Friday, July 31, 2009

On Ability Or A Lack There Of

As Jesus stood before Mary asking her why she was weeping and who she was seeking, it seems remarkable that Mary remained blind and did not know who she was speaking to. But perhaps remarkable isn't the correct word. A better word is possibly encouraging because if I am honest with myself, Mary isn't the only one blind.
"She said to Him, 'Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you ahve laid Him, and I will take Him away.'"
- John 20:15b

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On the Faith, Hope, Love and Joy

Paul explains that our peace is grounded in our justification. Our justification is a result of faith in Jesus. Moreover, we are extremely joyful in the hope of the glory of God. I am guessing that means sanctification in that the next verse then discusses the relationship between: tribulations and perseverance, perseverance and proven character, proven character and hope. More specifically, this hope is grounded in grace (similar to our faith) in that, the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (notice the passive verbs).

The text simply strikes me as amazing for four reasons:
1) Faith in Christ is the cornerstone. Everything is grounded in faith and is by grace.

2) Sanctification, tribulation and love are related. Sanctification (tribulation) is the result of the very love of God.

3) Worship and joy is not absent from these key doctrines. Let it be said that the word exult is mentioned twice: once in relation to the hope of sanctification and the next time in relation to tribulation. It seems then reasonable to draw a connection between: sanctification and joy, and also tribulation and joy. Moreover, by extension it also seems reasonable to draw a connection between justification and joy and also the love of God and joy. In my opinion, this only makes sense to draw a connection between God's sovereignty and joy -but that's another blog entry.

4) And finally, where justification comes through Christ, sanctification, it seems, comes through the Holy Spirit. I am no Dr. Earle Ellis, but this seems like a quasi-Trinitarian text (assuming that God the Father is the source).
"1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith in this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
- Romans 5:1-5

On God's Love

While Paul is discussing the nature of man, and his nature in general, he makes a passionate exclamation of reality (v. 24a), then dangles a question that all men, when confronted with their nature, must answer (v. 24b), and he finally provides the glorious answer pregnant with incarnate grace, mercy, hope and love (v. 25). He states:
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a differ net law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 aWrteched man that I am! bWho will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
- Romans 7:21-25 NASB

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On Reprobation

Aquinas answers the question as to "whether God reprobates any man"; he argues:
"It is said (Malachi 1:2-3): 'I have loved Jacob, but have hated Esau. I answer that, God does reprobate some. For it was said above A. 1) that predestination is part of providence. To providence, however, it belongs to permit certain defects in those things which are subject to providence, as was said above (Q. 22, A. 2). Thus, as men are ordained to eternal life through the providence of God, it likewise is part of that providence to permit some to fall away from that end; this is called reprobation. Thus, as predestination is part of providence in regard to those ordained to eternal salvation (cf. Q. 23, A. 4), so reprobation is a part of providence in regard to those who turn aside from that end. Hence reprobation implies not only foreknowledge, but also something more, as does providence, as was said above (Q. 22, A. 1). Therefore, as predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory; so also reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin, and to impose the punishment of damnation on account of that sin."
- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Part I, Question 23, Article 3 (New York, NY: Benzinger Bros., 1948).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On The Social Gospel and Socialism

In his critique concerning the conceit of Socialism and the error of attributing "intellectual respectability" to Socialism, Father Robert Sirico states:
"Among the clergy, there was a gravely flawed view of justice and the role of the gospel -that is to say, of how the gospel was to be applied to social circumstances. Clergymen generally regarded any inequality in wealth as inherently suspect and even as evidence of exploitation and injustice. Lacking understanding of how economies grow and distribute wealth, they believed that only a central authority could 'apportion resources' with an eye to helping the poor, the aged, and the underprivileged. Lacking business experience, they could not conceive of the contribution that entrepreneurs and businessmen made to the growth of an economy. They thought only of dividing wealth more fairly, not of generating more wealth."
- Father Robert. A Sirico, "Economics on the Left: From Marxism to Keynesianism," in The Age of the Economists From Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, 31-42 (Hillsdale, MI: Hillsdale College Press, 1999).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On Paul's Emphasis on Justification by Faith

It may be argue that Paul's impetus for developing the doctrine of justification by faith was a result of theological pragmatism in order to aid his mission to the Gentiles. This is wrong. J. Gresham Machen provides classic advice for understanding Pauline theology:
"The real reason why Paul was devoted to the doctrine of justification by faith was not that it made possible the Gentile mission, but rather that it was true. Paul was not devoted to the doctrine of justification by faith because of the Gentile mission; he was devoted to the Gentile mission because of the doctrine of justification by faith."
- J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul's Religion (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1921), 288f.

On Special Revelation, Anthropology and Teleology

Aquinas begins by expounding the purpose of Scripture in light of the purpose of Man:
"It was necessary for man's salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God, besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason: The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee (Isa. lxvi. 4). But the end must be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. Whereas man's whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth. Therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation. It was therefore necessary that besides philosophical science built up by reason there should be a sacred science learned through revelation."
- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Part I, Question 1, Article 1 (New York, NY: Benziger Bros., 1948).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On Reformed Baptists

I admit this might not be the point that Clark is making. Further, up front, this is simply a digression of thought that is the result of a thought provoking comment. R. Scott Clark notes:
"Calling a Baptist 'Reformed' is like calling a Presbyterian 'Baptist' because they believe in believer's baptism."1
I think Clark has a good point. One should be cautious and deliberate in how one applies labels. To do so flippantly can result in a misrepresentation. With that said, is it a misnomer to call a Baptist Reformed? I argue no. Simply, it seems as though a Reformed Baptist would argue that they are indeed Baptist, but, more specifically, they are Baptist with theologically Reformed leanings. More to the point, it seems as though Reformed Baptists would argue that they are Baptists who affirm the five Solas of the Reformation and the five points of Calvinism.

Thus, it seems to me that "Reformed Baptist" is a fair category, and the label is proper. It also seems to me like this discussion (this blog post included) as to whether Reformed Baptists is a proper category is about as important as punctuation. Just because one is a reformed Baptist doesn't mean that they must hold to a paedobaptism. It is simply a more definite category of one's theological leanings. However, I admit, I make these remarks in a setting where religious liberty is a reality. Marpeck might have a different opinion.

1. Clark's comment can be found on his blog: in the post on June 6, 2009.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On Ideas and Faith

In a chapter concerning the "hazard of the aesthetic" Thielicke pleads:
"Every theological idea which makes an impression upon you must be regarded as a challenge to your faith. Do not assume as a matter of course that you believe whatever impresses you theologically and enlightens you intellectually. Otherwise suddenly you are believing no longer in Jesus Christ, but in Luther, or in one of your other theological teachers.
One of the most difficult experiences for a theological instructor to combat arises out of the fact that good, respectable theology - by no means only dissolute theology bristling with heresy - for the reasons I have mentioned, threatens our personal life of faith. Faith must mean more to us than a mere commodity stored in the tin cans of reflection or bottled in the lecture notebook, whence at any time it may be reproduced in the brain."
- Helmut Thielicke, An Exercise for Young Theologians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962).