Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Obscure Heroes of the Reformation - Latimer

Hugh Latimer was born circa 1485 in Thurcaston, Leicester. His parents sent him to Cambridge when he was 14. After finishing several courses, he took up the study of Scholastic theology and began his Bachelor of Divinity studies. At this time, he was a very zealous papist. He composed an oration against Melanchthon and railed against the divinity lecturer, Stafford. Whenever there was a procession, he carried the cross.

Bilney was so distressed by Latimer’s blind zeal, that he arranged a meeting with Latimer so that he could hear his confession of faith. Latimer was so moved by this gesture that he gave up his Scholastic theology and began to study Reformed Theology. He often sought Bilney’s advice and soon asked forgiveness of Stafford

He became a powerful preacher, and though, in 1529, the bishop of Ely forbade him to preach, he kept at it. He visited prisons and did much to help the needy.

He became an advisor to Henry VIII after his break with Rome in 1534. He was made a bishop in 1535. He began to preach against social injustices and the Romish teaching about images and purgatory. He resigned his seat in 1539 when Henry showed disapproval of Reformed teaching. During this period Latimer was imprisoned twice.

When Edward VI began his reign, he appointed Latimer to be the court preacher, a post he held until his 67th year.

When Mary Tudor ascended to the throne, she condemned Latimer for repudiating Roman Catholic doctrine. He was sentenced to death with Thomas Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley. He was led to the stake at Oxford with Ridley. When he came to the stake, he looked up into heaven and said, “God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able.” As the execution began, Latimer encouraged his friend Ridley with these words, “Be of good comfort Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” As he was burning, Latimer cried out, “O Father of heaven, receive my soul.” He died, burnt at the stake, with his friend Ridley in 1555.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Obscure Heroes of the Reformation - Ridley

Nicholas Ridley was born circa 1500, in either in Northumberland or Durham. He was sent to school at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After his initial schooling, he went to Cambridge and later moved to Oxford.

He later went to study in Paris, because the university there was the premier place for the study of Scholastic theology. Apparently, Ridley was not satisfied with what he found in Paris and returned home.

Soon after his return home, he was called to be chaplain to Henry VIII and was soon made bishop of Rochester when Henry Holbeach was transferred to the bishopric of Lincoln. Francis Godwin and John Foxe give differing accounts of his appointment to the Rochester. At any rate, he did not maintain this post for long. He was soon appointed as bishop in London.

He was a devout papist still at this time, but the light began to shine upon him when he read the work of Bertram concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. He slowly began to realize that the teaching of the Reformers accorded with Scripture and with the writings of the Church Fathers.

He was an extremely zealous preacher. He never let an occasion to preach pass him up. Besides that, while he lived with family at Fulham, he read to them daily, prayed with them and lectured out of the New Testament. He was zealous to help his family memorize large portions of Scripture.

Ridley was much like Daniel. His enemies sought for something to accuse him of, but his life was so upright and holy, that they were unable to find anything to blame him of.

He was very committed to prayer and contemplation. He would arise every morning, and as soon as he was dressed he would spend an hour and a half in prayer. He would then begin to read and study. He did this till 10 o’clock. Then he gathered family together for a time of common prayer. After lunch, he frequently played a game or two of chess. This was his only form of recreation. He would then return to his studies unless he had visitors or guests to attend to. Every day at 5, he met again together with his family, or whoever was at home with him for an hour of prayer. He would have dinner after the afternoon prayer. He would then return to his studies until his bedtime of 11 o’clock.

He was noted to have been an exceptionally meek and kind individual. He was never known for partiality or favoritism, even toward family. He worked very diligently, but with much meekness and gentleness to win over papists to the Reformed faith. Indeed, Bonner’s mother (Bonner was the cruel papist archbishop of London that Ridley replaced) was his daily guest at meals and Ridley addressed her “Mother.” He frequently also entertained Bonner’s sister, Mrs. Mungey and her daughter.

Ridley’s condition was comfortable and safe for quite some time. However when Edward VI died, things changed. Prior to Mary’s ascension to the throne, Ridley had preached a sermon against her in favor of Jane. Once Mary came to the throne, she had Ridley imprisoned. She removed him from his bishopric and reinstated Bonner. He was transferred to the Tower of London.

But soon he was moved to Windsor and then to Oxford with Cranmer and Latimer. They were locked up in a prison known to the common people as Bocardo. In one of his letters, Ridley called Bocardo a college of ex-bishops.

After some time of confinement there, an order came down that there should be a disputation between Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer on one side and the Doctors of Divinity from Cambridge and Oxford on the other side. Ridley was assigned to discuss the sacrament of the Lord’s Table, particularly whether he subscribed to the doctrines of the Mass and Transubstantiation. He merely asked for some time and his books to prepare. He was denied both. He was given the charge to defend his position on Saturday, and the disputation was to be held on Tuesday.

The debate was mostly a sham. His opponents constantly interrupted him, changed the subject and hurled insults and accusations against him instead of reasoning and arguing. Cranmer and Latimer received the same treatment. The whole purpose of the debate seemed simply to be to rile up the public’s anger against Ridley and the two others. On Friday the judgment came down that if he were not willing to recant, he would be condemned a heretic. Having refused to recant, he was returned to his place of confinement, where he again was given the chance to recant. The same was done to Latimer and Cranmer.

Ridley was confined in the house of an Irish mayor. This man’s wife was a waspish woman and an extremely devoted papist. She felt that the worse she treated Ridley, the more meritorious it was for her. For whatever reason, the man of the house let his wife have her cruel way with Ridley. Ridley endured all the ill-treatment with much patience and contentment as appears from his correspondence during this time. He remained in this home from April 1554 until September 1555.

At this time, he was taken by the commissioners of Cardinal Pole, the Pope’s legate. They required him to answer several theological questions relating to his previous defense of the Reformed view of the Lord’s Table, as well as some points regarding the Pope’s authority.

Ridley wrote out a lengthy response replete with Scripture and citations from the Church Fathers. When the time came to present his paper, he was not allowed to read it, and only a line or two was actually read out loud. The couple of lines read aloud were condemned as heretical. Ridley informed his accusers that the lines they had just condemned as heresy were sayings of the Fathers. Latimer was baited the same way.

The result of this second dispute was even further excommunication. Ridley was turned over to the civil authorities

On the 16th of October he suffered martyrdom, with Latimer at the stake. They were led out to a ditch on the north side of the city behind Balliol College. The custom of the day was that a sermon be preached at an execution. This day, however, Dr. Smith (who had recanted during Edward’s reign) made a speech that was nothing more than a bitter invective against the two Reformers. The wood pile for Ridley was clumsily assemble, the result of which was, that Ridley suffered for a very long time before the flames finally killed him. As he was burning, Latimer said to him, “Be of good comfort Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

Obscure Heroes of the Reformation - Farel

William (Guillaume) Farel was born in Dauphiny in 1489. He was educated in Paris and was one of the first to make a public profession of the Gospel in France. When persecution arose against Protestants, we went to Switzerland, where he became acquainted with Zwingli, Œcolampadius and Hallerus. In 1524, he went to Basel where he engaged in public debates against the Popish theologians residing there. The masters of the local university were outraged and refused to allow the debates, until the senate imposed its authority over the university. Eventually, the bishop of Basel had Farel driven from the city.

He then went to Montpelier and other places, preaching the Gospel everywhere he went. He preached with amazing fervor and zeal. When he was in Metz, he preached in the Dominican monastery churchyard. The Dominican monks tried to drown out his voice by ringing the church bell. Farel kept on preaching outdoing the bell until he had finished his sermon.

In 1528 he went with Viret to Geneva where the planted the church and spread the Gospel. Calvin stayed in Geneva because of Farel. After what was intended to be a visit to the city, Farel protested that Calvin should not withhold his gifts from the Church in her hour of need. Calvin wished to return home and continue his studies, To this, Farel, like Elijah of old, thundered out this warning to Calvin: “You have no other ground for refusing my request than your love for study; but I tell you, in the name of Almighty God, that if you do not join me in the work of the ministry, God will punish you for preferring your pleasure to the Lord's service."

Though Farel had done so much for the Genevans, in 1553, they were ready to have him condemned to death. Farel then left for Neufchatel where he pastured the church there with great zeal and faithfulness.

When he heard of Calvin’s sickness, he rushed back to Geneva, though he was 70 years old. He outlived Calvin by a little over a year. He died in 1565. Farel was a man of incredible zeal and fervor. He was remarkably diligent and an astoundingly bold preacher. He was reported to have been so fervent in prayer that he carried his hearers to heaven with him.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Obscure Heroes of the Reformation - Series Introduction

Over the next few weeks all of my posts will be short biographical sketches of some the more obscure heroes of the Reformation. In their day, none of these men were obscure; they were all well-known and highly respected for their labors for the cause of the Church.

The people presented will be: William Farel, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Thomas Cranmer, Peter Ramus, Immanuel Tremellius, Thomas Erpenius, Edward Dering, Augustin Marlorat, Caspar Olevian, Zachary Ursinus and Conrad Pelican.

An amazing thing may be noticed regarding almost all of these men: Many died remarkably young. It is also noteworthy that most of them had achieved incredibly high academic  status at an early age. Perhaps they were graced by God with extraordinary intellect because their lives were cut short.

None of these sketches are intended to be comprehensive. I simply would like people to be aware of some of the unsung heroes of the Reformation. I could easily have presented a few dozen more sketches.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Necessity and Volition Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Necessity and volition are not as opposed to each other as Arminians like to think. In fact, if Scripture is any authority on the matter, these two things are not opposed or exclusive of each other at all.

Here is a case in point; in fact this is the best possible case ever: Jesus was necessarily holy. It was absolutely and intrinsically inevitable that He be holy in every aspect of His life and perfectly righteous in all His actions. Secondly, it was absolutely necessary that He should die for the sins of the elect. Christ was so necessarily good that is was impossible for Him to be otherwise, notwithstanding, He was voluntarily good. That is why He could say, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work (John 4:34). Secondly, He could not avoid being put to death as an offering for the sins of the elect. Nevertheless, He died voluntarily. He said, “how am I straitened till it be accomplished! (Luke 12:50). And also, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18).

If this is not enough proof that necessity and volition are not mutually exclusive, nothing is. You may ask how this can be. Our only answer can be that it holds by the wise ordaining of God, who is great in counsel (Jer. 32:19). A true Christian will be satisfied with this answer.

It is safe to assume that very few Arminians, if any, would ever assert that is was possible for Christ to have fallen from grace by sin and to have perished eternally. But, as shocking as that notion is, it is an absolutely necessary consequence of the Arminian doctrine of contingency, whether any Arminian admits, acknowledges or avows it or not.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Red Herring of Antinomian Calvinism

The favorite weapon in the Arminian arsenal against Calvinism is the accusation that the perseverance of the saints leads to antinomianism. Their logic, or rather illogic, runs thus: If a man knows that nothing he can possibly do can imperil his salvation, he will live without restraint. Why should a man bother about living a holy life if he can be saved no matter how he lives? This is, of course a libel and a red herring. 

Continuing to live in sin once one has died to it is no more logical than to try to live in a house after you’ve sold it. A death row inmate set free, but who refused to leave his cell, would still be legally free even if he didn’t walk in it experientially. His not leaving the cell would not argue against his freedom, but against his understanding of Freedom. This is the situation of one who is saved but continues in sin. His freedom is not lost or retracted, but it might as well have not been granted. This would, in fact, never happen in the real world. Its opposite, however, is the actual state of every unregenerate man. Adam alone would have retained memory of his former state of Original Righteousness; the rest of us have been born in prison. Our natural enmity toward God causes us to deceive ourselves into imagining we are free when, in fact, we are in bondage. It is a billion times easier psychologically to convince yourself that you are free when you are not (sort of a moral “Stockholm Syndrome”), than to convince yourself that you are bound when you are actually free. There is nothing to motivate that delusion.

So to get caught up on the question of whether salvation can be lost or not (although the Reformed side is definitely correct), is to miss the whole point. The hypothetical “Christian” who accepts the Lord as Savior and then proceeds to live a life of sin based on the assurance that once he is saved, he can never sin away his salvation, is no Christian at all. We would deny the very existence of such a person. Scripture categorically denies that those who willfully persist in sin were ever elected in the first place because we are elected through sanctification unto obedience. This is “putting God to the test,” and no Christian would ever do this! What kind of “Christian” makes this hypothetical experiment to see whether or not he really can remove himself from Christ’s hand? The notion is simply asinine. This is like a pardoned death-row inmate trying to see whether he can still get executed!

This false conclusion overlooks the following:

1. A Christian has a renewed nature.
The Christian life itself begins with death to the old life. It is when we are made partakers of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Moreover, the Christian life works from the inside out.

2. Justification is more than mere forgiveness of sins. This is the mistake Whitefield pointed out in Wesley’s theology. Justification is a change of status before God: from “in sin” to “in Christ.” We are translated from the power of darkness to the kingdom of Christ. Hence it is a change wrought in us by God whereby we are changed from in sin to in Him. It may even be considered a change of citizenship (Colossians 1:13).

3. There is a difference between a lapse in Christian character and living in sin.
It would be false to assert that a Christian will never lapse (David, Peter, etc.). However, equating a lapse in Christian character and an ongoing living in sin will always result in an absolute lack of assurance of salvation. We all know people who fear that God will strike them dead with a lightning bolt every time they mess up. I have seen men who have been elders and deacons for decades respond to every altar the pastor gives just in case the previous one didn't take! How can a man be of any service to Christ’s kingdom when he isn’t even sure if he’s in it? It dishonors God when we cower in fear when we sin rather than coming boldly before the throne of grace. Christ commanded us to forgive 70x7 a day! Can we expect less of Him than He commands of us?

4. Justification by nature leads to Sanctification.
The whole point of the New Covenant is to ensure holiness (Jer. 31:31-33). God justifies only those He intends to sanctify (Rom. 8:29, 30). The order is “justified by faith,” not “justified by sanctification.” The latter error gives birth to the objection Paul refutes in this passage! Thomas Manton aptly remarks, “Therefore it is a desperate adventure to try conclusions, to drink rank poison to experiment the goodness of an antidote, or to wound ourselves mortally to try the virtue of a plaster.”

When Wesley flung this accusation of antinomianism at the Calvinists of his day, Augustus Toplady replied:

“Consciousness of guilt, and dread of detection, frequently put bad men upon entering those accusations against their opponents, which, without such a timely precaution, they are justly apprehensive, will be charged upon themselves, like the apostate spirits in Milton, who were turning their own torments into weapons against heaven. Such is the prudent conduct of very many Arminians. Fully aware, that their own lives are none of the best, they affect to cry out against Calvinism, as though she was the very mother and nurse of licentiousness. Were she really so, what myriads would desert the standard of Arminius, and flock to the banner of Calvin! But all those who are capable of discernment, know, that the pretended licentious tendency of Calvinism (so called) is no more than idle flourish and empty declamation. Were the doctrines of grace unfavorable to strict morality, we should quickly see them the reigning system of the age. On the contrary, they are therefore, at present, unfashionable, because they make no allowance for the wickedness of the wicked. It is a fundamental axiom, with us, who abide by the principles of the Reformation, that holiness of heart and life is (not the cause, price, or condition, but which adds infinitely stronger security to the interests of moral virtue) and essential and inseparable part of that very salvation, to which the elect were chosen from everlasting. A Calvinist must consequently, renounce both the letter and the spirit of his own constitutive principles (i.e., he must cease to be a Calvinist), ere he can, consistently, degenerate into a sensualist.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Universal Grace is Cruelty

It’s time to turn a myth on its head. Arminians of the last 450 years and the Pelagians before them have always appealed to their doctrine of Universal Grace as a sign of God’s goodwill toward men. The Augustinian or Calvinistic scheme of a limited grace for the elect alone, they claim is unjust and unkind. How, they ask, can a loving God predestinate men to live in unrepentant sin, and then punish them with eternal hellfire for doing what was predestined? There’s nary a Pelagian or Arminian in the world who hasn’t pulled this stunt at some time in a debate with a Calvinist.

Let’s dispatch with the niceties. First of all, the objection is a gross mischaracterization of the facts to begin with. It is built on the assumption that the divine decree and human responsibility are incompatible. This is patently false and we know so because Scripture plainly teaches so. Anyone who doesn’t see this is reading with their eyes closed. Judas Iscariot, we are told, did what was foretold of him, yet Christ says it would have been better for him to have never been born, thus expressing Judas’ culpability. Herod and Pilate had a hand in executing Christ, but both did what God’s decree had ordained. Scripture is replete with examples which demonstrate this, both from positive and negative perspectives.

But that isn’t what we’re interested in right now. I wish to show you that the chimerical Arminian objection is more accurately a depiction of its own principles. To show this, let’s go back to the Arminian doctrine of Universal Grace and ask a question. Does God know, or does He not know beforehand how everyone will respond to His grace? In other words: Does God know who will accept and who will reject it? The only possible answers are “Yes,” or “No.” If you say “No,” you are an atheist, regardless of what you call yourself. A God who is not omniscient is no God at all. Open Theism is thinly veiled atheism, as is its mother Arminianism.

Right about now I anticipate someone objecting that Open Theism is not necessarily an Arminian issue. After all, Thomas Oden decries Open Theism as heresy. I have looked at the subject from every possible angle and there is no way you can convince me that Open Theism is not the legitimate offspring of Arminianism. The whole reason for dreaming up Open Theism in the first place was to make a way for God’s knowledge to square with the Arminian conception of free-will. Toss Arminian free-will back in the pit that it came from, and the need for an Open view of God dissipates.

Back to my question. If you answer, “Yes, God knows unmistakably who will accept His grace and who will reject it,” then we have a bigger problem. Your system entails this uncomfortable consequence: God, fully aware that such and such a person will unfailingly and willfully persist in sin, rejecting God’s grace till his dying day, thrusts this grace upon him anyway, thus amplifying his guilt a million times. Where is the love of God now? This is nothing but unmitigated cruelty and hatred. Offering grace and atonement to one whom God know will only spurn it, is an intentional exacerbating of their sin. If the Arminian deity had any love at all, He would withhold the grace He knows will be rejected. In other words, if the Arminian deity had any love at all, He’d be the God of the Bible who is best expressed in Calvinistic terms. Can we suppose that God is even earnest when He offers grace to those He knows will refuse it?

The Arminian replies, “But this makes takes away man’s excuse for sinfulness.” Let’s assume for a moment that this is true. Ok, it takes away man’s excuse. But this means that God knowingly makes a man more inexcusable because He loves that man so much.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Predestinated to Obedience

“Predestination leads to antinomianism,” goes the tired old Arminian objection. They have never gotten tired of this worn out motto, despite the fact that Dort anathematized it as false and every Reformed theologian worth his weight in feathers has torn it to ribbons. Some people never learn. What saith the Scripture? - - -

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. 1 Peter 1:2

Peter says, “foreknowledge of God the Father,” referring to His foreknowledge of the Fall, which foreknowledge made it necessary that election should be decreed to take effect not independently from the Son and Spirit (sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ). This shows us five important truths.

1. All three divine Persons are equally concerned in the salvation of sinners. The Father elected them; the Son shed His blood for them; the Spirit sanctifies them.

2. The objects of election were considered, in that eternal decree, as fallen. How else could they be chosen unto the sprinkling of Christ’s blood and sanctification of the Spirit?

3. Election, though productive of good works, is not founded upon them. On the contrary, they are one of the ends for which the elect are chosen. – “Elect unto obedience.”

4. Those who have been elected by God the Father, shall be sprinkled by the Son, that is, legally purified by His atonement as their pardon. Further they shall experience the Spirit’s sanctification in beginning, advancing and perfecting the work of grace in their souls.

5. The elect, this sprinkled and sanctified, are made to obey the commands of God. They imitate Christ as a pattern as they trust in Him as their propitiation.

An Arminian may seize upon my words “made to obey,” and ask, “Are the elect robots?” No. Of course not. God’s people are made willing (Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. Ps. 110:3). There is no such thing as a willing robot.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Christocentric Hermeneutic

In a previous post, we have discussed the importance of a Christocentric hermeneutic when dealing with the Old Testament. Christ tells us that He is the focus of everything in the Scriptures (by which He meant the Old Testament). For instance, when rebuking the unbelieving Jews said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39. Some might think that Christ didn’t refer to everything in the Old Testament. But, Christ dispels this misunderstanding in Luke 24:27 by expounding from Moses and the prophets the things concerning Himself. And lest that weren’t enough, a few verses later (v. 44-46), He opens their understanding to see Him in all the Scriptures of the Old Testament – dividing it into the three parts: Law, Prophets, and Psalms. I have noted it before, but it seems rather odd to many people today to think they can find Christ in the Psalms.

I said all that to say this: We greatly err when we do not see Christ as the focus of the Old Testament. If the story of Daniel serves only to teach our children in Sunday School to “dare to be a Daniel,” then we are in trouble. This is simply moralism or pietism: Law, not grace. If bravery is the moral of the story of David and Goliath, we are not better off than those without the Bible. The Old Testament becomes little more than a collection of fables, like Aesop’s, with a nice moral lesson attached. The great battles of the Old Testament, the marvelous adventures of the Patriarchs, the miraculous rescues of underdogs – these are not object lessons for us to teach our kids about kindness, bravery, cooperation, loyalty and friendship. They are shining examples of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises. He preserved His elect people in the Old Testament in order to bring about the circumstances surrounding the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ and the salvation and preservation of His elect people in the New Testament.

Take the famine during the days of Jacob as exhibit A. Jacob and his family suffers from a famine. Meanwhile, Pharaoh in Egypt is prospering with the most abundant harvests he’s ever seen. Little does Jacob know that his son Joseph is in Egypt. Joseph has been passed off a dead by his jealous brothers. After having been sold as a slave and chastely resisting the seduction of his master’s wife, he is thrown in prison. God uses this to make Joseph a special favorite of Pharaoh. Was this merely a lesson on long-suffering for Jacob and/or Joseph? Not at all. These circumstances conspire to bring Jacob down to Egypt. Jacob dies, leaving his whole family there. All this make way for the future miracles of the glorious exodus which is a type of our spiritual deliverance wrought by Christ.

I hope everyone can see how much more profound this view of the Old Testament is than the view that turns all the stories into cute little object lessons.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Objections to Reprobation: 2. Isn't God Merciful?

The second objection Arminians make against the doctrine of Reprobation regards the mercy of God. How can God be merciful if He either actively wills the damnation of certain of His creatures without a view to anything in them or if He passes them over as sinners and chooses someone else equally deserving of eternal damnation?

Mercy can be thought of in two ways: as a Divine attribute and as it is exercised toward man. As an attribute of God, it is infinite. All God’s attribute are because they coincide with His Essence. To say that God is just is not that same as saying Todd is just. Todd can cease to be just and still be himself. God’s attributes are at one with His Essence, so that if He were not just, He would not be God. Hence we repeat that as a divine attribute, God’s mercy is infinite.

But mercy, as it exercised toward man, is neither necessarily infinite nor actually infinite. The fact that God did not create more worlds than He has is no indictment of His omnipotence. Likewise, that not all men are saved is no indictment of His mercy. Augustus Toplady writes, “Goodness, considered as it is in God, would have been just the same infinite and glorious attribute, supposing no rational creatures had been created at all, or saved when created. To which may be added, that the goodness of the Deity does not cease to be infinite in itself, only because it is more extended to some objects than it is to others. The infinity of this perfection, as residing in God and coinciding with His Essence, is sufficiently secured, without supposing it to reach indiscriminately, to all creatures He has made. For, was that way of reason to be admitted, it would lead us too far, and prove too much: since, if the infinity of His goodness is to be estimated by the number of objects upon which it terminates; there must be an absolute, proper infinity of reasonable beings to terminate that goodness upon. Consequently, it would follow from such premises, either, that the creation, is as truly infinite as the Creator; or, if otherwise, that the Creator’s goodness could not be infinite, because it has not an infinity of object to make happy.”

If the decree of Reprobation is disproved by the imaginary incompatibility with divine mercy, then we must also charge God with a lack of goodness in almost every other part of His conduct. We spent quite some time proving that assertion in the previous post.

Arminians should therefore think carefully of the logically consequences of their doctrine. There is no way of asserting eternal providence or justifying God’s actions towards humanity except by saying that the exercise of His infinite mercy is regulated by the voluntary determining of His sovereign pleasure. Once this scriptural proposition is established, every objection against Reprobation that is grounded on its being unmerciful ceases to exist. 

Note, I said, “established as scriptural.” Here goes.

In Matthew 11:20-24, Christ reproves the cities that did not believe Him. He goes on to say that had Tyre, Sidon and Sodom seen the mighty deeds they had witnessed, these cities would’ve repented. The logical inference it this: God saw fit to NOT show these cities the very mighty deeds that would have resulted in their repentance. If this does not demonstrate Preterition, nothing does. “Unfair,” you say. Yet in verses 25 and 26, Christ thanks the Father for doing the very thing Arminians exclaim against as unjust and unmerciful. I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

Witness further:

“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Matt 13:11

“it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” Matt 20:23

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:14

“for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.” Matt 24:22

“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” Matt 25:34

“Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” Mark 4:11-12

“rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

“one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.” Luke 17:34

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” John 6:37

“ye are not of God.” John 8:47

“ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep” John 10:26

“But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” John 12:37 - 40

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” John 15:16

“Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.” Acts 1:16-20

“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” Acts 2:23

“Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” Acts 4:27-28

“as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48

“God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace” Gal 1:15

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” 2 Tim 1:9

“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation” Jude 1:4

Every single one of the above passages contains at least one side of the Election/Reprobation equation. Mention is made of those who are shown special, undeserved favor; hence, demonstrating the passing over of the non-elect. Or mention is made of the decree regarding the reprobation of certain individuals. Here we have multiple Scriptures asserting Election, and by logical consequence, its corollary, Reprobation. And not a single one of these passages even remotely hints at questioning God’s justice or mercy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Objections to Reprobation: 1. It's Not Fair

One of the ramifications of the doctrine of Election is the doctrine of Reprobation. Election is God’s choosing of some men to salvation. If some are chosen, others are not chosen. This being not chosen is what is called the doctrine of Reprobation.

The aim of this article and the next one is not to describe Reprobation in either supralapsarian or infralapsarian terms. (Only those who are already on our side will be interested in that subject anyway.) Nor do I intend to resolve that theological issue; although I am admittedly a supralapsarian. I simply mention this because all Arminian objections to the doctrine of Election arise because of this corollary doctrine of Reprobation. I intend to go a step further and address the objections to Reprobation, all of which boil down to two topics: God’s justice and God’s mercy. This article will deal with the question of justice. The next post will deal with the issue of divine mercy as it relates to Reprobation.

A fair (no pun intended) definition of justice would be: giving every man his due. This definition might stand a bit of tweaking. But at the end of the day, it’ll do. When we come to the supposed problem or injustice of Reprobation, it hangs on whether God is or is not a debtor to man. He obviously is not. If it can be proved that God owes salvation to everyone, only then will it follow that Reprobation is unjust. If we can show that God is not debtor, but rather creditor, then the objection vanishes into thin air.

Moreover, this objection weighs as heavily against limited salvation as it does against the limiting decree. You have to prove that everyone is decreed to be equally happy – even in this life. If God is a debtor to any man, why not all men? If God owes salvation to all men, why does He condemn anyone finally? If the Arminian answers that they disqualify themselves from receiving salvation, I reply that to speak of man not permitting God to be just is assuming a principle that cannot be allowed. God can never be overruled by man. And the Arminian hypothesis of man being God’s creditors rests on the natural claim to happiness with which man is supposed to be invested as a right in virtue of involuntary creatureship. In other words, man didn’t ask to be created, therefore God is obligated to make him happy. Arminianism presupposes that since man derives his existence from God, God is bound and obligated to make that existence happy. The fact is that if God owes happiness to all His creatures, then even those who die in their sins must be saved or else God ceases to be just.

Arminians love to claim that Calvinism leads to antinomiansim, but the exact opposite appears to be the case. It seems unavoidable to me that if you probe Arminianism to its bottom, IT, and not Calvinism opens the floodgates of licentiousness. Arminian principles force us to this conclusion. Every son of Adam is God’s creature; every creature of God is good. We are all endued with independent free-will. He loves all men alike. His justice will not let Him reject any of us. Christ’s death atoned for the sins of all men; hence we are all redeemed. This all leads to but one conclusion: Let us eat, drink and be merry.

Of course, I’m not claiming that all Arminians reason this way. Indeed, few do. Most are blissfully unaware of the logical consequences of their own system. They are too busy slinging mud to notice that it is they who are losing ground.

Now, you may say to me that salvation is only given to men once they meet certain conditions. My cheap reply is this: If salvation is every man’s due whether he fulfills the conditions or not, then you indeed a wide-eyed Antinomian. If you say then that salvation is not man’s due unless he fulfills certain conditions then it either follows that:
1. Man earns his own salvation, and by his works he makes God his debtor. Or,
2. Man, as a creature is not entitled to salvation, and God as Creature is under no obligation to save anyone He has created.

There are no other alternatives. Either God is obligated, in justice, to save everyone or He is not. If He is, then it is man’s works that put Him under obligation. If not, then He is not unjust by passing over some men. In fact, He could’ve passed by the entire human race without electing anyone to salvation and remained perfectly holy and just.

Let’s pursue this line of reasoning a little further. If eternal happiness is due to everyone, then surely temporal happiness is too. Face it. If all men have equal right to the greatest possible happiness, what reason would they have to doubt the lesser? If God is bound, on penalty of being unjust, to do all He can to make every man happy in the next life, He is certainly bound to do the same in this life.

God, in His omnipotence, could banish misery from the universe. Nothing speaks louder than facts. It is obviously not His will to do so. Here’s the burning question: Are all men equally happy? Some men are born blind; some with sight. Some are born with full use of their mental faculties; some are not. Some are born into wealthy homes; some into poor. Some are born into freedom; some into slavery. Some men are born to kings; some to criminals. Some have loving parents; some have abusive ones. Some have faithful spouses; some have adulterous ones. The simple fact is that there is obvious inequality of station in this present, temporal life. Any objection against Reprobation as injustice weighs equally against any inequality of status in this life. If God is not allowed to be sovereign in eternal affairs, He is equally barred from sovereignty in temporal affairs. Yet no Arminian claims that God is unjust because not all men are equally rich, talented, intelligent or attractive.

Face it. Some angels fell and some didn’t. God could’ve prevented this. God could’ve prevented the Fall of Adam. Some men are converted, some are not. The only thing that can account for this is the absolute sovereignty of God. God does according to His will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth (Dan. 4:35; Ps. 135:6).

Someone may reply that just because God acts as sovereign in the disposal of earthly benefits does not prove that He acts on the same principle in the disposal of eternal blessings. This is easily refuted. For:

1. Eternal things are as much at His disposal as temporal things; either He is sovereign over everything or not. If He couldn’t dispose of eternal things with the same sovereignty as He does temporal things, then He could never give to His people the spiritual blessings He promises them.
2. Even granting that time and eternity are not equal, yet if God were unjust in not ordaining one man as well as the next to eternal happiness, then He must be proportionately unjust in not ordaining all men to equal happiness here on earth. If God can, with absolute justice allow one man to be unhappy and miserable temporally, He can with equal justice allow him to be unhappy and miserable for eternity. If God cannot be unjust for a second, He cannot be unjust for eternity. If He can be unjust for a second, He can be so for eternity.

Does anyone deny temporal evil? Are there no wars, no crime? Are these exempt from the providence of God? Affirming this would be atheism. Suggesting that God is unaware of future events or that He is unable to do anything about them is tantamount to denying God’s existence. As an aside, this means that I deem Open Theism to be atheism. A God with any limitations is no God at all.

Our conclusion then is this: There is temporal evil and everyone has some share in it. This does not arise from any deficiency in God’s wisdom, power or justice. Either this is true, or God has been acting unjustly ever since the Fall. If you reply that moral evil is the cause of natural evil, you are saying nothing that we Calvinists haven’t been saying for centuries.

But the older issue remains unaddressed: How did moral evil come to pass. Natural evils are the result of moral evil and if God had not permitted the former, the latter would never have come to pass. The Arminian replies: “He gave man free-will.” So what? Didn’t God, in His infinite knowledge and wisdom, foresee what the consequences would be of granting man this ability? Was He unable to foresee how man would use this will? And couldn’t God have given Him such a will that he would never have used it for evil? The Arminian will reply, “But then he wouldn’t be a free agent.” Yes, he would have been! God is a free agent and yet His will is such that He cannot but be eternally holy, good and righteous. Why would the same will in man make him less free than it makes God?

God is just amidst all the sufferings of fallen men and fallen angels. He will remain just no matter how much more any of them suffer. If so, where is the objection to Reprobation on the grounds of injustice?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Patristic Witnesses to the Reformed Doctrine of Imputation and Justification

1. 1 Clement, chap. XLIX: “For the love which he had unto us, he gave his blood for us, according to his purpose, and his flesh for our flesh, and his life for our lives.” Note that we have a testimony taken from the very prime of undoubted antiquity, where we are told: 1. The cause of Christ’s death, viz., His love to us. 2. Its object — us, or believers. 3. The manner how he redeemed us: by substitution.

2. Epistle to Diognetus, Chapter IX: “He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

3. Gregory of Nyssa, Oration 2 on Canticles: “He has transferred unto Himself the filth of my sins, and communicated unto me His purity, and made me partaker of His beauty.”

4. Augustine, Enchiridion, 41: “He, then being made sin, just as we are made righteousness (our righteousness being not our own, but God’s, not in ourselves, but in Him); He being made sin, not His own, but ours, not in Himself, but in us …”

5 Chrysostom, Homily XI on 2 Cor. On verse 21: “What words, what thought shall be adequate to realize these things? ‘For the righteous,’ saith he, ‘He made a sinner; that He might make the sinners righteous.’ Yea rather, he said not even so, but what was greater far; for the word he employed is not the habit, but the quality itself. For he said not ‘made’ [Him] a sinner, but ’sin;’ not, ‘Him that had not sinned’ only, but ‘that had not even known sin; that we’ also ‘might become,’ he did not say ‘righteous,’ but, ‘righteousness,’ and, ‘the righteousness of God.’ For this is [the righteousness] ‘of God’ when we are justified not by works, (in which case it were necessary that not a spot even should be found,) but by grace, in which case all sin is done away. And this at the same time that it suffers us not to be lifted up, (seeing the whole is the free gift of God,) teaches us also the greatness of that which is given. For that which was before was a righteousness of the Law and of works, but this is ‘the righteousness of God.’”

6. Bernard, Epistle 190: “It was man who owed the debt, it was man who paid it. For if one, says S. Paul, died for all, then were all dead (2 Cor. v. 14), so that, as One bore the sins of all, the satisfaction of One is imputed to all. It is not that one forfeited, another satisfied; the Head and body is one, viz., Christ.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Christ's View of Scripture

The Bible asserts its own inspiration. The Bible claims to deal authoritatively with all questions of religion and morality. The Old Testament claims, “Thus saith the Lord,” 413 times. There are numerous direct quotations and allusions throughout by the Old Testament authors to each other. The New Testament gives its familiar “It is written,” sixty-three times. The New Testament also cites itself on many occasions. Peter classes all of Paul’s epistles with the inspired Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul quotes Luke’s gospel as Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18 (cf. Luke 10:7). Luke refers to his previous work (Acts 1:1). Jude cites 2 Peter 3:2-3 in verse 18 of his Epistle. John alludes to his own gospel. Paul mentions another letter he had written to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9). Some of these examples are not formal quotations, but they do illustrate the fact that within the New Testament there is recognition of one inspired book by another.

The clincher though is Revelation 1:2, where the Word of God is identified with the testimony of Jesus Christ! This statement runs in both directions. Firstly, it means that the testimony of Jesus Christ in the New Testament in as fully God’s Word as the Old Testament. Secondly, it means that the Old Testament is equally the testimony of Jesus Christ.

If Christ possesses any authority or integrity as a teacher (not to mention His authority as God), then the Scriptures are inspired. This can be demonstrated by His use of Scripture:

1. He knew the Scriptures thoroughly, even to words and verb tenses. He obviously had either memorized vast portions or knew it instinctively: John 7:15.

(Incidentally, Jesus need not verify every passage in the Canon or else we would find the whole Old Testament re-quoted in the New Testament, which is unnecessary. He verifies enough of it to assure us of complete approval of it all, including passages from all but a few books. Yet those also were in His Canon. He did not refute any of them.)

2. He believed every word of Scripture. All the prophecies concerning Himself were fulfilled, and He believed beforehand they would be.

3. He believed the Old Testament was historical fact. This is very clear, even from the Creation (cf. Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:4, 5) onward. Much of what Jesus believed has long been under fire from the critics as being mere fiction. Here are some examples of historical facts from the Old Testament attested to by Jesus:
• Luke 11:51 Abel was a real individual
• Matthew. 24:37-39 Noah and the flood (Luke 17:26, 27)
• John 8:56-58 Abraham
• Matthew 10:15; 11:23, 24 (Luke 10:12) Sodom and Gomorrah
• Luke 17:28-32 Lot (and wife!)
• Matthew 8:11 Isaac and Jacob (Luke 13:28)
• John 6:31, 49, 58 Manna
• John 3:14 Serpent
• Matthew 12:39-41 Jonah (vs.42 - Sheba)
• Matthew 24:15 Daniel and Isaiah

4. He believed the books were written by the men whose names they bear:
• Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Torah): Matthew 19:7, 8; Mark 7:10, 12:26 ("Book of Moses" the Torah); Luke 5:14; 16:29, 31; 24:27, 44 ("Christ's Canon"); John 1:17; 5:45, 46; 7:19; ("The Law [Torah] was given by Moses; Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.")
• Isaiah wrote Isaiah: Mark 7:6-13; John 12:37-41.
• Jonah wrote Jonah: Matthew 12:39-41.
• Daniel wrote Daniel: Matthew 24:15.

5. He believed the Old Testament was spoken by God Himself, or written by the Holy Spirit's inspiration, even though the pen was held by men: Matthew 19:4, 5; 22:31, 32, 43; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37.

6. He believed Scripture was more powerful than His miracles: Luke 16:29, 31.

7. He actually quoted it in overthrowing Satan! The O.T. Scriptures were the arbiter in every dispute: Matthew 4; Luke 16:29, 31.

8. He quoted Scripture as the basis for his own teaching. His ethics were the same as what we find already written in Scripture: Matthew 7:12; 19:18, 19; 22:40; Mark 7:9, 13; 10:19; 12:24,29-31; Luke 18:20.

9. He warned against replacing it with something else, or adding or subtracting from it. The Jewish leaders in His day had added to it with their Oral Traditions: Matthew 5:17; 15:1-9; 22:29; (cf. 5:43, 44); Mark. 7:1-12. (Destroying faith in the Bible as God's Word will open the door today to a "new" Tradition.)

10. He will judge all men in the last day, as Messiah and King, on the basis of His infallible Word committed to writing by fallible men, guided by the infallible Holy Spirit: Matthew 25:31; John 5:22, 27; 12:48; Romans 2:16.

11. He made provision for the New Testament by sending the Holy Spirit. We must note that He Himself never wrote one word of Scripture although He is the Word of God Himself (the living Torah in flesh and blood, see John, chapter 1). He committed the task of all writing of the Word of God to fallible men guided by the infallible Holy Spirit. The apostles' words had the same authority as Christ's: Matthew 10:14, 15; Luke 10:16; John 13:20; 14:22; 15:26, 27; 16:12-14.

12. He not only was not jealous of the attention men paid to the Bible, He reviled them for their ignorance of it: Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24.

The above leaves no room but to conclude that our Lord Jesus Christ considered the canon of Scripture as God's Word, written by the hand of men.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why The "Rock" of Matthew 16 Cannot Be Peter

 Anyone familiar with the doctrinal position of the Roman Catholic Church knows her pretended appeal to the superiority of Peter over the other Apostles, which goes so far as the claim that he was the first pope!

The foundation of this supposition is their belief that Christ specifically appointed Peter as the head of the Church in His absence. This was supposedly done in Matthew 16:18. This text reads: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Greek text reads thus: “καγω δε σοι λεγω οτι συ ει πετρος και επι ταυτη τη πετρα οικοδομησω μου την εκκλησιαν και πυλαι αδου ου κατισχυσουσιν αυτης.
It is alleged that when Christ says these words He is claiming that Peter is the rock upon which the Church is to be built. Any fair assessment of the text will not hold such an interpretation. In fact, had Jesus wished to say this, He could simply had said, “You are Peter and upon you I will build My church.” But this isn’t what He said. There is also some interesting word play in the Greek. Peter’s name (πετρος) means “stone.” The word rendered rock (πετρα) refers to something massive, from which the smaller πετρος is broken or chipped. In other words the larger gives meaning to the smaller, not the other way around. Interestingly enough, when Peter himself speaks of the Church’s foundation, he too uses the word (πετρα – 1 Pet. 2:8); however, he specifically and explicitly uses this word to refer to none other than Christ. Paul uses this word too (1 Cor. 10:4), and again, he explicitly says this πετρα is Christ.

As fun as the exegesis of this word may be, there is something more substantial to be found elsewhere in Scripture. The book of Hebrews goes to great lengths to show the insufficiency of the Aaronic priesthood. The reason it could not bring the church into a perfect state is because the high priests were mortals who died one after another (Heb. 7:8, 23-24). The church could never be led into a state of maturity or perfection unless its high priest lived forever. Here’s the point: If the Holy Spirit deemed the Old Testament church to be weak and imperfect because it rested upon high priests who died one after another, are we really to believe that after Christ came to consummate the church He would turn around and re-establish it upon a dying order of priests? Yet this is exactly what the Papacy pretends to be. Even if we were to accept this impossible theory, history tells us of the interruptions of this priesthood that have occurred, not to mention the monstrous villains who have filled the office over the centuries. Are we to believe that Christ came to fulfill the Old Testament priesthood, to be our ultimate High Priest, only to turn the Church back over to the care of mortal priests of weaker caliber and character than the Jewish high priests of old?

Anyone interested in Patristic exegesis of Matthew 16:18 may find a massive collection of excerpts compiled by William Webster here

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