January 31, 2006

Logic Lectures

I just saw a link at the Reformata blog to free logic lectures by Rick Grush.

Grush's lectures can be found here (click on Podcasts):

Pro-life on Campus

A friend of mine sent this article to me in an email. It's worth reading. The writer, Nathanael Blake, says this:

"Abortion is a symptom of a corrupted liberalism. Liberal visions formerly had some nobility, however wrongheaded the ideology may have been when taken as a whole. But even their limited virtue has been obliterated by the insistence that we must be allowed to murder our progeny to create a better world for them.

This contradiction arises because liberalism is a dying faith. All the various liberal catechisms that were formed in the Western world were attempts to fill the vacancy left by a receding Christianity. They attempted to solve the problem of sin, each promising that if we followed their social program, the wrongs of the world would be removed.

But wickedness has not been so easily vanquished, and thus the West has become ever more hopeless. The abandonment of ideals, even wrong ones, leaves each to define his own existence, which leads to a miserable narcissism that turns to hedonism. Having found that heaven on earth is elusive, modernity seeks consolation in pleasure; if we can’t achieve utopia, we can at least have many toys and orgasms before death."

Here's the link to the Townhall article:

John Stott on Anti-intellectualism

"The spirit of anti-intellectualism is prevalent today. The modern world breeds pragmatists, whose first question about any idea is not "Is it true?" but "Does it work?" Young people tend to be activists, dedicated supporters of a cause, though without always inquiring too closely either whether their cause is a good end to pursue or whether their action is the best means by which to pursue it."

John Stott, Your Mind Matters (IVP, 1972), p. 7-8.

January 30, 2006

The History and Theology of Calvinism

I am glad to see that Dr. Curt Daniel has put his lectures on The History and Theology of Calvinism on his church website. Now one can download them much easier than on SermonAudio.com. Also, his weekly sermons are available on the site, as well as Phil Johnson and Joel Beeke messages in the Conferences.

Listen to them here: Faith Bible Church

Or, one can try this link:

January 28, 2006

Support Our Troops?

A few days ago I made a blog entry about the idea of supporting our troops and the Joel Stein LA Times article. Since I saw that thousands of bloggers were already addressing the issue sufficiently, I decided to delete my post.

Here are two posts worth reading, especially the "Voice of the Neuter" article. I could not help but think of certain preachers today who have this same voice.


January 26, 2006

Galatians 2:20 and Real Union

On an internet discussion board, I was asked to respond to the following quote by James White. White refers to Galatians 2:20 to maintain his strictly limited atonement view as over against Dave Hunt's Arminian perspective. Here's the citation I was provided:
[Are] we truly to believe that in eternity the denizens of hell, while screaming their hatred for God, will be able to say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). Surely not!"
James White, Debating Calvinism, p.177.

One does not have to agree with White's position in order to disagree with the many errors of Dave Hunt. In the quotation above, White is presupposing the validity of the Owenic double payment argument. I have dealt with that fallacious argument elsewhere. White is also confusing the significant difference between federal (or virtual) and real union. I will say more about this issue in what follows.

First, I cite the text and several commentaries that rightly interpret Paul's flow of thought and theology. Then, I try to expound on the nature of White's confusion regarding virtual and real union. Here's my response to this quote:

The Text:
NRS Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Comments and Commentaries:

I would argue that Paul is referring to truths that pertain to real union in Galatians 2:20, not virtual union. He's clearly referring to things that occurred when he existed, not in some non-existent state, or even when he was in an unbelieving state. He says that he "died to the law," and that "it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me." Further, he clarifies what he means when he says "the life I now live (i.e. as a believer or one having faith) in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God." One can see that Paul is saying things about himself that refer to real or vital union truths, not virtual union. Therefore, not even the unbelieving elect can say of themselves what Paul says of himself in Galatians 2:20, so it's no surprise that those in hell cannot say it either. The fact that those in hell cannot say of themselves what Paul says of himself in that passage is no argument against Christ dying for those who are now in hell, any more than it is an argument against Christ dying for the unbelieving elect who cannot describe themselves as Paul describes himself in that passage. In other words, the following argument is just as unsound:

1) Paul says that he has died to the law, lives to God, has been crucified with Christ and lives by faith.
2) The unbelieving elect cannot say these things about themselves.
3) Therefore, Christ did not die for them.

Consider what some commentaries observe about the context.

Richard N Longnecker says this in the Word Biblical Commentary:
The death of Christ was the focus of early Christian preaching, and it is that as well throughout Galatians (cf. 1:4; 3:1, 13; 6:12, 14). Later in Galatians Paul will speak of Christ's death as redeeming us from the "curse of the law" (see also Col 2:14) and from "the world" (see Col 2:20), and elsewhere in his letters he emphasizes Christ's death as saving us from our sins (esp. Rom 7:14-25). Here, however, Paul speaks of Christ's death and our spiritual identification with that death as releasing believers from the jurisdiction of the Mosaic law - much as he does later in the somewhat garbled illustration of Rom 7:1-6 which concludes: "so, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another.... Now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we might serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code."

The συν prefix of the verb συνεσταύρωμαι highlights the believer's participation with Christ in his crucifixion. Paul is undoubtedly not here thinking of a literal physical death on the part of the Christian, but of his or her spiritual identification with Christ's death on the cross. The perfect tense of the verb signals the believer's once-for-all act of commitment, with that act having results and implications for the present.

The versification of the KJV has accustomed Protestants to read "I have been crucified with Christ" as the beginning of v 20, and that tradition has been followed by many moder Protestant translations (so ASV, RSV, NIV). Critical editions of the Greek text, however, are almost unanimous in placing Χριστω συνεσταύρωμαι with the material of v 19. And if that be its rightful place, as we believe it is, then Paul's argument in this verse as to believers being released from the jurisdiction of the Mosaic law is fourfold: (1) that it was the law's purpose to bring about its own demise in legislating the lives of God's people; (2) that such a jurisdictional demise was necessary in order that believers in Christ might live more fully in relationship with God; (3) that freedom from the law's jurisdiction is demanded by the death of Christ on the cross; and (4) that by identification with Christ we experience the freedom from the law that he accomplished.
Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians. Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 41. (Nashville: Nelson, 1990), 92.

Notice how Calvin implicitly takes the verse to reference real union as well. He says:
I am crucified with Christ. This explains the manner in which we, who are dead to the law, live to God. Ingrafted into the death of Christ, we derive from it a secret energy, as the twig does from the root. Again, the handwriting of the law, "which was contrary to us, Christ has nailed to his cross." (Colossians 2:14.) Being then crucified with him, we are freed from all the curse and guilt of the law. He who endeavors to set aside that deliverance makes void the cross of Christ. But let us remember, that we are delivered from the yoke of the law, only by becoming one with Christ, as the twig draws its sap from the root, only by growing into one nature.
See Calvin's Commentaries

We are not "dead to the law," or "engrafted into the death of Christ," or deriving "secret energy" from the death of Christ in some pre-existent federal state. These things happen when we believe into Christ, i.e. are really united to him by faith. This is how Calvin is taking the sense, and rightly so.

Lenski, in his commentary is on the real union target as well. He comments:
Συν in the verb denotes faith, for it alone joins us to Christ crucified "with" him.
R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians (Augsburg, 1961), 116.

John Stott comments on the context of the passage this way:
Perhaps now it is becoming clearer why a Christian who is 'justified in Christ' is not free to sin. In Christ 'old things are passed away' and 'all things are become new' (2 Cor. 5:17, AV). This is because the death and resurrection of Christ are not only historical events (He 'gave himself' and now 'lives'), but events in which through faith-union with Him His people have comes to share ('I have been crucified with Christ' and now 'I live'). Once we have been united to Christ in His Death, our old life is finished; it is ridiculous to suggest that we could ever go back to it. Besides, we have risen to a new life.
John Stott, Only One Way: The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove: IVP, 1968), 65.

Curtis Vaughn also understands the context. He says,
Verse 20 describes the new life into which Paul came when he renounced the law and turned to Christ. It was in essence a life of identification with Christ, both in death and in resurrection. The former, identification in death, is expressed by the opening words: I have been crucified with Christ (ASV). Believers, by virtue of their corporate union with Christ, were included in his death (cf. Rom. 6:6). What he experienced, they experienced. This may be seen as yet another reason why the law has no claim on Paul. Phillips: "As far as the Law is concerned I may consider that I died on the cross with Christ." The tense of the verb (perfect) speaks of an act accomplished at some point in the past but having abiding results.

But Paul's Christian experience involved not simply an identification with Christ in his death; it was also an identification with him in life. I have been crucifed with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me (verse 20a, ASV). The sense is that Paul no longer thnks of himself as having a separate existence from Christ. Christ has become the source, the aim, and the motivating principle of all that he does (cf. Phil. 1:21). "As in the old days the law had filled his horizon and dominated his thought-life, so now it is Christ. Christ is the sole meaning of life for him now; every moment is passed in conscious dependence on Him" (Cole, p. 83).
Curtis Vaughn, Galatians: A Study Guide Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 54–55.

Donald K. Campbell says this:
Basic to an understanding of this verse is the meaning of union with Christ. The doctrine is based on such passages as Romans 6:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 12:13, which explain that believers have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ and into the church, the body of all true believers. Having been thus united to Christ, believers share in His death, burial, and resurrection. Paul could therefore write, I have been "crucified with Christ" (lit., "I have been and am now crucified with Christ"). This brought death to the Law.
Donald K. Campbell, "Galatians," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 596.

Richard B. Gaffin interprets the verse as referencing the real union that believers experience by faith. He says:
The notion of resurrection with Christ is not difficult to see in these verses. Their affinity especially with the passage in Romans 6:3ff. appears at several points. Verse 20 contains the only other reference in Paul to crucifixion with Christ (cf. Rom. 6:6). Having died "that I might live to God" (v. 19b) is reminiscent of Romans 6:10f. The death to the law spoken of (v. 19a) is correlative with the death to sin (cf. Rom. 7:4, 6 with 6:6, 18, 22). Therefore, since this death is described in terms of solidarity with Christ in his crucifixion, the life which forms its pointed contrast (v. 20) should be understood in terms of solidarity in his resurrection. Moreover, since this life is obviously life in individual, existential union with Christ ("Christ in me"), the co-crucifixion and the co-resurrection in view are likewise primarily experiential in nature.

In these verses Paul writes in the singular, using himself and his experience as illustrative of all believers. This justifies understanding the "we" statements in the other passages examined distributively and as applying individually to every believer.
Richard B. Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption (Phillipsburg: P & R, 1978), 52–53.

Anthony Hoekema brings up Galatians 2:20 in the context of his analysis of actual union. He says:
(2) We appropriate and continue to live out of this union through faith. It is important to remember that the only way in which we can appropriate union with Christ is by faith. Though, as we saw, it is the Spirit who brings us into this living union, we can only grasp and continue to enjoy this union by faith. By nature we are "old selves," enslaved to sin and alienated from God, but as we exercise our faith Christ can and does live in us. Through faith we actualize and experience our having been made new creatures in Christ.

In Galatians 2:20 Paul writes, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." So strongly does Paul here express the truth of union with Christ that he affirms that there is a sense in which he is no longer living, but Christ is living in him. Yet in another sense he does still live: "The life I live in the body, I live by faith." He no longer lives as one who is a slave to sin; he now lives as a person in whom Chirst dwells. But he can only become aware of and draw power from that indwelling of Christ through faith. Faith means living in the joyful awareness that Christ lives in us.
 Anthony Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 60.

The Nature of White's Confusion:

The commentaries above correctly see the sense of real union in the text. However, James White does not. He is, in effect, pushing the truths that pertain to real union back into federal/virtual union, or back into a time when we didn't even exist yet (back to the time when Christ died). He's fundamentally confused on the significant distinction between federal (sometimes called virtual or decretal union) and actual/real/vital union. White has probably picked up this error from the higher Calvinists like John Owen, or maybe even from John Gill. Gill says:
Ver. 20. I am crucified with Christ,.... Not literally, for so only the two thieves were crucified with him, but mystically; Christ was crucified for him in his room and stead, and so he was crucified with him, and in him, as his head and representative. Christ sustained the persons of all his people, and what he did and suffered was in their name, and on their account, and so they were crucified and suffered with him, as they are said to be buried with him, and to be risen with him, and to sit together in heavenly places in him. Moreover, their old man was crucified with him; when he was crucified, all their sins, the whole body of them, were laid upon him, and he bore them, and bore them away, destroyed and made an end of them; they received their mortal wound by his crucifixion and death, so as never to be able to have any damning power over them;
One can see that John Gill, a classic type of  hyper-Calvinist, has a tendency to put real union truths back into virtual union. There is an 'already-not yet' confusion on the subject of union with Christ. There is also a tendency in the Dutch theological school to do this same thing (see Ridderbos' commentary on Galatians in the NICNT series, as well as my post here: Ephesians 2:4-6 and Real Union).

White is also assuming that Christ only represented the elect at the time that he died. He's only the last Adam for the elect. This presupposes that he suffers so much for so many people (it is commercialistic). On the contrary, Christ suffered as the last Adam representing all mankind. Every lost human being deserves to die. This is what God's moral law requires. Christ suffers all that the law requires, and his sufferings cannot be quantified. They are as infinite as his person. He dies one death (not many deaths) that is the moral equivalent to what every single sinful human being deserves. However, his death does not automatically liberate humanity. God's promise is conditional, not absolute. This is the case because it is a judicial or penal satisfaction, not a pecuniary debt payment. Since the promise of liberation is conditional, only those who fulfill the condition are set free. The condition for the reception of the benefits of Christ is faith. The elect alone meet the condition because the Holy Spirit grants them the moral ability to believe. Once granted this new moral ability via regeneration, they freely and voluntarily trust Christ unto salvation. The rest perish for failing to meet the condition. Thus, the limitation is in the effectual decree of the Father to apply the unlimited (his sufferings are not quantifiable or limited as if he feels the "weight and pressure" [Owen] for the sins of the elect alone) death of Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The word "limit" should only reference the special, unconditional decree and the special application in the case of the elect, since there is no limit to the sufferings of Christ due to the majesty of his Divine person.

While it is true that God's justice renders it impossible that God should damn one in real union with Christ, that is not the case with unbelievers for whom Christ died, as is seen by the fact that all of them equally abide under God's wrath (Eph. 2:3).

A Few Concluding Remarks:

Actualizing real union truths in the pretemporal (or prior to our existence) was a mark of Calvinistic Antinomianism and Hyper-Calvinism. Both Peter Toon and Curt Daniel make this point in their books:
The doctrine of eternal union was a favorite doctrine of the doctrinal antinomians and is a theme to which the Hyper-Calvinists often turn.
Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Non-Conformity, 1689-1765 (London: The Olive Tree, 1967), 117.
Joseph Hussey accepted that a mark of Antinomianism, which he believed in, was the doctrine of union before faith.
Curt Daniel, Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1983), 264.

The doctrine of eternal union is related to eternal justification, eternal adoption and supralapsarianism (see C. Daniel, Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill, 264–267). These doctrines are dangerous and contrary to scripture. While I am not calling White an Antinomian or Hyper-Calvinist, he does lean on (and even opens the door to) their arguments and positions in his expositions on "Calvinism." Beware of these mistakes in reading popular literature on Calvinism.

January 25, 2006

Your Happiness Makes Me Unhappy

If the title of this blog entry doesn't get your attention, then I don't know what will :-) Why would I say such a thing? Does your happiness really make me miserable? Well, it depends on what I mean by happiness.

Happiness seems to describe a pleasurable mental state, and people are pleased by different things. We ought to find pleasure in the good, the true and the beautiful, but our sinful state causes us to find pleasure in the opposite. We prioritize according to our values or desires.

The truly telling thing about a person is not so much the individual values or convictions they have, but the way in which they prioritize those values. Some people put happiness over holiness (or the pursuit of the good), or happiness over seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness because they don't find pleasure in God. To that extent, they are idolators. They are content in being theologically apathetic. They are unhappy when they are challenged to think seriously about the fundamental questions of life. They spend their lives pursuing diversions so that they don't have to think about the true God, or about conforming their thoughts and ways unto godliness (their deadly alienation from him). In this sense, their happiness consists in undisturbed apathy, self-sufficiency and diversion seeking.

We are surrounded by such content and apathetic sinners in the United States. I believe Francis Schaeffer described our culture as characterized by the pursuit of "personal peace and affluence," which I take to be equivalent to pursuing personal happiness. Such people are in need of repentance and/or a change of priorities. They must first be made unhappy before they can know true happiness in Christ. In a sense, their greatest need is to be unhappy for the right reasons. Taking sinners to God's law will help in this respect. As George Whitefield said, "We must take care of healing before we see sinners wounded, lest we should say, Peace, peace, where there is no peace. Secure sinners must hear the thunderings of mount Sinai, before we bring them to mount Zion. They who never preach up the law, it is to be feared, are unskillful in delivering the glad tidings of the gospel. Every minister should be a Boanerges, a son of thunder, as well as a Barnabus, a son of consolation." Whitefield seems like he's echoing a principle found in the book of James:

NKJ James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

James and George Whitefield knew and know true happiness. They understood that there is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Eccl. 3:4). In our culture, it's always a time to laugh and dance. Even though these two saints sought to declare the need for sinners to weep and mourn, it was always with a view to joyfully knowing God. Both of them, as believers, knew that in the presence of God there is fullness of joy and/or genuine happiness.

NKJ Psalm 16:11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

NKJ 1 Peter 1:8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

Also, even though our Lord is described as a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3), he was also a man who knew and was in pursuit of true joy and happiness.

NKJ Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Not only are unbelievers capable of pursuing false happiness (contrary to Jesus, James, and George Whitefield), but believers can also fall into the same error. How many of them are grieved when theological issues or ultimate questions are the conversation topic? How many of them are diligently studying sports like a science and yet neglect the science of theology? How many of them yawn or get annoyed when challenged to think? How many of them are reading useless fluff from "Christian" bookstores instead of reading in-depth exegetical and theological material? How many of them would be bothered that I just used the technical term "exegetical"? All of these are indications of either willful ignorance or idolatry.

To the extent that one is "happy" in NOT seeking to love God with all of their heart, mind, soul and strength, to that extent their happiness grieves me. I only wish it grieved them as well. If they were miserable for the reasons that James sets forth, then I would be happy. If you are happy in your apathetic and diversion-seeking state, then your happiness grieves me. If you were miserable unto true repentance (2 Cor. 7:9), I would be happy.

January 17, 2006

The Library, Two Atheists and Changing Truth

Well, I finally bought a digital camera (a Nikon CoolPix 5600). My profile picture was taken with my dad's camera in front of his computer when I was visiting in Iowa last June. I'm not about to take my picture while I am sitting in my bedroom in front of my computer since it looks like a bomb hit the place! hahaha It's a mess! I am weary of jamming my things into a small living space. Anyway, here's a picture of me pretending to be reading in front of some my library (there are four more bookcases in my room - boast, boast). They're a nightmare to move!


The funiture belongs to my roommate. I don't own any furniture, besides a bed, desks and bookcases :-) The above picture proves that I live by Erasmus' principle (not!):

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes."

Now that I have a digital camera, I will probably take up photography again. I certainly won't have the skill and creativity that one of my online friends has (see Badiaphotography), but it will be fun snapping pictures of God's beautiful creation.

Speaking of God's existence and creation, I had a conversation with a couple of guys after work last night. One is a hardcore atheist/materialist, while the other guy is more of a confused deist. The deist is virtually an atheist, but he seems to keep the God concept in his back pocket in case he runs into trouble.

Anyway, I asked both of them if reality was essentially material. The strong atheist answered in the affirmative without much hesitation. The "deist" bowed his head and thought about it, as if he had never pondered the question before. Eventually, he also said yes. Then I asked if everything material changed. This time, both of them hesitated, flip flopped for awile, and then they finally said yes. I mentioned to the atheist that I was bugging the deist about the issue of the truth changing, so I asked him the same question, i.e. Does the truth change? He thought about it, and eventually said yes. He thinks that the truth is material and that all things material change, so he concluded that the truth must also change.

Well, the conversation went on for awile about various issues (about current political events etc.), but then he (the atheist) blurted out dogmatically, "God doesn't exist!" I asked him if that was true. He said yes. Then I asked, "Does that truth change?" Both of them were getting as emotional as religious fundamentalists by that time, so they just began to walk away to where their cars were parked. I encouraged them to think about it while they drove home. If I get a chance to speak to them again, I will be bugging them with the same Socratic question ;-)

January 9, 2006

Frame Online

Justin Taylor, at Between Two Worlds, has posted news regarding John Frame's book the Doctrine of the Christian Life. I mentioned that this book is coming out soon in another post, but we can download it for free now!

January 7, 2006

Key Lime Pi Blog

My friend Steve Costley has kicked off his Key Lime Pi blog with a great quote from A. A. Hodge. Be sure to check it out!

January 5, 2006

Stealing and Coveting

I've been thinking about the relationship between the 8th and 10th commandment, or the commandments not to steal or covet. At first glance they seem redundant. Behind my reflections is also the question of whether or not the Decalogue functioned as civil law. I don't know whether or not I agree with everything in the following quote, but it provides some thought provoking ideas.
With the tenth commandment, questions frequently arise about the relationship between stealing and coveting, since their territory seems to overlap. There is one primary difference. Stealing is linked completely to the act itself, in which someone takes that which belongs to another. Coveting (hamad), however, has to do with an attitude deep within. It involves desires that are so strong one is willing to reach out and take, or commit other unacceptable acts, to satisfy those desires.

After nine commands that either focus on God or outer behavior, the tenth command enters the realm of the heart and mind. This prohibition does not focus on outward, visible actions. It concentrates instead on a person's thoughts, motives and attitudes. Covetous thoughts motivate and inspire, frequently producing action that will violate one of the previous nine commandments.

Laws legislate actions, not thoughts or attitudes, precisely because the former can be monitored whereas the latter cannot. The act of coveting cannot be witnessed, only becoming visible when that internal craving is acted upon. This tenth commandment's shift to the interior dimension of the human life lessens the probability that the Decalogue functioned as an actual set of laws in ancient Israel. It does, however, demonstrate that God's covenant never depends solely upon adherence to external details. The Decalogue begins with a command that insists there be no God before Yahweh. Like coveting, one's loyalty to God also begins as an internal posture that only secondarily becomes evident in external practice. Thus two commandments that are essentially rooted in the heart and mind of the covenant people encircle a set of principles that properly order worship and community relationships.
J. W. Marshall, "Decalogue," in the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, eds. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2003), 178–179.

NKJ Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."

A Meditation on Divine Simplicity: Sam Storms on God as a Perfect Living Unity

Dr. C. Samuel Storms, in his book The Grandeur of God, discusses the relationship between God's essence and his attributes, or the issue of Divine simplicity. This is a profound subject, but he manages to navigate through it carefully. In the section called A Perfect Living Unity, he writes:
In the interests of what has been called the "simplicity" of God, theologians have been careful not to sever God's essence and attributes such that He might be thought of as a complex being. That is to say, God is not compounded of parts or a mere collection of elements, as if His attributes are but faculties or qualities pieced together to constitute a multifaceted whole. He is rather a living unity characterized by all His perfections. The notion of God's simplicity has prompted not a few to speak of essence and attributes as in some sense identical. Herman Bavinck argued that "every attribute is identical with God's being. He is what has has."

More recently, Carl Henry has echoed Bavinck's perspective: "The divine essence is not to be differentiated from the divine attributes, but is constituted by them; the attributes define the essence more precisely."

Again, Henry writes: "God's being is not the bearer of the divine attributes; rather, God's essence and attributes are identical....God is, in short, the living unity of his attributes." Therefore, each attribute is consistent with the others. No attribute or perfection is inferior or superior to another. All attributes are equally ultimate. God is not more holy than He is omniscient. Neither is He more loving than He is sovereign (contrary to much contemporary evangelical thought). Consequently, we should not exalt one attribute to the exclusion or subordination of another, but rather the one God in the unity of all His perfections.

This identity of essence and attribute, however, does not mean that the latter are but our subjective projections into God as a consequence of how we experience Him. The Lutheran Francis Pieper, like Bavinck and Henry, argued that in God essence and attribute are not separate but "absolutely identical." But unlike them he appears to deny that God's attributes are objective and real. Since human reason cannot comprehend God as the infinite and absolute simplex, "God condescends to our weakness and in His Word divides Himself, as it were, into a number of attributes which our faith can grasp and to which it can cling."

However, although Bavinck, Henry, and others like them insist upon an objective reality to the divine attributes, certain of their statements compromise that claim. For example, Bavinck contends that "one and the same thing is said whether it be stated that God is eternal or that he is immortal or good or just." Likewise, Henry writes: "God's wisdom is his omnipotence, God's omnipotence is his justice, God's justice is his love, and so on."

But if there is no genuine differentiation between the attribute of omnipotence and the attribute of justice, neither is there between God's love and His wrath. But if that be true, I have no certain assurance that what the Bible says is God's love for me is not, in fact, His wrath. It simply cannot be that God's love and wrath are identical. If they were, heaven and hell would be one and the same experience and we should have no preference for one above the other! Whereas it is true that because God loved us in Christ He caused His Son to endure that divine wrath which we deserved, that is not to say that God's love is His wrath. Likewise, using Henry's own example, whereas God's wisdom is compatible with His omnipotence, and His omnipotence always used wisely in the accomplishment of His purposes, wisdom and omnipotence are not identical in God's being.

It would appear, then, that out of a desire not to sever God's attributes from His essence has come a tendency to deny any genuine difference among the attributes themselves. We are, therefore, confronted with a need to avoid two extremes. On the one hand, we must not represent God as complex, as if to say His attributes are appendages of His being. They are co-ultimately the qualities or perfections which constitute what He is. On the other hand, we must not permit the simplicity of God's being to negate all distinguishable differences among the many attributes.

Would it not be preferable to say that God's attributes are the divine nature itself in its many and varied relations? For example, when the Divine Being is conceived in relation to time, He is eternal, or the attribute of eternity is manifest. When the Deity is to us in our sin the source of unmerited salvific favor, we may say that He is gracious, or that the attribute of grace is manifest. When He is or acts in relation to space, we speak of Him as omnipresent, and so on. It would be misleading, on the other hand, to say that in His relation to space God is omnipotent, or in relation to us in our sin He is eternal. But if God's attributes are identical, this is precisely what one must say. Yet, what could these assertions possibly mean? Then, again, it may be that what Bavinck and Henry mean to say is something to the effect that it is the omnipotent, omniscient, wrathful God who loves, and it is the wise, omnipresent, jealous God who is gracious, and so on. If this be the case, no objection is forthcoming. But to say that omnipotence is love or that wrath is grace is at best confusing, at worst theologically destructive.

Having briefly considered this problem of the relation between essence and attribute, as well as the distinctions among the attributes (when properly defined), we may have here encountered precisely that limit noted earlier beyond which the finite cannot fathom the infinite. Ronald Nash has recently concluded that the notion of divine simplicity should simply be rejected as incoherent and of no practical value in deepening our understanding of the being of God. This does not mean that we can no longer speak of God's essence and attributes. It is rather a sense that the discussion concerning them in their mutual relations has reached something of a theological impasse. I, for one, am not ashamed to say that I have no wholly satisfactory solution to the problem.
C. Samuel Storms, The Grandeur of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 36-39.

January 2, 2006

The Force of "agei" in Romans 2:4 and Common Grace

I believe that Romans 2:4 is a strong verse for the notion that God wants even the non-elect to repent. He is genuinely or sincerely kind and patient with those who finally perish in their impenitance. When quoting this verse in conversations regarding common grace, I usually use the NRSV. I believe it best captures the thought of the goal of God's longsuffering toward sinners.

NRS Romans 2:4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Some try to get away from the idea that God's kindness "is meant to lead" (agei) to repentance, but the conative sense is recognized by several qualified exegetes and theologians. I would argue that it best comports with the sense of the passage, as the following quotes indicate:

"The very kindness (to chreston, the kindly quality) of God is trying to lead (conative present agei) thee to a right-about face, a change of mind and attitude (metanoian) instead of a complacent self-satisfaction and pride of race and privilege."
A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Broadman Press, 1931) Vol. IV, p. 335.

"The participial clause in the last part of the verse shows that God's purpose in His kindness is not to excuse sin but to stimulate repentance. The verb agei ("lead") has a conative force: God's "goodness" (chrestos) has the purpose of leading sinners to repentance (Sanday-Headlam)."
Douglas Moo, The Wycliff Exegetical Commentary: Romans 1-8 (Moody Press, 1991), page 133.

footnote #30. The present tense of the Greek is the basis of NIV leads (cf. KJV, "leadeth"). But increasingly people are understanding the verb in some sense as RSV, "is meant to lead you". This takes the present as conative, which Moule sees used "of action attempted, but not accomplished"; he understands the meaning here as "is trying or tending to lead" (IBNTG, p. 8).
Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Eerdmans, 1988), p. 113.

Wallace describes the Conative sense:

"C. Conative (Tendential, Voluntative) Present

Definition

This use of the present tense portrays the subject as desiring to do something (voluntative), attempting to do something (conative), or at the point of almost doing something (tendential)."
Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Zondervan, 1996), p. 534.

"In his attack on self-righteous Jewish piety he shows that the goodness of God is no cheap grace which is there to be made a convenience of. It should lead to a horror of one's unwillingness to repent so that God's aim of converting men to himself may be achieved (Rom. 2:4)."
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Zondervan, 1986), Vol. 2, page 106.

"Men abuse the goodness of God, because they do not rightly apprehend that instead of indicating a purpose not to punish, it is designed to lead them to forsake their sins. The goodness of God leads us to repentance, because it shows us our duty towards a Being who is so kind, and because it gives us ground to hope for acceptance. "The word agei, "leads," says Dr. Wordsworth, Canon of Westminster, in his elegant and scholarly work on the Greek Testament, "intimates not only the will of God, but the will of man. God leads, but man may refuse to be led..."
Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Eerdmans, 1993), p. 48.

"The assertion that the goodness of God leads to repentance must not be weakened to mean merely that it points us to repentance. The word "lead" must be given its true force of conducting (cf. 8:14; I Cor. 12:2; I Thess. 4:14; II Tim. 3:6). The apostle is not saying that every one who is the beneficiary of God's lovingkindness is led to repentance. The presupposition of his indictment against the unbelieving Jew is quite the reverse; this Jew was the partaker of the riches of God's lovingkindness and forbearance and longsuffering and was nevertheless impenitent. Neither is the apostle dealing with that inward efficacious grace which brings forth the fruit of repentance. But he is saying that the goodness of God, including without doubt the forbearance and longsuffering, is directed to the end of constraining repentance (cf. II Pet. 3:9)."
John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Eerdmans, 1979), p. 59-60.

The truths in Romans 2:4, used in conjuntion with Matthew 5:44-45, constitute strong arguments in favor of common grace. They underline the important truths of God's love for all mankind (by implication), the active nature of the revealed will of God, and that he wants all to repent unto salvation. These truths do not negate the biblical facts regarding God's secret will, so they must be viewed side by side. Great errors occur when one seeks to nullify the revealed will of God by the secret will (exaggerated Calvinism), or vice versa (Arminianism).

Elsewhere, I stated that there is a conceptual connection between common grace and the universal aspect of the atonement. Here's the connection:

1) Common grace is based in intentional love (see Matt. 5:44-45).

2) Common grace is granted in order that men might be encouraged to repent (see Romans 2:4).

3) Repentance is salvation or justification (Acts 3:19, 16:31).

4) Salvation can only occur by means of a blood satisfaction available in Christ (Acts 4:12; Heb. 9:22).

5) Common grace is intentional love (point #1) granted to all men so that they might be encouraged to repent (point #2) and be saved (point #3) by means of Christ's satisfaction (point #4).

Higher Calvinists cringe when reading this because the biblical facts regarding God's revealed will have been eclipsed by an overemphasis on his secret will in their thinking. One of the purposes of my blog is to help to restore the full implications of the revealed will of God among Calvinists (even in myself as I meditate on these truths). In other words, I wish they would return to something more akin to Calvin's theology (or like the early Reformers and/or the moderates at the Synod of Dort such as Davenant). Most of them fear doing so, but God may bring a change among us. This is my prayer.