Saturday, February 14, 2009

Proverbs 3:11-20

Proverbs 3:11-20

11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. 13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. 14 For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. 16 Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her. 19 The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. 20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.

This passage is the third parental lecture of the book.

The first segment of the lecture is a pair of parallels, the first pair is exhortation and the second pair is encouragement.


despise not the chastening of the LORD || neither be weary of his correction


For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth || even as a father [correcteth] the son in whom he delighteth.

Life can be full of troubles. They are not always God chastening us (see the book of Job) but sometimes they are brought upon us to discipline us. These verses should encourage us in times of trouble, because even then God is showing his love for us. It is not the sort of love that ignores our mistakes, but the kind of love that - in essence - gives us a good spanking so that we get back to what we should be doing. It's not pleasant to receive a spanking, or the LORD's correction, but we are told not to get frustrated by it.

It's interesting to note that the author just assumes and takes for granted that fathers are going to be disciplining their sons, if they love their sons. I have heard more than a few people who hate their own sons and yours speak out against corporal discipline. I say they "hate" your sons, and this may seem a bit strong. After all, many are simply those who have been led astray by the spirit of this age, which sees physical discipline (such as spanking) as an evil.

Nevertheless, when one despises parental discipline (whether God's discipline of his children or a man's godly discipline of his children) one is despising the God who gives or authorizes it. It may well be a sincere desire to be kind to the children, but it is actually worse for the children.

Why is the discipline a good thing? Because it teaches and instructs. It gives wisdom and understanding. Thus, it is not pleasant itself, but it leads to true happiness. The lecture explains with a parallel:

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom || and [happy is] the man that getteth understanding

This parallel of the happiness of the man who finds/gets wisdom/understanding is explained in extreme terms to show that it is the best and highest happiness, using five parallels to describe the blessings that flow from wisdom, and a sixth parallel to associate wisdom and the divine.

For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver || and the gain thereof than fine gold

This is a figure of speech, of course. The metaphor is that it is better to have wisdom than to have silver of gold. There are no precious metals more valuable than wisdom. Wisdom here is being treated as though it were money or products.

She is more precious than rubies || and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.

This is similar to the previous metaphor (in the first half of the parallel), and perhaps we could have included it in the previous parallel. That, however, was more related specifically to commercial comparisons.

In this parallel, the comparison is being taken to a loftier height. Rubies would be one of the most (or perhaps the most) expensive and precious gem stones in the ancient world. We may think of diamonds as the most expensive jewel stones today, but while they were known in ancient Israel, rubies received the primary attention.

And in case someone might not care so much for rubies, the second half of the parallel cleans out and exhausts the rest of the possibilities. "All the things you can desire" are incomparably less valuable than wisdom.

Just in case one might think these "things" are material things, the lecture continues:

Length of days is in her right hand || and in her left hand riches and honour.

The idea of this metaphor is that wisdom has, as accessories, long life, riches, and honor. If you get wisdom, those things are included with it. And that's not all!

Her ways are ways of pleasantness || and all her paths are peace

The idea conveyed by these metaphors is that being associated with Wisdom leads to pleasantness and peace. This is good, since a long life without peace can be worse than a short but peaceful life. Likewise, riches without pleasantness is just unsatisfying.

This metaphor is of "ways" and "paths" conveys a sense of affiliation. If you go in the "way of Wisdom" you are hanging out with Wisdom, following Wisdom, and being guided by Wisdom. Recall that a similar metaphor is used twice in Psalm 1:

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

Psalm 1:6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

In this case, of course, the metaphor is negative. The "counsel of the ungodly" is the opposite of wisdom. Being the place of the wicked ("sitting in the seat of the scorner") is a similar metaphor. Here, instead, we should follow Wisdom and be her friend.

The encouragement continues:

She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her || and happy is every one that retaineth her.

Recall the "tree of life" in the garden of Eden. It was by eating of the tree of life, that one could live forever. So too, when we obtain wisdom, we will live for ever. This life forever will be in happiness and righteousness, not in sin and misery, as in the present life we now live, where we receive the discipline referenced above.

We should "lay hold upon" (i.e. grab) Wisdom and retain (i.e. not let go of) her. What is this "Wisdom"? It is the Messiah - the Logos - it is Jesus, as we now know in the New Testament era. This can be seen in a veiled way through the next two parallels, which show the divine connection that Wisdom has:

The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth || by understanding hath he established the heavens.

Recall that John explains that "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3) Jesus is the true Wisdom.

1 Corinthians 1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Of course, there is a sort of double-meaning. Jesus is the Logos - but the World was made by God speaking, saying "Let there be light" etc. Even so, Jesus is the Wisdom, but the world was wisely made. This same double meaning is seen in providence and the relationship of the Power of God, Jesus, to it:

By his knowledge the depths are broken up || and the clouds drop down the dew.

This expression "depths are broken up" is interesting. I would refer this to the Mid-Atlantic rift, but I'm not sure that's what it means. It may simply refer to all rift-producing earthquakes. It may even, especially in contrast to the second half of the parallel, refer to springs/geysers.

Supporting this view is the similar expression in Genesis 7:11

Genesis 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

Regardless of which reference is intended, the point is that God, in his Wisdom, not only created the world but provides for it. God provides water for all that needs water:

Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

The whole world is governed by God - He is both the Creator and the Provider.

1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

The divine Wisdom (the ever-wise Son of God) is what made and governs the world, so we should seek wisdom and not let go of it. Be wise: seek the only wise God! (Romans 16:27 To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.)


Friday, February 13, 2009

Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 10 of 13)

This is part 10 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Jay Dyer says:

9) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] Un-deified, since the Logos' holy Flesh is not your food, because there was no true henotic union."

I answer:

a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)

We do eat Christ's flesh and drink his blood, not in a grotesque, cannibalistic and literally physical sense, but spiritually.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Indeed, eating and drinking Christ can be Scripturally said to be necessary for salvation:

John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

Of course, Jesus does not mean, in John 6:53, physical life but spiritual life. After all, the physical eating of the sacrifices was done under the shadows and types of the Old Testament administration:

1 Corinthians 10:18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

The Israelites ate the physical flesh of the sacrifices that were sacrificed on the altar. Through those physical signs, the spiritual reality of Christ's once-for-all sacrifice on the cross was depicted.

Christians are united by faith with Christ. This is accomplished by the death of Christ, who reconciled us to God, and purchased for us the adoption of sons and as well through the work of the Holy Spirit applying the benefits of Christ's death to us. Thus, we have become the children of God by adoption. Thus, we are become through the love of God, the sons of God. Thus, in the words of the Psalmist:

Psalm 82:6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

This is a harmonious union between Christ and the church (all believers), which is likened to the union of love between husband and wife (see, for example, Ephesians 5:25).

b) The Accusation Disputed

The concept of "deification" (in Roman Catholicism - sometimes also called "divinization") or the related concept of "theosis" (in Eastern Orthodoxy) is an easily misunderstood topic, and it is hard to locate good explanations of this concept from modern Catholicism (the Eastern Orthodox explanations seem to generally equate theosis with salvation).

One Roman Cardinal stated: "above all, keep in mind that the words with which Saint Paul described his prodigious deification: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20) can be applied to each and every Christian." Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos (May 15, 2000). Likewise, a joint commission for dialog with Eastern Orthodoxy, defined the Roman position as "The soteriological meaning of the faith: every expression of the faith should envision the human being's final destiny, as a child of God by grace, in his or her deification (theosis) through victory over death and in the transfiguration of creation."

Pope John Paul II stated:
The Spirit of the Lord not only destroys sin, but also accomplishes the sanctification and divinization of man. “God chose” us, St Paul says, “from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thes 2:13).

Let us look more closely at what this “sanctification-divinization” consists of.

The Holy Spirit is “Person-Love; he is Person-Gift” (Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 10). This love given by the Father, received and reciprocated by the Son, is communicated to the one redeemed, who thus becomes a “new man” (Eph 4:24), a “new creation” (Gal 6:15). We Christians are not only purified from sin, but are also reborn and sanctified. We receive a new life, since we have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4); we are “called children of God; and so we are!” (1 Jn 3:1). It is the life of grace: the free gift by which God makes us partakers of his Trinitarian life.
(General Audience, July 22, 1998)

With these expressions in mind (and keeping in mind that these may be very inadequate explanations of the entire concept intended by the term "deification"), a claim that someone is "un-deified" is really (at its heart) a claim that they do not have faith and/or the new birth: that they are not a Christian. No consistent Calvinist, of course, could be an unbeliever or an unregenerate person. (That is not to say that every person who calls himself a Calvinist is saved, and no one should place their hope in the fact that they label themselves a "Calvinist" or know what "TULIP" stands for.)

Furthermore, the grant of new life - the regeneration of man - is an important concept in Calvinistic soteriology. Regeneration produces a change in man's heart, opening his spiritual eyes to the truth of the gospel, so that a man sees and believes to the saving of his soul. This renovation of man's spiritual faculties is one way in which man is given life by God, and the eternal life that comes from being justified in God's sight is another way in which God gives us life. He provides and sustains the believer. This too is central to the Calvinistic tenet of perseverance of the saints. So, not only could no consistent Calvinist be an unbeliever, no consistent Calvinist could reject the idea of God giving life to believers.

The label "deification" itself, however, is problematic. Christians will immediately recall the temptation that Satan gave to Eve:

Genesis 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Man's desire to be a god (or to be equal to God) is one of the most alluring aspects of many false religions, from the very beginning. Thus, great caution should be exercised with respect to those who suggest that through union with Christ we become "deified." That is not to say that every such label is automatically wrong. Recall Jesus' words:

John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken ...

Nevertheless, Paul explained that this cannot contradict the central Christian tenet of Monotheism:

1 Corinthians 8:5-6
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

So, even while such respectable theologians as Augustine ("We mustn't find it incredible, brothers and sisters, that human beings become gods, that is, that those who were human beings become gods." - Sermon 23B, Section 1) and Athanasius ("For the Son of God became man, that we might become God." De Inc. 54:3 as quoted in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church") may use this terminology, we would do well to be more gaurded, particularly in view of the error of some (especially Mormons) to take such statements in a very literal way.

The term "henotic union" is not a standard term. I'm not sure if Dyer really means to use that expression (although he uses it several times on his website) or whether he is trying to use the expression "hypostatic union." The hypostatic union is the true doctrine that Jesus is both truly man and truly God.

One reason to guess that Dyer means "hypostatic union" is that He makes the comment that I (TurretinFan) have "written what [TurretinFan] perceives to be a response to the accusation I made that Calvinists are Nestorians, in that they end up denying the henotic [sic] union." (source) Of course, Nestorianism is normally defined as a denial of the hypostatic union (see response to Nestorian accusation).

In any event, the term "henotic" means irenic or harmony-promoting. An "henotic union" would, grammatically speaking, seem to be a union that promotes harmony. The union between Christ and the elect is the most harmonious union imaginable between Creator and creature. Indeed, Calvinism - as a central aspect - promotes the concept of God's special abounding love for the elect, which is the basis of Christ's sacrificial death on their behalf. Thus, no consistent Calvinism could deny a henotic union between Christ and the elect.

c) The Accusation Redirected

Catholicism is full of unbelief. This is apparent, at a minimum, from the high level of nominalism. Now, someone should rightly complain that I'm comparing consistent Calvinism with inconsistent Catholicism. Very well. Consistent Tridentine Catholicism anathematizes the gospel - insisting that man's salvation is obtained by cooperating with grace.

One cannot be saved by any gospel except that preached by Peter (Acts 4:12) and every other gospel is anathema, no matter who teaches it (Galatians 1:8-9). Those who seek salvation by works (whether that be cooperation with grace or any other works) will not attain to righteousness, because that is not by faith (Romans 9:31-33).

That is not to say that every person who is part of the Roman Catholic church is unsaved, but there is no salvation through obedience to the gospel that Rome teaches. I know this is a hard doctrine for many soft-hearted people, but God is a Jealous God (Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24 and 6:15, Joshua 24:19, and Nahum 1:2). He does not accept strange fire (see, for example, Numbers 26:61) or even apparently sincere acts that are contrary to his revealed will (2 Samuel 6:3-7), which is sometimes hard for believers to accept (2 Samuel 6:8-9).

Recall Jesus' words:

Luke 13:23-24
23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

And again:

Matthew 7:13-14
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

And finally:

Matthew 7:21-23
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Salvation comes through union with Christ, justification by grace alone through faith alone, not through works, or else it would not be by grace (Romans 11:6 and 2 Timothy 1:9). That's the Scriptural truth that Rome has placed under its anathema.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 9 of 13)

This is part 9 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Jay Dyer says:

8) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] An ecclesiastical relativist, because there is no authoritative Church."

I answer:

a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)

God did not leave "an" institutional church. God left the system of government by elders that had been practiced in the Old Testament (see, for example, Exodus 3:16), modified according to the needs of New Testament believers, with specific instructions regarding the qualifications of elders (Titus 1 and I Timothy 3). Nevertheless, believers are called not to be empty-headed but to be on the lookout for false teachers (I John 4:1) and the example of the Bereans is commended to them (Acts 17:11).

Truth is one. Thus we speak of "the truth" (Psalm 69:13 But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.) and "the gospel" (Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.).

This can especially be seen in John's third general epistle:

3 John (the entire book)
1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 7 Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. 9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. 11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. 12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true. 13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

Notice how the church run by Diotrephes is not of equal merit with that of Demetrius. Why? The emphasis here (and I've highlighted it in bold) is on the truth. Certainly, John is speaking with special, divinely inspired authority. Nevertheless, John is giving believers a way to discern true churches from false ones. Recall that phrase "our record is true" hearkens back to John's conclusion to his gospel, John 19:35 "And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe."

That is the reason we have the Bible: so that we may know the (singular) truth.

b) The Accusation Disputed

A relativist generally denies the existence of absolute truth. The concept of "ecumenical relativist" is not one that has a lengthy historical precedent. One supposes it means that one church is as good as another. Calvinism is generally used to refer to the 5-point view of God and man - to a view of monergistic soteriology - and to a view that man's will and God's predestination are compatible concepts. Calvinism is not generally used to describe a particular ecclesiology. Nevertheless, Calvinism's view of absolute truth would seem to be inconsistent with a view that one church is as good as another, as least applied to its fullest extent. Calvinism is generally and historically associated with the Reformers who argued that secession from affiliation with Rome was necessary, because (among other reasons) Rome had so corrupted the gospel. Clearly, those Reformers were not ecclesiastical relativists, at least as applied to the validity (or rather, lack thereof) of the church of Rome. Furthermore, while Sola Scriptura is not normally viewed as a part of Calvinism itself, it is the epistemological basis for the soteriology of Calvinism. Thus, no consistent Calvinist, true to his source of knowledge, could be a relativist in theological matters.

c) The Accusation Redirected

While historically Roman Catholicism viewed itself as being a unique church, modern movements of ecumenicism especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, as has lead to an increasingly relativistic mentality. To be sure, there is still some measure of proselytizing push exerted from Rome, but Rome has started to refer to those outside her communion as "separated brethren" and to suggest that the plan of salvation includes folks who are not in formal union with Rome, including even non-Christians, like religious Jews and Muslims. It is not total relativism - generally even these "inclusivist" types will still assert that Catholicism is best among the paths to heaven, but it is more relativistic than a view that says that a church that does not preach the gospel is not a true church.


Continue to Part 10


I thought it is worth pointing out that 2 John also has some similar themes to 3 John (discussed above):

2 John (the whole book)
1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; 2 For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. 3 Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. 4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. 5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. 12 Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.
(emphases added, of course)

Notice that there are some of the same themes there of looking out for deceivers by clinging to the previously revealed truth, which is presented essentially as a synonym to "his commandments" and "the doctrine of Christ." These things are an objective reality, with Scripture being the unchanging, alone-reliable (today) measure of whether someone is to be received into your house or kicked out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 8 of 13)

This is part 8 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Jay Dyer says:

7) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] A Pelagian, in that you have the same view of pre-lapsarian man as Pelagius, and what must be lost is human nature, because nature is grace."

I answer:

a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)

Calvinism teaches that Adam was created upright (Genesis 1:31 and Genesis 5:1), although we must be careful not to speculate excessively over Adam's psyche given the limited Scriptural discussion of the subject. However, Adam fell and the race was cursed because of his sin ("Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" Romans 5:12). Grace overcomes our fallen nature ("Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)" Ephesians 2:5), so that salvation is by grace, not works ("And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." Romans 11:6). Thus, sin reigned to death, but grace reigns to eternal life ("That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" Romans 5:21).

Also, see 2(a) previously posted.

A quotation from Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology may be helpful at to explain part of the grace/nature distinction:
Distinction between the Providential Efficiency of God and the Influences of the Holy Spirit
3. The providential agency of God in the government of free agents is not to be confounded with the operations of his grace. These two things are constantly represented in the Bible as distinct. The one is natural, the other supernatural. In the one God acts according to uniform laws, or by his potentia ordinata in the other, according to the good pleasure of his will, or by his potentia absoluta. The control which God exercises over the ordinary acts of men, and especially over the wicked, is analogous to that which He exercises in the guidance of material causes; whereas his agency in the operations of his grace is more analogous to his mode of action in prophecy, inspiration, and miracles. In the former, or in his providential agency over minds, nothing is effected which transcends the efficiency of second causes. In the latter the effects are such as second causes are utterly inadequate to accomplish. The most obvious points of difference between the two cases are,
(1.) In the ordinary operations or acts of free agents, the ability to perform them belongs to the agent and arises out of his nature as a rational creature, and is inseparable from it; whereas the acts of faith, repentance, and other holy affections do not flow from the ability of men in the present condition of their nature, but from a new principle of life supernaturally communicated and maintained.
(2.) The ordinary acts of men, and especially their wicked acts, are determined by their own natural inclinations and feelings. God does not awaken or infuse those feelings or dispositions in order to determine sinners to act wickedly. On the other hand, all gracious or holy affections are thus infused or excited by the Spirit of God.
(3.) The providential government of God over free agents is exercised as much in accordance with the laws of mind, as his providential government over the material world is in accordance with the established laws of matter. Both belong to the potentia ordinata or ordered efficiency of God. This is not the case in the operations of his grace. Holy affections and exercises are not due to the mere moral power of the truth, or its control over our natural affections, but to the indwelling of the Spirit of God. So that it is not we that live but Christ that liveth in us. It is indeed our life, but it is a life divine in its origin, and sustained and guided in all its exercises by a higher influence than the laws of mind, or an influence which operates merely through them, and according to their natural operations. This distinction between nature and grace, between the providential efficiency of God and the workings of his Spirit in the hearts of his people is one of the most important in all theology. It makes all the difference between Augustinianism and Pelagianism between Rationalism and supernatural evangelical religion.

b) The Accusation Disputed

Pelagius was a heretic that opposed Augustine. Pelagius' primary error was denying the necessity of grace - he consequently also denied the sufficiency of grace. Calvinists affirm the necessity of grace, and it is a central aspect of Calvinism to affirm the necessity of grace.

Furthermore, another error of Pelagian was in arguing that people (other than Christ himself) are born without sin. Calvinism, however, affirms the Total Depravity of fallen mankind, making Original Sin a doctrine of central importance in Calvinism. Thus, no consistent Calvinist could be a Pelagian. Any superficial similarity between Calvinism and Pelagius with respect to the state of Adam before the fall would be a trivial matter.

c) The Accusation Redirected

Sadly, rather than being Augustinian, Rome's view of man is semi-Pelagian: affirming the necessity of grace (against Pelagius) but denying its sufficiency. While there are certainly many areas where Calvinists today would find fault with Augustine, on the Pelagian controversy, Calvinists are happy to view Augustine as providing an excellent and Scriptural defense of the truth that God's grace is both necessary for salvation, and sufficient to guarantee salvation for the elect of God. Furthermore, Rome holds to the position (to which we cannot find early documented support than Pelagius) that Jesus was not alone in being immaculately conceived, but that Mary was likewise immaculately conceived.


(Peter Leithart, who I am not endorsing by posting this link, has an interesting related post on Turretin and Pelagius at the link.)

Continue to Part 9

Excerpt from the Rule of St. Benedict

I happened to take note of the interesting conclusion to the Rule of St. Benedict - which seems to sort of serve as the constitution (as it were) of the Benedictine order. It is attributed to Benedict of Nursia (circa A.D. 480-547). Like other fathers of the day, it exalts the teachings of the fathers, but gives the highest place to Scriptures.


Of This, that Not the Whole Observance of Righteousness Is Laid Down in this Rule

Now, we have written this Rule that, observing it in monasteries, we may show that we have acquired at least some moral righteousness, or a beginning of the monastic life.

On the other hand, he that hasteneth on to the perfection of the religious life, hath at hand the teachings of the holy Fathers, the observance of which leadeth a man to the height of perfection. For what page or what utterance of the divinely inspired books of the Old and the New Testament is not a most exact rule of human life? Or, what book of the holy Catholic Fathers doth not loudly proclaim how we may go straight to our Creator? So, too, the collations of the Fathers, and their institutes and lives, and the rule of our holy Father, Basil -- what are they but the monuments of the virtues of exemplary and obedient monks? But for us slothful, disedifying, and negligent monks they are a source for shame and confusion.

Thou, therefore, who hastenest to the heavenly home, with the help of Christ fulfil this least rule written for a beginning; and then thou shalt with God's help attain at last to the greater heights of knowledge and virtue which we have mentioned above.
(bold emphasis added) This is from the 1949 Edition of the translation by Boniface Verheyen, OSB.


The Fear of God

Today I happened to walk into a chatroom that was on the relation of Christianity and the Church. There were a number of points raised by those leading the discussion, including issues connected to the fact that churches often act with the primary goal of promoting themselves or lining the coffers. There was also talk about the use of manipulation based on telling people that they are guilty in God's eyes.

There was a measure of reasonableness in some of the criticisms, but then it really started to go south. One of the people started railing against God with various epithets, and declaring - in essence - that the people weren't interested in a God who hates the wicked. A theme kept getting repeated about God (they said) wouldn't want people to fear him, quoting something about "perfect love casts out fear" (from John's catholic epistle).

It occurred to me that this wasn't really the whole counsel of God (simply taking that part of one verse in isolation), so I brought up the following verse:

Psalm 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

I provided it to the room, and got back a mocking response that I had quoted a Psalm from a dead religion. I probably ought to have immediately identified the spirit of the room as opposed to God, but I thought that perhaps this was some sort of dispensational room, where people view (quite incorrectly) the Psalms as outdated and connected with Judaism.

So, I proceeded to provide a verse from the New Testament:

Ephesians 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

But the leaders of the room kept on claiming that any "fear of God" was a terrible idea. Suddenly it dawned on me - and I posted:

Romans 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

This got a stronger reaction - the leaders of the group silenced my nick and complained to the effect that it was not appropriate to quote Bible verses to people who aren't interested in them. I clarified that they really weren't interested in the Bible, and - before they kicked me out - asked what sort of person despises the Word of God.

I was truly amazed at how openly vile and anti-Scripture the group was. The hatred for God's word was without shame. They were only afraid to be called to task for it. They didn't mind quoting the "warm fuzzy" verses of the Bible, but if any verse was presented that didn't line up with their theology, it was just dismissed.

Probably I'm just too sheltered - but the pure evil of a religion that despises God's word so openly was absolutely shocking to me. I feel so sorry for those folks - it is the "reprobate mind" of Romans 1 written large. But they are not seared in their conscience as to be able to completely ignore the Scriptures. The felt the need to mock and revile them - and to mock me for bringing them up. I've seen the latter from atheists - but a group of people would call themselves "Christians" while attacking the church and the Scriptures left me near speechless.

Please don't be like those folks I encountered today. Be a God-fearer:

Psalm 66:16 Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.

Ecclesiastes 8:12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:


Indulgences are Back!

Or so says the New York Times. I guess it just goes to show how little the NYT knows about Catholicism. Although Indulgences are not supposed to be sold any more (which naturally had the effect of less promotion of their alleged importance), the use of Indulgences was never terminated.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sermon on Sola Fide

In the linked video, Reformed Baptist preacher, Dr. James White, provides a discussion of Sola Fide. The sermon starts with a little humor, but most of the 55 minutes are serious discussion of a very important subject.


Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 7 of 13)

This is part 7 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Jay Dyer says:

6) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] A pagan, in that the Father can damn the Son of His love in wrath, splitting the Trinity: something more akin to Zeus."

I answer:

a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)

The Father that spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all, shall also freely give us all things (Romans 8:32). This was no pagan sacrifice, but a fulfilment of the pious type ("type" in the sense of "shadow") that Abraham provided by offering up Isaac his son (Hebrews 11:17-19). Jesus was stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4) and it pleased the LORD to bruise him, to put him to grief, and to make him an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). Nevertheless, God did not utterly forsake him, but raised him up on the third day when the work to obtain our justification was complete (Romans 4:25).

b) The Accusation Disputed

There's really nothing similar to Zeus here. Zeus did not offer his onlybegotten son as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice. Zeus was generally placated with animal sacrifices and gifts to his temples and priests. Zeus' intra-familial intrigues are doubtless too numerous to mention, but it is mostly absurd to compare them to Christ's work.

Consistent Calvinists would generally limit the analogy to Zeus to that provided by Paul himself, who quoted from this hymn to Zeus:
“They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one—
the Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
for in thee we live and move and have our being.”
(cf. Titus 1:12 and Acts 17:28). That is the extent that Calvinists (being followers of Paul and Christ) compare their true and living God to the false idol of Zeus. Zeus (like all the other false gods) is a cheap imitation and a dumb idol, the LORD is the true and living God.

c) The Accusation Redirected

Sadly, the view of Christ's sacrifice in Catholicism seems to be closer to paganism's view of sacrifice than to that of the Bible. I say "seems" because one finds differing explanations within Catholicism, even today. The pagans wrongly viewed the sacrifice in terms of creating merit - so that sacrificing 100 bulls would be more pleasing than just 1. Likewise, Catholicism has (from time to time) superstitiously said large numbers of masses with a similar purpose, seemingly, of trying to produce a greater influence than could be achieved once for all. Scripture, in contrast, teaches a once-for-all sacrifice of Christ that is complete, and that is remembered, not repeated or continued in the Lord's supper.

We see similar pagan influences in Catholicism in the use of icons and statues in worship. We also see pagan influences (more or less clear) in other aspects of Catholicism, from the treatment of Mary as a virtual goddess, to the treatment of the saints as a virtual pantheon of lesser deities - even to the selection of some feast days apparently (and I say "apparently" because this claim is disputed) to correspond to the pagan feast days. Others have noted apparent pagan influence in the vestments of the Roman clergy. Even the title "Pontifex Maximus" has its origins in Roman paganism.


Continue to Part 8

Monday, February 09, 2009

Spurgeon - Quotation and Three Observations

The following was preached by Charles Spurgeon on Sunday Evening, October 7, 1866, on the verse, “Therefore He says: Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14) Of course, the following is just a snippet of this sermon.
But I must close, and the last point is THE PROMISE WITH WHICH CHRIST ENCOURAGES US TO AWAKE. The promise is, “Christ shall give you light.” What does that mean? Why, light may mean sometimes instruction. We are often in the dark, and puzzled about difficulties, but do you know half the difficulties in the Bible spring from a cold state of mind: but when the heart gets right, the head seems to get right too, in great measure. I remember a person puzzling himself fearfully with the passage in Scripture about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. He went and looked at Dr. Gill about it, he went to Thomas Scott about it, and he went to Matthew Henry about it; and these good divines all puzzled him as much as they could, but they did not seem to clear up the matter.
The good man could not understand how Jesus Christ could say as he did, 'How oft would I have gathered thee, but thou wouldest not!' One day he received more grace, and got a love for souls, and then the old skin of narrow mindedness which had been large enough for him once began to crack and break, and he went to the passage then, and said, 'I can understand it now; I do not know how it is consistent withe such and such doctrine, but it is very consistent with what I feel in my heart.'
And I feel just the same. I used to be puzzled by that passage where Paul says that he could wish himself accursed from God for his brethren's sake. Why, I have often felt the same, and now understand how a man can say in the exuberance of love to others, that he would be willing to perish himself if he could save them. Of course it never could be done, but such is the extravagance of a holy love for souls that it breaks through reason, and knows no bounds. Get the heart right and you get right upon many difficult points.
(Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 12, pp. 586-87 (Sermon 716, Section III))

As noted in the subject of this post, I'd like to provide three observations.

1. Something Spurgeon Got Right

Spurgeon was right to note the importance of getting one's heart right, if one wishes to understand doctrine. This is what the Puritans called "experimental" religion. The more modern word would be "experiential." Christianity involves a lot of doctrines, but Christianity is not just an academic exercise - it is primarily a way of life. If we are Jesus' disciples we follow Him: not just to the stacks of our local theological library, but in our heart and throughout our life. This living a life for Christ is, of course, informed by study - but it also informs our study. When we hate sin with our hearts, we can begin to appreciate the flaws of objections to the true religion from theodicy. When we love others and give of ourselves for them, we can begin to understand God's love for us. Of course, one must first hear and understand the basic gospel in order to begin to follow Jesus, but as we follow Jesus the head, the heart, and the feet should work together - one illuminating the other, through the efficacious work of the Holy Spirit.

2. Something of Interest to Gill-bashers

A few people who dislike Dr. John Gill have suggested that Dr. Gill was a "hyper-Calvinist" and have suggested that Spurgeon shared their distorted view of this learned doctor and eminent Calvinist theologian. This quotation should help to disabuse them of their error. Notice that here, even while Spurgeon is implicitly suggesting that neither Gill, Scott, or Henry has quite the right explanation of the verse in question, Spurgeon refers to these men as "good divines," and even gives Dr. Gill the dignity of first mention among the group.

3. Something that Spurgeon Got Wrong

Spurgeon made a very common mistake in misquoting the words of our Lord. He quotes the verse in question as "How oft would I have gathered thee, but thou wouldest not!" (another version of the sermon I found says, "How often would I have gathered you, but you would not!" but I believe this is simply an attempt to modernize the sermon's language) Jesus' real words were:

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

or in Luke

Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

Notice what Spurgeon has got wrong:

1) "How often would I have gathered thy children" and
2) "and ye would not."

Spurgeon's modification of the verse seems to demonstrate that he himself did not fully understand it, for he changes what Jesus said, such that (as modified) Jesus is seeking to gather the same group as is willing contrary to His will. In fact, however, the text makes a distinction. As I have explained in more detail elsewhere (link), the first group are the denizens and people of Jerusalem, the latter group are the leaders of Jerusalem.

This is one instance of the reason one will find me rarely relying on Spurgeon for theology. I consider him to be an outstanding preacher - skilled in rhetoric and with a very moving manner of presentation. On the other hand, while he does sometimes provide some good insights (as noted above), there is an unfortunate lack of depth in his theological abilities. He is preeminently a preacher, not a theologian.