Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Herman Bavinck on Common Grace in Humanity

But of even greater significance is it that with Calvin reprobation does not mean the withholding of all grace. Although man through sin has been rendered blind to all the spiritual realities of the kingdom of God, so that a special revelation of God's fatherly love in Christ and a specialis illuminato (special illumination) by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the sinners become necessary, nevertheless there exists alongside of these a generalis gratia (general grace) which dispenses to all men various gifts. If God had not spared man, his fall would have involved the whole of nature in ruin. As it was, God immediately after the Fall interposed, in order by His common grace to curb sin and to uphold in being the universitas rerum (the universality of things). For after all sin is rather an adventitia qualitas (foreign quality) than a substanialis proprietas (substantial property), and for this reason God is operis sui corruptioni magis infensus quam operi suo (greatly offended by the corruption of His work?). Although for man's sake the whole of nature is subject to vanity, nevertheless nature is upheld by the hope which God implanted in its heart. There is no part of the world in which some spark of the divine glory does not glimmer. Though it be a metaphorical mode of expression, since God should not be confounded with nature, it may be affirmed in a truly religious sense that nature is God. Heaven and earth with their innumerable wonders are a magnificent display of the divine wisdom.

Especially the human race is still a clear mirror of the operation of God, an exhibition of His manifold gifts. In every man there is still a seed of religion, a consciousness of God, wholly ineradicable, convincing all of the heavenly grace on which their life depends, and leading even the heathen to name God the Father of  mankind. The supernatural gifts have been lost, and the natural gifts have become corrupted, so that man by nature no longer knows who and what God seeks to be to him. Still these latter gifts have not been withdrawn entirely from man. Reason and judgment and will, however corrupt, yet, in so far as they belong to man's nature, have not been wholly lost. The fact that men are found either wholly or in part deprived of reason proves that the title to these gifts is not self-evident and that they are not distributed to men on the basis of merit. None the less, the grace of God imparts them to us.

... It is true the Holy Spirit as a spirit of sanctification dwells in believers only, but as a spirit of life, of wisdom and of power He works also in those who do not believe.

Excerpted from Herman Bavinck's article, "Calvin and Common Grace"
SourceThe Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 7, No. 3 (1909), pp. 453-455, the parenthetical translations of Latin terms and bold emphasis are mine.
NOTE: I make no claim to a great understanding of Latin. If a reader can confirm or improve my translation of the phrase, operis sui corruptioni magis infensus quam operi suo, please feel free to share your insights.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Terror of Sin, The Power of Grace, The Tragedy of Distraction

God created Adam with freedom to choose sin or blessing, obedience or disobedience, life or death. Adam freely chose sin. Sin killed Adam's soul, corrupted his mind and enslaved his will.

Imagine how terrible sin is: that every child of Adam is likewise killed, corrupted, and enslaved by it. All of the pains, sorrows and injustices in this world - and all of the torments experienced in hell - can be traced back to the basic reality of sin. How awful sin must be! It is a destroyer.

Now, consider the immense and almighty power of grace: that God revives, restores and reclaims sinners by it! By grace He liberates the sin-slave, eliminates the condemnation, and delivers the captive! By grace He restores rebels, turns hearts from destruction, justifies the ungodly and establishes holiness where there was only toxic filth.

Adore the greatness of the mercy that delays judgment and provides a remedy for the helpless!
Stand in awe of the sacrifice that redeems and raises dead souls, heals corrupted minds, and renews a willing spirit in us! 

Bless the God who makes all things new!
II Corinthians 5:16-21 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The trouble is, too many of us have forgotten, neglected, trivialized or discounted the very simple and awe-inspiring facts of the Gospel. Thus it is no wonder we need more and more light shows, dancers, multimedia presentations, huge crowds, superstar worship leaders, and Hollywood sermons filled with provocative, morally questionable content. We have lost the ability to worship God in the simple yet infinitely mystifying reality of WHO He is and WHAT He has done. Yet the mighty cherubim adore Him eternally and without distraction, never having been redeemed, reconciled, restored or liberated  from misery. They only have God, as Creator and King, and they worship unceasingly on that basis alone. He is their light show. He is their star. He is their hero. He is their drama. He is their crowd. He is their display of greatness. He is all the pageantry and excitement they need. They are fully satisfied in Him, and He is glorified in them.

Today's worship services might just be too distracting. All the trappings of our "worship" are useful only as they lead us to a fresh appreciation of the simple Truth of the Gospel.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The General and Particular Aspects of the Atonement - Curt Daniel

Following are some quotes from Dr. Daniel's September 2010 sermon on Limited Atonement.

"There is a general aspect of the atonement of Christ for all. Now, even the best Calvinist theologians will admit, yes, there is a general aspect to the atonement before we look at the particular aspect. For example, because of Christ's work on the cross there is a delay of judgment for sinners. Think about that. We deserve to be punished, we deserve to be hauled in before God's bar of judgment long ago. The fact that we are still alive here on earth is due to the work of Christ on the cross. In the same way, the fact that we are not in hell right now. There has been a stay of execution - not a pardon - but a stay of execution because of Christ's work that has delayed judgment and hell for people now. Even for those that will end up in hell, the delay right now whereby God is pleading with them is due to the work of Christ. It's a temporary reprieve."

"... there is common grace. There is a general love of God. Jesus talked about the bounties of health, family, friends, happiness. Rain falling on the just and on the unjust, common grace, the bounties and beauties of creation - all flow to us through the cross. And Christ has purchased those for everybody, elect and non-elect, sinners and saints, and for everybody."

"... there is a free offer of the Gospel that can go out to all . . . the atonement of Christ has provided more than enough for everybody, and He sends Christians out with the free offer: 'Come, for all things are now ready.'"

"Now some scholars will say that this universal aspect of the atonement can be seen in verses such as John 3:16, 'the world,' I John 2:2, 'the whole world,' II Cor. 5:14, 'all,' and other ones, and I see that there is some truth in what they are saying."

"Because Jesus Christ is God and not simply man, what He did on the cross has infinite value and universal sufficiency. Now, the theologians have come up with a formula for this. Now I want to say it and then repeat it, because you might miss it, but it's very important. All that Jesus did on the cross would have been necessary for the salvation of only one person. One person committing only one sin would still require an infinite payment to the Father. However, Jesus would not have had to suffer more even if there had been a million times as many human beings to be saved, because Jesus made an infinite satisfaction to the Father. And that would have been required if there had been only one person or if there had been ten million times as many people as there have been in human history. So however many there are to be saved, Christ paid a sufficient amount for everybody because His atonement had infinite value. It's not that if one more person had to be saved Christ would have had to suffer more or die a second time. It's finished. He paid an infinite price, and in that sense you can say it has general implications for everybody."

"Jesus Christ died in a special way only for those that God had elected to salvation. This does not deny the general aspect . . . some have put it like this: in the general aspect Christ did some things for everybody, but in this aspect He did everything for some people - those that He had chosen."

"... human beings are unable to save themselves, but God has chosen some people to be saved, and because they have been chosen Christ did something especially for them. Now, this does not deny a general aspect of the atonement. It's concentrating on a special aspect that guarantees their salvation. That's why it's sometimes called particular redemption, for the elect in particular. It's limited in scope, not in value. It has a specific purpose for them. There is a general purpose, but there is a specific purpose."

"... although it's provided for all in one general sense, it's guaranteed for the elect in a special way. Now, as I said before, the special aspect or intent of the atonement is sometimes misunderstood. And so the theologians will compare Scripture and Scripture, and the formula that has generally emerged is something like this: Christ's death is sufficient for all, but it is efficient only for those that have been chosen, and those are the two aspects . . . By the way, you can see that 'for all, but especially for some' even in Scripture. I Timothy 4:10 says that Jesus is, quote, the Savior of all mankind, especially of those that believe."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Am I a Martin Luther Wannabe?

Theological quizzes are mostly inaccurate and a waste of time, I think. But "Which Theologian Are You?" yielded a reasonably good result when I took it.

By answering 30 poorly articulated questions, I was able to discover that I am a copycat of . . .

Martin Luther
The daddy of the Reformation. You are opposed to any Catholic ideas of works-salvation and see the scriptures as being primarily authoritative.

Martin Luther

John Calvin
Jonathan Edwards
Friedrich Schleiermacher
Karl Barth
Charles Finney
J├╝rgen Moltmann
Paul Tillich

I have to say, though, I don't appreciate the suggestion that I resemble Schleiermacher or Finney in any sense. I'm deeply offended by the mere suggestion of it. But the top 4 results are pretty accurate, and if Augustine was moved to 4th place the first 5 would be mostly correct.

Take the quiz and let us know which theologian you supposedly resemble.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Geoffrey Bingham on the Cross and Justification

I don't know much about this Anglican preacher from Australia, but I know I was deeply stirred by his teaching on the cross in this old video which has only received a few hundred views on YouTube. Bingham speaks with great insight about human depravity, and thus also with great insight into the grace of Christ. His side comments about the winds of doctrine that were floating around when this was filmed in 1985 are timeless.

He is the second preacher I've heard propose the unique (but, I believe, correct) theory that Christ's prayer in Gethsemane was a plea that He might survive the sufferings of the garden in order to go on to the cross - and not in any way a plea to avoid the cross as most commentators assume (note Bingham's comments around the 43 minute mark). The textual evidence for this position is striking if you take the time to study the passages closely.

More information on Bingham and a long list of his books can be found by clicking here. Many of his books are available as PDF scans for FREE. 

Monday, May 02, 2011

Voddie Baucham: Leading as a Husband and Father

Pure gold here. A complementarian perspective drawn from sound exegetical observations, with powerful applications for every man who desires to fulfill God's calling to lead his household in Christ-like headship. A challenging and focused Biblical exhortation. 

And he beats the stuffing out of so-called "Evangelical Feminism."