Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Kevin Giles vs. Fred Sanders on Eternal Subordination

The ff. are the 7 points (in his own words) that Kevin Giles made for rejecting any appeal to the immanent Trinity as the basis for either complementarianism or egalitarianism:

1.) The idea that the trinity prescribes human relations on earth is a very modern idea without historical precedence.

2.) The idea that the divine life in heaven prescribes human life and relations on earth is implausible. Where, we must ask, does God's perfect threefold relationship in heaven prescribe fallen human relations on earth? Nowhere in Scripture are we told to imitate divine, heavenly relations on earth. There is no biblical warrant for this idea whatsoever. Imitate Jesus? Yes. Imitate God's threefold relations in heaven? No.

3.) Specifically in regard to the man-woman relationship, to argue that the threefold divine relations in heaven prescribe the twofold man-woman relationship on earth, I think, is illogical.

4.) 1 Cor. 11:3 offers no convincing basis for this appeal to the Trinity.

5.) The idea of the Trinity speaks of the Father ruling over the Son is a denial of the full divinity of the Son and the unqualified lordship of Christ.

6.) To argue that the Son's eternal and necessary functional subordination does not imply ontological subordination is unconvincing.

7.) The idea of the Son as eternally subordinated to the Father is rejected by most contemporary Trinitarian scholars.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sin Is Undermining Christ as the Apple of the Father's Eye

God is love. He does not possess love, but love is essentially externalized from Him. This externalization of love from the Father is the eternal generation of the Second Person of the Trinity, the Eternal Son of God. The Eternal Son of God is loved by the Father from all eternity. All ad intra and ad extra acts of the Father are loving acts towards the Son. All creation was made for the Son.

I believe it was this state of belovedness—this glory—of the Son that incited Satan's sin. Satan desired the glory of the Eternal Son of God as the apple of the Father's eye for himself. He coveted. He was proud enough to believe that he deserved it.

In man, sin is of a similar nature. Pride is widely regarded as the mother sin and the second table of the Decalogue reducible to the sin of covetousness. When Adam sinned, his disobedience was basically a refusal to have the image of the Eternal Son of God glorified in him. He wanted glory for himself.

The Father's wrath against sin is perhaps analogous to a human father's passionate displeasure towards all affronts to his child. The human father is considered a good father if he safeguards the well-being of his child. Remarkably, the archetypal Father safeguarded the Son's glory—His place of esteem—through the plan of redemption.

While Satan and sinful man were scrambling to get glory for themselves, Christ "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:6-11).

The irony of pouring wrath upon the Son if such wrath is predicated upon dishonoring Him is apparent. However, it is ultimately the glory of the Father in the Son that is at stake, and it is embedded in the incomprehensible love and wisdom of the Father in the Covenant of Redemption to redeem His glory in the Son through the humility of the incarnate Son's atoning work. And this pattern is replicated in every child of God. To glorify the Father in the glorification of His Son though humility is the telos of every human being—in fact, of all creation.

"Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him." (Ps. 2:12)

Get in league with the Boss' Son. Your eternal well-being depends on it.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Greater Grievance

It is the Holy Spirit's work to convict of sin and apply comfort. And the Christian can resist these operations. But if it has become somewhat hipster-fashionable to wallow in the mire of despair, as if it somehow speaks of a deeper sort of piety, then it must be said that the latter offense is more grievous than the former.

In "Faith Seeking Assurance", Anthony Burgess writes:

It is a great sin to rebel against God’s Spirit, whether in the conviction of sin and duty or as comfort to counteract our doubt and distrust. Yes, the latter is a greater sin, for though the Spirit of God convinces and reproves us, yet its particular operation is to convince us of our adoption, thereby enabling us to call God 'Abba, Father.' Therefore, when we peevishly refuse the Spirit’s work within us, we do in a most eminent manner oppose the Spirit in His greatest glory.

The greater work of the Spirit is positive, i.e., as the Great Comforter of Christ's people. Therefore, to oppose Him in His greater work is the greater offense.

Far from breeding complacency, receiving the Spirit's comfort is actually the sharpest and most potent flesh-mortifying sword in the Christian's arsenal as it implies that the Christian has looked upon Christ in faith and has been ravished by His beauty and thus satisfied. Two opposing affections cannot comingle in the human heart, and therefore the Spirit's comfort is Christ loved and sin loathed—and sin loathed is sin mortified.

Mourn sin and look to Christ, look to Christ and then rejoice!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Doctrine of the Beatific Vision—Owen's Greatest Contribution

My favorite Avenger is the character called "The Vision." In the movie adaptation of the hit comic book series, the Vision was portrayed as being the possessor of the "mind stone", one of the Infinity gems that are the said to be the receptacles of all the power that is in the universe—and the object of Thanos' covetous inclinations. This makes the Vision very special indeed. But while he can do a lot of cool stuff—like alter his density to intangibility or diamond-hardness—this is not why I like him. I like him because he reminds me of John Owen's most important theological contribution (at least in reference to my own appreciation of it and its implications)—the doctrine of the beatific vision.

To be sure, John Owen was not the first to articulate this doctrine. It was the great Thomas Aquinas who gave prominence to the doctrine and Owen owes much of his thought on the subject to the former. However, Owen did in fact improve upon Aquinas' take on the BV. In a nutshell, Aquinas' notion of the BV consists in it being the human being's intellectual fruition as pertaining to the knowledge of God. As image-bearers, we have the capacity to know God and this knowing, maximally heightened as creaturely possible, will be our blessedness in glory. For Aquinas, the BV is still mediated by Christ through the Spirit.

While Owen does not particularly disagree with this, he extends, as it were, Aquinas' formulation and grounds the BV on Christ Himself as the object of this vision. When Aquinas seemingly gives Christ a utilitarian function in the BV, Owen makes Christ both the mediator and the essence of the BV. We behold God in the face of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. The saint's blessedness in glory, according to Owen, will be in marveling at and enjoying God's greatest work, the hypostatic union. And it gets better.

Francis Turretin, along with Aquinas, does not give the physical senses, even though glorified, any place in the BV, but Owen includes the physical sight of Christ as part of our blessedness. In other words, not only will we enjoy the divinity of Christ in heaven but His humanity as well.

In terms of the importance of the doctrine of the beatific vision for the Christian life this side of glory, Owen gives it the paramount place. He writes the ff. in "The Glory of Christ" (the last book he ever wrote):

No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight. Where the subject (the soul) is not previously seasoned with grace and faith, it is not capable of glory or vision. Nay, persons not disposed hereby unto it cannot desire it, whatever they pretend; they only deceive their own souls in supposing that so they do. Most men will say with confidence, living and dying, that they desire to be with Christ, and to behold his glory; but they can give no reason why they should desire any such thing, -- only they think it somewhat that is better than to be in that evil condition which otherwise they must be cast into for ever, when they can be here no more. If a man pretend himself to be enamoured on, or greatly to desire, what he never saw, nor was ever represented unto him, he does but dote on his own imaginations. And the pretended desires of many to behold the glory of Christ in heaven, who have no view of it by faith whilst they are here in this world, are nothing but self-deceiving imaginations.

We behold Christ by faith now through the means of grace and we shall behold Him by sight immediately in glory thereafter.

Looking to Christ by faith is an outflow of Spirit-regenerated and Spirit-enflamed affections. If we hunger and thirst for Him now and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we shall surely be satisfied with being with Him and seeing Him face-to-face in glory for we have proven to be His friends while here on earth.

Click on the ff. for a very good lecture by Suzanne McDonald (contributor to The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen's Theology, where she discusses the BV) on Owen's doctrine of the beatific vision: "Beholding God's Glory: John Owen and the 'Reforming' of the Beatific Vision"

Click on the ff. for quotes that can be used a devotional aids from Owen's "The Glory of Christ": Highlights of John Owen's "The Glory of Christ"

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Unqualified Solomon?

"The choice of Solomon as one of the writers of the Bible, at first sight startles, but on deeper study instructs. We would have expected a man of more exemplary life a man of uniform holiness. It is certain that in the main, the vessels which the Spirit used were sanctified vessels. 'Holy men of old spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” But as they were all corrupt at first, so there were diversities in the operation whereby they were called and qualified for their work. There were diversities in the times, and degrees of their sanctification. Some were carried so near perfection in the body, that human eyes could no longer discern spot or wrinkle; in others the principle of grace was so largely overlaid with earthliness, that observers were left in doubt whether they had been turned to the Lord’s side at all. But the diversity in all its extent is like the other ways of God; and He knows how to make either extreme fall into its place in the concert of his praise. He who made Saul an apostle, did not disdain to use Solomon as a prophet. Very diverse were the two men, and very diverse their life course; yet in one thing they are perfectly alike. Together in glory now they know themselves to have been only sinners, and agree in ascribing all their salvation to the mercy of God.

Moreover, although good men wrote the Bible, our faith in the Bible does not rest on the goodness of the men who wrote it. The fatal facility with which men glide into the worship of men may suggest another reason why some of the channels chosen for conveying the mind of God were marred by glaring deficiencies. Among many earthen vessels, in various measures purged of their filthiness, may not the Divine Administrator in wisdom select for actual use some of the least pure, in order by that grosser argument to force into grosser minds the conviction that the excellency of the power is all of God?

If all the writers of the Bible had been perfect in holiness—if no stain of sin could be traced on their character, no error noted in their life, it is certain that the Bible would not have served all the purposes which it now serves among men. It would have been God-like indeed in matter and in mould, but it would not have reached down to the low estate of man—it would not have penetrated to the sores of a human heart. For engraving the life lessons of his word, our Father uses only diamonds: but in every diamond there is a flaw, in some a greater and in some a less; and who shall dare to dictate to the Omniscient the measure of defect that blinds Him to fling the instrument as a useless thing away?

When God would leave on my mind in youth the lesson that the pleasures of sin are barbed arrows, he uses that same Solomon as the die to indent it in. I mark the wisdom of the choice. I get and keep the lesson, but the homage of my soul goes to God who gave it, and not to Solomon, the instrument through which it came. God can make man’s wrath to praise him, and their vanity too. He can make the clouds bear some benefits to the earth, which the sun cannot bestow. He can make brine serve some purposes in nature which sweet water could not fulfil. So, practical lessons on some subjects come better through the heart and lips of the weary repentant king, than through a man who had tasted fewer pleasures, and led a more even life."

- William Arnot, Studies in Proverbs (Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Isaac Ambrose on Faith and Obedience as Conditions of the CoG

"In some sort, obedience, as well as faith, may be said to be a condition of the covenant of grace. I shall give you my thoughts in this distinction: obedience to all God’s commands, is either considered as a cause of life, or as a qualification. In the former sense, it cannot be a condition of the covenant of grace; but in the latter, it may. If by condition we understand whatsoever is required on our part, as precedent, concomitant, or subsequent, to the covenant of grace, repentance, faith, and obedience are all conditions: but if by condition we understand whatsoever is required on our part as the cause of the good promised, though only instrumental, why then faith is the only condition. Faith and obedience are opposed in the matter of justification and salvation; not that they cannot stand together, (for they are inseparably united,) but because they cannot meet together in one court, as the cause of justification or salvation. Now, when we speak of the condition of the covenant of grace, we intend such a condition as is among the number of true causes. Indeed, in the covenant of works obedience is required as the cause of life; but in the covenant of grace, though obedience must accompany faith, yet only faith is the cause of life contained in the covenant." (Looking Unto Jesus)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Highlights of John Owen's "The Glory of Christ" (Part 3)

Click here for: Part 1, Part 2.

Chapter XI. The glory of Christ in the recapitulation of all things in him.

  • "Moreover, his being and goodness are the same. The goodness of God is the meetness of the Divine Being to be communicative of itself in its effects. Hence this is the first notion of the divine nature, -- infinite being and goodness, in a nature intelligent and self-subsistent."
  • "Being and goodness must be the first outward effects of the divine nature, which, being wrought by infinite power and wisdom, do represent unto us the glory of God in the creation of all things. Infinite being in self-subsistence, which is necessary in the first cause and spring of all things, -- infinite goodness to communicate the effect of this being unto that which was not, -- and infinite wisdom and power in that communication, -- are gloriously manifested therein."
  • "To suppose any other race of intellectual creatures, besides angels in heaven and men on earth, is not only without all countenance from any divine testimony, but it disturbs and disorders the whole representation of the glory of God made unto us in the Scripture, and the whole design of his wisdom and grace, as declared therein. Intellectual creatures not comprehended in that government of God and mystery of his wisdom in Christ which the Scripture reveals, are a chimera framed in the imaginations of some men, scarce duly sensible of what it is to be wise unto sobriety."
  • "There is no contemplation of the glory of Christ that ought more to affect the hearts of them that do believe with delight and joy, than this, of the recapitulation of all things in him. One view by faith of him in the place of God, as the supreme head of the whole creation. Moving, acting, guiding, and disposing of it, will bring in spiritual refreshment unto a believing refreshment unto a believing soul.

    And it will do so the more, in that it gives a glorious representation of his divine nature also. For that any mere creature should thus be a head of life, motion, and power, as also of sovereign rule and disposal, of the whole new creation, with all things reduced into order thereby, is not only an impious, but a foolish imagination.

    Did we live more in the contemplation of this glory of Christ, and of the wisdom of God in this recapitulation of all things in him, there is not anything of our duty which it would not mind us of, nor anything of privilege which it would not give us a sense of, as might easily be demonstrated."
  • "Whatever there is of order, of beauty, of glory, in heaven above, or in earth beneath, it all ariseth from this new relation of the creation unto the Son of God. Whatever is not gathered into one, even in him, in its place, and according to its measure, is under darkness, disorder, and the curse."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Friendship of God

"Let it be of great comfort to the saints that God is their father and friend and is always present with them and in them; that they live and move and have their being in Him who loves them with a great and everlasting love. Our earthly friends cannot be with us always; we are often called to part with them. But God is a friend who is always at hand, always with and in those who are His. Let those, therefore, who have given themselves to God and have chosen God to be their God consider this: You are in Him and are favorable to Him. He delights in you and always consults your good and seeks your welfare. You are in Him and no one can separate you from Him; wherever you are, you are still with God. This is a matter of consolation to such persons, whatever dangers and difficulties they are brought into, that they are with God. He is nigh at hand, so that they need not be terrified with any amazement; for they are in Him who orders all things and who loves them, so that He will surely take care of them and order all things well for them. If they pray to Him in their difficulty and beg His help, He is present to hear their prayers. They need not go far to seek Him nor cry aloud to make Him hear, but He is in them and hears the silent petitions of their hearts. If they are in solitude and are very much left alone, yet God is with them. None can banish them from the presence and society of God. A Christian never needs to be lonesome as long as he is in the company of such a one."

Jonathan Edwards, God Is Everywhere Present, pp. 217–18

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Martin Bucer on Good Works as Secondary Cause of Salvation

Martin Bucer was John Calvin's "father in the faith."

The ff. is sourced from Brian Lugioyo's Martin Bucer's Doctrine of Justification: Reformation Theology and Early Modern Irenicism (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology):

By faith alone means that in faith Christians contemplate Christ, and because faith comes with the bestowal of the Spirit of Christ, they become possessed by him so that believers now live in him and he in them. In this sense of mutual inhabitation, Christians are allowed to cooperate with God in salvation, since these works are not their own but the work of Christ in them. This agency is expressed in Bucer primarily in terms of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, [285] being clothed in Christ, [286] participation in Christ, [287] being in communion with Christ, and so forth. [288] If a believer “does any good, it results from the fact that he is a creation of God, created for good works, works which God himself prepares, makes and performs, so that he rewards in us gifts which are already his.” [289] Hence, Bucer follows Augustine’s view that “when God crowns our merits, he crowns nothing but his own gifts.” [290] Merit is not the result of works but the result of the believer cooperating with the Spirit who works within the believer:

Nevertheless, when God wants us to cooperate with him by good works for our salvation, or rather, even to “work it out” (κατεργάζεσθαι) [Phil. 2:10] and has thus determined to repay us according to our deeds, there is brought about also in its own way our justification; that is, eternal life is assigned to us as a result of works. But this is the case only when through our election and the purpose of God formed before the ages, there is already assigned to us before the foundation of the world this life of God as a result of the grace of God and the merit of Christ [Ephesians 1 and 3]. This life moreover is assigned to us through faith, that is, after we believe in Christ and have in some way become already possessed of him. This of course comes about at that blessed beginning of faith which belongs to the sons of God through the Spirit, who is the pledge of this inheritance. For good works are the fruit of this faith and of the Spirit. [291]

Works are in a sense a cooperating cause, which Bucer speaks about as a secondary cause elsewhere.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Vision of Christ and the Necessity of Good Works

The first thesis in Luther's famous 95 states that all of the Christian life is characterized by repentance. Repentance, by its very nature, necessarily includes faith in its exercise. This faith, to be true faith, can only have one object of focus, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Putting faith in Christ is synonymous to looking unto Him (Heb. 12:2), and this vision of Christ transforms the beholder into His image and likeness (faith now conforms progressively [2 Cor. 3:18], while actual sight in glory conforms instantly [1 John 3:2]).

Highlights of John Owen's "The Glory of Christ" (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1.

Chapter VI. The glory of Christ in the discharge of his mediatory office.

  • "It is our duty to endeavour after freedom, willingness, and cheerfulness in all our obedience. Obedience has its formal nature from our wills. So much as there is of our wills in what we do towards God, so much there is of obedience, and no more. Howbeit we are, antecedently unto all acts of our own wills, obliged unto all that is called obedience. From the very constitution of our natures we are necessarily subject unto the law of God."
  • "He unto whom prayer was made, prayed himself night and day. He whom all the angels of heaven and all creatures worshipped, was continually conversant in all the duties of the worship of God. He who was over the house, diligently observed the meanest office of the house. He that made all men, in whose hand they are all as clay in the hand of the potter, observed amongst them the strictest rules of justice, in giving unto every one his due; and of charity, in giving good things that were not so due. This is that which renders the obedience of Christ in the discharge of his office both mysterious and glorious."
  • "We might here look on him as under the weight of the wrath of God, and the curse of the law; taking on himself, and on his whole soul, the utmost of evil that God had ever threatened to sin or sinners. We might look on him in his agony and bloody sweat, in his strong cries and supplications, when he was sorrowful unto the death, and began to be amazed, in apprehensions of the things that were coming on him, -- of that dreadful trial which he was entering into. We might look upon him conflicting with all the powers of darkness, the rage and madness of men, -- suffering in his soul, his body, his name, his reputation, his goods, his life; some of these sufferings being immediate from God above, others from devils and wicked men, acting according to the determinate counsel of God. We might look on him praying, weeping, crying out, bleeding, dying, -- in all things making his soul an offering for sin; so was he 'taken from prison, and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off from the land of the living: for the transgression,' says God, 'of my people was he smitten,' Isa. liii. 8. But these things I shall not insist on in particular, but leave them under such a veil as may give us a prospect into them, so far as to fill our souls with holy admiration."
  • "How glorious is the Lord Christ on this account, in the eyes of believers! When Adam had sinned, and thereby eternally, according unto the sanction of the law, ruined himself and all his posterity, he stood ashamed, afraid, trembling, as one ready to perish for ever, under the displeasure of God. Death was that which he had deserved, and immediate death was that which he looked for. In this state the Lord Christ in the promise comes unto him, and says, Poor creature! how woeful is thy condition! how deformed is thy appearance! What is become of the beauty, of the glory of that image of God wherein thou wast created? how hast thou taken on thee the monstrous shape and image of Satan? And yet thy present misery, thy entrance into dust and darkness, is no way to be compared with what is to ensue. Eternal distress lies at the door. But yet look up once more, and behold me, that thou mayest have some glimpse of what is in the designs of infinite wisdom, love, and grace. Come forth from thy vain shelter, thy hiding-place I will put myself into thy condition. I will undergo and bear that burden of guilt and punishment which would sink thee eternally into the bottom of hell. I will pay that which I never took; and be made temporally a curse for thee, that thou mayest attain unto eternal blessedness. To the same purpose he speaks unto convinced sinners, in the invitation he gives them to come unto him."
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