Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chrysostom on Predestination

Then because He said above “And the sheep hear his voice, and follow him,” lest any should say, “What then is this to those who believe not?” hear what He addeth, “And I know My sheep, and am known of Mine.” As Paul declared when he said, “God hath not rejected His people whom He foreknew” ( Rom. xi. 2 ); and Moses, “The Lord knew those that were His” ( 2 Tim. ii. 19; comp. Num. xvi. 5); “those,” He saith, “I mean, whom He foreknew.” Then that thou mayest not deem the measure of knowledge to be equal, hear how He setteth the matter right by adding, “I know My sheep, and am known of Mine.” But the knowledge is not equal. “Where is it equal?” In the case of the Father and Me, for there, "As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father.” Had He not wished to prove this, why should He have added that expression? Because He often ranked Himself among the many, therefore, lest any one should deem that He knew as a man knoweth, He added, “As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father.” “I know Him as exactly as He knoweth Me.” Wherefore He said, “No man knoweth the Son save the Father, nor the Father save the Son” (Luke x. 22), speaking of a distinct kind of knowledge, and such as no other can possess.

John Chrysostom, Homily 60 on John

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why Debate the Mode of Baptism?

“It is sometimes asked, ‘Why dispute as to the mode of baptism? What difference whether the element be applied to the person, or the person put into the element?’ They who thus speak cannot have given much consideration to the matter. First, this subject possesses an incidental importance. Let me illustrate. At present no set of Christians seem to attach very much importance to the mode or posture of the body in the observance of the Lord's Supper. Some partake of that ordinance sitting, some standing, and some kneeling, and no one, on this account, charges another with any impropriety. But supposing a denomination should arise who would adopt reclining as their posture, and who would declare that this being the original mode of observance none other was valid, and they who adopted any other posture did not really observe the ordinance at all, but mocked the Almighty, and were guilty of a great sin. And supposing this denomination, should acquire considerable strength, and manifest an extraordinary zeal in seeking to lure the young and uninstructed of other churches within its own folds, would it not then be the bounden duty of every intelligent Christian, and especially of every religious instructor, to contend earnestly for Christian liberty on this matter, by upholding the truth, as well as by exposing the errors of these zealots, and warning of their proselyting efforts.

Now, if this language be transferred from the mode in the- observance of the supper to the mode in the observance of baptism, we have before us a description of the Baptist denomination, the only difference being that, while ‘reclining’ was undoubtedly the original mode in which the supper was observed, immersion was just as undoubtedly not the original mode of baptism. Baptists have made immersion the corner-stone of their denominational structure. According to their theory, there is, outside of their own circle, no baptism, no Lord's Supper, no Christian ministry, no Christian Church: and of course, therefore, no Christian man.” – W.A. McKay

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Herman Witsius on Romans 5:12

"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Romans 5:2

To illustrate the apostle’s meaning, we must observe these things: 
1st. It is very clear to any not under the power of prejudice, that when the apostle affirms that all have sinned, he speaks of an act of sinning, or of an actual sin; the very term, to sin, denoting an action. It is one thing to sin, another to be sinful, if I may so speak. 
2dly. When he affirms all to have sinned; he under that universality likewise includes those who have no actual, proper, and personal sin, and who, as he himself says, have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, verse 14. Consequently these are also guilty of some actual sin, as appears from their death; but that not being their own proper and personal sin, must be the sin of Adam, imputed to them by the just judgment of God. 
3dly. By these words  ἐφ' ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον for that all have sinned, he gives the reason why he had asserted that by the sin of one man death passed upon all. This, says he, ought not to astonish us, for all have sinned. If we must understand this of some personal sin of each, either actual or habitual, the reasoning would not have been just and worthy of the apostle, but mere trifling. For, his argument would be thus, that by the one sin of one all were become guilty of death, because each in particular had, besides that one and first sin, his own personal sin: which is inconsequential. 
4thly. The scope of the apostle is to illustrate the doctrine of justification he had before treated of. The substance of which consisted in this, that Christ, in virtue of the covenant of grace, accomplished all righteousness for his chosen covenant people, so that the obedience of Christ is placed to their charge, and they, on account thereof, are no less absolved from the guilt and dominion of sin, than if they themselves had done and suffered in their own person, what Christ did and suffered for them. He declares that in this respect, Adam was the type of Christ, namely, as answering to him. It is therefore necessary, that the sin of Adam, in virtue of the covenant of works, be so laid to the charge of his posterity, who were comprised with him in the same covenant that, on account of the demerit of his sin, they are born destitute of original righteousness, and obnoxious to every kind of death, as much as if they themselves, in their own persons, had done what Adam did. Unless we suppose this to be Paul’s doctrine, his words are nothing but mere empty sound. 

Herman Witsius, Economy of the Covenants  1.8.31

Friday, November 14, 2014

Alcuin of York on Grace

“Therefore, God is near the good by nature and by grace: by nature in that he makes them human; by grace in that he justifies those same sinners. By nature, through which he begat them from humans; by grace, through which he gave them power to become children of God (John 1:12). By nature, through which he causes them to live; by grace, through which he causes them to live soberly, justly, and piously (Titus 2:12). By nature, through which he causes them to remain in this world for a short time; by grace, through which he makes them to reign in heaven forever. However, in the bad, there is only the natural immensity and omnipotence of God, through which he made them to exist, to live, to feel, to be reasonable, and also to have free choice of the will, but free not freed. For, free will remains even now in all humans through nature. What God wants in them, he deigns to free through grace lest they have a bad will. For, through that free will the first man was sold under sin; therefore, the freedom of man began to be bad, because the goodness of the will was lost through free will itself. From then on, no one is able to have goodness of will from oneself unless he would have it by being helped by the grace of divine mercy. Without its help, free will is neither able to turn to God nor advance in God. We ought to believe in both the grace of God and the free will of man. For, if there is no grace of God, how can the world be saved? And if there is no free will, how will the world be judged?”

Alcuin of York (735-804), On Faith and the Undivided Trinity 2.8

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ambrose Autpert on Revelation 22:17

How can the one who wills, receive the water of the blessed fountain, if it is only given to a person freely? And surely the Apostle says: It is not of the one willing nor of the one running, but of God who shows mercy (Rom. 9:16). How can one who wills receive, if he receives it freely, unless the grace of God is given for both—grace which makes a person willing from being unwilling, and then once willing, it gratuitously leads him to that which he desires?

It is as if the bountiful one should say of this same grace: Having been inspired gratuitously, he began to desire eternal things, and gratuitously he trusts that he is able to attain them. For, no one except one who wills, receives the water of life; and no one is led to eternal life freely except one who, having been first preceded by grace, begins to will. On this it is said in another passage through the excellent preacher: For, it is God who works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

But the same Apostle seems to be contradictory to this opinion of his, when he says in another passage: The will is present with me, but to do good I do not find (Rom. 7:18). But it should be understood by us that he says the will is present with him, recognizing that he had divinely received this very willingness, because he also says, asking: What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7). Of course, nothing whatsoever!

And so it should be said: The one who thirsts, let him come, as if it were saying: The one who, with grace preceding him, begins to desire eternal delights, should take hold of them with passionate love. And the one who wills, let him receive the water of life freely, you should understand as: The one who was made willing from being unwilling, through no preceding merits of good actions, but gratuitously by the will of God, should copiously drink the water of eternal delight from the invisible fountain.

Ambrose Autpert (730-784), Expositio in Apocalypsin. On Rev. 22:17.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ambrose Autpert on Grace

And because the number of the saints is gathered by no preceding merits, as was said, but only by the gratuitous will of God concerning such, correctly John, about to write to the seven churches which are located in Asia, puts forth the heading of his greeting, saying: Grace to you and peace from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:4-5). For, grace is said to be something that has been given freely, not something paid as a reward, but something conferred freely through kindness. For, when this grace shined within us, we, from enemies were led back to friendship with our Creator, from ungodly were made godly, and from servants of sin were adopted as children of righteousness. Every day we are illuminated by this preceding grace so that we may be able to see where we should place our step regarding good work. We are guarded by subsequent grace so that in the end we are not bitten by a serpent in the heel. By this grace we are incited to good work, but having been incited, unless that grace supports what it has incited, we are unable to complete that same work. On this Paul says: The will is present with me, but to do good I do not find (Rom. 7:18). Accordingly, therefore, the will that is present with you, is only because you received it by grace, as you yourself said in another passage: What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7) Therefore, just as the will was present with Paul because he received this very thing by grace, so he did not find it to do good unless that very grace, which gave him the will, supported it. Accordingly also, the same Apostle says again: It is God who works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). For, John, Peter, and Paul, when they were about to write to believers, put forth this grace in the heading of their greetings in their writings.

Ambrose Autpert (730-784), Expositio in Apocalypsin. On Rev 1:3-5.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review of William Whitaker's "A Disputation on Holy Scripture"

Imagine the most lop-sided competition you can think of - Rocky Marciano versus a 0-100 light flyweight, the 1927 Yankees versus the 1962 Mets, Garry Kasparov versus Homer Simpson - that's what this book feels like. 

Whitaker’s magnum opus is a reply to the Jesuit hero of the Counter-Reformation, Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621). As good a controversialist as Bellarmine may have been, he was so overwhelmingly outclassed by Whitaker that it was almost embarrassing. Whitaker takes on Bellarmine’s defense of the Roman Catholic “unwritten tradition,” and pounds it into cream. The reason that Whitaker’s work is so overpowering is that he takes Bellarmine apart point by point. This work is not simply a reply to any single work of Bellarmine, but against his career-long apology for Romish ‘tradition.’ 

Whitaker wastes no effort in his manhandling of Bellarmine. A key feature is that, rather than stack up countless Patristic citations against Bellarmine, Whitaker goes to the exact same Patristic sources Bellarmine cites to demonstrate that Bellarmine has both cherry-picked his citations and ignored the larger context of the actual citation. He does this so often that you feel tempted to either pity Ballarmine or simply despise his as a rank fool. 

Whitaker points out the ways in which the Fathers used the word tradition. There are 4 ways, says Whitaker, in which the word ‘tradition’ is used by the Fathers: (1) In reference to the Scriptures, (2) in reference to the doctrines of Scripture, (3) in reference to indifferent traditions, regarding which the Fathers are often at odds with each other, (4) in reference to traditions highly valued by the Fathers which Rome does not practice. Uses 1 and 2 are twisted by Bellarmine into an argument from silence in defense of unwritten tradition. This is something Whitaker shows cannot be sustained by either the immediate context of the Patristic citation in question or the overall work of the Father cited. Uses 3 and 4 are conveniently ignored by Bellarmine. Whitaker gives no quarter.

Another defense Bellarmine has recourse to is the claim that Scripture is not intended to be the rule of doctrine and practice, but merely a ‘commonitory’ i.e., a manual for good living. Whitaker mops the floor with this argument as well. First he notes how deceptive Rome is because they themselves refer to the Scriptures as the “canonical’ Scriptures. ‘Canon,’ by definition means a RULE. Plainly, Bellarmine is being duplicitous, and Whitaker wastes no time pointing this out. Secondly, Whitaker points out that if Scripture were merely meant as a rule-book or manual for good Christian living, it could stand to be a lot shorter. Anyone can see, that by this standard, Scripture contains much that is either irrelevant or superfluous. 

Bellarmine then flips and says that Scripture is indeed a rule, however, not the only rule. Whitaker shows the logical fallacy involved in this position as well. First of all, Bellarmine’s duplicity shows itself in bright colors here since he has just asserted that Scripture is not a rule. When he gets schooled on the very Patristic sources he has used (rather, abused) to promote this assertion, he then attempts to sidestep Whitaker by saying that Scripture is a rule, just not the sole rule. This is, of course, logically inconsistent. Scripture cannot serve as a rule unless it is the only rule. Bellarmine is too smart to get away with such poor reasoning, and Whitaker won’t let him.

A most amusing feature about Bellarmine's defense of 'tradition' against the sufficiency of Scripture, relegating Scripture to functioning as a ‘commonitory,’ is that this is exactly the position argued by so-called ‘Evangelicals’ today. Who would’ve thought that people who are supposedly on Whitaker’s side would be treating Scripture exactly as the Counter-Reformation Jesuit enemies of the Gospel of Whitaker’s day? The feel-good evangelical preachers of our day constantly refer to Scripture as God’s “owner’s manual” for life. I’ve heard it a million times from the popular TV preachers and their multitudinous mimics. Joel Osteen=Robert Bellarmine – who knew? Whitaker must by turning in his grave! 

This is an excellent book and worth the effort on every level. It contains a wealth of Scriptural arguments for the sufficiency of Scripture. I have tangled with a few Romish apologists who like to assert that Scripture doesn't teach our doctrine of ‘sola Scriptura.’ Five minutes with the book will explode that assertion for the idiocy that it is. If you are looking for a defense of the sufficiency of Scripture, look no further.

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