July 25, 2016

Patrick Fairbairn (1805–1874) on the Will of God; With Reference to Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11, and 1 Timothy 2:4

Ezek. 18:23:
What a beautiful simplicity and directness in the statement! It is like the lawgiver anew setting before the people the way of life and the way of death, and calling upon them to determine which of the two they were inclined to choose. Then, what a moving tenderness in the appeal, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked? saith the Lord God.” You think of me as if I were a heartless being, indifferent to the calamaties that befall my children, and even delighting to inflict chastisement on them for sins they have not committed. So far from this, I have no pleasure in the destruction of those who by their own transgressions have deserved it, but would rather that they turn from their ways and live. Thus he presents himself as a God of holy love,—love yearning over the lost condition of his wayward children, and earnestly desiring their return to peace and safety,—yet still exercising itself in strict accordance with the principles of righteousness, and only, in so far as these might admit, seeking the good of men. For however desirous to secure their salvation, he neither can nor will save them, except in the way of righteousness.
A yearning tenderness here manifests itself, still seeking, notwithstanding all that has taken place, the return of those who survived to the way of peace. But with that tenderness, what a stern and unflinching holiness! There can be no relaxation or abatement mentioned in respect to this, not even amid the moanings of pain and cries of distress which arose from the people,—no return to life possible but through a return to righteousness. God is anxious, as a kind and affectionate parent, to see them restored to a happy and prosperous condition; he would not have them ignorant of that. But they must also know that in God’s sight there was a higher thing still, which he could on no account sacrifice for the sake of the other; he must maintain in his dealings with them the honour of his authority and the rectitude of his government; and only if they turn from their wicked ways, can he turn from his fierce displeasure. Here, therefore, stands the one door-way of escape; and the prophet, in entering upon the second department of his ministerial calling, must begin by reiterating the message with which he entered on the first (chap. iii. 18–21), and which he had also subsequently repeated and enlarged upon (chap. xviii.)—the message, namely, that each should be dealt with according to his ways. The righteousness of the righteous should not deliver him if he turned aside to transgression; but neither would the wickedness of the wicked prove his destruction, if he sincerely repented of his sins and laid hold of the covenant of God. These are God’s terms now, as they have been all along; the Lord’s servant has no other to offer; and if they are not concurred in, recovery is impossible.

1 Tim. 2:4:
Then follows the reason why such conduct [i.e. making intercession for all men] meets with God’s approval as right and proper: who willeth all men to be saved, and to come to the full knowledge of the truth—ἐπίγνωσιν, knowledge in the fuller sense, knowledge that reaches its end, saving knowledge; and the governing verb, it will be observed, is θέλει, not the stronger βούλεται, which would have expressed will with an implied purpose or intent (see at ver. 8). Nothing can be better than the comment of Chrysostom here: “Imitate God. If He is willing that all men should be saved, it is meet to pray for all. If He willed that all should be saved, do thou also will it; but if thou willest, pray; for it is the part of such to pray. . . . But if God wills it, you will say, what need is there for my prayers? This is the great benefit both for you and for them: it draws them to love; thyself, again, it prevents from being treated as a wild beast; and such things are fitted to allure them to faith.” There seems no need for going beyond this practical aspect of the matter; and either to press the passage on the one side, with some, to universalism,—as if it bespoke the comprehension of all within God’s purpose of salvation,—or, on the other, to limit it, so as to make, not strictly all men, but only all sorts of men (with Calvin and others), the object of the good contemplated, is equally to strain the natural import of the words. It seems to me unnatural to understand the all men, twice so distinctly and emphatically expressed, as indicative of anything but mankind generally—men not merely without distinction of class or nation, but men at large, who certainly, as such, are to be prayed for. As the objects of the church’s intercessions, there can be no difference drawn between one portion and another; and we are expressly taught to plead for all, because it is the will of God that they should be saved—σωθηναι: not His will absolutely to save them, as if the word had been σώσαι; but that they may be brought through the knowledge and belief of the truth into the state of the saved. And the whole character of the gospel of Christ, with its universal call to repent, its indiscriminate offers of pardon to the penitent, and urgent entreaties to lay hold of the hope set before them, is framed on very purpose to give expression to that will; for, surely, in pressing such things on men’s acceptance, yea, and holding them disobedient to His holy will, and liable to aggravated condemnation, if they should refuse to accept, God cannot intend to mock them with a mere show and appearance of some great reality being brought near to them. No; there is the manifestation of a benevolent desire that they should not die in sin, but should come to inherit salvation (as at Ezek. xxxiii. 11), if only they will do it in the way that alone is consistent with the principles of His moral government and the nature of Christ’s mediation. This, necessarily, is implied; and it is the part of the church, by her faithful exhibition of the truth in Christ, by her personal strivings with the souls of men, and earnest prayers in their behalf, to give practical effect to this message of goodwill from Heaven to men, and to do it in the spirit of tenderness and affection which itself breathes.

Such appears to be the fair and natural interpretation of the apostle’s declaration, and the whole that it properly calls us to intermeddle with. It is true that all whom God wills to be thus entreated and prayed for shall not actually be saved—not even many who have enjoyed in the highest degree the means and opportunities of such dealing. And seeing, as God does, the end from the beginning, knowing perfectly beforehand whom He has, and whom He has not destined to salvation, grave questions are ready to arise as to whether the work of Christ can be really sufficient to meet the emergency occasioned by the ruin of sin, or whether God be sincere in seeking through His church the salvation of all,—questions which touch upon the deep things of God, and which it is impossible for us, with the material we now possess, to answer satisfactorily to the speculative reason. Knowing who and what He is with whom in such things we have to do, we should rest assured that His procedure will be in truth and uprightness; and that the mysteries which meanwhile appear to hang around it will be solved to the conviction of every reasonable mind, when the proper time for doing so shall have arrived. But enough is known for present duty. God has unfolded for one and all alike the terms of reconciliation: He is willing, nay desirous, for His own glory’s sake, that men should everywhere embrace them; and for this end has committed to His church the ministry of reconciliation, charging it upon the conscience of her members to strive and pray that all without exception be brought to the saving knowledge of the truth. What more can be required for faith to rest on, and for the interecessions and labours of an earnest ministry?
DNB

July 23, 2016

A. C. Denlinger on Robert Baron (c.1596–1639) and God’s Universal Saving Will

God’s Universal Will to Save

Baron’s discussion of ‘the true sense of that statement “God wants all to be saved”’ occurs in the context of lengthy reflections about ‘whether God, who wants all to be saved (as the Apostle says in 1 Tim. 2), has denied the nations destitute of faith in Christ the means necessary unto salvation’.26 Having previously argued that explicit faith in Jesus Christ, who is revealed only in the gospel, is necessary for salvation, Baron notes ‘an infinite multitude in the New World and the more remote parts of Asia and Africa who lack the light of the gospel’.27 God’s providential withholding of the gospel from so many persons seems hard to reconcile with God’s desire for their salvation.

In formulating a response to this ‘serious and difficult question’ Baron takes his cues primarily from Augustine’s fifth-century disciple Prosper of Aquitaine, who ‘contemplated this mystery more than all the Fathers of the ancient church’.28 In his work De vocatione omnium gentium, Prosper advanced three assertions which, in Baron’s judgement, comprise the right theological response to the question at hand. ‘The first is that God wills all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’29 With Prosper, Baron understands ‘all men’ in the apostolic affirmation quoted (1 Tim. 2.14) to mean every human person without exception; no one is excluded in the divine will to save.30 ‘The second is that no one is actually saved or comes to a knowledge of the truth by his own merits or abilities, but only by the power and operation of divine grace’.31 Third and finally, ‘no one in this life can know exactly why God does not administer means of grace equally to all, or why God, who wants all to be saved, does not save all’.32

Prosper’s assertions do not serve to alleviate the tension inherent to the question at hand; they serve to state it with greater force and clarity. His first and second assertions, in particular, establish an apparent contradiction between God’s sentiments and his actions towards humankind, or at least towards those who are not ultimately saved. God loves them and wills their salvation. God denies them a particular grace without which they will not be saved. His third assertion, far from serving to resolve this paradox, asserts the futility of attempting – at least ‘in this life’ – to reconcile these seemingly contradictory truths.

According to Baron, then, the proper dogmatic response to the apparent contradiction between God’s universal will to save and God’s sovereign discrimination in the distribution of his saving grace is to assert both truths with equal rigour. Neither truth, in other words, should be watered down or washed away in service to the other. This, of course, requires a rather careful balancing act; Baron proceeds by identifying two categories of theologians who ‘shrink back from the moderation and modesty of St Prosper’ on this issue, exalting one dogmatic truth at the expense of the other.

On one hand are ‘those who affirm that God’s grace for the obtaining of salvation is universal, so that its efficacy in some persons rather than others depends upon the freedom of man’s will’.33 Baron has in mind certain medieval scholastics as well as contemporary Jesuit thinkers who:
explain and confirm their opinion with that well-known axiom facienti quod in se est Deus non denegat gratiam. If, they say, the nations were to make good use of those natural gifts and means of salvation originally distributed to them, then God, who does not deny grace to those who do what lies within them, would grant them fuller grace, … and lead them finally to a knowledge of Christ.34
Those advancing this position, Baron notes, deny that man can properly (or condignly) ‘merit grace through a good use of free will’. They affirm, however, that man might, ‘by virtue of his natural abilities’, render himself ‘disposed to grace’ –or at least ‘less indisposed to grace’ – which God in turn will grant according to his promise.35

In Baron’s judgement such doctrine ‘is clearly semi-Pelagian, and hence contrary to Scripture and the general consensus of the Fathers’. He rejects it on the grounds that it makes God a debtor to man in the distribution of his saving grace: ‘If God has regard to deeds performed by the virtues of [human] nature when he confers helping grace upon some and denies the same to others, then our calling unto salvation in some way depends upon our works, contrary to Paul’s teaching in Rom. 11.6, Eph. 2.8–9, 2 Tim. 1.9, and Tit. 3.9.’ Moreover, such a doctrine creates space for human boasting: ‘The one who is called has distinguished himself [by his proper use of natural gifts] from the one who is not, contrary to Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 4.7: “Who has set you apart from others? And what do you have that you have not received?”’36

While rejecting the positive assertion that man might elicit saving grace from God through the right use of natural gifts, Baron acknowledges some truth in the inverse claim that man’s abuse of natural gifts ‘provides a peculiar reason that he is denied grace’.37 ‘Sacred Scripture’, notes Baron, ‘clearly testifies that man’s prior rejection of God is a cause of divine dereliction: “Because you have forsaken Jehovah, he has forsaken you” (2 Chron. 24.20).’38 But two caveats are required. First, it should be noted that God also, and justly, denies men grace because ‘they have sinned in Adam’s loins’, regardless of their subsequent abuse of natural gifts.39 In other words, actual sins merely aggravate the culpability established by original sin. So ‘Thomas, following Augustine, says that grace is justly withheld from those to whom it is not given as punishment for previous sin, even original sin’.40 It should be noted, secondly, that human sin – whether original or actual – provides no ‘exact or adequate explanation for why certain men are denied grace, since … grace is given to other men who are no less unworthy’.41

Equally removed, on the other hand, from Prosper’s ‘moderation and modesty’ are those who ‘recklessly affirm that no divine grace whatsoever extends to those who have not received the gospel’, and that, ‘in the end, God in no way wants them to be saved’.42 Here Baron has in mind certain Reformed peers who, he says, interpret the biblical phrase ‘God wants all to be saved’ to mean not that God wants ‘every person’ to be saved, but that he wants ‘every kind of person, i.e. individuals from every nation, rank and position’ to be saved; thus they ultimately understand ‘all’ as a reference ‘only to the elect’, who in fact receive the means necessary to salvation. According to Baron, ‘the principal reason they cling so tenaciously to this stern doctrine’ is recognition that ‘if God wants some to be saved who are not actually saved, it follows that in God there is somehow an ineffective will, a desire for things to happen which never in fact occur, and this seems absurd’.43

In response to these theologians Baron argues that God has granted some grace even to those who are not ultimately elected to eternal life – ‘not only to the reprobate living within the church, but also to the nations’ – and has done so from a genuine desire that they seek him. Concerning ‘the reprobate within the church’: these ‘are granted certain gracious assistances, not only externally but also internally (Heb. 6.4–5)’.44 Baron appeals to those theologians who belonged to the British delegation to the Synod of Dort, who in their suffrage on the articles of that Synod affirmed that ‘God truly and earnestly calls and invites the reprobate within the church to faith and repentance, and neither deserts them nor desists from pushing them forward in the way of true conversion until they first desert him by voluntarily neglecting or rejecting his grace’.45 He anticipates an objection: ‘You will say it follows that the reason one rather than another is converted is to be found not in God, but in men themselves; one made good use, another bad, of that initial grace given to them.’ Baron unequivocally rejects such an implication, insisting that both ‘the elect who are actually converted’ and ‘the reprobate’ equally ‘abuse that initial grace’. Indeed ‘all [within the church] are called by God in a certain manner which they resist’, but while God ‘justly deserts some because they have first deserted him’, others are ‘not deserted, but are led by an extraordinary and peculiar grace of God to genuine faith and repentance, and are saved’.46

Those outside the church have some grace and certain gifts entrusted to them as well; they have ‘the law of nature written on their hearts (Rom. 2.14–15)’ and some further ‘witness to God (Acts 14.17)’ through ‘the works of creation’. Baron quotes Rom. 1.19–20: ‘What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.’47 He discovers in Acts 17.27 a clear statement of the purpose for such divine self-disclosure: ‘It is said that God offers these means to them “in order that they might seek him”.’ Nevertheless some – Baron specifically names contemporary English divine William Twisse – discover in the ultimate clause of Romans 1.20 (‘so that men are without excuse’) a rather different purpose for God’s witness to himself in creation; they insist that ‘these means are imparted to [those who are not ultimately saved] merely in order to render them anapologia, that is, inexcusable before God’.48

Baron takes strong exception to this interpretation of the final clause of Romans 1.20: ‘These words should not be understood to indicate cause, but only consequence; in other words, they should not be read as naming the reason that God manifests his invisible qualities to the nations, but only as naming the actual outcome of that manifestation.’ It is man’s sinful response to God’s self-disclosure through ‘the works of creation’ that properly renders man anapologia in the judgement; thus ‘inexcusability before God’ is ‘only secondarily and per accidens, not per se, an end of God’s manifestation’.49 He highlights the support his reading of Romans 1.20 finds in the biblical commentaries of Reformed theologians Heinrich Bullinger, Martin Bucer, Augustin Marlorat, Wolfgang Musculus and David Pareus.50 And he discovers a further argument in his favour in the claim of Rom. 1.21 that ‘those who knew God’ through his self-disclosure in creation ‘did not give thanks to God.’ He explains:
If God offered these means [of knowing him] to those who are perishing only to the end of rendering them inexcusable, then those means offered to them would not have the proper character of gifts, and consequently, those who abused those means and rendered themselves anapologia or inexcusable would be falsely accused of ingratitude towards God.51
The charge of ingratitude against those who squander the gift of God’s testimony to himself in creation assumes that such testimony flows from a genuine desire for their good and well-being.

As noted above, Baron perceives the fundamental objection against a universal salvific will in God to be that it credits God, at least by implication, with an ineffective will; he tackles this problem in a discrete section titled ‘whether there is in God a certain will which is ineffective or conditional’.52 Baron answers ‘yes’ to that question. God genuinely wills the salvation of all, but all are not saved; something, therefore, renders that divine will ineffective. He recognizes, however, that ‘Arminians, Lutherans, and some Romanists’ also affirm an ineffective will in God, and he is keen to dissociate his view from:
those who teach that God equally or indifferently seeks and intends the salvation of all, so that the reason one is saved rather than another is to be sought not in God’s eternal election or the measure and quality of grace which men in time receive, but in the free volition of men themselves, presupposing some grace.53
In contrast to any such scheme of grace and salvation, Baron affirms that:
God generally wills all to be saved by his conditional or ineffective will, but he also specifically intends and seeks the salvation of certain men by his effective will, and he decrees the salvation of certain men prior to any foreknowledge of faith, repentance, or good works which they in time will perform.54
The arguments that Baron subsequently advances serve to demonstrate the reality of some ineffective will in God per se, regardless of its orientation towards the salvation of all. He notes, for example, that God ‘loves and prescribes many good works in his law’. If God loves certain works, he must genuinely desire their performance by men. But ‘many good works which God prescribes do not happen’. Thus, Baron reasons, ‘it is necessary to attribute to God a certain will or volition which is, in fact, ineffective’.55 Likewise, ‘God often, in sacred scripture, promises men good things, some temporal and some eternal, which in fact they never receive because they fail to fulfil some condition which is attached to the promise’. So, for example, ‘God promised Cain his favour and acceptance, adding the condition “if you do well” (Gen. 4); God promised the Israelites that he would dispel the remaining nations from the land, adding the condition “if you cling to Jehovah” (Josh. 23. 5, 8)’. Similarly, ‘Adam and his posterity were promised immortality on condition of obedience’. Such conditional promises, Baron reasons, require recognition of ‘a certain ineffective will in God’, for a promise made to man without some corresponding desire that man fulfil the prescribed condition and inherit that which is promised would be ‘false, deceitful, and hypocritical’.56

Baron also appeals to authorities in support of his doctrine: ‘A conditional or ineffective will in God for the salvation of all is acknowledged not only by the sacred Fathers, … but also by many orthodox theologians.’ Among the Fathers he names Chrysostom, Jerome, Prosper, John of Damascus, ‘and, indeed, Augustine himself ’ as supporters of his doctrine. Among orthodox Reformed theologians he names Jerome Zanchi, Amandus Polanus and Musculus.57 Lucas Trelcatius, he notes further, ‘distinguishes between an absolute and a conditional divine will, even if he does not explicitly say that God, by virtue of his conditional will, wants all to be saved’.58 Pareus, moreover, ‘not only acknowledges a conditional will (which he also calls “antecedent”) in God, but also asserts that, according to it, God wills all to be saved by faith, i.e., on the condition that they believe in the Son of God’.59 So also Daniel Chamier ‘distinguishes between … God’s will of approbation and his will of decree, and says that God, by virtue of the former, wills all to come to salvation’.60

Baron addresses, finally, two objections to the doctrine of an ineffective or conditional will in God. Some theologians, he notes first, refuse to attribute an ineffective will to God because they deem such ‘to be an imperfection’. He responds that ‘an ineffective will is only an imperfection when it exists in one who is unable to procure that which he wills’. God, of course, is able to accomplish whatever he desires. Hence his will for certain outcomes remains ineffective merely by virtue of his own free decision not to achieve his desire.61 In other words, what trumps God’s (ineffective) desire for some end is not a force or forces outside of God, but God’s own effective desire for some other end.

‘Some say’, secondly:
that if God wants all to be saved on condition of faith and repentance, it follows that God’s decision concerning the salvation of men remains in suspense until he foresees who will fulfil that condition and who will not. Consequently, the reason he elects one man and not another lies in those men themselves; that is, God foresees that one man and not another will fulfil that condition of faith and repentance under which he wants all to be saved.
Baron again rejects the claim that a doctrine of a divine, ineffective will only properly fits in such a heterodox scheme of election. He argues: ‘Just as God from eternity wills to grant men salvation on condition of faith and repentance, so also from eternity, and without any foresight of human volitional consent, he resolves to grant certain men the most effective resources to fulfil that condition, and denies the same to other men.’ God, in other words, also has an effective will, by which he determines without regard to future human decisions that some men will indeed be saved and others will not. Baron concludes his defence of God’s ineffective, universal will to save by stressing again the proper relationship between divine election and human faith: ‘God has not elected any man to glory because he foresaw that that man would fulfil the condition of faith and repentance. On the contrary, he himself causes the condition to be fulfilled in a man because he has elected that man to glory.’62
_______________
27. Ibid., p. 29. For Baron’s argument regarding the necessity of explicit faith in Christ for salvation, see pp. 22–9.
28. Ibid., pp. 29–30, 48.
29. Ibid., p. 30, citing Prosper of Aquitaine, De vocatione omnium gentium, 2.1 (PL vol. 51, p. 686).
30. See Prosper, De vocatione, 2.2 (PL vol. 51, pp. 687–8).
31. Baron, Septenarius sacer, p. 30, citing Prosper, De vocatione, 2.1 (PL vol. 51, pp. 686–7).
32. Ibid., p. 30, citing Prosper, De vocatione, 2.1 (PL vol. 51, p. 687).
33. Ibid., p. 31.
34. Ibid., p. 35.
35. Ibid., pp. 35–8. In addition to the medieval scholastics Durandus of Saint-Pourcain, Duns Scotus and Gabriel Biel, Baron names the Jesuits Luis de Molina and Leonard Lessius as representatives of the doctrine that man can, by virtue of his natural abilities, render himself ‘disposed or prepared for grace’ (pp. 35–7). He names the Jesuits Francisco Suarez and Diego Ruiz de Montoya as representatives of the doctrine that man can, by virtue of his natural abilities, render himself at least ‘less indisposed to grace’ (pp. 37–8).
36. Ibid., pp. 36–7.
37. Ibid., p. 45.
38. Ibid., p. 40. Baron also references Prov. 1.24.
39. Ibid., p. 45.
40. Ibid., p. 46, citing Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 2a2ae, 2, 5, ad primum.
41. Ibid., p. 41.
42. Ibid., p. 31.
43. Ibid., p. 31.
44. Ibid., p. 47. Baron does not define these ‘external’ or ‘internal’ graces specifically; presumably he has in mind the general call of the gospel and some internal promptings of God’s Spirit towards repentance. He distinguishes these ‘assistances’ from the God’s ‘efficacious call’ to the elect.
45. Ibid., p. 47, paraphrasing the delegates’ 3rd and 4th positions on the 3rd and 4th articles; see Anthony Milton, The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2005), pp. 253–4.
46. Ibid., p. 47, referencing the British delegation’s 6th and 7th positions on the 3rd and 4th articles at Dort; see Milton, British Delegation, pp. 255–6.
47. Ibid., p. 31.
48. Ibid., p. 31. See William Twisse, Vindiciae gratiae, potestatis, ac providentiae Dei (Amsterdam: Ioannem Ianssonium, 1632), lib. 1, pars 2, sect. 12.
49. Ibid., p. 34.
50. Ibid., pp. 33–4.
51. Ibid., p. 33.
52. Ibid., pp. 49–54.
53. Ibid., p. 49
54. Ibid.
55. Ibid., p. 50.
56. Ibid., pp. 50–1.
57. Ibid., pp. 52–3, citing Zanchius, De natura Dei (Heidelberg: Iacobus Mylius, 1577), lib. 3, ca. 4, q. 3; Polanus, Syntagma theologiae christianae (Hanau: Wechelianis, 1609), lib. 2, ca. 19; Musculus, Loci communes (Erfurt: Georgium Bauuman, 1563), ca. De volunte Dei, ca. De remissione peccatorum.
58. Ibid., p. 53, citing Trelcatius, Institutio theologiae (London: Iohannis Bill, 1604), lib. 1, disp. De Deo.
59. Ibid., citing Pareus, Roberti Bellarmini … de gratia et libero arbitrio libri VI...explicati et castigati studio (Heidelberg: Iohannis Lancelloti, 1614), lib. 2, ca. 3.
60. Ibid., citing Chamier, Panstratiae Catholicae, sive, controversiarum de religione advresus Pontificios corpus (Geneva: typis Roverianis, 1626), tom. 3, lib. 7, ca. 6, and tom. 2, lib. 3, ca. 9, para. 19.
61. Ibid., pp. 53–4.
62. Ibid., p. 54.
Aaron Clay Denlinger, “Scottish Hypothetical Universalism: Robert Baron (c.1596–1639) on God’s Love and Christ’s Death for All,” in Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland: Essays on Scottish Theology 1560–1775, ed. Aaron Clay Denlinger (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), 87–94.

For more on Baron and the extent of the atonement, see here (link).

Bio:
DNB (2

July 22, 2016

George Downame (c.1563–1634) on the Love and Favor of God

God loveth and favoureth [Wis. 11:24] all his creatures, he is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works, Psa. 145:9. giving all things to all, Acts 17:25. yet among the bodily creatures he respecteth and favoureth men chiefly, 1 Cor. 9:9; Psa. 8:4; Matt. 6:26, 30; Prov. 8:31, for which cause φιλανθρωπία (love of mankind) is attributed to him. Among men he favoureth the faithful more than the rest, 1 Tim. 4:10. who are therefore called the favourites of God, as I have shown before. Among them the Lord especially favoureth Ministers and Magistrates, Psa. 105:15. who are also called the favourites of God, not only in respect of justifying grace (which is equal in all to whom it is vouchsafed) but also in respect of their functions, and the gifts of grace bestowed on them for the good of others, Deut. 33:8; 2 Chron. 6:41; Psa. 4:4, 132:6, 16. To which purpose Augustine saith well, God loveth all things which he hath made; and among them he loveth more the reasonable creatures; and among them he loveth more amply those, who are the members of his only begotten Son; and much more his only begotten himself, the son of his love [Omnia diligit Deus, quae fecit; et inter ea magis diligit creaturas rationales; et de illis eas amplius quae sunt menbra unigeniti sui. Et multo magis ipsum unigenitum]. And generally, by how much the better any man is than others, it is an evidence, that he is so much graced and favoured of God: the grace and favour of God being the cause of their goodness, and consequently the greater favour of greater goodness.
George Downame, A Treatise of Justification (London: Printed by Felix Kyngston for Nicolas Bourne, and are to be sold at his shop, at the South Entrance of the Royall Exchange, 1633), 114–115. [some English updated]

Bio:

July 2, 2016

Leonard H. Verduin (1897–1999): A Chronology of His Life and a Bibliographic Index

[Work in Progress]
by
Tony Byrne


Introduction

Early in my Christian life, because of the so-called “Lordship salvation debate,” I began searching into the issue of the differing views throughout church history on the continuities and discontinuities between the OT and NT. When I began to investigate the Reformation era and the “Anabaptists,” Leonard Verduin’s writings were particularly helpful, especially his insights on the theme of church-state relations. Since the early 1990’s, he has been one of my favorite authors. I love his writing style and historical honesty. Consequently, I wish to honor this man by providing the church with a biographical sketch of his life and a chronological bibliography of his writings. John Stead rightly said:
It is unfortunate that his [Verduin’s] works have not received greater circulation. He reads all the languages of the Reformation fluently, thereby allowing him access to the actual writings and documents. In my estimation, his historiography is of the highest quality. What Paul Johnson did for historiography in exposing the utopian schemes of the twentieth century, Verduin does in the bringing forward the great contributions of the dissenters from A.D. 313 to the founding of this nation [the U.S.].
John P. Stead, “Developing a Biblical View of Church and State,” in Think Biblically: Rediscovering a Christian Worldview, ed. John MacArthur (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003), 350n3.

It is hoped that the following information will help his works to receive greater attention and circulation. This index is original research. Please do not copy or reproduce without my permission or without linking back to this post.

I. Biographical Information

A Chronology of His Life
  • Born March 9, 1897 in South Holland, Illinois. He was the son of Cornelius Verduin and Aartje Swets. Leonard was the 8th of nine children born of this marriage. He had a brother named John and one named Harry.
  • Baptized around 3 years old since his father, at the time, was having doubts about infant baptism.
  • Married Hattie Timmermans in 1918. He had sons named Arthur, Cal, and Ron. His great granddaughter is Elizabeth.
  • In 1920 he moved to Hull, Iowa, where he attended Western Academy, a Christian Reformed high school.
  • Moved to Grand Rapids in 1923 so that Verduin could attend Calvin College.
  • Graduated Calvin College in 1926.
  • Earned a Th.B degree from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1929.
  • Ordained in 1929.
  • Pastored in Corsica, South Dakota from 1929 to 1941.
  • Appointed chaplain at the campus chapel in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1942. The history of the chapel can be read here: http://www.campuschapel.org/about-us/our-history/
  • Invited John Christian Wenger to his home in Ann Arbor in August of 1942. Around this time he might have also had contact with prominent Mennonite scholar Harold S. Bender.
  • During this time in Ann Arbor he received a master’s degree in history (A.M. from the University of Michigan), and he developed a wide range of linguistic skills, including Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German (medieval and modern), and French. He already knew Dutch.
  • Around 1946, Verduin accepted the task of translating the works of Menno Simons.
  • In May 1948, he completed the task of translating some 300 pages of the second part of the 1681 Dutch edition of Simons’writings.
  • Stayed in the Netherlands 1950–1951 on a Fulbright scholarship to study the Protestant Reformation in that country, and perfected his academic Dutch.
  • In October 1954, Verduin completed translating most of the first part of the 1681 edition of Simons’ work. Over the next few years he translated several additional items.
  • His translation of The Complete Writings of Menno Simons came out in 1956.
  • Served on a three-person synodical committee (Belgic Confession Revision Committee) in 1957 to consider a possible revision.
  • In 1961, the Synod disagreed with Verduin’s recommendations for the revision and proposed  changes to Article 36 without explanation.
  • Retired as chaplain in 1962. According to Arthur, his son, Verduin was offered an academic position at Goshen College in Indiana, but he declined, preferring to enjoy his retirement.
  • Published The Reformers and Their Stepchildren in 1964.
  • Published Toward a Theistic Creationism in 1969.
  • Published Somewhat Less Than God in 1970.
  • Published The Anatomy of a Hybrid in 1976.
  • In June 1977 (at age 80), Verduin, as one of seven members, was appointed to a special committee with the task of preparing a fresh translation of the Belgic Confession that would match the contemporary language of the Heidelberg Catechism and the canons of Dort. The committee started its deliberations in September of 1977 and concluded its work in 1985.
  • His wife, Hattie, whom he was married to for almost 70 years, passed away on July 27, 1987.
  • Published Honor Your Mother in 1988.
  • In 1997 (at age 100), he and his oldest son, Arthur, traveled to Sarasota to meet John J. Overholt.
  • Published That First Amendment and the Remnant in Sarasota in 1998.
  • Died November 10, 1999 (at age 102) in Payson, Arizona.
  • Eulogies given by Rev. Don Postema and Rev. William Buursma on November 18, 1999.
Sources for Biographical Information


William Buursma, “Rev. Leonard Verduin, 1897–1999,” Origins 18.1 (Spring 2000): 7–9. https://www.calvin.edu/hh/origins/Spring00.pdf

Gerlof D. Homan, “Torn Between Two Faiths? American Calvinist Leonard Verduin’s Anabaptist-Mennonite Connection,” Mennonite Quarterly Review 78.2 (April 2004): 271–295.

Christian Reformed Church Ministers Database

Pictures of the Rev. L. Verduin


II. Books

The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964; repr. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980). This book emerged out of a series of lectures sponsored by the Calvin Foundation in Grand Rapids in the fall of 1963.

Toward A Theistic Creationism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1969).

Somewhat Less Than God: The Biblical View of Man (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970).

The Anatomy of a Hybrid: A Study in Church-State Relationships (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976).

Honor Your Mother: Christian Reformed Church Roots in the Secession of 1834 (Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications, 1988).

That First Amendment and the Remnant (Sarasota, FL: Christian Hymnary Publishers, 1998/2007).

Common Grace and Its Bearing on Church and State: A Paper Read Before the Theology Forum (Mennonite Hist. Library, n.d.).

III. Book Contributions

Leonard Verduin, “Tests for the Proper Celebration of the Lord’s Supper,” in Sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism, vol. 3: Sermons on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Lord’s Days 25–31), ed. Henry J. Kuiper (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1938).

Leonard Verduin, “Luther’s Dilemma: Restitution or Reformation?,” in The Dawn of Modern Civilization: Studies in Renaissance, Reformation and Other Topics Presented to Honor Albert Hyma, ed. Kenneth A. Strand (Ann Arbor, MI: Ann Arbor Publishers, 1962).

Also in “Luther’s Dilemma: Restitution or Reformation?,” in Essays on Luther, ed. Kenneth A. Strand (Ann Arbor, MI: 1969), 73–96.

The Complete Writings of Menno Simmons, trans. Leonard Verduin (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1956/1966/1984/1986).

The Church Orders of the Sixteenth Century Reformed Churches of the Netherlands: Together with their Social, Political, and Ecclesiastical Context , trans. and ed. by Richard A. DeRidder with the assistance of Peter H. Jonker and Leonard Verduin (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin Theological Seminary, 1987).

IV. Journal Articles

Unknown title, The Banner (March 3, 1933).

Unknown title, The Banner (July 24, 1934).

“Ostrich Nurture,” The Banner 6 (July 1939): 627.

















“Menno Simons’ Theology Reviewed,” Mennonite Quarterly Review 24 (January 1950): 53–64.


“As to Being Sectarian,” The Calvin Forum 16.10 (May 1951): 210–213.

“Communism—God’s Servant?,” The Reformed Journal 1.3 (May 1951): 13–14.

“Church and State—A Historical Survey: I. The Apostolic Age,” The Reformed Journal 2.10 (October 1952): 12–13.

“Church and State—A Historical Survey: II. The Fallen Church,” The Reformed Journal 2.11 (November 1952): 12–14.

“Church and State—A Historical Survey: III. The Reformers,” The Reformed Journal 2.12 (December 1952): 6–8.

“Church and State—A Historical Survey: IV. After the Reformation,” The Reformed Journal 3.1 (January 1953): 9–12.

“Religion and the State University,” The Calvin Forum 18.6 (January 1953): 105–107.

“The ‘Absolute’ Antithesis,” The Reformed Journal 3.6 (June 1953): 10–13.

“Biblical Christianity and Culture Composition,” The Reformed Journal 3.10 (October 1953): 1–5.

“Luther, the Fortunate,” The Reformed Journal 4.6 (June 1954): 8–10.

“Pharisaitis,” The Calvin Forum 19.11 (June – July 1954): 219–220.

“Luther Was Not Alone,” The Reformed Journal 4.7 (July–August 1954): 6–8.

“As Sons of Olivianus (Part I),” The Reformed Journal 5.1 (January 1955): 13–16.

“As Sons of Olivianus (Part II),” The Reformed Journal 5.2 (February 1955): 11–15.

“As Sons of Olivianus (Part III),” The Reformed Journal 5.3 (March 1955): 13–16.

“As Sons of Olivianus (Part IV),” The Reformed Journal 5.4 (April 1955): 12–15.

“Reformed Faith and Symmetrism,” The Reformed Journal 5.9 (October 1955): 1–3.

“On the IUS Reformandi,” The Reformed Journal 6.2 (February 1956): 15; see also “The Interesting Quotation,” Progressive Calvinism 2.4 (April 1956): 122–123. The editor is quoting from Verduin’s 1956 article in The Reformed Journal.

“Apostate from Reformed Principles?,” The Reformed Journal 6.5 (May 1956): 10–13.

“Foundation of American Freedom,” The Reformed Journal 6.9 (September 1956): 17–19.

“Toward a Theistic Creationism (Part I),” The Reformed Journal 6.10 (October 1956): 6–9.

“Toward a Theistic Creationism (Part II),” The Reformed Journal 6.11 (November 1956): 9–13.

“Reformed Theology and First Amendment,” The Reformed Journal 8.3 (March 1958): 6–9.

“Does Our Theology Hamper Our Missions?,” The Reformed Journal 8.6 (June 1958): 3–6.

“On Confrontation,” The Reformed Journal 8.9 (September 1958): 14–17.

“Scripture and Saaso,” The Reformed Journal 8.10 (October 1958): 20–23.

“Calvin on Secession,” The Reformed Journal 9.5 (May 1959): 8–10.

“A Note on Chapels,” The Reformed Journal 9.7 (July–August 1959): 17–18.

“Christian Truth is an Ellipse,” The Reformed Journal 9.9 (October 1959): 6–8.

“The Concept of Infallibility in the Christian Tradition,” The Reformed Journal 9.11 (November 1959): 15–17.

“A Theological Note on the Incarnation,” The Reformed Journal 9.12 (December 1959): 11–12.

“Karl Barth’s Rejection of Infant Baptism,” The Reformed Journal 10.2 (February 1960): 13–17.

“Letters to the Journal,” The Reformed Journal 10.4 (April 1960): 23.

“Toward a Biblical View of Marriage,” The Reformed Journal 10.6 (June 1960): 5–9.

“The Chambers of Rhetoric and Anabaptist Origins in the Low Countries,” in Mennonite Quarterly Review 34.3 (July 1960): 192–196.

“This Infallible Rule,” The Reformed Journal 10:11 (November 1960): 12–15.

“None Except Reformed,” The Reformed Journal 11.1 (January 1961): 22–23.

“Which Belgic Confession? (Part 1),” The Reformed Journal 11 (September 1961): 16–20.

“Guido de Brès and the Anabaptists,” Mennonite Quarterly Review 35.4 (October 1961): 251–266.

“Which Belgic Confession? (Part 2),” The Reformed Journal 11 (October 1961): 19–22.

“Which Belgic Confession? (Part 3),” The Reformed Journal 11 (November 1961): 14–17.

“Which Belgic Confession? (Part 4),” The Reformed Journal 11 (December 1961): 17–20.

“Which Belgic Confession? (Part 5),” The Reformed Journal 12 (January 1962): 15–19.

“Books in Review: Heretics??? A Review of ‘Even Unto Death: The Heroic Witness of the 16th Century Anabaptists,’ by John Christian Wenger (John Knox Press, 1961),” Christianity Today 6.9 (February 2, 1962): 44–45.

“Thou and Thy House,” The Reformed Journal 12.3 (March 1962): 12–15.

“Back to Dordt?,” The Reformed Journal 12.7 (July–August 1962): 4–7.

“The Church’s Return to the Womb,” The Reformed Journal 13.2 (February 1963): 6–9.

“The Heidelberg Catechism in the Perspective of History,” The Reformed Journal 13.5 (May–June 1963): 6–9.

“Baptism and Original Sin (Part 1),” The Reformed Journal 13.7 (September 1963): 19–23.

“Baptism and Original Sin (Part 2),” The Reformed Journal 13.8 (October 1963): 18–21.

“Of Moats and Drawbridges,” The Reformed Journal 14.4 (April 1964): 19–21.

“Books in Review: Gospel on Campus: A Review of ‘On the Work of the Ministry in University Communities,’ by Richard N. Bender (The Methodist Church, Division of Higher Education, 1962),Christianity Today 8.18 (June 5, 1964): 30–31.

“Man, a Created Being: What of An Animal Ancestry for Man?,” Christianity Today 9.17 (May 21, 1965): 9–16.

“On being ‘Pink’,” The Reformed Journal 15.9 (November 1965): 8–11.

“Letter to the Editor: ‘On the Stepchildren of the Reformation’,” Torch and Trumpet 15.10 (December 1965): 21–22.

“‘Liberalisme’ in South Africa,” The Reformed Journal 16.7 (September 1966): 9–12.

“On Reconciling a Mother and a Daughter,” The Reformed Journal 17.3 (March 1967): 10–12.

“The Gospel and Apartheid,” The Reformed Journal 17.6 (July–August 1967): 11–13.

“Retarded Socialization,” The Reformed Journal 17.10 (December 1967): 9–11.

“War and the New Morality: A Comment,” The Reformed Journal 18.2 (February 1968): 29–30.

“Letters to the Journal,” The Reformed Journal 20.2 (February 1970): 30.

“The ‘If’ of the Gospel,” The Reformed Journal 20.4 (April 1970): 8–10.

“The Great South African Divide,” The Reformed Journal 20.6 (July–August 1970): 13–15.

“Report from South Africa,” The Reformed Journal 20.8 (October 1970): 16.

“Report from South Africa (2),” The Reformed Journal 20.9 (November 1970): 19–20.

“Review of ‘The New Left and Christian Radicalism,’ by Arthur Gish (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970),” The Reformed Journal 21.1 (January 1971): 23–25.

“Report from South Africa (3),” The Reformed Journal 21.3 (March 1971): 18–20.

“Report from South Africa (4),” The Reformed Journal 21.7 (September 1971): 28–29.

“Report from South Africa (5), The Reformed Journal 21.9 (November 1971): 24–25.

“A Review of ‘Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation,’ by Carl Bangs. Nashville and New York: Abingdon Press, 1971,” Mennonite Quarterly Review 47.1 (January 1973): 71–72.

“A Review of ‘South African Dialogue: Contrasts in South African Thinking on Basic Race Issues,’ ed. Ν J Rhoodie Philadelphia Westminster, 1972,” The Reformed Journal 24.4 (April 1974): 26–27.

“Reader Reaction: ‘Verpakkingsmateriaalhermeneutick,’” The Reformed Journal 24.6 (July–August 1974): 11–13.

Unknown title, The Banner (May 2, 1975).

“What Has Jerusalem to do With Pretoria,” The Reformed Journal 25.7 (September 1975): 11–13.

“Review of ‘Anabaptists—Four Centuries Later,’ by J. Howard Kaufman and Leland Harder (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1975),” Calvin Theological Journal 11.1 (April 1976): 95–102.

“Review of ‘Kingdom, Cross, and Community: Essays for G. F. Hershberger,’ by J. R. Burkholder and Calvin Redekop (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1976),” Calvin Theological Journal 13.1 (April 1978): 60–65.

“Review of ‘Continental Pietism and Early American Christianity,’ by F. Ernest Stoefler (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976),” Calvin Theological Journal 13.1 (April 1978): 65–67.

“The Career of a Creed,” The Banner 115.12 (March 1980): 14–?

“The roots of ‘heresy’: A Review of ‘Dutch Anabaptism: Origin, Spread, Life, and Thought (1450–1600),’ by Cornelius Krahn (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1968),” The Reformed Journal 31.11 (November–December 1981): 32–33.

“Why be a Mennonite?: A Review of ‘An Introduction to Mennonite History,’ ed. Cornelius J. Dyke (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1967),” The Reformed Journal 32.3 (March 1982): 25.

“A Review of ‘De Fryske Minnisten en Harren Sosiëteit,’ by J. S. Postma (Franeker: T. Wever Publishing House, 1980),” Mennonite Quarterly Review (April 1983): 167–168.

“A Review of ‘Dopers-Calvinistisch Gesprek in Nederland,’ ed. H. B. Kossen, et al. (The Hague: Boekencentrum, 1982),” Mennonite Quarterly Review 58.3 (July 1984): 320–321.

“CRC: Hewn from the Rock,” The Banner 8, vol. 119, no. 36 (October 1984): 8–9.

“In His Image,” The Reformed Journal 35.5 (May 1985): 9–12.

“Readers Respond: Why Christians Should Feel Alone,” The Reformed Journal 37.7 (July 1987): 7–8.

“Did the Advent Abort?” The Reformed Journal 37.12 (December 1987): 10–12.

“A Review of ‘Mennonite Identity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives,’ ed. Calvin Redekop Lanham, MD (University Press of America, 1988),” Calvin Theological Journal 24.1 (April 1989): 188–190.

“More on Judeopathy,” Perspectives 7.6 (June 1992): 10–11.

V. Miscellaneous writings

“Notes on Anabaptist Origins,” Unpublished paper in box 41, folder 4. Herald S. Bender Papers, Archives of the Mennonite Church USA, Goshen, Indiana.

“The Early History of the Text of the Belgic Confession,” box 579, folder 2, Papers of the Belgic Confession Translation Committee, CCA.

“Minority Report,” box 579, folder 5. Papers of the Belgic Confession Translation Committee, CCA.

Verduin to John C. Wenger, Nov. 18, 1947. Box 12, folder 32. Wenger Papers, Archives of the Mennonite Church USA, Goshen, Indiana.

June 30, 2016

Thomas Jackson Crawford (1812–1875) on the Distinction Between God’s Desires and Purposes

(3.) It may be alleged, however, that the invitations of the Gospel, besides being expressive of the undisputed fact that whosoever complies with them shall obtain the offered blessings, are also indicative of A DESIRE on the part of God that all sinners to whom they are held out should comply with them; and how, it may be asked, can such a desire be sincere, if it be the purpose of God to confer only on some sinners that grace by which their compliance will be secured?

Now, without pretending that we are able to give a satisfactory answer to this question, we are not prepared to admit, what the question evidently assumes, that God can have no sincere desire with reference to the conduct of all His creatures, if it be His purpose to secure on the part of some, and not on the part of all of them, the fulfillment of this desire. For how does the case stand in this respect with His commandments? These, no less than His invitations, are addressed to all. Both are alike to be considered as indications of what He desires and requires to be done by all. Nor are there wanting, with reference to His commandments, testimonies quite as significant as any which are to be found’ with reference to His invitations, of the earnestness and intensity of His desire that the course which they prescribe should be adopted by all who hear them. Take, for example, these tender expostulations: “O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” [Deut. v. 29.]. “O that my  people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!” [Ps. lxxxi. 13.]. “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments; then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the wav& of the sea!” [Isa. xlviii. 18.].

But while the commandments of God are thus indicative of what God desires, approves of, and delights in, as congenial to the goodness and holiness of His moral nature, they are certainly not declarative, at the same time, of what He has fixedly purposed or determined in His government of the universe to carry into effect. For if they were so, it is certain that they would be unfailingly and universally obeyed by all His creatures; whereas they are frequently violated, without any interference on His part to secure their observance. Doubtless it is an inscrutable mystery that things should thus be done under the government of the Almighty which are in the highest degree displeasing and offensive to Him. It is just the old mystery of the existence of moral evil, which no one has ever been able to explain.


Bio:
DNB (2)

May 27, 2016

Lucas Trelcatius, Sr. (1542–1602) on General and Particular Grace

The grace, and good will of God is, either noted generally, whereby God doth benefit all men; or particularly, whereby he doth good to the Elect in Christ: but this universal, and general grace ought to be discerned from the singular, and particular: as also the universal, and common benefits towards all, as they are men, from the Particular towards men, as they are Christians.
Lucas Trelcatius, A Brief Institution of the Common Places of Sacred Divinity. Wherein, the Truth of every Place is proved, and the Sophismes of Bellarmine are reprooved, trans. John Gawen (London: Imprinted by T. P. for Francis Burton, dwelling in Paules Church-yard, as the Signe of the Green Dragon, 1610), 218–219.

Bio:

Walter Haddon (1516–1572) and John Foxe (1517–1587) on the Grace and Will of God

And so after the first manner of speaking, I do confess, that there is a certain general grace of God, and a certain free choice of Election laid open to all, without exception: that he may receive it, that hath a will to receive it, so that under this word laid open God’s outward calling be understood, which consists in precepts, in exhortations, in Rules, written either in the ten Commandments, or in the conscience, or in preaching of the word. And in this sense may we rightly say: Pharaoh himself wanted not the grace of God, nor Saul: no nor any of the rest, whom he did oftentimes allure with gentle promises: terrify with miracles, reward with gifts, invite to repentance with prolonging punishment: suffer with much patience alluring and calling all men daily to amendment of life. All which be infallible tokens of his merciful will, called Voluntas Signi.

But after the second manner of speaking: if we behold the mercy of God, and that grace which maketh acceptable or if we respect that will of his, wherewith he not only willeth all to be saved, but wherewith he bringeth to pass, that these whom he will, shall be saved: the matter doth declare it self sufficiently: that that Mercy and Grace of accepting those things, whereunto they are called is not laid open for all and every one indifferently, but is distributed through a certain special dispensation and peculiar Election of God: whereby they that are called according to the purpose of his grace, are drawn to consent. By means whereof it cometh to pass, that the same calling according to God’s purpose failing, every man hath not in his own hand to choose, or refuse that earnest desire and general Grace indifferently offered, but such as have either received the gift of God, or are denied the gift of God. Neither doth the matter so wholly depend upon the choice of our will, either in choosing, or refusing totally: for then might it be verified, that there was no Predestination, before the foundations of the world were laid, if our Election were necessarily guided by our wills, and that our will were the foundation of our Salvation. Therefore whereas they say, that God doth accept them, which will embrace his grace, and reject them which will not receive it, is altogether untrue. Nay it rather had been more convenient to fetch our fountain from the wellspring of Grace, then from the puddle of our own will. So that we might speak more truly, on this wise: That God doth endue us with his grace, and favorable countenance, because we should be willing to embrace his ordinances and Commandments: on the contrary part, as concerning those that will not receive his grace offered, that such do worthily perish. And that the very cause, that they will not receive it, doth not arise, because their will is not helped: and that they do therefore not receive it, because they are not themselves received first.
Walter Haddon and John Foxe, Against Ierome Osorius, Bishop of Siluane in Portingall and against his slaunderous inuectiues. An Aunswere Apologeticall: For the necessary defence of the Euangelicall doctrine and veritie (London: Printed by John Daye, dwellyng ouer Aldergate, 1581), 209v–210v. [some spelling updated]
The will of God is taken [in a] manner of ways: sometimes for his secret counsel, wherewith all things are necessarily carried to the end, whereunto God hath directed them before. And so do we say, that nothing is done besides this will: It is also sometime[s] taken for that, which God approveth, and maketh acceptable unto himself: And in this sense, we do see many things done, now and then, contrary to his will discovered in the scriptures. And therefore according to his will, God is said, that he willeth all men, to be saved, whereas yet not all, nay rather but a very few are saved.
Ibid., 227v–r. [some spelling updated]

Bio:
Haddon:

Foxe:

May 25, 2016

Robert L. Reymond’s (1932–2013) Qualification on God’s Immutability and Impassibility

Classical theists have sometimes represented God’s immutability in such a sense that they have portrayed him as being virtually frozen in timeless immobility and impassibility. They reason that any movement or feeling on his part such as anger, joy, or grief must either improve his condition or detract from it. But since neither is possible for a perfect being, he remains, to use James I. Packer’s characterization of this position, in an ‘eternally frozen pose’8 as immobile and impassible, that is, inaccessible  to and incapable of feelings or emotions.

But this is not the Bible’s description of God. The God of the Bible is constantly acting into and reacting to the human condition. In no sense is the God of Scripture insulated or detached from, unconcerned with, or insensitive and indifferent to the joys and miseries of fallen mankind. Everywhere the Bible depicts him both as one who registers grief and sorrow over and displeasure and wrath against man’s sin, and as one who in compassion and love has taken effective steps in Jesus Christ to reverse the misery of his elect and even the rest of mankind to a degree. Everywhere Holy Scripture portrays him as entering deeply into authentic interpersonal relations of love with his people and truly caring about them and their happiness. As W. Norris Clarke states, the biblical God is a ‘religiously available God on the personal level’.9

To say then that God is unchangeable or immutable must not be construed to mean that he cannot and does not act. The God of the Bible acts, indeed, acts with passion, on every page of Scripture. In other words, he is not static in his immutability; he is dynamic in his immutability. But his dynamic immutability in no way affects his ‘Goodness’. To the contrary, he would cease to be the God of Scripture if he did not will and act in the ways the Bible ascribes to him. But he always wills and acts, and Isaiah declared, in faithfulness to his decrees: ‘In perfect faithfulness,’ Isaiah sings, ‘you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago’ (25:1). Therefore, Louis Berkhof is correct, in my opinion, when he concludes:
The divine immutability should not be understood as implying immobility, as if there were no movement in God.... The Bible teaches us that God enters into manifold relations with man and, as it were, lives their lives with them. There is change round about Him, change in the relations of men to Him, but there is no change in His being, His attributes, His purpose, His motives of action, or His promises.10
Thus, as Jürgen Moltmann has most notably contended in our time,11 whenever and wherever God’s impassiblity is interpreted to mean that he is impervious to human pain or incapable of empathizing with human grief we must renounce it and steadfastly distance ourselves from it.12 For while such is descriptive of Aristotle’s concept of God as ‘thought thinking thought’ and of Buddha, it is in no sense descriptive of the God of Holy Scripture who as a God of infinite love showed his love to suffering humankind by giving his own Son up to the death of the cross.13 John R. W. Stott bears testimony to my point here with the following words:
In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And  in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. This is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.... There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ ... is God’s ... self-justification in such a world’ as ours.14
When our Confession of Faith declares then that God is ‘without ... passions’ it means that he has no bodily passions such as the need to satisfy hunger of the desire to fulfill himself sexually. We do however affirm that God is impassible in the sense that the creature cannot inflict suffering, pain, or any sort of distress or discomfort upon God against his will. Insofar as God enters into such experiences, it is always the result of his deliberate voluntary decision. God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us. Ours come upon us often unforseen, unwilled, unchosen, and forced upon us against our wills. His are foreknown, willed, and chosen by him and are never forced upon him ab extra apart from his determination to accept them. In short, God is never the creature’s unwilling victim. Even when Jesus hung upon the cross his suffering was according to the predeterminate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). And he himself said, you will recall: ‘No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This ... I received from my Father’ (John 10:18).
_______________
8. J. I. Packer, “Theism for Our Time,” in God Who is Rich in Mercy (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 16.
9. W. Norris Clarke, “A New Look at the Immutability of God,” in God, Knowable and Unknowable, edited by Robert J. Roth (New York: Fordham, 1973), 44.
10. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 59.
11. Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (London: SCM, 1974).
12. God’s ‘passibility’ pertains to him only at the level of his tri-personhood, not at the level of his essential deity.
13. We will say more about God’s love in the ninth address.
14. John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1986), 335–6.
Robert L. Reymond, ‘What is God?’—An Investigation of the Perfections of God’s Nature (Fearn, Ross-shire, UK: Mentor, 2007), 100–103.
By what they have said about his immutability, as a consequence of their understanding of God’s eternality as involving timelessness, classical theists have sometimes portrayed God as One virtually frozen in timeless immobility or inactivity (this is one example of the theological mischief which accrues to the ascription of timelessness to God). These theists correctly argue that since God is a perfect being, he is incapable of any ontological change, since any change must be either for the better or for the worse. He cannot change for the better since he is already perfect, and he cannot change for the worse since that would result in his becoming imperfect. The same holds true, it is incorrectly argued, with regard to any motion or activity on his part. Any movement must either improve his condition or detract from it. But neither is possible for a perfect Deity. Therefore, he remains in an “eternally frozen pose” (Packer’s characterization) as the impassible God. But this is not the biblical description of God. The God of Scripture is constantly acting into and reacting to the human condition. In no sense is he metaphysically insulated or detached from, unconcerned with, or insensitive or indifferent to the condition of fallen men. Everywhere he is depicted both as One who registers grief and sorrow over and displeasure and wrath against sin and its ruinous effects and as One who in compassion and love has taken effective steps in Jesus Christ to reverse the misery of men. Everywhere he is portrayed as One who can and does enter into deep, authentic interpersonal relations of love with his creatures, and as a God who truly cares for his creatures and their happiness. In sum, as W. Norris Clarke declares, God is a “‘religiously available’ Go on a personal level.”41 To say then that God is unchangeable, that is, “immutable,” must not be construed to mean that he cannot and does not act. The God of the Bible is portrayed as acting on every page of the Bible! He is not static in his immutability; he is dynamic in his immutability. But his dynamic immutability in no way affects his essential nature as God (that is, his “Godness”); to the contrary, he would cease to be the God of Scripture if he did not will and act in the ways the Bible ascribes to him. But he always wills and acts, as Isaiah declared, in faithfulness to his decrees: “In perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago” (Isa. 25:1). Berkhof correctly concludes:
The divine immutability should not be understood as implying immobility, as if there is no movement in God. . . . The Bible teaches us that God enters into manifold relations with man and, as it were, lives their life with them. There is change round about Him, change in the relations of men to Him, but there is no change in His being, His attributes, His purpose, His motives of actions, or His promises.42
Thus whenever divine impassibility is interpreted to mean that God is impervious to human pain or incapable of empathizing with human grief it must be roundly denounced and rejected. When the Confession of Faith declares that God is “without . . . passions” it should be understood to mean that God has no bodily passions such as hunger or the human drive for sexual fulfillment. As A. A. Hodge writes: “we deny that the properties of matter, such as bodily parts and passions, belong to him.”43

We do, however, affirm that the creature cannot inflict suffering, pain, or any sort of distress upon him against his will. In this sense God is impassible. J. I. Packer says this well:
Insofar as God enters into experience of that kind, it is by empathy for his creatures and according to his own deliberate decision, not as his creatures’ victim. . . . The thought of God as apathetos, free from all pathos, characterized always by apatheia, represents no single biblical term, but was introduced into Christian theology in the second century: what was it supposed to mean? The historical answer is: not impassivity, unconcern, and impersonal detachment in face of the creation; not insensitivity and indifference to the distresses of a fallen world; not inability or unwillingness to empathize with human pain and grief; but simply that God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us, for his are foreknown, willed and chosen by himself, and are not involuntary surprises forced on him from outside, apart from his own decision, in the way that ours regularly are. In other words, he is never in reality the victim whom man makes to suffer; even the Son on his cross . . . was suffering by his and the Father’s conscious foreknowledge and choice, and those who made him suffer, however free and guilty their action, were real if unwitting tools of divine wisdom and agents of the divine plan (see Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:20).44
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41. Clarke, “A New Look at the Immutability of God,” in God, Knowable and Unknowable, ed. Robert J. Roth (New York: Fordham, 1973), 44.
42. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 59.
43. A. A. Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1869), 73–4.
44. Packer, “Theism for Our Time,” ed. Peter T. O’Brien and David G. Peterson, God Who is Rich in Mercy (Grand Rapids, Mich. Baker, 1986), 7, 16–17.
Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 178–179.

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