Saturday, August 02, 2008

King on Repentance

Pastor King provides an excellent discussion on the importance of repentance.

It's less than 15 minutes long. It's specifically geared toward those who consider themselves Calvinists, but it is also relevant to Arminians, Semi-Pelagians, Pelagians, and in fact every man. Listen carefully - try to pay attention for a quarter hour.


Defending Turretin from the Federal Vision

GreenBaggins has provided a defense of Turretin to misuse by Federal Visionist Mark Horne (link to Greenbaggins). This fits nicely with two previous posts I provided on this blog, one relating to McMahon's defense of Turretin from FV abuse and another talking about Turretin's view of the covenant in the garden (which connects to the issue of merit that GreenBaggins addresses). (link to my blog post regarding McMahon defending Turretin) (link to my post noting Turretin vs. Goodwin on the Garden Covenant)


Contraception Excursion

Matthew Bellisario has posted a blog entry responding to Gene Bridge's comments on a tangential aspect of the on-going Sola Scriptura debate (link to debate) (link to Gene's comments - first comment - second comment) (link to MB's Response - caution: large purported image of Jesus at top of site: a fact that will probably be of note only to my more Puritanically inclined readers). (UPDATE: Incidentally, welcome to those visiting via Mr. Greco's link ... you may be particularly interested in the sidebar debate taking place in this post's comment box.)

The comment that my friend Gene Bridges made, which provoked Matthew Bellisario was, as stated by MB: "He says that Catholicism does not condemn contraception, but only distinguishes between natural and artificial contraception."

In support of Gene's comment, I submit the following evidence: "The second area which His Holiness would stress is that of promotion. He repeats his encouragement and gratitude to all those who work for the promotion of natural family planning, whether directly with couples, or in medical and social endeavors." and "It is important that public authorities and international bodies, medical personnel and social workers, marriage counsellors and educators should recognize the high positive values that are to be found in the natural methods, in which the dignity of the human person is fostered: a knowledge and understanding of fertility help to assure personal autonomy by liberating couples from artificial means, while leading them to a degree of sexual self-mastery which is in direct contrast with the permissiveness and promiscuity that today constitute grave social problems to be solved." (source - note that this is from the official Vatican website)

The comments above are part of a message from pope Paul VI (sent by Cardinal Villot to Cardinal Cooke on May 24, 1978). If that evidence does not demonstrate exactly what Gene Bridges was saying, I don't know what would.

Nevertheless, let's examine Bellisario's rather interesting counter-argument.

1) He quotes this definition: "Contraception is "any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" (Humanae Vitae 14)."

2) He argues that "Those using what the Church considers to be natural is not really contraception at all. In fact even if one follows the NFP [Natural Family Planning] it is never 100% and therefore the person is not acting in a way as to eliminate the pro creative [sic] from the act itself."

3) He ignores that even the use of barrier and chemical methods have a less than 100% success rate in preventing procreation.

In other words, if one ignores the plainest and simplest meaning of "contraception" (i.e. a practice that limits or avoids conceiving children - aka pre-conception birth control), in favor of a meaning that requires that the act have an 100% success rate, one can avoid distinguishing between NFP and artificial contraception - but at the cost of permitting most forms of contraception, including forms (such as the use of certain latex products) that everyone knows Catholicism opposes.

So, when one evaluates MB's accusation, "This Gene Bridges hasn't a clue as to what in the world he is talking about, nor what The Catholic Church teaches," one may find oneself arriving at a very different conclusion from that of Mr. Bellisario.


N.B.I have intentionally avoided discussing the issues raised in the debate regarding the significance (or not) of this matter to the topic of Sola Scriptura.

UPDATE: August 3, 2008 - MB has provided a second post (link - same 2nd commandment warning as above) in which he continues to refuse to let Gene Bridges' statement have any meaning. Apparently, Gene Bridges is not allowed (in MB's world) to disagree with MB's church over what constitutes "contraception." Why is this not just impolite but absurd?

Maybe an analogy would be helpful:

Suppose that Gene's church claimed to be against gambling, but suppose that they actually permitted betting on horse races. Someone would be within their rights to say that Gene's church was actually only against certain kinds of gambling. If Gene replied that his church defined gambling as betting on cards, and that consequently the critic has no idea what they are talking about, we'd laugh him out of town.

The same goes here. MB's church defines contraception (according to MB) in a way that excludes certain kinds of things that actually prevent conception. The fact that MB's church supposedly defines contraception only to include things that they prohibit is a laughable defense to the natural vs. artificial critique. In fact, Natural Family Planning (NFP) is often used expressly to engage in sexual intercourse without producing conception. That's a contraceptive practice, broadly defined - just as betting on horses is gambling, broadly defined.

MB's response that "The prior post I that put up explains what the Church teaches as a definition of contraception ... NFP does not fall into that category," is exactly as convincing as Gene's hypothetical response that "My previous comment explains what my church teaches as a definition of gambling ... betting on horses does not fall into that category," would be: not at all. If Gene in that hypothetical example then tacked on insults about the critic not knowing what he was talking about, or the like, we'd say he wasn't just absurd, but rude too.

Of course, the most absurd aspect of the whole discussion about contraception is the fact that MB's church is plainly wrong. If there is anything wrong with contraception (and there is no need to debate that here or at all), it has nothing to do with how that contraception is accomplished (whether by spilling it on the ground, using a piece of latex, or only having carnal knowledge of one's wife when there is low "risk" of conception). There's nothing inherently sinful about wearing latex, or particularly righteous about keeping track of fecundity with a calendar and thermometer.

In fact, if contraception is not an illicit goal, then arguably the technique of abstaining from that kind of physical intimacy for one to two weeks a month is wrong (because although contraception is not itself an illicit goal it may be an insufficient justification for withholding sexual relations within marriage), while wearing a contraceptive device would be acceptable in God's eyes (since it would permit the continuity of sexual relations).

FURTHER UPDATE: August 3, 2008 - MB has posted yet a third post on this subject. (link - same warning as usual). MB still does not get that NFP is contraceptive behavior. He even makes the claim: "So now am I going to let these two define what is an act or is not considered to be an act by their own musings? I think not. NFP cannot be a form of contraception because there is no act causing it. There is nothing that keeps the sexual act from happening except for abstinence. In order for Bridges and Tf to be right they would have to prove that every couple not engaged in sexual intercourse would be considered to be engaging in a contraceptive act. This is complete nonsense."

MB's argument falls apart again, when one scrutinizes it logically:

1 (per MB): NFP consists of not engaging in carnal knowledge at certain times.
2 (per MB): Not engaging in carnal knowledge is not an act.
ergo: NFP is not an act, consequently NFP cannot be a contraceptive act.

At first glance, this might seem to have merit. How can not doing anything be an act? But if we apply it to an analogy, we can soon realize how foolish it is:

1 (analogy): Neglect consists in not feeding one's children.
2 (analogy): Not feeding one's children is not an act.
ergo: Neglect is not an act, and consequently cannot be an improper act.

I hope everyone realizes that such an argument is absurd.

But MB tags on a little something extra: he claims that, "In order for Bridges and Tf to be right they would have to prove that every couple not engaged in sexual intercourse would be considered to be engaging in a contraceptive act."

On the other hand, however, that's a bit like saying that to be right about the analogy one would have to prove that every family not engaged in feeding their children would be considered to be engaging in neglect. Both claims (both MB's and that of the person in the analogy) are overblown.

All we have to show is what everybody with any brains already has figured out: people who are using NFP to avoid conceiving children are engaging in a contraceptive technique. The technique even has a name: the rhythm method.

In his pontificating, MB finally decides to expose his lack of familiarity with issues relating to contraception: "We can also see that TF still does not understand what NFP is either, after I have explained it in my earlier posts, because he says its failure rate is the same as the "withdrawal method?" What? Once again I am baffled here."

But the bafflement is really not our fault. MB should do his research. Here's a link providing an example of the statistics of failure rate for NFP/rhythm method (link). Here's a link providing an example of the statistics on the failure rate of the withdrawal method (link). As you can see, the failure rate is about 20% in both cases. Of course, that's the "in practice" failure rate, as opposed to the "perfectly performed" failure rate. One hopes that MB will read and learn.

MB even goes further and complains about GB and I supposedly being reticent to admit a mistake. MB's a bit hasty in this regard. GB probably hasn't even yet seen MB's correction regarding the withdrawal method, and I did not adopt GB's position. Apparently, MB is desperate for an example of an error, and so he's trying to latch firmly on to this issue of the withdrawal method not being kosher among papists.

But before we close, let's get back to that ridiculous logic that because NFP involves abstaining from sexual relations, therefore it cannot be considered a contraceptive technique. By that logic:

1. Fasting cannot be a meritorious act, since it is simply abstaining from eating.
2. Virginity cannot be a virtuous state, since it is simply abstaining from sexual intercourse.
3. Celibacy (i.e. what many mistake for chastity) ... see (2).
4. Sobriety cannot be a virtuous lifestyle, since it is simply avoiding drunkenness.

In short, no patterns of negative behavior can be good, if no patterns of negative behavior can be bad. Of course, no good member of the church that is in communion with Benedict XVI can rightly deny the virtue of fasting, virginity, "chastity," and sobriety, even though those are primarily negative activities: abstentions from various otherwise desired acts.

NFP (i.e. the rhythm method) is just another method of conception. It may be more natural than Onanism (spilling it on the ground - sometimes equated with the withdrawal method), but it is still an intentional act (of omission) aimed at preventing reproduction. A pattern of NFP behavior in which a couple engages in sexual relations at certain times rather than others in order to avoid conception, is plainly contraceptive behavior, just as eating a small amount of food every three hours can be a weight loss technique, and limiting yourself to one beer after dinner can be a sobriety technique.

YET FURTHER UPDATE: August 3, 2008 - Not able to get enough of this subject, MB has replied yet again (link - same warning regarding prominent violation of the 2nd commandment).

Now, having demonstrated his bafflement a number of different ways, MB demonstrates that he cannot address the actual arguments presented. Instead he states: "I guess every person now who is walking the face of the earth who is married and not having sex is engaged in a contraceptive act according to TF."

That, of course, is not what I have said. NFP can be used to enhance fertility, just as it can be used to promote infertility. Couples who are not making love today in order to make love more productively tomorrow are obviously engaged in conceptive behavior, just as couples who are consciously forgoing lovemaking today to avoid conception are engaging in contraceptive activity.

NFP is to sexual activity as dieting is eating. Both are negative activities, designed to alter the consequences of the abstained-from activity in some way, as part of pattern of behavior.

Finally, MB crosses the line:

"We also see that they can make false statements like telling us the "withdrawal method" is approved by the Catholic Church, and then once they realize they are wrong the [sic] try and [sic] sidestep the issue. Unbelievable here folks. But this is par for the course when dealing with these guys. Truth has no place in their thinking."

a) Truth has no place in their thinking? That's an outrageous statement, even for Bellisario. In fact, Bellisario hasn't even waited to hear Gene's response! Talk about not caring about the truth: Bellisario is rushing to accuse Gene of not caring about the truth without waiting to see Gene's response to the claim that Gene made a mistake.

b) Par for the course when dealing with these guys? More rhetorical banter.

c) They try to sidestep the issue? It would be more accurate to say that MB has been trying to dodge the issue from square one: the issue being Catholicism's irrational distinction between contraception using the rhythm method and other forms of contraception. Whether they also accept the withdrawal method is a moot point, except for Bellisario's urgent quest to find some mistake (not matter how small) in my friend Gene's statement.

d) "They" can make false statements? Even assuming that Bellisario could establish that Catholicism condemns the withdrawal method (not just by the ordinary, but by the extraordinary magisterium), how does Gene turn into "they"? Of course, we know how it turns into "they," because it's convenient for the rhetorical opponent-bashing that MB has decided to engage in.

Finally, MB wraps up his post with a link to try to bolster the invalid distinction between contraception and natural family planning.

And again, here's another quotation from materials from the Vatican's own web site, reinforcing Gene Bridge's original comment:

"6. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication by my predecessor Pope Paul VI of the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae. The truth about human sexuality, and the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life and on responsible parenthood, must be presented in the light of the theological development which has followed that document, and in the light of the experience of couples who have faithfully followed this teaching. Many couples have experienced how natural family planning promotes mutual respect, encourages tenderness between husband and wife, and helps develop an authentic inner freedom (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370; Humanae Vitae, 21). Their experience deserves to be shared, for it is the living confirmation of the truth which Humanae Vitae teaches. In contrast, there is a growing awareness of the serious harm caused to marital relationships by recourse to artificial contraception, which, because it inevitably thwarts the total self-giving implied in the conjugal act, at one and the same time destroys its procreative meaning and weakens its unitive significance (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 13)." (link to source - Official Vatican website)

Here's another:

"Their humanizing character is all the more obvious from the fact that using the natural methods requires and strengthens the harmony of the married couple, it helps and confirms the rediscovery of the marvellous gift of parenthood, it involves respect for nature and demands the responsibility of the individuals. According to many authoritative opinions, they also foster more completely that human ecology which is the harmony between the demands of nature and personal behaviour." (link to source - Official Vatican website)

UPDATE: August 4, 2008 - MB still continues to hope to deny that rhythmic contraception is contraception. (link - same warnings about a big picture that aims to portray the second person of the Trinity) It's somewhat amusing, because MB rushes to call GB a liar (as noted above). Now, when GB starts to explain himself, MB continues to suggest the GB is just making stuff up. I think it is apparent who is more familiar with the topic, between the two of them. MB claims that he has proved that "the Church" has not endorsed the withdrawal method. Of course, a more carefully reading of Gene's comments is that Gene has asserted that there is no infallible condemnation of the withdrawal method. As far as I can see from MB's 5 posts (so far) on the subject, MB has been unable to point to any infallible condemnation of the withdrawal method.

MB points to individual statements of individual popes, but while there is a sense in which such teachings are the teachings of the Church, they are not normally considered "infallible," a fact that MB very well knows.

Furthermore, while MB claims that the very general remarks that he quotes "would include the 'withdrawal method'," they certainly don't specify that method. Furthermore, MB simply fails to address GB's point that those comments have been interpreted as referring to acts involving mechanical and chemical intervention.

MB even fails to see such an interpretation popping out at him from a quotation be pulls down from the Official Vatican web site: "Their experience deserves to be shared, for it is the living confirmation of the truth which Humanae Vitae teaches. In contrast, there is a growing awareness of the serious harm caused to marital relationships by recourse to artificial contraception, which, because it inevitably thwarts the total self-giving implied in the conjugal act, at one and the same time destroys its procreative meaning and weakens its unitive significance." (emphasis added for those who have trouble reading)

And, of course, as noted above - this is all just a minor tangent as far as I am concerned. Everyone sees that Catholicism promotes rhythmic contraception, whether or not anyone wants to argue about their promotion of other kinds of non-artificial contraception.

Additionally, MB provides an article that attempts to dissect the various intentions in rhythmic contraception as distinct from other kinds of contraception. The clarity of the article leaves something to be desired. But it reduces to this:

1. There is an intention to do the act (drink an elixir or abstain from sex); and
2. There is an intention for the act (to avoid conceiving children).

The problem with the attempt to divide these intentions (and it is not an invalid distinction), is that the condemnation of other forms of contraception than the rhythm method must incorporate the type (2) intention, while to permit rhythmic contraception, one must ignore type (2) intention.

In other words, there is nothing sinful about intending to wear latex or drink a draught of chemicals. There's nothing intrinsically evil about latex or progesterone (or whatever). There's nothing intrinsically evil about putting on one or drinking the other. If anything makes their use wrong, it is the type (2) intention: the intention that the act is aimed: avoiding conception.

But the same is true of rhythmic contraception. The acts of measuring body temperature and mucosal quality, and scheduling intercourse are not intrinsically evil, but (assuming that contraception is an illicit end) the use to which scheduling is put can be wrong.

In other words, the attempt to assert that it is ambiguity in "intent" that leads to a distinction between rhythmic and other kinds of contraception is not a legitimate attempt. It fails, as has been demonstrated.

UPDATE: August 4, 2008 - Mr. Bellisario has not yet had enough of the topic of contraception. Although he offers no defense of the faulty logic, he throws around a few insults and links to yet another article that he thinks proves that NFP is not contraception. Ironically, even the abstract of the article distinguishes between "artificial" contraception and NFP. (link to Bellisario's insult-riddled post - with the same warning as above, that one will be exposed to an enormous attempted portrayal of my Lord and Savior, the Alpha and Omega).

There is some sense in which the article that MB links to, attempts to address the objection that rhythmic contraception is just another form of contraception. It doesn't do so by the ipse dixit approach ("we just define contraception thus and so"), but by distinguishing the moral basis.

The core of the article's argument is this:

There is, strictly speaking, no such thing as moving the sexual act from one time to another time. Suppose one wants to say the act is “moved” from a fertile Monday to an infertile Friday. But one cannot say this. A human act is something that is unrepeatably defined temporally. A sexual act on Monday and a sexual act on Friday are two different acts. The act of abstaining from the sexual act on Monday and of engaging in a sexual act on Friday is not an act of transferring the sexual act from Monday to Friday, because it is a logical impossibility, strictly speaking, to transfer a specific act. The unrepeatable Monday-sexual-act cannot be moved to Friday any more than one can move the Monday itself to Friday.

This argument relies on the reader agreeing with the concept that a human act cannot be moved. In fact, such an expression is common. For example, one might say: "I will mow the lawn on Tuesday, instead of Monday this week, since Monday I will be too busy responding to articles linked by my esteemed colleague."

We would all be comfortable with such an expression. In fact it is quite an ordinary way of speaking. There's a certain poetry to saying that a specific act cannot be moved in time from one place to another, but - in fact - that is exactly what rescheduling is.

Furthermore, such rescheduling has moral significance. The law of the Sabbath provides a great example. As the reader may recall, labor is generally prohibited on the Sabbath. Consequently, it is necessary to move some labor from the Sabbath to another day. In the time of the wilderness journey, when the Sabbath was on Saturday, the people of Israel moved their food-gathering of Manna from Saturday to Friday, collecting twice as much as usual on Friday in preparation for the Sabbath (at least, those who were obedient did).

It is obvious that they are not transporting the act of gathering food through time in any mystical way, but simply rescheduling. Nevertheless, scheduling (and rescheduling) are real acts, and they do involve moving the action being scheduled from one time to another.

It may well be that "mowing the lawn on the Sabbath" and "mowing the lawn on Friday" are two "different acts" if one sophistically attempts to define the act to include the date of the act. Nevertheless, just as there is virtue in rescheduling the lawn mowing to Friday from the Sabbath (because avoiding work on the Sabbath is virtuous), there is evil in rescheduling sexual relations to avoid conceiving (if, in fact, contraception [trying to avoid conception] is an illicit end).

In short, we can see both from ordinary speech and the analogy to the Sabbath that the argument in favor of rhythmic contraception cannot be maintained on the grounds provided in the article by Alexander Pruss, to which MB linked.

UPDATE: August 5, 2008 - MB continues his campaign of accusations against my friend Gene, this time calling him a "plain liar" and an "obstacle to truth." (link - usual caveats) He compares him to Bill Clinton and says that Gene "is nothing more than a 'Slick Willy'."

Ironically, MB himself in his eagerness to find fault in my friend Gene, makes a rather fundamental lexical fallacy (i.e. that if a word can mean what one wants it to mean, that therefore it meant what one wants it to mean). It's the same fallacy we see time and time again in the form of eisegesis. It's a bit more blatant here, since MB is seemingly unwilling to read Gene's comments as part of a harmonious whole, hoping to set one of Gene's comments against another of his comments. The viva voce of Gene is ignored in favor of an attempt to make Gene say something Gene didn't mean.

Interestingly, MB's main basis for calling Gene a liar is that Gene hasn't proved Gene's assertion that Rome is not monolithic on the issue in question. I have to say, I rarely see this kind of impatient rush to accusation. MB doesn't even ask nicely, he demands. I suspect that Gene may be waiting patiently to see how much mud MB will throw and how extreme his assertions will get, before revealing his sources. In fact, having taken a peek around the Internet, I think I may be able to see where Gene is going with this.

Regardless, what is interesting is that MB has gotten so caught up in mocking and accusing (though his accusations have shifted) that he has lost sight of the bottom line.

*** end of update ***

Bottom Line: Rhythmic contraception (NFP applied to avoid conception) is a type of contraception, and (seemingly) the only kind currently widely accepted in Catholicism. It is considered "natural" and the other kinds are "artificial" or unnatural. That's the terminology Rome has adopted, and Gene got in trouble with MB for repeating. I suggest MB take it up with his bishop rather than picking on my friend Gene (who, by the way, is quite capable of defending himself, if one is willing to wait 24 hours ... check out the combox of this post).

Gallup Mystery

Are these two news stories connected in more than one way? (Gallup Bishop Apologizes for Abuse by Underlings) (Former Gallup Bishop Changes Story about Own Injury)

If I were the Gallup police, I would be making that connection, and investigating it.

Note: I will not be tolerating accusations in the combox that the former bishop did anything unseemly (other than stating something besides the truth). As far as I know, and this is important, there have been no accusations that Pelotte did what his underlings did, and nothing in this post should be taken to suggest otherwise. Also, if you have information pertinent to what I think ought to be a criminal investigation (the Gallup police disagree), I suggest you contact the appropriate Arizona officials (prosecutor's office or the like).

Pelotte's own haunting comment regarding the identity of the person who caused his injuries: "You’ll never find him."

Friday, August 01, 2008

Christ the Unbreakable Pothook

I have posted a new blog article at the Team Apologian blog, responding to a post by Steve Ray on Isaiah 22. (link)

Since both Steve Ray and I mention Matthew Henry's commentary on this passage, I reproduce his commentary below:


Isa 22:15-25 (Commentary by Matthew Henry)

We have here a prophecy concerning the displacing of Shebna, a great officer at court, and the preferring of Eliakim to the post of honour and trust that he was in. Such changes are common in the courts of princes; it is therefore strange that so much notice should be taken of it by the prophet here; but by the accomplishment of what was foretold concerning these particular persons God designed to confirm his word in the mouth of Isaiah concerning other and greater events; and it is likewise to show that, as God has burdens in store for those nations and kingdoms abroad that are open enemies to his church and people, so he has for those particular persons at home that are false friends to them and betray them. It is likewise a confirmation in general of the hand of divine Providence in all events of this kind, which to us seem contingent and to depend upon the wills and fancies of princes. Promotion comes not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south; but God is the Judge, Psalm 25:6, Psalm 25:7. It is probable that this prophecy was delivered at the same time with that in the former part of the chapter, and began to be fulfilled before Sennacherib's invasion; for now Shebna was over the house, but then Eliakim was (Isaiah 36:3); and Shebna, coming down gradually, was only scribe. Here is,

I. The prophecy of Shebna's disgrace.
He is called this treasurer, being entrusted with the management of the revenue; and he is likewise said to be over the house, for such was his boundless ambition and covetousness that less than two places, and those two of the greatest importance at court, would not satisfy him. It is common for self-seeking men thus to grasp at more than they can manage, and so the business of their places is neglected, while the pomp and profit of them wholly engage the mind. It does not appear what were the particular instances of Shebna's mal-administration, for which Isaiah is here sent to prophesy against him; but the Jews say, “He kept up a traitorous correspondence with the king of Assyria, and was in treaty with him to deliver the city into his hands.” However this was, it should seem that he was a foreigner (for we never read of the name of his father) and that he was an enemy to the true interests of Judah and Jerusalem: it is probable that he was first preferred by Ahaz. Hezekiah was himself an excellent prince; but the best masters cannot always be sure of good servants. We have need to pray for princes, that they may be wise and happy in the choice of those they trust. These were times of reformation, yet Shebna, a bad man, complied so far as to keep his places at court; and it is probable that many others did like him, for which reason Sennacherib is said to have been sent against a hypocritical nation, Isaiah 10:6. In this message to Shebna we have,

1. A reproof of his pride, vanity, and security (Isaiah 22:16): “What hast thou here, and whom hast thou here? What a mighty noise and bustle dost thou make! What estate has thou here, that thou was born to? Whom hast thou here, what relations, that thou art allied to? Art thou not of mean and obscure original, filius populi - a mere plebeian, that comest we know not whence? What is the meaning of this then, that thou hast built thyself a fine house, hast graved thyself a habitation?” So very nice and curious was it that it seemed rather to be the work of an engraver than of a mason or carpenter; and it seemed engraven in a rock, so firmly was it founded and so impregnable was it. “Nay, thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre,” as if he designed that his pomp should survive his funeral. Though Jerusalem was not the place of his father's sepulchres (as Nehemiah called it with a great deal of tenderness, Nehemiah 2:3), he designed it should be the place of his own, and therefore set up a monument for himself in his life-time, set it up on high. Those that make stately monuments for their pride forget that, how beautiful soever they appear outwardly, within they are full of dead men's bones. But it is a pity that the grave-stone should forget the grave.

2. A prophecy of his fall and the sullying of his glory.
(1.) That he should not quickly be displaced and degraded (Isaiah 22:19): I will drive thee from thy station. High places are slippery places; and those are justly deprived of their honour that are proud of it and puffed up with it, and deprived of their power that do hurt with it. God will do it, who shows himself to be God by looking upon proud men and abasing them, Job 40:11, Job 40:12. To this Isaiah 22:25 refers. “The nail that is now fastened in the sure place (that is, Shebna, who thinks himself immovably fixed in his office) shall be removed, and cut down, and fall.” Those are mistaken who think any place in this world a sure place, or themselves as nails fastened in it; for there is nothing here but uncertainty. When the nail falls the burden that was upon it is cut off; when Shebna was disgraced all that had a dependence upon him fell into contempt too. Those that are in high places will have many hanging upon them as favourites whom they are proud of and trust to; but they are burdens upon them, and perhaps with their weight break the nail, and both fall together, and by deceiving ruin one another - the common fate of great men and their flatterers, who expect more from each other than either performs.
(2.) That after a while he should not only be driven from his station, but driven from his country: The Lord will carry thee away with the captivity of a mighty man, Isaiah 22:17, Isaiah 22:18. Some think the Assyrians seized him, and took him away, because he had promised to assist them and did not, but appeared against them: or perhaps Hezekiah, finding out his treachery, banished him, and forbade him ever to return; or he himself, finding that he had become obnoxious to the people, withdrew into some other country, and there spent the rest of his days in meanness and obscurity. Grotius thinks he was stricken with a leprosy, which was a disease commonly supposed to come from the immediate hand of God's displeasure, particularly for the punishment of the proud, as in the case of Miriam and Uzziah; and by reason of this disease he was tossed like a ball out of Jerusalem. Those who, when they are in power, turn and toss others, will be justly turned and tossed themselves when their day shall come to fall. Many who have thought themselves fastened like a nail may come to be tossed like a ball; for here have we no continuing city. Shebna thought his place too strait for him, he had no room to thrive; God will therefore send him into a large country, where he shall have room to wander, but never find the way back again; for there he shall die, and lay his bones there, and not in the sepulchre he had hewn out for himself. And there the chariots which had been the chariots of his glory, in which he had rattled about the streets of Jerusalem, and which he took into banishment with him, should but serve to upbraid him with his former grandeur, to the shame of his lord's house, of the court of Ahaz, who had advanced him.

II. The prophecy of Eliakim's advancement, Isaiah 22:20, etc.
He is God's servant, has approved himself faithfully so in other employments, and therefore God will call him to this high station. Those that are diligent in doing the duty of a low sphere stand fairest for preferment in God's books. Eliakim does not undermine Shebna, nor make an interest against him, nor does he intrude into his office; but God calls him to it: and what God calls us to we may expect he will own us in. It is here foretold,

1. That Eliakim should be put into Shebna's place of lord-chamberlain of the household, lord-treasurer, and prime-minister of state. The prophet must tell Shebna this, Isaiah 22:21. “He shall have thy robe, the badge of honour, and thy girdle, the badge of power; for he shall have thy government.” To hear of it would be a great mortification to Shebna, much more to see it. Great men, especially if proud men, cannot endure their successors. God undertakes the doing of it, not only because he would put it into the heart of Hezekiah to do it, and his hand must be acknowledged guiding the hearts of princes in placing and displacing men (Proverbs 21:1), but because the powers that are, subordinate as well as supreme, are ordained of God. It is God that clothes princes with their robes, and therefore we must submit ourselves to them for the Lord's sake and with an eye to him, 1 Peter 2:13. And, since it is he that commits the government into their hand, they must administer it according to his will, for his glory; they must judge for him by whom they judge and decree justice, Proverbs 8:15. And they may depend upon him to furnish them for what he calls them to, according to this promise: I will clothe him; and then it follows, I will strengthen him. Those that are called to places of trust and power should seek unto God for grace to enable them to do the duty of their places; for that ought to be their chief care. Eliakim's advancement is further described by the laying of the key of the house of David upon his shoulders, Isaiah 22:22. Probably he carried a golden key upon his shoulder as a badge of his office, or had one embroidered upon his cloak or robe, to which this alludes. Being over the house, and having the key delivered to him, as the seals are to the lord-keeper, he shall open and none shall shut, shut and none shall open. He had access to the house of the precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices; and to the house of the armour and the treasures (Isaiah 39:2), and disposed of the stores there as he thought fit for the public service. He put whom he pleased into the inferior offices and turned out whom he pleased. Our Lord Jesus describes his own power as Mediator by an allusion to this (Revelation 3:7), that he has the key of David, wherewith he opens and no man shuts, he shuts and no man opens. His power in the kingdom of heaven, and in the ordering of all the affairs of that kingdom, is absolute, irresistible, and uncontrollable.

2. That he should be fixed and confirmed in that office. he shall have it for life, and not durante bene placito - during pleasure (Isaiah 22:23): I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place, not to be removed or cut down. Thus lasting shall the honour be that comes from God to all those who use it for him. Our Lord Jesus is as a nail in a sure place: his kingdom cannot be shaken, and he himself is still the same.

3. That he should be a great blessing in his office; and it is this that crowns the favours here conferred upon him. God makes his name great, for he shall be a blessing, Genesis 12:2.
(1.) He shall be a blessing to his country (Isaiah 22:21): He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. he shall take care not only of the affairs of the king's household, but of all the public interests in Jerusalem and Judah. Note, Rulers should be fathers to those that are under their government, to teach them with wisdom, rule them with love, and correct what is amiss with tenderness, to protect them and provide for them, and be solicitous about them as a man is for his own children and family. It is happy with a people when the court, the city, and the country, have no separate interests, but all centre in the same, so that the courtiers are true patriots, and whom the court blesses the country has reason to bless too; and when those who are fathers to Jerusalem, the royal city, are no less so to the house of Judah.
(2.) He shall be a blessing to his family (Isaiah 22:23, Isaiah 22:24): He shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house. The consummate wisdom and virtue which recommended him to this great trust made him the honour of his family, which probably was very considerable before, but now became much more so. Children should aim to be a credit to their parents and relations. The honour men reflect upon their families by their piety and usefulness is more to be valued than that which they derive from their families by their names and titles. Eliakim being preferred, all the glory of his father's house was hung upon him; they all made their court to him, and his brethren's sheaves bowed to his. Observe, The glory of this world gives a man no intrinsic worth or excellency; it is but hung upon him as an appurtenance, and it will soon drop from him. Eliakim was compared to a nail in a sure place, in pursuance of which comparison all the relations of his family (which, it is likely, were numerous, and that was the glory of it) are said to have a dependence upon him, as in a house the vessels that have handles to them are hung up upon nails and pins. It intimates likewise that he shall generously take care of them all, and bear the weight of that care: All the vessels, not only the flagons, but the cups, the vessels of small quantity, the meanest that belong to his family, shall be provided for by him. See what a burden those bring upon themselves that undertake great trusts; they little think how many and how much will hand upon them if they resolve to be faithful in the discharge of their trust. Our Lord Jesus, having the key of the house of David, is as a nail in a sure place, and all the glory of his father's house hangs upon him, is derived from him, and depends upon him; even the meanest that belong to his church are welcome to him, and he is able to bear the stress of them all. That soul cannot perish, nor that concern fall to the ground, though ever so weighty, that is by faith hung upon Christ.




Thursday, July 31, 2008

Amazing Nature Video

God is great. He has made a marvelous creation, that we only quite incompletely understand. In the linked video, a demonstration of some of those marvels both in the areas of bioluminescence and dynamic camouflage are presented. (link)

Anyone who wants to continue to believe that such amazing abilities are the result of chance mutations and vast amounts of time, rather than the result of an amazing design have a tough road ahead of them. These creatures do what God designed them to do, and they do it very well.


Aim of Some Romanist Apologetics

Dr. White has a new video out objecting to some of the irrelevant personal tangents that some apologists seem compelled to follow:

Meanwhile, aiming somewhat higher, a blog response I ran across today tackles the important issue of Dr. White's hats (link) (warning, prominent supposed representation of Jesus) Now, bear in mind that (unlike the attacks Dr. White pointed out in his article), the hats article is not insidious. It is simply amusing as an example of the non-substantive responses to Dr. White's presentations that one sees.

Indeed, let me be clear: there's nothing wrong with the hats article as such. I am sure that everyone posts articles that are non-substantive from time to time, and doubtless the point of this particular post was simply to amuse the reader (and it worked on me).


Reformed Evangelist Preaches to the ToddBentley-ites

The title of this one pretty much sums it up. Check out the detailed account (including some photos and audio) of the Reformed Evangelist's interaction with the line waiting to attend a Todd Bentley event. (link)


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where's the Catholic Church?

Richard (aka "Mary's Son") provides us with an example of two logical fallacies in one (source):

Richard writes: "You can say Roman all you want to try to confuse the term Catholic; but go out on any street in the world and ask for directions to the nearest Catholic church: you're not going to end up in a Presbyterian church or any other church but in the only Catholic church there is; that which is in communion with the bishop of Rome."

1) The argument from ignorance. Paraphrased as: "Since most people don't know the difference between the term "catholic" and "Catholic," it must mean there is no difference!" The fact that most people are ignorant of the difference is a negative judgment on their education: it is not a way to establish the matter logically.

2) The argument from the masses. Paraphrased as: "If practically everyone thinks it is so, they must be right." The fact that most people think something is so doesn't make it true. Democracy is not the way we establish truth.

The refutation to this silliness is simple: Ask the man on the street for an "Orthodox" church, and he won't point you to a church in communion with Rome! Oh no. He'll point you to a church more or less loosely affiliated with Constantinople. It must mean (by analogous reasoning to that of Richard) that Rome, while "catholic" nevertheless has fallen into heresy! This is obviously unacceptable to most of those who would have the same church affiliation as Richard.

In fact, despite many bad arguments from "Orthodox" folks, I think I've never heard such an obviously bad one. It's too bad that there are at least some few people who think that the argument is a good one as applied to Catholicism.

Of course, Richard's underlying accusation, i.e. that people use "Roman" to try to "confuse the term Catholic," is a misplaced accusation. No one (that I've ever heard of) uses that term to try to confuse, but rather to try to avoid ambiguity, since there is a real and important difference between the church of Rome, which calls herself the "Catholic Church" and the universal ("catholic") church of Christ (all those people who believe on Him for salvation as he is offered in the Gospel).

Finally, it's not an horribly original argument. It's loosely based on similar arguments either presented by or attributed to church fathers. It's important to remember that not every argument made by the church fathers was a good argument. But when one engages in taking an argument about nomenclature, ripping it out of its context, and plopping into a new context a thousand years later, one should be unsurprised that it flops around like a fish out of water -- and just as quickly expires.

To answer the subject question, the catholic church is the body of all believers. It is not at an address: it is throughout the whole world. Its faith is preserved in all those churches where the Gospel is preached and believed. Thus, through metonymy, a "catholic church" (i.e. a congregation that fits the label "catholic") is a place where the faith of the catholic church is taught. By that definition, one would not look to the churches in communion with Rome, but in Evangelical churches.

Thus, if you get the subject question, I hope you'll consider answering: "Are you looking for a place where the Gospel is proclaimed?" And then directing them to such a place, or explaining why that ought to be their objective.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cook vs. Crook

Thomas Twitchell at A Rose by Any Other Name has an amusing post (with a remarkable URL) comparing a crook and a cook. (link)

Heart Checks: The Impossible Conclusion to the Logical Progression

I noticed that Reformed Musings had a post on the topic of the relation between crime and gun-control (link). The relation, of course, is that as gun control tightens, crime (including crime involving guns) increases. Now, as Reformed Musings noted, Britain has started implementing more expansive weapons searches that look for knives (the new weapon of choice for British thugs).

Even if knives could be controlled (and frankly, considering that prisoners in jail are able to find ways to make knives and stab each other, that does not seem possible), the crime would not stop. Criminals would just resort to other techniques and weapons.

What they cannot do at security checkpoints is check the hearts of men. The heart of mankind is desparately wicked. In British society of 100 or 200 years ago, this wickedness was largely held in check by the effect of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit on a large portion of the populace. It was a Christian society, and even men with wicked hearts were under social pressure to act like Christian men (i.e. to be hypocrites, rather than openly wicked men).

What then is the solution in a wicked society? The solution is that outlined by Christ to his disciples in preparation for the collapse of society in his day:

Luke 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Be prepared.

And, at the same time, fight the collapse by spreading the Gospel. Although a sword may save your life, it may do so at the cost of your neighbor's life. But the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is able to save your life and your neighbor's life.

1 Timothy 2:1-2
1I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Matthew 5:14-16
14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Even so, let us proclaim the gospel and enlighten the world around us, even while taking prudent precautions for the defense of our lives and the lives of our family and neighbors.


P.S. I found it interesting that Reformed Musings categorized the post in question under "Federal Vision." I didn't quite see the connection.

Remembering the Martyrs

Today, I came across this interesting post by Doug Phillips at Doug's Blog of a visit to a memorial for the murdered Covenanters, numbering about 18,000. (link) If someone wants to see the sincerity of the Reformed believers in Scotland, this is the place to go.

For another post on the same blog regarding a monument to the lighting of the candle of the English Reformation, follow this link (link).

In between those posts, one can find a number of other Scotland/Britain-related posts, as it seems Doug is presently touring the island.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Justification - Part III

We now continue our consideration of Justification by examining some of the Reformed catechisms and their discussion on justification. Part I of this series (link) dealt with some of the major Reformed creedal statements, and Part II of this series (link) addressed the Helvetic Consensus. I have omitted many catechisms that could be added, which would mostly repeat (with minor variation) one or more of the following (especially the Catechism for Young Children and the Westminster Shorter Catechism).

Catechism for Young Children
Q. 50. What is justification?
A. It is God's forgiving sinners, and treating them as if they had never sinned.

Catechism of the Church of Geneva
M. As we understand the foundation on which faith ought to rest, it will be easy to extract from it a true definition of faith.

S. It will. It may be defined — a sure and steadfast knowledge of the paternal goodwill of God toward us, as he declares in the gospel that for the sake of Christ he will be our Father and Savior.

M. Do we conceive faith of ourselves, or do we receive it from God

S. Scripture teaches that it is the special gift of God, and this experience confirms.

M. What experience do you mean?

S. Our mind is too rude to be able to comprehend the spiritual wisdom of God which is revealed to us by faith, and our hearts are too prone; either to diffidence or to a perverse confidence in ourselves or creatures, to rest in God of their own accord. But the Holy Spirit by his illumination makes us capable of understanding those things which would otherwise far exceed our capacity, and forms us to a firm persuasion, by sealing the promises of salvation on our hearts.

M. What good accrues to us from this faith, when we have once obtained it?

S. It justifies us before God, and this justification makes us the heirs of everlasting life.

M. What! are not men justified by good works when they study to approve themselves to God, by living innocently and holily?

S. Could any one be found so perfect, he might justly be deemed righteous, but as we are all sinners, guilty before God in many ways, we must seek elsewhere for a worthiness which may reconcile us to him.

M. But are all the works of men so vile and valueless that they cannot merit favor with God?

S. First, all the works which proceed from us, so as properly to be called our own, are vicious, and therefore they can do nothing but displease God, and be rejected by him.

M. You say then that before we are born again and formed anew by the Spirit of God, we can do nothing but sin, just as a bad tree can only produce bad fruit? (Matthew 7:18.)

S. Altogether so. For whatever semblance works may have in the eyes of men:. they are nevertheless evil, as long as the heart to which God chiefly looks is depraved.

M. Hence you conclude, that we cannot by any merits anticipate God or call forth his beneficence; or rather that all the works which we try or engage in, subject us to his anger and condemnation?

S. I understand so; and therefore mere mercy, without any respect to works, (Titus 3:5,) embraces and accepts us freely in Christ, by attributing his righteousness to us as if it were our own, and not imputing our sins to us.

M. In what way, then, do you say that we are justified by faith?

S. Because, while we embrace the promises of the gospel with sure heartfelt confidence, we in a manner obtain possession of the righteousness of which I speak.

M. This then is your meaning — that as righteousness is offered to us by the gospel, so we receive it by faith?

S. It is so.

M. But after we have once been embraced by God, are not the works which we do under the direction of his Holy Spirit accepted by him?

S. They please him, not however in virtue of their own worthiness, but as he liberally honors them with his favor.

M. But seeing they proceed from the Holy Spirit, do they not merit favor?

S. They are always mixed up with some defilement from the weakness of the flesh, and thereby vitiated.

M. Whence then or how can it be that they please God?

S. It is faith alone which procures favor for them, as we rest with assured confidence on this — that God wills not to try them by his strict rule, but covering their defects and impurities as buried in the purity of Christ, he regards them in the same light as if they’ were absolutely perfect.

M. But can we infer from this that a Christian man is justified by works after he has been called by God, or that by the merit of works he makes himself loved by God, whose love is eternal life to us?

S. By no means. We rather hold what is written — that no man can be justified in his sight, and we therefore pray, "Enter not into judgment with us." (Psalm 143:2)

M. We are not therefore to think that the good works of believers are useless?

S. Certainly not. For not in vain does God promise them reward both in this life and in the future. But this reward springs from the free love of God as its source; for he first embraces us as sons, and then burying the remembrance of the vices which proceed from us, he visits us with his favor.

M. But can this righteousness be separated from good works, so that he who has it; may be void of them?

S. That cannot be. For when by faith we receive Christ as he is offered to us, he not only promises :us deliverance from death and reconciliation with God, but also the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which we are regenerated to newness of life; these things midst necessarily be conjoined so as not to divide ,Christ from himself.

M. Hence it follows that; faith is the root from which all good works spring, so far is it from taking us off from the study of them?

S. So indeed it is; and hence the whole doctrine of the gospel is comprehended! under the two branches, faith and repentance.

James Boyce's Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine
1. What is Justification?

It is an act of God, by which He fully acquits us of all sin.

2. Is it based upon any works of our own?

It is not; by our own works we could never secure it.

3. Is it not, however, intimately connected with some act of ours?

Yes, with the exercise of faith.

4. Is it due to our faith in Christ?

It is not; that faith becomes the instrument only, not the cause of our justification.

5. To what, then, is it due?

Simply to the merits and sufferings of Christ, which are accounted by God as ours.

6. What do the Scriptures mean when they say that we are justified by faith?

In part, they are teaching that our justification is not by works.

7. What else do they mean?

They also speak thus, because in the act of faith the believer takes hold of the meritorious work of Christ, which is the 'true ground of justification.

8. Why does the Apostle James say that we are justified by works and not by faith only?

He refers to the fact that every one that has true faith also performs good works.

A Catechism of Bible Teaching (1892)
1. What is meant in the Bible by justification?
A. God justifies a sinner in treating him as just, for Christ's sake.

2. Can any person be justified by his own works
A. By works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Rom. 3:20)

3. How are we justified by path?
A. Believing in Christ our Savior, we ask and receive justification for His sake alone. (Rom. 3:24; 5:1)

4. Has this faith that justifies any connection with our works?
A. The faith that justifies will be sure to produce good works. (Gal. 5:6; James 2:17)

5. What is meant by sanctification
A. To sanctify is to make holy in heart and life.

6. What connection is there between sanctification and regeneration?
A. The new birth is the beginning of a new and holy life.

7. Is justification complete at once?
A. Yes, the moment a sinner really believes in Christ he is completely justified.

8. Is sanctification complete at once?
A. No, sanctification is gradual, and ought to go on increasing to the end of the earthly life. (Phil. 3:13; 14)

9. Is it certain that a true believer in Christ will be finally saved?
A. Yes, God will preserve a true believer in Christ to the end. (John 10:28; Phil. 1:6)

10. What is the sure proof of being a true believer?
A. The only sure proof of being a true believer is growing in holiness and in usefulness, even to the end. (2 Pet. 1:10)

11. To what will justification and sanctification lead at last?
A. Justification and sanctification will lead at last to glorification in heaven. (Rom. 5:2; 8:30; Matt. 25:21)

Q. A. How can it be right for God to treat a believing sinner as just, when he has only began a holy life?
A. God treats a believing sinner as just for Christ's sake, and God will be sure to make him completely holy in the end. (Rom. 3:26)

Q. B. Does faith in Christ procure justification by deserving it?
A. No, faith does not deserve justification; it only brings us into union with Christ, for whose sake we are justified. (Rom. 8:1)

Compend of Christian Doctrines Held by Baptists
Q. (26) What is justification?
A. Pardoning the believer and accepting him as righteous through the name and righteousness of Christ. Rom. iii: 24 and v: 1; Gal. ii: 16; 1 Cor. v: 11; Tit. iii: 7.

Philadelphia Baptist Catechism
Q. 98. What immediately follows when we believe the Gospel?
A. Justification
Scr. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law — Romans 3:28 See also Romans 5:1

Q. 99. What does it mean to be justified?
A. To be justified is to be counted just, or righteous, before God.
Scr. “To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus.” — Romans 3:26

Q. 100. How can sinful men be counted just before God?
A. Only when he appears before God in the righteousness of Christ
Scr. “not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith :“ — Philippians 3:9 See also Roman5 3:25; 5:17

Q. 101. Is this righteousn~55 of Christ poured into the saints so that they become Personally righteous before God?
A. No, for if they were Personally righteous they would not live by faith.
Scr. “The just shall live by faith.” — Galatians 3:11 See also Philippians 3:9; Galatians 5:5; Romans 4:5-8

Q. 102. Then how can a man ever be Clothed with the righteousne55 of Christ?
A. Christ Jesus took our nature that He might live and die for His people, and be able to present them before God clothed in His righteousness
Scr. “And again, Behold I and the children which God has given Me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. — Hebrews 2:13, 14 See also verse17; Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 2:24

Q. 103. How does God justify the elect by the righteousness of Christ?
A. By crediting them with the righteousnc55 of Christ’s life while Lie was on earth.
Scr. “For He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” — 2 Corinthians 5:21 See also Romans 4:22-25; 8:1, 2, 4; 5:21

Q. 104. When is a man actually justified?
A. Immediately when he has believed in Christ.
Scr. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other:” — Luke 18:14

Q. 105. What is the instrument by which we receive justification?
A. Faith
Scr. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law Romans 3:28

Q. 106. If a man is once justified before God, can he ever be counted unrighteous again?
A. No, because God accepts the righteousness of Christ for ever.
Scr. “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” — Romans 8:30 See also verses 33, 34

Q. 107. Can a man justify his sin because he is eternally justified before God.
A. No, in no way, but he must humble himself, confess his sin, repent, and renew his faith.
Scr. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all urighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His ward is not in us.” — 1 John 1:8-10 See also Romans 6:1, 2; Psalm 32:5

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace,[91] wherein he pardoneth all our sins,[92] and accepteth us as righteous in His sight,[93] only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us,[94] and received by faith alone.[95]

[91] Romans 3:24. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

[92] Romans 4:6-8. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 2 Corinthians 5:19. To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

[93] 2 Corinthians 5:21. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

[94] Romans 4:6, 11. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.... And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: Romans 5:19. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

[95] Galatians 2:16. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Philippians 3:9. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.

Westminster Larger Catechism
Q. 70. What is justification?

A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners,[286] in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight;[287] not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them,[288] but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them,[289] and received by faith alone.[290]

Q. 71. How is justification an act of God’s free grace?

A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified;[291] yet in as much as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son,[292] imputing his righteousness to them,[293] and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith,[294] which also is his gift,[295] their justification is to them of free grace.[296]

Q. 72. What is justifying faith?

A. Justifying faith is a saving grace,[297] wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit[298] and Word of God,[299] whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition,[300] not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel,[301] but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin,[302] and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.[303]

Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it,[304] nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification;[305] but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.[306]

[287] 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21. To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.... For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Romans 3:22, 24-25, 27-28. Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.... Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.... Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

[288] Titus 3:5, 7. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.... That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Ephesians 1:7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

[289] Romans 5:17-19. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Romans 4:6-8. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

[290] Acts 10:43. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. Galatians 2:16. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Philippians 3:9. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.

[291] Romans 5:8-10, 19. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.... For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

[292] 1 Timothy 2:5-6. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Hebrews 10:10. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Matthew 20:28. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Daniel 9:24, 26. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.... And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. Isaiah 53:4-6, 10-12. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.... Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Hebrews 7:22. By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. Romans 8:32. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 1 Peter 1:18-19. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

[293] 2 Corinthians 5:21. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

[294] Romans 3:24-25. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.

[295] Ephesians 2:8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

[296] Ephesians 1:17. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

[297] Hebrews 10:39. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

[298] 2 Corinthians 4:13. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak. Ephesians 1:17-19. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.

[299] Romans 10:14-17. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

[300] Acts 2:37. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Acts 16:30. And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? John 16:8-9. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me. Romans 6:6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Ephesians 2:1. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Acts 4:12. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

[301] Ephesians 1:13. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.

[302] John 1:12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. Acts 16:31. And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 10:43. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

[303] Philippians 3:9. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Acts 15:11. But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

[304] Galatians 3:11. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. Romans 3:28. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

[305] Romans 4:5. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 10:10. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

[306] John 1:12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. Philippians 3:9. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Galatians 1:16. To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Justification - Part II

In addition to the more widely subscribed confessions of faith provided in part I (link) of this series, I'd like now to turn to a less widely subscribed confession, the Helvetic Consensus (promoted with great zeal by Turretin, but overthrown by his unworthy son, Jean Alphonse). This confession of faith was, for about 50 years, adopted widely in Switzerland (Helvetica) in 1675. Most relevant to our topic of justification are three of the last four canons: canons 23-25:

Canon XXIII: There are two ways in which God, the just Judge, has promised justification: either by one's own works or deeds in the law, or by the obedience or righteousness of another, even of Christ our Guarantor. [This justification] is imputed by grace to those who believe in the Gospel. The former is the method of justifying man because of perfection; but the latter, of justifying man who is a corrupt sinner. In accordance with these two ways of justification the Scripture establishes these two covenants: the Covenant of Works, entered into with Adam and with each one of his descendants in him, but made void by sin; and the Covenant of Grace, made with only the elect in Christ, the second Adam, eternal. [This covenant] cannot be broken while [the Covenant of Works] can be abrogated.

Canon XXIV: But this later Covenant of Grace according to the diversity of times has also different dispensations. For when the Apostle speaks of the dispensation of the fullness of times, that is, the administration of the last time (Eph 1:10), he very clearly indicates that there had been another dispensation and administration until the times which the Father appointed. Yet in the dispensation of the Covenant of Grace the elect have not been saved in any other way than by the Angel of his presence (Isa 63:9), the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8), Christ Jesus, through the knowledge of that just Servant and faith in him and in the Father and his Spirit. For Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). And by His grace we believe that we are saved in the same manner as the Fathers also were saved, and in both Testaments these statutes remain unchanged: "Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him," (the Son) (Ps 2:12); "He that believes in Him is not condemned, but he that does not believe is condemned already" (John 3:18). "You believe in God," even the Father, "believe also in me" (John 14:1). But if, moreover, the holy Fathers believed in Christ as their God, it follows that they also believed in the Holy Spirit, without whom no one can call Jesus Lord. Truly there are so many clearer exhibitions of this faith of the Fathers and of the necessity of such faith in either Covenant, that they can not escape any one unless one wills it. But though this saving knowledge of Christ and the Holy Trinity was necessarily derived, according to the dispensation of that time, both from the promise and from shadows and figures and mysteries, with greater difficulty than in the NT. Yet it was a true knowledge, and, in proportion to the measure of divine Revelation, it was sufficient to procure salvation and peace of conscience for the elect, by the help of God's grace.

Canon XXV: We disapprove therefore of the doctrine of those who fabricate for us three Covenants, the Natural, the Legal, and the Gospel, different in their entire nature and essence, and in explaining these and assigning their differences, so intricately entangle themselves that they greatly obscure and even impair the nucleus of solid truth and piety. Nor do they hesitate at all, with regard to the necessity, under the OT dispensation, of knowledge of Christ and faith in him and his satisfaction and in the whole sacred Trinity, to speculate much too loosely and dangerously.

This is a translation by Martin I. Klauber, which apparently first appeared in Trinity Journal 11 (1990): 103-23. For the complete text of the translation (by permission) see this link (link).

The Indispensible Nature of the Justice of God

"This avenging justice belongs to God as a judge, and he can no more dispense with it than he can cease to be a judge, or deny himself; though at the same time he exercises it freely. It does not consist in the exercise of a gratuitous power, like mercy, by which (whether it be exercised or not) injustice is done to no one. It is that attribute by which God gives to every one his due, and from the exercise of which, when proper objects are presented, he can no more abstain, than he can do what is unjust. This justice is the constant will of punishing sinners, which in God cannot be inefficient, as his majesty is supreme and his power infinite " (Turretin's Atonement, Translated by Wilson. New York, 1859).

"So long as he is holy he must be just; he must repel sin, which is the highest idea we can form of punishment" (Hodge's Essays and Reviews, p. 137).

"For whatever else God may be, or may not be, he must be just. It is not optional with him to exercise this attribute, or not to exercise it, as it is in the instance of that class of attributes which are antithetic to it. We can say: "God may be merciful or not as he pleases," but we cannot say: "God may be just or not, as he pleases." It cannot be asserted that God is inexorably obligated to show pity; but it can be categorically affirmed that God is inexorably obligated to do justly" (Bib. Sacra, Vol. XVI., p. 738).

These quotations were brought to my attention by Pastor Daniel Fisk in his article "The Necessity of the Atonement," in Biblia Sacra, from April 1861 (link).

Sola Scriptura Debate Rebuttals Posted

My on-going debate with Mr. Bellisario over Sola Scriptura has progressed, and now his rebuttal has been posted to the debate blog (link). There was some delay in the process because of email troubles (per an email I received from him today, I had missed 2(!) emails that had previously sent me, meanwhile for the last week I've been wondering why I hadn't heard anything from him). I wonder how many emails from other folks I have missed!!

If you want to see the progress of the debate, filtering out the other debates on the site, this link (link) should give you only the posts relating to the Sola Scriptura Debate with Mr. Bellisario (and, of course, the debate is also available on his website).