Category Archives: reformed forum

Mark Jones on Tullian

Mark Jones freaks me out. No, not because he’s scary looking, however that may be the case, but because the guy is proving himself to be a prolific writer. Not a hack, mind you, his works are serious. Take for instance his doctoral dissertation on Thomas Goodwin from the University of Leiden (I love the look of terror in his eyes in the above picture of his thesis defense), or the work he co-edited on Reformed controversies with Michael Haykin published by the venerable Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. This is not to mention the beast of a book co-authored with Joel Beeke: A Puritan Theology. Generally when Dr. Jones writes something, I try and pay attention–even if he’s writing on paedobaptism or some other such Pelagianism…I mean Presbyterianism.

Recently Mark wrote a review of Tullian Tchividjian’s Jesus + Nothing = Everything at the Meet the Puritans blog that he contributes to. In it he draws a comparison between the book and seventeenth-century antinomianism–not that Mark would call Tullian an outright antinomian, but that there are some dangers in Tullian’s approach that would fit in that general category. One of the key problems with the book, according to Jones, is Tullian’s version of the law/gospel distinction. He says: “The section on the law and the gospel in the book evinces a problem with certain versions of the law-gospel antithesis, especially when this antithesis is read into the Christian life and not just simply justification…In essence, my concern has to do with the fact that a number of biblical passages are read in a manner where people automatically assume that the text is driving us to Christ for justification when in fact the text is saying nothing of the sort.” The whole review, though long, is well-worth digesting.

The substance of the review is picked up in an interview that Mark did with the guys at Reformed Forum. I like the interview primarily for the opening bit where one of Mark’s kids is acting out in the background, and Mark is doing his darndest to get him to pipe down–even Presbyterians have to deal with kids disobeying it seems, we Baptists aren’t alone! Aside from that, however, Mark helps with the historical problems of antinomianism, and again points to related problems in Tullian’s book. Sadly, Christians today are imbibing the tendencies evident in the book under review, and so Mark brings us back to a healthy model of gospel-grounded obedience. We are free, yes indeed; but we are free to obey Christ. Hopefully the Reformed and Puritan vision of justification and sanctification can be grasped and grappled with for the sake of the holiness of Christ’s people. I think ole Jonesy does a good job at bringing us back to that grounding.



Filed under antinomianism, justification, mark jones, reformed forum, sanctification, tullian tchividjian

R. L. Dabney

In my previous post I mentioned that Whitefield’s glaring flaw was his purchase of slaves to work his orphanage. The Noll quote I provided shows that his take on slavery was more pragmatic–which is no excuse–and less of a principled view of African Americans as lesser valued. However, many evangelicals did hold to that pernicious view that whites were a superior race and thus slavery was justified along racial terms. Probably the worst example of this out-and-out racism is the Southern Presbyterian Robert Lewis Dabney. He wrote “A Defence of Virginia” which is almost impossible to get through because it is so racially driven. I have his book on sacred rhetoric, but I’ve only skimmed it. Because of his views, as good as a theologian he may have been, I cannot read him with a good conscience.

If you want to learn more about Dabney, read Sean Michael Lucas’ biography of him. I haven’t read it, though I plan to. Lucas was recently interviewed by the Reformed Forum on this book which is worth listening to. Lucas is right to argue that Dabney, or any historical figure, shouldn’t be approached flatly or simplistically. His life and thought is complex and needs to be dealt with carefully and in context. However, the racism displayed in “A Defence of Virginia” is so gross that it can only, at the very basic level, be chalked up to sin. There has to be a willful misreading of the bible to be so horrifically wrong about the question of human dignity. While Whitefield and other great figures in history, including Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers, have to be dealt with properly on the blight of slavery, to me Dabney has been pushed into another category that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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Filed under dabney, interviews, racism, reformed forum

Liberating Black Theology

One online radio program that I listen to fairly regularly is the Reformed Forum, hosted by Camden Bucey. It is dedicated to intelligent discussions of contemporary Reformed theology and consistently has excellent topic choices and guests who are experts in their field. Today’s show deals with the issue of black liberation theology, especially as it has been viewed by Anthony Bradley‘s book Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America. Bradley teaches at the King’s College in New York and blogs at The Institute. The book is a re-working of his doctoral dissertation that he completed at Westminster Theological Seminary. The interview is very informative. What struck me most about it was Bradley’s comment that black liberation theology is fundamentally not pastoral and that is it’s biggest problem. He explains that when someone has cancer, or their kid is on crack, black liberation theology has no answers.

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Filed under anthony bradley, black theology, interviews, liberation theology, reformed forum