Westminster Standards: Discerning its Model for Reformed Faith & Life

Comment

Westminster Standards: Discerning its Model for Reformed Faith & Life

Models for Reformed Faith and Life: What is the Reformed faith and what details show evidence of its life?

A. TULIP: Canon’s of Dort: The Canons of Dordt develops the doctrines of ULTIP in this order particularly and give Scriptural proof texts. Later this acronym was changed to TULIP (flower name) to aid memory.

1. Summary

a.       U︰Unconditional election, not based on foreseen faith

b.      L︰Limited atonement for the elect only

c.       T︰Total depravity or mankind, unable to believe

d.      I︰Irresistible grace to the elect

e.       P︰Perseverance unto eternal life

2. Evaluation: I would say that generally speaking, Dort’s TULIP corresponds roughly to sola gratia, salvation by grace alone, the manner of God’s gracious salvation to totally depraved sinners in contrast to an Arminian view of salvation that supposes man has a morally neutral free will to choose what God merely offers him. Thus, TULIP cannot give us the full model for Reformed faith and life.

B. FIVE SOLAS:

 1. Summary: One of the most common ways of expressing the Reformed faith has been the five solas of the Reformation in refuting Roman Catholic errors:

a.      Soli Deo [Trinitatis Dominus] Gloria: The Triune God receives all glory for his works in salvation and judgment, rejecting any glory for mediation by saints or our own good works.  

b.      Sola Christos: Christ alone is mediator, rejecting need for priest to perform mass for salvation by receiving wafer ex opere operato, prayers to Mary & saints.

c.       Sola Gratia: God’s electing grace plans and provides all that we need for salvation from our bondage to sin into eternal life, rejecting any human merit of our own by penance or good works or the merits of the saints on our behalf.

d.      Sola Fide: Justification is by faith alone, receiving the credited righteousness of Christ, rejecting any justification from a combination of faith and works resulting from infused righteousness in baptism.

e.       Sola Scriptura: Our Christian faith and life is founded upon only what the sixty-six books of OT-NT Scriptures teach, which is clear enough for all who are elect to understand (so, Bible translation is needed for all nations) and be saved, rejecting the Latin Vulgate as the preferred translation, the necessity of the Roman Catholic church to interpret the Bible, the other councils, sacred traditions and creeds of the church as having equal authority with Scripture, the need for a lectionary, or the magisterium or pope as have infallible teaching authority.    

2. Uses and Evaluation:

a.       The Five solas are a way of describing the why and the how of God’s salvation of his people, in contrast to the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, developed long after the Reformation. They form a framework or model for the core Reformed Gospel themes we preach today, and some of the marks of a healthy church, and gives us themes to guard Gospel integrity in the church and test professions of faith in individuals.[1] As such, it is a good summary of the types of questions elders should ask candidates for church membership parents of infant baptism candidates and evidence of grace-to-believe baptism candidates.

b.      However, the solas have been defined in various ways by evangelicals (to Reformed believers, sola gratia, “grace alone” means something like TULIP, but to Arminian believers it means that God graciously offers salvation to men who have free will to choose him), so the solas are not explicitly Reformed in their modern uses. Thus, we need the Reformed confessions and catechisms to give us the details of the Reformed faith and life.

c.       By comparing the chapters of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, we can see that the five solas do not cover all the important doctrinal topics or nuance related topics. We confess Sola Scriptura, but believe interpretation is not merely my private understanding; well-recognized Christian authors, pastors, teachers and corporately affirmed creeds and confessions in all ages can help us understand and interpret Scripture.[2] We confess sola fide (faith alone), but nuance that by insisting that saving faith is never without true righteousness in submission to the law of Christ. We confess sola Christos (Christ alone), but nuance that with the clarification that each person of the Trinity works to save his elect people. We confess soli Deo Gloria (all glory to God alone) but recognize biblical teaching that the elect saints are raised and glorified with Christ to share in his inheritance and receive honor and emulation for their godliness on earth.

d.      The sola themes are actually perspectives on all historical, systematic and practical theology topics: all is accomplished by Christ, all written in Scripture, all requires faith, all reveals God’s grace to the praise of his glory. Also to the traditional five solas we could add four more solas that overlap all the categories: Solus Ecclesia (church alone is Christ’s righteous kingdom of those who believed the Gospel promises in all ages from Adam to the second coming of Christ), Sola Spiritus (Spirit alone applies all of the work of Christ in all ages), Soli Lex Christi (the law of Christ alone, summarized by love, defined by creation ordinances, renewed at Sinai, fulfilled by Christ, applied by the Spirit to God’s elect and fulfilled in the new Jerusalem as the standard for righteousness), and Sola Spes (starting since the fall, the righteous hope for the unopposed reign of the righteous king in his submissive kingdom, and final removal of the unrighteous, suffering and death). These are all themes of likeness to Christ in obedient living in the Christian life that I have coined to help balance out the other solas with a more complete arrangement of biblical doctrines and duties of the Christian life.

Perspectives: Whose Leadership, Whose Tune, Whose Interpretation?

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matt. 11:16-19)

I am jealous for the Lord’s righteousness when I observe how many different tunes, songs and interpretations have overwhelmed and fragmented our seminary instruction and theological books (historical, systematic, practical). In part, this is because we have neglected the wisdom of our Westminster heritage! So many scholars have focused on the minutia of sub-disciplines with much less time considering the importance of their studies for building up believers into the righteous likeness of Christ. So many talents and resources have been expended studying the separate details of each sub-discipline of theological study. From these sub-disciplines we have built mini-models out of fragments, while missing the larger integrating patterns that Westminster uses to link them all together and give them coherence. Biblical counseling has focused on the likeness of Christ and the Gospel, but largely missed Westminster’s larger, portable, meta-narrative of righteousness, which gets my nomination for a “grand unifying theory (GUT) of systematic and pastoral practice”[3] and its essential moral law as the counseling gold standard of Christ’s likeness. The longer I focus on the gift given to the church by the wise men who authored the Westminster Standards, looking at both their contents and their theological methods, while comparing what they wrote with Scripture, the more I see what a unifying and integrated perspective they have provided on Scripture. Their flute, their song, their interpretation of the Son of Man is wisdom justified by her deeds. In my first book,[4] I utilized a Westminster integrative method to link the doctrine of God’s glory revealed in both blessed and cursed faces, to, on, in and by his elect (WCF 2:2). Now, within that same WCF 2:2 pattern, I have discerned another thematic perspective that links the irreducible complexity of the righteous life, expressed by the law of the kingdom, the lex Christi or the law of Christ, with the righteousness of God revealed in the meta-narrative of his kingly dominion. Of course, it is not the only biblical perspective, but when a neglected but significant perspective becomes persuasive again, Reformed seminary teachers, pastors, evangelists, missionaries, preachers and biblical counselors may start to grasp the breadth and relevance of Westminster’s model. My hope is that we can see a new, reviving work of the Spirit’s power that realigns all the theological sub-disciplines of the ministerial education model for the next generation along its integrative meta-narrative. I have more hope that this is possible among Reformed Chinese than anywhere else in the theological world since their culture tends to admire historical Reformed authenticity more than novelty.      

Since Christ and his apostles proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom[5] as the primary meta-narrative structure for their teaching, we can develop our Reformed faith under a variation of this theme. Since the words “kingdom” and “righteousness” or “righteous” are also linked in Scripture, we can augment the theme with the word “righteous”.[6] We will link the additional categories of gospel, historical, systematic and practical theology under a new, synthesized title called the meta-narrative of the righteous king’s dominion (RKD).[7]  To develop the meta-narrative outline, we will consider connections between theological topics that use these or synonymous words. Since the Reformed life is defined in WCF 19:2 by the moral law as “a perfect rule of righteousness,” these topics are linked by searching for the related sets of words “righteous,” “righteousness,” “holy,” “holiness,” “godly,” “godliness,” and the meta-narrative words “gospel” and “kingdom” in the Westminster Standards and Scripture, with particular attention to Romans, which uses the word righteousness 32 times (exceeding all other NT books by 4x’s or more), only exceeded by OT books Isaiah (48x’s) and Psalms (58x’s).

 

Discerning Westminster’s Model

Interdependent morality model: the Moral Law’s Individual Commands Interpret the Other Commands and Join Together with Irreducible Complexity

The irreducible complexity of these commands received together is a test for balanced maturity.

1.       One who claims to love God with all his heart, cannot be double-hearted, friends with the world (Jas. 1:8; 4:1-4).

2.      One who holds the faith of the Lord Jesus cannot be partial to the rich (Jas. 2:1-9).

3.      Faith in God (commands 1-4a) must be shown by good works to men (commands 4b-10) (Jas. 1:25; 2:8-14).

4.      One who claims to love God cannot also hate his brother (1 John 4:20-21).

5.      The love of money is the root of all evil, so coveting is the root of all material greed and idolatry (1 Tim 6:9-10; Eph 5:5; Col 3:5).

6.      Discernment developed: Legalists and pharisees who boast in their doctrine but neglect loving those in need. Social Gospelites who care for the needy without love for God.

7.       Based on this model, we can explore other similar interdependent connections not explicitly mentioned by Westminster.   

 

WLC 99 rules for interpreting the ten commandments shows that individual commandments can be used to interpret and apply other commandments. In order the list the entire set of eight rules as a set, comments related to how other multiple commands interpret each rule are footnoted. 

Q. 99. What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?

A. For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed:

1. That the law is perfect, and bindeth everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin.[8]

2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.[9]

3. That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments.[10]

4. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included.[11]

5. That what God forbids, is at no time to be done; what he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times.[12]

6. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.[13]

7. That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places to endeavour that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.[14]

8. That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them.[15]

 

Extending the Applications of Westminster’s Interdependent Morality Model

1)     1st, 5th & 9th commandment perspectives:

a.       As an epistemological authority over all creatures: Scripture represents the authority of God, the superior to which all other superiors must submit, the norm which evaluates all other norms, condensed into the beauty and harmony of the Ten Commandment, an irreducible complexity representing God as superior of the universe, the Triune Lord, to which all the inferior creatures, their cultures, religions, philosophies, epistemologies, languages, thoughts, affections, wills and practices must submit, either in obedience to reward or disobedience to judgment.

b.      As a relational perspective on all the others, inferiors, equals and superiors all supporting obedience and resistance to disobedience for each person’s places and callings (such as, some married, some single, have various duties to perform and sins to resist, but assist each other in righteous living), in the fear of the one true God, contentedly trusting him for his provision in life, relationships, property, and reputation,[16] not the fear of men, thus boldly critiquing false witness and proclaiming the truth, derived from omni-harmonious reflections. This relational perspective has implications for true friendships whose purpose should be to reinforce new covenant moral-law righteousness in one another and shows the differences between other religions and their views of relationships that are modeled on their relationship to gods or spirits or atheistic humanism or idol worship, with a lack of emphasis or standard for teaching on relationships. Christianity can show its attractive value stems from relational modeling of the Lord to his people, and his people with each other.

2)      That the 2nd and 3rd commandments are the gateways to the Gospel, defining the way God must be worshiped: the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5; 16:26). The full demanded righteousness of the law has been satisfied in Christ’s active righteousness (proven by his resurrection, shattering the curse and bondage of death) and the terror of the law’s curse has been broken by Christ’s passive righteousness (enduring the declared curse of the law on the cross for the propitiation of his elect, meriting forgiveness to all who believe in his substitutionary atonement), so that the helpless sinner need only look in faith to the whole work of Christ, (past, present and promised future), “Lord be merciful to me a sinner” bringing whatever confused or correct legal conviction for unbelief and sin he or she may have, but with no necessary required prior qualifying repentance or preparatory sorrow, and further, than no such convictions have any saving merit. Such repentance (grief, sorrow and separation from sins against the moral law) and vivification (delight in righteous submission to the moral law) shall commence after regeneration to saving faith (Alexander, 2016, pp. citing Ferguson, 2016). We can obey the 6th commandment to put off anger and resentment and forgive those who sin against us because the Lord has shown us saving mercy.

3)      That the 2nd C is a perspective on all the other C’s:

a.     The 2nd commandment’s duties (in addition to proper worship of God) are to view created things, including mankind, as God’s display of his eternal power and divine nature and to be thankful and delight in God by that glory revealed in created things, such that we also use those created things to their full potential to support worship of the true God and human flourishing. We hate all false worship or service to the creature and created things (Rom. 1:20-25). This duty preserves and enriches the duties of the other commandments as they are about created people and things, for example, 5th God’s glory is revealed through godly authorities, equals, inferiors, 6th 8th 10th God’s glory is revealed in his provision for physical life and teaching contentment, 7th God’s glory is revealed in sexually respecting and honoring all people made in his image, taking advantage of none, using no one for personal pleasure, seeking godly marriage to satisfy sexual desires, 9th God’s glory is revealed in valuing and speaking truthfully and honorably about others made in his image.

b.     All visible creation is a reflection of the eternal power and divine nature of God, and God-reflective creation must never be turned into objects for worship, nor commanded to worship itself as his/her idol. (so uttering blasphemies 3rd C. as though it were representing a god, submitting to human philosophies and traditions as idols above the Word of God or a cult leader commanding submission to himself or his principles, 1st -5th- 6th C’s using for selfish advantage, slavery, unjust government, anger and oppression to command others to do our absolute bidding as their god, 4th C: corrupting their God-given orders of time; 7th C: corrupting their conjugal faithfulness) 8th C: prohibiting or removing their right to private property 8th , 9th C: abusing and slandering their good name for our own advancements, 10th C: inciting them to economic slavery by offering them trinkets of the world for their allegiance. Plurality of mature elders as prevention of human idolatry, the little emperor-pastor or ministry leader who gathers worshippers of himself and punishes all who disagree.    

4)     That, What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound according to our integrity to use the Lord’s name properly to witness for the Lord’s Word and works (3rd C), to do so in the fear of God, not the fear of men, thus boldly witnessing to the truth (Matt. 13:21; Rev. 21:8 contra cowardly in face of persecution, as seed on rocky soil). Truthful testimony for the Lord includes speaking to promote each of the commandments in all of our personal and social contexts.

5)     That man’s sin has brought the Lord’s curse on man’s labor, the fruits of the earth and the human body with pain, disasters, deformities, frustrations, sickness and death (Gen 3:16-19), directly introducing chaos into 6th commandment flourishing. The moral law puts a priority on individual priestly-mercy-ministry-apologetic engagement with the ungrateful and evil people of the world, such that the Lord’s people should reflect the 6th commandment merciful kindness of the Lord to the ungrateful and evil, and when they are falsely cursed by persecutors, or hated, abused or mistreated, should bless, do good, pray for them and lend in return (Luke 6:27-36; Rom. 12:14), seeking to overcome evil with good, leaving it the Lord to curse them and take vengeance (Gen 12:3; Rom. 12:17-21). This can include use of law, lawyers, magistrates, police or military to protect or ensure safety in societies that have such protections, even as Paul appealed to Caesar for protection from his Jewish accusers as a Roman citizen (Acts 25-26).  Thus, we could extrapolate that the evangelistic-apologetic task is directed not only to the contradictions of the mind using Scriptural epistemology (didactic doctrinal teaching) and the harmony of the Christian worldview with all reality (as typified in the Christian liberal arts college), but especially toward the will and emotions of the conscience using models of mercy ministries that restore peace among men (medical, family and marriage counseling, pro-life ministries from conception to death, elderly care, sexual integrity support, marketplace ministry training & ethical business, media and academia truth-telling, care-groups), God-felt-glory displaying preaching in Lord’s Day worship and personal and small group use of creative arts that touch the soul (worship, story, illustration, poetry, music, drama, movie clips and songs) either illustrating the veracity of the moral law as the most liberating relationship to the Lord (compared to other religions and gods) and the most harmonious relational reality among men OR showing how relational chaos and tormenting guilt result from rebellion against the moral law, and pointing to Christ as the righteous one who fulfilled the law’s demands for us, applied by the Spirit in saving faith (propitiation and justification; repentance and vivification; glorification). Doing movie discussions, (Turnau & Turnau, 2009) when led by moral-law-mature believers who can briefly compare and contrast the moral law with the movie, may be an excellent approach to evangelism. To engage the psychological professionals or its psychologized counselee-disciples, we need authentic mercy ministries, God-delighting preaching and personal evangelism-apologetics.

6)       7th command as perspective on all others: omni-faithful reflections or unfaithfulness to promises and covenants. Each commandment requires faithfulness, endurance and trustworthiness, but the 7th commandment seem especially concerned to preserve the sanctity and faithfulness of the marriage relationship of one man to one woman in the context of all other available or potentially available sexual immoralities. Adultery breaks trust and potentially shatters the protection normally provided by the other commands, beginning with coveting another person’s sexual satisfaction, false witness to hide the immorality, waste or loss of property or resources on a sexual thief and any children that might result or costs for abortion, potential health problems due to sexually transmitted diseases and in cases of resulting pregnancy, killing an unborn child to hide the sin, destroying the respect due as an authority, and spending wasteful time in sinful pursuits     

7)     4th, 6th, 8th and 10th commandments form mutually reinforcing perspectives on all others: that the command to labor six days, to care for human life, to cultivate stewardship of property and cultural-social flourishing and to be content with our lot has a direct relationship to the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:26-28) and that these and all the other commands have much to do with contentment in, loving and caring for physical, created things, including our own bodies, not only in relationship to loving God and man. The 5th commandment proper duties of superiors include provision of all things necessary for the physical needs of their inferiors’ bodies. The 7th commandment to sexual fidelity to spouse or to chastity as a single has much to do with how physical resources are preserved and prospered, as well as the security and provision for those children born from that fidelity bound couple. Bearing false witness about physical things is also part of the sins against the 9th commandment. The source of all physical and material produce is the Lord, who should be glorified, worshiped, thanked and petitioned for our daily bread and all the things He knows we need and provides so richly (Matt 6:11, 25-34; Phil 4:19-20; 1 Tim. 6:17; Rom. 1:20-21; 1 Tim. 4:3-5)

8)    9th command as perspective on all others:

a.       truthful witness involves knowing the reputation of persons with whom we have dealings. We should require time-tested and trusted testimonial proof of Ten-Commandment-integrity for before entering into relationships, like friendship (Prov. 17:17; 18:24; 27:6, 9-10), engagement to marriage (1 Cor. 7:39), setting apart for church leadership (1 Tim. 3:2-10; 5:22), taking vows, signing contracts or business deals (Prov. 6:1-5; 11:15) with more responsibilities, longer commitments and higher risks if failure happens. We should never make high risk commitments with strangers.

b.       9th C is a perspective on all extra-biblical knowledge, such that science, psychology, news reporting, history writing must be normed by truth-telling about reality, as much as we can certify, and where uncertain, we either remain silent or indicate our uncertainty. We recognize the sociology of prevailing knowledge held by gate-keepers and power-players in any profession or institution will seek to deny, suppress or contradict negative information or alternate theories that discredit their professions or institutions. We integrate witness that is truthful into our larger meta-narrative of righteousness or use apologetic redefinition to make the ideas or words compatible with the biblical worldview, and support truth-tellers and use truth in ways that enhance and promote both tables of righteousness, in other words, so that hearer-readers can receive a benefit because it fits the occasion and gives grace (Eph 4:29; 1 Cor. 13:4-7). All doctrines of men that deny plain biblical teaching about man’s nature, the power of God to change man into the image of Christ (goal/standard) by the Word (method/tool) and Spirit (mysterious, God-directed and timed power that resists scientific replication) in the assembly of the righteous (body life context or various gifts building up each other) are wrong.

9)      10th command as a perspective on all others, omni-sufficient, omni-holy reflections: sinful desire or coveting is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:9; Jam. 4:1-2; 1 John 2:15-16), together with corollary ungodly affections like fear of not having what we sinfully desire or having it taken away, pride at obtaining what we sinfully desire, and every prohibition in each command begins with controlling the desires of the heart (Prov 4:23; Matt. 15:19-21). Holy desire, love and joy in the glory of God and the flourishing of man, and contentment with and thankfulness for our lot, are the roots of all righteousness.

 

 

Supra-morality model:  All biblically relevant teachings for new covenant believers about righteousness (duty) and unrighteousness (sin) can be integrated under various commandments. NOTE WLC 99-150 explicates all the duties defining righteous renewal into the likeness of Christ and all the sins requiring repentance under the Ten Commandment structure.

1.       Significance: The specific details of what needs to change and what needs to be strengthened is reveal to us here. You must know what you are dealing with, what you should comfort or seek reconciliation for being sinned against and what you can encourage as righteous strengths and what you need to confront as unrighteous sins. If they aren’t on this chart, your not dealing with anything very significant, or your counselee has lost focus on what is significant and moved to trivia, vanity. Based on this model, we can explore other similar supra-morality connections not explicitly mentioned by Westminster.     

The exhaustive treatments of the moral law in Christian Ethics by Grudem (2018) and Doctrine of the Christian Life by Frame (2008) point us in the direction of individuals embracing ethical choices lifestyles or rejecting unethical choices and lifestyles. WLC 99-150 takes this same sanctification trajectory, which in summary biblical terms, means showing individual Christians the way to put off sin and put on righteousness, both in the heart, in individual and corporate worship of the Lord and in family and community relationships (Eph. 4:20-6:9), and to assist others in that process according to our location, callings, roles and gifts (Eph. 4:11-16; 5:11, 25-27; 6:4, 18-20; WLC 99:7-8). When careful readers observe the WLC proof texts for the various duties and sins defined under each commandment, they realize that the Westminster Assembly intended to exposit a comprehensive biblical ethic, linking all the heart and behavioral duties and sins of Scripture under the various commandments. This exposition is an excellent foundation for the Christian life! It is also the nature of the renewed reflection of God in man, the goal to which all human change should conform (Eph. 4:24).

In Principles of Conduct, John Murray (1957, pp. 21-26) shows the commands to love God and neighbor are the ways to fulfill or carry into effect the moral law as a motive and active principle, not as a NT substitute for the Ten Commandments. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” means that the law is something other than these two commands. Love is not equal to the whole law, nor does this motive let us experiment and reason our way to what it means to love. Instead, the Lord revealed to Adam what that law was, that law that love was to fulfill, then restated those laws in the Ten Commandments given to Moses.

Lex Christi: the law of Christ, the law of the kingdom, interpreting all Ten Commandments (10): protolex, duolex, trilex, quadralex, quintalex, hexalex, septalex, octolex, nonalex, decalex. These newly coined words are listed by order of commandments using Latin phrases for numerals one to ten combined with “lex” as the word for law.[17]

Specific Development of Each Commandment

Protolex: 1st commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 104-105

DUTY: Whole-hearted love and obedience for God as the only true God, our God, knowing him as he reveals himself, with humility, trust, fear, joy, worship and honor in all our thoughts and choices, showing zeal to please him by doing his will, and sorrow at all sins against him. [in this command, the 1st table of the law includes the Gospel of the new covenant]

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove ignorance, forgetfulness, false opinions, resisting self-love and self-seeking, lukewarmness and deadness, trying to discover God’s unrevealed secrets, heresy, distrust, despair, making men the lords of our faith and conscience, slighting and despising God and his commands, discontent and impatience at his dispensations, ascribing the praise of any good, we either are, have, or can do to fortune, idols, ourselves or any other creature.  

 

Duolex: 2nd commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 108-109

DUTY: All that pertains to biblically defined worship and ordinances must be received, observed and keep pure (fasting & prayer, ministry of the Word, administration of sacraments, oaths and vows, church government and discipline). [in this command, the 1st table of the law includes faith in the Gospel of the new covenant]

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove all false worship, human-devised traditions of worship, visible or mental idols, superstitions, simony, sacrilege, contempt for, hindering of and neglect of true worship.

 

Trilex: 3rd commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 112-113

DUTY: Holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, worship, Word and ordinances and living with integrity as an ambassador of his reputation and glory. [in this command, the 1st table of the law includes faithful witness to the Gospel of the new covenant]

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove all misuse of God’s names, titles, attributes, worship, Word and ordinances, hypocrisy, or the neglect of proper uses of God’s name, reputation and glory.

 

Quadralex: 4th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 116-120

DUTY: Prepare for set apart times established by God in his Word, namely, the Lord’s Day, by resting from our employments and recreations and spent it in worship with works of necessity and mercy. [in this command, the 1st table of the law includes the Gospel of the new covenant]

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove negligence, laziness, weariness in observing, and distractedness, as this command to worship one day in seven through worship, prayer and ministry of the Word, is at the root of reinforcing all other commands.

NOTE: When we consider themes that still need to be developed, we could note that the exposition of the Fourth Commandment only explains the ways to observe the Lord’s Day, but omits the importance of observing six days of labor. This is partially covered in the Eighth Commandment to work to supply our own needs and the needs of those we are responsible for. 

 

Quintalex: 5th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 127-132

DUTY: Delight in, practice and promote the proper relations of superiors, inferiors and equals.

Inferiors to Superiors: honor them from the heart, and with words and behaviors, praying for and giving thanks for them, imitating their virtues and graces, obeying their lawful counsels and commands, submitting to their corrections, allegiance to and defense of their persons and offices, bearing with their infirmities and covering them with love.

Superiors to Inferiors: love, pray for, bless, instruct, counsel, admonish, rewarding those who do well, discouraging and correcting those who do evil, providing for their souls and bodies, and being an example of integrity to preserve the honor due to your authority.

Equals: serve, give honor, praise and thanks to others above yourself

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove all improper relations of superiors, inferiors and equals:

Inferior to Superior: envy and contempt of, cursing, mocking, rebellion against authorities

Superior to Inferior: neglect of duties to, self-seeking by them, unlawful commands, unable to perform, encouraging evil, discouraging good, excessive correction, carelessly exposing them to sin, temptation and danger, provoking them to anger, or giving a bad example. 

Equals: neglect of duties, undervaluing, envying, grieving at advancement of others, putting yourself above others

 

Hexalex: 6th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC  135-136

DUTY: Increasing knowledge and lawful actions (sober use of foods, drinks, medicines, sleep, work and rest) to preserve our own and other’s lives, protection of innocent life by just authorities, humble, patient submission to God’s difficult providences, cheerfulness, thinking the best of others and showing the fruits of the Spirit to them, willing to reconcile and forgive, paying back good for evil, and comforting the distressed. 

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove all thoughts purposes, passions, opportunities, temptations to or practices that lead to unjust taking of life (not including just execution, lawful war or necessary defense), sinful anger, provoking, fighting, hatred, envy, revenge, hitting, wounding, oppression, distracting cares, immoderate use of foods, drinks, medicines, sleep, work and rest.

 

Septalex: 7th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 138-139 about

DUTY: Sexual purity of and protection of affections, mind, words behavior and body, and helping others to this goal, associating with pure examples, dressing modestly, getting married to enjoy sexual pleasure with spouse by living together (if no gift of singleness), and staying busy with six days of labor to avoid idleness and opportunities for immorality.

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, bestiality, and any other unnatural lusts, unclean fantasies, affections, thoughts, purposes or ways of speaking, or listening to or associating with others unclean imaginations or exploits, lustful looking at people, or seductively portraying yourself, immodest dress, prohibiting lawful marriage, unlawful divorce, prostitution, unnecessary vows of singleness, delaying marriage unduly, polygamy, desertion, idleness, use of any sexually seductive entertainment (adult stores, nude bars, pornography or sexually explicit movies). 

 

Octolex: 8th commandment: Here is a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 141-142

DUTY: Protecting of the value and use of each person’s private property, rendering to each what has been promised or what is due: contracts, taxes, making restitution for damage or theft, giving and lending freely according to our ability and other’s needs, moderating our affections, judgments and will towards worldly goods, choosing a calling and faithfully working to supply our own needs and those we are responsible for, frugality, and encouraging others to do the same.

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove, neglect of duties, theft, kidnapping, use of stolen goods, fraud, cheating, bribery, breaking contracts, taking interest from brothers, unnecessary lawsuits and taking on unnecessary debts, oppression, hostile take-overs, inflating prices, coveting, love of the world’s goods, distracted by getting keeping and using them, envy, idleness, wastefulness, gambling.

 

Nonalex: 9th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 144-145

DUTY: Preserve, stand for and promote truth between people, our own and our neighbor’s good reputation, speaking the whole truth clearly and truthfully from the heart in matters of justice and judgment, and having as a positive of a view as possible of our neighbor and rejoicing in any good, gifts, graces and innocence we observe in their reputation. We keep our promises and focus on whatever is true, honest, lovely and of good report. We are ready to receive good reports, while discouraging evil reports, gossip, flattery, slander We sorrow for and cover their infirmities. 

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove all prejudice against the truth and our own and the good name of our neighbors, (especially in courts of law), false evidence, false witnesses, knowingly defending an evil cause, calling evil good, speaking wrongly and suppressing the truth, unjust legal sentencing or discipline based on faulty evidence, breaking contracts, rewarding the wicked, forgery, hiding the truth, undue silence on a just cause, not speaking up for justice or correcting evil, speaking truth without love, with malice or for other sinful purposes, altering the meaning by doubtful and equivocal expressions to prejudice the truth and justice, lying, slander, back biting, gossip, scoffing, reviling, rash or harsh statements, willfully misinterpreting the plain meaning of another person’s motives, words and actions, flattery, boasting, thinking or speaking too highly of ourselves, denying that these are all God’s gifts and graces, making a small matter too big, hiding, excusing, or over-emphasizing others sins, acting like a police-sin inspector to all faults, starting rumors, receiving and accepting evil reports, preventing just defense and truthful speaking, evil suspicion, envy or grief or suppression of another’s deserved credit, rejoicing in their disgrace, contempt for others. 

 

Decalex: 10th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 147-148

DUTY: Full contentment with our own condition and a loving, gracious positive attitude to all that rightfully belongs to our neighbor, wanting him to receive all good that is due him.

SINS: Resist, oppose and remove all discontentment, envy, grief at our neighbor’s prosperity or good.

 

Extending the Applications of Westminster’s Supra-Morality Model

Theological Perspectives on the Commandments as a Whole System

1)     That the moral law is a reflection of the Triune Lord’s righteousness, (doctrine of God) his Triune person fully partaking of all the omni-attributes, working in history to reveal blessed and cursed faces and the derivative reflections in the elect and reprobate. Though it oversimplifies in some measure, we can see how some commands have closer affinities with the specific derivative attributes of God in man, and Yates’ eight derivative attributes have been inserted below in [brackets].

“All the original attributes of God impart specific derivative attributes that make elect believers awaken to the fullness and beauty of the commandments: God’s omni-holiness (gives love for God and man), omniscience (gives knowledge of himself and all the commands), omnipotence (gives power to do all the commands) omni-faithfulness (gives us faithfulness to keep the commands, gives us final resurrection to unchangeable righteousness), omni-historicity (gives us existence within chronological time to obey the law and in then in eternity; shapes our view of time past that he gave the law, present that the moral law is my duty, and future that he will judge law-breakers), omni-harmoniousness (gives us the law to submit for our earthly shalom), omni-sufficiency (gives material, pastoral, and civil-social resources to support obedience to the commands and gives us contentment in keeping all the commands derived from the self-existence of God), and omnipresence (gives us existence in physical space and is with us by the Spirit to apply all his attributes to bless us in fellowship/communion to do the commands with us).” 

“Blessed-Face Applications of the Ten Commandments

“Here is a simple list providing the most obvious logical links between major omni-attributes, their derivative reflections and each commandment (Deut. 5:7-21). There is overlap, such that we could explore all eight omni-attributes’ blessed faces in relation to each command, but only one is selected for representative purposes.

1st “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Omni-holy: proper love and hate defined by the true God. [holiness]

2nd “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or . . . bow down to them or serve them.” Omnipresent: proper worship of the invisible, present LORD [presence]

3rd “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” Omniscient: proper reverence to revealed truth. [knowledge]

4th “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, . . . Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Omni-historical: proper structure of historical memory and routines of time. [theosynchrony]

5th “Honor your father and your mother.” Omni-harmonious: proper relations of authority and submission. [unity]

6th “You shall not murder.” Omnipotent: proper use of power. [rule]

7th “You shall not commit adultery.” Omni-faithful: proper fulfillment of promises. [integrity]

8th “You shall not steal.” Omni-sufficient: proper stewardship of material resources. [provision]

9th “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Omniscient: proper witness of reality. [knowledge]

10th “You shall not covet.” Omni-sufficient: proper contentment. [provision] (Yates, 2017, pp. 105-106)

 

2)    That, the first table of the law (man relationship to God) has parallel commands in the second table (man’s relationship to man) such that each table mutually reinforces the other table. The two tables together form an irreducible complexity, such that one table cannot long be honored in family, church, society or nation without insistence on, proclamation of and maintaining the integral harmony of the other. Or put another way, both tables of the law condemn those who only accept half of it: the religious hypocrite who claims to love God, but is uncaring toward fellow man, and the moral agnostic who serves neighbor but snubs the Creator (Jas. 3:9-10; 1 John 3: 11-12, 15-17) (Dixon, 2016, pp. 41, 125, 164). Love for God (defined by the 1st-4th commandments) establishes the patterns of love for our neighbor (5th-10th commandments). The authorities we should honor (5th commandment, parents, prophets, priests, kings, judges) will honor of the true King (1st commandment) and his kingdom laws (Rom. 2:10; 13:3-4, 7; Phil. 2:29; Rev. 7:12) (Walton, 1987, pp. 215-217). Seven-day cycles of labor and worship-thanksgiving-rest are the Lord’s requirement (4th commandment). By these cycles, God gifts and enables mankind to produce personal goods and services, which shall not be coveted or stolen by authorities or neighbors (Deut. 8:18; 10th & 8th commandments). God’s covenant faithfulness is the pattern for marital faithfulness (Ephesians 5:24-33; 7th commandment). The Lord’s name and reputation must be represented with integrity (3rd commandment) even as we truthfully represent our neighbor’s reputation (9th commandment). Contentment in God and his saving grace brings contentment with relationships and material goods in this world (10th commandment). There are no contradictions between the tables, since God is both loving and all-powerful to permit sins among men and suffering in the world that breaks the second table of the law. The second table of the law is a God-designed reality for human flourishing, such that Christians modeling this type of sub-culture will be light and salt for the society and the nations (Matt. 5:3-20). The second table depends on the first table, such that a family, culture, marketplace, or nation that fears, knows and worships the true Lord has the new covenant transformed heart to keep the second table as well (Prov. 1:7; Heb. 8:10-12). Those ignoring, contradicting and supplanting the second table of the law will usually bring individual, familial, marketplace, socio-cultural and national chaos (Rom. 1:18-32). The second table depends on the first table, such that any family, workplace, culture or nation that seeks to adhere only to the second table as a kind of free-floating morality,[18] while denying and supplanting the first table (atheism, humanism, deism, communism, other false religions), will ultimately suppress and resist the church’s ministry proclaiming the power of Word-Spirit heart-transformative ethics promised in the new covenant for individuals, families, the marketplace, and the socio-cultural-national contexts. These suppressing cultural and national contexts will simply try to establish their own “first table” with something or someone other than the true God as king to be worshipped. In democracy, the people are king, and the moral code is subject to every wind of popular culture vote. In totalitarianism (communism, fascism, socialism, islamism), the dictator or the ruling council is king, and any subject that threatens their absolute authority, either actually or only suspected, is liable to deprivation, torture or death, but still expecting a kind of social morality of the second table among their subjects that they themselves do not model.

3)    That it is the fountainhead of all righteousness, such that its proper exposition will be able to connect the two great commands and specifics of the moral law with all corollary biblical commands that are relevant to the new covenant believers, including principles for meta-theories in epistemology. “Your commandment is exceedingly broad,” (Ps. 119:96). “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts,” (Ps. 119:99). Adapting the realist interpersonal covenant knowing model of Meek (2011, pp. 400-403, 408-409, 411, 417, 425-468), such that reality responds favorably to this kind of etiquette with self-disclosure:

a.     10th commandment: Spirit-Word renewed desires (passive longing, active loving of the law of the Lord Ps. 119:10, 16, 20; 103, 135);

b.     9th Commandment proper witness to self about self: personal qualities relating to self that are required to know (called composure: fidelity to our renewed nature, knowing and being ourselves as righteous before God (Ps. 119:30, 73), knowing and comfortable with our healthy self-differentiated virtue (Ps. 119:21-23, 29, 37, 136), skillfully developing use of our five bodily senses to engage reality and appreciating how body senses confirm correct perception of human flourishing reality (Ps. 119:18, 38), , openness to learn (Ps. 119:26-27), and embracing pain (Ps. 119:50-51, 71, 75-76);

c.      5th commandment, (Scripture represents the authority of God, the superior to which all other superiors must submit, condensed into the beauty and harmony of the Ten Commandment, an irreducible complexity representing God as superior Lord, to which all the nations and all epistemologies must submit; humility to learn from godly superiors, elders who faithfully represent biblical authority and the moral law); 6th commandment (many details of daily-life knowledge acquisition is related to functional living, safety and good health); personal qualities needed to engage or relate to the yet-to-be-known (called comportment or candidacy: a pledge to invest in, care about learning, trust that the investment is worthwhile, responsible submission-obedience to the reality revealed, humility to receive what is revealed, patience to slowly learn, alert to reflections of God in the reality we find);

d.     5th commandment to learn from superiors (Scripture represents the authority of God, the superior to which all other superiors must submit; psychology establishment as misusing their authority, lording their theories over the population, exceeding their rightful authority to heal the body, and claiming to heal all types of mental disorders with a false “gospel”); methods to learn (called strategy: pursue the best means of knowing from the life and words of authoritative guides (Phil. 2:19-23; 4:9), developing foundational  competencies and skilled use of tools to grasp new patterns of reality (God defines all reality, so we reject false religions and gods, and all theories and philosophies that claim independent authority to define reality and truth 1st; using biblical vocabulary to describe God and his world in his terms 3rd; work, proper structure of historical memory, interpretation of history and events in history and routines of time. Proper interpretation of sovereign cause over all effects 4th, living 6th, gender and sexual boundaries 7th, economics and property stewardship 8th, communication and truth-telling, proper witness of reality, using biblical vocabulary to describe what we see. Psychologies are bearing false witness to reality of man, the way of change, the goals and standards for change, denying the existence of God and his definition of man in the fallen world 9th, moderation of desires to learn, without faith in an all-sufficient Creator-Provider, false religions and humanism can only promote lifeless forms of self-control or promote sublimated desires, exchanging one kind of coveting for another, to obtain various kinds of this world’s treasures and pleasures, or trying to avoid its trials and troubles 10th), creative-value-assigning-attention-to the law (Ps. 119:66, 72, 104, 111, 127, 136; 1st-10th), collaboration and active listening (5th), integrate a subsidiary range of knowledge or academic fields looking for unrealized or unexpressed integrative possibilities or interpretations of the reality by the moral law (1st-10th), indwelling the moral knowledge to use as a lens to seeing more patterns, as a connected knower, seeing with fear and delight (Ps. 119:112, 120; 1st) ; and

e.      consummation: (in the likeness of the covenant the Creator established and sustains with all creation, developing new loving, creation-caring, transforming friendships and shalom-healing communions with the constitution of reality—blessing all the created world, including ourselves and other people, to be more fully itself/ourselves/themselves (4th-10th, Ps. 119:63, ), and responsibly voicing or characterizing the Lord’s righteous self-disclosure into the known world (3rd, Ps. 119:54, 62, 64), to a cloud of witnesses that accord interpretive value to our efforts (5th)—that lead us to ultimate conversation-communion with the Lord, knowing and being known, seeking and being sought out, through the “sacramental” eating and drinking of all reality 1st-4th).

4)    That it is the fountainhead of all righteousness (“On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22:37-40; 19:16-21; Luke 10:25-37), such that its proper exposition will be able to connect the two great commands and specifics of the moral law with all corollary biblical commands that are relevant to the new covenant believers, including principles for all practical theology foundations, such as Reformed worship, hermeneutics, administration of sacraments, biblical counseling, family ministry, marketplace ministry for any type of work, apologetics, missions, evangelism, leadership, pastoral ministry, Christian education, preaching, church planting, elder-deacon qualifications see (Biblical Eldership Resources Team, 2018) and Christian journalism. All ministries of the people of God are structured on moral-law-righteousness, how we fit into the meta-narrative of righteousness, the moral-law-righteousness modeling of the variously gifted individuals within a flourishing community of faith, coupled with moral-law-righteousness applied to all practical theology. All abiding New Covenant biblical commands or instructions are contained in seed form in the moral law, such that we can start with any new covenant instruction, and trace it back to a corresponding commandment. Example: ‘humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.’ (1 Pet. 5:6) 4th commandment Lords Day rest requires humility to put away our doing and enjoy being in communion with Christ. As Walton (1987, p. 215) explains that the spirit of the 1st commandment is exposited in Deuteronomy 6-11, this commandment means that we must have God alone as our God, to love him, to submit to all his disciplines without testing or grumbling, and to obey all his commandments, since he is our good and powerful God who orders all things for our good and his glory. No other gods or supposed gods can compare with his mighty hand, make a covenant to elect, save, bless and protect in the way he does, or exalt the humble in due time. Practically speaking, this exposition should be able to root all the biblical practical theology principles and practices developed in the history of the church and in modern day seminary education. Missions-evangelism-preaching will proclaim, nourish and demonstrate a community of moral-law-righteousness and call men before God to account for their unrighteousness. Apologetics will bring every darkened worldview into submission to moral-law-righteousness, the standard to which all nations and people will be called to account.[19] The tenets of the righteousness that pleases God have been defined in their broad contours, so all other sources of integrated knowledge can only serve as applications of this pre-defined righteousness (Rom. 12:1-2). All regenerate engagement of the elect with the world must be processed through and compatible with this new covenant operating system of righteousness. Biblical counselors will model moral-law-righteousness and counsel using applied moral-law-righteousness for the comparative categories that both affirm present maturity and point to areas of needed growth, and teaches counselee to integrate, reform or reject all other forms of knowledge based on conformity to moral-law-righteousness. Similar to the task of a Christian doing psychological research and writing, Christian journalists will understand their task to help readers connected truthful, original, particular stories with man’s moral imagination, universalizing human experience within the grand meta-narrative into which we all fit (Sillars, 2018). Our Christian goals, vision statements, purposes, church-Christian-school- seminary educational objectives, discipleship agendas, must all be shaped by the goals of the moral law to produce lovers of God and man, and haters of sin and evil. Failure to do so will fragment practical theology from its new covenant knowledge of sin leading us to repentance and faith in Christ’s propitiation for the forgiveness of sins, fragment practical theology from its natural faith foundation in Christ’s credited righteousness and fragment practical theology from the Spirit’s promised work to write the law on believers’ hearts. Because of this failure, practical theology, with its various specialty seminary courses, has become abstracted principles and methods with no organizing or integrating core.

5)     Moral conscience and the law: this section is developed from ideas in Stoker (2018, pp. 28-30, 49-50, 120-124, 138-140, 143-146, 270, 315-318, 321-322, 325, 328-333).

a.     That the law is written on the core of the individual conscience of every person and is reflected in the social ethics and laws of the nations. Mankind shows general conformity to the second table of the moral law (4th-10th commandments) in their families and societies, awareness of and behaviors that conform to the moral law and grief over relational and social chaos caused by immoral behaviors.

b.     The depraved conscience operates in relation to any subjective sense of what is my personal evil (any ultimate conviction or moral value about what should not be, what is abnormal, sick and evil in me revealed in my various duties and roles), combined with relative knowledge and values learned from social history, biological personality and choices, that are integrated into the emotionally-felt soul, called “ontical transformation” (Stoker, 2018, p. 140). As such the depraved conscience can be wrong due to God giving them up because they suppress the truth of the moral law written on their hearts, have incorrect moral knowledge, are deceived by erroneous moral values, are defiled, have ignored pangs of true guilt, have numbed themselves by distractions, or have doubts about whether any absolute values exist (Rom. 1:18-32; 2:15; Tit. 1:15-16). A primary bad conscience gives embodied, immediate, authoritative accusations of emotional guilt and disclosure of own’s own real, personal choice to be or do evil (I did what I thought was evil), a warning conscience is stirred when one contemplates or sees self as desiring possible personal evil (I was tempted by what I perceive to be evil), and a good conscience is choosing to seek what I perceive as good, desiring and loving good, giving ourselves in humility and love to what is valuable, and realizing it, though tempted by personal evil (I choose to do good, rather than what I thought was evil). The primary bad conscience makes an emotionally-felt judgment that “I am bad,” (Rom. 2:14-15) usually causing a secondary bad conscience that produces “You are bad” responses of deep inward self-estrangement, self-hatred, isolation, torment, alarm, dread, anxiety, depression, alienation, shame, hiding, remorse, fear of being found out, some forms of mental illness, self-punishment or injury, and anger toward ourselves, or alternately, causing a secondary relieved conscience  because of self-defense, self-deception, or excuse-making to pretend innocence.

c.      Satan, as accuser, seeks to manipulate a bad conscience to bring further chaos and destruction (John 13:27; Acts 1:16-20; Rev. 12:10), or deceive with false guilt or false assurances of self-righteousness (Rom. 9:30-10:3; Phil. 3:4-6; Gal. 5:2-4; 2 Tim. 2:23-26) or to fabricate other superstitions, magic arts or works of religions to placate angry spirits or gods (Rom. 1:20-25; Acts 17:16-31; 19:18-19).

d.     Both our depraved conscience and our actual moral guilt for personal evil requires punishment or forgiveness from transcendent Judge who calls all men to account because the conscience factors in our biological morality and the promise of eternal life or eternal death (Rom. 1:32). By the Spirit working through the Word, after regeneration to saving faith, our consciences can be “indirectly” ontically transformed, influenced by knowledge and love, by learning from and following the examples provided by the best and wisest leaders and integrating knowledge, life-experienced harmony created and maintained by moral values or the grief over relational and social chaos resulting from lack of moral values (Ps. 119:136, 139), moderation of the will and affections to conform to the moral law, causing guilt for what is truly sin, leading to true grief and sorrow for sin that leads to repentance (“those feel guiltiest who are morally best” (Stoker, 2018, p. 145) 2 Cor. 7:10-11; Heb. 5:11-14) and showing us the way of forgiveness through the propitiation of Christ and the way of liberty in obedience. Yet no one can boast for any righteousness, as salvation comes from the Lord (1 Cor 1:29-31; 15:10; Jas. 4:16).

e.      “The world’s greatest preachers [we could add apologists, biblical counselors, story-tellers, journalists, evangelists and worship leaders] have mastered the art of influencing these deeply important human emotions” (Stoker, 2018, p. 112). Thus, the moral law provides a foundation for influencing the conscience, and should be used in all practical theology to give us knowledge of sin and lead us to self-examination, but our most important tasks are to use the moral law to display the active moral righteousness and passive moral-law-curse-bearing righteousness of Christ and call all men, no matter what their ignorant debaucheries or their self-made religious legalisms against the flesh, to look to the whole Christ in saving faith (Pederson, 2016, pp. citing Ferguson, 2016), and to display the moral value of the law’s application to liberating worship of the true God and human flourishing (Ps. 119:165, 175) and conversely expose the religious and human chaos that results from discrediting the value of the moral law (Ps. 119:158), proclaimed by witnesses with modeled integrity of love for God and man. 

6)    The full conformity of the whole man to righteousness includes submission the Lord’s authority over all human thought: (Sola Scriptura and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th commandments substantiate presuppositional apologetics perspective on moral law, because the moral law is binding on all humanity and will be used to judge humanity Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8): Because there is only one true Lord who defines himself as the source and interpreter of all reality, and defines the content, practices and timings of our worship and character of our witness, all our foundational life-orienting thoughts must be analogical to his Word and all other fields of knowledge must be brought into submission to his Word (2 Cor. 10:5). The moral law also critiques all other theories of knowledge (epistemologies), religions and worldviews and knowledge based on conformity to or distortion of the moral law, whether it tends to or can be used in service of true worship of the true God (1st-4a C’s), or tends to or can be used in service of human flourishing (4b-10 C’s).

7)     That man’s sin, meaning moral unrighteousness, lack of conformity to the moral law, has brought the Lord’s curse on all aspects of the moral law. In relation to knowledge of the Lord, Adam’s offspring, born in sin, no longer know Him, their Creator or Redeemer, directly introducing chaos into 1st-4th commandment flourishing. Man’s sin has brought the Lord’s curse on harmony in human relationships, directly introducing chaos into 5th commandment flourishing (Gen. 3:16). Thus, the moral law defines and gives the knowledge of sin, and leads us to Christ for forgiveness, since he bore the law’s curse of death on himself, on behalf of the elect. The moral law is revealed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, proven by his resurrection from the dead. The Spirit’s primary work in the new covenant, and best and more sure evidence of his saving application of the work of Christ, is to write the moral law on our hearts (Heb 10:16; 1 Cor. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 1:5).

8)    Practically speaking, this means that all the trajectories of new covenant obedience and all New Testament commands directing believers to any sort of obedience or any sort of prohibition are founded in the moral law. Essentially, each commandment forbids lusts within the heart and the behaviors that spring from those lusts, together with resistance to acceptance or integration of “all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations.” Thus, because the seventh commandment forbids sexual immorality in the heart or the behavior, it also forbids integration of any worldview, philosophy, religion, that would promote sexual immorality, create a culture of opportunity for sexual freedom, and resistance against all media (graphic arts, literature, movies, poetry, music, theater, website, chat rooms, social media groups) that might incite or promote sexual immorality. Other commandments are relevant in that we are told to resist integration with anything that causes provokes or give the appearance of permitting or encouraging disobedience to it. We must not sinfully provoke or incite others to sin, or support sinful deeds, but instead, should provoke others to express more love and good deeds (Heb.10:24-25; 1 Thess. 5:22; Jude 1:23; Gal. 5:26; Col. 3:21).

9)    The irreducible complexity of the righteous community obeying all the commandments together as witnesses to each other and the world of the Creator-Redeemer designed pattern for human flourishing (John Dixon, A Doubter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments 2016, pp. 42-47): like the capstone case-study of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 showing the attractive qualities of God-fearing wisdom, Romans’ most significant worldview engagement presents models of righteous saints within the righteousness-nourishing community. They will be lovers of God and men (Rom. 12:1-2, 9-10; 13:9-10; 2 Tim. 1:7). They will model social constructivity with an excellent work ethic, using gifts, skills and time to provide life support for their families, pay taxes to government and social mercy for the weak and poor (4b [20], 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th commands; Rom. 6:19; 12:11, 13; 13:6-14). They will model social harmony with a proper honor and submission to various positions of authority, proper respect for equals, and proper use of authority to bless those they serve, and proper witness to the best in others (1st, 5th 9th commands; Rom. 12:3-8, 14-16; 13:1-7; Eph. 5:23-6:9). They will model social integrity in duties, promises, contracts and vows, and speak with integrity about those social relationships (7th 8th 9th 10th commands; Rom. 12:9-12; 13:1-10). They will model social enjoyment by contentment with their own life situations (10th command; Rom. 13:9; 7:7-8; 1:29). The righteous individual participating in the community of the righteous will share the Spirit-confirmed, moral-law in-total, social identity affirmation of being “in Christ Jesus,” “acceptable to God and approved by men” (1st-10th commands; Rom. 14:18; 8:1-16; 5:1-2; Acts 2:47; 5:13; 7:10). The Christian community living with righteous integrity will be the best apologetic witness to the surrounding communities living in darkened worldviews. The witness of peace-loving, moral-law righteousness will put enemies and false accusers to shame and overcome and convert some of them with good (Rom. 12:17-21; 1 Pet. 3:1-16; 1 Cor. 14:24-25).

 

RKD META-NARRATIVE: Law of the Kingdom as an Integrating Perspective on the Righteous King’s Dominion including themes in historical, systematic and practical theology.

1.       Significance:

a.       Saving faith knows God through this story, and we understand ourselves in light of the kingdom of God narrative, from election to creation (what did we lose?), fall (explains why life is difficult, why sin is so destructive and entangling), redemption (what is in process of restoration?) and consummation (what is our hope for eternity?).

b.      Westminster establishes the pattern that many of its categories of historical, systematic and practical theology can be integrated within this meta-narrative structure.

c.       The Lord’s promise to change his elect is joined with the command to yield ourselves and instruments or slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:13, 19; 8:1-4; Heb. 10:16)

d.      Discipleship and all practical theology starts to make sense.

e.       Our biblical counseling model will use two related NT terms that seem to capture the essential meaning, “the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:21) and the synonymous phrase ‘the royal law that gives liberty’ or the ‘law of the kingdom’ (Jas. 1:25; 2:8-12).[21] Notice how the law of the kingdom (Jas. 2:8) functions as an integrating perspective on all the RDK meta-narrative, or in other words, can help explain various parts of historical, systematic and practical theology.

f.        Based on this model, we can explore other similar meta-narrative connections not explicitly mentioned by Westminster.  

 

Historical & Systematic Theology: Scripture Given for Necessary Training & Correction in Righteousness (WCF proof text in 2 Tim. 3:15-17)

WCF 1:6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life[22], is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture:

Historical & Systematic Theology: Election unto Holiness or Righteousness

WCF 3:5 Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory (citing Eph. 1:4 that we are chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless before him  [or righteous])

3:6 As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

Historical & Systematic Theology: Adam’s Original Righteousness Reflects God’s Image in Man

WCF 4:2 “endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it”

Historical & Systematic Theology: Adam’s Falls from Original Righteousness into Unrighteousness

WCF 6:2 By this sin they fell from their original righteousness, and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. (citing Rom. 3:10, “there is no one righteous”)

Historical & Systematic Theology: Redemption for the Elect Accomplished by the Righteous Christ, Propitiation for the Elect by a Righteous Sacrifice Absolves the Righteous Wrath of the Lord Against the Elect, Resurrection-Exaltation as Proof of His Righteousness, Righteous Mediator for the Elect at God’s Right Hand

 

WCF 8:3. The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell; to the end that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, He might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety. Which office He took not unto Himself, but was thereunto called by His Father, who put all power and judgment into His hand, and gave Him commandment to execute the same.

WCF 8:4. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; which that He might discharge, He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it; endured most grievous torments immediately in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body; was crucified, and died, was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day He arose from the dead, with the same body in which He suffered, with which also He ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of His Father, making intercession, and shall return, to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.

WCF 8:5. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.

Practical Theology: Moral Law Defines Righteousness and Discerns Unrighteousness for Repentance

Practical Theology: “You Shall” Aspects of the Moral Law Given in Garden, Restated in more “You Shall Not” Terms at Sinai, is the Rule of the Christian Life

WCF19:1 God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.[23]

WCF 19:2 This law,[24] after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments,[25] and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

Practical Theology: Moral Law for Use in Missions, Apologetics and Evangelism

WCF 19:5 The moral law does forever bind all,[26] as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;[27] and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it.[28] Neither does Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.[29]

Practical Theology: Moral Law for Use in Gospel-Centered, Saving Faith (looking to Christ, united with him by the Spirit, for justification, vivification and repentance WCF 14:2)

WCF 19:6 Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned;[30] yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;[31] discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives;[32] so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin,[33] together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience.[34] It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin:[35] and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.[36] The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof:[37] although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.[38] So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law: and not under grace.[39]

WCF 19:7 Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it;[40] the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requires to be done.[41]

Practical Theology: Moral Law Used in Church Membership and Discipline

And because the powers which God has ordained, and the liberty which Christ has purchased[42] are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God.[43] And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature,[44] or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship,[45] or conversation[46]), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ has established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account,[47] and proceeded against, by the censures of the Church [and by the power of the civil magistrate].[48]  

Systematic Theology: Eschatology: Righteousness as the Standard for Final Judgment, Showing Eternal Wrath to the Unrighteous in Hell and Eternal Love to the Righteous in the New Heavens and New Earth

WCF33:1. God hath appointed a day, wherein He will judge the world, in righteousness, by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.

WCF 33:2. The end of God's appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of His mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of His justice, in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing, which shall come from the presence of the Lord: but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.

 

Extending the Applications of Westminster’s RKD Meta-Narrative Model

The meta-narrative pattern observed in WCF could be expanded using this outline of the righteous king’s dominion (RKD) for the elect.

1.       RKD Revealed: SCRIPTURE: revealed to man in history by special revelation, his holy Word,[49] for training in righteousness,[50] and for interpreting general revelation, leading the saints to saving faith,

2.      RKD Planned: KING & KINGDOM: all glory be given to the righteous Triune Lord revealed in his kingly dominion,[51] the Father who by grace alone decreed the fall while righteously choosing his elect in Christ in union with the Spirit for royal-law-righteousness and justly passing by the rest in their sins,[52]

3.      RKD Founded: RIGHTEOUS KINGDOM FOUNDED-LAW OF CHRIST GIVEN-REBELLION BY  UNRIGHTEOUSNESS: (original righteousness): creating man in his righteous-kingly-dominion image to rule over the earth,[53] writing the royal law of Christ on his heart to receive creation ordinances as perfect rule of righteousness,[54] (original sin): that he disobeyed and fell into bondage to sin, the Lord permitting the fall for the display of his righteousness and condemning sin due to lack of conformity to royal-law-righteousness,[55]

4.      RKD Promised: SHADOWS OF KINGDOM GOSPEL: Gospel proclaimed,[56]

5.      RKD Renewed: LAW OF CHRIST: refreshed the creation ordinances’ perfect rule of righteousness in the royal law[57] and the evident historical inability of all men in Adam to perfect royal law righteousness,[58]

6.      RKD Accomplished: GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM ACCOMPLISHED & APPLIED: fulfilled in Christ’s Gospel ministry, who as King, establishes an eternal kingdom of righteousness by uniting his elect kingdom citizen-priests and ambassadors under his dominion by saving faith[59] 

a.       the Son, as second person of the Trinity, fully God with all the omni-attributes[60]

b.      taking full humanity upon himself, as Christ, filled with the Spirit to fulfill royal-law-righteousness, the law of Christ,[61]

c.       enduring the passion and crucifixion, suffering the wrath and curses of the law as King, for Gospel propitiation on behalf of the moral-law unrighteousness of the elect,[62]

d.      raised and exalted to the Father’s right hand for crediting royal-law righteousness in Gospel justification of the elect by faith,[63]

e.       sending the Righteous Spirit, to convict the elect of unrighteousness unto repentance for forgiveness of sins[64] and to write royal-law righteousness on the sanctified hearts of the elect from among all nations,[65] that they may pursue righteousness as a kingdom of priests,[66] rewarding the righteous,[67] keeping them in saving faith by his providence,[68]

f.        having authority over the elect angels, sending them to serve for the perseverance of the saints all over the world in all ages,[69]

7.       RKD Applied: GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM REALIZED: (RKD vision applied by royal law)

a.       CH Church History shows the promised endurance of God’s righteous kingdom[70]

b.      PT Evangelism, Missions, Apologetics proclaimed and demonstrated by his righteous ambassadors and other assembly ministries,[71]

c.       PT Assembly: worship (his Sabbath days transformed to the Lord’s Day worship[72]) prayer,[73] partaking of righteous signs and seals of the covenant of grace[74] preaching, church government administering church discipline to guard righteousness by his appointed elders,[75] 

d.      PT Biblical Counseling for Marriage and Family: righteous husbands and wives giving birth to and raising righteous children,[76]

e.       PT/Marketplace Ministry (MM) Righteous stewardship in the Cultural Mandate

 

8.      RKD Applied: GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM FINALIZED:

a.       raising the souls of the elect, who die before his second coming, to perfection in righteousness until their bodies are raised,[77]

b.      returning to glorify the elect by conquering the last enemy of death, raising their bodies in perfected moral-law-righteousness, ‘giving them crowns of righteousness,’[78] to dwell forever with the him and the elect angels in the new kingdom-creation of righteousness,[79] and to destroy all other unrighteous rule, power and authority, righteously judging the wicked by turning all his omni-attributes to curse them forever, and delivers the perfectly righteous, moral-law submissive kingdom to the Father.[80]

 

RKD Summary Catechism

Q. 1: Elect believer, what do you believe about the meta-narrative of the righteous king’s dominion (RKD)?

A. 1: That the righteous triune King has graciously given his self-breathed Scripture for establishing his dominion of righteousness on the earth among mankind: to us for revealing his righteous election, and in his time, in us working saving faith by the Spirit, uniting us to Christ, the righteous Savior-Lord-King, to know our unrighteousness unto repentance for forgiveness of our sins by the propitiation of his cross and applying the dominion of his righteousness to us by Christ’s resurrection, credited in justification, written on the heart for daily sanctification, joining us to his righteous assembly to bless us with edifying gifts, and to enduring hope in the finalization of his kingdom by bringing us body and soul into his newly prepared creation, the home of righteousness; to others, by the mystery of his sovereign will, these same means are used to provoke his enemies’ unrighteousness, to blind and harden them unto religious pluralism, laziness, worldly wealth, cares of this world, fear of those who can kill the body, ignorance, superstition, idol worship, false religion, atheism, humanism, national and political pride, hatred and persecution, passing them by and leaving them in their sins, providing for their physical needs, administering temporal judgments, patiently enduring until he finally executes his unrestrained, eternal wrath in his prepared hell. 

 

Scripture is for Training and Correcting in Righteousness

While the Two Great Commandments enjoin us to love God and our neighbors and seek their shalom (Ps. 119:165), the commandments also enjoin hatred of all that God hates and hatred of all that destructs and destroys the shalom of our neighbors and the human community (by self-discipline and repentance, church discipline, and where possible, social-legal-citizen engagement). Various genres of Scripture give support to the moral law’s duties and prohibitions (Biblical Theology perspective on moral law): narrative that approves obedience to it, and condemns and shows consequences for disobedience to it; poetry and songs that praise the law and its faithful followers and heap just condemnations and judgments on the wicked; prophecy that enjoins moral obedience and shows condemnation, captivity and rejection/divorce of the Lord’s people for their perpetual disobedience; Gospels that show Jesus’ reinforcement of the spiritual dimensions of the moral law; apocalyptic that shows eternal rewards and eternal judgment in relation to the moral law and that the moral law is eschatologically fulfilled in the new heaven’s and new earth.  God’s two faces of blessing and cursing are shown in response to man’s obeying or disobeying the moral law.[81] In the New Covenant, the Spirit writes the law on our hearts,[82] and elect disciplers will delight in it, meditate on it, and obey it to the bearing of good fruit, rejecting all counsel (philosophies, education, psychology, sociology, genetics), behaviors (joining the majority culture in lawless excess) or seats of authority (governments, rulers, governors, commissioners, security police, judges) that ignore, belittle, discredit, deny or falsify the moral law.[83] They will model, teach and correct disciples based on these laws which illuminate sin, highlight the need for a Savior, and teach them what to love and hate, what to do, and what is forbidden.

 

The Moral Law is the Foundation of all Practical Theology Ministries

A.     The Westminster Assembly intended to point to the moral law as the framework that can be used to assemble all details of biblically defined righteousness and unrighteousness. In their labors the Reformed church has an excellent starting point for further reflection and development. But that foundational work needs upgraded and refined hermeneutical principles using current theological vocabulary to truly grasp the implications of Westminster’s theological model.   

B.     For example, when we evaluate the titles and contents of typical Master of Divinity practical theology course lists that are intended for training future pastors, we don’t generally see any obvious reliance on the Ten Commandments. In courses like preaching, evangelism, missions, apologetics, biblical counseling or pastoral theology, and the related books used to teach these subjects, there are gaps that neglect the coherence between the righteousness of God, man’s fall into unrighteousness, the perfect human righteousness of the Christ, his propitiation on the cross for human unrighteousness received by faith, his resurrection-exaltation as proof of his righteousness credited by faith, receiving the new covenant gift of the Spirit to write the righteousness of the moral law on the heart through all the various ministries and gifts of the assembly. The outline of usual topics in various modern practical theology courses are as diverse as the operating framework of the teachers and the textbooks they have selected. In conservative Reformed seminaries that uphold the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, these frameworks will generally be biblical, but they lack coherence with other practical theology and systematic theology courses.[84] Noting this fragmentation, some programs have even combined systematic theology with practical theology topics.[85] If all seminary departments chose to follow the Westminster framework, a significant coherence would be restored for seminary students. Practical theology books would start to reapply this coherence. Graduates would be using and transferring a more coherent model in church ministries.          

C.      Grudem (2018, p. loc. 782) develops a brief point about the necessity of the moral law for evangelism: the nations will observe the wisdom and understanding of our moral law and the nearness of our Lord to hear and answer our prayers (Deut. 4:5-7); the use of the 1st commandment to establish the only true Lord of heaven and earth as the self-sufficient Creator, and the 2nd commandment in convicting of sin and calling for repentance in light of the fact that these righteous standards will be used to judge the world on the Last Day through Jesus Christ (Acts 17:16-31; Rom. 1:32).

D.     A way to renew our hermeneutical principles involves careful comparison of WLC commandment categories of duties and sins with a more expansive set of biblical duties, such as the topics of practical theology in a seminary curriculum. 

E.     These insights lead us to develop more explicit links between the moral law as a foundation for all practical theology ministries and re-establishes a neglected link in the literature between topics of systematic theology and practical theology. To move us in the direction of reforming our practical theology teaching and practice, we will start with the ten mandates defined by Yates as a reasonable perspective on meta-practical theology (2017, pp. 166-174) built on and connected to his earlier chapters 3-9 integrating the other major theological topics of the Word and Spirit revealing to us the glorious omni-attributes of Triune Lord derivatively reflected in the righteous humanity of Christ, who declared forgiveness and righteousness on us (propitiated for his elect at the cross, and worked justification by faith-union with Christ’s death and resurrection), and who vivified righteousness in us to fulfill the New Covenant promises to write the moral law on our hearts and who displays that righteous law by us to the nations. 

1.       Assembly ministries, as defined by Yates (2017, pp. 167-168, 171) develops two categories that represent the Lord blessed and cursed faces among the assembled believers (any groups where two or more are assembled in Jesus’ name, whether in family, church, Christian schools, seminaries, para-church, Christian business; Matt. 18:20), one of peacemaking the other of enmity. To each of the following mandates Yates proposes, we can add new covenant righteousness themes and Ten-Commandment-clarifying details, showing that the moral law is the foundation for all assembly ministries. Peacemaking ministries include the Great Assembly Mandate (earthly saints are spiritually raised to New-Jerusalem-centered worship with God, modeled on the moral-law based songs of Scripture (especially Psalms and Revelation), who judges all according to his righteous law, with the Righteous Christ as mediator of the new covenant by his propitiating blood, the righteous angels, and with the spirits of just men who are made perfect according to the righteousness of the moral law; Eph. 2:6; Heb. 12:22-24), the Great Commission Mandate (to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded, summed in saving faith [WCF 14:2] that trusts in Christ alone for justified [moral law declared on us in union with Christ (Jones, 2015)] and sanctified [moral law written in us and shown by us] application of the Two Great Commandments and the moral law; Heb 10:16; Matt. 28:18-20), the Great Reformation Mandate (reforming earthly assemblies to reflect the righteous likeness of the heavenly assembly’s true knowledge of the Triune Lord’s person and work, forgiveness of sins without bitterness or grudges, purity of heart and life, and loving unity; Heb 8:11; 10:17; Matt. 13:43; John 17:21-23), and the Great Discipline Mandate (based on the standards of the moral law, believers practice self-discipline against the old sin nature and church discipline against any unrepentant sinners-their disordered desires and behaviors; Eph. 4:22; Matt. 18:15-19).

2.      Creation ministries, as defined by Yates (2017, pp. 168, 171) develops two categories that represent the Lord blessed and cursed faces among the creatures and created world, one of peacemaking the other of enmity. To each of the following mandates Yates proposes, we can add new covenant righteousness themes and Ten-Commandment-clarifying details, showing that the moral law is the foundation for all creation ministries. Peacemaking ministries include the Great Investment Mandate (believers store up treasures in heaven by investing their lives in works that maintain and promote the glory of God, creation stewardship and human flourishing according to the Two Great Commandments and their details in the moral law. They prepare to bring the glory and wealth of those investments as an offering in the new heaven and renewed earthly kingdom; Matt 6:20; Eccles. 2:4-10; Rev. 21:24; Isa. 60:1-17), the Great Cultural Mandate (because of their knowledge and fear of the Lord, believers repent of creation worship [1st-4th commandments] and exercise stewardship over creation, subduing the earth, having children, enjoying creation as a reflection of God, and repenting of misuse of creation [4th-10th commandments]; Gen. 1:26-28; Acts 20:32-35; Rom. 1:20-25) and the Great Frustration-Mercy Mandate (because man broke all of God’s moral law in Eden (Jones, 2015), now believers have to patiently endure frustration, along with all the creation, and desire to be released from the bondage and curse between man and creation that causes enmity, decay, rust, thorns, pain, groaning, sweat, sin, illness, injury and unpredictability, but also that believers try to mitigate these sorrows with physical works of mercy and comfort because they properly worship the one true God [1st-4th commands] and moderate their use of this world’s gifts, positions and pleasures [4th-10th commands] so they can bless and help the poor and weak; Gen. 3:15-19; 9:2; Rom. 8:20-23; Eccles. 9:11; Matt. 6:19; Jas. 1:27; Matt. 25:34-40; 1 Tim. 5:1-16)

3.      Diaspora ministries, as defined by Yates (2017, pp. 170-173) develops two categories that represent the Lord blessed and cursed faces among the unbelievers, one of peacemaking the other of enmity. To each of the following mandates Yates proposes, we can add new covenant righteousness themes and Ten-Commandment-clarifying details, showing that the moral law is the foundation for all diaspora ministries. Peacemaking ministries include the Great Ambassador Mandate (evangelism that proclaims the new covenant empowered Ten-Commandment-way to love God and seek peace among men in Christ that that the ones chosen to eternal life will believe; Luke 1:50-54; 2:14; 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20; Acts 13:48), the Great Emigration Mandate (sharing in Christ’s sufferings as pilgrims and strangers in the greater Exodus of those who are hated by the world for Ten-Commandment-honoring lives, being delivered from the temptations of this evil age, to obtain the heavenly kingdom; Luke 9:31; Gal. 1:4; Phil. 3:10-11; Heb 11:13-16) and the Great Reformation Mandate (build and reform earthly shadows to conform to heavenly, eternal realities, such as missionary and tent-making mercy ministries to support human labor and social flourishing or earthly peacemaking between nations and people in the shape of heavenly peace [4th-9th Commandments; Rev. 22:2; Matt. 5:9] or to plant churches and teaching institutions that support the proper worship of the true Lord [1st-4th commandments]). Enmity ministry is related to the Great Warfare Mandate (earthly: reflect some ways that God deals with Ten-Commandment-defined sin in the world, exposing it, condemning it, giving men up to their lusts and separating from it in various ways, and preparing for persecution for resisting evil people; Eph. 5:11; Rom. 8:3; 1:24; 1 Pet. 4:1-5; heavenly: spiritual warfare against principalities in heavenly realms by prayer founded on saving faith; WCF 14:2; Eph. 6:10-18).

 

Specific Uses for Developing Practical Theology

Biblical counseling and counselor training are basically applications of saving faith the RKD meta-narrative and the law of the kingdom to specific types of counseling cases. Marriage and parenting are largely focused on establishing clarity and firm faith on the RKD meta-narrative, united to the Righteous Christ by the Righteous Spirit, to live as instruments of righteousness, no longer offering our members as instruments of unrighteousness. Each of the commandments addressed specific issues relevant to family life.

Preaching and pastoral ministry uses the RKD meta-narrative as an interpretive tool to provide a nuanced perspective on textual and intertextual relationships, while looking for ways to textually connect that with the law of the kingdom for daily living. Preacher training and sermon evaluation needs to refocus on the ethics of preacher and the ethical atmosphere engendered by his preaching. Is the sermon bearing authentic witness about the Lord and his work (3rd) and the proper way to worship through faith in the Gospel of the risen Christ (2nd) and about other groups and spreading positive reports (9th), respecting authorities promoting harmony among superiors, inferiors and equals (5th), and helping believers to control emotions and thoughts (6th)? Is the preacher submitted to the supreme authority of the Lord revealed in his Word to evaluate all other sources of knowledge and speaking with faith, awe and joy in Him (1st), content without the affirmation of the listeners (10th) while remaining humbly open to their truthful witness about the impact of the sermon on their lives (9th)? Does the preacher have any anger, bitterness or resentment to the listeners or any others that comes out in his words and facial expressions (6th)?  Does the preacher love the listeners?

Apologetics, Evangelism and Missions is trusting God as revealed in, submitting to and witnessing to and calling other to submit to the RKD meta-narrative in obedience to the law of the kingdom in front of family, proximate neighbors or professionals. We resist worldviews, knowledge and teachings that cannot integrate with this RKD model. Paul’s evangelistic sermon in Athens (Acts 17:22-32) is a reflection on the 1st and 2nd commandments and a call to repent based on the proof of the righteous king’s dominion, his resurrection to the place of all authority and return to judge everyone by his law. The works of the Lord’s blessings and judgments throughout the Bible are based on either the individual’s relationship to the moral law, or a representative leader’s relationship to the moral law. Egypt’s Pharaoh resisted the 1st Commandment to listen to the voice of the Lord through Moses. Canaan’s judgment by the Israeli post-Exodus conquest was for their wicked worship practices of idol worship and child sacrifice (contra 1st, 2nd and 6th commands). Israel’s Babylonian Captivity was for their disobedience to the moral law. The cross of Christ is the judgment of the moral law declared on a representative substitute. Also, the pronouncements of blessing and cursing throughout the Bible represent the Lord’s perspective, and are linked to the moral law, from the Great Cultural Mandate of God blessing Adam and Eve, to the blessing on (Gen. 12:3) and by patriarchs (Gen 49:1-27), to the Deuteronomic blessing-curse pronouncements (Deut. 28-30), Balaam’s blessings (Num. 22-24), Psalms (ie. Ps. 1 as gateway to the Psalms) and Prophets, the four Gospels and the teaching of Christ, and the rest of the New Testament (Acts 8 Peter to Simon the magician; Paul’s curse on the Judaizers in Galatians 1:8-9 represents God’s assessment of their disobedience to the 2nd commandment, circumcision as an idol of false worship, and the 3rd commandment, circumcision as false witness about the Word, works and way of salvation proclaimed by the true Lord; the decisions of the elders acting in unity binding some to the Lord in membership and loosing some to excommunicative discipline parallel the perspective of the Lord’s blessing or cursing Matt. 18:17-19). The Lord will judge the nations using the moral law (Ps. 119:126). As people all over the earth suffer injustice, including Christians who suffer additional persecutions for their adherence to God’s holy law and their proclamation of the New Covenant accomplished in Christ, we wait for the justice and wrath of God to be poured out on his and our enemies (Ps. 1:5; Rom. 1:18-32; Rev. 18:20; 21:8; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Pet. 2:23; 4:1-4, 19; Matt. 5:10-20; 1 Cor. 15:19, 30, 32; Acts 4:16-22). If they will not be converted, we pray that God would “look upon their threats” and intervene with the extension of his kingdom rule as well as his evil-limiting, proud-humiliating, rich-impoverishing, throne-displacing judgments (Psalm 2 as used in the prayer of Acts 4:24-31; Luke 1:51-53; Acts 12:20-23; Dan. 4-5). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” (Heb. 10:31). 

Missions usually gathers seeker interest by caring for the needs of the local people in their contexts, often related to work and material-physical stewardship required by the 4th, 6th 8th and 10th commandments. We can accept and integrate psychological research that enables the human body to flourish or helps us resist diseases (6th) as long as other commandments are also obeyed in applying that knowledge.             


[1] For an interesting integration of the 5 solas with a practical Christian life topic see Bloodlines: Race, the Cross and the Christian by John Piper (how our salvation, especially the 5 points of TULIP Calvinism and the 5 solas ought to affect our views of ethnicity)

[2] See Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity by Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Brazos Press 2016)

[3] Phrase proposed by David Powlison as an important task for the biblical counseling movement in The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context (New Growth Press, 2010) , 281-283.

[4] Timothy Paul Yates, Foundations: God’s Glory as an Integrating Perspective on Reformed Theology (Unveiled Faces Reformed Press, 2017), 21-30.

[5] Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 10:7; Luke 8:1; 9:2, 60; Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31; Heb. 12:28; Jas. 2:5; 2 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 1:9; 12:10

[6] Isa. 9:7; Matt. 5:20; 6:33; 13:43; Rom 14:17

[7] The Scriptures and confessions (WCF 8:1; HC 31-32) show the Christ is anointed to three offices of king, priest and prophet, but this outline selects the predominant office that runs throughout Scripture and expounded in the Gospels as the king ruling over his kingdom (Matt 21:5; 27:11, 29, 37, 42; John 1:49; 12:13-15; 18:33-39) and related phrases used by Christ like the “gospel of the kingdom” and kingship parables (Matt. 18:23-35; 22:1-14; 25:31-46).  

[8] Obedience to every law is required as a total system of righteousness. Breaking one law is breaking them all (Jas. 2:10).

[9] The 10th commandment not to covet but to be content, reaches the understanding will and affections related to all the other commandments. Each commandment has a heart as well as behavioral requirement.

[10] WLC proof-texts show that coveting, greed and love of worldly things is the root of all evils and thus contentment and love for and trust in God is part of each commandment.

[11] Some commandments are positive duty, “Do this . . .”; others are negative sins, “Do not do that . . .”. But the pattern of positive or negative in various commandments are combined into a double pattern “positive duty/negative sin” that applies to all the commandments. 

[12] Some commands are more relevant for the immediate circumstances and life situations, so the total package of commands has a weighting priority upon some commands over others at certain times.

[13] Each command has clusters of duties and sins for the heart, behavior, combined with tendencies of the individual, relationships and circumstances.

[14] The rule is related to how the 5th commandment applies to all the others, in that superiors, equals and inferiors each have influence on others to keep all the other commandments. It also relates to the individual’s circumstances in life, in that some may be married, some may be single, and each has different obligations to the 7th commandment.

[15] This rule also is related to how the 5th commandment applies to all the others, in that superiors, equals and inferiors each have influence on others to keep all the other commandments. It also relates to the individual’s circumstances in life, in that some may be own property and have material possessions, some may not, but each has different obligations to the 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th commandments. 

[16] Schreiner’s explanation of the “Mosaic Covenant” (2013, p. 42) notes that the first commandment can interpret all the others.

[17]All the phrases are Latin forms, except six/hexa is a Greek form due to likely misinterpretation of Latin prefix sex- meaning six, with its possible misidentification with English word “sex” as part of 7th commandment. One purpose of using Latin words is to create new reader-learner associations between the commandments and the moral theology that defines human flourishing and diagnoses dissolution. The Latin terms represent the more complex Westminster-catechisms-based understanding of the biblical-systematic theology of the moral law and its applications to modern day life, since using the name “First Commandment” could be misunderstood as simply meaning the words of the Exodus 20:3 command, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

[18] This term adapted from Keller (2009:148-164).

[19] Sillars (2018), writing about Christian journalism, notes that there are good non-Christian journalism publications that “tell great stories, and have the broad credibility to inform, build community, hold the powerful accountable and foster discussion across cultural and political divides.” Using the moral-law to engaging darkened worldviews of journalism, we can integrate non-Christian knowledge that tells the truth by artfully informing or exposing evil (9th), and builds community and civil discussion (5th). 

[20] 4b means the second part of the 4th command “six days you shall labor, and do all your work” (Exod. 20:9). 4a means the first part of the 4th command to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exod. 20:8).

[21] See Richard Bauckham, James: The Wisdom of James, Disciple of Jesus the Sage, (Routlege 1999), 142-147 for explanation of how James uses the term “royal” to mean “the law of the kingdom of God” (142) and “law” to mean “the law interpreted by Jesus in his preaching of the kingdom” (143) and “liberty” means heart deliverance out of sin’s bondage (Jas. 1:14-15) into renewal by the implanted word of truth (Jas.1:18, 21) to love God and neighbor. James 2:1-5:12 offers an extended exegesis of Leviticus 19:12-18 (Lev. 19:12, 13, 15, 16, 17b, 18a cited or alluded to in Jas. 5:12; 5:4; 2:1 & 9; 4:11; 5:20; 5:9 respectively) including citing the command to love neighbor (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:40) (143). But James also shows that the teaching of Jesus is the authoritative interpretation of the law (cf. Jas. 4:11; 5:9; 5:12 with Matt. 7:1; 7:1-2; 5:33-37 respectively) (145).  

[22] In Scripture and in the WCF the Christian faith is integrally linked to the meta-narrative of original righteousness, fall into unrighteousness, redemption by the righteousness of Christ, application of redemption by the Righteous Spirit, and enabling us to know what is necessary for life as defined by the righteousness of the moral law.

[23] In Principles of Conduct by John Murray (Murray, 1957, pp. 14-19, 25-44, 90, 126) he clarifies WCF by showing that the Lord gave Adam (and Eve) creation ordinances, (what I call the law of Christ) in the Garden of Eden. Murray (1957, pp. 189-194, 201) highlights that Paul calls this the law of Christ (Gal 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:21). To highlight its unique meaning in Pauline theology, this dissertation will use a Latin phrase lex Christi to describe this full biblical, theological, new covenant interpretation of the moral law.[23] Sabbath and labor (4th commandment in Gen. 2:3; 1:26, 28 “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.  . . . Let them have dominion over the [creatures] . . . . Subdue [the earth].”); procreation (6th commandment in Gen. 1:28 “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth”); marriage (7th commandment in Gen. 2:24 “a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh”). We could expand on Murray and further clarify WCF 19:2, related to other implied commands and also note that the language describes Adam as representative king and ruler over the kingdom the Lord created: Authority of the Lord-Creator to be loved above all else, to believe and obey his Word regarding all the commands, (1st commandment); worshiped in his defined ways, to be thankful and bless the Lord for all his good gifts of the Garden, a wife (2nd commandment); truthful witness of Adam and Eve to each other about the Lord’s creation commands; feared as just judge for any disobedience (3rd commandment in in Gen. 1:26, 28; 2:17 “Let them have dominion over the [creatures] . . . . Subdue [the earth]. . . . of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”); authority of Adam over Eve (5th commandment in Gen. 2:20 “a helper fit for him”); stewardship of the Garden and the world (8th commandment in Gen. 1:26, 28; 2:15, 19 “Let them have dominion over the [creatures] . . . . Subdue [the earth]. . . . The Lord God . . . put him in the garden to work it and keep it. . . . And he brought [the creatures] to the man to see what he would call them”); truthful witness of Adam and Eve to each other about their identity as creatures made in God’s image, about Adam as head, Eve as helper in labor and obedience to the Lord; giving appropriate names to the creatures that Eve would learn and naming Eve, all signifying their identity, special characteristics and function (9th commandment in Gen. 1:27; 2:19 “ in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. . . . And he brought [the creatures] to the man to see what he would call them . . . This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man”); contentment by not eating from the forbidden tree (10th commandment in Gen. 1:29; 2:9, 16-17; 3:6 “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. . . . Out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. . . . You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. . . . when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”).

[24] Meaning the law given to Adam in Eden with emphasis on duties, “You shall . . .” (Gen. 1:26-2:24).

[25] Now that same law is given through Moses with emphasis on sins or prohibitions “You shall not . . .”.

[26] Here we should note that the Westminster Assembly holds all men accountable to the moral law, thus we can infer that they understand it as the supreme apologetic tool for engaging worldviews. The universal apologetic usefulness of the moral law to engage worldviews is further developed in WCF 19:6.1-2 below, informing all men, “true believers . . . as well as others,” of their duty to obey the will of God, their sins against God, and their need of Christ as Savior. 

[27] Rom. 13:8-10; Eph. 6:2; 1 John 2:3-4, 7-8

[28] Jas. 2:10-11

[29] Matt. 5:17-19; Jas. 2:8; Rom. 3:31

[30] Rom. 6:14; Gal. 2:16; 3:13; 4:4-5; Acts 13:39; Rom. 8:1

[31] Rom. 7:12, 22, 25; Ps. 119:4-6; Gal. 5:14, 16, 18-23

[32] Rom. 7:7; 3:20

[33] Jas. 1:23-25; Rom. 7:9, 14, 24

[34] Gal. 3:24; Rom. 7:24-25; 8:3-4

[35] Jas. 2:11; Ps. 119:101, 104, 128

[36] Ezra 9:13-14; Ps. 89:30-34

[37] Lev. 26; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 6:2-3; Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:5; Ps. 19:11

[38] Gal. 2:16; Luke 17:10

[39] Rom. 6:12, 14; 1 Pet. 3:8-12; Ps. 34:12-16; Heb. 12:28-29

[40] Gal. 3:21

[41] Ezek. 36:27; Heb. 8:10; Jer. 31:33

[42] A liberty under the law of Christ as the best design for human flourishing 1 Cor. 9:21; Eph. 6:3; 1 Tim. 4:8 (Dixon, 2016, pp. 42-47)

[43] The lawful power of the church is to exercise church discipline on those who disobey the moral law and refuse to repent, including any who resist legitimate powers, which is a sin against the 5th commandment. The separation of church and state in some Western countries and some mental health contexts resist the ordinance of God in forbidding the lawful exercise of Christian counselors, therapists or psychiatrists giving unfettered biblical counsel in military, government-controlled secular institutions, hospitals and mental health clinics. Some places do permit chaplains to serve with a great deal of freedom.

[44] Likely, because of the law written on the human heart, this means socially common laws that affirm the second table of the law Romans 2:14-16 and later references to second table examples of adultery and stealing 2:21-22, with specific reference to 7th commandment such as homosexuality giving up “natural relations” Rom 1:26-27, also 6th commandment malice and murder, 9th commandment such as strife, deceit, gossip, slanderers, since Rom 1:32 is cited in #16 proof text, 8th and 10th commandments such as covetousness, envy, evil, and 5th commandment such as insolent, haughty, boastful, disobedient to parents.

[45] First table of the law 1st-4a commandments

[46] Second table of law 4b-10th commandments

[47] Rom. 1:32; 1 Cor. 5:1, 5, 11, 13; 2 John 1:10-11; 2 Thess. 3:14; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 6:3-5; Tit. 1:10-11, 13; Matt 18:15-17; Rev. 2:2, 14-15; 3:9

[48] This phrase deleted from the American revision, but it might still be maintained if understood that, while not involving itself in internal church discipline, a righteous civil government and police force does protect the church from disruptive protesters, frivolous lawsuits, destruction of property and violence from her enemies. This meaning is part of the American revision of WCF 23: “Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.” Deut. 13:6-11; Rom. 13:3-4; 2 John 1:10-11; Ezra 7:23, 25-28; Rev. 17:12, 16-17; Neh. 13:15, 17, 21-22, 25, 30; 2 Kings 23:5-6, 9, 20-21; 2 Chron. 34:33; 15:12-13, 16; Dan. 3:29; 1 Tim. 2:2; Isa. 49:23; Zech. 13:2-3.

[49] WCF 16:1; Ps. 119:160

[50] 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 5:13

[51] WCF 2:1-2; 15:2; 1 Chron. 29:11; Ps. 72:1-20; 145:11-13; Isa. 9:7; 32:1; Dan. 2:44; 4:1-3; 7:27; Matt. 4:23; 6:33; 9:35; 22:1-14; 24:14; Mark 16:15; Acts 20:25; Rom. 1:1, 9, 15-16; 2:16; 10:16; 11:28; 14:17; 15:16, 19-20; 16:25; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; Gal. 3:8; Rev. 14:6. In The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, Schreiner (2013) develops similar OT-NT biblical theology themes of the king uniting all kingdom citizens into his eternal kingdom. Job 36:3; 37:23; Ps. 7:17; 22:31; 31:1; 33:5; 35:24, 28; 37:6; 45:4, 7; 50:6; 65:5; 89:14; 98:2; 99:4; 103:6; 111:3; 112:9; 119:142; Isa. 5:16; Isa. 9:7; 11:5; 45:23-24; Jer. 9:24; 23:6; John 17:25; Rom. 1:17-18; 3:5, 21-22, 25-26; Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; 2 Pet. 1:1; Rev. 15:4. Righteousness is not a single attribute, but a meta-attribute describing all the Lord’s perfections, shared by each person of the Trinity, with synonyms of holiness, godliness and spiritual Foundations: God’s Glory as an Integrating Perspective on Reformed Theology (Yates, 2017, pp. 96-97), shown in justification as imputation of Christ’s righteousness—all that God requires of believers—because of all that Christ accomplished (Rom. 5:18-19; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18). The terms are interchangeable in describing the saints (Rev. 22:11b). Heavenly glory is described as the hope of righteousness, a summary of the beauty and perfections of the new heavens and new earth, where righteousness dwells (Gal. 5:5; 2 Pet. 3:13). To the praise of his glory: Eph. 1:6, 12, 14.

[52] WCF 5:4, 6; Eph. 1:4; Rom. 9:11-23; Jas. 1:25; 2:8-12. “Royal law” in James 2:8 could be translated “kingdom law” again showing that the law is part the rule of Christ the king over his kingdom.

[53] Gen. 1:26; Acts 17:25-26; Eph. 4:24; WCF 4:2; 6:2

[54] WCF 4:2; 19:1-2; see Principles of Conduct (Murray, 1957, pp. 25-44) for clarifications on creation ordinances of procreation (6th) and marriage (7th), the Sabbath and labor (4th), and expanding on Murray and clarifying WCF 19:2, other implied commands, such as the authority of Adam over Eve (5th), stewardship of the Garden and the world (8th), truthful witness that reinforced the creation commands of God (9th) contentment by not eating from the forbidden tree (10th), and the authority of the Lord-Creator to be loved above all else (1st), worshiped in his defined ways (2nd) and feared as just judge for any disobedience (3rd). In the NT this is called the law of Christ (lex Christi) and the entire outline includes this idea when speaking of righteousness.  

[55] WCF 5:4, 6; 6:1, 6; Isa. 46:12; 48:18; 58:2; 59:14; Rom. 3:5, 10; 9:31; 10:3, 5; Gal. 3:21; Jas. 1:20; 2:8; see online article “Adam Broke Ten Commandments in the Garden” (Jones, 2015) for a perceptive expansion of how Adam broke all Ten Commandments in eating the forbidden fruit.

[56] WCF 7:5-6; 8:6; Gen. 3:15; 12:3; 15:6; Rom. 4:3, 5-6, 9, 11, 13, 22; Gal. 3:6, 8, 21; Heb. 11:1-12:4; Jas. 2:23; Rev. 13:8

[57] WCF 6:6; 15:2; 19:2; Exod. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:1-21; Rom. 7:12

[58] Rom. 9:31; 10:3; 2 Cor. 3:9; Gal. 2:21; Phil 3:9; Tit. 3:5

[59] WCF 8:5, 8; 25:2; Exod. 19:6; 2 Sam. 7:12-13, 16; Ps. 45:6; Isa. 9:7; Jer. 33:15; Dan. 2:44; Luke 1:33; Rom. 1:17; 10:4; 14:17; 2 Cor. 3:9; 5:20; 9:9; Phil. 1:11; 3:20-21; Col. 1:13; Heb. 1:8; Rev. 1:4-8

[60] WCF 8:2; John 1:1; 4:10; 8:24, 58; 14:1; 20:28

[61] WCF 8:2-3; 11:1-2; Ps. 99:4; Isa. 11:1-5; 16:5; 32:1; 42:1-9; 53:11; 59:16-17; 63:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 9:9; Matt. 3:15; 5:17-18; 27:19; John 12:13-15; Acts 3:14; Rom. 5:17-18; Heb. 1:9; 7:2; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:1, 29. He also fulfilled the civil and ceremonial law to point us to the new covenant realities they foreshadowed, WCF 19:3-4.

[62] WCF 8:4-5; Matt. 27: 11, 37; Rom. 3:25-26; Col. 1:20-23; Pet. 3:18

[63] WCF 11:1-2; 14:2; Ps. 106:31; Isa. 53:11; Rom. 3:31-22; 4:3, 5-6, 9, 11, 13, 22; 5:17-21; 8:4; 9:30; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9; 2 Tim. 2:8

[64] WCF 15:1-6; Luke 24:47; John 16:8-10; Acts 2:37-41; 13:10; 17:31; Rom. 8:4, 10; 14:17; 1 Tim. 3:16. Based on connections in the verses in this footnote and the following explanation, though not explicitly used in Scripture, Righteous Spirit, Godly Spirit and Holy Spirit could all be used to describe the third person of the Trinity. “Holy” is not the only biblical adjective used to describe the Spirit. He is also called the “Spirit of the Lord” (Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Sam. 10:6; 16:13), “Spirit of God” (Matt. 12:28), “Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9), “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13), “Spirit of holiness” (Rom. 1:4), “Spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2), “Spirit of adoption” (Rom 8:15), “Spirit of his Son” (Gal. 4:6), “Spirit of wisdom” (Eph. 1:17), “Spirit of grace” (Heb 12:29), “Spirit of glory” (1 Pet. 4:14), and especially note Isaiah 11:2, “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” We conclude that the Spirit can be described by his ambassadorial sending to represent the other persons of the Trinity, and by the various derivative attributes he imparts to men, including the Spirit’s fruits (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 5:9 where some textual variants and the KJV translates as “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness and truth). Thus, we can infer the term “Righteous Spirit” is a biblically derived phrase, synonymous with “Holy Spirit” and use it in this outline to show coherence with the righteous/righteousness theme it expounds.

[65] WCF 11:5; 13:1, 3; 16:2; Rom. 8:4, 10; Heb. 8:10; 10:16

[66] WCF 20:3; Exod. 19:4-6; Ps. 23:3; Jer. 22:3; Hos. 10:12; Zeph. 2:3; Matt. 5:6, 19-20; 6:33; Rom. 6:13, 16, 18-20; 8:10; 14:17; Eph. 4:24; 1 Thess. 2:10; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; Jas. 3:18; 1 Pet. 2:9, 24; 1 John 2:29; 3:7; Rev. 19:8

[67] 1 Sam. 26:23; 1 Kings 8:32; Ps. 85:10-13; 89:16; 106:3; Prov. 8:18-20; 11:4-6, 18-19; 12:28; 14:34; 16:12; 21:21Isa. 32:17; 54:14; 58:8; 60:17; 1 Pet. 3:12

[68] WCF 5:1, 4, 5; 33:3; Isa. 51:5-8; Jer. 18:7-9; Matt. 5:10; Rom. 8:28-30; Heb. 12:5-14; 1 Pet. 3:14; 5:6-10

[69] Heb. 1:13-14; Ps. 37:7; Ps. 91:11-12; Dan. 6:22; Acts 12:7; Matt. 1:20; 2:13; 24:31; Rev. 22:16

[70] Heb 12:1-4; 13:7; Dan. 2:44; Matt 16:18

[71] Here the categories of practical theology can be integrated with the moral law. WCF 14:1-2; 25:2; 26:2; Matt. 21:32; 24:14; Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:8; 20:25; 24:25; Eph. 4:11-16; 2 Pet. 2:5

[72] WCF 21:7-8; Exod. 20:8

[73] WCF 14:1; 21:3-4; Matt. 6:9-13

[74] WCF 14:1; 27:1

[75] WCF 20:4; 30:2-3; Acts 20:28-31; 2 Cor. 6:7

[76] WCF 24:2-3; Mal. 2:15; 1 Cor. 7:14; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 6:4

[77] WCF 32:1; Heb. 12:23

[78] 1 Cor. 15:24-26; Gal. 5:5; 2 Tim. 4:8

[79] WCF 33:2; Dan. 7:18, 22, 27; Matt. 13:43; 25:46; 2 Pet. 3:13

[80] WCF 33:1; Ps. 9:8; 96:13; 98:9; Isa. 10:22; 11:4; 26:9-10; 28:17; 60:12; Acts 17:31; Rom. 1:32; 2:5; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 19:11

[81] Deut. 28-30

[82] Heb. 10:16

[83] Ps. 1:1-3

[84] Based on my observations as a seminary faculty member for twenty years, teaching and studying books in Old and New Testament, preaching, biblical counseling, apologetics, evangelism, missions, my own Westminster Theological Seminary student experience as well as studying other seminary curriculum models to refine our own model in East Asia.

[85] For example, I developed biblical counseling courses called “Counseling Theology” and “Biblical Theology and Counseling.” Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS), in cooperation with Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) developed integrative courses called “Human Personality,” “Dynamics of Biblical Change” “Counseling in the Local Church” and “Counseling and Physiology” that combine various elements of systematic theology with counseling themes. Most practical theology courses will develop some analogical patterns in Christ as our pattern for Christian living.

Comment

Comment

Biblical Taxonomy for Worldview Engagement and Discipleship

I.            Biblical Taxonomy Needed

A.     Charts, rating scales and surveys tend to put too much emphasis on simplistic diagnostic categorizations and labels and may or may not aid counselee growth or help the counselor to counsel. They may tend to unhelpfully give single factor labels the counselee, rather than lovingly engaging the person. How does Scripture “label” people in general or Christians in particular? We accept neutral descriptions of people using outward features (hair or eye color, height, weight, build), but resist impolite or demeaning outward descriptions as a kind of false witness. When it comes to self-introductions or asking questions of new people we meet, we accept neutral descriptions of our primary work or study responsibilities as a major part of our identity, often combined with introductions related to family relationships (married, parent) and geographic origin. For deeper conversations, we may describe ourselves or ask questions related to broad topics like personal views on religion, ethnic or cultural identity, political affiliations or educational background. We also discuss live-temporary or long-term bodily or mental experience as part of identity: tired, excited, surprised, hungry, full, disoriented, confused, sick, aching, cold, hot. These all assume a person gives a truthful testimony about him or herself unless proven false.

B.     Naming is part of the creation mandate, a way of seeing reality and ruling over it in the Lord’s name. This is a work to be done by those in covenant, using translated biblio-lexical taxonomy of reality to do word formation or augment existing vocabulary. “In the Bible a name . . . reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather its essence as God’s gift. . . . To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God. To name a thing, in other words, is to bless God for it and in it.” (Voskamp, 2010, pp. 53, citing Schmemann, 1973:15)

C.      Dooyeweerd’s taxonomy is not biblically derived, but is a reasonable “levels of explanation” taxonomy. Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven proposed fifteen spheres of sovereignty: numerical, mechanical, spatial, physical, biotical, psychical, logical, historical, linguistic, social, aesthetic, juridical, economic, moral, and pistieal (by faith). Each sphere is interdependent, and all are dependent on God’s rule and supremacy interpreting and giving each sphere meaning and co-inherence. However, when one sphere is made ultimate over the others (as in most of the psychological research and written material), when aspects of the creation are selected, reinterpreted and given ultimate meaning, to the point of being idolized, even given salvific meaning, they become alternate gods, idols who rule, explain and determine meanings in the world. The concept of 15 modes of existence, some as subject, some as object (observed by humans): the 15th mode is “pistic”, means seeing a created thing as part of God’s created order, (or to use my term, vertically integrated) (Bartholomew, 2011, p. chapter 1) “Dooyeweerd’s philosophy has three major building blocks: particular entities (a tree) with 15 modal aspects (how entities function) and individuality structures (God’s order for creation). He argues that, as God has ordered the world, every entity functions in all fifteen modal aspects: Arithmetic—Spatial—Kinematic—Physical—Biotic—Sensitive—Logical—Historical—Lingual—Social—Economic—Aesthetic—Juridical—Ethical—Pistic.” Biotic mode means the physical nature of a living object, the linguistic mode means ability to symbolically describe an object with words, the social mode is how it produces or repels social interaction, the aesthetic mode means to notice its beauty or lack thereof, the pistic, means the faith view of a thing as created by God. To fully understand things, all modal aspects need to be understood.

D.     However, in the terms of the previous chapter themes in this book, we have concluded that the pistic modal aspect is the controlling modal aspect over all other modal aspects, not just one among many levels of explanation.

E.     Integrationists already have some meta-taxonomy over all scientific or observational data using the term “control beliefs,” ethical taxonomy of loving God and neighbor, or the historical-redemptive taxonomy of creation, fall, redemption, consummation (Johnson, 2007, p. 96).

F.      Biblical counseling (also called disciple-making) is for those who joyfully desire this good work of shepherding God’s people (1 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 13:17), a process of loving clue-gathering and pattern discernment (derived from other Lordship integration patterns learned in one’s past) that correspond to/integrate with the larger new covenant righteousness meta-narrative. Biblical counseling is an integrative process of learning more about how the Bible reveals patterns about God, and the broken or flourishing patterns in counselees and the world that can be applied in future living and to viewing future reality. In metaphorical terms, we are looking for a kind of glory-matrix, the lines of glory-code that fill all things, a way of seeing reality that observes the details of God’s righteousness (Acts 17:27; Rom. 1:20; 2 Cor. 3:18). We anticipate finding communion with God through transformative relationships with disciples blinded to his glory-likeness who are being re-made in the likeness of his derivative attributes through the Word-Spirit power of a transformed counselor. Trainers of biblical counselors, as authoritative guides, help their students discern, discover and apply biblical sub-patterns within meta-patterns within these four categories below, based on what they have already discovered. BCIT’s use some of their own pattern recognition to gather clues and discern patterns.  

G.     Biblical counselors are limited in their views and make mistakes in analysis and biblical application. As with Job’s friends, their analysis of Job’s life problems was too narrow, they failed to carefully inquire and listen to Job’s self-defense about his righteous heart and life, and thus their use of biblical categories was also mistaken. Christians are prone to misdiagnose, and counselees are harmed in the process.

H.    Biblical counseling must provide its own biblio-lexical taxonomy and includes new word-formation. We need to develop a taxonomy of biblio-lexical forms that ‘take captive’ every kind of vocabulary and worldview. If seeing existing patterns and integrating new patterns is the essential function of knowledge, BCIT need vocabulary and pattern orientation and pattern recognition practicums.

 

II.            bsBIOS installed with a New Covenant Righteousness Operating System 10.4 (ncrOS 10.4)

 

A.     But if we were to do a biblically oriented health check-up or inventory, what should we examine? How would we describe the mixture of body health-weakness and soul maturity-immaturity factors? Obviously, a single label of one factor for either body or soul would misrepresent the person since there are complexities in both human categories. Unfortunately, the biblical counselor might tend to think he or she was only supposed to counsel for spiritual problems, leaving all bodily problems to the doctors and psychiatrists. Though not as doctors with professionally trained medical advice, biblical counsel does include an aspect of new covenant righteousness (ncr) related to the self-disciplines and chaos in use of the physical body as general health knowledge applications of the 6th commandment.

B.     Our OS 10 means lex Christi, the law of Christ as explained by the biblical theology of the Ten Commandments, 4 means four purposes or uses of the moral law.

C.      The elect body- (hardware of basic self-regulating functions) receives a purchased and empowered soul-BIOS (bsBIOS) (basic infancy-childhood-youth personality formation within learned environment and relationships) to run the new covenant righteousness Operating System (ncrOS) installed by saving faith.

D.     New covenant righteousness gives us a worldview for vertical integration or in computer language, an operating system enabling us to create this acronym (ncrOS) to represent it.[1] The tenets of the righteousness that pleases God have been defined in their broad contours, so all other sources of integrated knowledge can only serve as applications of this pre-defined, God-established righteousness (Rom. 12:1-2). All regenerate engagement of the elect with the world, whether diagnosing counselees or psychologies’ worldviews and principles, must be processed through and be compatible with this new covenant operating system of righteousness. ncrOS means the following theological structure. The Westminster Standards theological meta-narrative structure (confirmed by Romans) could briefly be enumerated as

1.       the glory of the Triune Lord’s righteousness[2] in eternity past,

2.      foreknowing the fall while righteously choosing his elect for moral-law-righteousness and justly passing by the rest in their sins,

3.      revealed to man in history by general and special revelation,

4.      permitting the fall for the display of his righteousness and condemning  sin due to lack of conformity to moral-law-righteousness,

5.      giving the moral law to define righteousness and the evident historical inability of all men in Adam to perfect moral law righteousness,

6.      moral-law-righteousness fulfilled by the humanity of Christ,

7.       by his passion and crucifixion suffering the wrath and curses of the law as propitiation for the moral-law unrighteousness of the elect,

8.      raised for crediting moral-law righteousness in justifying the elect,

9.      sending the promised Spirit to write moral-law righteousness on the sanctified hearts of the elect by assembly ministries and angels,

10.   and returning to glorify the elect in perfected moral-law-righteousness to dwell forever with the him and the elect angels in the new creation.

E.     Lex Christi: the law of Christ as revealed in a biblical theology of the Ten Commandments (10): protolex, duolex, trilex, quadralex, quintalex, hexalex, septalex, octolex, nonalex, decalex. These newly coined words are listed by order of commandments and represent the rich, comprehensive biblical theology of each commandment using Latin phrases for numerals one to ten combined with “lex” as the word for law. [3]  If I only wrote “1st commandment” instead of protolex, readers might be less likely to consider the rich biblical theology of the 1st commandment and fail to differentiate that the meaning I am describing is not simple, not just the bare phrase of that commandment:

F.      Within the ncrOS, the moral law (10) is used four (4) purposes:

1.       Integro: meaning useful for restoring, recreating, renewing, indicating that it will build-up in soul-body righteousness in relation to the Lord, Christ’s humanity, man and creation, and affirm present maturity. In new believers this usually starts with the two Great Commandments to love God and love neighbor.

2.      Dissolutio: meaning identifies or diagnoses weakness, brokenness or disintegration, so that the ncrOS will quarantine, remove and protect against unrighteousness in self and others, both behavior and witness, in both assembly and diaspora (1 Tim. 4:1-16; 1 Cor. 5), since such things should be given up to judgment (such as claims that certain behaviors that Christians call sin have a physical or genetic “cause” Rom. 1:26-32; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Cor 6:14-7:1; 2 John 1:10-11; 2 Thess. 3:6-18) and are under the Lord’s curse and will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:21; 1 Cor. 4:5; Jude 1:14-16).[4]

3.      Transeo: meaning cross over or transform, indicating that it will provide filtered integration, transforming knowledge about body, soul or world so that it can cross over into our functional ncrOS (Col. 2-3; Rom. 2:29; Phil. 3:3; Acts 17:22-31); especially for cultural adaptation to the psychologized community in order to bring relevant witness for Christ (1 Cor. 9:17-22), and for better stewardship of the physical body, such as medical research and discoveries (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 9:27), or for provoking us to better study of Scripture to see things we formerly ignored.

4.      Sterilus: meaning useless or unproductive, indicating that it will identify useless knowledge or practices that have no value for righteousness or for daily functioning (Col. 2:20-23; Tit. 3:9).

G.     Also note that these new words don’t mean biblical counselors are sin-inspectors, or that we lack compassion for those in suffering or merely condemn those feeling helpless to change, or that we think change is simple. If that were the case, and we merely wanted to translate the secular manual of disorders into a Christianized form, our Christian manual might be called Diagnostic Severity of Moral Chaos (DSMC), only focused on mankind’s failure to flourish. As most comprehensively developed in Romans, we do not do diagnoses without a manual also defining mankind’s flourishing. We are ambassadors of righteousness, testifying to God’s righteousness in Christ, the blessed ways the Spirit transforms his people in righteousness and his cursed ways he will give up the non-elect unrighteous to temporal and patiently endure for final judgment.

H.    Compared to the earlier attempts of biblical counseling authors approach to integration and critique of psychology (reject, reform, illustrate, catalyst, cobelligerent), this approach has structural similarities in the four goals of law use. However, this model starts with the meta-narrative of righteousness connected to the meta-theology of the moral law as the content foundation to engage in critique-rejection, reform or acceptance, providing a definitive content foundation consonant with the way Scripture engages worldviews. Integrationists with weak views of both the meta-narrative of righteousness and its meta-theology in the moral law will choose topically similar, decontextualized Bible verses for comparison with psychology rather than using meta-systemic comparisons.      

I.       This operating system is useful in several applicational contexts:

1.       analysis of counselor preparation-qualifications and integrity-modeling,

2.      analysis of counselee,

3.      analysis of other people in relationship to the counselor and counselee (families, cultures),

4.      analysis of extra-biblical knowledge influencing any of the above people (psychological worldviews, vocabulary, and theories).


[1] Of course, I could be accused of using “smoke and mirrors” to develop a useless nomenclature that complicates rather than clarifies. WCF 1:8 tells us to translate the Scriptures into the common language, and instead, I’m using more complicated Latin phrases! One purpose is to show that biblical counseling can also develop fancy sounding names that impress the populace with a show of wise and erudite-sounding intelligence to answer the psychologically-foolish community according to its folly (Prov. 26:5). Another is to show that we aim for renewal in righteousness by the comprehensive biblical theology of the moral law and aim to develop understanding of sin against that moral law by the ways it leads to disintegration, weakness and failure. The terms might help point us in better directions by providing words defined with a more complex understanding of the moral law and its applications to modern day life.   

[2] Righteousness is not a single attribute, but a meta-attribute describing all the Lord’s perfections, shared by each person of the Trinity, similar to holiness, godliness and spiritual (Yates, 2017, pp. 96-97), shown in justification as imputation of Christ’s righteousness, all that God requires of believers, because of all that Christ accomplished (Rom. 5:18-19; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18). Heavenly glory is described as the hope of righteousness, a summary of the beauty and perfections of the new heavens and new earth, where righteousness dwells (Gal. 5:5; 2 Pet. 3:13).

[3]All the phrases are Latin forms, except six/hexa is a Greek form due to likely misinterpretation of Latin prefix sex- meaning six, with its possible misidentification with English word “sex” as part of 7th commandment.

[4] This category would include Powlison’s illustrative uses of psychology, mostly in illustrating sinfulness in man, and that all he does apart from faith in Christ is still sin. Co-belligerent uses could also be seen within this category.

Comment

Comment

Reforming Meta-Moral-Law Hermeneutics to Vivify Discipleship

As Paul instructed Timothy to continue in the duties of biblical leadership among the people of God for their edification and Christ-like growth, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” (1 Tim. 1:5). 

 

However, the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 99 principles for interpreting the moral law are not developed enough to show this derivative connectivity to all kinds of practical discipleship. Reforming the moral law hermeneutics of WLC 99 and reinterpreting the moral law in light of those expanded principles will enable the Reformed churches to vivify discipleship in ways that more fully accord with the new covenant promise to write the moral law on the hearts of the elect.

 

The connecting insights above lead us to reform our hermeneutics of the moral law as initially defined by WLC 99 (original eight principles are full sentences highlighted in bold below), developing a larger set of principles for interpreting the moral law that lead us more readily to modern-day practical theology topics. One of the key expansions needed could be called meta-moral-law hermeneutics, meaning, principles for understanding and applying the moral law in-total to various practical theology topics, not just principles for individually interpreting each command. We will also consider how each commandment or related sets of commandments give illuminating perspectives on obedience to the other commands. We need to derive these meta-moral-law hermeneutics from the biblical texts that describe the moral law in-total, giving meta-perspectives on the moral law.

 

Question 99: What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?
Answer: For the right understanding of the Ten Commandments, these rules are to be observed:

Theological Perspectives on the Commandments as a Whole System

1)     That the moral law is a reflection of the Lord’s omni-attributes in derivative reflections in the regenerate believers. Though it oversimplifies in some measure, we can see how some commands have closer affinities with the specific derivative attributes of God in man, and Yates’ eight derivative attributes have been inserted below in [   ].

 

“All the original attributes of God impart specific derivative attributes that make elect believers awaken to the fullness and beauty of the commandments: God’s omni-holiness (gives love for God and man), omniscience (gives knowledge of himself and all the commands), omnipotence (gives power to do all the commands) omni-faithfulness (gives us faithfulness to keep the commands, gives us final resurrection to unchangeable righteousness), omni-historicity (gives us existence within chronological time to obey the law and in then in eternity; shapes our view of time past that he gave the law, present that the moral law is my duty, and future that he will judge law-breakers), omni-harmoniousness (gives us the law to submit for our earthly shalom), omni-sufficiency (gives material, pastoral, and civil-social resources to support obedience to the commands and gives us contentment in keeping all the commands derived from the self-existence of God), and omnipresence (gives us existence in physical space and is with us by the Spirit to apply all his attributes to bless us in fellowship/communion to do the commands with us).”

 

“Blessed-Face Applications of the Ten Commandments

 

Here is a simple list providing the most obvious logical links between major omni-attributes, their derivative reflections and each commandment (Deut. 5:7-21). There is overlap, such that we could explore all eight omni-attributes’ blessed faces in relation to each command, but only one is selected for representative purposes.

1st “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Omni-holy: proper love and hate defined by the true God. [holiness]

2nd “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or . . . bow down to them or serve them.” Omnipresent: proper worship of the invisible, present LORD [presence]

3rd “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” Omniscient: proper reverence to revealed truth. [knowledge]

4th “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, . . . Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Omni-historical: proper structure of historical memory and routines of time. [theosynchrony]

5th “Honor your father and your mother.” Omni-harmonious: proper relations of authority and submission. [unity]

6th “You shall not murder.” Omnipotent: proper use of power. [rule]

7th “You shall not commit adultery.” Omni-faithful: proper fulfillment of promises. [integrity]

8th “You shall not steal.” Omni-sufficient: proper stewardship of material resources. [provision]

9th “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Omniscient: proper witness of reality. [knowledge]

10th “You shall not covet.” Omni-sufficient: proper contentment. [provision] (Yates, Foundations: God’s Glory as an Integrating Perspective on Reformed Theology, 2017, pp. 105-106)

2)    That, the first table of the law (man relationship to God) has parallel commands in the second table (man’s relationship to man) such that each table mutually reinforces the other table. The two tables together form an irreducible complexity, such that one table cannot long be honored in family, church, society or nation without insistence on, proclamation of and maintaining the integral harmony of the other. Love for God (defined by the 1st-4th commandments) establishes the patterns of love for our neighbor (5th-10th commandments). The authorities we should honor (5th commandment) will honor of the true King (1st commandment) and his kingdom laws (Rom. 2:10; 13:3-4, 7; Phil. 2:29; Rev. 7:12). Seven-day cycles of labor and worship-thanksgiving-rest are the Lord’s requirement (4th commandment). By these cycles, God gifts and enables mankind to produce personal goods and services, which shall not be coveted or stolen by authorities or neighbors (Deut. 8:18; 10th & 8th commandments). God’s covenant faithfulness is the pattern for marital faithfulness (Ephesians 5:24-33; 7th commandment). The Lord’s name and reputation must be represented with integrity (3rd commandment) even as we truthfully represent our neighbor’s reputation (9th commandment). Contentment in God and his saving grace brings contentment with relationships and material goods in this world. There are no contradictions between the tables, since God is both loving and all-powerful to permit sins among men and suffering in the world that breaks the second table of the law. The second table of the law is a God-designed reality for human flourishing, such that Christians modeling this type of sub-culture will be light and salt for the society and the nations (Matt. 5:3-20). The second table depends on the first table, such that a family, culture, marketplace, or nation that fears, knows and worships the true Lord has the new covenant transformed heart to keep the second table as well (Prov. 1:7; Heb. 8:10-12). Those ignoring, contradicting and supplanting the second table of the law will usually bring individual, familial, marketplace, socio-cultural and national chaos (Rom. 1:18-32). The second table depends on the first table, such that any family, workplace, culture or nation that seeks to adhere only to the second table as a kind of free-floating morality,[1] while denying and supplanting the first table (atheism, humanism, deism, communism, other false religions), will ultimately suppress and resist the church’s ministry proclaiming the power of Word-Spirit heart-transformative ethics promised in the new covenant for individuals, families, the marketplace, and the socio-cultural-national contexts. These suppressing cultural and national contexts will simply try to establish their own “first table” with something or someone other than the true God as king to be worshipped. In democracy, the people are king, and the moral code is subject to every wind of popular culture vote. In totalitarianism (communism, fascism, socialism, islamism), the dictator or the ruling council is king, and any subject that threatens their absolute authority, either actually or only suspected, is liable to deprivation, torture or death, but still expecting a kind of social morality of the second table among their subjects that they themselves do not model.

3)     The Westminster Standards theological meta-narrative structure (confirmed by Romans) could briefly be enumerated as the glory of the Lord’s righteousness[2] revealed to man in history by general and special revelation, election to moral-law-righteousness, defining the fall and sin as lack of conformity to moral-law-righteousness, moral-law-righteousness fulfilled by the humanity of Christ, showing propitiation as removing the wrath and curse due to moral-law unrighteousness, justification as the crediting of moral-law-righteousness, sanctification as the Spirit uses assembly ministries to accomplish the new covenant promise to write moral-law-righteousness on the heart, and glorification as an eternity of perfected moral-law-righteousness with the Lord and all the saints and angels in the new creation. All ministries of the people of God are structured on moral-law-righteousness, how we fit into the meta-narrative of righteousness, the moral-law-righteousness modeling of the variously gifted individuals within a flourishing community of faith, coupled with moral-law-righteousness applied to all practical theology. Missions-evangelism-preaching will proclaim, nourish and demonstrate a community of moral-law-righteousness and call men before God to account for their unrighteousness. Apologetics will bring every darkened worldview into submission to moral-law-righteousness, the standard to which all nations and people will be called to account.[3] Biblical counselors will model moral-law-righteousness and counsel using applied moral-law-righteousness for the comparative categories that both affirm present maturity and point to areas of needed growth, and teaches counselee to integrate, reform or reject all other forms of knowledge based on conformity to moral-law-righteousness. Similar to the task of a Christian doing psychological research and writing, Christian journalists will understand their task to help readers connected truthful, original, particular stories with man’s moral imagination, universalizing human experience within the grand meta-narrative into which we all fit (Sillars, “the abolition of journalism,” November 10, 2018, World Magazine).      

4)    That the works of the Lord’s blessings and judgments throughout the Bible are based on either the individual’s relationship to the moral law, or a representative leader’s relationship to the moral law. Egypt’s Pharaoh resisted the 1st Commandment to listen to the voice of the Lord through Moses. Canaan’s judgment by the Israeli post-Exodus conquest was for their wicked worship practices of idol worship and child sacrifice (contra 1st, 2nd and 6th commands). Israel’s Babylonian Captivity was for their disobedience to the moral law. The cross of Christ is the judgment of the moral law declared on a representative substitute. Also, the pronouncements of blessing and cursing throughout the Bible represent the Lord’s perspective, and are linked to the moral law, from the Great Cultural Mandate of God blessing Adam and Eve, to the blessing on (Gen. 12:3) and by patriarchs (Gen 49:1-27), to the Deuteronomic blessing-curse pronouncements (Deut. 28-30), Balaam’s blessings (Num. 22-24), Psalms (ie. Ps. 1 as gateway to the Psalms) and Prophets, the four Gospels and the teaching of Christ, and the rest of the New Testament (Acts 8 Peter to Simon the magician; Paul’s curse on the Judaizers in Galatians 1:8-9 represents God’s assessment of their disobedience to the 2nd commandment, circumcision as an idol of false worship, and the 3rd commandment, circumcision as false witness about the Word, works and way of salvation proclaimed by the true Lord; the decisions of the elders acting in unity binding some to the Lord in membership and loosing some to excommunicative discipline parallel the perspective of the Lord’s blessing or cursing Matt. 18:17-19). The Lord will judge the nations using the moral law (Ps. 119:126). As people all over the earth suffer injustice, including Christians who suffer additional persecutions for their adherence to God’s holy law and their proclamation of the New Covenant accomplished in Christ, we wait for the justice and wrath of God to be poured out on his and our enemies (Ps. 1:5; Rom. 1:18-32; Rev. 18:20; 21:8; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Pet. 2:23; 4:1-4, 19; Matt. 5:10-20; 1 Cor. 15:19, 30, 32; Acts 4:16-22). If they will not be converted, we pray that God would “look upon their threats” and intervene with the extension of his kingdom rule as well as his evil-limiting, proud-humiliating, rich-impoverishing, throne-displacing judgments (Psalm 2 as used in the prayer of Acts 4:24-31; Luke 1:51-53; Acts 12:20-23; Dan. 4-5). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” (Heb. 10:31). 

5)     That it is the fountainhead of all righteousness, such that its proper exposition will be able to connect the two great commands and specifics of the moral law with all corollary biblical commands that are relevant to the new covenant believers, including principles for meta-theories in epistemology. “Your commandment is exceedingly broad,” (Ps. 119:96). “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts,” (Ps. 119:99). Adapting the realist interpersonal covenant knowing model of Esther Meek (Loving to Know 2011, pp. 400-403, 408-409, 411, 417, 425-468), such that reality responds favorably to this kind of etiquette with self-disclosure:

a.     10th commandment: Spirit-Word renewed desires (passive longing, active loving of the law of the Lord Ps. 119:10, 16, 20; 103, 135);

b.     9th Commandment proper witness to self about self: personal qualities relating to self that are required to know (called composure: fidelity to our renewed nature, knowing and being ourselves as righteous before God (Ps. 119:30, 73), knowing and comfortable with our healthy self-differentiated virtue (Ps. 119:21-23, 29, 37, 136), skillfully developing use of our five bodily senses to engage reality and appreciating how body senses confirm correct perception of human flourishing reality (Ps. 119:18, 38), , openness to learn (Ps. 119:26-27), and embracing pain (Ps. 119:50-51, 71, 75-76);

c.      5th commandment, (Scripture represents the authority of God, the superior to which all other superiors must submit, condensed into the beauty and harmony of the Ten Commandment, an irreducible complexity representing God as superior Lord, to which all the nations and all epistemologies must submit; humility to learn from godly superiors, elders who faithfully represent biblical authority and the moral law); 6th commandment (many details of daily-life knowledge acquisition is related to functional living, safety and good health); personal qualities needed to engage or relate to the yet-to-be-known (called comportment or candidacy: a pledge to invest in, care about learning, trust that the investment is worthwhile, responsible submission-obedience to the reality revealed, humility to receive what is revealed, patience to slowly learn, alert to reflections of God in the reality we find);

d.     5th commandment to learn from superiors (Scripture represents the authority of God, the superior to which all other superiors must submit; psychology establishment as misusing their authority, lording their theories over the population, exceeding their rightful authority to heal the body, and claiming to heal all types of mental disorders with a false “gospel”); methods to learn (called strategy: pursue the best means of knowing from the life and words of authoritative guides (Phil. 2:19-23; 4:9), developing foundational  competencies and skilled use of tools to grasp new patterns of reality (God defines all reality, so we reject false religions and gods, and all theories and philosophies that claim independent authority to define reality and truth 1st; using biblical vocabulary to describe God and his world in his terms 3rd; work, proper structure of historical memory, interpretation of history and events in history and routines of time. Proper interpretation of sovereign cause over all effects 4th, living 6th, gender and sexual boundaries 7th, economics and property stewardship 8th, communication and truth-telling, proper witness of reality, using biblical vocabulary to describe what we see. Psychologies are bearing false witness to reality of man, the way of change, the goals and standards for change, denying the existence of God and his definition of man in the fallen world 9th, moderation of desires to learn, without faith in an all-sufficient Creator-Provider, false religions and humanism can only promote lifeless forms of self-control or promote sublimated desires, exchanging one kind of coveting for another, to obtain various kinds of this world’s treasures and pleasures, or trying to avoid its trials and troubles 10th), creative-value-assigning-attention-to the law (Ps. 119:66, 72, 104, 111, 127, 136; 1st-10th), collaboration and active listening (5th), integrate a subsidiary range of knowledge or academic fields looking for unrealized or unexpressed integrative possibilities or interpretations of the reality by the moral law (1st-10th), indwelling the moral knowledge to use as a lens to seeing more patterns, as a connected knower, seeing with fear and delight (Ps. 119:112, 120; 1st) ; and

e.      consummation: (in the likeness of the covenant the Creator established and sustains with all creation, developing new loving, creation-caring, transforming friendships and shalom-healing communions with the constitution of reality—blessing all the created world, including ourselves and other people, to be more fully itself/ourselves/themselves (4th-10th, Ps. 119:63, ), and responsibly voicing or characterizing the Lord’s righteous self-disclosure into the known world (3rd, Ps. 119:54, 62, 64), to a cloud of witnesses that accord interpretive value to our efforts (5th)—that lead us to ultimate conversation-communion with the Lord, knowing and being known, seeking and being sought out, through the “sacramental” eating and drinking of all reality 1st-4th).

6)    That it is the fountainhead of all righteousness, such that its proper exposition will be able to connect the two great commands and specifics of the moral law with all corollary biblical commands that are relevant to the new covenant believers, including principles for all practical theology foundations, such as Reformed worship, hermeneutics, administration of sacraments, biblical counseling, family ministry, marketplace ministry for any type of work, apologetics, missions, evangelism, leadership, pastoral ministry, Christian education, preaching, church planting, elder-deacon qualifications see (Biblical Eldership Resources Team, 2018) and Christian journalism. Practically speaking, this exposition should be able to root all the biblical practical theology principles and practices developed in the history of the church and in modern day seminary education. Our Christian goals, vision statements, purposes, church-Christian-school- seminary educational objectives, discipleship agendas, must all be shaped by the goals of the moral law to produce lovers of God and man, and haters of sin and evil. Failure to do so will fragment practical theology from its new covenant knowledge of sin leading us to repentance and faith in Christ’s propitiation for the forgiveness of sins, fragment practical theology from its natural faith foundation in Christ’s credited righteousness and fragment practical theology from the Spirit’s promised work to write the law on believers’ hearts. Because of this failure, practical theology, with its various specialty seminary courses, has become abstracted principles and methods with no organizing or integrating core.

7)     That the 2nd commandment’s duties (in addition to proper worship of God) are to view created things, including mankind, as God’s display of his eternal power and divine nature and to be thankful and delight in God by that glory revealed in created things, such that we also use those created things to their full potential to support worship of the true God and human flourishing. We hate all false worship or service to the creature and created things (Rom. 1:20-25). This duty preserves and enriches the duties of the other commandments, for example, 5th God’s glory is revealed through godly authorities, equals, inferiors, 6th 8th 10th God’s glory is revealed in his provision for physical life and teaching contentment, 7th God’s glory is revealed in sexually respecting and honoring all people made in his image, taking advantage of none, using no one for personal pleasure, seeking godly marriage to satisfy sexual desires, 9th God’s glory is revealed in valuing and speaking truthfully and honorably about others made in his image.

8)    That man’s sin, meaning moral unrighteousness, lack of conformity to the moral law, has brought the Lord’s curse on knowledge of Himself, such that Adam’s offspring, born in sin, no longer know the Lord, their Creator or Redeemer, directly introducing chaos into 1st-4th commandment flourishing.

9)    That man’s sin has brought the Lord’s curse on harmony in human relationships, directly introducing chaos into 5th commandment flourishing (Gen. 3:16).

10)Not only is the moral law a reflection of God’s original attributes, but God’s two faces of blessing and cursing are shown in response to man’s obeying or disobeying the moral law.[4] In the New Covenant, the Spirit writes the law on our hearts,[5] and elect disciplers will delight in it, meditate on it, and obey it to the bearing of good fruit, rejecting all counsel (philosophies, education, psychology, sociology, genetics), behaviors (joining the majority culture in lawless excess) or seats of authority (governments, rulers, governors, commissioners, security police, judges) that ignore, belittle, discredit, deny or falsify the moral law.[6] They will model, teach and correct disciples based on these laws which illuminate sin, highlight the need for a Savior, and teach them what to love and hate, what to do, and what is forbidden.

11)  This section developed from ideas in Stoker (Conscience, 2018, pp. 28-30, 49-50, 120-124, 138-140, 143-146, 270, 315-318, 321-322, 325, 328-333).

a.     That the law is written on the core of the individual conscience of every person and is reflected in the social ethics and laws of the nations. Mankind shows general conformity to the second table of the moral law (4th-10th commandments) in their families and societies, awareness of and behaviors that conform to the moral law and grief over relational and social chaos caused by immoral behaviors.

b.     The depraved conscience operates in relation to any subjective sense of what is my personal evil (any ultimate conviction or moral value about what should not be, what is abnormal, sick and evil in me revealed in my various duties and roles), combined with relative knowledge and values learned from social history, biological personality and choices, that are integrated into the emotionally-felt soul, called “ontical transformation” (Stoker, 2018, p. 140). As such the depraved conscience can be wrong due to God giving them up because they suppress the truth of the moral law written on their hearts, have incorrect moral knowledge, are deceived by erroneous moral values, are defiled, have ignored pangs of true guilt, have numbed themselves by distractions, or have doubts about whether any absolute values exist (Rom. 1:18-32; 2:15; Tit. 1:15-16). A primary bad conscience gives embodied, immediate, authoritative accusations of emotional guilt and disclosure of own’s own real, personal choice to be or do evil (I did what I thought was evil), a warning conscience is stirred when one contemplates or sees self as desiring possible personal evil (I was tempted by what I perceive to be evil), and a good conscience is choosing to seek what I perceive as good, desiring and loving good, giving ourselves in humility and love to what is valuable, and realizing it, though tempted by personal evil (I choose to do good, rather than what I thought was evil). The primary bad conscience makes an emotionally-felt judgment that “I am bad,” (Rom. 2:14-15) usually causing a secondary bad conscience that produces “You are bad” responses of deep inward self-estrangement, self-hatred, isolation, torment, alarm, dread, anxiety, depression, alienation, shame, hiding, remorse, fear of being found out, some forms of mental illness, self-punishment or injury, and anger toward ourselves, or alternately, causing a secondary relieved conscience  because of self-defense, self-deception, or excuse-making to pretend innocence.

c.      Satan, as accuser, seeks to manipulate a bad conscience to bring further chaos and destruction (John 13:27; Acts 1:16-20; Rev. 12:10), or deceive with false guilt or false assurances of self-righteousness (Rom. 9:30-10:3; Phil. 3:4-6; Gal. 5:2-4; 2 Tim. 2:23-26) or to fabricate other superstitions, magic arts or works of religions to placate angry spirits or gods (Rom. 1:20-25; Acts 17:16-31; 19:18-19).

d.     Both our depraved conscience and our actual moral guilt for personal evil requires punishment or forgiveness from transcendent Judge who calls all men to account because the conscience factors in our biological morality and the promise of eternal life or eternal death (Rom. 1:32). By the Spirit working through the Word, after regeneration to saving faith, our consciences can be “indirectly” ontically transformed, influenced by knowledge and love, by learning from and following the examples provided by the best and wisest leaders and integrating knowledge, life-experienced harmony created and maintained by moral values or the grief over relational and social chaos resulting from lack of moral values (Ps. 119:136, 139), moderation of the will and affections to conform to the moral law, causing guilt for what is truly sin, leading to true grief and sorrow for sin that leads to repentance (“those feel guiltiest who are morally best” (Stoker, 2018, p. 145) 2 Cor. 7:10-11; Heb. 5:11-14) and showing us the way of forgiveness through the propitiation of Christ and the way of liberty in obedience. Yet no one can boast for any righteousness, as salvation comes from the Lord (1 Cor 1:29-31; 15:10; Jas. 4:16).

e.      “The world’s greatest preachers [we could add apologists, biblical counselors, story-tellers, journalists, evangelists and worship leaders] have mastered the art of influencing these deeply important human emotions” (Stoker, Conscience, 2018, p. 112). Thus, the moral law provides a foundation for influencing the conscience, and should be used in all practical theology to give us knowledge of sin and lead us to self-examination, but our most important tasks are to use the moral law to display the active moral righteousness and passive moral-law-curse-bearing righteousness of Christ and call all men, no matter what their ignorant debaucheries or their self-made religious legalisms against the flesh, to look to the whole Christ in saving faith (Pederson, 2016, pp. citing Ferguson, 2016), and to display the moral value of the law’s application to liberating worship of the true God and human flourishing (Ps. 119:165, 175) and conversely expose the religious and human chaos that results from discrediting the value of the moral law (Ps. 119:158), proclaimed by witnesses with modeled integrity of love for God and man. 

12) That the law is perfect, and binds everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin. Thus, the moral law is a reflection of the omni-attributes of the Lord (TH perspective on moral law), fulfilled in derivative forms the perfect humanity of Christ, proven by his resurrection from the dead. The moral law is the definition of righteousness, including the righteousness of Christ. That the authority of God controls all human thought: (Sola Scriptura and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th commandments substantiate presuppositional apologetics perspective on moral law, because the moral law is binding on all humanity and will be used to judge humanity Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8): Because there is only one true Lord who defines himself as the source and interpreter of all reality, and defines the content, practices and timings of our worship and character of our witness, all our foundational life-orienting thoughts must be analogical to his Word and all other fields of knowledge must be brought into submission to his Word (2 Cor. 10:5). The moral law also critiques all other theories of knowledge (epistemologies), religions and worldviews and knowledge based on conformity to or distortion of the moral law, whether it tends to or can be used in service of true worship of the true God (1st-4a C’s), or tends to or can be used in service of human flourishing (4b-10 C’s).

13) That it is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures. Thus, the moral law defines and gives the knowledge of sin, and leads us to Christ for forgiveness, since he bore the law’s curse of death on himself, on behalf of the elect. The moral law is revealed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, proven by his resurrection from the dead. The Spirit’s primary work in the new covenant, and best and more sure evidence of his saving application of the work of Christ, is to write the moral law on our hearts (Heb 10:16; 1 Cor. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 1:5). All abiding New Covenant biblical commands or instructions are contained in seed form in the moral law, such that we can start with any new covenant instruction, and trace it back to a corresponding commandment. Example: ‘humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.’ (1 Pet. 5:6) 4th commandment Lords Day rest requires humility to put away our doing and enjoy being in communion with Christ. 1st commandment to have God alone as our God, to submit to all his disciplines, since he is our good and powerful God who orders all things for our good and his glory. No other gods or supposed gods can compare with his mighty hand or exalt the humble in due time.  

14) That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments. Thus, while the Two Great Commandments enjoin us to love God and our neighbors and seek their shalom (Ps. 119:165), the commandments also enjoin hatred of all that God hates and hatred of all that destructs and destroys the shalom of our neighbors and the human community (by self-discipline and repentance, church discipline, and where possible, social-legal-citizen engagement). That various genres of Scripture give support to the moral law’s duties and prohibitions (Biblical Theology perspective on moral law): narrative that approves obedience to it, and condemns and shows consequences for disobedience to it; poetry and songs that praise the law and its faithful followers and heap just condemnations and judgments on the wicked; prophecy that enjoins moral obedience and shows condemnation, captivity and rejection/divorce of the Lord’s people for their perpetual disobedience; Gospels that show Jesus’ reinforcement of the spiritual dimensions of the moral law; apocalyptic that shows eternal rewards and eternal judgment in relation to the moral law and that the moral law is eschatologically fulfilled in the new heaven’s and new earth.

15) That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included. That where ever a command or a corresponding prohibition is given (and its implied opposite), we can discern principles and connections for all practical theology foundations, such as Reformed worship, administration of sacraments, biblical counseling, family ministry, marketplace ministry, leadership, pastoral ministry, Christian education, preaching and church planting.

16) That: What God forbids, is at no time to be done: What he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto. Practically speaking, this means that all the trajectories of new covenant obedience and all New Testament commands directing believers to any sort of obedience or any sort of prohibition are founded in the moral law. Thus, all biblical practical theology principles and practices developed in the history of the church and in modern day seminary education can be derived from the moral law. Essentially, each commandment forbids lusts within the heart and the behaviors that spring from those lusts, together with resistance to acceptance or integration of “all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations.” Thus, because the seventh commandment forbids sexual immorality in the heart or the behavior, it also forbids integration of any worldview, philosophy, religion, that would promote sexual immorality, create a culture of opportunity for sexual freedom, and resistance against all media (graphic arts, literature, movies, poetry, music, theater, website, chat rooms, social media groups) that might incite or promote sexual immorality. Other commandments are relevant in that we are told to resist integration with anything that causes provokes or give the appearance of permitting or encouraging disobedience to it. WLC proof texts related to the bold print, show how relationally we might sinfully provoke or incite others to sin as a cause, means or occasion of sin, how we might give the impression that we support sinful deeds, or on the other hand, how we might provoke others to express more love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24-25. And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 1 Thessalonians 5:22. Abstain from all appearance of evil. Jude 23. And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Galatians 5:26. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. Colossians 3:21. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

17) The irreducible complexity of the righteous community obeying all the commandments together as witnesses to each other and the world: like the capstone case-study of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 showing the attractive qualities of God-fearing wisdom, Romans’ most significant worldview engagement presents models of righteous saints within the righteousness-nourishing community. They will be lovers of God and men (Rom. 12:1-2, 9-10; 13:9-10; 2 Tim. 1:7). They will model social constructivity with an excellent work ethic, using gifts, skills and time to provide life support for their families, pay taxes to government and social mercy for the weak and poor (4b [7], 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th commands; Rom. 6:19; 12:11, 13; 13:6-14). They will model social harmony with a proper honor and submission to various positions of authority, proper respect for equals, and proper use of authority to bless those they serve, and proper witness to the best in others (1st, 5th 9th commands; Rom. 12:3-8, 14-16; 13:1-7; Eph. 5:23-6:9). They will model social integrity in duties, promises, contracts and vows, and speak with integrity about those social relationships (7th 8th 9th 10th commands; Rom. 12:9-12; 13:1-10). They will model social enjoyment by contentment with their own life situations (10th command; Rom. 13:9; 7:7-8; 1:29). The righteous individual participating in the community of the righteous will share the Spirit-confirmed, moral-law in-total, social identity affirmation of being “in Christ Jesus,” “acceptable to God and approved by men” (1st-10th commands; Rom. 14:18; 8:1-16; 5:1-2; Acts 2:47; 5:13; 7:10). The Christian community living with righteous integrity will be the best apologetic witness to the surrounding communities living in darkened worldviews. The witness of peace-loving, moral-law righteousness will put enemies and false accusers to shame and overcome and convert some of them with good (Rom. 12:17-21; 1 Pet. 3:1-16; 1 Cor. 14:24-25).

18)The tenets of the righteousness that pleases God have been defined in their broad contours, so all other sources of integrated knowledge can only serve as applications of this pre-defined righteousness (Rom. 12:1-2). All regenerate engagement of the elect with the world must be processed through and compatible with this new covenant operating system of righteousness.   

 

Each Command can serve as an interpreting perspective on all the others:

19)  1st, 5th & 9th commandment perspectives:

a.       As an epistemological authority over all creatures: Scripture represents the authority of God, the superior to which all other superiors must submit, the norm which evaluates all other norms, condensed into the beauty and harmony of the Ten Commandment, an irreducible complexity representing God as superior of the universe, the Triune Lord, to which all the inferior creatures, their cultures, religions, philosophies, epistemologies, languages, thoughts, affections, wills and practices must submit, either in obedience to reward or disobedience to judgment.

b.      As a relational perspective on all the others, inferiors, equals and superiors all supporting obedience and resistance to disobedience for each person’s places and callings (such as, some married, some single, have various duties to perform and sins to resist, but assist each other in righteous living), in the fear of the one true God, not the fear of men, thus boldly critiquing false witness and proclaiming the truth, derived from omni-harmonious reflections, That: What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.  (That in: What is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in: What is forbidden them. This relational perspective has implications for true friendships whose purpose should be to reinforce new covenant moral-law righteousness in one another and shows the differences between other religions and their views of relationships that are modeled on their relationship to gods or spirits or athiestic humanism or idol worship, with a lack of emphasis or standard for teaching on relationships. Christianity can show its attractive value stems from relational modeling of the Lord to his people, and his people with each other.

20)        That the 2nd and 3rd commandments are the gateways to the Gospel, defining the way God must be worshiped: the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5; 16:26). The full demanded righteousness of the law has been satisfied in Christ’s active righteousness (proven by his resurrection, shattering the curse and bondage of death) and the terror of the law’s curse has been broken by Christ’s passive righteousness (enduring the declared curse of the law on the cross for the propitiation of his elect, meriting forgiveness to all who believe in his substitutionary atonement), so that the helpless sinner need only look in faith to the whole work of Christ, (past, present and promised future), bringing whatever confused or correct legal conviction for unbelief and sin he or she may have, but with no necessary required prior qualifying repentance or preparatory sorrow, and further, than no such convictions have any saving merit. Such repentance (grief, sorrow and separation from sins against the moral law) and vivification (delight in righteous submission to the moral law) shall commence after regeneration to saving faith (Alexander, 2016, pp. citing Ferguson, 2016). We can obey the 6th commandment to put off anger and resentment and forgive those who sin against us because the Lord has shown us saving mercy.

21)   That the 2nd C is a perspective on all the other C’s: all visible creation is a reflection of the eternal power and divine nature of God, and God-reflective creation must never be turned into objects for worship, nor commanded to worship itself as his/her idol. (so uttering blasphemies 3rd C. as though it were representing a god, submitting to human philosophies and traditions as idols above the Word of God or a cult leader commanding submission to himself or his principles, 1st -5th- 6th C’s using for selfish advantage, slavery, unjust government, anger and oppression to command others to do our absolute bidding as their god, 4th C: corrupting their God-given orders of time; 7th C: corrupting their conjugal faithfulness) 8th C: prohibiting or removing their right to private property 8th , 9th C: abusing and slandering their good name for our own advancements, 10th C: inciting them to economic slavery by offering them trinkets of the world for their allegiance. Plurality of mature elders as prevention of human idolatry, the little emperor-pastor or ministry leader who gathers worshipers of himself, and punishes all who disagree.    

22)       That, What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound according to our integrity to use the Lord’s name properly to witness for the Lord’s Word and works (3rd C), to do so in the fear of God, not the fear of men, thus boldly witnessing to the truth (Matt. 13:21; Rev. 21:8 contra cowardly in face of persecution, as seed on rocky soil)

23)      That man’s sin has brought the Lord’s curse on man’s labor, the fruits of the earth and the human body with pain, disasters, deformities, frustrations, sickness and death (Gen 3:16-19), directly introducing chaos into 6th commandment flourishing. The moral law puts a priority on individual priestly-mercy-ministry-apologetic engagement with the ungrateful and evil people of the world, such that the Lord’s people should reflect the 6th commandment merciful kindness of the Lord to the ungrateful and evil, and when they are falsely cursed by persecutors, or hated, abused or mistreated, should bless, do good, pray for them and lend in return (Luke 6:27-36; Rom. 12:14), seeking to overcome evil with good, leaving it the Lord to curse them and take vengeance (Gen 12:3; Rom. 12:17-21). This can include use of law, lawyers, magistrates, police or military to protect or ensure safety in societies that have such protections, even as Paul appealed to Caesar for protection from his Jewish accusers as a Roman citizen (Acts 25-26).  Thus, we could extrapolate that the evangelistic-apologetic task is directed not only to the contradictions of the mind using Scriptural epistemology (didactic doctrinal teaching) and the harmony of the Christian worldview with all reality (as typified in the Christian liberal arts college), but especially toward the will and emotions of the conscience using models of mercy ministries that restore peace among men (medical, family and marriage counseling, pro-life ministries from conception to death, elderly care, sexual integrity support, marketplace ministry training & ethical business, media and academia truth-telling, care-groups), God-felt-glory displaying preaching (???Biblical narrative, Psalms, parables and apocalyptic literature may have better appeal to the seeker’s emotions) in Lord’s Day worship and personal and small group use of creative arts that touch the soul (worship, story, illustration, poetry, music, drama, movie clips and songs) either illustrating the veracity of the moral law as the most liberating relationship to the Lord (compared to other religions and gods) and the most harmonious relational reality among men OR showing how relational chaos and tormenting guilt result from rebellion against the moral law, and pointing to Christ as the righteous one who fulfilled the law’s demands for us, applied by the Spirit in saving faith (propitiation and justification; repentance and vivification; glorification). Doing movie discussions, (Turnau & Turnau, “How to Run a Movie Night” on Ted Turnau’s website 2009) when led by moral-law-mature believers who can briefly compare and contrast the moral law with the movie, may be an excellent approach to evangelism. To engage the psychological professionals or its psychologized counselee-disciples, we need authentic mercy ministries, God-delighting preaching and personal evangelism-apologetics.

24)         7th command as perspective on all others: omni-faithful reflections or unfaithfulness to promises and covenants.

25)      4th, 6th, 8th and 10th commandments form mutually reinforcing perspectives on all others: that the command to labor six days, to care for human life, to cultivate stewardship of property and cultural-social flourishing and to be content with our lot has a direct relationship to the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:26-28) and that these and all the other commands have much to do with contentment in, loving and caring for physical, created things, including our own bodies, not only in relationship to loving God and man. The 5th commandment proper duties of superiors include provision of all things necessary for the physical needs of their inferiors’ bodies. The 7th commandment to sexual fidelity to spouse or to chastity as a single has much to do with how physical resources are preserved and prospered, as well as the security and provision for those children born from that fidelity bound couple. Bearing false witness about physical things is also part of the sins against the 9th commandment. The source of all physical and material produce is the Lord, who should be glorified, worshiped, thanked and petitioned for our daily bread and all the things He knows we need and provides so richly (Matt 6:11, 25-34; Phil 4:19-20; 1 Tim. 6:17; Rom. 1:20-21; 1 Tim. 4:3-5)

26)      9th command as perspective on all others:

a.       truthful witness involves knowing the reputation of persons with whom we have dealings. We should require time-tested and trusted testimonial proof of Ten-Commandment-integrity for before entering into relationships, like friendship (Prov. 17:17; 18:24; 27:6, 9-10), engagement to marriage (1 Cor. 7:39), setting apart for church leadership (1 Tim. 3:2-10; 5:22), taking vows, signing contracts or business deals (Prov. 6:1-5; 11:15) with more responsibilities, longer commitments and higher risks if failure happens. We should never make high risk commitments with strangers.

b.       9th C is a perspective on all extra-biblical knowledge, such that science, psychology, news reporting, history writing must be normed by truth-telling about reality, as much as we can certify, and where uncertain, we either remain silent or indicate our uncertainty. We recognize the sociology of prevailing knowledge held by gate-keepers and power-players in any profession or institution will seek to deny, suppress or contradict negative information or alternate theories that discredit their professions or institutions. We integrate witness that is truthful into our larger meta-narrative of righteousness or use apologetic redefinition to make the ideas or words compatible with the biblical worldview, and support truth-tellers and use truth in ways that enhance and promote both tables of righteousness, in other words, so that hearer-readers can receive a benefit because it fits the occasion and gives grace (Eph 4:29; 1 Cor. 13:4-7). All doctrines of men that deny plain biblical teaching about man’s nature, the power of God to change man into the image of Christ (goal/standard) by the Word (method/tool) and Spirit (mysterious, God-directed and timed power that resists scientific replication) in the assembly of the righteous (body life context or various gifts building up each other) are wrong.

10th command as a perspective on all others, omni-sufficient, omni-holy reflections: sinful desire or coveting is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:9; Jam. 4:1-2; 1 John 2:15-16), together with corollary ungodly affections like fear of not having what we sinfully desire or having it taken away, pride at obtaining what we sinfully desire, and every prohibition in each command begins with controlling the desires of the heart (Prov 4:23; Matt. 15:19-21). Holy desire, love and joy in the glory of God and the flourishing of man, and contentment with and thankfulness for our lot, are the roots of all righteousness.


[1] This term adapted from Keller (Reason for God, 2009:148-164).

[2] Righteousness is not a single attribute, but a meta-attribute describing all the Lord’s perfections, similar to holiness, godliness and spiritual (Yates, Foundations 2017, pp. 96-97), shown in justification as imputation of Christ’s righteousness, all that God requires of believers, because of all that Christ accomplished (Rom. 5:18-19; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18). Heavenly glory is described as the hope of righteousness, a summary of the beauty and perfections of the new heavens and new earth, where righteousness dwells (Gal. 5:5; 2 Pet. 3:13).

[3] Sillars (“Abolition of journalism” in World magazine Nov. 10, 2018), writing about Christian journalism, notes that there are good non-Christian journalism publications that “tell great stories, and have the broad credibility to inform, build community, hold the powerful accountable and foster discussion across cultural and political divides.” Using the moral-law to engaging darkened worldviews of journalism, we can integrate non-Christian knowledge that tells the truth by artfully informing or exposing evil (9th), and builds community and civil discussion (5th).  

[4] Deut. 28-30

[5] Heb. 10:16

[6] Ps. 1:1-3

[7] 4b means the second part of the 4th command “six days you shall labor, and do all your work” (Exod. 20:9). 4a means the first part of the 4th command to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exod. 20:8).

Comment

Comment

Ten Commandments as Foundation for all Practical Theology

THESIS:

All our practical theology courses and Christian discipleship models, including the necessary affections and effective Christian life practices (hermeneutics, worship, preaching, Christian education, biblical counseling, apologetics, evangelism and mission) are derivatives and applications of the two great commandments to love God and love neighbor. However, the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 99 principles for interpreting the moral law are not developed enough to show this derivative connectivity to all kinds of practical discipleship. Reforming the moral law hermeneutics of WLC 99 and reinterpreting the moral law in light of those expanded principles will enable the Reformed churches to vivify discipleship in ways that more fully accord with the new covenant promise to write the moral law on the hearts of the elect.

As Paul instructed Timothy to continue in the duties of biblical leadership among the people of God for their edification and Christ-like growth, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” (1 Tim. 1:5). 

Existing Models Practical Theology Discipleship

Broad studies about biblical ethics point us in this same direction. Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning by Wayne Grudem (Crossway 2018) links each command with numerous practical theology topics, as well a brief but convincing argument in chapter 1 that evangelism should be based on the moral law’s binding requirement of obedience on all men and a testimony to the wisdom and understanding of Christians (Deut. 4:5-8), and as the standard for grief and hatred of sin leading to repentance and for fear of God in preparation for final judgment (judgment pronounced for their sins against the 2nd commandment by idolatry Acts 17:27-31; Romans. 1:32 pronounces the death sentence against the entire list of sins noted in Romans 1:18-31, which are all sins related to the moral law). The very title of John Frame’s book Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R 2008) indicates his intent to link readers to everything of practical importance for Christian living using the framework of the WLC 99-150 to expound the moral Christian life. Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis by Philip Graham Ryken (P&R 2010) and How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments by Edmund Clowney (P&R 2007) both offer very practical and readable summaries of the moral law and show connections to Christ and the Gospel.  

Specific studies in matters of global concern show our moral law foundations. International Ethics: Concepts, Theories and Cases in Global Politics by Mark R. Amstutz (Rowman and Littlefield, 5th ed., 2018) show connections between the 5th, 6th and 8th commandments and human rights and foreign policy. Though not always explicitly linked to commandments, we can make deductive connections between good poverty relief and the Ten Commandments in these good books: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody 2014), From Dependence to Dignity: How to Alleviate Poverty through Church-Centered Microfinance by Brian Fikkert and Russell Mask (Zondervan 2015), and Helping without Hurting in Church Benevolence: A Practical Guide to Walking with Low-Income People by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody 2015). Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus (Crossway 2013) is filled with ethical dimensions of good political climates for human cultural and economic thriving.

A good biblical counseling book by David Powlison called Good and Angry (2016) shows biblical morality, connecting morality texts with their correlative moral law command. For example, amidst pastoral treatment of different types of anger, he shows that good anger is shaped by indignation against disregard for the moral law (chapter 9). He clarifies that true guilt or anger at self should be shaped by these same moral standards, not simply cultural or social standards (chapter 16). He notes that the commandments prohibit any types of life-destructive anger (6th) sexual immorality (7th) or theft (8th). Another book by Powlison called Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken (2017) offers biblical counseling related to the the entire second table of the law, not just the 7th commandment, since he deals with both sexual lust and sexual abuse.

The Center for Christian Business Ethics Today published two excellent books on moral law foundations for business ethics, called Business Ethics Today: Foundations (2011) and Business Ethics Today: Stealing (2011).  

However, when it comes to the typical subjects in the M.Div. practical theology list, the Ten Commandments are usually defined under the systematic theology topic of ethics. In courses like preaching, evangelism, missions, apologetics, or pastoral theology, and the related books used to teach these subjects, there seems to be a gap that neglects the New Covenant vivifying discipleship of the moral law. Even the most exhaustive treatments of the moral law by Grudem and Frame above tend to point us in the direction of individuals embracing ethical choices lifestyles or rejecting unethical choices and lifestyles. WLC 99-150 takes this same sanctification trajectory, which in summary biblical terms, means showing individual Christians the way to put off sin and put on righteousness (Eph. 4:20-6:9), and to assist others in that process according to our callings, roles and gifts (Eph. 4:11-16; 5:11, 25-27; 6:4, 18-20; WLC 99:7-8).   

Recently I observed that my biblical counseling classes followed a similar structural pattern in each class to review my theological Foundations: God’s Glory as an Integrating Perspective on Reformed Theology book concepts followed by a survey of some of the Ten Commandments and their related biblical texts in relation to the topics of marriage, parenting, or youth counseling. I extrapolated from this observation to compare my recent class on biblical leadership and looked for moral law foundations to all the teaching content. Using this Second Great Command centered practical theology book as one of the course assignments, Leading with Love by Alexander Strauch, and free online companion study guide, my focus on love was clarified, specifically in relation to themes for discipling leaders. Yet in comparing all biblical leadership class topics to the moral law, I found that some of the principles were obviously moral law related (use of authority relates to the 5th commandment) and others seemed lees obviously connected (I linked vision and strategy to the 2nd and 3rd commandments related to maintaining proper submission to the Word in all our personal and organizational behaviors). This led me to conclude that more linkages are possible with all practical theology topics, and that the WLC hermeneutical foundations in Q&A 99 need to be clarified and expanded, then applied to interpreting the commands, to make more obvious practical theology connections.  

First, we need to repeat that righteousness is a meta-category describing the totality of God’s perfections, synonymous with holiness, or when used in describing people, additional terms are godly or spiritual. To be righteous is to please God and be saved from death, first perfected by Christ, then to us through faith (Rom. 5:17-19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:21; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:1).[1]

Because we have often taught our practical theology in a theologically fragmented (that is disconnected from the Great and Ten Commandments)[2] and primarily emphasized methods and best-practice principles,[3] we (all who engage in practical theology discipleship in the church, Christian schools and the seminaries through all kinds of relational and communicative media) tend to neglect the most important elements of practical theology, namely, how that moral law is connected to saving faith in the Gospel (WCF 14:2). A biblical perspective in concise summary form could be as follows.

1.  Righteousness proclaimed (the Triune Lord’s works in history that reveal his righteous attributes and how the moral law reflects his character, as well as commands that reflection by his people).

2. Righteousness fulfilled (in Christ): Use the moral law to show us the character of God, derivatively reflected in the humanity of the resurrected Christ who fulfilled all righteousness, proven by his resurrection, and credited to us [justification] when we believe God raise him from the dead (Rom 10:9-10). 

3. Righteousness applied (by the Spirit to believers who repent of their unrighteousness, receive credited righteousness, and vivify imparted righteousness): Use the moral law to show us our sin and lead us to the cross or Christ [propitiation] Rom 3:25-26; 5:8-9, John 16:8-11. Use the moral law to define our transformation in the New Covenant [sanctification] to write that law on our hearts Heb 10:16). It is especially in this category that the moral law must also be applied to our ministry (our practical theology), as the character of the transformed minister (purposes, motives and practices) and the teaching and discipleship that accords with the new-covenant transformation promised and accomplished in others by the Spirit.

4. Righteousness perfected (in the New Jerusalem): Use the moral law to proclaim our hope of our final completed righteousness when we, with resurrected bodies, enter eternal life, when we see Jesus as he is (1 John 3:2-3; Phil 3:20-21). 

In practical terms, what this means is, what we most need for the Bible’s model of the proper Master of Divinity pastoral training and model and for all other ministry training in worship, evangelism and missions, biblical leadership, Christian education, preaching, worship, pastoral ministry, and biblical counseling is the content of WLC on the moral law as the seedbed and foundation of all other practical theology methodologies.

Here’s how it should work in explaining #3 above about ministry as defined by the new covenant sanctification process:

a.       The moral law defines the affections, purposes, character and practices of the transformed minister (BEING, which is the integrity of biblical leadership).

b.      The moral law defines the teaching and discipleship (DOING, which is the practical theology that flows out of BE) that accords with the new-covenant transformation promised and accomplished in others by the Spirit. All discipleship methods and principles must be derived from this moral law root, this seedbed, this foundation and shown to be integrally connected to this new covenant transformation. Our best practices, mission and vision statements, educational objectives, course syllabi need to be rescued from the drift into fragmented methods and rejoin all biblical methods to our new covenant roots.       

For each command below, write a list of personal BEING growth-in-biblical-leadership goals linked with biblical proof texts, praying that the Spirit would write his law on your heart, as he promised (Heb 10:16). Biblical leadership will discern the importance of the moral law foundations and lead in a way that connects all leading, teaching and discipleship to these goals.

For each command below, write a list of personal DOING growth goals linked with biblical proof texts, praying that the Spirit would use your particular ministry foci (hermeneutics, preaching, Christian education, pastoral ministry, biblical counseling, evangelism and mission) and gifts to write his law on the hearts of the saints you minister to, as he promised (Heb. 10:16). For example, training in preaching tends to focus on methods of interpretation and communication, to the neglect of emphasis on 1st-4th commandment duties. Read over the WLC 99 principles for interpreting the commands first, then study the duties enjoined in each of the first four commands and wonder to yourself what this kind of primary emphasis for preacher-preparation this might produce in a servant of God, and how methods and contextualization would take a secondary and incidental seat (1 Cor. 9:17-21).

The details of the moral law, the Ten Commandments, as developed using biblical theology by the Westminster pastors in the Larger Catechism WLC 99-150, https://www.opc.org/documents/LCLayout.pdf contain the foundational content and basic seed elements of all important practical theology topics. 

WLC COMMANDMENT SUMMARIES

1st commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 104-105

Whole-hearted love and obedience for God as the only true God, our God, with humility, trust, fear, joy, worship and honor in all our thoughts and choices, showing zeal for him, and sorrow at all sins against him.

Resist, oppose and remove ignorance, forgetfulness, false opinions, resisting self-love and self-seeking, lukewarmness and deadness, trying to discover God’s unrevealed secrets, heresy, distrust, despair, making men the lords of our faith and conscience, slighting and despising God and his commands, discontent and impatience at his dispensations, ascribing the praise of any good, we either are, have, or can do to fortune, idols, ourselves or any other creature.  

 

2nd commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 108-109

All that pertains to biblically defined worship and ordinances must be received, observed and keep pure (fasting & prayer, ministry of the Word, administration of sacraments, oaths and vows, church government and discipline).

Resist, oppose and remove all false worship, human-devised traditions of worship, visible or mental idols, superstitions, simony, sacrilege, contempt for, hindering of and neglect of true worship.

 

3rd commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 112-113

Holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, worship, Word and ordinances and living with integrity as an ambassador of his reputation and glory.

Resist, oppose and remove all misuse of God’s names, titles, attributes, worship, Word and ordinances, hypocrisy, or the neglect of proper uses of God’s name, reputation and glory.

 

4th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 116-120

Prepare for set apart times established by God in his Word, namely, the Lord’s Day, by resting from our employments and recreations and spent it in worship with works of necessity and mercy.

Resist, oppose and remove negligence, laziness, weariness in observing, and distractedness, as this command to worship one day in seven through worship, prayer and ministry of the Word, is at the root of reinforcing all other commands.

 

5th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 127-132

Delight in, practice and promote the proper relations of superiors, inferiors and equals.

Inferiors to Superiors: honor them from the heart, and with words and behaviors, praying for and giving thanks for them, imitating their virtues and graces, obeying their lawful counsels and commands, submitting to their corrections, allegiance to and defense of their persons and offices, bearing with their infirmities and covering them with love.

Superiors to Inferiors: love, pray for, bless, instruct, counsel, admonish, rewarding those who do well, discouraging and correcting those who do evil, providing for their souls and bodies, and being an example of integrity to preserve the honor due to your authority.

Equals: serve, give honor, praise and thanks to others above yourself

Resist, oppose and remove all improper relations of superiors, inferiors and equals:

Inferior to Superior: envy and contempt of, cursing, mocking, rebellion against authorities

Superior to Inferior: neglect of duties to, self-seeking by them, unlawful commands, unable to perform, encouraging evil, discouraging good, excessive correction, carelessly exposing them to sin, temptation and danger, provoking them to anger, or giving a bad example. 

Equals: neglect of duties, undervaluing, envying, grieving at advancement of others, putting yourself above others

 

6th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC  135-136

Increasing knowledge and lawful actions (sober use of foods, drinks, medicines, sleep, work and rest) to preserve our own and other’s lives, protection of innocent life by just authorities, humble, patient submission to God’s difficult providences, cheerfulness, thinking the best of others and showing the fruits of the Spirit to them, willing to reconcile and forgive, paying back good for evil, and comforting the distressed.  

Resist, oppose and remove all thoughts purposes, passions, opportunities, temptations to or practices that lead to unjust taking of life (not including just execution, lawful war or necessary defense), sinful anger, provoking, fighting, hatred, envy, revenge, hitting, wounding, oppression, distracting cares, immoderate use of foods, drinks, medicines, sleep, work and rest.

 

7th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 138-139 about

Sexual purity of and protection of affections, mind, words behavior and body, and helping others to this goal, associating with pure examples, dressing modestly, getting married to enjoy sexual pleasure with spouse by living together (if no gift of singleness), and staying busy with six days of labor to avoid idleness and opportunities for immorality.

Resist, oppose and remove adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, bestiality, and any other unnatural lusts, unclean fantasies, affections, thoughts, purposes or ways of speaking, or listening to or associating with others unclean imaginations or exploits, lustful looking at people, or seductively portraying yourself, immodest dress, prohibiting lawful marriage, unlawful divorce, prostitution, unnecessary vows of singleness, delaying marriage unduly, polygamy, desertion, idleness, use of any sexually seductive entertainment (adult stores, nude bars, pornography or sexually explicit movies). 

 

8th commandment: Here is a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 141-142

Protecting of the value and use of each person’s private property, rendering to each what has been promised or what is due: contracts, taxes, making restitution for damage or theft, giving and lending freely according to our ability and other’s needs, moderating our affections, judgments and will towards worldly goods, choosing a calling and faithfully working to supply our own needs and those we are responsible for, frugality, and encouraging others to do the same.

Resist, oppose and remove, neglect of duties, theft, kidnapping, use of stolen goods, fraud, cheating, bribery, breaking contracts, taking interest from brothers, unnecessary lawsuits and taking on unnecessary debts, oppression, hostile take-overs, inflating prices, coveting, love of the world’s goods, distracted by getting keeping and using them, envy, idleness, wastefulness, gambling.

 

9th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 144-145

Preserve, stand for and promote truth between people, our own and our neighbor’s good reputation, speaking the whole truth clearly and truthfully from the heart in matters of justice and judgment, and having as a positive of a view as possible of our neighbor and rejoicing in any good, gifts, graces and innocence we observe in their reputation. We keep our promises and focus on whatever is true, honest, lovely and of good report. We are ready to receive good reports, while discouraging evil reports, gossip, flattery, slander We sorrow for and cover their infirmities.  

Resist, oppose and remove all prejudice against the truth and our own and the good name of our neighbors, (especially in courts of law), false evidence, false witnesses, knowingly defending an evil cause, calling evil good, speaking wrongly and suppressing the truth, unjust legal sentencing or discipline based on faulty evidence, breaking contracts, rewarding the wicked, forgery, hiding the truth, undue silence on a just cause, not speaking up for justice or correcting evil, speaking truth without love, with malice or for other sinful purposes, altering the meaning by doubtful and equivocal expressions to prejudice the truth and justice, lying, slander, back biting, gossip, scoffing, reviling, rash or harsh statements, willfully misinterpreting the plain meaning of another person’s motives, words and actions, flattery, boasting, thinking or speaking too highly of ourselves, denying that these are all God’s gifts and graces, making a small matter too big, hiding, excusing, or over-emphasizing others sins, acting like a police-sin inspector to all faults, starting rumors, receiving and accepting evil reports, preventing just defense and truthful speaking, evil suspicion, envy or grief or suppression of another’s deserved credit, rejoicing in their disgrace, contempt for others.  

 

10th commandment: a brief summary of duties and prohibitions in WLC 147-148

Full contentment with our own condition and a loving, gracious positive attitude to all that rightfully belongs to our neighbor, wanting him to receive all good that is due him.

Resist, oppose and remove all discontentment, envy, grief at our neighbors prosperity or good.

 

Vision for Pastoral Training in Practical Theology

What if the practical theology training we gave focused more on the WLC moral law themes and proof texts linked to these ideas to develop this kind of attitude to God and to the biblical text, and aimed for this kind of application to hearers in all types of practical theology topics? What if the foundational concepts in all our worship, hermeneutics, preaching, Christian education, pastoral counseling, motives for evangelism and mission were derived from and integrally linked to the moral law written on the heart? What if seminary teachers taught preaching classes and evaluated preachers and their sermons based on their conformity to the new covenant use of the moral law? What if hermeneutics research papers were passed or failed based on their conformity to the new covenant use of the moral law? What if we evaluated scholarship and knowledge in all our theological disciplines (OT, NT, TH, CH, PT, BC) based on whether these books and articles used their positions of authority as scholars (5th) to promote love for God and man in all kinds of situations and economic conditions, true witness about God (3rd) and man (9th), promoted the blessed life, or promoted the destruction of love and moral chaos? What if biblical counselors connected all their pastoral investigation, analysis and counsel to the new covenant use of the moral law? What if evangelism training spent more time discussion the implications of the 3rd commandment for our witness, than on methods to talk to people? Then we would not just be talking about fragmented methodologies and human opinions about cultural relevance, but about God writing the moral law on the hearts of his servants, not just a "try-this idea," but a sure promise to accomplish this specific kind of good will in us (Phil 1:6; 2:13). Then, of course, we can talk about our methods to connect with non-Christian neighbors in missions, evangelism and church planting, but the whole tone is shifted to divine command & promised fulfilment in his people in the new covenant. I believe our Sunday schools, small groups, training efforts in the churches and seminaries would see something like a wake-up revival as practical theology is connected to the doctrine of God and Christ and see how the Spirit brings his likeness to our practical efforts.

[1] Timothy Paul Yates, Foundations: God’s Glory as an Integrating Perspective on Reformed Theology (Unveiled Faces Reformed Press, 2017) 96-97.

[2] Reformed seminaries teach a systematic theology (TH/ST) class on ethics, but this has not been the foundation for everything that the practical theology department models and teaches. Even without this proposed conceptual unity, seminaries have rightly discerned important practical theology topics and linked them to important biblical concepts.

[3] Even Richard Pratt’s correct distillation of what seminary faculty should teach and model as “orthodoxy, orthopraxis and orthopathos” creates abstracts terms fragmented from their intra-connected links in the New Covenant, from the revelation of the righteous nature of God in the moral law, the righteousness of Christ fulfilling that law, and the Spirit’s work to convict of unrighteousness, credit Christ’s righteousness and impart righteousness by writing the moral law on the heart.

Comment

Comment

Expanding WLC 99 for better Moral Law Interpretation

Bold print below is the original Westminster Larger Catechism 99, plus my additional draft expansions in plain type.

Question 99: What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?
Answer: For the right understanding of the Ten Commandments, these rules are to be observed:

Theological Perspectives on the Commandments

1)     That it is the fountainhead of all righteousness, such that its proper exposition will be able to connect the two great commands and specifics of the moral law with all corollary biblical commands that are relevant to the new covenant believers, such as principles for all practical theology foundations, such as Reformed worship, administration of sacraments, biblical counseling, family ministry, marketplace ministry, leadership, pastoral ministry, Christian education, preaching and church planting. Practically speaking, this exposition should be able to root all the biblical practical theology principles and practices developed in the history of the church and in modern day seminary education. Our Christian goals, vision statements, purposes, church-Christian-school- seminary educational objectives, discipleship agendas, must all be shaped by the goals of the moral law to produce lovers of God and man, and haters of sin and evil. Failure to do so will fragment practical theology from its new covenant knowledge of sin leading us to repentance and faith in Christ’s propitiation for the forgiveness of sins, fragment practical theology from its natural faith foundation in Christ’s credited righteousness and fragment practical theology from the Spirit’s promised work to write the law on believers’ hearts. Because of this failure, practical theology, with its various specialty seminary courses, has become abstracted principles and methods with no organizing or integrating core.

2)     That the law is perfect, and binds everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin. Thus, the moral law is a reflection of the omni-attributes of the Lord (TH perspective on moral law), fulfilled in derivative forms the perfect humanity of Christ, proven by his resurrection from the dead. The moral law is the definition of righteousness, including the righteousness of Christ. That the authority of God controls all human thought: (Sola Scriptura and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th commandments: TH/APOL presuppositional apologetics perspective on moral law, because the moral law is binding on all humanity and will be used to judge humanity Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8): Because there is only one true Lord who defines himself as the source and interpreter of all reality, and defines the content, practices and timings of our worship and character of our witness, all our foundational life-orienting thoughts must be analogical to his Word and all other fields of knowledge must be brought into submission to his Word (2 Cor. 10:5). The moral law also critiques all other theories of knowledge (epistemologies), religions and worldviews and knowledge based on conformity to or distortion of the moral law, whether it tends to or can be used in service of true worship of the true God (1st-4th C’s), or tends to or can be used in service of human flourishing (4th-10 C’s).

3)     That it is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures. Thus, the moral law defines and gives the knowledge of sin, and leads us to Christ for forgiveness, since he bore the law’s curse of death on himself, on behalf of the elect. The moral law is revealed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, proven by his resurrection from the dead. The Spirit’s primary work in the new covenant, and best and more sure evidence of his saving application of the work of Christ, is to write the moral law on our hearts (Heb 10:16; 1 Cor. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 1:5). All abiding New Covenant biblical commands or instructions are contained in seed form in the moral law, such that we can start with any new covenant instruction, and trace it back to a corresponding commandment. Example: ‘humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.’ (1 Pet. 5:6) 4th commandment Lords Day rest requires humility to put away our doing and enjoy being in communion with Christ. 1st commandment to have God alone as our God, to submit to all his disciplines, since he is our good and powerful God who orders all things for our good and his glory. No other gods or supposed gods can compare with his mighty hand or exalt the humble in due time.  

4)     That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments. Thus, while the Two Great Commandments enjoin us to love God and our neighbors and seek their shalom, the commandments also enjoin hatred of all that God hates and hatred of all that destructs and destroys the shalom of our neighbors and the human community (by self-discipline and repentance, church discipline, and where possible, social-legal-citizen engagement). That various genres of Scripture give support to the moral law’s duties and prohibitions (Biblical Theology perspective on moral law): narrative that approves obedience to it, and condemns and shows consequences for disobedience to it; poetry and songs that praise the law and its faithful followers and heap just condemnations and judgments on the wicked; prophecy that enjoins moral obedience and shows condemnation, captivity and rejection/divorce of the Lord’s people for their perpetual disobedience; Gospels that show Jesus’ reinforcement of the spiritual dimensions of the moral law; apocalyptic that shows eternal rewards and eternal judgment in relation to the moral law and that the moral law is eschatologically fulfilled in the new heaven’s and new earth.

5)     That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included. That where ever a command or a corresponding prohibition is given (and its implied opposite), we can discern principles and connections for all practical theology foundations, such as Reformed worship, administration of sacraments, biblical counseling, family ministry, marketplace ministry, leadership, pastoral ministry, Christian education, preaching and church planting.

6)    That: What God forbids, is at no time to be done: What he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times.

7)      That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto. Practically speaking, this means that all the trajectories of new covenant obedience and all New Testament commands directing believers to any sort of obedience or any sort of prohibition are founded in the moral law. Thus, all biblical practical theology principles and practices developed in the history of the church and in modern day seminary education can be derived from the moral law.

 

Each Command can serve as an interpreting perspective on all the others:

8)     That: What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places. (5th command as a perspective on all the others, inferiors, equals and superiors all supporting obedience, derived from omni-harmonious reflections,

9)     That in: What is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in: What is forbidden them. (5th command as a perspective on all the others: omni-harmonious reflections, in the fear of God, not the fear of men, thus boldly witnessing to the truth)

10)  That, What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound according to our integrity to use the Lord’s name properly to witness for the Lord’s Word and works (3rd C), to do so in the fear of God, not the fear of men, thus boldly witnessing to the truth (Matt. 13:21; Rev. 21:8 contra cowardly in face of persecution, as seed on rocky soil)

11)   10th command as perspective on all others, omni-sufficient, omni-holy reflections: sinful desire or coveting is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:9), and every prohibition in each command begins with controlling the desires of the heart (Prov 4:23; Matt. 15:19-21). Holy desire for the glory of God and the flourishing of man is the root of all righteousness.

12)  That the 2nd C is a perspective on all the other C’s: all visible creation is a reflection of the eternal power and divine nature of God, and God-reflective creation must never be turned into objects for worship, nor commanded to worship itself as his/her idol. (so uttering blasphemies 3rd C. as though it were representing a god, submitting to human philosophies and traditions as idols above the Word of God or a cult leader commanding submission to himself or his principles, 1st -5th- 6th C’s using for selfish advantage, slavery, unjust government, anger and oppression to command others to do our absolute bidding as their god, 4th C: corrupting their God-given orders of time; 7th C: corrupting their conjugal faithfulness) 8th C: prohibiting or removing their right to private property 8th , 9th C: abusing and slandering their good name for our own advancements, 10th C: inciting them to economic slavery by offering them trinkets of the world for their allegiance. Plurality of mature elders as prevention of human idolatry, the little emperor-pastor or ministry leader who gathers worshippers of himself, and punishes all who disagree.     

13)  7th command as perspective on all others: omni-faithful reflections or unfaithfulness to promises and covenants.

Comment

Comment

Covenantal Knowing: Summary of Esther Meek's Realistic, Polanyian Epistemology

Summaries and Reflections on Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People (Brazos Press, 2003) and Loving to Know: Introducing Covenant Epistemology (Cascade Books, 2011) by Esther Meek

“Longing to know” is part of the human, soul-embodied caring and coping experience of trying to integrate all that we experience into a coherent integrated whole, and is part of the transrational process of worship, either of the Lord or of idols, since who or what we worship explains and reinforces our experience (Meek, 2003:69-74, 76, 94).  Yet Scripture answers the questions that most need to be answered; some of our questions and lines of inquiry are futile and irrelevant (Meek, 2003, p. 78). Scripture interprets and confirms the clues we pick up about reality, whether about beauty or chaos, ethical flourishing or immoral disintegration, and shows them all to be reflections of God’s own nature or teaches us his ways to engage the world in his likeness (Meek, 2003, pp. 93-94).  Authoritative guides help us interpret our experiences in all forms of learning, and we must believe those guides, whether studying religion or science. Thus, we should not posit that only religion requires faith, while science requires reason (Meek, 2003, p. 105). Both require faith in authoritative guides, and also show enough contact with reality to give us confidence that the pattern is true such that we can submit to it and use it to understand and explore the world (Meek, 2003, pp. 139-154). This requires commitment, reverence for our subject of study, patience and humility (Meek, 2003, pp. 175-179). Ultimately, knowing truth is not our initiative in seeking, knowing or finding, but God’s initiative in seeking, knowing and finding us and mankind answering his questions to us (Meek, 2003, pp. 192-196)

Meek (2011, pp. 400-403, 408-409, 411, 417, 425-468) describes the epistemological etiquette to interpersonal covenant knowing and discovering of reality, such that reality responds favorably to this kind of etiquette with self-disclosure: desire (passive longing, active loving); personal qualities relating to self that are required to know (called composure: knowing and being ourselves as beautiful before God, knowing and comfortable with our healthy self-differentiated virtue, skillfully developing use of our five bodily senses to engage reality and appreciating how body senses confirm correct perception of reality, fidelity to our renewed nature, openness to learn, and embracing pain); personal qualities needed to engage or relate to the yet-to-be-known (called comportment or candidacy: a pledge to invest in, care about learning, trust that the investment is worthwhile, responsible submission-obedience to the reality revealed, humility to receive what is revealed, patience to slowly learn, alert to reflections of God in the reality we find); methods to learn (called strategy: pursue the best means of knowing from the life and words of authoritative guides, developing foundational  competencies and skilled use of tools to grasp new patterns of reality, creative-value-assigning-attention-to the subject, collaboration and active listening, integrate a subsidiary range of knowledge or academic fields looking for unrealized or unexpressed integrative possibilities or interpretations of the reality,[1] indwelling the knowledge to use as a lens to seeing more patterns, as a connected knower, seeing with delight as God sees; and consummation: (in the likeness of the covenant the Creator established and sustains with all creation, developing new loving, creation-caring, transforming friendships and shalom-healing communions with the constitution of reality—blessing all the created world, including ourselves and other people, to be more fully itself/ourselves/themselves, and responsibly voicing or characterizing its/their self-disclosure into the known world, to a cloud of witnesses that accord interpretive value to our efforts—that lead us to ultimate conversation-communion with the Lord, knowing and being known, seeking and being sought out, through the “sacramental” eating and drinking of all reality).

These etiquette themes readily apply to psychological research as well. Meek’s primary antithesis throughout the book, thus the example of how she engages in critique of error, is the epistemological “sin” of learning impersonally—the “I” looking at data without seeing through the data to the “You” as a form of divine, covenantally personal encounter. Seeking neutral clinical, scientific objectivity is excluded and damaging to researcher, bodies of knowledge and subject studied, as this approach denies covenant loving, relational, transformative engagement with reality and seeking God’s likeness in the knowing process, leading to worship and communion (Meek, 2011, p. 415). Seeking evidential support, coherence with other knowledge claims or workability (419) can be useful only as tools of a loving individual or community taking risks to act on the knowledge, as if it were clumsily describing parts of or tokens of reality (there is unspeakable mystery in all things), but being open to revise it. These are useful tools only as they enhance our grasp of and engagement with reality (421). Meek’s critique of secular forms of research, writing and knowing that seek to authoritatively guide others is against their impersonal, atheistic failure to know as part of a relational friendship, an experience of God’s eternal power and divine nature, failure to give him thanks and worship, but instead worshiping the creation and created images (Rom. 1:20-25).

The biblical counseling literature and the training of counselors already utilizes several the concepts of epistemological etiquette. Even so, Meek’s model enriches the quality and purposes of BC using an interpersonal covenant perspective to focally integrate some previously existing, but conceptually disconnected, subsidiary commitments of biblical counselors. Recast by Meek’s model, we counsel in the interpersonal covenant likeness of Christ, loving to know, and knowing that everything in the universe is from him, through him and to him, to him be the glory forever and ever (Rom. 11:36).

The advantage of Meek’s model, when indwelt and used as a subsidiary commitment to see reality, will be to see all knowledge God-relationally, rather than abstractly or as isolated sets of informative facts.

 Meek (2011:165, 181, 183, note 27) expands Frame’s normative perspective into the controlling “notion of storied, unfolding covenant relationship,” within which God’s word, ethics, law and truth functions normatively as subsets, or articulating subsidiaries. What we ultimately seek is not truth, law, the Word or ethics, but our covenant Lord engaged in historical unfolding of a relationship with us his people. Our knowledge of truth, law and ethics function as subsidiary presuppositions that can also be temporarily enhanced when we focus on them to improve these basic skills and develop better presuppositional pattern recognition (Polanyi calls it destructive analysis Meek, 2011:168).   But as those subsidiary commitments or presuppositions are integrated as patterns, they are used to focus on covenantally personal aspects of knowing God better and building friendship and communion with God.

[1] Powlison (XXX Biblical Counseling Movement: History & Context???) concurs that we can augment our study of man by learning from a wide range of knowledge sources, such as news stories, fiction, biography, history, case studies, sociology or psychology.

Comment

Comment

Saving Faith that Delights in God through created things

Saving Faith that Delights in God

Desiring God, delighting in God, joy in God, and love for God are inter-related heart affections. Delight in God should be derived not only from God and his saving work, but also the created world and his judging work. Delight is wired both to God’s blessed face (what has turn to me for salvation) and cursed face (what has turned to Christ on the cross in my place (1 John 4:10), turned to his and my enemies). I want to propose that these affections can be experienced in ways not typically considered by believers who know of the command to have these affections, and see examples of believers who experience these affections.

Delight is commanded, but the natural man cannot keep this command to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt 22:37). Thus, delight in God must be regenerated, imputed, imparted, expanded from heavenly things to all of life, guarded by self-discipline and part of the believer’s eschatological hope. Since unregenerate man cannot come naturally to delight in God or his character, God must regenerate his elect to new delight in his total character.[1] This may start with awakening delights in mere shadows and types of himself, arousing desire for finding the source of delight.[2] The delight in God is imputed, since the perfect delight of the human Christ in the Triune God is counted to us who believe he was raised from the dead by decree of the Father through the agency of the divine Son in the power of the Spirit (Rom 1:3-4; 4:25; 8:11-13; 10:9-10). Imparted delight in God as righteous law-giver comes as a gift of the new covenant, when the law is written on the heart (Heb. 10:16). By the Spirit, a heart of flesh is transplanted for a heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26). Citizenship is granted into a new kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17; Phil. 3:20-21) from where we await a Savior who will renew our mortal bodies to become like his immortal body (1 Cor 15:42-49). This delight must be guarded, for the seed and soils parable in Scripture uses a metaphor of choking thorns to represent the deceitful cares and delight from worldly wealth (Matt. 13:22).

Finding, increasing and guarding joy in God by the sacraments, means of grace and physical things that bring delights as from God’s hand, should lead us to delight in the Giver, more than the gift. It could be sparked by mediating and praying on a Bible text, seeing sights along the northern California coastline, photos of kids and grandkids on the refrigerator, listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major symphony, the smell of a silver spruce Christmas tree next to a warm fireplace on Christmas eve with family, savoring a slice of warm buttered black raspberry jam on wheat toast with a cup of favorite coffee or tea or enjoying the pleasures of sexual intimacy in marriage. God created them all to be enjoyed by mankind, made in his image, as they see and enjoy his eternal power and divine nature reflected in those things, and glorify and give him thanks for those things (1 Tim. 4:3-5; Rom. 1:20-21).

The old delight-circuitry of the sinful nature must be rewired by disconnecting delights in sinful things, and reconnecting them to affections of disgust and distaste. Delights in good things for sinful purposes must be rewired to God-glorifying motives. This happens in many ways within two main categories of life. First, we make sets of active choices which form habits. We count ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God and yield ourselves and instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:11-14). Second, we submit to God’s discipline. For some believers God permits them to experience the natural consequences for sinful choices that reveal sin’s bitterness, and those believers need to submit to that bitterness as a teacher and invest in new life choices that bear new sweet fruits. For other believers, God permits them to experience sickness, suffering and frustration in a fallen world. We know God disciplines those he loves, and his discipline painfully rewires our loves and hates (Heb. 12:6-14; Rom. 8:17-39; Phil. 4:4-13).    

The greater the awareness of how God’s omni-attributes are reflected and experienced in and through the created world, the greater the appreciation and delight that comes from enjoying anything. Our task then, is to seek God’s gift of regenerative rewiring that begins to replicate itself into all areas of life, or to use a medical metaphor, something like a God-delight stem cell transfusion. Though Edwards’ thesis that love for God’s holiness should be our chief delight and the singular proof of true religious affections (see note #1 above), awareness of and delight in seven additional omni-attributes enlarges our capacity for joy and are also chief signs of true religious affections.

Consider how to rewire the savor of a warm, crunchy, buttered slice of black raspberry wheat toast leading to delight in God. Toast is physically present to put in the toaster and hold in the hand acquired by holy means of faithful labor and exchange of goods (God’s reflected omnipresence and omni-holiness) as a provision from God’s hand on the produce of the earth (God’s reflected omni-sufficiency) that requires God’s gifts of knowledge and wisdom (God’s reflected omniscience) giving power to produce creation’s goods and distribute them by unified market services and family cooperation (God’s reflected omnipotence  and omni-harmoniousness) that are faithfully available to be purchased or made by God’s people on six theo-synchronic days of the week (God’s reflected omni-faithfulness and omni-historicity). The rewired preacher can enjoy a piece of breakfast toast while it brings him to delight in God! Of course, you can fill in the blank with your own favorite foods if you are on South Beach diet phase one or on a gluten-free, vegan diet, but hopefully without calling another’s freedom’s evil (Rom. 14:1-15:7).

These wires leading out of nearly anything you enjoy experiencing, tasting, smelling, seeing, hearing, touching (within the bounds of the Ten Commandments and Christian freedom) can be connected to delight in God (who gives and sustains it). Therefore, fundamentalist legalism prohibiting many kinds of Christian freedoms that originate from church or institutional leadership codifying them in statements of faith or covenants of behavior are misguided (prohibiting participation in popular culture such as alcohol, card or mahjong playing, movies, computer games and apps, TV, social media, dancing, certain books, defining acceptable clothing, jewelry or hair styles). In addition to submitting to the Ten Commandments as the control standards for our duties and prohibitions (Westminster Larger Catechism 99-150 gives an excellent summary of the biblical theology of each command), the morality of something we enjoy is more conditioned by whether we can see God’s eternal power and divine nature reflected in it or through it, giving him glory and thanks, than by prohibitions that seem to protect the holiness of God’s people. Don’t handle, taste or touch, as traditional rules developed to restrain the appearance of evil, are of no value in stopping the heart indulgence of the sinful flesh (Col. 2:20-23). 

The rewired preacher needs to enlarge his capacity for joy in the joys of his spouse, family and congregants and connect these multiple circuits of joy to joy in God himself. In his preaching, he will be able to help his hearers rewire connections between the attributes of God and their reflections in Christ, the people of God and in earthly things his people experience. His preaching of delight in God will supply an unlimited capacity of recharging power to energize the daily Christian life.  

Delight in God is always discerned through some created thing. Yes, that’s right! There is no direct pathway to delighting in God. We always get redirected through means of created things to discern God in the created thing. God spoke to the fathers through angels, dreams, visions and pre-incarnate appearances, which were then recorded in the Old Testament by the prophets. God’s grace and truth was revealed through the incarnate Christ. Without going through his created humanity, no one can come to God (John 14:6; 1:14; Heb. 1:1-3; 7:25; Rom 5:17-20; 1 Cor. 15:42-49). Since we are pilgrims living after the New Testament era, we must go through the foundation of the prophetic and apostolic God-breathed, inerrant, created pages of Scripture to discern God, and Christ the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20; 2 Pet. 1:3-4, 21; 3:16-18; Rom. 15:4). By reading Scripture, we learn who God is and his providential works in the world in ruling over the created universe, the works he continues to do through his people, and the evil he permits in giving up his enemies to their lusts and conquering them. When looking at the text of Scripture or at people, or observing the interactions of time and space with created beings and objects, we can discern God’s person and work, leading to delight in God who is discerned.[3] Then through Scripture in our hearts as the glasses with which to see the world, we can look at created things and discern God’s eternal power and divine nature (Rom. 1:20; Ps. 19:1-2). When looking at his work, but failing to see God or his work, we go back to Scripture to try to understand more about what we have been missing in our spiritual perceptions of the world. Creation study by itself, without the glasses of Scripture, will reveal some “rebel facts” (it never directly reveals truth) and when interpreted by unregenerate man, will lead to distorted and erroneous ideas.[4] Those facts must submit to the authority and interpretive lens of Scripture to become a source of delight in God himself (2 Cor. 10:4-5).  

This is something like Neo, in the movie the Matrix, when he is enlightened, and starts to discern the matrix into which all things connect, depicted in the movie by his ability to see the zeros and ones (lines of matrix code) as the structure behind all things visible. In the movie, the matrix is an imaginary or surreal world that can only be superseded by those who know the matrix is a digital image, a kind of imaginary lie created to keep people in submission. I’d like to use the matrix of digital-zeros-and-ones-overlaid-on-everything-we-see metaphor for another purpose, not as an imaginary digital lie that needs to be discovered and resisted, but as a way of seeing everything in this world as reflections of God’s attributes, as our minds are renewed by Scripture to know who God is. Suppose we label each of the eight derivative attributes in the buttered toast paragraph above as 1a-8a in a digital matrix. After we are regenerated, we see lines of 1a-8a code reflected in all created things. It could be a piece of buttered wheat toast with jam, sharing intimacy with one’s spouse, enjoying a scenic view, enjoying the social harmony of a system that works from production of goods to roadway distribution to market to functional credit cards and Google or Apple Pay apps that work for purchasing at a local convenience store, driving a well-made car, riding a well-performing bicycle, or seeing the city’s well-built and designed buildings, stores, roads, transportation systems, parks, bike paths and sidewalks. Every created thing has discernable aspects of the derivative glory of God to those regenerated to see those attributes. This is the usual way to delight in God by created things. Another movie metaphor might also combine with the matrix metaphor, the Avatar movie. Selected humans enter a dreamlike trance while they are mentally united with avatar bodies. This enabled the avatar to experience Pandora as a living planet connected to Eywa, the tree of life. Though Christianity would teach us to reject any movie themes involving pantheistic worship of the tree representing Eywa and Pandora’s interconnected biosphere, the idea of biological interconnectivity, a neural network linking all life on the planet, is a useful metaphor. In an analogous way, regenerated believers have new eyes to see how “in [Christ] all things [in the universe] hold together,” (Col. 1:17), how he reflects his eternal power and divine nature to, on, in and by all created things (Rom. 1:20; 11:36; Eph. 1:10), including his Triune (omni-harmonious) all-wise (omniscient), sovereign control (omnipotent) over all the sequencing of all events in time (omni-historical) and space (omnipresence) also sustaining the biodiversity of our planet earth (omni-sufficiency) by the word of his promise (omni-faithfulness) to a holy purpose (omni-holiness), that he alone would be glorified, praised and worshiped (Rom. 1:21; 11:36; Rev. 15:4; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 4:8; 83:18; 86:10; Isa. 37:16; 44:24). The created world is infused with reflections of his glory!  

Delight derived from created things that leads to delight in God as the source, this is the proper use of the temporal delight turned to the eternal source of delight! The sinful side, ignorance and blindness to the derivative attribute “matrix” instead will see in the things themselves some amazing substitutes that seem qualified for worship (Rom. 1:20-25). Much of our super hero movie attraction in the early 21st century (Batman, Superman, Fantastic Four, Captain America, X-Men, Flash, Arrow) seems to be a quest for divine substitutes that seem worthy of worship. Similarly, this blindness is expressed in pantheism, a worldview that supposes everything created is some sort of god. The devil will ever seek to lead men to rejoice in God’s gifts, the created things themselves, or the actions we do, rather than using those things to lead us to delight in God himself.[5] Job worshiped God because God is glorious and worthy of worship, regardless of perceived benefits, unlike Job’s wife, who seemed to expect more benefits from God for all the toil of religion (Job 1:1-2:10). Without delight in God himself, the temporal “believer” will fall away both in times of trouble and times of pleasure (seed on rocky soil and among thorns Matt 13:20-22).

Seeing greater likenesses to God’s omni-attributes and the derivative reflections of those attributes in the created world ought to stir God’s regenerated-delighters to greater delight and attraction, while lesser reflections stir less delight or attraction. Thus, the greatest delight regenerate believers can experience is in knowing, believing in, and communing with Christ himself, the perfect reflection of the derivative attributes of God, and the fulfilment of the moral law as the definition of the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 3:18; Heb. 1:1-3; Matt 5:17; 1 Pet. 3:18; Rom. 8:3-4). All other delights in created things must be derivative subsets of our ultimate delight in Christ himself!

Standards of Delight in God and Peace[6] to Men

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and deathFor God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  Roman 8:2-4

A. Summary Catechism

Q3: Elect believer, what do you believe about the LORD’s glory revealed to you, that his derivative glory might be declared upon you, formed in you and reflected by you?

A3: I believe the Triune LORD has revealed his glory through his persons and works to me by his Word and Spirit, from him (omnipresent, omni-holy, omni-sufficient, omniscient, omni-harmonious, omnipotent, omni-faithful and omni-historical), with both cursed and blessed-faces, with derivative attributes of each of these omni-attributes perfectly fulfilled by Christ in the works of his human nature for me (presence, holiness, provision, knowledge, unity, rule, faithfulness, theosynchrony), the cursed-face of God endured by Christ at the cross for me, so that his derivative glory might be declared on me (propitiation, justification), formed in me (repentance, vivification), [7] and reflected by me (enmity, peacemaking) in realms (heavenly, earthly) and places (assembly, creation, diaspora) by mandates (assembly, commission, investment, culture, frustration, ambassador, emigration, reformation, discipline, warfare).

All that follows below about the glory of the LORD reflected in us draws its power and certainty from elect believers’ faith, which is focused on union with the crucified, resurrected, and glorified Christ.[8]

The basic standards of how to delight in God are shown in obedience to the Ten Commandments. Love for God (defined by the 1st-4th commandments) establishes the patterns of love for our neighbor (5th-10th commandments). The authorities we should honor (5th commandment) will honor of the true King (1st commandment) and his kingdom laws (Rom. 2:10; 13:3-4, 7; Phil. 2:29; Rev. 7:12). Seven-day cycles of labor and worship-thanksgiving-rest are the Lord’s requirement (4th commandment). By these cycles, God gifts and enables mankind to produce personal goods and services, which shall not be coveted or stolen by authorities or neighbors (Deut. 8:18; 10th & 8th commandments). God’s covenant faithfulness is the pattern for marital faithfulness (Ephesians 5:24-33; 7th commandment). The Lord’s name and reputation must be represented with integrity (3rd commandment) even as we truthfully represent our neighbor’s reputation (9th commandment).    

Two Faces of the Derivative Attributes of Christ in Us

Christ’s satisfaction of God’s justice by his propitiating death on the cross and his perfect moral obedience are the foundations for Christian life transformation. God’s glory reflected to, on and by Christ, becomes the pattern for our salvation. Christ reflects God’s glory to, on, in, and by elect believers by the Spirit and the Scriptures.  After explaining justification as a first benefit of union with Christ in the last chapter, this chapter will focus on a second benefit of union with Christ, the LORD’s new covenant promise to form the moral law in elect believers’ minds and hearts.[9] Elect believers’ declared righteousness in justification becomes imparted righteousness in sanctification. This chapter highlights the summary catechism phrase “formed in me” as the enlivening process of vivification The Spirit’s life within the elect enables their obedience to the moral law, both in its inward affections written on the heart and its ethical behaviors practiced in life.

WCF 9:4 states, “[w]hen God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.” According to WCF 10:1, effectual calling is “renewing their wills.” In WCF 13:1, “[t]hey who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified.”[10] The willingness to do spiritual good is related to changed character, a renewal of the heart and spirit into the likeness of these derivative attributes.[11] As our relationship with Christ deepens, we begin to exhibit more of his character traits, or derivative attributes.

As a simple description, derivative attributes include blessed-face, positive traits compiled in biblical lists such as the fruits of the Spirit, attributes of love, character qualities that make election sure, wisdom from above, or elder-deacon qualifications.[12] These lists of specific character qualities belong to a larger category of heart and life character qualities that also include cursed-face, enmity-to-sin qualities such as personal repentance for indwelling sin, church discipline of the unrepentant, and apologetics to expose the evil in the world. This foundations book doesn’t have a separate chapter on the nature of fallen man. It is integrated into sections in nearly every chapter related to the need to share God’s enmity attributes by repentance for sin, enmity to the wicked, and the curse Christ bore for our sins on the cross.  

The Ten Commandments Written in the Heart

Biblical descriptions about the moral law reflect the LORD’s own attributes. His law is perfect, reviving the soul. It is sure, making wise the simple. It is right, rejoicing the heart. The law is pure, enlightening the eyes. It is true and righteous altogether.[13] The law is good, sure, forever fixed, teaching us to hate every false way, wonderful, imparting understanding, enduring forever.[14]   Not only is the moral law a reflection of God’s original attributes, but God’s two faces of blessing and cursing are shown in response to man’s obeying or disobeying the moral law.[15] Though more complex in its development, the Westminster Larger Catechism 91-150 exposition of the Ten Commandments gives parallel lists of attributes that can easily be separated into the blessed-face and cursed-face derivative attribute categories I have proposed. The blessed-face derivative attributes are explicated in the duties entailed for each command, and the cursed-face derivative attributes are explicated in the sins committed against each command. In the New Covenant, the Spirit writes the law on our hearts,[16] and elect disciplers will obey it. They will teach and correct disciples based on these laws which illuminate sin, highlight the need for a Savior, and teach them what to love and hate, what to do, and what is forbidden.

But the Ten Commandments themselves are nearly all prohibitions formulated in the pattern of “you shall not,” except the fourth and fifth commands. Thus, WLC 99-150 must enlarge both the prohibitions and the positive character aspects of the law using a framework for interpreting them, (WLC 99) and for bridging OT-NT expressions of the law in biblical systematic theology. The Westminster Larger Catechism section on the Ten Commandments gives us more thorough definitions of both the positive duties and the negative prohibitions of the Ten Commandments that do include these character qualities or derivative attributes of God written on the heart, as promised in the New Covenant (Heb. 10:16). According to WLC 99, “[the law] is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.” However, a believer has a good bit of reading to do before getting at these themes. WLC teaches the relation of each of the Ten Commandments to righteousness in our will, motives, emotions, reason, and behavior.

First commandment. “You shall have no other gods before me” requires heart changes like “thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him” (WLC 104).

Second commandment. “You shall not make any idols” requires heart changes like “receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word” (WLC 108).

Third commandment. “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain” requires heart changes so “[t]hat the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and: Whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation . . .” (WLC 112).

Fourth commandment. “You shall remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy and work the six other days” requires heart changes like “making it our delight to spend the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship” (WLC 117).

Fifth commandment. “You shall honor your father and mother” requires heart changes like “[t]he honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart . . .” (WLC 127). “It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors” (WLC 129).

Sixth commandment. “You shall not kill” requires heart changes like “patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; . . . by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil” (WLC 135).

Seventh commandment. “You shall not commit adultery” requires heart changes like “chastity in . . . mind, affections . . . and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance” (WLC 138).

Eighth commandment. “You shall not steal” requires heart changes like “moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods” (WLC 141).

Ninth commandment. “You shall not bear false witness/lie” requires heart changes like “from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things: Whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities” (WLC 144).

Tenth commandment. “You shall not covet” requires heart changes like “such a full contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his” (WLC 147).

All the original attributes of God impart specific derivative attributes that make elect believers awaken to the fullness and beauty of the commandments: God’s omni-holiness (gives love for God and man), omniscience (gives knowledge of himself and all the commands), omnipotence (gives power to do all the commands) omni-faithfulness (gives us faithfulness to keep the commands, gives us final resurrection to unchangeable righteousness), omni-historicity (gives us existence within chronological time to obey the law and in then in eternity; shapes our view of time past that he gave the law, present that the moral law is my duty, and future that he will judge law-breakers), omni-harmoniousness (gives us the law to submit for our earthly shalom), omni-sufficiency (gives material, pastoral, and civil-social resources to support obedience to the commands and gives us contentment in keeping all the commands derived from the self-existence of God), and omnipresence (gives us existence in physical space and is with us by the Spirit to apply all his attributes to bless us in fellowship/communion to do the commands with us).

Blessed-Face Applications of the Ten Commandments

Here is a simple list providing the most obvious logical links between major omni-attributes, their derivative reflections and each commandment (Deut. 5:7-21).[17] There is overlap, such that we could explore all eight omni-attributes’ blessed faces in relation to each command, but only one is selected for representative purposes.

1st “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Omni-holy: proper love and hate defined by the true God.

2nd “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or . . . bow down to them or serve them.” Omnipresent: proper worship of the invisible, present LORD

3rd “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” Omniscient: proper reverence to revealed truth.

4th “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, . . . Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Omni-historical: proper structure of historical memory and routines of time.

5th “Honor your father and your mother.” Omni-harmonious: proper relations of authority and submission.

6th “You shall not murder.” Omnipotent: proper use of power.

7th “You shall not commit adultery.” Omni-faithful: proper fulfillment of promises.

8th “You shall not steal.” Omni-sufficient: proper stewardship of material resources.

9th “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Omniscient: proper witness of reality.

10th “You shall not covet.” Omni-sufficient: proper contentment.

Cursed-Face Applications of The Ten Commandments

All the original attributes of God listed below are turned to reflect God’s cursed face against the moral law-breaker! In other words, all the original attributes of God impart specific derivative attributes that renew us to jealousy for God’s holiness, zeal for God’s house, and hatred for what he hates in all who break these commandments.

All Ten Commandments define the enemies of God as those who oppose his righteous rule. The ones opposing his righteous rule are those who deny the supremacy of his enthroned Son as the only Lord to be worshipped without idolatrous representation, who call on the names of other “gods” in addition to or besides him, who resist authority, who hate and kill humanity, who destroy the marriage bond between one man and one woman, who deny property rights, who present falsehoods as truth, and who are filled with lusts and love for created things rather than the Creator.

The list below gives examples how each omni-attribute gives hatred of some ways sinners disobey each commandment. There is overlap, such that we could explore all eight omni-attributes’ cursed faces in relation to each command, but only one is selected for representative purposes.

1st “You shall have no other gods before me.” Omni-holiness gives hatred for all that resists God worship of the one true God, such as worship of or ascribing power to various gods, religions, fate, geomancy, atheism, or anger at God.

2nd “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or . . . bow down to them or serve them.” Omnipresence gives his presence to commandment breakers to curse, punish, frustrate, limit, and conquer those who value created things above the Creator as source of good, power, and help, or who worship idols and practice superstitions.

3rd “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” Omniscience provides the healthy fear that God knows all sins committed and reveals wisdom to foresee consequences that accompany sinful disobedience, like in Proverbs 5-7, such as consequences of foolish vows, pharisaical or selfish prayers, hypocrisy, or using the LORD’s name as a swear word.

4th “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Omni-historical warns us that the time of his coming is near and that we should not spend our finite amount of time in sinful living, such as time wasted on useless things, laziness, failure to do useful work, or not resting on the Lord’s Day.

5th “Honor your father and your mother.” Omni-harmonious imparts wisdom regarding the disunity, sabotage, double-crossing, and mutiny that accompany the wicked, such as their misuse of authority, the need to dominate, unrighteous anger, ignoring another person for whom they are responsible, or resentment towards authority.

6th “You shall not murder.” Omnipotence imparts power, depending on one’s specific spheres of influence and authority, to promote, praise, and reward good, and resist, outlaw, or even punish evil. The LORD gives temporary authority to those in the world, even though many will use it against him in ways that neglect or abuse the body of one’s self or others, sleeping too much, over working, over use of foods, drinks, exercise, failure to control emotions with the truth, suicidal thoughts or self-injuring behaviors.

7th “You shall not commit adultery.” Omni-faithful gives disgust, grief, and sorrow at all unfaithfulness to the commands, and to all oath breakers, such as lustful thoughts or looks at images or people, ungodly deprivation within marriage[18] and all other types of sexual sin that Scripture forbids.

8th “You shall not steal.” Omni-sufficiency relinquishes sinners to their lusts or, conversely, deprives them of resources, yet patiently bears with sinners in common grace, giving them resources that they use against God’s person, works, law, and people. He gives us hatred to things like dishonest contracts, intentional misuse of property in ways that diminish its value, greed, theft, fraud, bribery, and gambling.

9th “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Omniscience reveals wisdom to foresee consequences that accompany sinful disobedience, like in Proverbs 5-7, and provides the healthy fear that God knows all sins committed, such as dishonest slander, forgery, lying, misleading or manipulative talk, gossip, misinterpreting motives, flattery, and self-deprecation.

10th “You shall not covet.” Omni-sufficiency gives hatred for things like living as a spiritual orphan—living as though our Father in heaven did not know about our needs or care to provide for us, with worry and fear about the future—discontent, envy, and grieving at the due praise and success of others.

Moral Law as Glory Revealer, Standard for Human Comparison & Restoration: See Christ, Know Sin, Learn Duty (WCF 19:5-7 of the Law of God)

V. The moral law does forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;[8] and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it.[9] Neither does Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.[10]

VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned;[11] yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as

1)     a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;[12] 

2)    discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives; [13] so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin,[14] 

3)    together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience.[15] 

4)    It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin:[16] and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.[17] 

5)     The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof:[18] although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.[19] So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law: and not under grace.[20]

VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it;[21] the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requires to be done.[22] Heb. 8:10; Ezek. 36:27; Jer. 31:33)

These commandments reveal the glory of God in the face of Christ, the perfect fulfiller of the moral law (Matt. 5:17-18; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Tim. 3:16). define the best way to live, while also depicting what is best for discipleship dynamics and environmental stewardship. For instance, the Ten Commandments form the ethical standards of a discipler’s qualifications: it leads them to ask, am I a righteous discipler according to the commands of God? The Ten Commandments also provide a structure to evaluate the details and severity of a disciple’s problems. Those who disobey the commandments reveal what the mind focused on a fleshly life looks like. Recognition of tendencies towards fleshly life requires repentance, both for a discipler’s growth and a disciple’s correction. Disciplers can assess if the disciple has a sin problem according to the Ten Commandments. Sometimes, the disciple has several obvious sins against these moral commandments, so framing the issues within this context gives disciplers an obvious starting point from which they can move forward with Biblical guidance.

Another kind of delight is in seeing and waiting for the justice and wrath of God to be poured out on his and our enemies (Rom. 1:18-32; Rev. 18:20; 1 Pet. 2:23; 4:19). If they will not be converted, we pray that God would “look upon their threats” and intervene with the extension of his kingdom rule as well as his evil-limiting, proud-humiliating, rich-impoverishing, throne-displacing judgments (Psalm 2 as used in the prayer of Acts 4:24-31; Luke 1:51-53; Acts 12:20-23; Dan. 4-5). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” (Heb. 10:31).

[1] See Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections, part three, principle two, that the elect are regenerated by a spiritual sight of the glory and beauty of God’s holiness. However, I propose in this book, that regeneration brings a whole new series of delights, for example, delight in God’s eight omni-attributes, not only his omni-holiness, but also his omnipresence, omni-sufficiency, omniscience, omni-harmoniousness, omnipotence, omni-faithfulness, and omni-historical nature.   

[2] This pattern is expressed well in two works by C.S. Lewis, his narrative of his conversion in Surprised by Joy, where he longs for recurring experiences of joy, but realizes that the joy is a fleeting by-product of the thing desired. He also writes a post conversion essay, titled The Weight of Glory, proposing that the temporal pleasures of this life should be seen as diluted flavors of God’s river of pleasures, the torrens voluptatis, flowing from his throne, and these heavenly pleasures of the new earth alone give substantial and enduring joy. We are fools who would be satisfied with the diluted flavors in this old earthly realm, when God has promised joys of drinking at the fountainhead in the new earth.

[3] See John Piper When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy for a wonderful study about how Scripture, prayer and created things are all means to stir up and guard our delight in God.

[4] See Redeeming Sociology: A God-Centered Approach (Crossway 2011) for examples of how unregenerate sociologists leave God out of their sociological analysis, and falsify the data that they “see”. Also available free in PDF form at https://frame-poythress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/PoythressVernRedeemingSociology.pdf

[5] Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, section two lists false signs of conversion and spiritual life as rejoicing in the gifts of God and that they are loved by God and have received justification, rather than rejoicing in God himself. cite source).  David Brainerd’s Journals show a resistance to this temptation in evaluating signs of true assurance of salvation, not satisfied to rejoice in his justification, but through that justification to rejoice in the God who justifies (cite source). C.S. Lewis Screwtape Letters develops a similar theme in the instructions to the junior devil to cause the man to rejoice with pride in his spiritual devotion and the fact that he did his Bible reading and praying, rather than whether these devotions actually caused him to have communion with God. cite source).  

[6] I use this term in a broad sense of shalom, human socio-cultural flourishing, reduction of human conflict, through obedience to the 5th-10 commandments in all human communities (Heb 12:14-15; Rom 2:10; 8:6; 14:17-19; Eph. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 7:15; Luke 1:79; 1 Cor. 14:33; Ps. 1:1-3), but this is also rooted in proper worship of the one true Lord (1st-4th commandments).

[7] Though I use the phrase “formed in me” to develop the theme of heart change in sanctification, there is constant overlap with “reflected by me in places where I live,” such that the attributes formed in us will be reflected by us.

[8] Rom. 6:10-11; 2 Cor. 3:18

[9] For excellent resources on biblical ethics, see John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics, reprint (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), Philip Graham Ryken, Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2010), and the massive tome by John Frame, A Theology of Lordship: The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2008).

[10] Ezek. 36:26-31; Heb. 10:16

[11] Tit. 3:5-7; Rom. 12:1-2

[12] Gal. 5:22-23; 1 Cor. 13:4-8; 2 Pet. 1:3-11; Jas. 3:17-18; 1 Tim. 3:1-12; Tit. 1:5-9

[13] Ps. 19:7-11

[14] Ps. 119:39, 86, 89, 104, 129, 130, 160

[15] Deut. 28-30

[16] Heb. 10:16

[17] In an interesting article related to what he calls the fourth use of the law, David Gill proposes ways each of the first four commandments in relation to God have a reflective function in human relationships. Based on the first commandment (p. 9), “Treat all people as unique, valuable individuals. Never treat anyone as though they are dispensable, without value, or ‘just a number.’ ” Based on the second commandment (p. 10), “Support every individual’s freedom, growth, and development. Never view anyone through stereotypes and images, or as fixed and unchangeable.” Based on the third commandment (p. 12), “Communicate to people by name with respect. Never use or impose demeaning, trivializing, or derogatory names on others.” Based on the fourth commandment (p. 14), “Model and encourage a balanced life of good work and rest. Do not adopt policies or make demands on others that undermine balanced lives.” David W. Gill, “A Fourth Use of the Law? The Decalogue in the Workplace,” Journal of Religion and Business Ethics 2, no. 2 (2011): Art. 4, http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/faith-work/documents/GillD.AFourthUseoftheLaw_2.pdf. Also see his earlier article expanding the use of all Ten Commandments to business ethics in “Ten Principles of Highly Ethical People,” Radix Magazine 29 no. 2 (2002): 4-7, 27-30, http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/faith-work/documents/GillD.TenPrinciples.pdf.

[18] 1 Cor. 7:5

Comment

Comment

The Glory of God in Marital Sex (and why all other sex diminishes glory and pleasure)

Delight in God, evidenced by joyful submission to his commandments, can put an end to the attraction of sin, particularly “pleasurable” sins and addictions that appear initially pleasurable. All regenerate delights are renewed to enjoy God in Christ, and everything that flows from his blessed face, while sharing in his grief, disgust and hatred of all that doesn’t share his likeness.

Consider one example that the world exalts as delightful, but often without delight that returns to God’s himself as the giver of these marital intimacy delights. Regenerate marital sexual intimacy (one man, one woman for life as defined in the 7th commandment) reflects greater likenesses to Christ’s eight derivative attributes than all lesser sexual substitutes: total life intimacy combined with naked presence to bless, holiness of mind and bodily rights given only to each another, created complementary provision for mutual, simultaneous sexual climax, using knowledge of sexual preferences to serve and give greater pleasure to spouse, unity in established roles of a husband’s authority that sacrifices and a wife’s submission that honors, created complementary creation rule by procreation, being fruitful and multiplying, and use of all resources, powers and gifts to bless and prosper one another in the family and the world, faithfulness to each other’s marital vows, and theosynchrony of a lifetime shared and invested in each other in synchrony with God’s view and use of time for work, rest and leisure-fun together, together with setting apart the time needed for mutually enjoyable sexual intimacy [1]  

All lesser substitutes offered by the world, the devil or the left-over sinful delights of the unregenerate heart fail to reach the full delights of God-reflective intimacy. C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce has a wonderfully creative illustration of this principle. The last scenario is about an angel spirit persuading a gray wisp of a human spirit to let it kill the lust lizard on its shoulder. The wisp human spirit cringes before the angelic spirit in anticipation of pain, while the lust lizard promises more satisfaction and more ability to be contained and quiet, so as not to cause future disturbances. Then with final permission, the angelic spirit crushes the lust lizard and throws it to the ground. Quite unexpectedly, the lizard turns into a beautiful horse upon whom the wisp human spirit rides into heavenly glory. Lewis has captured in imaginary story form what is true in life: sexual lust is a puny and slimy imaginary pleasure compared to the power and beauty of marital sexual pleasure, the latter of which is an aid to reaching heavenly glory, since in healthy marriages, sex reveals so much of God’s reflective glory.

Consider how a lust pleasures outside of God’s design fail to reach full delight and fail to enjoy the “way of peace” (Isa. 59:3-9; Rom.3:17; 8:6; 14:17-19; Luke 1:79). Intimate naked presence with a prostitute exchanges the life-enriching theosyncronic holiness and faithfulness to lifelong promises for life-destroying commodity transactions, offering a pimp money for physical sex with an enslaved woman’s body, with high probability of sexually transmitted diseases, exchanges mutually shared unity of sacrifice and honor that properly uses sexual knowledge to give mutual pleasure for dominance of the client over the pretending prostitute, exchanges the creation order of one man-one woman sexual ethic and of possible offspring from the union for enslaved, manipulated, abused and wasted resources used in destruction of relational unity and any resulting offspring (abortion). Ironically, committed homosexual relationships (in some countries, now called marriage) must exchange created complementary sexual climax and procreation for substitutes of God’s design for genitalia and artificial conception. These relationships also exchange God’s design for different gender, male-female unity for mimicry of authority-submission roles in same gender relationships. Pornography used for masturbation may avoid dangers of sexually transmitted diseases by intimate naked presence, but exchanges mutually enjoyable rights to a spouse’s real body for digital imagery mimicking physical presence, exchanges knowledgeable intimacy between sacrificing and honoring partners with the purpose of procreation to extend the creation mandate for self-stimulation with imaginary possession of a sex object or slave, and exchanges times shared and invested in real relationships for interruptive, lonely diversion.        

Of course, like God, God’s people will learn to love those who are still sinners (Rom. 5:8; Matt. 5:44-45), but will not experience attractive delight when observing moral failure. Every Christian parent regenerated to God-delight will know this! When children reflect more of the likeness of Christ, the parent experiences more delight in that child, but when the child rebels against Christ and reflects the world, the flesh and the devil’s likenesses, the parent experiences more grief and sadness (Prov. 17:25). Every minister, in the same way, will share delight when his disciples reflect more of Christ, and experiences grief and sorrow when disciples sin (Phil. 2:20-23; 2 Cor. 11:28-29). If the Spirit “rejoices with the truth,” so his people will share this delight (1 Cor. 13:6). If the Spirit is grieved by sin and wrong-doing, so will his regenerate people share in his sin-grief (Eph. 4:30; 1 Cor. 13:6). In some cases, separation is necessary to maintain peace between fighting people (1 Cor. 7:15).

Another kind of delight that reflects God in the world is delight in discipline for sharing in greater likeness to God (Heb. 12:6-14). We engage the created world by discipling people and creatures into the likeness of the derivative attributes, by designing all inanimate objects into the likeness of the derivative attributes, designating them for uses that further show his derivative attributes, and displaying or declaring these objects so that God can be seen and glorified in those things. These themes hold true for all vocations, from the minister preparing a sermon to the carpenter building a tiny house.

All these moral works, when applied through the Gospel and saving faith, bring peace to men (Rom. 2:10; Ps. 1:1-3). Resisting their degradation and displacement in the assembly and in the public culture will help preserve peace among men (Heb 12:14-15).  


[1] For other related themes about how sex is a way to know God better, see John Piper and Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, chapters 1-2 written by Piper. There is even a kind of intimacy preserved when the married couple must separate or cease mutual sexual intimacy by mutual agreement for a time (injury, medical problems, sexual performance problems, sickness, work, travel, and similar types of hindrances to intimacy) to give themselves to prayer, with delight in their remembered sexual intimacies shared, longing after and preparing for future sexual intimacies (1 Cor. 7:3-5).

Comment

Comment

Our Best World (realist approach to why the moral law is written on human hearts)

Our Best World: A realist approach to apologetics and evangelism

I. Broken Dreams (what’s wrong?)

  1. Not enough jobs, wasted effort, mismatch work and skills, underpaid, overpaid, lazy people

  2. Authorities abuse their power (fathers, teachers, police, government leaders, religious leaders), powerful nations abuse and oppress smaller nations, followers rebel, protest and complain, equals envy, gossip and attack each other behind other’s backs

  3. Families broken by physical, emotional, sexual abuse, affairs, divorce, gambling, drinking, drugs, medical practice is used to harm and take life (abortion, euthanasia), health education is infected by lies of liberalism (any risky sexual behavior is ok if you use a condom)

  4. Families broken by sexual immorality (before, during marriage, heterosexuality, homosexuality, prostitution, lust fantasies, pornographic photos and videos, one-night stands)

  5. Relationships broken, businesses ruined by stealing and cheating

  6. Relationships broken by lying, hurting one another’s reputations with gossip

  7. People filled with envy, greed, always see more/want more . . . Greed and envy is the root of all the other broken dreams.

II. Why all these broken dreams? Various answers

  1. Folk religion has various external spirit-world answers: feng-shwei, hungry ghosts, displeased ancestors need to be placated, resisted. Taiwan folk religion develops out of fear of externally caused evil from hungry ghosts, unhappy ancestors or unhappy gods that must be either appeased or resisted, with some sense of filial piety toward ancestors (SyauSuen). But there are no clear, unchanging laws or standards given by these ancestors, so you are always guessing inductively based on bad circumstances, never sure if you are accepted or they are pleased with you.

  2. Evolutionary theory has various historically shaped interpretations: we are only evolved physical matter trying to survive, rules and laws are just ways we have learned to survive, but wars can change all that and start everything over again.

  3. Communism’s theory is based on class struggle: the under-privileged and oppressed people must resist their oppressors, and establish a new utopia of equals without different financial classes, where everyone shares all things in common (property, resources). But we know that those in power are unequal and can oppress the people with unfair laws just like any other government system.  

  4. Democratic theory is that elected officials with integrity, whom we know and trust, will bring a better society and more fair laws, taxes, health care, build social infrastructure for the common good. But we know this system fails as well, by corrupt leaders who are greedy and selfish, failed government policies and high taxes to try to fix problems that can’t be fixed with big government programs.   

Because of sin against the moral law of the Creator-Lord, man just tries to survive even if it means using our power to hurt others (similar to evolution and communism).

Because this world is under the curse for man’s sins, the Creator-Lord permits external spirit-world problems with demon-spirits (fallen angels) that seek to injure us (similar to Taiwan folk religion). But Christianity’s solution does not propose to make everyone equal (communism) or use various rituals to protect ourselves from evil spirits (Taiwan folk religion). Christianity believes government is important, with current best models approving representative government and fairly enforced laws as the least potentially dangerous, with the ability to remove and punish those who are selfish or misuse power and money, but there are still many abuses and problems with foolish, selfish or greedy leaders, so Christianity doesn’t think that government can fix the broken dreams.

III. My Broken Dreams are real (I have hurt others and I have been hurt)

Doesn’t this fit with what feels right in your heart? (Rom. 2:14-15) and don’t you already practice some of these things yourselves?

  1. From experience we know that breaking these laws, failure of moral self-control of the mind, will and emotions, brings relational and social chaos.

  2. Our moral knowledge is used to judge others who hurt me or hurt others I care about.

  3. Our conscience accuses us for personal evil and this produces “You are bad” responses of deep inward self-estrangement, self-hatred, isolation, torment, alarm, dread, anxiety, depression, alienation, shame, hiding, remorse, fear of being found out, some forms of mental illness, self-punishment or injury, and anger toward ourselves, or alternately, causing a secondary relieved conscience  because of self-defense, self-deception, or excuse-making to pretend innocence. God gave this witness of your conscience to testify about himself to you. 

IV. Why all these broken dreams? Christianity says . . .

  1. Start by comparing religious values defining the most important things about meaning and purpose of life. Does the moral law of the 4th-10th commandments fit with “Our Best World”? I just showed you two ways to define seven of the Ten Commandments, the ancient wise law given through Moses to the Jews, and has become the moral teaching of Jesus and the apostle’s Christianity. I think you would agree that these 6.5 laws do give us part of the meaning of “Our Best World”

You shall work six days (0.5 law)

You shall honor your parents

You shall not murder

You shall not commit adultery

You shall not steal

You shall not give false witness

You shall not covet

2. Christianity’s definition of the biggest problem for broken dreams in the world is called sin (heart [mind, will, emotions] and behavior) against the 1st Table of law, namely against the defined will of the Creator-Lord in the garden of Eden brought curse, and resulting chaos and sins against Second Table of law on man’s work, misuse of authority, rebellion among followers, and fighting, wars, sickness and death, marital unfaithfulness sexual immorality, stealing, lying, envy into the whole world of living things. We also know this because of why the Father-Lord send Jesus-Lord into the world—to save people from their sins.

BIGGEST SIN: STARTS WITH DEFINITIONS IN 1st TABLE of law, the other 3.5 laws: If so, then we cannot just accept part of the Creator-Lord’s wisdom and understanding, but need to accept the 1st-4th commandments. If you have the wrong god and way of worship, you do not know the true God and his power to change personally or patiently work for changes in your family, work or culture to make “Our Best World”.

NOTE: The American and Taiwan legal system have tried to separate religion from the power of the government. This principle comes from years and years of religious wars in Europe that accomplished very little growth among any religion. Each religious group should be free to practice and worship its own concept of god, so allows for persuasion and freedom of speech to show the value of your religion to other religious groups without fear of attack or persecution and freedom of conversion to another belief system or religion. This principle also comes from Christianity, because Christians believe God has power to save by his Word and Spirit, so no government force is needed or useful in expanding the kingdom of God.    

You shall have no other gods before me

Consider that the one True God is in your 1st place, 1st teacher, 1st father, 1st law-giver: You shall learn about, submit to and ONLY worship the Lord defined by the Christian Bible, and there are not any other real gods like him (including temple idols and ancestors).

You shall not make any idols

You shall worship the Creator-Lord in the way he describes and defines that he wants to be worshiped in the Christian Bible, by faith in Jesus Christ, not with any ways that man imagined, like creating idols. He is self-sufficient, giving us everything we need, putting us to live in this place on the earth at this time, and doesn’t live in your temples or need your offerings (Acts 17:22-31). He is near to his people to hear our prayers and help us when we are afraid, worried, angry, ashamed, weak, sick, sad, lonely.

You shall not use God’s name in vain

You shall live in the world in a way that represents his character in the world, respectfully representing God and his moral law in your words, actions and relationships and using your influence to point others to the true God by his moral law.  

You shall remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy

You shall set apart one day for worshiping the Lord every seven days, also for your rest and to teach you to trust me to supply your needs in six days of work.

 V. How can we prove Christianity provides “Our Best World” answers?

  1. OUR BEST UNDERSTANDING OF WHY WE HAVE BROKEN DREAMS IS EXPLAINED BY CHRISTIANITY: The Bible says, and Jesus taught that the biggest broken dream in the world that needs to be fixed, and the reason he came into this world to fix it, is inside us, what the Bible calls your heart (mind, will, emotions). Our world is broken and all living things are under the curse of sickness and death because of this problem as well. We Christians also know we are living in a fallen world where we expect sorrow and frustration, but know the Creator-Lord is helping us face them so we can become stronger believers. The Lord doesn’t always change all the broken things in the world, but does use us to help make broken things better.

  2.  “OUR BEST WORLD” PRINCIPLES ARE EVIDENT WITHIN CHRISTIANITY: Christianity provides a wise and understanding, ancient moral law that fits with “Our Best World,” both for personal ethics and for socio-cultural, academic, international, geo-political transformation. Many of Taiwan’s laws are based on the Christian Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments show us the character or the God who gave these laws, and his pleasure in blessing and drawing near to hear the prayers and receive the worship of those who keep his law.

ESV Deuteronomy 4:5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?

3. Because the dream of a world (present possibilities) . . . fits “Our Best World”

  • Where people enjoyed work as part of an international kingdom-building company, where workers are paid fairly, profits and losses are shared with employees, where your abilities fit with your job, where everyone is eager to work, where you are not overworked like a slave, where co-workers support and encourage each other to do their best and help you do better when you fail. This would change our labor laws for ethical treatment of employees related to overtime work without compensation. This would change government welfare assistance to help only those who cannot work, or those who are in emergency need.   

  • Where those in authority (government, parents, teachers, religious leaders) always used power to love and help others improve, never for selfish reasons and those in submission (citizens, children, students, religious members) were glad to follow their leaders. Equals were happy to praise each other without envy. This would change parental relationship with children, husband’s relationship to wives, our government leaders relationship to citizens, police law enforcement, military use for just war or prevention of evil rulers, foreign affairs policies toward other countries. Where other nations do not use their power to dominate other nations, but to help and strengthen them as peacemakers.

  • Where people valued human life and showed great concern for controlling their negative emotions (anger, bitterness, hatred) for health (choosing the best practices and in proper proportion, for hours of work, foods and drinks, exercise, rest from work and sleep), health education and helping medicine from conception to death, no matter your culture or language or physical or mental ability. This would change our relationships to each other in emotion-control. There would be no suicide or suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts. We would not need as much health care since everyone proactively promotes and protects health. Guns and knives would be used for protection and work, not murder. This would change many doctors and hospitals abortion practices and medical education. This would change our foreign affairs policies toward other countries.

  • Where families were stable: parents stayed happily married, never threatened divorce when they had disagreements, trusted each other and were faithful to their partners, and raised their own children. Where young people saw the value of waiting for the best sex possible in one man-one woman marriage for life and wouldn’t be deceived by any other tricking substitutes (premarital sex/one night stands/oral sex, homosexuality, pornography addictions) or seek to trick others into any forms of cheap sex. Married couples and young single people would have no regrets, no sexually transmitted diseases, no emotional sorrow for getting sexually used and then rejected. Where government leaders, academia, media and judges upheld this marriage foundation for healthy society.

  • Where private property was valued and cared for, (never stealing anything), and everyone worked for their own living as much as possible, but was willing to share with others in need. (guidance for dealing with national and international poverty). Everyone would pay their bills, there would be no credit card slaves, we would only buy things we could afford, families, institutions and government would never carelessly overspend their budget, and if taking our loans, would repay them according to the terms. Contracts would be fulfilled, businesses would trust each other, banks would have less worry about giving loans.  

  • Where optimistic (seen from its best perspective) truth-telling was practiced for every kind of knowledge (historical, scientific, personal, reputation of ourselves and others, promises), and no lies or unproven suspicions were shared with others in speaking, writing or media. This command reforms teachers, reporters and authors to write the truth according to the Lord-Creator, not just changing interpretations of data to fit with one’s own presuppositions (feminism, gender studies often rewrite history to fit it’s political or liberal sexual agenda; some psychological studies of man are rewritten according to humanism). Foreign affairs would get a lot easier, not filled with suspicion about another nation’s honesty. Scientific studies would be carefully worded to show what they can prove, and trust-worthy, compared with what they might guess or hypothesize. Boyfriend-girlfriend relationships would get much easier (did she mean ____ when she said this? Does he really love me or is he just trying to have sex with me?)

  • Where people lived thankful and contented lives without envy of other’s nationality, positions, property or appearances.

4. OUR FOREVER BEST WORLD IS DESCRIBED BY CHRISTIANITY: Dream of a world (future promises) . . . where all those dreams became permanent and true forever and ever without any brokenness (sin, sickness, laziness, over-worked, abusing, rebelling, fighting, war, stealing, cheating, lying, envying, death or frustration) . . .

VI. How do we make these dreams into reality?

  1. OUR PROMISED POWER FOR CHANGE IS BY FAITH AND BY RESTORED RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE TRUE LORD AND WITH HIS CHANGED PEOPLE: Christianity promises to change our hearts and write these laws on our hearts and give us delight in doing them and teach us to resist all disobedience to them (Heb. 8:10; 10:16).  Christian moral law is given to change both outward behaviors and ways of thinking, feeling and choosing. We know polite culture and education alone are not enough.   

  2. Christianity develops by following the best examples: Christianity develops (not perfect, but you can see good examples) out of following the example of the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, whom God the Father sent to this world to be our Savior and King. We obey these laws because they are ways to show love for God and love for people and we know God is pleased with these things.

  3. This moral law is connected to saving faith in the Gospel (WCF 14:2). A biblical perspective in concise summary form could be as follows.

  •   Righteousness proclaimed (the Triune Lord’s works in history that reveal his righteous attributes and how the moral law reflects his character, as well as commands that reflection by his people). Many Bible stories write about how sin from the heart destroys peace between people, and grieves God, or righteousness promoted and protected brings peace with men and pleases God.

  • Righteousness fulfilled (in Christ): Use the moral law to show us the character of God, derivatively reflected in the humanity of the resurrected Christ who fulfilled all righteousness, proven by his resurrection, and credited to us [justification] when we believe God raise him from the dead (Rom 10:9-10). The resurrection of Jesus proved that everything he did and taught pleased the Creator-Lord and moral law-giver. The crucifixion of Jesus is the sin-offering to the Lord, so that those who trust in him can have their sins forgiven and start a new life working for “Our Best World” now.

  • Righteousness applied (by the Spirit to believers who repent of their unrighteousness, receive credited righteousness, and vivify imparted righteousness): Use the moral law to show us our sin and lead us to the cross or Christ [propitiation] Rom 3:25-26; 5:8-9, John 16:8-11. Use the moral law to define our transformation in the New Covenant [sanctification] to write that law on our hearts Heb 10:16). It is especially in this category that the moral law must also be applied to our ministry (our practical theology), as the character of the transformed minister (purposes, motives and practices) and the teaching and discipleship that accords with the new-covenant transformation promised and accomplished in others by the Spirit.

  • Righteousness perfected (in the New Jerusalem): Use the moral law to proclaim our hope of our final completed righteousness when we, with resurrected bodies, enter eternal life, when we see Jesus as he is (1 John 3:2-3; Phil 3:20-21). 

VII.  Some Books that Connect Moral Law to Our Best World

International ethics:

International Ethics: Concepts, Theories and Cases in Global Politics by Mark R. Amstutz (Rowman and Littlefield, 5th ed., 2018) show connections between the 5th, 6th and 8th commandments and human rights and foreign policy.

Though not always explicitly linked to commandments, we can make deductive connections between good poverty relief and the Ten Commandments in these good books: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody 2014), From Dependence to Dignity: How to Alleviate Poverty through Church-Centered Microfinance by Brian Fikkert and Russell Mask (Zondervan 2015), and Helping without Hurting in Church Benevolence: A Practical Guide to Walking with Low-Income People by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody 2015). Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus (Crossway 2013) is filled with ethical dimensions of good political climates for human cultural and economic thriving.

A good biblical counseling book by David Powlison called Good and Angry (2016) shows biblical morality, connecting morality texts with their correlative moral law command. For example, amidst pastoral treatment of different types of anger, he shows that good anger is shaped by indignation against disregard for the moral law (chapter 9). He clarifies that true guilt or anger at self should be shaped by these same moral standards, not simply cultural or social standards (chapter 16). He notes that the commandments prohibit any types of life-destructive anger (6th) sexual immorality (7th) or theft (8th). Another book by Powlison called Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken (2017) offers biblical counseling related to the the entire second table of the law, not just the 7th commandment, since he deals with both sexual lust and sexual abuse.

The Center for Christian Business Ethics Today published two excellent books on moral law foundations for business ethics, called Business Ethics Today: Foundations (2011) and Business Ethics Today: Stealing (2011).  

Using this Second Great Command centered practical theology book as one of the course assignments, Leading with Love by Alexander Strauch, and free online companion study guide, my focus on love was clarified, specifically in relation to themes for discipling leaders.

Comment

Comment

Minimal Reflections of Super God in Super Hero Flash

Super hero stories: the good meta-humans intervene to stop the evil intentions of people (or meta-humans, people-like but with super powers, usually just one) so the good guys can work together and capture and imprison them. Powers are such that both sides seem evenly matched, except the good guys put their powers together to get a micro-victory. They can’t see the future outcome, only try to do the right thing at the time, which is either stop/capture the bad guy and/or protect the good or innocent people while the bad guy gets away to build suspense for another episode, sort of like police or national guard or a SWAT team. 

THE FLASH: A SERIES OF STORIES ABOUT RESISTING EVIL: The Hero movies and TV shows have typical “good-guy beats bad guy” themes (Harry Potter books and movies had these too). The Flash: stops evil by moving faster than the evil intended: removing the person from the target range of the evil villain taking aim or intercepting the weapon in motion. However, he lacks omniscience of all future events, so he can only do selective intervention where their super computers and city video cameras alert them

multi-presence: The power and speed of The FLASH or ZOOM or Savatar give them multi-presence. The wall of computers connected to multi-present city cameras.

multi-moral: The series’ characters only moral compass is to act as Central City’s [world] policeman: protecting civilized “innocent” bystander people from self-centered or evil controlled bad guys. Numerous episodes reveal a moral courage and self-sacrifice to save or help others, especially in the climax of season 3 to save Iris from Savatar.

multi-sufficient: the inventive wisdom and ever-available resources to create new gadgets for protection or justice of CISCO or Dr. Wells

multi-niscient: The wall of computers connected data banks of information. Team Flash solving problems together.

multi-cooperative: The teamwork of FLASH/Barry, Iris, CISCO, Wells, Caitlin, Joe

multi-potent: The word of Barry’s/the Flash’s promise to save a character from danger. The creative engineering or medical powers of various characters (Dr. Wells, Julian, Cisco, Caitlyn, PhD student Tracy Brand) to design powerful devices to protect life or stop evil.

multi-faithful: main characters to each other: I will save you; I love you and will not let harm come to you. I will sacrifice myself for your good because of our pledged friendship or romantic love.

multi-historical: They learn to travel through time, but because they lack omniscience, they do not know the historical factors they are manipulating to change the future. Savatar wants to fracture or duplicate himself into all points of time, attempting to be omni-historical, and he describes this a becoming a "god".

Human narrative of family, friendship, courage and self-sacrifice: the narrative story line that holds all the FLASH super hero action together are vignettes of romance, friendship, love, courage and sacrifice.

THE GOD OF SCRIPTURE: Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 5:1 [with my inserted eight attribute words to show parallels]

I. God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, [omnisufficient, omnipotent, omnipresent] from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise [omniscient] and holy [omniholy] providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge,[5] [omnihistorical] and the free and immutable counsel of His own will,[6] [omniharmonious] to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.[7] [omnifaithful]

Study the attributes of God to see how all the movies about fighting evil are so far off from the real picture of how God fights evil and directs his angels to do his will in the universe!

All eight attributes working together to overrule evil: omnipresence, omniholiness, omnisufficiency, omniscience, omniharmonious, omnipotent, omnifaithful, omnihistorical

The power and speed of The FLASH or ZOOM or Savatar or the wall of computers connected to multi-present city cameras are laughable child’s play compared to God’s omnipresence and omnipotence. The wall of computers connected data banks of information and the inventive wisdom and ever-available resources to create new gadgets for protection or justice of CISCO or Dr. Wells are the mere babbling of preschool infant learning his first words compared to the creative wisdom omniscience and omnisufficiency of the God who made and sustains the universe. The teamwork of FLASH/Barry, Iris, CISCO, Wells, Caitlin, Joe are like two-year olds fighting over toys compared to the unstoppable omniharmonious cooperation of the Trinity and his infantry of angels who do his will every second of created time on the ground, in the air, or under the water. Their attempts to travel through time is but a dim shadow of the omnihistorical control of the LORD over every millisecond of the universe from beginning of “Let there be light” (within a world of sequential time and ordered space) to the melting of those elements to usher in the eternal heaven and earth where his people will dwell forever with God in righteousness and the eternal hell where his enemies will be tormented without end in the presence of the LORD’s wrath. The word of Barry’s/the Flash’s promise to save a character from danger is but a nearly helpless empty promise without omnipotence to back up his word, while God’s limitless power backs every omnifaithful word coming from the mouths of his prophets and apostles. The series’ characters only moral compass is to act as Central City’s [world] policeman: protecting civilized “innocent” bystander people from self-centered or evil controlled bad guys, while the omniholy God has Ten Commandments to reveal who he blesses and who he curses.

The Gospel is a real story of unworthy sinners' adoption into the divine family, friendship wth God and each other, love (God's love for us in Christ, our love for God and each other) and sacrifice (the propitiation of the cross of Christ for our sins). The Gospel story line holds our lives together and gives us all hope for the new heavens and the new earth.

 

Comment

The Glory of God in our Work

The Glory of God in our Work

The attributes of God are reflected in the Ten Commandments and shape the ethics of all our human labor. 

The Glory of God reflected in food and drink

Romans 1:20 teaches us to consider how food reveals the eternal power and divine nature of God in the created world. I will use the perspective of eight omni-attributes of God with their derivative reflections.

God’s omnipresence is reflected in forms of presence/social cohesion (fellowship) related to food and drink: all our eating and drinking should be conscious of the presence of God, every bite and sip to his glory and the good of our own bodies, which are his temple that he has purchased in redemption (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Offer generous and cheerful hospitality as the welcome of shared presence, meals together with family, friends and neighbors and strangers (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9).

God’s omniholiness is reflected in holy practices related to food and drink: Romans 1:21 teaches us that we should glorify God and give him thanks for food. Food choices are a measure of what we value, our loves and hates. Food must be used within guidelines of the moral law: not as a god or idol, to show God’s holy name, within patterns of work and rest to eat, drink and enjoy the best fruits of our labors (Ecclesiastes), festival holidays, food that nourishes and sustains health (6th commandment), metaphor of woman folly, a prostitute who steals and shares food as a table of sensual pleasures (Prov. 9:13-18), Fasting is recommended as a way to show we love God more than food (Matt. 6:16-18; Luke 5:35). The Lord sends famine to judge disobedience (Deut. 28: 15-68). Misuses: Food choices that cause another believer to stumble or be destroyed by sinning against his conscience in eating it (Rom. 14:20; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; Col. 2:16). Food cravings coupled with unbelief were judged by God (Ps. 78:18, 29-31). 1 Timothy 4:3 teaches us that ceremonial abstention from foods is a false way of holiness.  

God’s omnisufficiency is reflected in various types of food and drink provision: God provides EVERY plant and tree that contain seeds on the face of the earth for man’s food (Gen. 1:29; 2:9) and all other green plants to feed the birds and animals (Gen. 1:30). After the flood, all the creatures are also given as food (Gen. 9:3). The Lord provides our daily bread (Matt. 6:11; Acts 14:17; 2 Cor. 9:10), provides food for all creatures (Ps. 104:14, 21, 27; 136:25; 145:15; 147:9; especially for those who fear him 111:5), with clothing especially for the hungry, fatherless, widow, and sojourner (Deut. 10:18; Ps. 146:7). The Lord’s providence restores food after a time of famine (Ruth 1:6). The Lord provided double blessing harvest of food in the 6th year to let the land have a Sabbath rest (Lev. 25:6). Food (ingredients, flavors and spices) is a type of material provision. We need to learn contentment with what God provides (Prov. 30:8; 1 Tim 6:8; Matt. 6:25-34). 1 Timothy 4:3 teaches us to receive all foods with thanks as gifts from God. Share food and drink with those in need, especially family (Matt. 25:35; Luke 3:11; Acts 2:46; 1 Tim 5:4, 8, 16). Fasting as a voluntary contentment, not using all that is provided. Have lots of extra resources but do not share with the poor (Ezek. 16:49; 2 Cor 8:13-15; Jas. 2:14-26; 1 John 3:16-18). Resources are temporary and may disappear at any time (Prov. 27:24; Jas. 1:10-11; 4:14). Misuses: anxiety about food and drink (Matt. 6:25). any kind of food addiction: gluttony, bulimia, any kind of unhealthy food related practices: abstinence, anorexia. Using food to manipulate others, to give with strings attached (Prov. 23:1-8)

God’s omniscience is reflected by wise and knowledgeable uses of food and drink: food metaphors making the spiritual man wise for salvation (1 Pet. 2:2-3; 1 Cor. 2:10-14). Food and drink are used as metaphors for salvation and shadows of eternal realities: ‘Like nursing infants, desire pure spiritual milk, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good’ (1 Pet. 2:2-3). ‘You would have asked and he would have given you living water’ (John 4:10) Psa. 63:5 “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,” “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food,” (Isa. 55:2).  John 6:27“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (and John 4:32; 6:55). The Lord’s Table uses food and drink as signs and seals of salvation (1 Cor 11:23-30). Solid food and milk used as metaphors for basic teaching compared to mature teaching (Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Cor 3:2). The Lord makes us wise with cooking skills and recipes using the resources he provides to serve one another (1 Pet. 4:9). All [foods & drinks] are lawful, but not all are helpful (1 Cor. 6:12) so we need wisdom to discern what is helpful.

God’s omniharmonious nature is reflected in ways food and drink are used to establish and maintain unity: Children learning to eat food prepared by parents as a form of submission to authority. Adults learning to enjoy foods prepared by equals. Wives making food to please their husbands. Misuses: All [foods & drinks] are lawful, but [they collectively, or anything individually] shall not be my master (1 Cor. 6:12).

Ruling: God’s power sustains human cultural stability in economics, manufacturing and transportation, electric/gas services that make grocery shopping and cooking possible. Tending and stewarding the earth’s resources to produce sustainable foods and drinks. Misuses/waste of limited natural resources to produce culturally desired, high demand, high earning value product, unnecessary/excess food.

Integrity: Parents faithfully stewarding cultural efficiency, location, housing, resources (like the ant, show diligence in gathering food during harvest Prov. 6:8; 30:25; as a virtuous woman who fears the Lord 30:10-31), income and jobs to provide what is necessary for body of family members, daily bread and drink (money, restaurants, shopping and home centered food services).

History and Life Context: determining times for meals, life organized around times for eating and drinking. Live under the sovereign providence of God in determining our times and places of life (Acts 17:24-26), using Passover/Lord’s Supper food as ways to remember and interpret history as God does. Though there be no food, we must still rejoice in the Lord and take joy in the God of our salvation (Hab. 3:17-18). Eschatological banquet (Isa. 25:6) and trees for food, leaves for healing (Ezek. 47:12; Rev. 22:2).