Friday, October 15, 2010

The Presuppositionalism of Herman Bavinck

"The method of theology is established on three foundations (principia). The ultimate source and foundation of revelation is God (principium essendi). God's self-consciousness is conveyed through his self-communication and presented in the world as the external foundation of knowledge (principium cognoscendi externum). With the possibility of conducting science established, the Logos makes reason and intellect possible as the creator of the reality outside ourselves and the laws of thought within us. Scripture, the instrumental cause of theology, bears witness to the fact that revelation proceeds from God before and after the fall. Scripture is revelation itself. Third, the principium cognoscendi internum presupposes the disclosure of divine self-revelation mediated deeply into the human self-consciousness through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Creation is the foundation for revelation from which proceeds all religious and ethical life. For Bavinck the question is never 'does God exist' but 'what is our relationship to him.'

Sin has disrupted true religion but has not eradicated the principium essendi. Religion is integral to human nature as created in the image of God. The entire world is a revelation of God; every creature, 'In its own way is the embodiment of a divine thought.' General revelation permeates nature and human history unfolding through historical process. It appeals primarily to the intellect but cannot itself produce saving knowledge or personal faith. E. P. Heideman finds Bavinck's position dangerously close to the Greek concept of the hule yet consistently maintaining that reason is not independent of revelation without going so far to say, as Emil Brunner, that reason is co-worker with revelation. Bavinck warns everywhere that without a strong view of revelation rooted in sola scriptura the alternatives will lean toward autonomy and run a course into deism and pantheism. Assuming as much dissolves religious knowledge into unconscious impressions of the divine or else casts faith into the mold of the enlightenment as a logical assent to the historical fact of scripture. For Bavinck this is disaster: dogmatic truth not aiming at the knowability of God loses its character, its certainty, and the intimate link between externum and internum in the personal activity of the Holy Spirit." (Joel Heflin, Sin, the Menace to Certainty, ETS, Nov. 2009. Italics Original).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Living Today in Light of the Future Resurrection of the Body and the Renewal of Creation

This is the sermon that I was supposed to speak on at church today. I prepared the content for the whole of yesterday, and as I was practicing reading it aloud in front of my wife, I realized how bad my stuttering was and that I may not actually be called to the ministry of a verbal presentation of the Word of God. Gifts determine calling and I simply do not have the gift of speech facility. I backed out of the speaking engagement.

Living Today in Light of the Future Resurrection of the Body and the Renewal of Creation

Purpose: To lay out Scripture's teaching on this aspect of the redemption of Christ wherein the physicality of man and the rest of creation is not maintained as it is or utterly destroyed in the glorious future but renewed, and how this drives present-age obedience.

Text: "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good..." (Gen. 1:31); "And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God..." (Job 19:26); 1 Cor. 15:35-58.


I come before you today, brothers and sisters in Christ, in much fear and trembling (And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God — 1 Cor. 2:1-5). But I direct you not to the weakness and frailty of my stuttering tongue but to the message of hope that God has for us today, a message of bodily and physical redemption purchased for us by the person and work of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, and that in this hope we may live lives of grateful obedience at the present time.

I. Physical Creation is Good

The first thing that must be said is that the material, the physical, the tangible, that which is apprehended by the senses is not intrinsically evil. The idea of atoms, molecules, and physical substance was God's. He created the universe as physical, and after being done with His masterful work unanimously declared it as good. The notion that only the spiritual, or the immaterial, is of inherent goodness does not arise from the teaching of Scripture but from pagan, Gnostic philosophy (Which the Apostle Paul in v.36 of our main text emphatically considers as foolish, i.e., not in accord with godly knowledge and wisdom). This is why Gnosticism cannot accept that Christ, as God, willingly took on the physical form of a human being. But then we know that Scripture explicitly teaches that Christ did indeed become a man, with all the physical limitations that humanity imposes, and therefore implicitly reaffirmed the goodness of physical creation.

Christ, by the power of His providential Word, sustains the universe as it is now, carrying its existence on to the time when it will be purged with fire and reformed into its intended glorious state, still retaining its substance but different in form. Indeed, as John 3:16 states, God so loved the world, He so prizes His creation, that through Christ, the way was made for the entire cosmos—heaven, earth, and humans—to be  freed from the curse and tyranny of sin ("The world according to it [Scripture], consists of heaven and earth; humans consist of soul and body; and the kingdom of God, accordingly, has a hidden spiritual dimension and an external, visible side" — Herman Bavinck, 'The Last Things', 158).

II. God Has No Plan B

We have established the goodness of the physical universe as created by God; now, it must be noted that even though Adam's sin ushered the universe into chaos, evil, and death, God never changed His mind about displaying the splendor and majesty of His attributes through a physical universe.

At the present age, there is death, and death runs its course in every aspect of creation. Stars lose energy and die out, entire continents are wiped out by quakes and flooding, crops and vegetation are decimated by climate change and various pestilences, many animal species become extinct, livestock die from the plague, and humans kill savagely and are themselves killed either by each other or by disease. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, "but in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes."

As universal as death is, it will not have the last laugh. How can it when God desires the praises of His glory to ring forth from physical human beings living in a physical earth? Though in Adam most of us must still taste death, for we are still clothed with a body cursed by sin, we are nevertheless assured of greater things since we are not merely in Adam, with respect to the flesh, but ultimately we are in Christ where our lives are hidden. Through His life, death, and resurrection, death has no hold on those who have put their faith in Him. His own resurrection from the dead guarantees that everyone united to Him by the Spirit will be resurrected (It is fascinating to note how God Himself, in poetic metaphor, displays this victory of life over death in the natural processes of the created order: a seed dies and out comes a tree, carbon is subjected to extreme heat and pressure over a long period of time and out comes the hardest substance on earth—the diamond, etc).

When will this resurrection take place? The resurrection of the elect, wherein they will be given imperishable, spiritual, and glorious bodies, will occur at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this climactic event, those who have been dead in Christ, whose souls have been in heaven with Him, shall have their previous bodies raised in a glorious state and given back to them, and those still alive shall be transformed "in the twinkling of an eye" into the same type of bodies as the former. Individuality, identity, character, and personality will not be altered. The Warren I am now will be the same Warren I will be then—minus sin and death!

Along with the redemption of men's bodies, heaven and earth shall also be renewed. Fire will purify the earth from all remnants of sin and death and God will establish the new heaven and the new earth where God and man shall dwell together (As opposed to 2 aberrant views: a. ) the present state shall be retained and b.) total destruction paving the way for a new creation). Herman Bavinck states in "The Last Things", p. 160, that "The substance [of the city of God] is present in this creation. Just as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, as carbon is converted into diamond, as the grain of wheat, upon dying in the ground, produces other grains of wheat, as all of nature revives in the spring and dresses up in celebrative clothing, as the believing community is formed out of Adam's fallen race, as the resurrection body is raised from the body that is dead and buried in the earth, so, too, by the re-creating power of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth will one day emerge from the fire-purged elements of this world, radiant in enduring glory and forever set free from the bondage of decay."

It must be noted that when Paul refers to our glorified bodies as "spiritual" and that "flesh and blood" cannot inherit the kingdom of God, he is not denying the physicality of these bodies. What he is doing is drawing a contrast between the present age, in-Adam, corruptible, sin-tainted, "natural" physical body and the future age, in Christ, indwelt by the Spirit, incorruptible, "spiritual" physical body.

III. Pilgrim Life Now, Glorious Life Later

Paul grounds the meaning, weight, and significance of the Christian life in the present age, with its labors, countless woes and persecutions, on the future glory to be revealed. He admonishes us to live pilgrim lives in consideration of the ff:

A. We Are in Christ, Not in Adam

Though we are still encumbered by our Adamic nature (indwelling sin), our lives are now "hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). The spiritual blessings of Christ are now ours to enjoy and we must live in them as we await the physical resurrection, i.e., "holiness (Rev. 3:4,5; 7:14; 19:8; 21:27); salvation (Rom. 13:11; 1 Thess. 5:9; Heb. 1:14; 5:9); glory (Luke 24:36; Rom. 2:10; 8:18, 21); adoption (Rom. 8:23); eternal life (Matt. 19:16, 29, etc.); the vision of and conformity to God and Christ (Matt.5:18; John 17:24; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 22:4); fellowship with, and the service and praise of, God and Christ (John 17:24; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; Rev. 4:10; 5:9, 13; 7:10, 15; 21:3; 22:3, etc.)" — Herman Bavinck, 'The Last Things', 161. These blessings were purchased for us by Christ on account of His having obeyed the Law perfectly and by virtue of His having died on the cross for the guilt of our own Law-breaking. The merits of Christ's work are imputed to us in faith through the work of the Holy Spirit whom He has given us as a pledge that we shall indeed share in His resurrection and glory.

B. Our Citizenship Is in Heaven

The saints of all ages have always held to the conviction that the world in the present age is not their home. Abraham looked to the eternal city of God as his final destination. Such a consideration gave him a loose hold on the prosperity and security that he would be leaving behind as he obeyed the command of God to leave his present homeland for a strange, distant country. Paul himself says, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Phil. 3:20-21).

As citizens of heaven, worldly allurements should not have us bound. We must not seek the things that the world seeks, but must set our hearts and hopes on Christ and the future physical kingdom that He will be establishing. Do we love our careers more than Christ and the future physical kingdom? Our cars? Our homes? Even our spouses and children? Do we jealously guard the keeping of the Sabbath against all worldly enticements to our time, knowing that in the Sabbath we have the foretaste of the future eternal rest?

C. We Must Stand Firm in What We Are Now and What We Shall Become

To stand firm in the truth of our possession of Christ's spiritual benefits now and the truth of our future possessing of physical glory is to look to Christ in faith, and "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). If we are to stand firm, we must then be fully immersed in the Word of God, for as we get to know the promises of God in Christ as revealed in His Word, hope and gratitude are formed—"we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience"  (Rom. 8:23-25).

Monday, October 4, 2010

VoV: Paradoxes

O Changeless God,

   Under the conviction of thy Spirit I learn that
   the more I do, the worse I am,
   the more I know, the less I know,
   the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,
   the more I love, the more there is to love.
     O wretched man that I am!
O Lord,
   I have a wild heart,
     and cannot stand before thee;
I am like a bird before a man.
How little I love thy truth and ways!
I neglect prayer,
   by thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly,
   by knowing thou hast saved my soul.
Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be
   an evangelical hypocrite,
   who sins more safely because grace abounds,
   who tells his lusts that Christ's blood
     cleanseth them,
   who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell,
     for he is saved,
   who loves evangelical preaching, churches,
     Christians, but lives unholily.
My mind is a bucket without a bottom,
   with no spiritual understanding,
   no desire for the Lord's Day,
   ever learning but never reaching the truth,
   always at the gospel-well but never holding water.
My conscience is without conviction or contrition,
   with nothing to repent of.
My will is without power of decision or resolution.
My heart is without affection, and full of leaks.
My memory has no retention,
   so I forget easily the lessons learned,
   and thy truths seep away.
Give me a broken heart that yet carries home
   the water of grace.

— The Valley of Vision, Edited by Arthur Bennett (Edinburgh, UK: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975).

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