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"

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