December 31, 2005

Serious Resolutions

Are you ready to hear about all of the silly and superficial resolutions that people will have for the coming new year? Are you ready to see the plastic smiles of the news broadcasters as they bring up possible resolutions? If all of this superficiality sickens you this time of year, try reading Jonathan Edwards' resolutions. You will not see any news broadcaster bring up these kinds of resolutions:

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

Wouldn't it be great to see these resolutions glowing on a big sign in New York as drunken people watch a ball drop, and who may be kissing people who are more of a priority than God in their lives (i.e. idols)?

December 30, 2005

On Essential Doctrines and the Difference Between Affirmation and Denial

Christianity is a religion of truth, and truth is not less (though it is more) than propositional. There are certain doctrines or teachings (true propositions) in Christianity that are essential and some that are non-essential. As with any worldview, Christianity has certain features without which it would not be what it is. To illustrate the ideas of essential and non-essential, we might consider a square.

A square has four sides, and an object that does not have four sides is not a square. In other words, having four sides is essential to squareness. A square's color may change, but the color is a non-essential quality.

Christians debate about what doctrines are essential and what doctrines are not, but we should all agree that there are essential doctrines because scripture says so. John, speaking by the authority of the Holy Spirit, says:

NKJ 1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

The real humanity of Christ is an example of an essential doctrine of Christianity.

NKJ Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Belief that the God of the bible exists is an obvious essential as well.

NKJ 1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.

That Jesus is the person identified as Christ is another essential. One might argue that the Trinity is a kind of essential doctrine as well (we see personal distinction in this passage, and the identification of the Son as God in other passages).

I don't wish to make a check list of essentials in this post. I really want to make a distinction between affirmation and denial. A person may be said to not believe something in at least two different senses. 1) Person A may not believe something because he or she is ignorant of the particular subject. The lack of belief here is due to ignorance, not studied disbelief. Or, 2) person B may not believe something because they do not think it is true. This person is not ignorant. They lack belief in a particular subject because they do not think it is true after some reflection. After thinking about it (to whatever extent), they are in denial that the subject or object to be believed corresponds to the facts.

With regard to some essential Christian doctrines, I would say that they may not be believed (i.e. there's room for ignorance), but they must not be denied (in the sense that there's no room for continued rebellion). In effect, I think there is room for ignorance, but not for rebellion on some of these kinds of doctrines. Some who are mentally handicapped may not grasp some essential doctrine, but it does not follow that they are in rebellious denial of it. A new believer in some distant country may not have heard of the doctrine of the Trinity carefully articulated, but they are not denying it in the sense of repudiating it. One might mention the complicated situation of infants as another example to distinguish between mere non-belief and rebellious denial.

A Christian may further argue that there are some essentials that must be believed (God's existence, Jesus' deity etc.) but I would say that all of them, at least, must not be rebelliously denied. As we discuss the differences between essential and non-essential doctrines, let us be careful to distinguish between affirmation and denial. When I was in bible college, I was fond of saying with respect to some essentials that "it may not be believed (or affirmed), but it must not be denied" in conversation. May the readers of this post consider that maxim as well, as we consider different sorts of essential doctrines. Some of them must be believed in order to be saved (first class essentials), but a truly saved person may be ignorant of other essential doctrine (second class essentials), but not to the point of repudiating them as false.

December 25, 2005

Christmas Thoughts

Some people think that the doctrine of the Trinity is the most fascinating and mysterious aspect of Christianity. No other doctrine is thought to boggle the mind as much as God's unity and diversity. While I grant that this doctrine is incomprehensible, I also think that the incarnation is at least as profound.

John 1:14 may be my favorite verse in scripture. It says:

NKJ John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Who is capable of unpacking the theology contained in this one verse?! While remaining what he was (fully God), Christ became what he was not (fully man). Not only that, but the second person of the Triune God will forever be man.

In my opinion, the hypostatic union (the union of humanity and deity in Christ) is the most profound teaching of Christianity. As you meditate on the significance of the incarnation during this Christmas, maybe Michael Card's lyrics to his song To the Mystery will help to fill you with wonder and gratitude. He writes:

When the Father long to show
The love He wanted us to know
He sent His only Son and so
Became a holy embryo

That is the Mystery
More than you can see
Give up on your pondering
And fall down on your knees

A fiction as fantastic and wild
A mother made by her own child
A hopeless babe who cried
Was God Incarnate and man deified

Because the fall did devastate
Creator must now recreate
So to take our sin
Was made like us so we could be like him
Repeat Chorus

May you and your family have a truly blessed Christmas.

In Him,

December 14, 2005

Plantiga's Humorous View on Fundamentalism

I just read the post Plantiga on Fundamentalism on the A-Team blog. It's a classic quotation. Go and see for yourself :-)

Edwards on Heaven

"Every saint in heaven is as a flower in the garden of God, and holy love is the fragrance and sweet odor that they all send forth, and with which they fill the bowers of that paradise above. Every soul there is as a note in some concert of delightful music, that sweetly harmonizes with every other note, and all together blend in the most rapturous strains in praising God and the Lamb forever."

The New Dictionary of Thoughts, page 267.

On degrees of blessedness, he said:

"The saints are like so many vessels of different sizes cast into a sea of happiness where every vessel is full: this is eternal life, for a man ever to have his capacity filled."

Works 2:630. Also quoted in John Gerstner's book, Jonathan Edwards: A Mini-Theology (Tyndale, 1987), page 113.

"to pretend to describe the excellence, the greatness or duration of the happiness of heaven by the most artful composition of words would be but to darken and cloud it, to talk of raptures and ecstacies, joy and singing, is but to set forth very low shadows of the reality, and all we can say by our best rhetoric is really and truly, vastly below what is but the bare and naken truth, and if St. Paul who had seen them, thought it but in vain to endeavor to utter it much less shall we pretend to do it, and the Scriptures have gone as high in the descriptions of it as we are able to keep pace with it in our imaginations and conception..."

John Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell (Soli Deo Gloria, 1998), page 12-13. This small book (93 pages total) is well worth getting. For the deepest thinking on the subjects of heaven and hell, one cannot do better than Edwards (not that I agree with all of his views). Most systematic theology texts do not adequately deal with these subjects.

December 9, 2005

Offered and Offerable Distinctions

The following chart was made to help some see a distinction between a classical Calvinistic view and the later strict view of the Protestant Scholastics or High Calvinists. It's purpose is to deal with inhouse debates within Calvinistic circles, not to address non-Calvinistic theology. Since I am a dualist, I maintain that Christ died for all, but especially for the elect. I don't believe that Christ died with an equal intent to save all men (contra Arminianism and free will theology), nor do I believe that Christ intended died to save the elect alone (contra High Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism). My views are grounded in the classical conception of the distinction between God's secret and revealed will. I do not seek to negate the secret by the revealed will (what Arminianism entails), nor do I collapse God's revealed will into the secret (what Higher Calvinism entails). I believe the secret or decretal will of God represents a distinct motive from the revealed or preceptive will of God, and that this volitional or motivational complexity can subsist in a rational, immutable and eternal Trinity as Dabney shows. God loves all men, but he especially loves the elect. Christ died for all men, but he especially dies for his elect. God wants to save all men, but he especially wants to save his elect. This is Calvin's position, and I believe the biblical position. These truths have been obscured by later High Calvinists, so some of us are seeking to restore the older model that has been eclipsed. My friends and I are seeking to restore and uphold the house of classical Calvinism.

This is no easy task when so called "Calvinists" themselves resist it. May the following chart contribute to the restoration of the early view of the Reformers, and to the glory of God:

A few notes on the chart above:

1) Sometimes the advocates of the free offer are misrepresented as if they are saying the gospel is actually offered to all without exception, i.e. to all living human beings on the planet (Sense #1). That's actually a straw man. We would say that the gospel is offerable to all living human beings because of the real sufficiency in Christ's death, and also that God wants or intends it to be offered to them, but not that it actually is offered. We wish to use the term offerable in the sense that Christ's death is able to be applied to them, and that God, in his revealed will as expressed in Matt. 28, wishes to do so. He does not delight in the death of the wicked.

2) When free offer Calvinists use the phrase "all without exception" to argue that God offers Christ to all human beings, they have the second sense in view, i.e. all living human beings who hear the external gospel call. In the second sense used in the chart, all without exception includes all without distiction. There are many kinds and classes of people within the group of those who hear the external call. Some high Calvinists use the expression "all without distinction" to really mean "some of all without distinction." They want to jump from the idea of "all without distinction" or "all kinds" to "the elect from all kinds." This logical leap is unsustainable biblically. When Paul uses "all" in a context that refers to types or kinds, then "all without distinction" includes "all without exception" in the second sense (Sense #2).

3) Some High Calvinists wish to speak only of our responsibility to preach or offer the gospel to all because we are ignorant as to the identity of the elect. This is not sufficient. The bible teaches that God himself is offering Christ to all without exception (Sense #2) through his people, and he knows the identity of his elect ones. The crucial point is that God himself sincerely offers Christ to those he knows to be non-elect. This is what the strict Calvininsts cannot stomach. It's indicative of their decretal illness or mental lopsidedness. Their fevered brains cannot tolerate such an idea. Nevertheless, it is what the scriptures teach, and what Calvin himself echoed.

4) God is able to do this because he has expiated the sins of the world in the death of his Son. He comes to the entire world seeking complete reconciliation through his Son. He sent his Son to satisfy all of the claims of the law against all sinners. Christ suffered a morally equivalent death that every single human sinner deserves. For this reason, his death is said to be sufficient for all. If he did not undertake the curse that was due every sinner, it could not be said that his death is sufficient for those that were not legally represented. A limited imputation view (Christ suffered for the elect alone) is incompatible with the classical view on unlimited sufficiency. Some high Calvininsts honor the "sufficient for all" formula with their lips, but their hearts are far from it. They can only speak of a mere sufficiency, but not an ordained sufficiency. In effect, Christ's death is really only sufficient for the elect, in their view. For more on this distinction, see Davenant's Sufficiency Distinctions.

5) All human beings are naturally or constitutionally able to believe, but they lack moral ability to do so. They have a will that makes choices (natural ability), but their won't power (perverted affections) or bondage to sin makes them unable to believe (moral inability). Being pervasively depraved (in mind, will and emotions), they don't want to believe, nevertheless they are responsible before God. Only those who hear the external call are responsible to believe the gospel command, but all men are responsible to God's moral law (Incidently, I'm not saying that obeying gospel commands is the same as obedience to the moral law). If humans do not respond in faith or trust in Christ through the gospel, their guilt is compounded and/or aggravated because of God's great benevolence and sacrifice in sending his Son to die for their salvation. Also, since all the other gifts of common grace are given with a view to their repenting or salvation (see Rom. 2:4), the wrath of God builds up against them.

6) All men are redeemed or objectively reconciled in Christ since he's the last Adam who died in the place of all men, but not all men are in him by faith. The legal barriers that stand in the way of God freely forgiving any man have been removed. No man must of necessity be damned, for there is a real remedy available for him in Christ's death. It is applicable to all men, for Christ died a morally equivalent death that all men deserve, and only a Godman could do this. His redemption is applied when we trust in him, for then we are really united to him. Prior to that, we all stand under God's wrath, even the elect who do not yet believe. Though Christ dies for a man, it does not follow that he is thereby liberated by that fact alone. It is the entire work of the Trinity that secures our salvation, and not the death of the Son by itself. The Holy Spirit must apply the work of the Son through faith, and he will do this in accord with the special decree of the Father. The promise is conditional, not absolute. Men must believe in order to be united to Christ and receive his eternally saving benefits. Only the elect are granted moral ability to believe, and thus they are especially redeemed (not that others can't be spoken of as redeemed in another sense). There is a limitation or definite number of people that God has determined to save. These are his elect ones. This special decree is made manifest in the application of the benefits of Christ's death to the elect alone through the instrumentality of faith, and not apart from that condition. Thus, there is a limitation in the decree and application, not that there is a limitation in curse bearing in Christ's death. He takes the curse due every man when he hangs upon the tree, but no man eternally benefits until they look with the eyes of faith to the remedy.

7) The aggravated guilt on the part of the non-elect, who heard the external gospel call but rejected it, underscores the fact of the real sufficiency available to them in Christ's satisfaction. The sufficient food of Christ's flesh is set before them in the proclamation of the gospel feast, but they refuse to eat and to taste that the Lord is good for them, thus they deserve a severer punishment, as the scriptures say. This aggravated guilt could not be the case if the Lord's death was not really sufficient for them, which is what is entailed by a limited imputation view of the Owenists. A rational person would not be aggravated by those who reject what is not applicable to them. The applicability and real availability of the satisfaction is what triggers God's severity against gospel rejectors. Their damnation is surely just.

A printable version of this post can be found here: Offered and Offerable

J. C. Ryle on John 6:32

KJV John 6:32 "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven."

"The expression, "giveth you," must not be supposed to imply actual reception on the part of the Jews. It rather means "giving" in the sense of "offering" for acceptance a thing which those to whom it is offered may not receive. - It is a very remarkable saying, and one of those which seems to me to prove unanswerably that Christ is God's gift to the whole world, - that His redemption was made for all mankind, - that He died for all, - and is offered to all. It is like the famous texts, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" (John iii. 16); and, "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." (1 John v. 11.) It is a gift no doubt which is utterly thrown away, like many other gifts of God to man, and is profitable to none but those that believe. But that God nevertheless does in a certain sense actually "give" His Son, as the true bread from heaven, even to the wicked and unbelieving, appears to me incontrovertibly proved by the words before us. It is a remarkable fact that Erskine, the famous Scotch seceder, based his right to offer Christ to all, on these very words, and defended himself before the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland on the strength of them. He asked the Moderator to tell him what Christ meant when He said, "My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven," - and got no answer. The truth is, I venture to think, that the text cannot be answered by the advocates of an extreme view of particular redemption. Fairly interpreted, the words mean that in some sense or another the Father does actually "give" the Son to those who are not believers. They warrant preachers and teachers in making a wide, broad, full, free, unlimited offer of Christ to all mankind without exception.

Even Hutcheson, the Scotch divine, though a strong advocate of particular redemption, remarks, - "Even such as are, at present, but carnal and unsound, are not secluded from the offer of Christ; but upon right terms may expect that He will be gifted to them."

Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker, 1979), 3:364.

December 6, 2005

The Truth Doesn't Change

Many people, including some Christians, think that the truth changes. They may even rashly think or say that everything changes. Both of these ideas are totally false, self-referentially absurd, and anti-Christian. Let's quickly dismiss the foolish idea that everything changes. One could refute it by submitting various counter-factuals, or things that do not change. Or, one could be like David and cut off the head of this stupid Goliath with his own sword. If one asserts the proposition "everything changes," then one may ask if that principle itself changes. If X stands for the principle that everything changes, then one may ask if X itself changes?

There are only three options: 1) Everything changes 2) Some things change and 3) Nothing changes. Anyone in their right mind knows that #2 is the case in reality. If one believes #1 is the case, then they have to believe that the proposition or principle of #1 itself changes. If the principle itself changes, then it would have to be false and change into the position of either #2 or #3.

Related to this idea is the notion that the truth itself changes. Some people may think that the truth changes because everything in nature seems to change. I've heard illustrations concerning weather patterns, colors and other things that seem to be relative. These people fail to properly understand the propositional element to truth (truth is not less than the propositional, but it is more than merely propositional), and what is actually being asserted in any given case. Consider a color illustration for an example.

Here's a picture of a dragon. Suppose I utter the proposition, "the dragon is red." Someone might say that this is relative and illustrates that the truth changes, because the color of the dragon may change under different lighting conditions, or to those color-blind. What they fail to understand is the true nature of the proposition. As I said, I was the one uttering the proposition. The proposition can be clarified by saying, "Tony said the dragon is red." Now, I am not saying that everyone sees the dragon as red when I utter the proposition, so the redness is person sensitive. The proposition is actually, "Tony is being appeared to redly when viewing this dragon." Not only that, one needs to further clarify the proposition because it is time sensitive when uttered. I am typing this at 6:30 am on December 6th, 2005. The true nature of the proposition is this, "Tony is being appeared to redly when viewing this dragon at 6:30am on December 6th, 2005." We might even clarify the location by saying, "Tony is being appeared to redly when viewing this dragon on his computer at 6:30am on December 6th, 2005 in his bedroom in Irving, Texas."

No one in their right mind communicates this way in everday life. We just say "the dragon is red" because we know our listeners automatically understand (at least the sane ones) most of the contextual elements involved. They understand what is being said without all the other tedious details, so we leave them out. But, if we are dealing with people who think the truth changes, then we need to bring out that which is normally understood in order to get to the nature of the truth claim. If we say, "it's raining," we normally mean something like, "it appears to me that it is raining at time (T) in place (P)."

Just because it may not rain at other times, or that I may see the dragon differently in different contexts, it does not follow that the truth has changed. If I turn color-blind tommorrow, it's still true that the dragon appeared redly to me at 6:30am on the given date, and in the given location.

Christians should be the last people to think that the truth changes, or that everything changes. Christianity not only teaches that the truth doesn't change, but that the truth is eternal. Since God exists and is a maximally perfect being possessing all great-making properties (which necessarily includes exhaustive knowledge), it follows that he knows all true propositions. Among the true propositions that God knows eternally is that the dragon would appear redly to Tony in the given place and at the given time. Not only should Christians not think that the truth changes, but they are bound to believe it is eternal! Any other position is self-referentially absurd.

December 2, 2005

Upcoming Frame Books

I just read an interview that Marco Gonzalez from Reformation Theology did with John Frame. In this interview, John Frame gives some information about his upcoming books. I've known that the Doctrine of the Christian Life would soon be available because of conversations I've had with Keith Plummer. If you don't already own Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God and The Doctrine of God, then consider getting them. They are well worth reading. Here's a few details about Frame's upcoming books as reported on Reformation Theology:

9. What works can we expect from you in the future?

I have completed Doctrine of the Christian Life, the third volume of my Theology of Lordship series. I expect that book to be published in two volumes by P&R. At least the first volume should be available in 2006. Also in 2006 P&R is planning to publish my Salvation Belongs to the Lord, a mini-systematic theology. Now I’m working on Doctrine of the Word of God, the last volume planned for the Lordship series. That will take a lot of time to research and write. Don’t expect it before maybe three or four years.

November 27, 2005

Thomas the Day Dreamer (part 2)

The following is also taken from G. K. Chesterton's book on Saint Thomas Aquinas. Chapter IV is titled A Meditation on the Manichees. Manichaeism was an ancient heresy that the early church had to deal with, and the ideas persisted into the middle ages. Their beliefs are described by The Columbia Encyclopedia this way:
"Basic to the religion’s doctrine was the conflicting dualism between the realm of God, represented by light and by spiritual enlightenment, and the realm of Satan, symbolized by darkness and by the world of material things. To account for the existence of evil in a world created by God, Mani posited a primal struggle in which the forces of Satan separated from God; humanity, composed of matter, that which belongs to Satan, but infused with a modicum of godly light, was a product of this struggle, and was a paradigm of the eternal war between the forces of light and those of darkness. Christ, the ideal, light-clad soul, could redeem for each person that portion of light God had allotted. Light and dark were seen to be commingled in our present age as good and evil, but in the last days each would return to its proper, separate realm, as they were in the beginning. The Christian notion of the Fall and of personal sin was repugnant to the Manichees; they felt that the soul suffered not from a weak and corrupt will but from contact with matter. Evil was a physical, not a moral, thing; a person’s misfortunes were miseries, not sins."

Chesterton describes a social situation in which Thomas is participating in a royal banquet. He was courteous to all that spoke with him, but he spoke little. Rather than thinking about the noisy clatter around him, his mind was meditating on how to refute Manichaeism. Chesterton tells the story this way:
"There is one casual anecdote about St. Thomas Aquinas which illuminates him like a lightening-flash, not only without but within. For it not only shows him as a character, and even as a comedy character, and shows the colours of his period and social background; but also, as if for an instant, makes a transparency of his mind. It is a trivial incident which occurred one day, when he was reluctantly dragged from his work, and we might almost say from his play. For both were for him found in the unusual hobby of thinking, which is for some men a thing much more intoxicating than mere drinking. He had declined any number of society invitations, to the courts of kings and princes, not because he was unfriendly, for he was not; but because he was always glowing within with the really gigantic plans of exposition and argument which filled his life. On one occassion, however, he was invited to the court of King Louis IX of France, more famous as the great St. Louis; and for some reason or other, the Dominican authorities of his Order told him to accept; so he immediately did so, being an obedient friar even in his sleep; or rather in his permanent trance of reflection.

It is a real case against conventional hagiography that it sometimes tends to make all saints seem to be the same. Whereas in fact no men are more different than saints; not even murderers. And there could hardly be a more complete contrast, given the essentials of holiness, than between St. Thomas and St. Louis. St. Louis was born a knight and a king; but he was one of those men in whom a certain simplicity, combined with courage and activity, makes it natural, and in a sense easy, to fulfil directly and promptly any duty or office, however official. He was a man in whom holiness and healthiness had no quarrel; and their issue was in action. He did not go in for thinking much, in the sense of theorising much. But, even in theory, he had that sort of presence of mind, which belongs to the rare and really practical man when he has to think. He never said the wrong thing; and he was orthodox by instinct. In the old pagan proverb about kings being philosophers or philosophers kings, there was a certain miscalculation, connected with a mystery that only Christianity could reveal. For while it is possible for a king to wish very much to be a saint, it is not possible for a saint to wish very much to be a king. A good man will hardly be always dreaming of being a great monarch; but, such is the liberality of the Church, that she cannot forbid even a great monarch to dream of being a good man. But Louis was a straightforward soldierly sort of person who did not particularly mind being a king, any more than he would have minded being a captain or a sergeant or any other rank in his army. Now a man like St. Thomas would definitely dislike being a king, or being entangled with the pomp and politics of kings; not only his humility, but a sort of subconscious fastidiousness and fine dislike of futility, often found in leisurely and learned men with large minds, would really have prevented him making contact with the complexity of court life. Also, he was anxious all his life to keep out of politics; and there was no political symbol more striking, or in a sense more challenging, at that moment, than the power of the King in Paris.

Paris was truly at that time an aurora borealis; a Sunrise in the North. We must realise that lands much nearer to Rome had rotted with paganism and pessimism and Oriental influences of which the most respectable was that of Mahound. Provence and all the South had been full of a fever of nihilism or negative mysticism, and from Northern France had come the spears and swords that swept away the unchristian thing. In Northern France also sprang up that splendour of building that shines like swords and spears: the first spires of the Gothic. We talk now of grey Gothic buildings; but they must have been very different when they went up white and gleaming into the northern skies, partly picked out with gold and bright colours; a new flight of architecture, as startling as flying ships. The new Paris ultimately left behind by St. Louis must have been a thing white like lilies and splendid as the oriflamme. It was the beginning of the great new thing: the nation of France, which was to pierce and overpower the old quarrel of Pope and Emperor in the lands from which Thomas came. But Thomas came very unwillingly, and, if we may say it of so kindly a man, rather sulkily. As he entered Paris, they showed him from the hill that splendour of new spires beginning, and somebody said something like, "How grand it must be to own all this." And Thomas Aquinas only muttered, "I would rather have that Chrysostom MS. I can't get hold of."

Somehow they steered that reluctant bulk of reflection to a seat in the royal banquet hall; and all that we know of Thomas tells us that he was perfectly courteous to those who spoke to him, but spoke little, and was soon forgotten in the most brilliant and noisy clatter in the world: the noise of French talking. What the Frenchmen were talking about we do not know; but they forgot all about the large fat Italian in their midst, and it seems only too possible that he forgot all about them. Sudden silences will occur even in French conversation; and in one of these interruption came. There had long been no word or motion in that huge heap of black and white weeds, like motley in the mourning, which marked him as a mendicant friar out of the streets, and contrasted with all the colours and patters and quarterings of that first and freshest dawn of chivalry and heraldry. The triangular shields and pennons and pointed spears, the triangular swords of the Crusade, the pointed windows and the conical hoods, repeated everywhere that fresh French medieval spirit that did, in every sense, come to the point. But the colours of the coats were gay and varied with little to rebuke their richness; for St. Louis, who had himself a special quality of coming to the point, had said to his courtiers, "Vanity should be avoided; but every man should dress well, in the manner of his rank, that his wife may the more easily love him."

And then suddenly the goblets leapt and rattled on the board and the great table shook, for the friar had brought down his huge fist like a club of stone, with a crash that startled everyone like an explosion; and had cried out in a strong voice, but like a man in the grip of a dream, "And that will settle the Manichees!"

The palace of a king, even when it is the palace of a saint, has its conventions. A shock thrilled through the court, and every one felt as if the fat friar from Italy had thrown a plate at King Louis, or knocked his crown sideways. They all looked timidly at the terrible seat, that was for a thousand years the throne of the Capets; and man there were presumably prepared to pitch the big black-robed beggarman out of the window. But St. Louis, simple as he seemed, was no mere medieval fountain of honour or even fountain of mercy; but also the fountain of two eternal rivers; the irony and the courtesy of France. And he turned to his secretaries, asking them in a low voice to take their tablets round to the seat of the absent-minded controversialist, and take a note of the argument that had just occurred to him; because it must be a very good one and he might forget it. I have paused upon this anecdote, first, as has been said, because it is the one which gives us the most vivid snapshot of a great medieval character; indeed of two great medieval characters. But it is also specially fitted to be taken as a type or a turning-point, because of the glimpse it gives of the man's main preoccupation; and the sort of thing that might have been found in his thoughts, if they had been thus suprised at any moment by a philosophical eavesdropper or through a psychological keyhole. It was not for nothing that he was still brooding, even in the white court of St. Louis, upon the dark cloud of the Manichees."

G. K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas "The Dumb Ox" (Doubleday, 1956), pages 74-78.

November 26, 2005

Thomas the Day Dreamer

G. K. Chesterton was an excellent writer, and this is very apparent in his book on Thomas Aquinas, aka "The Dumb Ox". I love the way Chesterton describes Thomas as one who was sometimes "absent-minded" and a "day dreamer." I suppose the following quote stands out to me because I tend to day dream when I am around family members during the holidays. Our holiday practices seem to be like modern shells devoid of their premodern substance. We go through the motions and externals without thinking about the significance of what we are doing, or about the transcendent origins of the truths contained in the traditions.

Since no one in my immediate family is a Christian, it is normal for the conversations to be largely trivial and uninteresting. You might call the conversations "small talk." I understand how some may interpret my descriptions as being condescending, but they are not. They are capable of understanding anything that I can, but they don't want to.

Most people, particularly in my culture and family context, engage in small talk to avoid potentially painful thinking (topics that would trouble their conscience), or thinking that may disrupt "peaceful" relationships. It seems as if conversations are deliberately kept at a superficial level so that everyone can just get along and not be troubled by ultimate questions. Occassionally I try to tactfully introduce topics concerning ideas, but usually things quickly return to a focus on people, events and other trivialities as we mindlessly sit in front of the television. So, for the most part, I find myself going through the motions of our cultural activities while day dreaming about ideas. I tend to be absent-minded in this regard. Chesterton's descriptions of Thomas have helped me to understand a little bit about myself.

Here is an excerpt from Chesterton's book that I think is outstanding:
"The pictures of St. Thomas, though many of them painted long after his death, are all obviously pictures of the same man. He rears himself defiantly, with the Napoleonic head and the dark bulk of body, in Raphael's "Dispute About the Sacrament." A portrait by Ghirlandajo emphasises a point which specially reveals what may be called the neglected Italian quality in the man. It also emphasises points that are very important in the mystic and the philosopher. It is universally attested that Aquinas was what is commonly called an absent-minded man. That type has often been rendered in painting, humorous or serious; but almost always in one of two or three conventional ways. Sometimes the expression of the eyes is merely vacant, as if absent-mindedness did really mean a permanent absence of mind. Sometimes it is rendered more respectfully as a wistful expression, as of one yearning for something afar off, that he cannot see and can only faintly desire. Look at the eyes in Ghirlandajo's portrait of St. Thomas; and you will see a sharp difference. While the eyes are indeed completely torn away from the immediate surroundings, so that the pot of flowers above the philosopher's head might fall on it without attracting his attention, they are not in the least wistful, let alone vacant. There is kindled in them a fire of instant inner excitement; they are vivid and very Italian eyes. The man is thinking about something; and something that has reached a crisis; not about nothing or about anything; or, what is almost worse, about everything. There must have been that smouldering vigilance in his eyes, the moment before he smote the table and startled the banquet all of the King.

Of the personal habits that go with the personal physique, we have also a few convincing and confirming impressions. When he was not sitting still, reading a book, he walked round and round the cloisters and walked fast and even furiously, a very characteristic action of men who fight their battles in the mind. Whenever he was interrupted, he was very polite and more apologetic than the apologizer. But there was that about him, which suggested that he was rather happier when he was not interrupted. He was ready to stop his truly Peripatetic tramp: but we feel that when he resumed it, he walked all the faster.

All this suggests that his superficial abstraction, that which the world saw, was of a certain kind. It will be well to understan the quality, for there are several kinds of absence of mind, including that of some pretentious poets and intellectuals, in whom the mind has never been noticeably present. There is the abstraction of the contemplative, whether he is the true sort of Christian contemplative, who is contemplating Something, or the wrong sort of Oriental contemplative, who is contemplating Nothing. Obviously St. Thomas was not a Buddhist mystic; but I do not think his fits of abstraction were even those of a Christian mystic. If he has trances of true mysticism, he took jolly good care that they should not occur at other people's dinner-tables. I think he had the sort of bemused fit, which really belongs to the practical man rather than the entirely mystical man. He uses the recognized distinction between the active life and the contempletive life, but in the cases concerned here, I think even his contemplative life was an active life. It had nothing to do with his higher life, in the sense of ultimate sanctity. It rather reminds us that Napoleon would fall into a fit of apparent boredom at the Opera, and afterwards confess that he was thinking how he could get three army corps at Frankfurt to combine with two army corps at Cologne. So, in the case of Aquinas, if his daydreams were dreams, they were dreams of day; and dreams of the day of battle. If he talked to himself, it was because he was arguing with somebody else. We can put it another way, by saying that his daydreams, like the dreams of a dog, were dreams of hunting; of pursuing the error as well as pursuing the truth; of following all the twists and turns of evasive falsehood, and tracking it at last to its lair in hell. He would have been the first to admit that the erroneous thinker would probably be more suprised to learn where his thought came from, than anybody else to discover where it went to. But this notion of pursuing he certainly had, and it was the beginning of a thousand mistakes and misunderstandings that pursuing is called in Latin Persecution. Nobody had less than he had of what is commonly called the temper of a persecutor; but he had the quality which in desperate times is often driven to persecute; and that is simply the sense that everything lives somewhere, and nothing dies unless it dies in its own home. That he did sometimes, in this sense, "urge in dreams the shadowy chase" even in broad daylight, is quite true. But he was an active dreamer, if not what is commonly called a man of action; and in that chase he was truly to be counted among the domini canes; and surely the mightiest and most magnanimous of the Hounds of Heaven."

G. K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas (Doubleday, 1956), 98-101.

November 24, 2005

A Few Quotes on Gratitude

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

"The heart must be alive with gracious gratitude, or the leaf cannot long be green with living holiness."

"Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more - a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise."

"We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory."

"Though right it is to give thanks, True gratitude will live thanks!"

"The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank."

"O Lord, that lends me life, Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness."

November 22, 2005

Noise and Meditation

Keith Plummer has posted an excellent link on his blog to an article entitled A Kingdom of Noise. It's well worth reading.

The author, Erik Lokkesmoe, writing as if he were C. S. Lewis' senior demon named Screwtape, says to Wormwood (a demon in training):

"But oh, how dreadful it is if they do notice and, worse yet, begin to reject the delightful opiates we offer. An hour’s walk or an evening alone can be hazardous. Even a drive with a broken radio carries risk. Peace and quietude, after all, are the Enemy's handiwork. He waits patiently for them in the stillness, whispering for them to rest or ponder or, dare I say that repulsive word, meditate.

I trust you understand what is at stake. If allowed to contemplate the empty pursuits and hollow activity that often fill their days, there is no telling what horrific changes they may make in their lives. As long as the volume is high and the lights are flashing, there is little danger of this. But when allowed to face things as they really are, stripped of the comfort provided by our dizzying distractions, our subjects often choose against our ways.

This kind of activity, or rather inactivity, is a breeding ground for all manner of destructive outcomes. Rest gives them refreshed bodies and clear minds. Clarity draws them to that which we most hate: truth. In such moments their vision grows strong and purpose is rekindled. For Hell’s sake, do not let this happen!"

November 21, 2005

Davenant's Sufficiency Distinctions

(UPDATE on 8-21-07: Some of John Davenant's writings can be found online for free HERE).



IN our first proposition we endeavored to shew that the death or merit of Christ was appointed by God, proposed in the holy Scriptures, and to be considered by us, as an universal remedy applicable to all men for salvation from the ordination of God. And on this account we hesitate not to assert that Christ died for all men, inasmuch as he endured death, by the merit and virtue of which all men individually who obey the Gospel may be delivered from death and obtain eternal salvation. But because some persons in such a way concede that Christ died for all men, that with the same breath they assert that he died for the elect alone, and so expound that received distinction of Divines, That he died for all sufficiently, but for the elect effectually, that they entirely extinguish the first part of the sentence; we will lay down a second proposition, which will afford an occasion of discussing that subject expressly, which we have hitherto only glanced at slightly by the way. This second proposition, therefore, shall be reduced into this form; if it is rather prolix, pardon it. The death of Christ is the universal cause of the salvation of mankind, and Christ himself is acknowledged to have died for all men sufficiently, not by reason of the mere sufficiency or of the intrinsic value, according to which the death of God is a price more than sufficient for redeeming a thousand worlds; but by reason of the Evangelical covenant confirmed with the whole human race through the merit of his death, and of the Divine ordination depending upon it, according to which, under the possible condition of faith, remission of sins and eternal life is decreed to be set before every mortal man who will believe it, on account of the merits of Christ. In handling this proposition we shall do two things. First, we shall explain some of the terms. Secondly, we shall divide our proposition into certain parts, and establish them separately by some arguments.

In the first place, therefore, is to be explained, what we mean by mere sufficiency, and what by that which is commonly admitted by Divines, That Christ died for all sufficiently. If we speak of the price of redemption, that ransom is to be acknowledged sufficient which exactly answers to the debt of the captive; or which satisfies the demand of him who has the power of liberating the captive. The equality of one thing to another, or to the demands of him who has power over the captive, constitutes what we call this mere sufficiency. This shall be illustrated by examples. Suppose my brother was detained in prison for a debt of a thousand pounds. If I have in my possession so many pounds, I can truly affirm that this money is sufficient to pay the debt of my brother, and to free him from it. But while it is not offered for him, the mere sufficiency of the thing is understood, and estimated only from the value of it, the act of offering that ransom being wanting, without which the aforesaid sufficiency effects nothing. For the same reason, if many persons should be capitally condemned for the crime of high treason, and the king himself against whom this crime was committed should agree that he would be reconciled to all for whom his son should think fit to suffer death: Now the death of the Son, according to the agreement, is appointed to be a sufficient ransom for redeeming all those for whom it should be offered. But if there should be any for whom that ransom should not be offered, as to those it has only a mere sufficiency, which is supposed from the value of the thing considered in itself, and not that which is understood from the act of offering. To these things I add, If we admit the aforesaid ransom not only to be sufficient from the equality of the one thing to the other, and from his demand, who requires nothing more from the redemption of the captives; but also to be greater and better in an indefinite degree, and to exceed all their debts, yet if there should not be added to this the intention and act of offering for certain captives, although such a ransom should be ever so copious and superabundant, considered in itself and from its intrinsic value, yet what was said of the sufficiency may be said of the superabundance, that there was a mere superabundance of the thing, but that it effected nothing as yet for the liberation of the persons aforesaid.

Now to this mere sufficiency, which regards nothing else than the equal or superabundant worth of the appointed price of redemption, I oppose another, which, for the sake of perspecuity, I shall call ordained sufficiency. This is understood when the thing which has respect to the ransom, or redemption price, is not only equivalent to, or superior in value to the thing redeemed, but also is ordained for its redemption by some wish to offer or actual offering. Thus a thousand talents laid up in the treasury of a prince are said to be a sufficient ransom to redeem ten citizens taken captive by an enemy; but if there is not an intention to offer, and an actual offering and giving these talents for those captives, or for some of them, then a mere and not an ordained sufficiency of the thing is supposed as to those person for whom it is not given. But if you add the act and intention offering them for the liberation of certain persons, then the ordained sufficiency is asserted as to them alone. Further, this ordained sufficiency of the ransom for the redemption of a captive may be twofold: Absolute; when there is such agreement between him who gives and him who receives this price of redemption for the liberation of the captives, that as soon as the price is paid, on the act of payment the captives are immediately delivered. Conditional; when the price is accepted, not that it may be paid immediately, and the captive be restored to liberty; but that he should be delivered under a condition if he should first do something or other. When we say that Christ died sufficiently for all, we do not understand the mere sufficiency of the thing with a defect of the oblation as to the greater part of mankind, but that ordained sufficiency, which has the intent and act of offering joined to it, and that for all; but with the conditional, and not the absolute ordination which we have expressed. In one word, when we affirm that Christ died for all sufficiently, we mean, That there was in the sacrifice itself a sufficiency or equivalency, yea, a superabundance of price or dignity, if it should be compared to the whole human race; that both in the offering and the accepting there was a kind of ordination, according to which the aforesaid sacrifice was offered and accepted for the redemption of all mankind. This may suffice for the explanation of the first term.

John Davenant, A Dissertation on the Death of Christ (London, 1832), 401-404.

My remarks:

Davanent begins by showing that he wants to refute the strict particularist view (as over against Davenant's dualistic view) of some who, in the "same breath," say that Christ died in some sense for all men, but then hold that he died for the elect alone. They give lip service to the sufficiency/efficiency formula of the schoolmen or "Divines", but mean something different by it. Davenant addresses this issue by distinguishing between a "mere sufficiency" and an "ordained sufficiency." First, a "mere sufficiency," according to Davenant's categories, is unrelated to intention and active principles of actual giving and offering. That's crucial to note. A thousand pounds may have intrinsic worth or sufficiency to free a given prisoner, but if it is not given or offered to him, then it is "merely sufficient." Two thousand pounds may be of superabundant sufficiency, intrinsically considered, for the payment, but if it is not offered then it is merely sufficient for that prisoner. As over against this mere sufficiency, there is the sense of an ordained sufficiency. This sense of sufficiency is related to intention and offering. As Davenant says, "This is understood when the thing which has respect to the ransom, or redemption price, is not only equivalent to, or superior in value to the thing redeemed, but also is ordained for its redemption by some wish to offer or actual offering." Equivalent intrinsic worth (whether a moral or pecuniary equivalency) is joined to an intention and active giving or offering with the sense of an "ordained sufficiency."

Also, within the sense of an ordained sufficiency, he makes the twofold distinction between an "absolute" and a "conditional" agreement. With an absolute sort of agreement, "as soon as the price is paid, on the act of payment the captives are immediately delivered." An absolute payment ipso facto liberates, as Charles Hodge puts it, the recipients when the payment is made. In a conditional agreement, the captive is restored to liberty after he or she first does something. There are terms or conditions that must be met, even though the payment has already been made. Davenant would argue that the condition for being liberated or saved unto eternal life is faith. Even though Christ has made a morally equivalent "payment" in dying a death that every sinner deserves, no one is, on that basis alone, saved. Even though Davenant uses terms such as "payment," "price," "purchase" etc., he is not making Christ's death a literal pecuniary or commercial payment. He is speaking analogically or metaphorically. There is a valid comparison between the paying of a moral debt and the paying of a commercial debt (the scriptures liken these things metaphorically), but the language should not be made univocal so as to discount a measure of discontinuity in the comparison. As Dabney says regarding some analogies he makes, "None will deny that the discussion of God's nature and activities should be approached with profound reverence and diffidence. One of the clearest declarations concerning him in the Scriptures is, that we may not expect to "find out the Almighty unto perfection" [(Job 11:7)]. Should a theologian assume, then, that his rationale of God's actings furnished an exhaustive or complete explanation of them all, this alone would convict him of error. It must be admitted, also, that no analogy can be perfect between the actions of a finite and the infinite intelligence and will. But analogies may be instructive and valuable which are not perfect; if they are just in part, they may guide us in the particulars wherein there is a true correspondence. And the Scriptures, which do undertake to unfold "parts of his ways" [(Job 26:14)]], will be safe guides to those who study them with humility."

The position of John Davenant is that Christ paid a morally equivelant price for the redemption of all mankind intentionally, but the reception of the benefits unto eternal life are based in conditions; such as, "he who believes shall not perish, but he who does not believe shall perish." Belief in Christ is the necessary condition for the enjoyment of eternal life, but none will perform this condition except the elect, for God grants to them alone the moral ability to believe as a result of his eternal decree or predestination. This sets Davenant's view apart from Arminianism as well. We might illustrate Davenant's position in the following way:

November 19, 2005

Chesterton on Courage

Rush Limbaugh recently quoted from G. K. Chesterton's book on Orthodoxy. He brought it up on Veterans' Day because it's an exposition on the idea of courage. It is a remarkable piece of writing that is worthy of our meditation. Chesterton says:
"Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously. Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide; and take the case of courage. No quality has ever so much addled the brains and tangled the definitions of merely rational sages. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice.

He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying. And it has held up ever since above the European lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry: the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death; not the Chinese courage, which is a disdain of life."

November 17, 2005

Reply to Laura

- Tony, you are free to point out any perceived holes in this, but I had an out-of-the-blue realization pro limited atonement: If the question is what Christ's death was meant to accomplish, the propitiation of God's wrath is certainly part of the answer. If Christ died for all sinners, the fact that the non-elect are called "vessels of wrath" (Rom. 9) who are storing up God's wrath in their present rebellion seems to mean that Christ's death did not satisfy God's wrath for those who are bound for eternal punishment. How could we still say, then, that Christ died for the sins of "the world" in the sense of "every individual" and not "elect from all nations?"

My reply:

Hi Laura,

I'm glad to see that you are spending some time thinking about the extent and intent of Christ's death :-) It's a profound subject that relates to so many areas of theology. It provides a good opportunity to test the virtue of our thinking processes. For that reason (among many others), my "meditations" frequently touch on the issue. With that said, let me make a few points:

1) The term "limited atonement" is an imprecise way to refer to the debated issue of the nature and intent of Christ's death, even as the other TULIP words tend to be. If the doctrine is put in contrast to the Arminian view, then it's really just a doctrine that defends the logical outworking of God's special decree concerning the elect. The "limit" word refers to Christ's intent in coming to die, i.e. it was for his elect ones. Some Calvinists think that intent was exclusively for the elect alone (the strictly limited view), while others sees additional motives concerning all of lost humanity (the moderate view). The expression "limited atonement" should not merely be associated with the strict view. Even the moderate Calvininsts, like myself, Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney and Shedd, maintain that there is a special design/purpose/intent in Christ's coming to die in the case of the elect. Some push the limitation idea into the very nature (not merely the intent) of Christ's death by commercial or pecuniary debt payment notions, i.e. he literally purchases things for the elect alone. Moderate Calvinists say the limitation is only in the special decree to effectually apply the death (which death, intrinsically considered, is unlimited in terms of it's legal accomplishment - he suffers or bears the full curse of all that the law requires of any given sinner) to the elect alone by the Spirit through the instrumentality of faith.

The positions on the intent issue are not merely between 1) an exclusive or singular intent to come and die for the elect alone (the strictly limited view) and 2) a singular and equal intent (same motive for every lost person) to die for every one (Arminianism); but there is, at least, a third view: 3) Christ came to die for all (general motive), but especially for the elect (special motive). This third view is related to the issue of God's love. He loves all mankind, but especially his elect (his bride). It's a false dilemma to posit either that God only loves the elect or he loves all equally, just as it is a false dilemma to posit that either Christ died only for the elect, or he died with an equal intent for all. I assume that you are not positing these dilemmas, but I am just addressing this issue in case you see it elsewhere.

2) With regard to the issue of propitiation, Christ certainly came to satisfy God's wrath against sinners. However, as the scriptures say, we come to be at peace with God at the point of conversion or faith. Prior to that, we are children of wrath, even as the rest, as Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians. So then, God was propitiated in the case of Laura when she believed. Prior to that, Christ was the provisional means by which God could be propitiated towards Laura, but you abided under his wrath until the point of faith, or real union with Christ. Propitiation is scripturally associated with forgiveness of sins, restored peaceful relations, and justification. If we push the doctrines about what occurs at the point of real union (our actual union through faith) with Christ back into the point of our federal union (our decretal union with Christ prior to our existence), then we virtually arrive at our justification at the time of the cross, or in eternity (two versions of theoretical antinomianism). This undermines our responsibility to believe in order to be justified (what some in the past called "duty-faith"), as well as the doctrine that elect sinners are under God's wrath prior to faith.

Even though Christ died especially for Laura as an elect sinner, the benefits of what he did in her case were suspended until she performed the decreed condition for the reception of his merits, namely faith or trust in Christ alone (which Laura was only able to perform because the Holy Spirit, through regenerating power in her heart, granted her the moral ability to do so - contra Arminianism). Had Laura not performed this necessary condition, then she would have remained under God's wrath.

3) You ask, "If Christ died for all sinners, the fact that the non-elect are called "vessels of wrath" (Rom. 9) who are storing up God's wrath in their present rebellion seems to mean that Christ's death did not satisfy God's wrath for those who are bound for eternal punishment. How could we still say, then, that Christ died for the sins of "the world" in the sense of "every individual" and not "elect from all nations?"

The reason why Christ's death does not atone for these "vessels of wrath" is because they remain in unbelief. They fail, for one reason or another, to appropriate the remedy. They do not look to the lifted up serpent with the eyes of faith to heal the bite of sin (John 3:14-17). Christ satisfies for all that the law requires, but it does not avail anyone who remains in unbelief, therefore Calvin says, "And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us." In Calvin's way of putting it, Christ can die for the sins of the "human race" or "the world", but it does not follow that they are ipso facto liberated. One must be really united to him (i.e. not "seperated" or "without Christ" as Calvin expresses it) through faith to receive the benefits.

4) Incidently, nowhere in scripture does "world" or kosmos mean "the elect from all nations." The "world", biblically, refers to sinful and darkened humanity in organized hostility to God, or to the sphere or location in which these sinners dwell. Even when the "world" in scripture means the location of sinners ("Christ came into the world" etc.), it still carries the association with the first sense, i.e. to sinful humanity. "World" has morally dark connotations. It's put in contrast to the "light."

Those inclined to see "world" as meaning the "elect from all nations" are taking high Calvinist interpretations. The people who usually take this view are picking it up from recent "Calvinistic" (actually not from Calvin) literature steeped in Owenic and Post-Reformational scholastic categories (like G. Clark, Sproul, White, etc). Some even get it from Arthur Pink, one who was, at least when he wrote his book The Sovereignty of God, influenced by John Gill (a hyper-Calvinist who denied free offers and duty-faith [Pink accepted "duty-faith"]).

What I am saying is that taking the "world" as entailing "the elect" is a high (although not necessarily hyper) Calvinist path. One does not have to take that method of interpretation to remain a solid, historic Calvinist in harmony with the Synod of Dort. The Calvinists who say that there is a sense in which Christ died for the whole world are not necessarily "4 point" Calvinists. They may be 6 point Calvinists. They wish to add a point of clarification, namely that Christ really or actually suffered sufficiently for all mankind (it's no mere hypothetical sufficiency "had God so intended", contra Owen), in addition to the teaching or truth that he died especially for the elect (contra Arminianism).

5) I've been meaning to post a blog on the issue of either "all without exception" vs. "all without distinction" for awile now, but have not done so yet. This issue is related to the "world" interpretation you mention above. There are logical leaps that ofter go undetected. I will try to address this issue as soon as possible, because it is related to high Calvinistic hermeneutics. It's hard to find Calvinistic critiques of high Calvinistic interpretive methods and theology. In some ways, my blog is a collection of some of my efforts to deconstruct their thinking patterns, and analyze them biblically and systematically (I am a different kind of Calvinistic Gadfly). We are attempting do this same thing at the Calvin and Calvinism list, as you know. We have addressed the "all without exception" vs. "all without distinction" topic there, but I need to post something on my blog about it. I will do so asap, because it is related to the "world" means "elect" subject.

I hope that all of the above helps to clarify your thinking on the issues, even if you end up disagreeing. These subjects are worthy of constant and serious contemplation/meditation. I also hope that things I have said in this post encourage you to reflect and think critically about your own theological presuppositions. Becoming epistemologically self-aware, as you know, is an aspect of becoming intellectually virtuous :-)

In him,

Other Helpful and Related Posts:

November 16, 2005

John Davenant's (1572–1641) Reply to the Double Jeopardy Issue

(UPDATE on 8-21-07: Some of John Davenant's writings can be found online for free HERE).
Objection 5. If the death of Christ be a benefit from the ordination of God, applicable to each and every man, then it may be said, that Christ made satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race. But this cannot be defended, without at the same time overthrowing the justice of God, since the idea of justice does not admit that the same sin should be punished twice. Suppose, then, that the death of Christ is a ransom, by which satisfaction was made to God for the sins of the human race, how can so many persons be called to account for the same by the justice of God, and be tormented with eternal punishment?

Reply 5. As to the major proposition, we think its consequence may be safely conceded. For the orthodox Fathers boldly assert that Christ made satisfaction for the sins of the human race or all of mankind. Thus Eusebius, (Evang. Demonstr. lib. x. in the preface) It was needful that the Lamb of God should be offered as a sacrifice for the other lambs whose nature he assumed, even for the whole human race. Thus Nazianzen (Orat. 2. in Pasch.) The sacrifice of Christ is an imperishable expiation of the whole world. Thus, finally (omitting others), Cyril (Catech. 13.), He redeemed the whole world of mankind. The same form of speaking is every where made use of in the Articles of religion of our Church of England, (Art. 2, 15, 31, &c.). Thus also those speak who endeavour to limit to the utmost this death of Christ. We adduced before the testimony of the Reverend Heidelberg Divine Pareus, who freely confesses in his judgment exhibited at the Synod of Dort, The cause and matter of the passion of Christ was a feeling or sustaining of the wrath of God, incensed by the sin, not of some men, but of the whole human race. A little afterwards, The whole of sin and of the wrath of God against it, is affirmed to have been borne by Christ. Nor ought this to appear unsound, since this universal redemption, satisfaction, or expiation performed by the death of Christ, brings nothing more than an universal cause of salvation to be confirmed and granted to the human race by the Divine ordination; the benefit of which every individual may enjoy through faith required by the Gospel. We therefore call Christ the Redeemer of the world, and teach that he made satisfaction for the sins not of some, but of the whole world, not because that on account of the payment of this price for the sins of the human race, all mankind individually are to be immediately delivered from captivity and death, but because by virtue of the payment of this price, all men individually may and ought to be delivered from death, and, in fact, are to be delivered according to the tenor of the evangelical covenant, that is, if they repent and believe in this Redeemer.

To what is further urged, That it is contrary to justice to receive satisfaction or a ransom for the sins of the whole human race, and yet not to deliver them all from the punishment of their sins, but, notwithstanding this satisfaction, to adjudge many to eternal torments; I answer, That this would indeed be most unjust, if we ourselves had paid this price to God, or if our Surety, Jesus Christ, had so offered to God his blood as a satisfactory price, that without any other intervening condition, all men should be immediately absolved through the offering of the oblation made by him; or, finally, if God himself had covenanted with Christ when he died, that he would give faith to every individual, and all those other things which regard the infallible application of this sacrifice which was offered up for the human race. But since God himself of his own accord provided that this price should be paid to himself, it was in his own power to annex conditions, which being performed, this death should be advantageous to any man, not being performed it should not profit any man. Therefore no injustice is done to those persons who are punished by God after the ransom was accepted for the sins of the human race, because they offered nothing to God as a satisfaction for their sins, nor performed that condition, without the performance of which God willed not that this satisfactory price should benefit any individual. Nor, moreover, ought this to be thought an injustice to Christ the Mediator. For he so was willing to die for all, and to pay to the Father the price of redemption for all, that at the same time he willed not that every individual in any way whatsoever, but that all, as soon as they believed in him, should be absolved from the guilt of their sins. Lastly, Christ, in offering himself in sacrifice to God the Father in order to expiate the sins of the world, nevertheless submitted to the good pleasure of the Father the free distribution and application of his merits, neither was any agreement entered into between the Father and the Son, by which God is bound to effect that this death of Christ, which, from the ordination of God, is applicable to all under the condition of faith, should become applied to all by the gift of faith. We ought not, therefore, to deny that the offering of Christ once made is a perfect satisfaction for the sins, not of some men only, but of all; yet so that he who is simply said to have died for all, promises remission of sin through his death and salvation conditionally, and will perform it to those alone who believe. We will illustrate all these things by a similitude; Suppose that a number of men were cast into prison by a certain King on account of a great debt, or that they were condemned to suffer death for high treason; but that the King himself procured that his own Son should discharge this debt to the last farthing; or should substitute himself as guilty in the room of those traitors, and should suffer the punishment due to them all, this condition being at the same time promulgated both by the King and his Son, That none should be absolved or liberated except those only who should acknowledge the King's Son for their Lord and serve him: These things being so determined, I inquire, if those who persist in disobedience and rebellion against the King's Son should not be delivered, would any charge of injustice be incurred, because after this ransom had been paid, their own debts should be exacted from many, or after the punishment endured by the Son, these rebels should nevertheless be punished? By no means; because the payment of the just price, and the enduring of the punishment was ordained to procure remission for every one under the condition of obedience, and not otherwise. I shall add no more; it will be easy to accommodate all these things to our present purpose.
John Davenant, “A Dissertation on the Death of Christ,” in An Exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1832), 2:374–377.

For other responses to the Double Jeopardy argument by Reformed thinkers such as Edward Polhill, Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney, W. G. T. Shedd, Curt Daniel and Neil Chambers, go here:

Double Jeopardy?

November 15, 2005

Media, Music and the Meaning of Life

The MacLaurin Institute has an excellent audio lecture (among many others) by Ken Myers entitled Media, Music and the Meaning of Life. If you would like to hear an insightful analysis on the sociology of music from a Christian perspective, then be sure to listen to this talk by Myers.

CLICK HERE (it's near the middle of the page)

November 9, 2005

More for the Audiophiles

Veritas Media has an excellent collection of audio lectures by outstanding scholars. Be sure to check it out.

November 2, 2005

Mohler/Patterson Debate

If you have not seen this news yet, Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries has reported that Al Mohler will be debating Paige Patterson on the issue of Calvinism. Read about it HERE.

More information and comments by Ascol are HERE.

Dabney in Audio

I recently put Robert Lewis Dabney's article God's Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy, As Related to His Power, Wisdom, and Sincerity into audio form. This is one of the most remarkable theological writings I have ever read. Dabney incorporates many areas of his sound theology to bear on his subject.

This (my) audio reading may be freely distributed.

Download Version (29.4 MB) It is here as well.

Thanks to Ryan at Reformed Audio for posting it on his site.

Added at 5:40 am:

Well, I have just listened to some of the reading and hear some mistakes that I should have spotted earlier. I will try to correct the audio to accurately reflect Dabney's article. Be sure to follow what Dabney says in his text. The errors I have heard so far in my reading are minor.

October 31, 2005

John Robinson and "Reformation Day"

John Robinson, pastor to the Pilgrims who sailed to the New World, has some relevant words for those speaking of a "Reformation Day." I celebrate what the Reformers accomplished in Christ's name in so far as their thoughts and actions correspond to scripture. However, I am not one to so sing the praises of the Reformers that I don't notice where they made mistakes and acted wrongly. I am grieved when I am around Christians who fall prey to Reformation propaganda to the extent that they refuse to go beyond the Reformers. This sometimes happens because they are so locked into their traditions and confessions (taking great pride in them), that they can go no further than Luther, Calvin or their successors. These types of people may have favorite teachers that they so admire, that they will not hold anything contrary to what these men teach.

John Robinson has appropriate words for such people. Speaking in his memorable charge to the departing company at Delft Haven, he said:
"I charge you before God and His blessed angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveals anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth by my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His holy word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of those reformed Churches which are come to a period in religion, and will go, at present, no further than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of His will our God has revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented, for though they were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God; but were they now living, would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they first received, for it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick anti-christian darkness and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.”
E. H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church (Basingstoke, Hants, UK: Pickering & Inglis, 1985), 245-246.

October 28, 2005

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia on Amyraut

AMYRAUT, am"î-rō', MOÏSE (Lat. Moses Amyraldus): Calvinist theologian and preacher; b. at Bourgueil (27 m. w.s.w. of Tours), Touraine, 1596; d. at Saumur Jan. 8, 1664. He came of an influential family in Orleans, began the study of law at Poitiers, and received the degree of licentiate in 1616; but the reading of Calvin's Institutio turned his mind to theology. This he studied eagerly at Saumur, under Cameron, to whom he was much attached. After serving as pastor for a short time at Saint-Aignan, he was called in 1626 to succeed Jean Daillé at Saumur, and soon became prominent. The national synod held at Charenton in 1631 chose him to lay its requests before Louis XIII., on which occasion his tactful bearing attracted the attention and won the respect of Richelieu. In 1633 he was appointed professor of theology at Saumur with De la Place and Cappel, and the three raised the institution into a flourishing condition, students being attracted to it from foreign countries, especially from Switzerland. Theological novelties in their teaching, however, soon stirred up opposition, which came to little in France; but in Switzerland, where the professors were less known, it reached such a pitch that students were withdrawn, and in 1675 the Helvetic Consensus was drawn up against the Saumur innovations. Amyraut was specially attacked because his teaching on grace and predestination seemed to depart from that of the Synod of Dort, by adding a conditional universal grace to the unconditional particular.

Amyraut first published his ideas in his Traité de la prédestination (Saumur, 1634), which immediately caused great excitement. The controversy became so heated that the national synod at Alençon in 1637 had to take notice of it. Amyraut and his friend Testard were acquitted of heterodoxy, and silence was imposed on both sides. The attacks continued, however, and the question came again before the synod of Charenton in 1644-45, but with the same result. Amyraut bore himself so well under all these assaults that he succeeded in conciliating many of his opponents, even the venerable Du Moulin (1655). But at the synod of Loudun in 1659 (the last for which permission was obtained—partly through Amyraut's influence—from the crown), fresh accusations were brought, this time including Daillé, the president of the synod, because he had defended what is called "Amyraldism." This very synod, however, gave Amyraut the honorable commission to revise the order of discipline. In France the harmlessness of his teaching was generally recognized; and the controversy would soon have died out but for the continual agitation kept up abroad, especially in Holland and Switzerland.

Amyraut's doctrine has been called "hypothetical universalism"; but the term is misleading, since it might be applied also to the Arminianism which he steadfastly opposed. His main proposition is this: God wills all men to be saved, on condition that they believe—a condition which they could well fulfil in the abstract, but which in fact, owing to inherited corruption, they stubbornly reject, so that this universal will for salvation actually saves no one. God also wills in particular to save a certain number of persons, and to pass over the others with this grace. The elect will be saved as inevitably as the others will be damned. The essential point, then, of Amyraldism is the combination of real particularism with a purely ideal universalism. Though still believing it as strongly as ever, Amyraut came to see that it made little practical difference, and did not press it in his last years, devoting himself rather to non-controversial studies, especially to his system of Christian morals (La morale chrestienne, 6 vols., Saumur, 1652-60). The read significance of Amyraut's teaching lies in the fact that, while leaving unchanged the special doctrines of Calvinism, he brought to the front its ethical message and its points of universal human interest.

(E. F. Karl Müller.)

Bibliography: E. and É. Haag, La France Protestante, i. 72-80, Paris, 1846 (gives a complete list of his voluminous works); E. Saigey, in Revue de théologie, pp. 178 sqq., Paris, 1849; A. Schweizer, Tübinger theologische Jahrbücher, 1852, pp. 41 sqq., 155 sqq.