Saturday, August 13, 2011

Repenting for Our Fathers' Sins - Part 3/6

We can also see repentance for the sins of the fathers in two prayers of Jeremiah. Here is a first example:

Jeremiah 14:19-22
Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!

We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.

Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.

Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God?

Therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.
This one is not explicit that the fathers have passed on, but the same theme is present. And there is yet another of the same in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 3:21-25
A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God.

Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.

Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.
Notice that repenting of the fathers' sins is not done in isolation from our own sins. We should not repent of our fathers sins with a self-righteous attitude, like the Pharisees.

Matthew 23:29-32
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, "If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets." Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Notice that Christ does not condemn them for repenting from the sins of their fathers, but exactly the opposite! For not repenting, He condemned them.

(to be continued)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Repenting for Our Fathers' Sins - Part 2/6

There is also an example of repenting of the sins of our fathers to be found in the final chapter of Lamentations. There, Jeremiah offers a prayer to God in which he expresses contrition for the sins of the fathers. In this case, it is explicit that the fathers have died.

Lamentations 5:1-22 (the whole chapter)
Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.
  • Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.

  • We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.

  • We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.

  • Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest.

  • We have given the hand to the Egyptians, and to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.

  • Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.

  • Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.

  • We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.

  • Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.

  • They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah.

  • Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured.

  • They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood.

  • The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their musick.

  • The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.

  • The crown is fallen from our head:
Woe unto us, that we have sinned!

For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim. Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it. Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time? Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old. But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.
Notice that here Jeremiah indicates as well that the children have borne the iniquities of the fathers. There is no conflict between this bearing of the sins of the fathers and either Deuteronomy 24:16 (that is a civil law - a limitation on human justice) or Ezekiel 18 (that provides relief from punishment for the fathers' sins for those who repent). Nevertheless, until we repent and do not follow the sinful deeds of our fathers, we need to repent from them, as illustrated in these examples.

(to be continued)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Repenting for Our Fathers' Sins - Part 1/6

Daniel prayed a prayer of confession to the Lord. His prayer is interesting in that it involves confession and repentance not only for individual sins, but also for collective sins of Israel, and the sins of their fathers as well.

Daniel 9:4-19
And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said,

O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.

O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.

And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake.

O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.

O Lord, hear;

O Lord, forgive;

O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
There many good elements of this prayer for us to model, particularly our absence of reliance on mere human merit and instead a reliance on the mercy of God ("for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies"). What I particularly want to highlight, though, is Daniel's explicit repentance for the sins of the fathers of Israel - those who went before this generation. This is significant in that it reinforces the federal relation that exists within families. In the absence of God's mercy, we would be held responsible for the sins of our fathers and their fathers and so on back to Adam's original sin.

But by God's mercy, we are adopted into a new family, and have the rights and privileges of the sons of God. Thus, we are under the federal headship of Christ, rather than Adam.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pelagianism Examined by William Cunningham

A friend of mine (who will remain anonymous), recently brought to my attention the following excerpt from William Cunningham, Historical Theology, vol. 1, Sec. III.—Conversion—Sovereign and Efficacious Grace (all that follows is Cunningham, not me)

The controversy between Augustine and his opponents turned, as we have said, to a large extent, upon the nature and import, the necessity, grounds, and results of that grace of God, which, in some sense, was universally admitted to be manifested in preparing men for heaven. That a certain character, and a certain mode of acting, in obedience to God's law, were in fact necessary, in order to men's attaining final happiness, and that men were in some sense indebted to God's grace or favour for realizing this, was universally conceded. It was conceded by Pelagius and his immediate followers, and it is conceded by modern Socinians; but then the explanation which these parties gave of this grace of God, which they professed to admit, made grace to be no grace, and practically made men, and not God, the authors of their own salvation, which the Socinians, consistently enough, guarantee at length to all men. With the original Pelagians and the modern Socinians, the grace of God, by which men are, in this life, led to that mode of acting which, in fact, stands connected with their welfare in the next,—(for even Socinians commonly admit some punishment of wicked men in the future world, though they regard it as only temporary),—consists in these two things: First, the powers and capacities with which He has endowed man's nature, and which are possessed by all men as they come into the world, along with that general assistance which He gives in His ordinary providence, in upholding and aiding them in their own exercise and improvement of these powers and capacities; and, secondly, in the revelation which He has given them to guide and direct them, and in the providential circumstances in which He may have placed them. This view of the grace of God, of course, assumes the non-existence of any such moral corruption attaching to men, as implies any inability on their part, in any sense, to obey the will of God, or to do what He requires of them; and, in accordance with this view of what man is and can do, ascribes to him a power of doing by his own strength, and without any special supernatural, divine assistance, all that is necessary for his ultimate welfare. This view is too flatly contradictory to the plain statements of Scripture, and especially to what we are told there concerning the agency of the Holy Ghost, to have been ever very generally admitted by men who professed to receive the Bible as the word of God; and, accordingly, there has been a pretty general recognition of the necessity, in addition to whatever powers or capacities God may have given to men, and whatever aids or facilities of an external or objective kind He may have afforded them, of a subjective work upon them through special supernatural agency; and the question, whether particular individuals or bodies of men were involved more or less in the errors of semi-Pelagianism, or taught the true doctrine of Scripture, is, in part, to be determined by the views which they have maintained concerning the nature, character, and results of this special supernatural agency of God, in fitting men for the enjoyment of His own presence.

Even the original Pelagians admitted the existence of supernatural gracious influences exerted by God upon men; but then they denied that they were necessary in order to the production of any of those things which accompany salvation, and held that when bestowed they merely enabled men to attain them more easily than they could have done without them; while they also explicitly taught that men merited them, or received them ^as the meritorious reward of their previous improvement of their own natural powers. An assertion of the necessity of a supernatural gracious work of God upon men's moral nature, in order to the production of what is, in point of fact, indispensable to their salvation, has been usually regarded as necessary to entitle men to the designation of semi-Pelagians,—a designation which comprehends all who, while admitting the necessity of a supernatural work of God, come short of the full scriptural views of the pounds of this necessity, and of the source, character, and results of the work itself. The original Pelagian system upon this point is intelligible and definite, and so is the scriptural system of Augustine; while any intermediate view, whether it may or may not be what can, with historical correctness, be called semi-Pelagianism, is marked by obscurity and confusion. Leaving out of view the proper Pelagian or Socinian doctrine upon this subject, and confining our attention to the scriptural system of Augustine on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to those confused and indefinite notions which fall short of it, though not to such an extent as the doctrines of the Pelagians and the Socinians, we would remark that it is conceded upon both sides: First, that before men are admitted into heaven they must repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and lead thereafter a life of new obedience; and, secondly, that men have a moral nature so far tainted by depravity, that this indispensable process cannot in any instance be carried through without a supernatural gracious work of God's Spirit upon them.

These two propositions embody most important and fundamental truths, clearly and fully taught in Scripture, and essential to a right comprehension of the way of salvation. Men who deny them may be justly regarded as refusing to submit to the authority of God's word, and as rejecting the counsel of God against themselves; while, on the other hand, men who honestly and intelligently receive them, though coming short of the whole scriptural truth in expounding and applying them, may be regarded as maintaining all that is fundamental upon this subject; by which I mean,—in accordance with the common Protestant doctrine of fundamentals as brought out in the controversy with the Church of Rome,—that some men who have held nothing more than this have afforded satisfactory evidence that they themselves were born again of the word of God, and have been honoured as the instruments of converting others through the preaching of the gospel. But while this is true, and ought not to be forgotten, it is of at least equal importance to observe, that many who have professed to receive these two propositions in the general terms in which we have stated them, have given too good ground to believe that this professed reception of them was decidedly defective either in integrity or in intelligence,—have so explained them, or rather explained them away, as to deprive them of all real meaning and efficacy, and practically to establish the power of man to save himself, and to prepare for heaven, upon the ruins of the free grace of God, which is manifested just as fully in the sanctification as in the justification of sinners. And hence the importance and necessity of clearly and definitely understanding what is the scriptural truth upon these subjects, lest we should be deceived by vague and indefinite plausibilities, which seem to establish the grace of God, while they in fact destroy it. Defective and erroneous views upon this subject are usually connected with defective and erroneous views in regard to the totality of the moral corruption which attaches to men by nature, and of their consequent inability to do anything that is really spiritually good. It is manifest that any error or defect in men's views upon this subject will naturally and necessarily lead to erroneous and defective views of the nature, character, and results of that gracious work of God, by which man is led to will and to do what is good and well-pleasing in His sight.

When those who admit in general the necessity of a gracious work of God's Spirit upon men, in order to their repenting and believing the gospel, have yet erroneous and defective views upon the subject of divine grace, they usually manifest this by magnifying the power or influence of the truth or word of God,—by underrating the difficulty of repenting and believing,—by ascribing to men some remains of moral power for effecting these results, and some real and proper activity in the work of turning to God,— and hy representing the work of God's Spirit as consisting chiefly, if not exclusively, in helping to impress the truth upon men's minds, or, more generally, rendering some aid or assistance to the original powers of man, and to the efforts which he makes. It is by such notions as these, though often very obscurely developed, insinuated rather than asserted, and sometimes mixed up with much that seems sound and scriptural, that the true doctrine of tbe gracious work of God in the conversion of sinners has been often undermined and altogether overthrown. These men have, more or less distinctly, confounded the word or the truth—which is merely the dead instrument—with the Spirit, who is the real agent, or efficient cause of the whole process. They have restricted the gracious work of the Spirit to the illumination of men's understandings through the instrumentality of the truth, as if their will did not require to be renewed, and as if all that was needful was that men should be aided intellectually to perceive what was their true state and condition by nature, and what provision had been made for their salvation in Christ, and then they would certainly repent and believe as a matter of course, without needing specially to have the enmity of their hearts to God and His truth subdued. They have represented the gracious work of the Spirit chiefly, if not exclusively, as co-operating with men, ind aiding them in the work for which they have some natural capacity, though not enough to produce of themselves the necessary result, as if there was little or no need of preventing or prevenient grace, or grace going before, in order that man may work or act at all in believing and turning to God. These men are usually very anxious to represent faith in Jesus Christ as to some extent the work of men's own powers, the result of their own principles; and Augustine admits that he had some difficulty in satisfying himself for a time that faith was really and properly the gift of God, and was wrought in men by the operation of His Spirit, though this doctrine is very plainly and explicitly taught in Scripture. Much pains have been taken to explain how natural and easy saving faith is, to reduce it to great simplicity, to bring it down as it were to the level of the lowest capacity,—sometimes with better and more worthy motives, but sometimes also, we fear, in order to diminish, if not to exclude, the necessity of a supernatural preventing work of God's Spirit in producing it. And then, as repentance and conversion, as well as the whole process of sanctification, are beyond all doubt inseparably connected with the belief of the gospel, the way is thus paved for ascribing to man himself some share in the work of his deliverance from, depravity, and his preparation for heaven.

One of the most subtle forms of the various attempts which have been made to obscure the work of God's Spirit in this matter, is that which represents faith as being antecedent—in the order of nature at least, though not of time—to the introduction or implantation of spiritual life into the soul of man, dead in sins and trespasses. This notion is founded upon these two grounds: first, upon a misapprehension of the full import of the scriptural doctrine, that man is dead in sin,—as if this death in sin, while implying a moral inability directly to love God, and to give true spiritual obedience, to His law, did not equally imply a moral inability to apprehend aright divine truth, and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; and, secondly, upon a misapplication or perversion of the scriptural principle, that men are born again of the word of God through the belief of the truth,—as if this, while no doubt implying that the truth has been effectually brought to bear upon the mind before the process of being born again has been completed, so that the man is in the full exercise of new spiritual life, implied, moreover, that this efficacious operation of the truth must precede, in the order of nature, the whole work by 'which the Spirit originates the process of vivification; and the object and tendency of this notion, based upon these two grounds, are to produce the impression that men, through believing, are able to do something towards making themselves, or at least towards becoming, spiritually alive, and thereby superseding to some extent the necessity of a supernatural work of God's Spirit in a point of primary and vital importance, intimately connected with the salvation of men. Man is dead in sin; the making him alive, the restoring him to life, is represented in Scripture as, in every part of the process, from its commencement to its conclusion, the work of God's Spirit. The instrumentality of the truth or the word is, indeed, employed in the process; but in the nature of the case, and in accordance with what is clearly taught in Scripture, there must, antecedently—at least in the order of nature, though not of time—to the truth being so brought to bear upon men's minds as to produce instrumentally any of its appropriate effects, be a work of God's Spirit, whereby spiritual life is implanted, and a capacity of perceiving and submitting to the truth, which had been hitherto rejected, is communicated,—a capacity which, indeed, previously existed, so far as concerns the mere intellectual framework of man's mental constitution—the mere psychological faculties which he possesses as being still a man, though fallen—but which was practically useless because of the entire bondage or servitude of his will, which required to be renewed, and could be renewed only by the immediate agency of God's Spirit.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Nicaea Was Local Council, Arianism Not Settled Controversy, Implies Shea

I admit that I've never had a high view of Mark Shea's scholarship, yet a mixture of surprise and amusement washed over me as I took in Shea's breathtakingly ignorant response to a reader's question regarding Augustine and Sola Scriptura. A reader had pointed out to Shea that Augustine, in responding to the Arian heretic Maximinus, had sounded exactly like a Sola Scriptura Christian.

Augustine (354-430 AD):
The Father and the Son are, then, of one and the same substance. This is the meaning of that “homoousios” that was confirmed against the Arian heretics in the Council of Nicaea by the Catholic fathers with the authority of the truth and the truth of authority. Afterward, in the Council of Ariminum it was understood less than it should have been because of the novelty of the word, even though the ancient faith had given rise to it. There the impiety of the heretics under the heretical Emperor Constantius tried to weaken its force, when many were deceived by the fraudulence of a few. But not long after that, the freedom of the Catholic faith prevailed, and after the meaning of the word was understood as it should be, that “homoousios” was defended far and wide by the soundness of the Catholic faith. After all, what does “homoousios” mean but “of one and the same substance”? What does “homoousios” mean, I ask, but the Father and I are one (Jn 10:30)? I should not, however, introduce the Council of Nicaea to prejudice the case in my favor, nor should you introduce the Council of Ariminum that way. I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicaea. By the authority of the scriptures that are not the property of anyone, but the common witnesses for both of us, let position do battle with position, case with case, reason with reason.
John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J., Answer to Maximinus, Book II, XIV - On the Sameness of Substance in the Trinity, Section 3 (New York: New City Press, 1995), pp. 281-82.

Shea responded: "What Augustine is doing is appealing to a common authority in a dispute where the Church Universal has not yet arrived at a consensus."

Perhaps a little background would be helpful here. Maximinus was an Arian. The question was whether the Father and the Son are consubstantial. This is a matter that was directly addressed by the Council of Nicaea. We can agree with Shea in a limited way, namely that the Council of Nicaea was not ecumenical in the sense of speaking for every person who professed to be a part of the Christian faith: after all, it condemned the Arians. By that standard, there have not been any ecumenical councils, ever. If that's Shea's position, he's at loggerheads with Rome.

Judging Nicaea by modern Roman standards, though, Nicaea did not just "arrive at a consensus" but actually defined dogma that must be accepted de fide. That's obviously not how Augustine judged Nicaea, but that's because Augustine didn't share the epistemology of modern Rome.

Shea continued: "The councils he is referring to are local synods."

Augustine refers to two councils: Ariminum and Nicaea. Neither was a "local synod." Ariminum and Nicaea were both massive councils involving hundreds of bishops. Nicaea is typically identified by Rome as the "First Ecumenical Council." The Arians viewed Ariminum as having similar weight, given its similar size in terms of number of bishops. Perhaps Shea would not want to call Ariminum an "ecumenical council," but he must at a minimum acknowledge it to be a regional council. On the other hand, it is only out of ignorance that Shea can claim that Nicaea is a "local synod." Nicaea was dominated by Eastern bishops, to be sure, but again it is minimally a regional synod, and Shea's own church declares it to be an ecumenical synod.

Shea again: "He regards himself as bound by the teaching and discipline of the synod whose jurisdiction is over his local geographic region, and the person he is writing to likewise feels bound by his local synod."

Maximinus was the Arian bishop of Hippo (see Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature). Augustine was the orthodox ("catholic" but not "Catholic") bishop of Hippo, as everyone knows. Even if the two councils mentioned were "local" councils, or even regional councils, both Augustine and Maximinus were in the same locale and region. Thus, this is the sort of impossible explanation for Augustine's words that can only come out of gross ignorance of the people involved in the dispute.

Shea again: "With Augustine’s particular question the issue is this, lacking a verdict from the Church universal, and faced with differing rulings from different local councils, he is attempting to come to concensus [sic] by appeal to Scripture, since it is an authority appealed to by both him and his correspondent."

This is basically the same debunked theory we've already addressed above.

Shea once more: "But (getting back to your question) the point is this: Augustine is attempting “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” in a particular discussion centering different juridical differences between two local councils."

Leaving aside Shea's continued nonsense about these councils being "local," who knows what Shea is trying to say with his garbled phrasing, " ... in a particular discussion centering different juridical differences ... ." Perhaps "different" should be "on." But the issue in question is whether Father and Son are consubstantial. That can hardly be characterized as primarily a juridical question.

Shea continues: "Since the Church universal has not addressed the matter via either an ecumenical council, nor via the Holy Father, he appeals to the authority that both he and his correspondent hold in common: Scripture."

This can only be true if no bishop of Rome had weighed in on the Arian controversy, and if Nicaea is not an ecumenical council. Surely Shea would not be so brash as to try to assert those things. So, actually, what Shea is saying is really more a reflection on the fact that Augustine does not consider the bishop of Rome's comments or the comments of Nicaea to be of equal authority with Scripture, or even to be binding on the Arian bishop with whom he's dealing.

Shea again: "He is not trying to make any point at all about sola but is, instead, assuming a thoroughly Catholic backdrop to the whole discussion."

So now Arianism is "thoroughly Catholic" and so is Maximinus' rejection of Nicaea!?! Of course, that conclusion would assume that Shea actually had the foggiest clue about what Augustine and Maximinus were discussing. He doesn't. Instead, he offers his comment from the foundation of dogmatic affirmation of whatever Rome says and ignorance of the fathers.

Shea once more: "Be careful of importing post-Reformation categories into patristic arguments."

That's actually good advice. It's not particularly relevant advice, but it is good advice. We should be on guard against anachronism. But in this case, it is clear where the anachronism lies: it lies on the one trying to turn Augustine into a modern Roman Catholic.

While it might be instructive to consider in detail the absurdity of comparing the Arian controversy (as Shea does - see his post) to the controversy over when to celebrate Easter or the question of whether to fast on Saturdays in Milan and in Rome, I'll simply let the reader decide whether even by modern Roman standards those issues would be deemed disciplinary or dogmatic.

To sum up, no, Mr. Shea, Nicaea wasn't a local council. Nevertheless, Augustine did not view Nicaea as binding on Arian bishops such as Maximinus, but nevertheless appealed to the Scriptures as the alone Rule of Faith by which to settle the Arian controversy in Hippo.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Amaziah vs. Jehu - Sample Rebuttal of the "Intrusion Ethic" Idea

There is a remarkable contrast to be found between Amaziah and Jehu, and one that is significant in undermining a faulty "intrusion ethic" view of the Old Testament era.

I. Jehu

First consider Jehu:

2 Kings 10:30
And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.
God clearly rewards Jehu (quite generously) for killing not just Ahab's reigning son, but also Ahab's entire family. There is a reason that God rewards Jehu for doing this. God had appointed this punishment as a specific punishment that God applied to the families of Jeroboam, Baasha, and Ahab.

Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to Sin:

1 Kings 14:10
Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.
Baasha, who departed not from the way of Jereboam

1 Kings 16:1-4
Then the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel; and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins; behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his house; and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat.
Ahab, who exceeded Jeroboam and Baasha by introducing Baal-worship:

1 Kings 21:20-24
And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD. Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.
And Jehu was specifically commanded to execute this judgment against the entire house of Ahab:

2 Kings 9:1-10
And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets, and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box of oil in thine hand, and go to Ramothgilead: and when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber; then take the box of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, Thus saith the LORD, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then open the door, and flee, and tarry not. So the young man, even the young man the prophet, went to Ramothgilead. And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting; and he said, I have an errand to thee, O captain. And Jehu said, Unto which of all us? And he said, To thee, O captain. And he arose, and went into the house; and he poured the oil on his head, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of the LORD, even over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel: and I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah: and the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And he opened the door, and fled.
So, you see, Jehu obeyed God and killed the whole family of Ahab for the sins of Ahab, and God rewarded Jehu for this obedience. In contrast, consider Amaziah.

II. Amaziah

Amaziah provides an almost opposite example. Amaziah does not wipe out someone's family, and the reason given is God's law.

2 Kings 14:1-6
In the second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah. He was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places. And it came to pass, as soon as the kingdom was confirmed in his hand, that he slew his servants which had slain the king his father. But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
2 Chronicles 25:1-4
Amaziah was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart. Now it came to pass, when the kingdom was established to him, that he slew his servants that had killed the king his father. But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin.
The law referenced is Deuteronomy 24:16: "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin."

There's no explicit praise of Amaziah, but it should be apparent that Amaziah is doing what the Lord commanded.

III. Comparing Amaziah and Jehu

Each of these kings was following the command of the Lord, yet each was doing the opposite. Jehu carried out the judgment of God against Ahab's entire family, whereas Amaziah carried out the judgment of God against only the murderers.

The reason is that Jehu's case was exceptional. Jehu had a specific command from God to kill certain people. Ordinarily, the family of Ahab would not have deserved the civil punishment of death. However, they did deserve the punishment of death in God's sight, and God sentenced them to death and appointed Jehu to be executioner.

Amaziah, on the other hand, had no special command from God. Therefore, he properly limited the civil punishment of death for murder to the murderers themselves.

This difference shows us an interplay of two rules for judgment. One rule is absolute, springing from God's direct revelation. The Canaanites provoked God's anger because of their sins, and God sent the Israelites to wipe them out entirely. However, God did not authorize the Israelites to wipe out all unbelievers at all times.

There was no general civil law against unbelief in Israel. Indeed, the law of God for Israel (both the moral and the civil law) recognized the fact that there would be "strangers" and "aliens" living in the land with the Jews. These are people who are not worshipers of God, but who are nevertheless not under civil sentence of death.

Thus, it is a mistake for people to assume that because the genocide of the Canaanites and the mini-genocide of the Ahabites was commanded, there was a general "intrusion ethic" at play in the civil law. Instead, the civil law stands in contrast to the special execution of God's wrath on Jeroboam, Baasha, and Ahab.

It should be noted, however, that these judgments of God were righteous. While the civil law is just and good - it does not measure up to the standard of God's justice in every respect. Instead, in God's mercy, God limits the civil law. For example, every sin deserves death from God, but God did not appoint in the civil law that every sin would be punished with death.

Likewise, God permitted divorce with few restrictions (in the civil law), even though God hates divorce and even though divorce is (generally) contrary to the moral law. Some might argue that a similar point could made with respect to God's permission of slavery, but we need not argue that divisive point here.

The summation of this comparison is to see that Jehu's actions were commendable only in that they were the execution of God's just judgment upon Ahab and his family. They were not commendable as an example of proper civil law at work. On the other hand, the mercy inherent in Amaziah's restraint in killing only the murderers and not their children is commendable as an example of proper civil law at work.

There is a gospel point to draw from this. We men all deserve death from God, both for the sins of Adam and for the sins of our other fathers. If we were judged simply according to our federal heads according to the flesh, we would all richly deserve death, as did the family of Ahab and Baasha and Jeroboam.

But God extends mercy, both in the civil law, and in allowing us time to repent. If you, dear reader, have not repented of your sins: seize the day. Death is coming. You can try to put it off for a while, but in the end you too are mortal. The only way of escape is to repent of your sins and trust in Christ.

Remember what was written of Ahab:

1 Kings 21:25-29
But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house."
If God showed mercy even on the outward repentance of the most wicked Ahab, how much more will he show favor to those who truly repent from their sins wholeheartedly? So, this day repent of your sins and trust in Christ for salvation from the judgment of death (both physical and spiritual), which will otherwise certainly befall you.