Saturday, October 31, 2009

Luther and Tradition / Sola Scriptura vs. Biblicism

"In preparation for the council that would eventually become the Council of Trent, Luther published in 1539 On the Councils and the Church. There he mocked the papacy and magisterium as 'masters' of the law, works, and sanctity but not Scripture. Even in the midst of satire, he was careful to note that he did not pretend to read Scripture by himself or as if no one had read it before him:

For I know that none of them attempted to read a book of Holy Scripture in school, or to use the writings of the fathers as an aid, as I did. Let them take a book of Holy Scripture and seek out the glosses of the fathers; then they will share the experience I had when I worked on the letter to the Hebrews with St. Chrysostom's glosses, the letter to Titus and the letter to the Galatians with the help of St. Jerome, Genesis with the help of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, the Psalter with all the writers available, and so on. I have read more than they think, and have worked my way through all the books; this makes them appear impudent indeed who imagine that I did not read the fathers and who want to recommend them to me as something precious, the very thing that I was forced to devaluate twenty years ago when I read the Scriptures.

This passage is telling about his mature view of extrabiblical authority. Luther read Sripture with the fathers, but he was not enslaved to them. He understood that councils and the fathers often contradicted one another. This passage is especially fascinating because of the period to which he refers was that in which he was reaching his mature Protestant views on the doctrine of justification. In other words, Luther did not reach his doctrine of justification by simply reading Scripture. Rather, he reached it by reading Scripture in dialogue with the Christian tradition."

- R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession, ch. 1, pp. 23-24

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Goodness of God

One cannot even begin to fathom the goodness of God. In eternity past, even before a single angel was given existence, God in His triune perfection was ultimately happy and contented. The fellowship that flowed in between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was such that they needed nothing else to complete their utter state of ecstasy. Nothing could be more true as God, being God, cannot improve upon Himself in any way, shape or form.

But why create anything or anyone else? Why fashion the angels, the universe in all its splendor, or man in his feebleness? Why decree the Fall and the consequent disarray that befell the cosmos? Things are so because God is good. We've all heard it before. The concept is trumpeted every where the name of God is named, and yet is it commonly held that "being" is loud evidence of His goodness? Being is better than nothing and the elemental way that God has showcased His goodness is in the act of creation.

But God's goodness does not end in the swirling stars, the majesty of mountains, or the intelligence of man. He is so good that He, wanting a fuller expression of His goodness, hatched the plan of redemption. The second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, through whom the prior manifestation of goodness was made in the created order, was to become man. Man, made in the image of God, was to see, firsthand, how good God can be. In wisdom, God subjected the universe to futility, but this was to be the theater through which the drama of His goodness would be unanimously played out. The eternally-happy, self-sufficient and self-existent God, through Christ, disrobed Himself of His glory and right to "divine comforts" to announce that He is good.

Is this not love? Truly, love has never been so perfectly defined as in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Sit down, get quiet, and ponder upon this truth for a moment. He made all that exists, He made you, and He became like you so that you may know that He is good and that you may share in this goodness in His presence forever. Finite analogies cannot adequately express this wonderful truth, but think of a man becoming the smallest bacetrium, saving the world of bacteria, and choosing to exist as a bacterium forever. Boggles the mind. And yet integrity demands belief for this is what actually happened and history is one's ally in this regard. History screams the goodness of God—and this is true just as much in His salvation as it is in His condemnation.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Objective Hope

Truth is objective. That is to say something is real regardless of any imposition on it by a subject. The 5-year old who sees a rattlesnake in front of him will be killed by its venomous bite if he attempts to handle it, notwithstanding his ignorance of its lethal nature, because it is objectively poisonous. Knowledge of the truth is a life-saver and the converse is borne out by Scripture, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." (Hosea 4:6).

God is objectively "there" even if not a single soul acknowledges it. And God has broken through the transcendence barrier, enfleshed Himself, walked in time, and made history—objectively. The Christian faith is not a spiritualization of secret knowledge gained by esoteric means (Finney's revivalism, the prosperity movement's "principles", and basically evangelicalism's pragmatism ring a gnostic bell), but the laying hold of truth that is objective: Jesus Christ is God, and once upon a time in history He became man, lived a perfectly righteous life, and died on a Roman cross, in full obedience to the Father, to redeem for Himself a people that would be reproductions of His glorified body and character.

There is tremendous strength and comfort in this objectivism since we realize that our hope is not in our feeble attempts at righteousness and self-redemption but in something, or more accurately Someone, external to ourselves. Our state of being beloved by the Father, in His counting us as His sons and daughters, is not founded on anything qualitatively meritorious or inherent in us, but in the radical implications of what Christ has already done in history past. Eschatologically, our glory is sealed as we wait in joyous anticipation of not an ethereal disembodied existence but a physical coalition of the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God.

And that is the truth.

Truly Reformed

I came to know of the doctrines of grace around 2005, and became convinced in heart and mind that the T.U.L.I.P., collectively, is what Scripture explicitly teaches. I devoured books and articles penned by what I thought then were "Reformed" and "Calvinist" authors. I learned a lot from them and I'm thankful for their witness. So I considered myself Reformed and a Calvinist, and in my mind being a 5-pointer was all it took for me to be able to claim the labels.

However, just this year, a brother by the name of Joel De Leon, who is studying to be a Presbyterian pastor in the U.S., came into contact with me through Facebook. We struck up a rapport and he, in utter generosity, sent me books and the "Amazing Grace" DVD. One of the books was "This World is Not My Home" by Michael Williams, a study on Dispensationalism. I haven't read the book in its entirety but, through the few chapters that I have indeed read, I began realizing many things about my theological worldview in that they had quite a few holes. This started the ball rolling. Things came to a head last month or so when I began listening to and reading some of Michael Horton's stuff. I began to see the richness, robustness, and cogency of the Reformed faith and what it means to be "Truly Reformed". I also got into articles by other "Truly Reformed" scholars and the case was made that being soteriologically-Reformed does not make one "Truly Reformed".

Fully persuaded that I was of the beauty and faithfulness to Scripture of the Reformed faith, I then desired to be "Truly Reformed". I purchased Michael Horton's "Introducing Covenant Theology" from a local Christian bookstore, ordered R.S. Clark's "Recovering the Reformed Confession" and the Beveridge May 2009 edition of Calvin's "Institutes" from Amazon, and still continued to download online articles. Through the agency of Joel, I came into contact with Ptr. Nollie Malabuyo, a local pastor who shepherds a "Truly Reformed" church, and I sent him a polite Facebook message asking if I could perhaps join them (Ptr. Nollie is Westminster Theological Seminary-trained). I was overjoyed when he gave me the warmest approval.

In all this, I see God's leading hand. The Reformed faith's objectivity, grounding in history, and scholarship are the impetuses to my loving God with all my mind; its Christo-centric humility, devotion, and gratitude the foundation of my godly affection.

Thank you, my Lord, for Your grace has been, is now, and will forever be AMAZING!

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