Plato in the Reformed World

If you google the phrase "ideas are spirit", you get two results, both for the same document on different pages: a page with Q & A on the Rosicrucian Philosophy by Max Heindel. Read Question #172, where the phrase appears, and see how platonic it all sounds. Read more of the Q & A's, they're interesting, and see how platonic it all is.

I recently received in the mail a cartoon-bedecked tract from the Trinity Foundation entitled Justification by Faith Alone, which is, as many of you can surely guess, an attack on the "auburnites" (sidenote: I like the term "auburnite" because it sounds like amalekite or hittite) for their supposed views on the covenant of grace. I say "supposed" because there are two fundamental problems with John Robbin's persistent attacks on these issues.

The first is his repeated failure/refusal to understand or use the terms adopted by the Auburn Avenue pastors. For example, no matter how often it may be explained that a covenantal union to Christ is not the same as salvific union to Christ, he refuses to acknowledge that these pastors might be using slightly different terms. An honest attack would question the validity of their definitions, but Robbins engages in no such attacks. He instead states, over and over again, that the Auburn Avenue pastors believe that men in saving union with Christ might end up in hell. So one problem is a rhetorical one: Robbins is not able to deal honestly with the ideas themselves, but instead plugs in his own reinterpretations where the Auburn Avenue pastors have spoken. But you can hear on that issue from far better sources than I (Doug Wilson, Ralph Smith, David Engelsma, Rick Phillips).

However, the principal problem Robbins seems to have, and it must affect his interpretive goggles, is the sort of latent platonic thinking that his mentor, Gordon H. Clark, displayed in his writings. The tract I received in the mail (and I love being able to look through it, because the medium forces simplicity) has a page objecting to the "auburnite" insistence on the "visibility" of the covenant of grace, which goes so far as to claim that "only what is visible is real to auburnites--the spiritual, the invisible, the ethereal are unreal and scorned by them!" "The covenant of grace is expressed in words--it is spiritual (invisible)..." Of course, when Robbins says that the covenant is expressed in words he doesn't mean the sort of words you or I might read or hear....the covenant is expressed solely by ideas...and ideas are spirit. The cartoon above is from the page I'm speaking of. Plato believed that Ideas are permanent, self-contained absolutes, which answered to each item of exact knowledge attained through human thought. According to that way of thinking, the world of matter is not really's the World of Forms (or Ideas) that really counts. The spiritual is not simply spirit the way matter is matter; spirit is purer, and matter is to be sloughed off. That's why it's so important that the covenant of grace is expressed in words (as opposed to some incarnate way), because words are/make up ideas, and ideas are spirit. And one day that's what we'll be...pure ideas united to the Big Idea by a pure idea.