Friday, April 18, 2014

Samuel Willard on the Rationale Behind WSC Question 1

Here we have two distinct things put together, namely, To Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever. But we must warily consider them, else we may be greatly mistaken about them.

It is to be observed, that in strict speaking, that which is chief can be but one is a contradiction to say, there are two last ends; if both are equal, neither of them can be chief or last. Among intermediate ends some may be subordinate, others may be coordinate, but the last will admit of no compeer: and as the chief and is but one, so it is not a thing compounded, but single. It cannot be made of the meeting of divers in one; for that which is compounded is indeed manifold; and except there were an equality between those things so concurring, they cannot be of a like weight and therefore the one must needs stand in subordination to the other. So, that if we would speak exactly there is but one of these, namely, To Glorify God, which is man’s chief end; the other is immediately subordinated, or it is next to the last. It is man’s duty to seek his own best good, which consists in his enjoying of God; but he is to do it in and for the glory of God; and so from thence all his seeking of it is to take its measures.

But these two are joined together in the answer for these reasons:

1. Because God is pleased to put them together in his Word, under the notion of work and reward. God having put into man in natural desire after happiness or will be, makes use of it to help him in his duty: and therefore having made him for His glory, quickens him to it by a promise of happiness in his so doing. Hence the Scripture is full of such passages wherein the command and promise are connected; Norwood fallen man seek God’s glory had he not this encouragement.

2. Because they are inseparable and practice. A man cannot seek God’s glory aright, but in so doing, he also seeks his own salvation; and this follows from the former. And the conjunction between them in practice is thus stated; namely, God doth, as it were, say to the children of men, “You have a desire to be happy; that you can only be in the enjoyment of me; I am the only adequate object of happiness of the children of men. But if you will truly glorify me, in it you shall be happy. Do you take care of my honor, and I will secure your felicity.” And by this means it comes to pass that all the rules which God gives man to glorify him become through the strong connection sure guide of man to eternal glory. Hence that forementioned Isaiah 56:2; James 1:25. Happiness is made the reward of true obedience, and yet because man does God service, by a tie of nature antecedent to the reward, he is to seek God’s glory, though there were none: so that respect to his own benefit is but a secondary consideration.

Here therefore that great case which some perplexed themselves and others is easily resolved, namely, whether a man ought willingly to be damned, so God’s glory may be advanced by it?

Answer: A willingness to be damned is inconsistent with a true desire that God may be glorified because it separates those things which God has made inseparable. It supposes a clashing in that very order which God hath put between the end and the means: it must therefore presume a consent that God should be false to his word and promise, which militates against his glory; or else a willingness to the neglect the duties to which the promises made; which is to consent to our own actual dishonoring of him; neither of which are consistent with our sincere aiming at our last end.

There are indeed to Scripture examples that seem to make for the contrary conclusion; that of Moses, Exodus 32:32, and of Paul, Romans 9:3. But if thoroughly weighed they will not evince it. Both of them are of one tenor, and neither looks immediately to the glory of God, but to express an exuberant affection to their people. Neither of them in their extent are justifiable. God himself seems to testify against, and tacitly to reprove that of Moses, verse 33, and Paul expresses himself in the potential mood, “I could wish…” I.e. “I have such an endeared love to my kindred, that I am at the point of so wishing; I could do it, if it were lawful.” It is a pathetic all expression of an hyperbolical affection. It must needs therefore be in ensnaring trial that is put upon the children of God, when this is offered as a rule to prove their sincerity by. He that insatiably desires to be saved, and yet resolves to be saved in no other way but that wherein God may be glorified, certainly is the man whose hands are rightly fixed. 

From: Sermon 2, Compleat Body of Divinity, In 250 Lectures on the Assembly's Shorter Catechism (published posthumously in 1726), by Samuel Willard  (January 31, 1640 – September 12, 1707)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Folly of Doubting God's Love Amidst Suffering

It is a great folly in the children of God to question His love merely because of the greatness of their afflictions. We presently cry out, as Job, chapter 30:21, “Thou art become cruel to me; with thy strong hand thou opposeth thyself against me;” that He hath put off all fatherly affection, because we judge of the cross according to the sense of our own flesh. And therefore to question God’s love because of afflictions is folly. Rather we conclude the contrary of the two. Bastards are left to a looser disciple than sons; the bramble of the wilderness is suffered to grow and spread when the vine is cut, and pruned, and pared; the stones that are to be set in the building are most hewed and squared, others lie neglected in the quarry and are left to their own roughness. Multiplied afflictions are a sign God hath a care of you; He will not suffer you to run wild. And therefore, in defiance of the cross, learn to call God Father; look through the cloud of the present dispensation to the love of God towards you. 

Thomas Manton – Sermon on Luke 23:34

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Them's Fightin' Words

Gottschalk of Orbais (c. 808 – October 30, 867) got himself thrown in prison, where he languished for more than 20 years, for holding the doctrine presented in the short confession of faith, which he wrote, known as the Confessio Brevior:

I believe and confess that God, omnipotently and unchangeably, has graciously foreknown and predestined holy angels and elect men to eternal life, but that He in like manner has, by His most just judgment, predestined the devil, who is head of all the demons, with all his apostate angels and also with reprobate men, who are his members, on account of their foreknown particular future evil deeds, to merited eternal death: this the Lord Himself affirms in His Gospel: "The prince of this world is already judged" (John 14:11). Augustine, beautifully explaining these words to the people (Augustine on John, tract. 95), has spoken as follows: "That is, he has been irrevocably destined to the judgment of eternal fire." Likewise concerning the reprobate, the same is true: "Who then believeth not is already judged" (John 3:18), that is (as the aforesaid author explains), (tract. xii), already is damned: "Not that judgment now is manifest, but that judgment is already wrought." Likewise explaining these words of John the Baptist: "His testimony no man has received" (John 3:32), he speaks in this wise (tract. xiv): "'No man', is a certain people prepared to wrath by God, damned with the Devil." Also concerning the Jews: "Those dead scorners, predestinated to eternal death." Again (tract. Xlviii): "Why did the Lord say to the Jews: 'Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep' (John 10:26), unless because he saw that they were predestinated to everlasting destruction, and not to life eternal by the price of his blood," Also, explaining these words of the Lord (Ibid.): "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand: my Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:27-29), he says this: "What can the wolf do? What can the thief and robber do? They destroy none, except those predestined to destruction." Speaking in like manner concerning the two worlds (tract. lxxxvii) he says: "The whole world is the church, and the whole world hates the church; the world, therefore, hates the world, the hostile that which is reconciled, the damned that which is saved, the polluted that which is cleansed." Likewise (tract. cx): "There is a world concerning which the Apostle says: 'that we should be condemned with this world (I Cor. 11:32). For that world the Lord does not pray, for He certainly cannot ignore that for which it is predestinated." Likewise (tract. cvii): "Judas the betrayer of Christ is called the son of perdition as the one predestinated to be the betrayer."  Likewise in Enchiridion (cap. 100): "To their damnation whom He has justly predestinated to punishment." Likewise in the book On Man's Perfection in Righteousness he says (cap. 13): "This good, which is required, there is not anyone who does it, not even one; but this refers to that class of men who have been predestinated to destruction: indeed, upon those the foreknowledge of God looks down and pronounces sentence." Likewise in the books de Civitate Dei (lib. xxii, c. 24): "Which is given to those who have been predestinated to death." Likewise blessed Gregory the Pope (Moral. lib. xxxiv, c. 2): "Leviathan with all his members has been cut off for eternal torment." Likewise holy Fulgentius in the third book Concerning the Truth of Predestination and Grace (lib. iii, c. 5) says: "God has prepared punishment for those sinners (at least) who have been justly predestinated to the suffering of punishment." And blessed Fulgentius has composed one whole book for his friend Monimus concerning this tantamount question, that is: Concerning the Predestination of the Reprobate to Destruction, (lib. i). Whence also holy Isodore says (Sentent. II, cap. 6): "Predestination is double (gemina) whether of election to peace, or of reprobation to death." The same thing, therefore, (with others) I believe and confess, through whatever may happen, with those who are the elect of God and true Catholics, according as I am helped by divine inspiration, encouragement, and provision. Amen.

False, indeed, is the witness, who in speaking of any aspect of those things, corrupts them either superficially or with respect to their essential sense.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Myth that the Church in the Middles Ages Repressed Science

The Claim: “The dark ages were a time of ignorance and superstition, thanks to religion’s negative influence on scientific progress.”

The Truth: Atheist writer Tim O’Neill responds to this claim in his review of “God’s Philosophers”: 

“It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one - scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists – like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents usually scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review of Michael John Beasley's "Fallible Prophets of the New Calvinism."

While this book is aimed at the general Continuationist faction within the movement broadly termed “New Calvinism,” the brunt of the attack is the bizarre notion of “New Testament fallible prophecy,” primarily proposed, advanced and defended in the works of Wayne Grudem. Since several other authors have responded to Grudem’s work in this field, Michael John Beasley responds to the features of Grudem’s position which have not generally be responded to. These would be the lexical, exegetical and historical concerns, but primarily the lexical defense of the position advanced by Grudem.

Beasley begins by noting that the position advanced by Grudem commits several gross errors, such as reversing the very definition of the word “Prophecy.” This is no small concern. Secondly, there is the mind-bending assertion that the gift of prophecy advocated by Grudem is simultaneously fallible and legitimate. Yes, you read that correctly. Imagine claiming that you are speaking an admixture of truth and error, with no way to gag the error, and this fact notwithstanding, your work as a untrustworthy communicator is still complete legitimate. Try that at work, I double-dog dare you, and see how long you keep your job.

But the strength of this small book is its handling of the feeble lexical argument used by Grudem. In order to defend a ‘gift’ of prophecy in the church which is not authoritatively binding (like OT prophecy), that doesn’t end the false prophet’s life (like OT prophecy), is not 100% accurate (like OT prophecy), Grudem is forced to redefine the word “Prophet.” But more than that, he must also affirm that his redefined, or rather reversed, term is how the New Testament writers understood the word “Prophet.” No small order, to be sure. Beasley then demonstrates how Grudem does this, not by going to the text of the NT, but rather by going to most bizarre fringes of secular usage and drags the word “prophet” into his Procrustean bed. Since pagans had ‘prophets,’ so-called, ergo, the Apostles used the term ‘prophet’ with the non-authoritative pagan connotations in mind, NOT what the whole flow of the OT teaches regarding prophets. It boggles the imagination. So much for the analogy of faith. So much for Sola Scriptura. So much for “Scripture interprets Scripture.”

In the lengthy exegetical section of the book, Beasley handles the lone spoof-text for fallible prophecy, which is Agabus’ prophecy. Make no mistake, what Grudem intends to do here is to prove that a legitimate, yet fallible gift of prophecy is to function in the church, based upon the notion that Agabus blew it. The assertion made by Grudem and other Continuationist Calvinists (including D.A. Carson), is that Agabus’ prophecy was an example of fallible prophecy. Agabus’ prophecy was full of factual errors. These are not my words. Carson, for example says, “I can think of no reported Old Testament prophet whose prophecies are so wrong on the details.” (This quote is cited favorably by Grudem.) Grudem himself goes so far as to say that Agabus’ introduction to his prophecy, “This is what the Holy Spirit says,” is roughly equivalent to, “This is what I feel God may want me to tell you.”

The reason behind these startling and amazing statements is that, in order to defend his belief in a gift of fallible prophecy in the New Testament church, Grudem and his fellow Continuists charge that Agabus’ prophecy was fraught with factual errors. Beasley goes to great lengths exegeting the Agabus’ prophecy and analyzing both the prophecy and the historical details chronicled by Luke in order to demonstrate that Agabus’ prophecy was factually correct in every detail. Those, who take affirm to opposite do not do so on solid exegetical grounds, but sacrifice the facts (and the historic Protestant view of Inspiration) on the altar of their preconceived notions. Why not rather assume that Agabus was correct? Why not rather assume that Scripture does not blur the lines between true and false prophet? These are big questions which Grudem’s position creates and never attempts to solve.

If there is anything I would criticize the book for, it is this: before launching into an excellent survey of the notion of fallible prophecy, and before detailing the horrific dangers to which such a position makes us susceptible, the author prefaces his work by stating that he is not convinced that “fallible prophecy” does not constitute an immediate assault on the gospel. I am at a loss with what to do with that statement. I cannot imagine a more ineffectual way to preface a critique and analysis of a movement which injects error into the mouth of God in Scripture, destroys the possibility of labeling anyone a “false prophet,” and removes any barrier to anyone claiming to speak authoritatively in the name of God, while simultaneously speaking a message full of error.