Friday, April 22, 2011

The Epistemological Import of Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, commemorated by Christians as the day when Christ offered Himself up as the penal-substitutionary atonement for the sins of the elect—arising from the Covenant of Redemption, in fulfillment of the stipulations of the Covenant of Works, and the ground for the inauguration of the substantial Covenant of Grace.

In light of this, I believe it would be beneficial to review an aspect of Christology that bears upon the way we know things: Christ's offices:

"Christ is true prophet, priest, and king. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks,'How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?' (Q.24). The answer is: 'Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation,' Man set for himself a false ideal of knowledge when he became a sinner, that is, he lost true wisdom. In Christ man was reinstated to true knowledge. In Christ man realizes that he is a creature of God and that he should not seek underived comprehensive knowledge. Christ is our wisdom. He is our wisdom not only in the sense that he tells us how to get to heaven. He is our wisdom too in teaching us true knowledge about everything about which we should have knowledge.

Again the catechism asks: 'How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?' (Q.25). The answer is: 'Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and making continual intercession for us.' We need not discuss this point except to indicate that Christ's work as priest cannot be separated from his work as a prophet. Christ could not give us true knowledge of God and of the universe unless he died for us as priest. The question of knowledge is an ethical question. It is indeed possible to have theoretically correct knowledge about God without loving God. The devil illustrates this point. Yet what is meant by knowing God in Scripture is knowing and loving God: this is true knowledge of God; all other knowledge of God is false.

In the third place the catechism asks: 'How doth Christ execute the office of a king?' (Q.26). The answer is: 'Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all of his and our enemies.' Again we observe that this work of Christ as King must be brought into organic connection with his work as Prophet and Priest. To give us true wisdom or knowledge Christ must subdue us. He died for us to subdue us and thus gave us wisdom. It is only by emphasizing this organic connection of the aspects of the work of Christ that we can avoid all mechanical separation of the intellectual and the moral in the question of knowledge" (Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics [New Jersey: P & R, 2003], ed. William Edgar, 47-48).

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