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November 10, 2006


I'm buying.....if we ever get together. Well....appetizers at least.

Yes indeed. I will forever remember Richard telling us on the very first day of class - our hearts pounding with all sorts of ludicrous and fantastical desires for ourselves and the church - "I have been praying for you and I will continue to pray for you that God will give me the grace to protect the church from you when you get out." Hopefully, he stills prays that prayer for all of us.


What book, article, etc would you recommend for a basic understanding of epistemological humility? I am curious about it.

I have found that the common definition of "TR" is whoever is more Reformed than I am.

Yet, I have known a fair share of nasty and rude "broad" guys, too.

A (hopefully) recovering TR,

TE Ken Pierce
Draper, VA

I don't know what you're talking about. I'm proud to be TR...

If you're proud to be a TR as the term was used at RTS-O when I was there, you're saying that you're proud of being a jerk. As I said in the post, it was not the *content* of the theology but rather the *attitude* that the term "TR" described in the usage at RTS-O.

Maybe you have a different meaning in mind, which would be fine. A relative term like "TR" lends itself to multiple meanings, which is why I was careful to explain the meaning of the term as I learned it at RTS-O. Perhaps in your meaning of the term it is something to be proud of. But unless you think treating images of God with a lack of dignity and respect (i.e. a jerk) is something to be proud of, I don't think you'd be proud of being a TR as I used the term in this post.

Oh, well if that's how you define it, no wonder you've never witnessed a TR accepting that he or she is a TR...


To some, the term TR means theonomist (I think, if I remember right, that was the original use of it during Bahnsen's tenure at RTS --ironic, because theonomy was a novelty and an aberration, IMHO.)

Some use it for those who stick doggedly to the RPW.

I have had it applied to me because I am somewhat of a vanilla means of grace Banner of Truth guy, and tend to get a little exercised if I feel the gospel is being compromised. Yet, in other ways I am quite open: I have no problem making common cause with those who are open to charismatic phenomena, or have different views of baptism, for instance.

The only quibble I have with how you use the term is that you make it the equivalent of being Reformed and mean-spirited. But, I don't think more confessional guys have a corner on the meanness market! There is plenty of meanness to go around in our circles, and, in my experience, broader guys are just as guilty.

We all ought to strive, by the Spirit's help, to be humble, gentle,winsome, friendly, loving, etc. There is no law against these things!

And, I would surely appreciate some guidance on epistemological humility.

I do know former TRs who have repented of their bullying meanness. Richard Pratt publicly said a number of times that he had been a TR and "hurt a lot of people."

The fact that jerks refuse to acknowledge their jerk behavior is no fault of the definition we used at RTS-O. I could have easily said, "I have never, ever seen a jerk admit he is a jerk." That's not unusual. It's part of the sick pride that attends the jerk way of being.

As you detail the term "TR" is has a variety of referrents. Though you didn't use the word "relative" I think you're suggesting that the term "TR" is relative. I would agree with that.

I agree that some in broader evangelicalism are jerks, and some who are in the Reformed community but close to being broadly evangelical, are jerks. TRs have no monopoly on the term. In fact, during the 1980s and early 90s I met LOTS of graduates of one particular seminary that were as bad as any TR I've heard of, and this seminary is not likely to be confused with a Presbyterian seminary. (Though I'm not naming names, I will also say that every student and grad of this same seminary that I've encountered in the last 8 or so years has been wonderfully humble and gracious. A sea change has seemingly ocurred in the ethos of this seminary.)

I appreciate your quibble but the reason I use the term "TR" is that the people who are TRs are both jerks AND highly committed to policing what is Reformed theology. In my limited experience, broader Reformed and broadly evangelical people who are jerks don't do their jerkiness in service of the cause of policing Reformed theology. Your experience may be different. In other words, I do see jerks in other camps but their jerk behavior isn't done explicitly in terms of "Reformed theology." Thus, I think "TR" is the appropriate term for jerks who police the boundaries of Reformed theology.

Regarding resources on epistemological humility. For me it was being a student of Richard Pratt; in class (I had 4 with him) and out of class he taught and modelled epistemological humility. He taught many things but I would say that this subject was among those he attended to more often than others.

I would recommend reading works that deal with the noetic effects of sin because it is the application of this understanding that results in epistemological humility. I'm not in front of my library as I write this, but I *think* that Berkhof's treatment of the Fall in his Systematic Theology deals in part with noetic effects of sin. In Calvin's Institutes dealing with knowledge of God you find numerous brief references to the ways the Fall impaired our faculties. Among Van Til's works I dimly recall that "Christian Theory of Knowledge" has extensive treatment of this subject.

Frame's "Doctrine of the Knowledge of God" is not in front of me to check, but I dimly recall that he also treats this.

Lastly and most importantly, your mention that we all need the Spirit's help to be winsome, gentle, humble, etc. is a superb admonition, one that I need to heed minute by minute. Amen.

I wrote the following last night and held off on posting it for fear of being offensive. I hope it doesn’t sound disrespectful or flippant.

I wonder if it is the case that we have an exaggerated sense of what the Westminster Confession and our other standard Reformed texts cover. By that, I don’t mean to downplay those truly awesome documents. I just mean that it seems to me that whenever you go back a thousand years and look at what Christian leaders wrote, they often seem to be covering something that we consider to be either really basic or really off. (I’m speaking in ignorance and generalization, so please don’t hesitate to correct me).

I just wonder if we might be better off emphasizing: Yes, we hold the Confession to be largely true, but 1) on the theological alphabet, we’re probably around letter C of the total theological truths that the Church will learn, and 2) even of those things we hold true, we will inevitably need hundreds of mulligans from future Christians in regards to the ways we frame or emphasize teachings and even in regards to some of the content that seems clear to us.

Basically, given that each of us is affected by our cultures, personalities, and sin; and given that every previous generation has needed our forgiveness for passing along some stuff they were way off on, I have to think that when we meet Jesus we’ll find out that He’s a LOT different than we expected. We can’t help but frame our theology in a somewhat narrow way, because we’re finite.

So I figure we may as well chill out a little bit about forcing everyone to have correct theology, and instead acknowledge that in many ways we don’t have correct theology. I realize there’s a breaking point in all this – some things MUST be fought for. But I’m assuming an audience who already accepts these basics, like the Apostle’s Creed.

Where am I off?

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