. If it doesn't urge Christ, then it's not Scripture. We meet with Christ all throughout the Scriptures. The NT writers claim that the original meaning and purpose of the OT is inherently Christian, that they are merely reporting what it clearly said would happen, *and* that what it clearly said would happen, happened.

iii) the nature and object of saving faith -- from the beginning of the world salvation has always been a matter of faith alone in Christ alone.

We reject the first if we suggest that the living God has revealed Himself in other ways apart from Christ. Also, if we are prepared to speak of a revelation that moves from another starting point than Christ and attempts to incorporate Christ later in the scheme. We have an inadequate understanding of revelation if we see it as fundamentally impersonal, defining it only or primarily in terms of propositions, rather than Christ who personally meets us clothed in His promises.

We undermine the second if we say the OT's primary purpose is to proclaim something other than Christ, and if it does bear witness to Christ it does so unclearly or inadequately.

The third is undermined if we teach that OT believers did not know Christ, or knew Him at best only partially. If we claim OT believers were saved because they trusted in the OT signs and shadows, or in hazy promises, or in God's condemnation of them, we open the door to the enemies against whom you are always "sounding the alarm": religious pluralism, inclusivism, ecumenism, Romanism, etc.

Anyone who says the Jews stumble at Christ because the OT doesn't present Him clearly sounds like a nineteenth century German higher critic and plays into the hands of advocates of pluralism or inclusivism.

The central concern in each of the interrelated issues I have tried to raise is the desire to uphold solus Christus. Can we ever afford to be less than clear and uncompromising on that?

I hope I'm correct in saying that we both believe in "ecclesia semper reformanda est". Are we continually testing our corporate theology and life against the Scriptures? Are we willing to reform our thinking and living to be ever more Christ-centred?

I don't see where I have "cast aside" John Calvin. It would be unfair of me to accuse you of casting him aside on the basis that you differ from him on, say, eschatology, sacraments and his understanding of the Church as laid out in Inst. IV, chapters 1 and 2. Even though we love Calvin, we are permitted to disagree with him in some things.

I'm sorry you don't seem to have regarded our interaction as genuine conversation. I have actually been interested in hearing your thoughts, hence my asking lots of questions (which you might some day be more keen to answer directly?). If I'd simply stated things it would not have been much of a dialogue! But perhaps I need to learn more about the art of conversation!

I don't want to take up any more of your time. I (perhaps naively) assumed that you as a pastor and theologian would enjoy thinking about and discussing these issues in further depth, but I recognise that you're busy and have other matters to attend to, other issues to devote prolonged attention to, and limited time to do so :)

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew

I do have plenty to do but I do also try and respond to people's comments where necessary. I could easily turn off the facility to make comments and only post articles.

Your three points and initial comments upon them I entirely agree with. That is why I have a difficulty in sustaining interest in this conversation. I fail to see the dividing lines in that which you are discoursing at great lengths upon. I certainly do not claim to be a theologian. I study theology as much as I can which is something entirely different!

I take from your comments that you are someone who believes in Reformed Theology. Therefore as I pointed out in a previous reply the Reformed view of Progressive Revelation focus on the degree to which things are revealed in the Scriptures. It is Dispensational Theology which teaches a difference in the nature of the revelation and which therefore believes that Christ is not to be found in the Old Testament. Neither of us believe in this dispensational viewpoint.

This degree to which the knowledge of Christ is revealed in the Old Testament is emphasised in the Scriptures. For example:

1. Eph 3:3-6: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.

Paul is here contrasting his knowledge of the 'mystery of Christ' with those who lived in the ages before. He speaks of things not being made known unto the sons of men in other ages, ie. Old Testament times. He speaks of a knowledge that was only revealed to the NT apostles and prophets. In my understanding this is Progressive revelation.

John Gill says this on these verses: "That is, which mystery of Christ, and of the Gospel, was not made known to men in general, nor so clearly as under the Gospel dispensation. Some hints were given of it to Adam, immediately after his fall; and the Gospel was before preached to Abraham, Moses, and David, and others knew something of it; and it was still more fully dispensed in the times of the prophet Isaiah, and other following prophets: but then the knowledge of it was not so extensive, nor so clear as now; it lay hid in types and shadows, in obscure prophecies and short hints. Moreover, this may have respect particularly to the calling of the Gentiles, as appears from the following words; this was, in some measure, made known, as that in Christ all the nations of the earth should be blessed; that when Shiloh came, to him should the gathering of the people be; that the Messiah should be an ensign of the people, and to him should the Gentiles seek; that he should be the covenant of the people, and a leader and a commander of them; and that there should be great flockings to him; but then this was not known to many, and the time, mode, and circumstances of it were but little understood, and comparatively speaking, it was not known."

2. Matt 11:11: Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
In what sense is the least in the kingdom of heaven [New Testament age] greater than John the Baptist, of whom the Saviour said that there was none greater born of women? David Brown the commentator had this to say about these words: "John stood on the very edge of the new economy, though belonging to the old; but for this reason, the humblest member of the new economy was in advance of him."

Brian McClung

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew

3. To give a specific example of the progressiveness of this degree of knowledge. The first gospel promise to our first parents contained the promise of the seed of the woman who would come and bruise the head of the serpent. In this promise of the Saviour our first parents believed. However it was not until 1600 years later that it was revealed that this seed of the woman would be a Godman, cf. Gen 9:27: God shall enlarge Japheth, and he [ie. God] shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. This development in the revelation of Christ is that the seed of the woman will be a Godman. It was in Isaiah's time that the clearer revelation was given that this seed of the woman, this Godman, would be virgin born. It was in the days of David that it was revealed that he would die by having his hands and feet pierced [ie crucifixion]. It was in the days of the prophets that it more clearly revealed that He would be born in Bethlehem Judah. I could go on.

The point I make about the Old Testament is that while all evangelical truth is to be found there, it is not in the same degree as it is found in the New Testament. If it was then it could not be said that the OT contained a 'shadow of things to come, Col 2:17'. The point I made about the Jews is that because they reject the NT it is much more difficult to convince them of the truth of the Trinity. It's not an excusing of them, it's but stating reality. It is not that the Trinity is not to be found in the OT but that it is not fully developed. The greatest Trinitarian statements are to be found in the NT. There is simply not the same fulness or clearness in the OT revelation of these things.

I said what I did about you and John Calvin because of this statement that you made: "Calvin's principles of Old Testament interpretation set out in the Institutes are wonderful. Like Luther, he clearly sees that the purpose of all of Scripture is to present Christ. (Often, however, Calvin's expositions are inconsistent with those principles.)" It takes a mighty man to say that about someone like John Calvin! It is one thing to disagree, it is quite something else to charge him with 'inconsistent' 'expositions'.

If you want to continue this conversation please be a little more precise as to what the dividing lines exactly are.

Brian McClung

Andrew Stewart said...

You wrote:

Your three points and initial comments upon them I entirely agree with. That is why I have a difficulty in sustaining interest in this conversation. I fail to see the dividing lines in that which you are discoursing at great lengths upon. I certainly do not claim to be a theologian. I study theology as much as I can which is something entirely different!

I am glad we are in agreement on these issues :) And it is good to remember that everyone in the world is a theologian. It is not a dusty academic discipline. We can be good or bad theologians, but we are all theologians!

You wrote:

I take from your comments that you are someone who believes in Reformed Theology. Therefore as I pointed out in a previous reply the Reformed view of Progressive Revelation focus on the degree to which things are revealed in the Scriptures. It is Dispensational Theology which teaches a difference in the nature of the revelation and which therefore believes that Christ is not to be found in the Old Testament. Neither of us believe in this dispensational viewpoint.

Your distinction between nature and degree was helpful -- thank you. I gather that more recent strands of Dispensational theology have placed less emphasis on the perceived differences between OT and NT, which is to be welcomed, but you and I both agree that it is a deeply flawed (not to mention curious) system.

However, the concerns I raised were not for the purpose of addressing a Dispensational vs. Reformed outlook, but an influential strand of teaching that exists *within* broadly Reformed/Calvinistic circles, and more broadly within "evangelicalism" (including low Anglican and Baptist), which claims that Christ was not present and active and known in the OT.

Andrew Stewart said...

You wrote:

This degree to which the knowledge of Christ is revealed in the Old Testament is emphasised in the Scriptures. For example [Eph 3:3–6]: ...

Paul is here contrasting his knowledge of the 'mystery of Christ' with those who lived in the ages before. He speaks of things not being made known unto the sons of men in other ages, ie. Old Testament times. He speaks of a knowledge that was only revealed to the NT apostles and prophets. In my understanding this is Progressive revelation.

Thanks for this. I think it's a misunderstanding of Paul in Ephesians 3 to say that the "mystery" that wasn't known is Christ.

As Gill notes in the quotation you provided, Paul says in verse 6, the mystery is that the Gentiles would be grafted into the Hebrew Church, and the Church would become an international, worldwide body composed of Jew and Gentile.

In the OT, if anyone outside of Israel trusted in the Promised Seed aka the Angel of the LORD and wanted to join the people of God, that person had to move to where the ancient Church was and become a Jew.

Now that the Ascended LORD has poured out His Spirit on all flesh, Gentiles don't need to become Jews and move to Jerusalem, but can remain Gentiles and stay where they are.

This is the "new thing" in the NT -- again, prophesied clearly in the OT -- that the NT Church struggles with: how to be a follower of Christ in the multi-national, multi-cultural Church of the living God.

I don't think the language of "hints" and "obscurity" in relation to the OT presentation of the gospel fit with the details of the biblical text.

The Revelation of God in the Sent, Visible LORD is perfect and full because the Sent, Visible LORD is the perfect Image, Representation and Word of the Unseen Father.

The Holy Spirit through the OT writers always presents a clear and vivid picture of Christ to the Church in all ages. Otherwise, the OT types and shadows are a bit pointless if they're not doing their job of spotlighting the Christ who would soon become incarnate and conquer death through His death ... the Christ who was *also* revealing the Father there and then.

Andrew Stewart said...

You wrote:

3. To give a specific example of the progressiveness of this degree of knowledge. The first gospel promise to our first parents contained the promise of the seed of the woman who would come and bruise the head of the serpent. In this promise of the Saviour our first parents believed. However it was not until 1600 years later that it was revealed that this seed of the woman would be a Godman, cf. Gen 9:27: God shall enlarge Japheth, and he [ie. God] shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. This development in the revelation of Christ is that the seed of the woman will be a Godman. It was in Isaiah's time that the clearer revelation was given that this seed of the woman, this Godman, would be virgin born. It was in the days of David that it was revealed that he would die by having his hands and feet pierced [ie crucifixion]. It was in the days of the prophets that it more clearly revealed that He would be born in Bethlehem Judah. I could go on.

I am reassured that you say these passages speak explicitly of Christ. Some would claim that these are not about Jesus but about something else.

I am happy to say that certain details as to time and circumstances would be given by the LORD -- e.g. the Name the Messiah would be given (Jesus) was confirmed for sure in Zechariah 6:12 ... but some may have worked it out by the time of the events of Numbers 27 (it is the man named Jesus who rises up and leads the Church into the Promised Land). And you point out the confirmation of birthplace, etc.

My objection to some forms of progressive revelation is not an objection to certain details surrounding the time and circumstances being confirmed as the incarnation approaches.

I might say, however, that from the "Seed of the woman" promise, it's clear that He will be born of a woman and not the product of a man and a woman.

(Some have pointed out that there are other indications even earlier (Genesis 2), which illustrate the LORD's virgin conception, but I'll leave you to look into that for yourself!)

Eve doesn't listen properly, hence her exclamation in Gen 4:1 that (lit.) she has "begotten the LORD-Man". So she knows the divine identity of the Seed but forgets the words "of the woman". (She's prone to not listening to the Voice of the LORD (cf. Gen 2:17 with 3:3).)

Time and circumstances are what the prophets wanted to know as the Spirit of Christ in them pointed to the sufferings and glories of Christ (1 Peter 1:10,11).

They were longing to see Him in the flesh, accomplishing redemption through suffering, into glory.

Andrew Stewart said...

You wrote:

The point I make about the Old Testament is that while all evangelical truth is to be found there, it is not in the same degree as it is found in the New Testament. If it was then it could not be said that the OT contained a 'shadow of things to come, Col 2:17'. The point I made about the Jews is that because they reject the NT it is much more difficult to convince them of the truth of the Trinity. It's not an excusing of them, it's but stating reality. It is not that the Trinity is not to be found in the OT but that it is not fully developed. The greatest Trinitarian statements are to be found in the NT. There is simply not the same fulness or clearness in the OT revelation of these things.

Perhaps I could suggest that (from personal experience) the "Trinity is unclear in OT" view says more about our doctrine of God.

Many Systematic Theologies postpone discussion of the Three Persons until they've spent ages on the abstract "One God".

This suggests an underlying assumption that the "Oneness" and the "Threeness" of God are different, and that the Three Persons are constituted by the much more foundational singular divine essence, rather than the other way around.

When we impose this myth on the OT, the common claim is that the OT teaches basic truths about God (He is "one", holy, wise, all-powerful, and the like) and the NT "fills this out" with talk of Trinity.

There might be glimmers of Trinitarian light before the NT but only a little -- just enough for the OT believers to handle without slipping into polytheism(!!).

Thus Trinity becomes "advanced knowledge" rather than the basic identity of the living God, an "added extra" on top of the more foundational essence of God -- the simple, singular "stuff" that God is made of -- which is usually defined by a list of abstract attributes.

It is assumed it is possible to talk of "God" without personal distinctions.

However, in the Bible, no-one meets an impersonal divine essence. They always encounter One or more of the Three Persons. The divine "Oneness" is nothing other than the Unity of the Three in loving relationship.

If the OT's emphasis is on God's "unity" (begging the question, "Unity of what?"), as a safe foundation from which to then speak in the NT of God's "triunity", then we assume that "the One God" is prior to Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Our basic doctrine of God is comfortable, along with that of Plato, Arius and Mohammed, with definitions of God that exclude Jesus Christ at the very outset.

If we try to discuss "God in general" or the "divine essence" without reference to the Three Persons who actually ARE the living God we are talking about an idol. We have imagined a god which we can define fundamentally without any reference to Jesus Christ.

I insist that the doctrine of the Trinity is clear in the OT. Many evangelists to Muslims, Jews and JWs say it's the best place to get an understanding of Trinity.

Andrew Stewart said...

I don't want to accuse Moses of having an underdeveloped doctrine of God. Certainly he uses different language from that used in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, but his is perhaps even more vivid and practical. He speaks of the Most High God, unseen in heaven; His Angel, the Visible LORD on earth; and the Spirit of the LORD who rests on the Sent LORD and equips His people.

Over and over again, Jesus uses Moses' language of "One sent from the Father" (aka "Angel of the LORD") to explain Himself.

And Moses preaches, "Trust in Christ" (e.g. in Deut 30; Paul wasn't reading *into* but properly exegeting and expounding Moses in Romans 10).

The NT beautifully summarises, or says in memorable short phrases, what the OT takes chapters and books to set out in great detail. (I mentioned this in a previous comment but garbled it.)

This is not to say the NT is unnecessary! We need the NT to show that it occurred as predicted. Otherwise it's a story without an ending, (clear and certain) promises without fulfilment.

Without the NT we don't get to see Christ become incarnate, His life and death and resurrection actually occurring, the Church's borders breaking and expanding into the whole world through the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh.

This doesn't contradict the truth that "The OT Scriptures are inherently a full and clear and faithful witness to the LORD Jesus Christ" (see 2 Tim 3:15), which I vigorously affirm. They do not need the NT to make them "more Christian". They do not become Christian when viewed through the prism of the NT. The whole gospel of Christ blazes from the pages of the OT.

In the NT there's no new or filled out doctrine of God, or way of salvation -- the big difference is the multinational Church, with the Gentiles grafted in as natural branches.

You wrote:

I said what I did about you and John Calvin because of this statement that you made: "Calvin's principles of Old Testament interpretation set out in the Institutes are wonderful. Like Luther, he clearly sees that the purpose of all of Scripture is to present Christ. (Often, however, Calvin's expositions are inconsistent with those principles.)" It takes a mighty man to say that about someone like John Calvin! It is one thing to disagree, it is quite something else to charge him with 'inconsistent' 'expositions'.

I'm always reluctant to say great theologians are being inconsistent. We need to grapple with their thought and understand them, and usually we find that they're not being inconsistent but we haven't understood them.

However, a simple comparison of Luther and Calvin shows that Luther was insistent that Gen 3:15 was the gospel being preached to Adam and Eve.

Calvin is more reluctant even on some clear passages to say they directly refer to Christ -- despite his excellent principles about Scripture's purpose being to present Christ. I also personally found parts of his expositions of Leviticus to be disappointing in this regard.

Andrew Stewart said...

You wrote:

If you want to continue this conversation please be a little more precise as to what the dividing lines exactly are.

Bearing in mind your statement about the OT being primarily about God's holiness and sinner's separation as it's not best suited to proclaim Christ in all His fulness, perhaps it's clearer why I felt the need to jump in and get you to clarify.

I hope I've made it clearer where I'm coming from. I am happier that you insist on the OT Scriptures as proclaiming Christ, although I wouldn't use terms like "hints" or "obscure" to describe that proclamation.

I am with you on the exclusive psalmody issue, but not because of any lack in their presentation of Christ. The Psalms present Jesus Christ as incarnate (e.g. 40), His life and mission (e.g. 1), crucified (e.g. 22), dead and raised (e.g. 16, 23), ascended (e.g. 24), and united with His Bride (e.g. 45), etc.

I appreciate your having taken the time to clarify your position on these issues. Many thanks!

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew

Are you saying that progressive revelation only relates to development of the "multinational Church, with the Gentiles grafted in as natural branches?" I believe it to be more than that.

To be specific, do you agree with Calvin's comments on Heb 10:1? He writes: The difference then which the Apostle makes between the Law and the Gospel is this, — that under the Law was shadowed forth only in rude and imperfect lines what is under the Gospel set forth in living colors and graphically distinct. He thus confirms again what he had previously said, that the Law was not useless, nor its ceremonies unprofitable. For though there was not in them the image of heavenly things, finished, as they say, by the last touch of the artist; yet the representation, such as it was, was of no small benefit to the fathers; but still our condition is much more favorable. We must however observe, that the things which were shown to them at a distance are the same with those which are now set before our eyes. Hence to both the same Christ is exhibited, the same righteousness, sanctification, and salvation; and the difference only is in the manner of painting or setting them forth.

I believe this to be the general thrust of historic Reformed opinion on Progressive Revelation.

Brian McClung

Andrew Stewart said...

You wrote:

Are you saying that progressive revelation only relates to development of the "multinational Church, with the Gentiles grafted in as natural branches?" I believe it to be more than that.

On that score, I'm thinking more broadly than the issue of "progressive revelation".

If we're going to talk about anything "new" or "novel" that the NT Church struggles with, it is not "Trinity", "the Person of Christ", "the gospel", or whatever.

Rather, the new thing is the Gentiles being grafted into the Church and remaining as Gentiles.

The ancient Hebrew Church saw Gentiles join with them and share in the life of the Church. But days were always foretold when Israel's borders would extend across the whole earth. Abram was promised that the Seed that would come from him would bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3).

This was a mystery ... but that's not to say it wasn't clearly foretold. It's just that the full experience of this was stored up, contained, until the Messiah's ascension. It wasn't "made known to" or experienced by the ancient Church on anything like the scale that we now see.

N.B. The Trinity is never treated as a mathematical oddity in the Scriptures. It's always the joyful, confident expression of the being of GOD.

Possibly we have presented it as something to avoid because our approach to the Trinity is to bracket it under prior discussions of "the One God", allowing these prior considerations to define God for us rather than the Father's Spirit-anointed Son.

If anyone does struggle to accept or comprehend the Trinity, it's not an intellectual problem but a spiritual one. The reason doesn't lie with the clarity of Revelation, but rather our blind unwillingness to receive the Word of the LORD. We can't just say, "If the LORD had been clearer/told us earlier/explained it better ..."

Revelation is Christ revealing the Father by the Spirit. He is the full and perfect Revelation of the Father. The God-Spirited Scriptures witness to Him clearly, deeply and perfectly.

You quoted Calvin on Hebrews 10:1:

The difference then which the Apostle makes between the Law and the Gospel is this, — that under the Law was shadowed forth only in rude and imperfect lines what is under the Gospel set forth in living colors and graphically distinct. He thus confirms again what he had previously said, that the Law was not useless, nor its ceremonies unprofitable. For though there was not in them the image of heavenly things, finished, as they say, by the last touch of the artist; yet the representation, such as it was, was of no small benefit to the fathers; but still our condition is much more favorable.

Hebrews 10:1 is saying that the Law was not the Reality, but a shadow cast by the Reality, who is Christ. In themselves the sacrifices and regulations could not save, but Christ -- to whom they resolutely pointed -- alone could.

And Christ, as Calvin loved to say, was available then and there for sinners to lay hold of by faith. OT saints could enjoy a loving, trusting knowledge of Christ through whom grace and truth have always come.

If by "rude and imperfect lines" Calvin means that the Law is not to be confused with the Reality, that the Law served the Reality, Calvin and I are in agreement.

If "finished ... by the last touch of the artist" means that the incarnate life and ministry set forth in the Law needed to occur, otherwise the Law was of no benefit to anyone at all, then I agree.

Andrew Stewart said...

Calvin continues:

We must however observe, that the things which were shown to them at a distance are the same with those which are now set before our eyes. Hence to both the same Christ is exhibited, the same righteousness, sanctification, and salvation; and the difference only is in the manner of painting or setting them forth.

This is a beautiful statement. Christ in the gospel is exhibited to all saints of every age; the difference in this exhibition is not different levels of information between OT and NT, but that of language and style from writer to writer.

Moses writes distinctively but clearly of the Christ he knew and loved. David has his own way of presenting the Christ He trusted. Jeremiah has his. John has his. Peter has his. James has his.

It is true that we are those "upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor 10:11, i.e. we have seen the fulfilment of the clear and certain prophecies), and we have this great cloud of witnesses as "ensamples" of faith in Christ, so in that sense we are blessed to have all of that from which to draw.

But this is different from saying we are more blessed than the OT believers because they had only obscure, imperfect seed-form intimations of the gospel.

It is possible to claim belief in solus Christus in theory, but to hold to doctrines or systems of doctrine that undermine this in practice.

I find myself doing this often, and have to knock down idols and begin again with Christ as the Origin, Goal and Way.

For many who claim to be fundamentalist and/or evangelical and hold to solus Christus, Christ is only a tiny element of their doctrines of God, revelation, Scripture, salvation, etc.

On the plus side, I have heard many promoting views that the OT is unclear, obscure, imperfect, problematic and the like, whose actual expositions of individual OT passages betray no hint of a sensus plenior or a rudimentary gospel but proclaim Christ in all His fulness.

It's then that I'm thankful that we are inconsistent men and women!

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew

The Reformed view of Progressive Revelation is much wider than the awareness of the ingrafting of the Gentiles. There are no new revelations in the New Testament in the sense of truth not already present in seed form in the Old Testament. The New Testament makes things clearer. I don't get the impression that you accept this.

The impression that I get from your comments is that you believe that all doctrine is as equally clear at the beginning of the the Scriptures as it is at the end. This is not the Reformed view of Progressive Revelation.

While Christ is the one way to God from the beginning of time I do believe and hold to the fact that New Testament Christians have much clearer light on the Gospel. I believe this to be the historic Reformed position on Progressive Revelation.

On the issue of preaching Christ clearly today from the Old Testament - this is very true. But this is only possible because we have the clearer light of the New Testament to take back to the Old Testament and cast it upon the shadows which causes them to flee away. We are using our knowledge of what the New Testament says to interpret and understand the Old Testament. However, the saints of God didn't have this privilege in Old Testament times.

I do believe that you and I hold two different views.

Brian McClung

Andrew Stewart said...

Some final thoughts from me:

On the one hand, evangelicals for whom the doctrine of Progressive Revelation is one of the cardinal doctrines tend to have a very anaemic gospel, and Christ is easily crowded out by other concerns.

In such circles, it is not uncommon to hear preaching advice such as: "Don't be tempted to get to Christ too quickly. Take time to explain the original meaning first."

Leaving aside the fact that "Don't go straight to Christ" is appalling *pastoral* advice, the assumption in this guidance is that the OT's original intention is not Christ. Or that the OT text would have been legitimately understood as referring to something different prior to Christ's incarnation. Now, however, from our superior vantage point, we can see more clearly and can interpret (or, for some, re-interpret) these signs and shadows as having been fulfilled in Christ. Those in OT times weren't able to do so.

Such an approach simply is not present in the apostles' preaching. In fact, it militates against their stated intention which was to demonstrate that the Law, Prophets and Writings were saying exactly what *the apostles* were saying.

On the other hand, there are evangelicals who stress the doctrine of Progressive Revelation because it's something "Reformed" people hold to, or because it serves some other secondary purpose (e.g. opposing exclusive psalmody). In practice, these folk will not take it to its logical conclusion (as those "on the one hand" do) and it serves no practical purpose when it comes to preaching and Bible study.

I have heard sermons in which you present the gospel of Christ clearly and wonderfully from the OT Scriptures. When the rubber hits the road, any theoretical concept of the "obscurity" of the text with regard to the gospel simply vanishes in a puff of irrelevance.

To mention or focus on an OT passage's "lack of gospel clarity" while preaching -- what purpose would that serve? Surely at best it's a distraction, a superfluous issue; and at worst it works against the Spirit's intention to present Christ. It's certainly miles away from the apostles' approach!

I believe that you can preach the gospel so clearly from the OT because the gospel of Christ is being set forth in the details of the OT text.

You believe that glimmerings are there, and you are using your NT eyes to tease out the details that are there in seed-form.

Thus, thankfully, for all that Progressive Revelation is held up as an indispensable doctrine of vital importance, it just renders itself redundant in the end.

Given the NT's interpretation of the OT as clearly and doggedly Christological and gospel-soaked, I think you and I would both say it's inappropriate to read it any other way given that we know the end of the story, given that the incarnation has happened, given that Christ has come.

However, I say if it's inappropriate *now* to read it as being primarily about anything other than Christ in the gospel, then it's *always* been inappropriate to read it any other way.

A rabbi living before AD 30 who read Psalm 16 as being about David and not about Christ's resurrection would have been wrong.

Not because the LORD was withholding information from OT readers.

Not because the psalm is/was obscure.

Not because the psalm was being read with OT eyes, but rather because this rabbi was reading with unbelieving eyes, ignoring/missing/misinterpreting the psalm's original intention which was to present Christ and to speak of His resurrection.

To assume any text of God-Spirited Scripture is not presenting Christ is to read it with eyes of unbelief. We are to read the Bible as people of faith, as people intimately acquainted with Jesus.

Andrew Stewart said...

When, in Acts 2, the apostle Peter says that David in Psalm 16 was looking ahead to Christ's resurrection and speaking of that, it's because that's exactly what David was doing in the Psalm.

There's nothing in the psalm to indicate otherwise.

There's nothing to suggest David was unaware of what he was saying or that he thought he was writing about something else.

There's nothing to suggest he was puzzled by the LORD's promise in 2 Sam 7, or that the LORD was speaking in coded language.

Peter in his exposition says that the psalm was written by someone with deep theological understanding of Christ and His mission. In doing so he is doing nothing more than taking Jesus seriously, which means taking seriously the Spirit of Christ who indwelt the ancient prophets, which means taking the details of the OT text seriously.

I'm happy to say that revelation progresses -- as long as we insist that any "revelation" where Christ is not front and centre is not revelation. The core gospel of Christ is clearly laid out throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

Adam didn't know the Messiah would be of Judah's line, for example. He didn't have the details set out in the Law of Moses of the Messiah's life and work. He hadn't read Isaiah's in-depth treatment of Christ's atonement.

But he knew Christ, the Voice/Word of the LORD God, who walked in the Garden. He saw the stark reality of the curse being pronounced on the creation. He heard Christ promise His own birth into the human race, as the Seed who would crush the serpent through His own suffering. He was taught that his shame could only be covered by the bloody sacrifice of Another. And he lived to meditate on and share all these things with 8 generations of his family.

The One in whom we are united is so much greater than what would divide us. It is good to think through together how we can be ever more faithful witnesses to Jesus ... over and above whatever commitment we have to any theological system/school of thought.

Ultimately I'm sure we are both less interested in adhering to a "Reformed doctrine of Progressive Revelation" than we are concerned with bringing our thinking and living into line with the Word of Christ. Let's fix our eyes on Him as all the faithful did (Heb 11) :)

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew

I find your comments failing to do justice to the proper concept of Progressive Revelation. It is true that all Reformed believers find Christ in the Old Testament. We must ever avoid the dispensational viewpoint that doesn't see Christ crucified in the Old Testament but we must also be aware that the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day, Prov 4:18. I am not aware of any reformed writer who believers otherwise.

The reason why any preacher can go back to the Old Testament and preach Christ fully is that we have the key of the New Testament to open up the Old. As is obvious the saints in Old Testament times did not have that benefit.

No where is that more clearly seen than in the original theme of this post where I pointed out that the old economy was given to emphasise the distance of the sinner from God as well as setting forth Christ. The common aspect to all the requirements of OT worship was that sinners are separated from God and in need of a mediator. This is in keeping with one of the purposes of the Law, which is to be our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.

Brian McClung