"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Random stuff, Edwards, Augustine, Death & Penance. And Luther too.

Speaking of stern evil Protestant Puritan types what about that awful Jonathan Edwards and all of his silly resolutions. I was thinking about this one in relation to the death of Augustine.

"9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death. "
What a drag I know. Man how that can change your outlook though. What will hit me when I die? (Spiritually, I am not thinking Mack truck verses falling anvil) What will my thoughts be about? (Again spiritually, not wow that anvil is falling on me and really going to hurt). Well Augustine’s thoughts made my heart sink. His thoughts were of sin and penance.The ill Augustine: “had ordered the four Psalms of David that deal with penance copied out. From his sick bed he could see these sheets of paper every day, hanging on his walls, and would read them, crying constantly and deeply.” Few were allowed to see him so he could pray uninterrupted.
When commenting on his work “Confessions” around this time he was sensitive to those who criticized the work. “Therefore, what remains for me to do, is to judge myself under my single Master, whose judgment I desire to escape, for all my offenses.” This was a man who was deeply aware and broken hearted over his sins. Of his son he once said “I did nothing to profit that boy”. He analyzed his motives to the core. But he went deeper still trying to know his single Master. I have come to believe that anyone who would call Augustine’s God a “devil God” either does not understand Augustine, or actually worships a different God then me. I am committing myself to ponder Edwards’ resolution in the light of Saint Augustine’s last days.

Two other things come to mind as I try to balance this out in my head. Another resolution by Edwards
"19. Resolved, never to do anything that I should be afraid to do if I expect it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump. "
And good old Saint Martin Luther. While he would love Edwards’ resolution 19 and embrace it there is that famous quote that is so misunderstood.
For some reason my heart leap at typing that. For I know that I am a sinner still. It is not what I do it is what I am. Can I believe more boldly then I have sinned?! (Augustine gave it a good run.) I think I will go get a good night sleep to take on the next day. God go with us all.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why Bother with Trinitarianism?

The most often heard denigration of the doctrine of the Trinity (and really for all Theology) is that it may be true, but it doesn’t matter. There’s no application in our daily lives.

There are actually three problems with this:

1) It is false, the doctrine of the Trinity does have application
2) A concern for application is good, but not when everything has to benefit me in areas separate from Who God is, then the problem in the question is not the “problem” but the questioner.
3) It is telling of our lack of concern for God, who is supposed to be the object of our desires. If we truly do not care Who God is, it means our love for God is lacking or absent.

Though I do believe the doctrine of the Trinity has application for our daily lives, I will leave those concerns for last; because of first priority should be the third point: our need to worship a God we know. Imagine telling your wife how thankful you are to her for giving birth to you. The idea is absurd. You should not thank your wife for the gift of your mother! Yet, in worship and prayer we often do this very thing thanking the Father for dying for us, or the Son for converting us.


The question has arisen, “Who should we worship in the Trinity?” Should our praise be centered on the Father as Jesus told the woman at the well that the Father is seeking worshippers? (John 4:23) While the Father is often the object of our worship, both tradition and Scripture reveal that the other members of the Godhead also are to be worshipped. The Nicene Creed tells us the “Holy Spirit…with the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.” And in the book of Revelation 22:3, of Jesus it is said: “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship Him.” Many of the hymns in [good] hymnbooks reflect this concern, with verses dedicated to the Father, then to the Son, then to the Spirit. If your hymnal does not do this, consider this one that does:



This might also be extended to our prayer life. We often pray to the Father, ending with an appeal to the Son (in Jesus name). The Father is traditionally the object of our prayers in worship, often with us thanking the Father for His only-begotten Son and for the Spirit He sent. This formula originates in the very earliest liturgies of the church:


While the Father may be object of the Lord’s Prayer, this should not restrict us to prayer only to the Father. However, we should be conscious of which Person we are praying to. Paul prays (speaks) directly to Christ in his conversion. Much of the worship of Christ in Revelation is in the form of prayer. Also, tradition has developed liturgical prayers with this very concern in mind. Puritans often had Trinitarian petitions in their prayers beginning with “O Father” or “O Son” depending on the object of that prayer or petition. For examples see: the Valley of Vision.


Scripture tells us that man is made in God’s Image. More than that, Scripture tells us that man is made up of two parts, male and female. Anyone concerned about the equality and diversity of gender should take notice here. This “Image of God” and the knowledge that God is Triune, informs our idea of the relationship between men and women. Scholar Bruce Waltke says as much about relationship in his commentary on Genesis writing, “Relationship is modeled after God who does not exist in isolation but is a trinity, surrounded by a heavenly court” When the model for marriage is given in Genesis 2:24, the man and woman are said to come together and become “one” or “echad.” This is the same word used in Deuteronomy 6:4 when God tells us He is “one.” This truth stands beside the truth of God’s diversity in the Persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The fact is that the Son has equal worth as the Father, even though the roles may differ. As we consider the difference of roles between men and women, the fact that the two (men and women) are one mankind, tells us that while we may differentiate the roles, if we denigrate the worth of women, a similar action to the denigration of Christ is occurring.

There are more implications for the doctrine of the Trinity, but for our purposes, and my time, I can only leave you with the exhortation to give closer thought and study to the doctrine of the Trinity. It has implication for our lives, but more importantly, it is the nature of the object that should be our greatest desire, because the Triune God is the highest good, our highest good and our greatest joy is found in Him.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Caspar David Friedrich

Just ran across and old favorite. Like it in black and white best. Wish it was real.

These images I was able to find are poor. But since it came up here is an attempt at the color version.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Trinitarian work of Resurrection

Who raised Jesus from the dead? I read a post over at another blog that addressed this will just a few Biblical quotations, I thought I would rip it off and share:

God the Father: "Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead" Gal 1:1

Jesus the Son: "Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19

The Holy Spirit: "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." Rom 8:11

Saturday, March 22, 2008

BCP: Easter

O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Augustine vs. Pelagius

Augustine vs. Pelagius

Well I have had one of those great weeks where I have failed to get along with those around me. Actually swallowed my pride today and put things right with a coworker where things had gone sour. So I was thinking of that wonderful Augustine quote “As flattering friends corrupt so quarrelsome enemies bring much needed correction”. Has ended up being an awesome week to remember how much I need God and how easily I am crushed by little things that should not matter. How prideful I am and how I constantly need God to humble me and push me on my way of sanctification. I judge not how that is going but it feels good to remember that I am so very little and God... well he is so very, Ineffable. Yep that from a fairly insignificant argument.

So anyway, Augustine. I continue to meander through Peter Brown’s bio if him. I love it! I read the chapter “causa gratiae”, “the case for grace” where he sets up the debate well between Augustine and Pelagius. Augustine makes causa gratiae. The next chapter begins with these two paragraphs which I love. The second paragraph is the only one I just took my pen ands circled in the whole book so far.

“…The basic conviction of Pelagius and his followers was that man’s nature was certain and fundamentally unchanging. Originally created good by God, the powers of human nature had, admittedly, been constricted by the weight of past habits and by the corruption of society. But such constriction was purely superficial. The ‘remission of sins’ in Baptism, could mean for the Christian, the immediate recovery of a full freedom of action, that had merely been kept in abeyance by ignorance and convention.”

Ok so there is one way of looking at it. Yawn! So as for Augustine’s take? Well again I put a big old circle around this part:

“Augustine’s audience by contrast, would be told repeatedly that even the baptized Christian must remain an invalid: like the wounded man found near death by the wayside in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, his life had been saved by the rite of Baptism; but he must be content to endure, for the rest of his life, a prolonged and precarious convalescence in the ‘Inn’ of the Church. For to Augustine, man’s nature was at a nadir of uncertainty: and it would be cured, in an equally distant future, only by transformation so total and so glorious that, in its light, the least symptom of man’s present collapse must always be regarded as a cause of profound sadness.”

Yeah that is the tonic I am talking about! If you don’t get why that is a point of rejoicing then brother I can not explain it. God is ineffable! As for us, we suck.

In what sense Christ died for all men, In what sense He died for the elect.

[Update: I think Jay Bennett does a good job of making the case that common grace does not require atonement, which I speculated about in point 2 under 'in what way Christ died for all,' see what you think: LINK HERE]

Limited Atonement, by far, is the most debated doctrine of grace. Part of this, I believe, is due to its unfortunate title. The title seems to cheapen the atonement by limiting it. Yet, perhaps without knowing it, every group of Christians is forced to limit it in some manner, unless we are Universalists and believe everyone is headed to heaven. I do believe, we might explore the ways in which we might talk about both realities, of Christ's death in regards to the Church/Elect and all men

The Particular, Special nature of the Atonement
[What ways we say that Christ died particularly for the Elect]

1) It’s application of true reconciliation. Even if we attach a trigger, to say Christ did all and merely requires faith for the salvation of the believer to be complete, we still limit the application of the atonement to the elect, or believing Christians. (more on that in the conclusion)

2) It’s intent - Did Christ die intending that every person end up in heaven? Many would quote the verse from 2 Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

So does the Lord not wish for any person in the world ever born to perish? Within the content of the verse, we can see the word “any” point back to “you” or in Texan “y’all” since it is plural (ὑμᾶς). Who is “you”? When writing a letter, when the 2nd person is used, the author is talking to the intended audience of the letter, which is told to us in 2 Peter 1:1:

2 Peter 1:1 - Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Rather than speaking of the wish that may not be fulfilled in 2 Peter 3:9, Peter is assuring those of true faith (of equal worth with ours I.e. the apostles) they will not be abandoned by God in their salvation.

So again to our question, Who did Christ intend to be adopted in His death?

Eph 1:4-6 “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.”

We must confess that Christ’s intention for His death is for the elect, those He chose.

But don't other people experience grace?

1) We can all confess that Christ’s death is of limitless worth. Even the Canon of Dort on the Atonement says as much. If Christ was God, then His payment must have the element of infinity attached to it. Even if every man was saved, it would not drain the merit of Christ’s death.

2) All are benefits of some graces that are not saving. However, these are not attached to the work of atonement. The Reformed faith includes an element of Common Grace, or grace given to both the elect and the non-elect. The rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). That God forebears in His justice, is a part of His grace in being merciful to the reprobate. That the reprobate enjoy the beauty, pleasure and delights of creation is a grace unexplained and seemingly wasted on those who will never turn that enjoyment into praise toward the Glory of God.

I would distinguish atoning grace from other graces. But Christ died for atoning grace, not common grace. And Christ atoned only for the elect.

The only place that the idea of atonement or propitiation seems to be applied to more than the elect is in John, in particular

1Jn 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

In what sense is “whole world” meant here? I do believe there is a compelling case that the intent of this verse, as recorded in explanation in tradition, is multiracial, as in some from all peoples. This was a hard lesson for the Jews to learn (look at Peter, who needed it pounded into his head, that Cornelius was to be a recipient of the gospel too).

Thereby, the whole world mean here the elect. (see Michael Svigel’s post here, where I steal this argument from).

Follow me here: When the disciple of John, Polycarp, is being killed, his students declare:

“They [the pagans] did not know that we [Christians] will never be able either to abandon the Christ who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of those who are saved, the blameless on behalf of sinners, or to worship anyone else.”

Polycarp taught his disciples that this was the proper way to understand 1 John 2:2. If those in closest contact with the disciples have given us the exposition and meaning of the words “whole world,” should our modern sentimentality correct this?

Does it matter?

When we speak of the death of Christ especially in the gospel message, we are primarily speaking of the atoning work of Christ. So in the atoning sense, we cannot say that Christ died for all.

By faith the sinner is made a recipient of the work of atonement. And God knows, if He did not give this as a gift to me, I would never be a recipient of the atonement, for I am incapable of faith and repentance. This faith is a work of God in his Holy Spirit, given to all He has chosen, to the elect of His Bride. Given to all those whom he intend to apply the atonement.

In that way, I confess the particular death of the groom for His Bride, as much as she has ignored Him, denigrated Him, disbelieved Him and left with Her inheritance, still she, still I am His son and His bride because He has pursued and purchased me, never to leave me.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Actual, not Potential, Atonement

Jay Bennett has a great post quoting J.I. Packer evaluating the wide-spread idea among Evangelicals that Christ died equally for everyone, creating a potential, but not actual salvation for His people. Here's my favorite part:

"The true evangelical evaluation of the claim that Christ died for every man, even those who perish, comes through at point after point in Owen’s book. So far from magnifying the love and grace of God, this claim dishonors both it and him, for it reduces God’s love to an impotent wish and turns the whole economy of ‘saving’ grace, so-called (‘saving’ is really a misnomer on this view), into a monumental divine failure. Also, so far from magnifying the merit and worth of Christ’s death, it cheapens it, for it makes Christ die in vain. Lastly, so far from affording faith additional encouragement, it destroys the scriptural ground of assurance altogether, for it denies that the knowledge that Christ died for me (or did or does anything else for me) is a sufficient ground for inferring my eternal salvation; my salvation, on this view, depends not on what Christ did for me, but on what I subsequently do for myself."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lenten Prayer

Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent:

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Quote of Week: Our sin of theft

Basil of Caesarea was one of the three great Cappadocian fathers who helped explain the Trinity after Nicea. Basil also had a heart for the poor. Here, Basil walks straight into our living rooms and accuses us of theft:

“Is God unjust, dividing unequally the goods of our life? Why are you rich, while the other is poor? Isn't it, if not for any other reason, in order for you to gain a reward for your kindness and faithful providence, and for him to be honored with the great awards of patience? But … what was granted to you, in order for you to take care of the others, you took it and you made it your own… The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need. You wrong as many people as you [are] able to help [and do not].”

Oh Lord, when will I stop talking about the poor and do something?