McGraw, Ryan. By Good and Necessary Consequence. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2012.
In some circles the myth has taken root that sola scriptura means that Scripture does not apply to those matters that it does not directly address. In other circles systematic theology has gained a bad name and the doctrines of the Reformation (such as justification by faith alone) or classical theism (such as God’s omniscience and foreknowledge) are dismissed as rationalistic speculations at odds with Scripture.
Ryan McGraw addresses these errors in this brief book. The title of the book is drawn from the Westminster Confession of Faith, and McGraw is concerned to defend this teaching of that confession (the London Baptist Confession of 1689 uses a parallel expression; see pp. 51-52, n. 10). In sum, the Confession teaches all things necessary for salvation and the Christian life are found in Scripture. The phrase "by good and necessary consequence," however affirms that these things may be inferred from Scripture. Not everything necessary is explicitly stated.
The legitimacy of inferring good and necessary consequences from Scripture is grounded in Scripture. McGraw notes that Jesus uses an inferential argument for the resurrection of the body in Matthew 22:29-32. Luke 24:24-27 reveals that by good and necessary consequences the Messiah may be seen throughout the Old Testament. The apostles are dependent on good and necessary consequence in selecting Judas’s replacement (Acts 1:20-21). Paul makes use of this principle in arguing for pastoral remuneration from Deuteronomy 25:4 (1 Cor. 10:9-10). Though some of these passages provide stronger support than others, McGraw is able to demonstrate that good and necessary consequence is a biblical concept.
In his second chapter McGraw examines the historical background for the concept of good and necessary consequence. With the Reformation came the rejection of allegorical interpretation of Scripture. Since allegory was a key method for applying Scripture, this raised a problem. Critics of Scripture were happy to reject allegory and reduce Scripture study to mere historical study, but orthodox Protestants were not willing to travel that road. Good and necessary consequence allows the Bible to be applied to new contexts. McGraw notes, "The principle allows the contemporary interpreter to apply an ancient text to a modern context. When a necessary doctrine or application is legitimately drawn from the text of God’s Word, then that doctrine or application has the very power of the authority of God to enforce it. On the contrary, if good and necessary consequences are denied, then application is impossible" (27-28). McGraw makes two other important points in this chapter. First, the principle of good and necessary consequence is not rationalism. Reason is not the source of authority (Scripture is); reason remains a tool for discerning the divine teaching of Scripture. Second, it is important to distinguish between good and necessary. Some consequences may be good but not necessary while others may be both good and necessary.
In chapter four, McGraw demonstrates the importance of affirming good and necessary consequence by demonstrating that it is necessary for formulating orthodox views regarding the person of Christ and the Trinity. He also argues that it is necessary for establishing biblical worship practices and a Presbyterian understanding of baptism.
Chapter four addresses common objections to the principle, and chapter five reaffirms the importance of the principle for exegesis (understanding how the New Testament interprets the Old), application of Scripture, and doctrine.
Overall, this is an excellent book on a much needed subject. It also has the advantage of being concise and easy to read without sacrificing depth and accuracy. If the book lacks anything it would be a coverage of how to guard against abusing this principle. For instance, a Baptist might well agree with the principle, but he would disagree with the way he applies it to baptism. Are the objective grounds for determining when the principle is misused? This would be a fruitful avenue for further study.
Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin Press, 2010.
Chernow does a good job of chronicling Washington’s life in its complexity. At times I found Chernow speculating beyond his cited evidence as to Washington’s motive, but overall it is a solid work. I did not, however, find it as engaging as his biography of Hamilton.
Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.
In this volume Bauckham provides a trenchant critique of form criticism and makes a strong case for the pervasive role of eyewitness testimony in the Gospels. While I was not convinced with his discussion about the authorship of John and still have questions to Bauckham’s suggestion that many of the named individuals in the Gospels are the sources for those accounts, Bauckham nonetheless provides a wealth of information about oral tradition, memory in ancient times, and Jewish names, along with close readings of Papias’s comments about the gospels.
Shippey, T. A. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
Koyzis, David T. Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003.
Koyzis’s thesis is that politics is dominated by various ideologies. From a Christian perspective, these ideologies are idolatrous. Thus Christians must therefore transcend the ideologies and approach politics with an eye firmly fixed on the biblical themes of creation, fall, and redemption.
Political ideologies are idolatrous because they seize on one aspect of the way God made the world and make it ultimate. If only the ideology could take root, the thinking goes, then the nation or community or world could be saved by the evil which threatens it. The "fundamental evil" identified by the various ideologies is often itself another aspect of God’s creation. As a result of deifying one part of the creation and demonizing others, the ideologies developed warped soteriologies that often lead to more evil and suffering because governing moral principles built by God into his world are subverted by the salvific goal set up by the ideology. This does not mean that the ideologies are all wrong or equally wrong. Because they are deifying parts of creation, they each have grasped fragments of truth, to greater or lesser extents. Thus the ideologies must be examined. Koyzis proposes six evaluative questions:
First, what is their creational basis? Second, what facets of God’s creation have they rightly focused on even as they have effectively deified them? Third, what inconsistencies have led to internal tensions within the ideology itself? Fourth, what do they see as a source of evil? Fifth, where do they locate the source of salvation? Sixth and finally, to what extent are they able to account for the distinct place of politics in God’s world?
In the central section of the book Koyzis surveys and critiques various ideologies. He begins with liberalism. As used here, liberalism embraces both contemporary American conservatives (classical liberalism) and liberals (reformist or revisionist liberalism / social democrats). In Koyzis’s analysis the "sovereignty of the individual" is the cornerstone of the liberal ideology. The classical liberals focused on restricting the state from infringing on personal liberties. At first liberals focused on protecting individuals rights to self and property. The state’s role was to ensure a fair playing field for individuals. But as non-government entities (e.g., business monopolies) gained power reform liberals began to use government power to protect individual freedom from these entities. Others pointed out that poverty limits people’s opportunity, and thus reform liberals seek to use government to level a playing field that is unequal by virtue of the different ways individuals have used their freedoms. Already the tensions within the liberal ideology are apparent. Also in the later stages of liberalism is the concern for laws not to infringe on the moral choices that citizens make; to do so infringes on individual liberty. Yet individual moral choices have social consequences, and the government is often invoked to mitigate those social consequences. Liberalism’s chief evil is authority located outside the human self, and its soteriology is a quest for freedom from external authority. It’s fatal flaw is its refusal to submit to God’s standards of justice, and this leads to the internal contradictions between classical and reformist liberals. On the other hand, liberals have rightly recognized the importance of the individual and the significance of human rights.
From liberalism, Koyzis turns to conservatism. He acknowledges up front that conservatism is not as ideological as the other ideologies covered. Indeed, in some respects it opposes ideologies (it is important to note at this point that Koyzis locates much of American conservatism on the right wing of liberalism; Reagan’s "optimistic view of human nature," "his celebration of limitless material progress," and "his devotion to the free market" are all marks of classical liberalism rather than traditional conservatism). Nonetheless, conservatism can be defined with enough specificity to invite evaluation. In the first place conservatives have a deep sense of the human tendency to evil and thus oppose all utopianism. This means that if a tradition is working adequately, the conservative will oppose a sweeping change to fix an evil because he is sure that the sweeping change will have negative side effects. The conservative must be convinced that the benefits of the change will outweigh the inevitable negative side effects. The conservative is not opposed to any change, but he prefers to see the changes take place on a local level where the negative effects are constrained. If the experiment works it can be implemented more broadly. At its best conservatism remains rooted in traditions that work while making necessary adjustments to fix what is not working. At its worst, conservatism can lapse into a traditionalism in which the traditions cease to carry meaning and a romanticism which projects a utopia into the past. This leads to Koyzis’s first critique: the traditions of any society are "inevitably a ‘mixed bag’ . . . . The wisdom of past generations is intermingled with a large measure of folly." But conservatism lacks "a generally accepted transhistorical criterion by which to distinguish what in a tradition is worthy saving and what ought to be discarded." Koyzis’s second critique centers on the need for genuine progress. He notes that "God’s creation is not static but contains great potential for development and improvement." The Christian ought to support progress, but he should do so cautiously (recognizing with the conservative the potential for evil side-effects) and with a careful evaluation of the direction of the change. Is it directed to greater conformity to God’s norms or away from such conformity. Overall, Koyzis renders a more favorable evaluation of conservatism while still warning about idolizing tradition and locating evil in the kinds of progress that societies should experience.
Koyzis next considers nationalism. On the positive side Koyzis argues that nationalism values the real communities of which people find themselves a part. There is something good in sharing "love for the cultural traditions of one’s own ethnic community" or in sharing a commitment as a citizen to the government of one’s nation. But nationalism becomes an ideology when it is elevated to the place of supreme importance over other loyalties such as family, region, or religion. As with liberalism, autonomy is the ultimate goal (in this case the autonomy of the national community) and rule by the other (whether the racial, cultural, or linguistic other) is the ultimate evil. The falsity of this claim is demonstrated by the great evils done by dictators who liberated their states from colonial powers. This observation in no way justifies colonialism, but it does demonstrate the folly of identifying ultimate evil in being ruled by the other and ultimate redemption in national liberation. Nationalism also becomes dangerous when it takes the place of religion, "complete with its own liturgical ceremonies, Te Deums, sacraments, icons and feast days." This can be especially dangerous for certain American Christians who link Old Testament promises to Israel to the United States.
Democracy, though "merely a form of government" in some ways, becomes ideological when "it embodies a belief in the near infallibility of the vox populi—the voice of the people. A limited democracy can be argued for on Christian principles. Thus because of the fall, power should be diversified instead of centralized. A fallen person with unlimited power is a great danger. But democracy as an ideology is grounded on anti-Christian ideas. As with liberalism, the autonomous self is the great good. The great evil is any authority that rules over the individual without his consent. Thus "the people" become the highest authority by which anything is justified. This stands against the conservative principle that a representative is a trustee who is to use his knowledge and wisdom to act in the best interest of those he represents; he does not necessarily simply do whatever they desire. Without checks such as this, democracy too can become totalitarian. The majority may run roughshod over the minority. Or, democracy may become totalitarian by insisting that all of life, not only the government, must be run on democratic principles. In the end, the Christian must recognize that democracy is not the only, or even always the best, form of government for bringing about justice. And when democracy is the form of government chosen, the people must recognize they still exist under the authority of divine Law.
Socialism is the final ideology that Koyzis covers. He does an excellent job of walking readers through the different varieties of socialism with their different approaches for implementing their program. Socialism sees inequality as the great evil and it promises salvation in the form of radical social change. Koyzis is willing to grant socialism some real insights. In the first place he grants the reality of communal ownership (he gives the family as an example). He also grants that socialists have sometimes highlighted real economic evils. He grants that a nation’s economic system may prevent a good number of people from owning productive property, and may permit the exploitation of labor. These are real evils. But socialism goes further to locate evil in any division of labor and in any inequality. Its salvation is communal ownership of everything. But, Koyzis, notes God designed the world to work with various forms of individual and communal ownership. Thus a totalizing, state-managed communal ownership runs up against creational limits. The communist nations must attempt to force the soteriology to work, and this is leads to the totalitarianism by which such nations are known: "Ideologies are typically motivated to achieve some overarching goal deemed to take precedence over other legitimate human concerns. The ultimate danger, of course, is that followers will come to believe that the end justifies the means and that this goal could demand the sacrifice of millions of human lives."
Koyzis closes the book with two chapters in which he seeks to offer a way to transcend the ideologies. In this section he examines both the Catholic idea of subsidiary and the Kuyperian idea of sphere sovereignty. He finds both useful, but prefers the less hierarchical sphere sovereignty.
Luther, Martin. "A Sincere Admonition By Martin Luther to All Christians to Guard Against Insurrection and Rebellion." In Luther’s Works. Volume 45. Edited by Helmut T. Lehmann and Walther I. Brandt. Translated by W. A. Lambert and Walther I. Brandt. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1962.
Luther argues that insurrection is not permitted by God. First, the troubles that they are facing are decreed by God and are part of his wrath. Magistrates have the responsibility to moderate this wrath (Exodus 32:27-28), but the populace does not. Second, insurrection never brings about "the desired improvement" because "insurrection lacks discernment. Thus, "it generally harms the innocent more than the guilty." Third, insurrectionists set themselves up as their own judges and avengers, but this is the prerogative of God only. Fourth, in this particular instance insurrection is a tool of the devil to discredit the Reformation.
Rather that insurrection, Christians should confess their sins, pray against their enemies, and preach the word of Christ.
Luther, Martin. "Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed." In Luther’s Works. Volume 45. Edited by Helmut T. Lehmann and Walther I. Brandt. Translated by W. A. Lambert and Walther I. Brandt. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1962.
In the first part of this discourse Luther seeks to reconcile passages which give the sword to the civil government and those which forbid Christians to resist evil or to take vengeance. Luther affirms that the sword was given by God to government and that only when the entire world is converted will it be unnecessary. The passages about not taking vengeance or resisting evil refer to Christian individuals. Christians must individually accept being wronged. But a Christian magistrate acts not for himself but for his neighbor.
In the second part of this discourse Luther affirms that temporal government may rule over property and the external things that people do. But the government may not command that people believe certain things; the government has no authority over the soul.
In the third part of the discourse Luther discusses the manner in which rulers should rule. 1. They should rule for the benefit of the people and not for their own benefit. 2. They should delegate their authority, but they should also responsibly manage those who act in their name (trust but verify). 3. They should administer justice so that evildoers are punished but others are not adversely affected. 4. Most importantly, a ruler must rule in the fear of God an in dependence on him for wisdom.