Rules of Affinity, Part 3: The Negative Application

Posted courtesy of Dr Reluctant. The series so far.

These guidelines (the “rules of affinity”) test the distance between a given theological proposal and the actual textual references alleged to lend them authority. As already mentioned in previous posts, all the major non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian Faith have a strong affinity with the wording of the biblical text. Under the Grid of Category Formulations of these Rules of Affinity, all these first level doctrines are C1 and C2 (category 1 and category 2) doctrines. Doctrinal propositions which are arrived at by the consent of several converging biblical texts to bring about an “inference to the best explanation” are C3′s. C3′s are open to revision if better scriptural conclusions from clear texts are forthcoming.

The two other categories in the Grid, which reveal little or no affinity between the words of Scripture and the doctrines supposed to be borne out of it, are C4′s or C5′s. These categories are heavy on inference and light on affinity. They are chock full of human reason and empty of clear, definable connection to the verses which are being unfairly summoned to support them.

Problem Features of C4′s and C5′s

1. Another feature of C4′s and C5′s is that they often come into contention with clearer verses which contradict them (C1′s & C2′s). Why then, are they allowed to stand? It is because of our faith in our own rational faculties.

2. Yet another interesting fact about doctrines based on C4′s and C5′s is that they usually command large areas of systematic theology. For example, “the covenant of grace,” which as defined by covenant theologians (or the limp “Edenic covenant” of Confessional dispensationalists like Scofield and Chafer), enjoys no C1 – C3 support. Moreover, the texts used in support of it are not talking about it at all, but about biblical covenants like those with Abraham or David.

3. This brings up the third interesting feature of C4 and C5 formulations; because they are formulated by human reason they are already believed before the search is made for scriptural support-texts. That is to say, the doctrine is already in hand and cherished so the Bible must be ransacked for any verse which might give the impression that it supports the cherished teaching.

4. A fourth negative characteristic is that C4 and C5 formulations highlight the fact that doctrines have been manufactured not unusually from other doctrines. Although this may lend them a certain logical coherence, which can in itself be deceptive, it does nothing to show that the doctrine in question is built up from the clear statements of Scripture (C1′s – C3′s) which the fundamental doctrines are.

Still another item of notice is that even fundamental doctrines can be supported by texts with weak affinity to the proposition under scrutiny. This does not invalidate the doctrine. it does, however, encourage the theologian to look for better and clearer passages. But we shall consider this aspect in another post.

Here are some important theological propositions which, in fact, lack affinity with the Scriptures used to validate them:

1. The Covenant of Grace

The supposed covenant made between God and all the elect from Adam to the New Creation which assumes the one people of God in both Testaments, thereby making it impossible for Israel’s covenants to be fulfilled literally, but demanding they be re-interpreted by the NT. The covenants found in Scripture are viewed as manifestations of this inferred but overarching covenant.

Scriptures employed to prove it: Gen. 3:15. C4 - there is no mention of any covenant till the Noahic covenant. Although a thing can be present without being named, there are too many disconnects and too much scholarly dissension in this case.

Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24. C4 – these are references to the New Covenant (which it is often falsely equated with), not to any covenant of grace as defined above. There are no C1-C3 references to this covenant in the Bible. It is an inferred covenant which rests upon non-covenantal and covenantal texts (e.g. Gen. 12:1–3; 17:1–14; 22:17-18; Exod. 20-24; Jer. 31:31f.) which appear to be speaking of other things.

2. The Covenant of Works

The way for innocent Adam and all his posterity to remain in a state of well-being and to be confirmed in happiness (to eliminate the possibility of losing happiness) was based entirely on what man would do. (Walter Chantry citing Gen. 2:8,9 and 2:16-17)

Both references are C4′s since no covenant is mentioned in either text. See Chantry’s work at Monergism.com, especially pages 4-6.

Scriptures employed to prove it: the main one, after Gen. 2:16-17 (C4) is Hosea 6:7, which says,

But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me. (NASB, Hos 6:7)

The trouble is that this translation, “like Adam,” is heavily disputed and in any case is not decisive. Even if one allows the disputed translation “like Adam” instead of the more widely accepted “like men” one is still left to infer a covenant of works, as defined by covenant theologians (or Adamic covenant by some dispensationalists), from this text. Did the prophet mean to say that Israel (Ephraim) had transgressed the covenant of works? Did Adam? Where does the text specify that? Therefore, owing to its tendentious pedigree as a proof-text for the covenant of works, we cannot but assign this anything but a C4. If someone wants to make it a C3 and look around (a la Robert Reymond) for corroborating passages let him try. As it stands, once again there are no C1-C3 references to this covenant in the Bible.

Chantry writes in The Covenants of Works and of Grace:

In the entirety of Scripture there are only two divinely instituted arrangements by which man could be blessed: The Covenant of Works for innocent man, the Covenant of Grace for fallen man. Both covenants are referred to in God’s first communication to man after the Fall in Genesis 3. (p. 6)

When stood up against our Rules of Affinity, this bold statement receives rather less than a strong endorsement. Indeed, it is contradicted by the explicit (C1-C2) covenant statements in Gen. 8-9; 12-22; Exod. 20-24; Num. 25; Deut. 29-30; Psa. 89; 105; Jer. 31, 33, etc. Yet out of these two covenants arises a whole system of theology, including some of the theological propositions below. The persuasive power of these teachings does not come from the biblical texts they employ.

3. Infant baptism

This teaching depends upon the covenant of grace (see “Infant Baptism: God’s Grandchildren”) and teaches that those children of covenant parents are “in the one covenant [of grace]” and are, therefore, elect in some sense. All the passages it employs (like Gen. 17:5-7) are not speaking of the covenant of grace with all the elect, but of the Abrahamic Covenant with those who, as the next verse plainly says, will be given the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession (Gen 17:8. Cf. Psa. 105:6-11)! Hence, not only is this doctrine an inference based upon another inference, but it also undermines clearer C1 and C2 promises to Israel in the process. Notice, infant baptism is nowhere in view in any OT or NT covenant text. This is a C5 formulation.

Scriptures employed to prove it: Acts 2:38-39; 16:31-34. C4 – both contexts make it clear that the person’s present were able to understand and respond in belief (or unbelief) to the message they heard, as would their children and those afar off. If Acts 2:39 is pushed to include infants, it says too much; for surely “all who are afar off” could then be used to support a universalistic doctrine of infant salvation for every child, which is clearly not the case. There are no C1-C3 references to infant baptism in the Bible. Because it is an inference based on another inference, I assign it a C5 rating.

In all contexts where the gospel is proclaimed (including those in Acts 2 & 16) comprehension and belief are required (e.g., Jn. 3:16, 36; 5:24; 20:29-31; Rom. 1:16-17; 4:1ff.; etc.). And let it not be forgotten that all the references to undergoing baptism (as either immersion or effusion; never sprinkling) picture adult baptism after belief.

4. The Church is Israel

This has been expressed in different ways, but the basic idea is that the covenant promises (see “…Questions about Israel and the Church”) made to the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, especially the national and ethnic promises, including “the Holy Land,” have been “transformed” or “spiritualized” and applied to the NT Church. If ethnic Israelites are to enjoy the promises, they must be part of the Church, “the New Israel,” in which the promises are fulfilled.

Scriptures employed to prove it: Rom. 2:28-29, which addresses Jews in the context (e.g. v. 24f.) and can easily be construed as distinguishing believing from unbelieving Israelites (hence C4, especially because nothing is said in support of the proposition under consideration).

Romans 9:6-7, which is speaking directly about Israelites “according to the flesh” in the context and can again easily be confined to believing versus unbelieving Jews. The context also says that the promises (still) pertain to Israel. It is a C4 at least because supercessionism is inferred from the passage even though Paul says nothing about such a proposition.

Philippians 3:3, in which Paul calls Christians “the circumcision” because they worship in the Spirit, not because they are really circumcised Jews. He writes figuratively and does not address the subject of Israel and the Church. Where he does address it in Romans 11 he distinguishes them and reiterates the irrevocability of Israel’s covenants.

The last verse used to teach this proposition is Galatians 6:16.

And as many as walk according to this rule [i.e. boasting in Christ’s cross instead of Jewish fleshly circumcision, cf. 6:11-15], peace and mercy be upon them, and [kai] upon the Israel of God.

The usual translation of kai is “and.” That translation fits perfectly well in Paul’s sentence and in his larger argument. There is no reason to translate it with the far more infrequent “even” unless it threatens ones theological assumptions. Even many who reject the Israel/Church eschatological distinction agree with this conclusion. If Paul had wanted to equate those in the first part of the verse with the “Israel of God” in the second part he could simply have omitted the conjunction and the point would have been clear enough. But he didn’t. The kai is there, and there is no good reason, especially in the context, that it should not be translated normally, as “and.” Therefore, this verse cannot even qualify as a C3 for the reason that it ought to read “and the Israel of God.” We therefore assign it a C4 to identify the intrusion of human reasoning into, and indeed prior to, the exegesis. Once more, there are no C1-C3 references to this theological idea in the Bible! It is a C4 doctrine.

I shall provide more examples in Part 4 of the series.

[node:bio/paul-henebury body]

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There are 33 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Paul wrote:
We therefore assign it a C4 to identify the intrusion of human reasoning into, and indeed prior to, the exegesis.

Just a quibble I suppose but the language here matters to me. Human reason is not an intrusion and there can be no exegesis without it... and reason is just reason. There isn't a human kind and some other kind(s). (OK, I'll concede that "reason as performed by humans" is impaired by the Fall... sort of another kind in that sense).

But I get the point: there is a layer of reasoning involved that puts these interpretations a couple of degrees removed from the text itself.

I like the whole idea of developing a vocabulary for degrees of affinity between theological assertions and the passages we use to support them. If we can just a find a way to make the idea catch on...

Paul Henebury's picture

Good point about the phrase "human reason" Aaron. Perhaps "rationalizing" would suit better?

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I love this series -- great job, brother! It gets old, this doctrine by assumption, tradition, and credentials. Thank you for bringing us back to the Word.

The "Israel of God" is, IMO, a clear reference to what we now call Messianic Jews. They were Jewish believers who --unlike the Judaizers -- believed in salvation by grace alone through faith alone, not law-keeping. This it the point in Galatians 6:16 -- many Jewish believers were right on target and thus the Israel of God (true Jews in the best sense of the word).

"The Midrash Detective"

Paul Henebury's picture

Thank you Ed.

Of course, these observations turn the heat up on some systems of theology particularly. But I would wish to say that dispensational theologies can (I think) profit from the clarification which the rules of affinity bring. This would, I sanguinely hope, force dispensationalists to reevaluate ALL their formulations and put together a real system which could be converted into a comprehensive worldview!

Anyway, I don't see these rules as antagonistic to the pursuit of more accuracy in our theologies.

God bless you and yours,

Paul H

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Caleb S's picture

Since the bash is against Covenant theology here in its various covenants, I thought that it would be a good idea to apply the same standard used to critique covenant theology to dispensational distinctives. I have to wonder at what level one would categorize the belief "that one should interpret the Bible with a dispensational literal method". Is this directly derived from an explicit text? Is this more removed? Is this just a "rationalizing," making human assumptions determinative of what the text can and cannot say?

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
I have to wonder at what level one would categorize the belief "that one should interpret the Bible with a dispensational literal method".
It is assumed in the very nature of communication. Without this assumption, it is impossible to communicate at all.

Paul Henebury's picture

Caleb S wrote:
Since the bash is against Covenant theology here in its various covenants, I thought that it would be a good idea to apply the same standard used to critique covenant theology to dispensational distinctives. I have to wonder at what level one would categorize the belief "that one should interpret the Bible with a dispensational literal method". Is this directly derived from an explicit text? Is this more removed? Is this just a "rationalizing," making human assumptions determinative of what the text can and cannot say?

Caleb, I'm not bothered about defending dispensationalism here and I did not say the words you put in my mouth. A New Covenant Theology adherent could have written this. If you wish to engage the material itself, do so. Prove me wrong. Dig up better references in Scripture to the covenants of work and grace and pass them through the Grid. Do the same for tongues or the Sabbath or any other doctrine you wish. But don't simply make a baseless assertion without addressing the posts.

This claim to "the assumption of literalness" (whatever that means) is wholly beside the point and strikes me as an evasion. I am measuring "affinity" between the words in a given text and the terminology in a proposition supposed to be based on the text. Read the whole series and I hope this will become clear. You can either accept or reject the importance of what is said in the posts, but at least say something of substance.

God bless you and yours,

Paul H.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Caleb S's picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
I have to wonder at what level one would categorize the belief "that one should interpret the Bible with a dispensational literal method".
It is assumed in the very nature of communication. Without this assumption, it is impossible to communicate at all.

Then what would you say to a Covenant Theologian that responded back in this way. In the same way that you excluded the dispensational literal method from the categories above, understanding the progress of revelation in terms of the covenant is utterly necessary. Without this assumption, it is impossible to properly understand the relationship between God and His image bearers at all. It is assumed in the very nature of a biblical understanding of "relationship".

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Then what would you say to a Covenant Theologian that responded back in this way.
I would probe as to how he arrived at covenantalism.

Quote:
In the same way that you excluded the dispensational literal method from the categories above, understanding the progress of revelation in terms of the covenant is utterly necessary.
Not really, at least not in the biblical usage of the term covenant. And I think that is one of Paul's points, that the term "covenant" has been arrested from its biblical usage and applied to something else.

Quote:
Without this assumption, it is impossible to properly understand the relationship between God and His image bearers at all. It is assumed in the very nature of a biblical understanding of "relationship".
Relationship is not the same as covenant. But the "biblical understanding of 'relationship'" depends on the normal usage of language, which is my point above. If you don't use language in the way that dispensationalism argues for, then you don't have any grounds on which to establish the "biblical understanding of 'relationship.'" We don't know what the Bible even says apart from the normal use of the words in it.

But I don't want to get too far afield here from the topic itself, which seems to be that doctrines need to be closely derived from the text of Scripture rather than from a grid laid down on it.

Paul Henebury's picture

Caleb, you assert:

Quote:
Then what would you say to a Covenant Theologian that responded back in this way. In the same way that you excluded the dispensational literal method from the categories above, understanding the progress of revelation in terms of the covenant is utterly necessary. Without this assumption, it is impossible to properly understand the relationship between God and His image bearers at all. It is assumed in the very nature of a biblical understanding of "relationship".

I by-pass this sample of theology-by-assertion and ask you to set forth the relevant texts you would use to prove these propositions. Then we can see how your view squares with those proof-texts.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Caleb S's picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
Then what would you say to a Covenant Theologian that responded back in this way.
I would probe as to how he arrived at covenantalism.
But now you are probing in violation of your own principles: namely, excluding your assumptions regarding language from investigation. He is doing the same; you are just applying a different standard for him than you apply for yourself. You want him to support himself biblically, while you say that a literal hermeneutic gives us what the Bible says. But he wants you to support your hermeneutic from Scripture, and he will probe as such.

Quote:
Quote:
In the same way that you excluded the dispensational literal method from the categories above, understanding the progress of revelation in terms of the covenant is utterly necessary.
Not really, at least not in the biblical usage of the term covenant. And I think that is one of Paul's points, that the term "covenant" has been arrested from its biblical usage and applied to something else.
Again, double standard. He could state the "literal" has been arrested from is correct biblical understanding. And that is one of Paul's points. If his point does not apply to "literalness", then his point does not apply to his presuppositional use of "covenant" either.

Quote:
Quote:
Without this assumption, it is impossible to properly understand the relationship between God and His image bearers at all. It is assumed in the very nature of a biblical understanding of "relationship".
Relationship is not the same as covenant. But the "biblical understanding of 'relationship'" depends on the normal usage of language, which is my point above. If you don't use language in the way that dispensationalism argues for, then you don't have any grounds on which to establish the "biblical understanding of 'relationship.'" We don't know what the Bible even says apart from the normal use of the words in it.

But I don't want to get too far afield here from the topic itself, which seems to be that doctrines need to be closely derived from the text of Scripture rather than from a grid laid down on it.

[/quote]Interesting! And he would respond that one cannot understand language (and consequently "literalness") without a covenantal view of relationship. After all, one's understanding of the nature of language is dependent upon God's creation of man with a capacity to communicate and understand. This "relationship" thus determines the nature of language. So if you don't see covenantal relationship in the way that covenantal theology argues for, then you don't have any grounds on which to establish the "biblical understanding of 'literal.'" We don't know what the Bible even says apart from a covenantal understanding of the words in it.

The point here, and I hope that I'm making it, is that the rules do not adequately take into account the issue of presuppositions. The rules simply function off of an assumed dispensational hermeneutic, and so covenant theology looks odd. But if the presuppositions are taken into account, as they should, as determining the method and rules, then it becomes a little more clear of how the rules, given in the first installment, can very easily beg certain key questions. Namely, literalness; while employing a double standard against covenant presupposition(s).

Caleb S's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
Caleb, you assert:
Quote:
Then what would you say to a Covenant Theologian that responded back in this way. In the same way that you excluded the dispensational literal method from the categories above, understanding the progress of revelation in terms of the covenant is utterly necessary. Without this assumption, it is impossible to properly understand the relationship between God and His image bearers at all. It is assumed in the very nature of a biblical understanding of "relationship".

I by-pass this sample of theology-by-assertion and ask you to set forth the relevant texts you would use to prove these propositions. Then we can see how your view squares with those proof-texts.


This is ignoring the point. So, again it is asked, what explicit Biblical passage states the dispensational view of literalness? If "literalness" is exempt from the rules, then why can't "the covenant" be exempt?

Caleb S's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
Caleb S wrote:
Since the bash is against Covenant theology here in its various covenants, I thought that it would be a good idea to apply the same standard used to critique covenant theology to dispensational distinctives. I have to wonder at what level one would categorize the belief "that one should interpret the Bible with a dispensational literal method". Is this directly derived from an explicit text? Is this more removed? Is this just a "rationalizing," making human assumptions determinative of what the text can and cannot say?

Caleb, I'm not bothered about defending dispensationalism here and I did not say the words you put in my mouth. A New Covenant Theology adherent could have written this. If you wish to engage the material itself, do so. Prove me wrong. Dig up better references in Scripture to the covenants of work and grace and pass them through the Grid. Do the same for tongues or the Sabbath or any other doctrine you wish. But don't simply make a baseless assertion without addressing the posts.

This claim to "the assumption of literalness" (whatever that means) is wholly beside the point and strikes me as an evasion. I am measuring "affinity" between the words in a given text and the terminology in a proposition supposed to be based on the text. Read the whole series and I hope this will become clear. You can either accept or reject the importance of what is said in the posts, but at least say something of substance.

God bless you and yours,

Paul H.


I'm sorry, I just noticed this post. I'm unsure of the words of which you speak; I really did not try putting words in your mouth. All that I'm doing is trying to apply your methods to one of the dispensational sine qua nons. And, as has been stated now, this is to try and point out that methods have a basis upon which they are founded and given meaning. Methods have presuppositions guiding them and how they are applied. My point is that "methods" need to take into account the assumptions behind them. Also, an entirely inductive method is impossible, for one is always employing presupposition(s).

Paul Henebury's picture

Caleb,

Do me a favor and go back and read the posts. I say nothing about "literalness" not "the dispensational view" of it. I say nothing about "dispensational sine qua nons, and I do not assume them. I speak about "affinity." If you know what the word means and how I am using it you have no excuse for changing the subject. Therefore, you do not have a point. You just don't like the fact (or so it seems) that the theological covenants of grace and works are C4's and C5's on the Grid.

Sometimes I have to ask myself if animosity towards dispensationalism forces some folks to argue by evasion instead of by Scripture. That, of course, is to commit the genetic fallacy. It should not surprise you that I would reject the theological covenants if they are C4's and C5's and I will only formulate from C1's and C2's with reference to C3's. If you prefer to formulate using C4's and C5's then have a ball. These rules simply inform you of what you are doing.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Caleb S's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
Caleb,

Do me a favor and go back and read the posts. I say nothing about "literalness" not "the dispensational view" of it. I say nothing about "dispensational sine qua nons, and I do not assume them. I speak about "affinity." If you know what the word means and how I am using it you have no excuse for changing the subject. Therefore, you do not have a point. You just don't like the fact (or so it seems) that the theological covenants of grace and works are C4's and C5's on the Grid.

Sometimes I have to ask myself if animosity towards dispensationalism forces some folks to argue by evasion instead of by Scripture. That, of course, is to commit the genetic fallacy. It should not surprise you that I would reject the theological covenants if they are C4's and C5's and I will only formulate from C1's and C2's with reference to C3's. If you prefer to formulate using C4's and C5's then have a ball. These rules simply inform you of what you are doing.


Was it not you who wrote the following at the end of part 1 of this series?

Quote:
Dispensationalists (who under these rules would really be “Biblical Covenantalists”) who ground their views on literal grammatico-historical interpretation ought not to traffic in C4 or C5 formulations, since these are not linked to the plain sense of Scripture and have to take advantage of a theological hermeneutic at variance with the “dispensational” system.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to apply the rules of affinity to the, and I am quoting, "literal grammatico-historical interpretation" and "plain sense of Scripture". Is this a C1, C2, C3, C4, or C5? Well, I do not see how the prior quote could possibly ever be found explicitly stated in the Bible, so it must not be a C1. I will leave the rest of the application of the standards, established in the first article of this series, to others with less animosity towards dispensationalism. Thanks for the character assassination; all that I'm doing is calling for a double standard not to be employed. And whether or not you, Dr. Henebury, hold to the dispensational sine qua nons was never at issue in my postings. My only issue was to apply the same critique, applied to covenant theology, to dispensational theology. They both make theological statements, so it seems necessary to test both by the method. Again, as quoted below . . .

Quote:
What I call “The Rules of Affinity” are a relatively straightforward device whereby a theological proposition (e.g. that a sinner is justified by faith) is compared with the texts of Scripture by which it is supported to disclose how closely those passages agree with the proposition in question.
If "literal grammatic-historical interpretation" and "plain sense of Scripture" are not theological statements, and thus exempt from testing by those standards, then they are clearly then extra or supra biblical assertions. Thus, they are standards that are now above Scripture, which are guiding and determining the discussion; this would make them presuppositional in nature. If they are theological propositions, then they should be subject to the same standards that are being applied to covenant theology. I am simply wondering what distance those statements are from Scripture. I am wondering what affinity they have with the Biblical text! If "literal grammatic-historical interpretation" and "plain sense of Scripture" are tested for their affinity to Scripture, then where do they fall between the C1 and C5 spectrum?

Personally, I do not care what number and letter you attach to certain covenant theological statements. So what I like and don't like was never at issue: red herring.

Finally, to caricature an argument dealing with keeping people from a double standard into an argument by evasion is to completely misunderstand the argument. I will stand by and watch the arrows destroy that straw man.

And "yes" I went back and reread the previous installments, again.

Paul Henebury's picture

Caleb,

The statement you quoted was a "for example" statement for those who hold to dispensationalism. It wasn't prescriptive for every theology in general. Therefore, it wasn't for you. Clearly, other theologies are free to employ C4's and C5's.

If you wish to pass a hermeneutical position through the rules I think it might be done, but a decent proposal of it must be put forth with biblical support. Why don't you try one for Covenant Theology and one for Dispensational Theology if you can manage it? I would be interested in seeing the results.

But it is the doctrines derived from any given hermeneutics which are really at issue here. And ones hermeneutical presuppositions do not affect the outcome. Though the outcome may show up the degree of rationalizing in ones presuppositions. I don't know why you can't see that. I've given plenty of examples, and others will follow.

You seek to disparage the rules without interacting with them. Therefore, I call your comments an evasion. I am very well aware of presuppositions, but it is the outcome of those presuppositions which these rules of affinity test!

As I said, all the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith bear a close affinity to what the scriptural texts they appeal to actually say! That's worth pondering is it not?

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Ed Vasicek's picture

It is worth pointing out that there are a number of people who end up with positions similar to the dispensational viewpoint but who arrive there apart from merely trying to force a dispensational template upon the Scripture, so we approximate ourselves as "dispensational" or "progressive dispensational" (much like some come to the conclusion of sovereign grace/unconditional election may approximate themselves as Calvinists, even though they do not embrace infant sprinkling).

My article, http://www.midrashkey.com/new-testament-midrashim-papers/fidelity-to-jac... Fidelity to Jacob Theology, summarizes this perspective.

"The Midrash Detective"

Paul Henebury's picture

Well said Ed.

Men like Walter Kaiser and John Sailhamer, and even Francis Schaeffer come to mind. Thanks for the link too Smile

P.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I do think there is a kind of assumption of liternalness in the rules themselves.
Maybe this is what Caleb is struggling with. Part of what always happens in disp. vs. covt. discussions (even in more serious published materials) at this level is that people quickly run out of mutually-understood terms. Language breaks down.

For my part, I would say the rules of affin. have an "assumption of literalness" in the sense that they assume texts have actual meaning in their actual words, phrases, sentences, etc. That is, you have to have some kind of standard by which to measure consistency or implication (a.k.a., affinity) between an assertion and it's supporting text. Can't do that unless you begin with some assumptions about what consistency/implication would look like.

Larry's point, if I understood him rightly, is that the kind of assumption the RoA make (and that dispensationalism in general makes... which is another topic, really) is one we actually see operating in life every day--and one that seems to be necessary for having any understanding of writings of any kind.

So... are the RoA "dispensationalist" rules? No. Do they make some assumptions about how language works and how Scriptural language works? Yes. Does dispensationalism itself share some of those assumptions? Looks to me like they do.
But it might help to discuss the rules separately from disp. itself.

What I've read of covenant theo. shows some shared assumptions with dispensationalism as well (e.g., the Westminster divines argue for the fundamentals of the faith the same way dispensationalists do).
So we can't reason along the lines that dogs have hair, I have hair, therefore I'm a dog.

Paul Henebury's picture

Aaron,

This is a terrific comment. If "literalness" equates to correspondence of wording or something along the lines of your first two paragraphs, I am happy with the idea. Indeed, I can't see how anybody could be unhappy with it! The "Rules" do not judge whether a given theology ought to be believed. They simply demonstrate something of what that belief constitutes in specific situations.

The Rules of Affinity werenot designed to protect Dispensationalism. They are a means of evaluating text-to-proposition. I want my affirmations to be those which I see plainly stated in Scripture, and I want to see where I have sneaked in my own assumptions and called them "biblical" when, perhaps, I need to think again.

You "get it"

Thank you.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Dan Miller's picture

article wrote:
Chantry writes in The Covenants of Works and of Grace:In the entirety of Scripture there are only two divinely instituted arrangements by which man could be blessed: The Covenant of Works for innocent man, the Covenant of Grace for fallen man. Both covenants are referred to in God’s first communication to man after the Fall in Genesis 3. (p. 6)When stood up against our Rules of Affinity, this bold statement receives rather less than a strong endorsement. Indeed, it is contradicted by the explicit (C1-C2) covenant statements in Gen. 8-9; 12-22; Exod. 20-24; Num. 25; Deut. 29-30; Psa. 89; 105; Jer. 31, 33, etc. Yet out of these two covenants arises a whole system of theology, including some of the theological propositions below. The persuasive power of these teachings does not come from the biblical texts they employ.
I wonder how much you are objecting to in Chantry's covenantalism.

Are you saying that men after the fall can be blessed on their own merit?

Paul Henebury's picture

Dan Miller wrote:
article wrote:
Chantry writes in The Covenants of Works and of Grace:In the entirety of Scripture there are only two divinely instituted arrangements by which man could be blessed: The Covenant of Works for innocent man, the Covenant of Grace for fallen man. Both covenants are referred to in God’s first communication to man after the Fall in Genesis 3. (p. 6)When stood up against our Rules of Affinity, this bold statement receives rather less than a strong endorsement. Indeed, it is contradicted by the explicit (C1-C2) covenant statements in Gen. 8-9; 12-22; Exod. 20-24; Num. 25; Deut. 29-30; Psa. 89; 105; Jer. 31, 33, etc. Yet out of these two covenants arises a whole system of theology, including some of the theological propositions below. The persuasive power of these teachings does not come from the biblical texts they employ.
I wonder how much you are objecting to in Chantry's covenantalism.

Are you saying that men after the fall can be blessed on their own merit?

Brother, I confess I don't have the foggiest idea of how you could get your question out of what I said. Surely it is clear that Chantry's assertions about the covenantsof works and grace (as understood by covenant theology), being the "only two divinely instituted arrangements by which man could be blessed" in "the entirety of Scripture" which was under scrutiny?

Perhaps you can elucidate?

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think Dan's reasoning is that if we reject covenant of works and covenant of grace, what other options are there as a basis for post-fall blessing?
Am I close, Dan?

It's a bit removed from the specific affinity question, but an interesting question. I'll take a jab at it. Pretty sure I recall reading in Charles Hodges and others the concepts of common grace vs. special grace. The former doesn't seem to require any covenant at all. It's a unilateral expression of God's goodness.
To me the most singularly odd thing about the covenant theology, when I've interacted with it, has been the apparent (but inconsistent) assumption that nothing happens outside of covenants... and with that, a reading of covenants into settings where nothing even hints of covenant (which brings us back to the affinity topic).

Mt 5:45 ... He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Paul Henebury's picture

I suppose Dan might believe that if a person doesn't accept covenant theology they believe post-lapsarian sinners can be blessed on their own merit. I don't know what that has to do with the RoA. Nor do I find it easy to believe that Dan takes that position.

In Genesis 17 God blesses both Ishmael and Isaac. With Ishmael he does not make a covenant.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Dan Miller's picture

I am not necessarily a covenantalist. But I can agree with them that all (I mean all) blessing comes, in a sense, through the the merit of Christ. God promised Abraham that He would bless all nations through his offspring. That offspring is Jesus; see Galatians 3:16. So I would disagree with what I think you're saying here:

Quote:
In Genesis 17 God blesses both Ishmael and Isaac. With Ishmael he does not make a covenant.
God blesses Ishmael because of the covenant with Abraham.

But that's my view. Let me hear more of what you're saying. Do you hold that Ishmael was blessed on the basis of his own merit? Or without merit? Or what?

Paul Henebury's picture

Hi Dan,

Thanks for some clarification, although again I am still unclear about what your point has to do with the subject of “affinity.” I was merely examining the definitions of the covenants of works and grace with the texts used to support them and finding a rather large gap between text and proposition which has to be filled by human reasoning (rationalizations). Also, Chantry's assertions were not borne up well by the Scripture he employed. But I shall answer your question as well as I can. Please forgive me if I miss something.

You write,

Quote:
I am not necessarily a covenantalist. But I can agree with them that all (I mean all) blessing comes, in a sense, through the the merit of Christ.

And who would disagree with you? One does not need to embrace covenant theology (CT) to affirm this. All dispensational theologies (DT’s), and New Covenant theology (NCT) would believe this while rejecting the theological covenants of covenant theology.

Quote:
God promised Abraham that He would bless all nations through his offspring [correct, Gen. 12:3; 17:4-6 ]. That offspring is Jesus; see Galatians 3:16

It is highly debatable that the context of Genesis 17 refers to Christ. Most commentators think Paul is referring to Gen. 22:18. I tend to think Paul uses the whole Abrahamic narrative, which has both collective (Israel) and singular (Christ) uses, and distinguishes which parts of the Abrahamic covenant he is specifically dealing with. I have dealt with this question in some detail at my blog: [url ]http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/galatians-3-the-land-and-the...

Quote:
So I would disagree with what I think you're saying here:

I must apologize, but I have no idea what you think I am saying in my article  I am measuring affinity between text and proposition.

You then quote me:

Quote:
In Genesis 17 God blesses both Ishmael and Isaac. With Ishmael he does not make a covenant.

And assert:

Quote:
God blesses Ishmael because of the covenant with Abraham.

Well, that is a theological proposition that can be measured against the Rules of Affinity:

Theological Proposition: “God blesses Ishmael because of the covenant with Abraham.”

Text: Gen. 17:18-22 - And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!" 19 But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 "But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year." 22 And when He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

I would say your formulation is a C5 because it not only directly opposes the covenant language of God, but must come to the text stacked with at least two inferences. 1. That because Ishmael is Abraham’s son and is circumcised he must be included in the Abrahamic covenant. 2. That the promise through the covenant of blessing to the nations is the reason God blessed Ishmael. Neither of these inferences has clear warrant from Genesis 17.

Quote:
But that's my view. Let me hear more of what you're saying. Do you hold that Ishmael was blessed on the basis of his own merit? Or without merit? Or what?

Ishmael was blessed due to the intercession of Abraham (Gen. 17:18-20). He was not party to the Abrahamic covenant.

I hope this helps, although I do not want to drift away from the real purpose of the posts.

God bless you and yours,

Paul H.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Dan Miller's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
... again I am still unclear about what your point has to do with the subject of “affinity.”
Right - we'll get to that.
Paul Henebury wrote:
dan wrote:
But I can agree with them that all (I mean all) blessing comes, in a sense, through the the merit of Christ.
And who would disagree with you? One does not need to embrace covenant theology (CT) to affirm this. All dispensational theologies (DT’s), and New Covenant theology (NCT) would believe this while rejecting the theological covenants of covenant theology.
Right, good - that substantially answers my question.
Paul Henebury wrote:
I would say your formulation is a C5 because it not only directly opposes the covenant language of God, but must come to the text stacked with at least two inferences. 1. That because Ishmael is Abraham’s son and is circumcised he must be included in the Abrahamic covenant. 2. That the promise through the covenant of blessing to the nations is the reason God blessed Ishmael. Neither of these inferences has clear warrant from Genesis 17.
As to those inferences:
#1 - I do not assert that Ishmael is included in the Abrahamic covenant - merely that He is blessed by it. You already agreed with that, though.
#2 - That the reason for Ishmael being blessed was the promise to bless the nations. I can agree, if you will, that that might be a C5.

And this brings me back to the topic of your Affinity scheme. I think this discussion reveals 2 weaknesses of the scheme.
But first, let me say what I like about it. I prefer to think in terms of description. So I would tend to think of X teaching as "Reasoned based on Biblically explicit statements," which you might call C3. Or "Believed to be explicitly stated in Scripture," which you would call C1. The benefit of your system is that it would assist the developer of a written personal systematic. With very short additional notation, one could make notations using this Affinity scheme and have an important reference for later use. Whereas with my system, the Scripture-logical pathway to each tenant might be simply forgotten and later overestimated. So I like the scheme, at least as a help.

So on to the weaknesses:

1. While it is useful for thinking about individual statements, it is not good for application to theological systems. For instance, "Covenantalism."
Theological systems are collections of statements that fit together and describe many aspects of a complex whole. The statements of the system vary greatly in their Affinity; some may be C1, some C2, ..., some C5.
I do not think it would be useful to try to apply such a classification scheme to a collection of varied Affinity. No matter the Affinity label you place on the system, each statement will at some point need to be considered alone. If it is part of a "C4" system, one might think of it as C4, though it might actually be C2.

2. coming...

Paul Henebury's picture

Dan,

You have me on tenterhooks! This sort of critique is what I welcome. If we don't agree in the end I want you to know I will not go away without things to think about.

I'm going to see how your view of weaknesses pans out before addressing them, but I would wish to restate the Grid:

The Rules of Affinity

C1 = a doctrinal proposition based on a straightforward quotation of Scripture (e.g. special creation; justification by faith; the deity of Christ; the virgin birth; the inspiration of Scripture; the pervasiveness of sin among the human race; the one salvation through Jesus; the bodily resurrection; the physical return of Christ; heaven and hell, etc.)

C2 = a proposition based on a strong inference from the witness of several C1 passages combined, thus producing an inevitable doctrinal conclusion (e.g. the Trinity; the future kingdom of God on earth; inerrancy of Scripture; believer’s only baptism; men only eldership, etc.) - I would request that you re-read the second post on "Positive Application" to see how this is teased out

C3 = a doctrinal proposition based upon a plausible inference from the shared witness of the cumulative direction of C1 and C2 texts of Scripture (e.g. the pre-trib rapture; baptism by immersion; single or plural elders; seminal headship of Adam, etc.)

N.B. C3 formulations are inferences to the best explanation based on the evidence of various scriptures. As such, they are defeasible. That is, they are open to being overturned if better scriptural arguments for another position can be brought forth.

Because C1 through C3 formulations can be measured against the clear statements of Scripture without the need for inferring one doctrine from another, these are the only “safe” categories from within which to construct a biblically based evangelical theology. This is where you would like to extend formulations within a system to include C4's and C5's?

—————————————————————————————

C4 = a proposition based on a theological inference usually from another doctrine instead of any plain statement of Scripture (e.g. the covenant of grace, based on ideas like “the one people of God” and “the church as the new Israel”)

C5 = a proposition based on a theological inference which itself based on other theological inferences without reference to plain statements of Scripture (e.g. Sunday being “the Christian Sabbath” and replacing the Jewish Sabbath; infant baptism and salvation inferred from inclusion into “the covenant of grace”).

Looking forward to more... Smile

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Dan Miller's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
Because C1 through C3 formulations can be measured against the clear statements of Scripture without the need for inferring one doctrine from another, these are the only “safe” categories from within which to construct a biblically based evangelical theology. This is where you would like to extend formulations within a system to include C4's and C5's?
Was this a question for me? I'm not sure I was clear.

Let's say that there is a theological system called Letterism. It holds A, B, C, D, E, and F. Each of these must be true for Letterism to be true. You analyze each of the statements and say:
A is a C2
B is a C4
C is a C2
D is a C2
E is a C5
F is a C2

What affinity grade would you then give to Letterism as a whole? Average is C2.8, but you could also grade it as the affinity of its worst member, C5.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Dan Miller wrote:

Let's say that there is a theological system called Letterism. It holds A, B, C, D, E, and F. Each of these must be true for Letterism to be true. You analyze each of the statements and say:
A is a C2
B is a C4
C is a C2
D is a C2
E is a C5
F is a C2

What affinity grade would you then give to Letterism as a whole? Average is C2.8, but you could also grade it as the affinity of its worst member, C5.


I can't speak for Paul, but I would contend that Letterism (as a whole) is at best C5, even though statement A of Letterism is much more certain. If E must be true for Letterism to be true, then it's the weakest link in the chain. Break that, and you've broken the whole system. A real chain would only be as strong as its weakest link, and I would think a system that requires all of its parts would work that way, too (meaning E isn't just optional, or something "lightly held," rather than a sine qua non of Letterism).

I might more likely believe a modified form of Letterism, say Progressive Letterism, which includes A, C, D, and F, where the whole system would be of C2 certainty.

As an aside, I would probably argue that the form of fundamentalism represented here on SI comes from the C1s and C2s of the Bible. Those that don't agree with those, generally can't agree with the DS, and so don't join here. All of the most profitable argumentation comes from the various positions on the C3s, C4s, and C5s that we find here. It's not a perfect mapping, especially given the examples in the chart above, but I think it's a pretty good approximation.

Dave Barnhart

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