Thursday, October 15, 2009

Introduction to God from the Psalms

Thanks for reading this short discussion of the amazing God whom we worship.

Of Him we say:

Psalm 8:9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Psalm 9:11 Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.

Why do we say this?

Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 95:5 The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 94:9 He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?

God made the world from nothing. He spoke and it came to be. He even made us human beings.

Psalm 139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

But that's not all:

Psalm 74:17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.

Psalm 104:19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.

God made time itself, and the measurements of time. God is not only powerful, having created the earth, but holy as well:

Psalm 22:3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

Psalm 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

One of the aspects of God being holy is that God judges between righteousness and wickedness:

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

Psalm 138:6 Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.

God is not only able to see what people do, but God even knows what is in man's heart:

Psalm 44:21 Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.

Psalm 94:11 The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.

Indeed, sin is the state of all men by nature:

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

And the anger of God is powerful against sin and those who do sin:

Psalm 38:3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.

Psalm 90:7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

Psalm 90:11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

Psalm 56:7 Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.

Psalm 69:24 Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.

Psalm 21:9 Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the LORD shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.

God is not all anger, however. There is mercy in God as well:

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

Psalm 145:8 The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.

Psalm 78:38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.

Psalm 30:5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Psalm 25:8 Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.

What then is necessary for one to receive mercy from God rather than anger? The first answer is obvious. Ask for mercy.

Psalm 130:7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.

In hope, then, one must repent of sin or face destruction:

Psalm 90:3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

Psalm 119:79 Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.

Psalm 78:34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.

How does one seek for mercy? Here are some example:

Psalm 85:4 Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.

Psalm 27:9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

Psalm 6:1 O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

Psalm 25:7 Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O LORD.

Psalm 26:11 But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.

Psalm 44:26 Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake.

Psalm 86:16 O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.

Psalm 6:4 Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.

Psalm 80:3 Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Psalm 85:4 Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.

More mechanically speaking the way is sacrifice:

Psalm 50:5 Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.

But that sacrifice is the sacrifice that God himself made in the person of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we do not any longer offer those burnt offerings of former times:

Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.

Psalm 51:16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

Instead, we offer sacrifices of joy:

Psalm 27:6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.

Sacrifices of thanksgiving:

Psalm 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

Sacrifices of Repentance and Contrition:

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

and Sacrifices of Righteousness:

Psalm 4:5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

Psalm 51:19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

Another way to characterize the mechanism is by redemption. After all, there is a sense in which sacrifice can be a payment for sins. We cannot, however, do this for ourselves or for one another:

Psalm 49:7 None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:

Instead, God - through Christ - redeems:

Psalm 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.

Psalm 72:14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

Psalm 130:8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Specifically, the Lord Jesus Christ is the redeemer:

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Psalm 31:5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.

So, the most particular way to seek mercy through the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus is to place your trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God:

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God:

Psalm 2:7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Yet for the salvation of His people God turned the hand of his power upon the Son, Jesus Christ:

Psalm 80:17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.

This was done for us, his people:

Psalm 68:28 Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.

Psalm 126:3 The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

God did this because the redemption of His people is precious to Him:

Psalm 49:8 (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)

Psalm 111:9 He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

Psalm 78:35 And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.

If you trust in Jesus Christ, you may find mercy, as others have:

Psalm 34:22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

Psalm 85:3 Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.

Psalm 36:7 How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

Psalm 13:6 I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 71:23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.

This has just been a small sampling of what the Psalms tell us about God and about Jesus Christ, and the Psalms are just a part of the whole Bible, which provides much more information about not only the greatness of God who created and governs all things, who is holy and before whom sinners cannot stand on the day of judgment, but also about the way of escape through repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. So hear this now, while there is time, for judgment is coming:

Psalm 9:8 And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.

Psalm 96:10 Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously.

Psalm 96:13 Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.

Psalm 98:9 Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.

Praise be to His Glorious name, both now and forever,


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Does Scripture Commend Roman Practices? A response to Steve Kellmeyer

Steve Kellmeyer (Roman Catholic) has provided some comments in response to my post on Forbidding to Marry (link to my post).

Mr. Kellmeyer asks:
Didn't Christ tell the apostles that eunuchs who made themselves so for the kingdom of God were blessed?
I answer: No, Christ did not tell them that. In the passage to which you are attempting to refer, Christ told the apostles that there are "eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake." (Matthew 19:112) Nevertheless, he neither calls them "blessed" nor encourages folks to emulate them. He certainly does not suggest that it should be a requirement for bishops/elders, apostles, or deacons that they be self-made eunuchs. Thus, this passage would be essentially irrelevant to the question, even if it were more blessed to make oneself a eunuch (but compare what the early church thought of self-made eunuchs)

Mr. Kellmeyer continues:
Doesn't Revelation have a those who refrained from intercourse with women sing a special song to the Lamb that only they can sing?
I answer: again, no. The passage to which you are referring. Revelation 14:1-5 refers to the 144,000. Here's the passage:

Revelation 14:1-5
And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

The part to which Mr. Kellmeyer was trying to refer says that these 144,000 "were not defiled with women." It does mean "defiled," that's not a gloss on the Greek word ἐμολύνθησαν. The verse also clarifies that these 144,000 are "virgins." So, if one is going to try to argue that this verse is speaking in favor of general celibacy, one must also take the position that marriage is an example of defilement. Such a position is plainly contrary to Scripture, which declares:

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

The better understanding of this text is, of course, a figurative understanding. The 144,000 represent the elect. We saw them previously in chapter 7, when they were sealed in their foreheads. Notice that this appears again in the current passage where the men have "his Father's name written in their foreheads." One hopes that Mr. Kellmeyer would not take this literally, whether or not he would consider the beasts in the passage literal beasts.

The sense of the purity and virginity of these men has to do with their faithfulness to their betrothed, the lamb to whom they are to be married as the bride of Christ. Thus, they are depicted as not being fornicators who defile themselves, such as with the whore of Revelation 17.

Mr. Kellmeyer continues:
And isn't it the case that the early Christians who were witnesses to the writing of Scripture, or taught by witnesses to the writing of Scripture, are in the best position to interpret that same Scripture?
I answer:

The Scripture is not only the New Testament, but Old and New together. Some of those who were taught by the Apostles had the same problems understanding the apostles that the apostles had understanding Jesus.

Mark 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

Nevertheless, even if we did accord a special place of prominence to those so-called apostolic fathers who were allegedly taught by the apostles themselves, or the second generation fathers who were allegedly taught by someone who was taught by an apostle, we find only a few of their writings extant, those that are extant existing with rather troubling textual transmission histories, and even then those mostly addressing issues that don't have much to do with topic of mandatory celibacy of bishops/elders and deacons.

Mr. Kellmeyer concluded:
You know neither Scripture nor the power of God. You are quite wrong.
I answer:

I've demonstrated to the contrary. Mr. Kellmeyer's rebuke is, of course, paraphrased from either Matthew 22 or Mark 12 (parallel passages) in which Jesus points out that there will be no marriage in heaven:

Matthew 22:29-30
Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

One wonders if Mr. Kellmeyer appreciates the impact of this verse on his attempted literal interpretation of the book of Revelation. Recall:

Revelation 19:9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

There is a marriage supper there, and a bride, but not after a corporal and carnal manner. Revelation is full of figurative language which should be understood as such, and should be understood consistently with other passages of Scripture, such as:

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Am I Safe from Rome's Anathemas?

A pseudonymous blogger under the penname Reginald de Piperno (RdP), responding to my opening post in my series on Trent (link to post), stated:
For example, TF claims that he is under the anathema of Trent. But unless he is or was formally Catholic, this is flatly impossible. I do not understand the seeming fondness of some Protestants for wanting to be condemned by the Catholic Church. Perhaps it is some sort of projection issue: these folks despise the Catholic Faith, and so maybe they think that naturally Catholics or the Church ought to despise them in turn. Their protests notwithstanding, it's just not so, as I've said before. This fact does not mean that Protestant error is no longer reckoned to be erroneous. On the contrary: Trent has in no way been rescinded (of course). It simply means that most Protestants today are incapable of being the subject of any Catholic anathema whatever, because they do not meet a fundamental condition: they have never been Catholic. If he wishes to say that his beliefs have been condemned by the Catholic Church, then he would get no argument from me (to the extent that his views are in fact false and actually under formal condemnation).
I answer line by line.

RdP wrote: "For example, TF claims that he is under the anathema of Trent."

Yes. It's not just a claim, there is really no reasonable doubt about it.

RdP wrote: "But unless he is or was formally Catholic, this is flatly impossible."

I don't give out my background, but I will acknowledge that I have received Trinitarian baptism with water. I think most Roman Catholics would accept that baptism as "valid" whether or not it was performed by a Roman Catholic cleric.

The Code of Canon Law states: "By baptism one is incorporated into the Church of Christ and is constituted a person in it with the duties and rights which are proper to Christians in keeping with their condition, insofar as they are in ecclesiastical communion and unless a legitimately issued sanction stands in the way." (Canon 96)

It furthermore states: "The Christian faithful are those who, inasmuch as they have been incorporated in Christ through baptism, have been constituted as the people of God. For this reason, made sharers in their own way in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and royal function, they are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world, in accord with the condition proper to each." (Canon 204 §1.)

Thus, despite any desire on my part to be affiliated with Rome and her prelate, I am considered by Rome's current definitions to be a "Catholic" and part of the "Christian faithful."

I am not, however, in full communion with Rome: "Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance." (Canon 205)

RdP appears to lack this rather fundamental understanding of the scope of Rome's claims regarding herself. She claims for the pope a recognized headship over the Roman Catholic Church but an unrecognized headship over all those who have been validly baptized. That's part of the Roman Catholic Church trying to call itself the "catholic church." The "catholic church" by definition includes within it all Christians, and Rome recognizes as Christians all those who have been validly baptized.

Even if the pope did not claim to be my head, however, there is no limit in Trent's anathema as to it applying only to the Christian faithful. It says, quite plainly, "If any one saith" not "If any Roman Catholic saith" or "If any Christian saith."

RdP wrote: "I do not understand the seeming fondness of some Protestants for wanting to be condemned by the Catholic Church."

I have no particular desire either to be included within Rome's claims of jurisdiction or to be placed under her condemnation. The facts simply are what they are. I can understand that those seeking to proselytize "Protestants" might like to downplay the condemnation side (for the same reason that some "Protestant" proselytizers don't like to mention sin) but the facts remain.

RdP wrote: "Perhaps it is some sort of projection issue: these folks despise the Catholic Faith, and so maybe they think that naturally Catholics or the Church ought to despise them in turn."

One wonders whether RdP thinks that placing someone under an anathema means "despising" that person. If not, one wonders how RdP's amateurish psycho-analysis is supposed to connect to the matter at hand. It is clear that Rome is attempting to anathematize someone, and that someone is someone who says what I say. Despising or loving is not the issue under discussion.

RdP: "Their protests notwithstanding, it's just not so, as I've said before."

RdP's link is to a prior occasion on which he attempted to argue with me about whether Rome considered the Reformers to be Christians. That they did not so consider them could hardly be more clear. I am not going to re-argue that point now. Yet RdP ought to have read the sources he himself relied-upon more closely. For example, the so-called "Catholic Encyclopedia" that he himself quoted notes that: "The fact of having received valid baptism places material heretics under the jurisdiction of the Church, and if they are in good faith, they belong to the soul of the Church." (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, volume 7, p. 261, in the sub-section of the section on Heresy entitled "Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction over Heretics.")

RdP wrote: "This fact does not mean that Protestant error is no longer reckoned to be erroneous."

"Error" sounds nicer than "heresy," doesn't it? One wonders, though, how RdP would answer the question as to whether holding a damnable heresy is still damnable?

RdP wrote: "It simply means that most Protestants today are incapable of being the subject of any Catholic anathema whatever, because they do not meet a fundamental condition: they have never been Catholic."

See above.

RdP wrote: "If he wishes to say that his beliefs have been condemned by the Catholic Church, then he would get no argument from me (to the extent that his views are in fact false and actually under formal condemnation)."

What is interesting is that Trent's anathema (at least the one I've already discussed) is not against particular beliefs, nor even against particular statements but against the people who make those statements. RdP seems to have missed this fact in his analysis.

Aside from an introductory note, the remainder of RdP's comments in his post deal with the issue of Trent's bad faith or ignorance of the Reformed position. He doesn't offer any arguments on the merits of the issue, and so I'll simply leave that alone. As to his introductory question regarding being the inspiration for the series, the answer is that he is not. Nevertheless, he may end up being implicated in the discussion, since he has done a number of relatively recent posts on the topic of Trent and Justification.


The Triune God of Scripture Lives

The following is a trailer for Dr. James White's first debate this year with Dan Barker, on the topic: "The Triune God of Scripture Lives."

The DVD of this debate is available in the Alpha & Omega Ministries Bookstore (link).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oral Tradition, The Early Church, and Paul Pavao's Astonishment

I had written (in this previous post):
That's rather the point about the early church fathers - they did not transmit an oral apostolic tradition to us, rather they were our predecessors in trying to search out the meaning of Scripture. Where they do a good job they are to be commended, and where they err they are to be corrected.
Paul Pavao (affiliation unstated, but not Roman Catholic) responded:
I'm a little astonished you can say this. I'm not Roman Catholic, but the early church's appeals to the rule of faith/rule of truth are common. Irenaeus (A.H. III:2:2, I think) makes it clear that they referred gnostics to both the Scriptures and the traditions derived from the apostles.
The rule of faith/rule of truth for the early church fathers was normally either Scripture or the creed (which was derived from Scripture). The creed itself was not in ipse an apostolic tradition, though it was based on the Scriptures (the only authentic apostolic traditions that we have). Irenaeus did refer the gnostics both to Scripture and tradition, as we ourselves do when we point back to what Irenaeus did. Irenaeus comment about heretics claiming to follow Scripture and tradition is a dead-on criticism of Roman Catholicism.

Paul Pavao continued:
There was obviously a rule of faith. It's summarized by Irenaeus, Tertullian, and later writers. Justin refers to it by talking about teachings that came from the apostles. (He even gives a reason for baptism that he said came from the apostles.)
See above regarding the rule of faith. For more discussion, see J.N.D. Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines, pp. 88 et seq.

Paul Pavao continued:
There was an oral apostolic tradition passed down to the church, as well as an attempt to be Scriptural. So your statement's confusing because no one familiar with the pre-Nicene writings would agree with you. (There's a couple summations of the idea of the rule of faith in BakerAcademic's Evangelical Ressourcement Series; those are Evangelical and they treat the oral apostolic tradition as obvious as well.)
There were, of course, men to whom the apostles preached the gospel. What they preached was not in substance different from the Scripture. However, and this is key, no reliable report of their oral teachings has come down to us apart from Scripture. There are some (extremely scattered) alleged oral traditions handed down from the apostles that we find recorded in the earliest centuries of the writings of the church fathers. Generally speaking, though, we find them relying (as do we) solely on the authority of the written tradition of the apostles (i.e. Scripture) to settle doctrinal disputes among themselves. The untrustworthiness of oral transmission can be seen not only in the Rabbinic traditions that made void the Scripture but also in examples from the early church fathers (example here).

Paul Pavao concluded:
I haven't even brought up 2 Thess. 2:15.
I have:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Augustine on the "We Gave You the Scriptures" Argument

One argument that we sometimes hear from Roman Catholic apologists is an argument that Roman Catholicism gave us the Scriptures, in the sense of preserving them for us over the centuries. This claim is, of course, anachronistic (the folks who preserved the Scriptures from the 4th decade to the 4th century, for example, could hardly be called "Roman Catholic" in their doctrines and practices). Nevertheless, for some folks the argument seems to have some bite.

Like so many arguments, though, it is not a new argument. In the times of persecution there were times when the government attempted to destroy the Scriptures and commanded Christians to hand over the sacred writings for destruction. Christians, viewing the Scripture as inspired by God and absolutely necessary, did not willingly cooperate with these commands.

In fact, many were persecuted and even martyred for failing to turn over their Bibles to the government. Not everyone was equally willing to suffer and die for the Word of God. Some folks turned over the Scriptures to the government, and these were known as traditores (meaning someone who hands over), from which we get our word "traitor."

Later, in theological disputes, some folks attempted to use the faithfulness of their spiritual forebearers against the spiritual unfaithfulness of their oponenents' spiritual forebearers with respect to the preservation of Scripture. They essentially would say that theirs preserved Scripture, while their opponents' turned it over. Augustine addresses this argument in a powerful way in the following quotation that Pastor King brought to my attention.

Augustine (354-430) commenting on Psalm 58:3:
But they [i.e., the Donatists] grow too deaf to hear the gospel, and will not allow us to read them the words of God. How ironic: they boast of having saved those words from the fire, but try to delete them with their tongues! Instead they speak words that are their own, and therefore empty. “That fellow handed over the books,” they say, “and that other one too.” Yes, all right; I will say the same: “That fellow handed them over, and so did that other,” and I am speaking the truth. But what has that to do with me? You can’t find the names of those you accuse in the gospel, can you? Nor can I read out to you from the gospel the names of those I mentioned. Let our documents be moved out of the way and God’s book take center stage. Listen to what Christ says, listen to truth speaking: And for repentance and forgiveness of sins to be preached in his name throughout all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. “No,” they reply, “listen to what we have to say. We don’t want to hear what the gospel says.” Sinners have been alienated even from the womb, they have gone astray even from the belly, they have spoken falsehoods. Let us speak the truth, because we have heard the truth, the truth that the Lord speaks, not what humans tell us. A human being can lie, but it is not possible for Truth to lie. From the womb of truth I recognize Christ, who is Truth itself, and from the words of Truth I recognize the Church, which participates in the Truth. Let no one who has strayed away from that matrix in the bowels of the Church speak falsehoods to me; I would wish to find out first what he wants to teach me. I see him as alienated from the womb, astray even from the belly; so what am I likely to hear from him, except falsehoods? They have gone astray even from the belly, they have spoken falsehoods.
John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Expositions of the Psalms 51-72, Part 3, Vol. 17, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2001), Exposition of Psalm 57 (58), p. 128 (editor's footnotes omitted)(read for yourself here).

I realize that there will be many Roman Catholics who would like to focus only on the womb/church analogy. Furthermore, it should be noted that Augustine viewed himself as "Catholic" (not Roman Catholic) as distinct from the sectarian Donatists. He viewed them as having left the Catholic church and consequently as having spoken lies. That is the context for this discussion, and we realize that Rome would like to assert that the Reformed churches are in the same position as the Donatists (although there are numerous reasons to reject such a comparison).

Nevertheless, note that Augustine is quite willing to set aside the personalities (since they are not mentioned in Scripture) and to focus on the Scripture. Let Scripture take center stage, and let all the other things stand aside. Another friend of mine has stated that "I happen to agree with Warfield when, evaluating Augustine's theology, he concluded that the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the victory of Augustine's doctrine of grace over Augustine's doctrine of the church." That may be the case (I'm less convinced that Augustine's doctrine of the church was accurately represented by the Romanists), but it should be noted that Augustine was willing to submit his doctrine of the church to the authority of Scripture: to let Scripture take precedence over history and to let the issue be "what does the Scripture say," as opposed to "who preserved the Scriptures."


Spurgeon on Crosses in Worship

The following is something from Charles Spurgeon, who is not always a careful theologian, but certainly has a way with words:
I. First, let us enquire, WHAT IS THIS CROSS OF CHRIST to which some men are sadly said to be enemies?

Of course, it is not the material cross. It is not anything made in the shape of the cross. There are some who can fall down and adore a cross of wood, or stone, or gold, but I cannot conceive of a greater wounding of the heart of Christ than to pay reverence to anything in the shape of a cross, or to bow before a crucifix! I think the Savior must say, “What? What? Am I the Son of God and do they make even Me into an idol? I who have died to redeem men from their idolatries, am I, Myself, taken and carved, and chiseled, and molten, and set up as an image to be worshipped by the sons of men?” When God says, “You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them,” it is a strange fantasy of human guilt that men should say, “We will even take the image of the Son of God, or some ghastly counterfeit that purports to be His image, and will bow down and worship it, as if to make the Christ of God an accomplice in an act of rebellion against the commandment of the holy Law.” No, it is not the material cross to which Paul alludes—we have nothing to do with those outward symbols! We might have used them much more, but they have been so perverted to idolatry that some of us almost shudder at the very sight of them!
(source)(Courtesy of my friend Matthew Lankford)

There may be some rhetorical excesses in his words, but his point is quite right. The cross of Christ that we preach is a metonym for Him who died on the cross, namely Christ Jesus the crucified, buried, and risen.


The real Francis Turretin on: Propitiation and Chastisement

Don Bryant, at From My Heart, Out of My Mind, has a post consisting of a nice quotation from the real Francis Turretin on the complete propitiation that Christ has made as well as the relation of chastisements to the scheme of propitiation (link). This quotation is taken from material found in volume 4 of Turretin's works, rather than from his Institutes.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Unconditional Love and Obedience

God loves his elect unconditionally and consequently gave His only-begotten Son to be their ransom. We who are loved unconditionally cannot earn that love, either by faith or works. It is simply bestowed upon us out of the riches of his grace (Ephesians 2:7), mercy, and compassion (Romans 9:15). Nevertheless, we ought not only to believe on the Son, but also unconditionally to obey the commands of God. We do so, not hoping for any eternal reward, but simply loathing and detesting the sin for which our Savior died. Perfect love, Scripture tells us, casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Show your love of God and your appreciation for the Son of God by avoiding sin. You will neither merit heaven nor increase your justification, but you will be walking as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).