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

Monday, March 30, 2009

Book Review: "Why Johnny Can't Preach"

John Dyer is a technical guru I know. He makes his living dealing with technology. He is also a seminary grad. Such makes his brief positive review of "Why Johnny Can't Preach" all the more interesting to me. Since I was recently given the book by a friend, I suppose with as many recommendations I have been given, I will have to actually read the book rather than consume it through other media sources (like the audio interview I pointed readers to earlier). Hmmm...perhaps this is indicative of my need for the book, being one who has been shaped by my particular media medium preferences.

Check out John Dyer's blog:

Also just saw that another blogger fellow reviewed the book:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What's the purpose of preaching?

Are people too critical of other preachers and pastors? Probably sometimes that is true. But sometimes it is deserved. Preachers have a unique job description: To preach Christ and him crucified.

Issues, etc., a Lutheran radio program, has a segment called "Sermon review" where they mean to help people know if they are sitting under Biblical preaching or not. Often the reviews are positive examples, but they decided to do one of the sermons of Joel Osteen. A Lutheran pastor here reviews a Joel Osteen sermon with a few diagnostic questions: Is Christ mentioned? What is Christ doing in the sermon? Is Christ the subject of the verbs? (Is Christ doing something for his Church, or is it about doing something for Christ?) If you've never heard an Osteen sermon before, this is a good introduction. If you have heard and liked Osteen, this is a good warning against what may tickle your ears, but does not feed one's soul

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, (2 Tim 4:3)


Friday, March 27, 2009

Irenaeus on the relationship of the Church to the gospel

"While the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life"

Ireneaus of Lyons - Against Heresies 3.11.8 (c. 180 AD) –

[Irenaeus probably didn't know to check with the Pope to see that actually the Roman Catholic position was that the church was the pillar of the gospel, so perhaps he can be excused. Everyone makes mistakes]

Monday, March 23, 2009

Torrance on the Incarnation

T.F. Torrance went to be with the Lord over a year ago. But I just picked up an adaptation of some of his final lectures in book form called "Incarnation." In it, the learned theologian explores what to him was the highest part of theology: Christology. In my experience of learning theology with a Christological focus, I more and more sympathize with the language used by the early church that knew the doctrines surrounding salvation as implications of the Person and Work of Christ. In reading Torrance, I think I have a teacher to teach me further how to do this.

These below, are the first few lines of a "Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ," that I am starting on as my devotional reading:

"Our task in christology is to yield the obedience of our mind to what is given, which is God's self-revelation in its objective reality, Jesus Christ...We cannot compare the fact of Christ with other facts, nor can we deduce the fact of Christ from our knowledge of other facts. The fact of Christ comes breaking into the continuity of our human knowledge as an utterly distinctive and unique fact, which we cannot understand in terms of other facts, which we cannot reduce to what we already know. It is a new and unique fact without analogy anywhere in human experience or knowledge.

And yet Jesus Christ gives himself to be known as the object of our experience and knowledge, within our history and within our human existence - but when we know him there, we know him in terms of himself. We know him out of pure grace as one who gives himself to us and freely discloses himself to us. We cannot earn knowledge of Christ, we cannot achieve it, or build up to it. We have no capacity or power in ourselves giving us the ability to have mastery over this fact. In the very act of our knowing Christ he is the master, we are the mastered. He manifests himself and gives himself to us by his own power and agency, by his Holy Spirit, and in the very act of knowing him we ascribe all the possibility of our knowing him to Christ alone.

But let us note: it is only when we actually know Christ, know him as our personal savior and Lord, that we know that we have not chosen him but that he has chosen us; that it is not in our own capacity to give ourselves the power to know him...we acknowledge that in knowing God in Christ, we do so not by our own power, but by the power of God."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Good Book with a tricky but good concept

I have read much of this book by Presbyterian W. David Buschart. I really love it. It is a much needed work in some circles. He is attempting to forge a way where Christians can dialog, and work together without going lite and fluffy with their doctrine and theology. The idea, Practice "Theological Hospitality". He explores the major Protestant traditions and finds something to love in each of them. In the last chapter he also discusses the highs and lows of each tradition and I agree with his conclusions on each of the traditions. I also got a chuckle out of the fact that he did not subject his own Reformed tradition to the treatment. However just seeing value in other traditions from Anabaptist to Anglican shows the right spirit so I let him off the hook there. I might have added that there is value in both confessional and non-confessional traditions perhaps, and some other stuff. But all in all not many could have done better.

Feeling the love from my Baptist brothers...

What does John Calvin have in common with a Neo-Nazi and a Unitarian Universalist? None of them would be allowed communion at Mark Dever's church. Seems paedo-baptism ranks up there with universalism and racism with Dever. But for what it's worth, R. Scott Clark was not offended writing:

I’m not offended. Mark is a good friend, a very good scholar, and a churchly gentleman. God bless him and may he embrace the faith of Abraham with us. I stand ready to baptize his children any time he wishes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Hymn on Learning Hope

When I learn a new hymn that affects my heart, it seems like 9 times out of 10 I can assume it is by Thomas Pollock, Henry Lyte, or Horatius Bonar. So when working on a paper, I should have known that when the words to a song struck me, and I looked up the words, I would find it was by Horatius Bonar.

The hymn has a lament quality. "How Long?" Until learning the not-yet of salvation, one cannot associate with this hymn. Only when one can learn the third, neglected divine virtue of hope, can one find warrant and permission to write and reflect for edification on such a hymn. Again, I tire of hearing songs of "Victory in Jesus" as an already complete reality. To believe salvation is full already is to either not know yourself (and your sin), to be insulated from the world (and its pain) or to have a low view of "so great a salvation." All these things, sin, pain and salvation are all greater than we pretend in the American Church.

Come Then, by Honar Bonar

1. The Church has waited long
Her absent Lord to see
And still in loneliness she waits
A friendless stranger she
Age after age has gone,
Sun after sun has set
And still, in weeds of widowhood,
She weeps a mourner yet

Come then, Lord Jesus, come

2. The serpent's brood increase,
The powers of hell grow bold
The conflicts thickens, faith is low,
And love is waxing cold
How long, O Lord our God,
Holy and true and good
Wilt thou not judge Thy suffering Church,
Her sighs and tears and blood?

Come then, Lord Jesus, come

3. We long to hear thy voice,
To see Thee face to face
To share Thy crown and glory then,
As now we share thy grace
Should not the loving bride,
The absent Bridegroom mourn?
Should she not wear the weeds of grief,
Until her Lord return?

Come then, Lord Jesus, come

4. The whole creation groans,
And wait to hear that voice
That shall restore her comeliness,
And make her wastes rejoice
Come, Lord, and wipe away,
The curse, the sin, the stain
And make this blighted world of ours,
Thine own fair world again

Come then, Lord Jesus, come

Why Evangelicals don’t understand (or like) Confessionalists

I don’t just read people who agree with me. I consume, and sometimes even enjoy, books, blogs, podcasts and conversations with many Christians of different traditions. I find myself most days at a seminary of mostly Baptists and independent church Christians. My favorite listening fodder is put out by some conservative Lutherans. I even read, *gasp*, Catholics and Orthodox writers from time to time. I find in all of that interaction, I receive the most friction, on the most subjects, from more broadly evangelical Christians. Recently, I have been hearing many voice sentiments similar to the frustrations of Scot McKnight. McKnight is frustrated with “neo-Reformed” types because he believes they (1) attempt to capture evangelicalism, (2) redefine evangelicalism by Reformed doctrines and (3) kick all of the non-Reformed off the village green of evangelicalism. McKnight believes that this is because Reformed folk believe you are not truly evangelical unless you are Reformed. Much of this was repeated in a post on the internet monk.

I do get this same sort of picture described sometimes from other evangelicals. I think this might be due to one of two factors:

1) They’ve met a cage Calvinist

This is what Reformed folk call those usually in their first year of discovery of the doctrines of grace. A cage Calvinist is one who should be put in a cage so they don’t harm themselves or others with their new found zeal and heresy-detector. I also believe there are a few Calvinists that never leave that stage. John MacArthur and his school seem to produce a lot of these types (the permanant cage Calvinist). These guys bulldoze anyone that disagrees with even the most minor point of doctine, and have little room for “speak the truth in love” in their Bibles.

But the vast majority of Reformed Christians are not cage Calvinists. This leads me to my second theory of why evangelicals feal this frustration:

2) They don’t understand Confessionalism.

Some Calvinists (like the MacArthur variety) are not Confessionalists. But those of an historic denomination (like the Dutch Reformed, German Reformed and Presbyterian variety) are. Many times when Confessional priniciples are put forward, evangelicals feel like they are being bullied.

There are two main analogies for what evangelicalism is, in its best sense. One is a hallway. This is C.S. Lewis’ image of a “Mere Christianity” where Christianity is a hallway that contains many rooms. Another image, propogated by Michael Horton and accepted by McKnight, is a village green, where people can gather to talk and interact.

When the Reformed (and for that matter Lutherans and Anglicans) come to the villiage green, they often are disturbed by what they find. Instead of a meeting ground, they see pitched tents, and people living on the villiage green. The whole image of a villiage green and a hallway were created by Confessionalists defending the idea of interaction with other traditions with fidelity to their own tradition, but have found that the concept has left them dissatisfied with the arrangment. No good Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican or even confessional Baptist thinks the current situation, especially in America, is healthy (as Horton pointed out in his analogy). The villiage contains houses, with kitchens to prepare food and fire by which to get warm and beds where one can rest comfortably. Instead, many evangelicals are on the green either starving or scavenging through other people’s homes, taking what they want but leaving the house behind. These are Christians either bouncing from church to church or Christians in churches with no confessional identity, merely claiming to be "mere Christians."

You see, Confessionalists believe their own tradition and confession of faith provides a means of sustaining their spiritual lives in feeding their souls on shared truths about salvation, community and the God they worship. They rest on certain promises and an understanding of Scripture and learn together by a common understanding. Occasionally, they do come to the villiage green and kindly ask the people trying to live on the green to find a home and invite them to theirs.

Some take offense, thinking that they are taking away their villiage green. However, they want to do nothing of the sort. What Confessionalists that come to the villiage green want is a group of Christians coming together from their traditions in order to interact, rather than piece-meal robbing from many traditions in order to never have a theological resting place. The Reformed do not want to redefine evangelicalism. Rather, they want evangelicals to find a home (a church with a confession - particularly a Reformation informed one), so the villiage green might be meaningful.
There’s a growing antipathy about evangelicalism in confessional circles. Most Lutherans will not show up. Others are visiting less often as well, as D.G. Hart, a conservative Presbyterian has suggested, perhaps these "neo-Reformed" bullies, (the permanent cage Calvinists) can be distinguished from paleo-Reformed since "Neo-Reformed care about being evangelical; Paleos don’t." If every time a Confessionalist shows up and tells those on the villiage green what they prefer about their home, the Scot McKnights on the green get mad and think they are being judged and having the mean kid kick sand in their face, Confessionalists will just give up on coming to the green.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why Johnny Can't Preach

This is an amazing discussion about how technology has shaped the craft of preaching.

Most think that technology is just another means of communicating a message. But for readers of Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death" know, the medium effects the message. The written word, the spoken word and the image all communicate differently and each has different levels of effectiveness in regards to communicating ideas. The most I delve into theology, the more I respect the iconoclasts. These ideas are essential to any preacher or teacher. Also, the book is on sale for $6 at wtsbooks.

link: Christ the Center discussion with Dr. T. David Gordon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Neo-Reformed and Paleo-Reformed

Mark Driscoll (a guy I must admit is either a guy you like or hate...and I tend to like him) has posted on the New Calvinism versus the Old as noted by Time. I have to say, though, I think the distinction is extremely unhelpful. Driscoll makes the distinction between New Calvinism and Old and the four points are not things I am on board with. Here they are:

Four Ways 'New Calvinism' is So Powerful
1. Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
2. Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into
3. Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
4. Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.

I have to say #1 is totally wrong. Anyone that has studied Machen knows this. What does #2 mean? How "old" are we talking? Ever heard of Geneva, Strasburg, Zurich, Edinburgh, Amsterdam? #3 is a good thing. and #4 is a generalization without substance. From reading history, it seems to me that Calvinism tried to play nicer with Lutheranism and eventually the Baptists (though not the Anabaptists) than the Lutherans did in return.

Oh, well. I still like Driscoll, but he's not good at analysis, nor of characterizing his intellectual ancestors.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Luther on Ecclesiastes 9:8

Ecc 9:8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
"You are living in the midst of vanity. Therefore enjoy life, and do not let yourself come to ruin through your indignation, but drive the grief from your mind. You can not mock the world more effectively than by laughing when it grows angry. Let it be enough for you that you have a gracious God. For what is the malice of the world in comparison with the sweetness of God? He is not urging a life of pleasure and luxury characteristic of those who do not sense this vanity, for that would be putting oil on fire; but he is speaking of godly men, who sense the vexation and troubles of the world. It is their downcast hearts that he wants to encourage."

A Sanctifying Meditation while smoking a pipe.

Many times our daily activities can be times of mediation on how they relate to spiritual matters. Few would think that would be possible in activities such as smoking a pipe. Although some admired Christians (like our dear C.S. Lewis here) and hobbits have smoked pipes (I haven't, it looks too complicated), today it obviously is an activity that has fallen in the taboo category and it is true if it is done in excess is hazardous to your health. Still, I found this poem funny, but also strangely thought provoking and edifying. This poem has been making the rounds on some blogs, which was written by a Scottish Presbyterian in the 1700s, reflecting on the spiritual similitudes between smoking a pipe and the state of humanity. Enjoy.

HT: Christians in Context / Heidelblog


This Indian weed now wither'd quite,
'Tho' green at noon, cut down at night,
Shows thy decay;
All flesh is hay.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The pipe so lily-like and weak,
Does thus thy mortal state bespeak.
Thou art ev'n such,
Gone with a touch.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the smoke ascends on high,
Then thou behold'st the vanity
Of worldly stuff,
Gone with a puff.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the pipe grows foul within,
Think on thy soul defil'd with sin;
For then the fire,
It does require.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And seest the ashes cast away;
Then to thyself thou mayest say
That to the dust
Return thou must.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.


Was this small plant for thee cut down?
So was the plant of great renown;
Which mercy sends
For nobler ends.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Doth juice medicinal proceed
From such a naughty foreign weed?
Then what's the pow'r
Of Jesse's flow'r?
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The promise, like the pipe, inlays,
And by the mouth of faith conveys
What virtue flows
From Sharon's rose.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
In vain th' unlighted pipe you blow;

Your pains in inward means are so,
'Till heav'nly fire
Thy heart inspire.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
The smoke, like burning incense tow'rs

So should a praying heart of yours,
With ardent cries,
Surmount the skies.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Calvin on Romans 2:13

I think theology used to be more fun. Reading John Calvin, as well as Luther and their Catholic counterparts, theological writers had more fun putting down other positions. One such passage from Calvin on Romans 2:13. There guys actually had fun writing about theology:

TEXT: Rom 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

CALVIN: For the hearers of the law, etc. This anticipates an objection which the Jews might have adduced. As they had heard that the law was the rule of righteousness, they gloried in the mere knowledge of it: to obviate this mistake, he declares that the hearing of the law or any knowledge of it is of no such consequence, that any one should on that account lay claim to righteousness, but that works must be produced, according to this saying, “He who will do these shall live in them.” The import then of this verse is the following, — “That if righteousness be sought from the law, the law must be fulfilled; for the righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works.” They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children. It is therefore improper and beyond what is needful, to introduce here a long discussion on the subject, with the view of exposing so futile a sophistry: for the Apostle only urges here on the Jews what he had mentioned, the decision of the law, — That by the law they could not be justified, except they fulfilled the law, that if they transgressed it, a curse was instantly pronounced on them. Now we do not deny but that perfect righteousness is prescribed in the law: but as all are convicted of transgression, we say that another righteousness must be sought. Still more, we can prove from this passage that no one is justified by works; for if they alone are justified by the law who fulfill the law, it follows that no one is justified; for no one can be found who can boast of having fulfilled the law.

Friday, March 06, 2009

My Secret Catholic Shelf

I was sitting with a friend the other night, talking about a friend we both knew and speculating if he was on his way to converting to Roman Catholicism. My friend then said, “Well, I'd be less bothered by it than you would.” The statement took me by surprise. I merely replied, “better Catholic than liberal, I guess,” echoing J.I. Packer in a similar situation.

My attitude towards Catholicism is one of ambivalence. Speaking theologically, I see Catholicism as in error, out of accord with the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.” [see my “Why I can not be a Roman Catholic series”] Yet, I also have read and profited from several Catholic writers. A few days later, I looked over my Catholic books and decided I would write an appreciation of Catholic writers that have profited me, and where they have done so. So here are a few Catholic writers I have on my Catholic shelf:

James V. Schall – Schall holds the award for having a book with my favorite title: “On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing.” I came across Schall when pursuing an undergrad degree in History Education. Most education writers had swallowed whole much of John Dewey (*cue Darth Vader music*). But I found a few, like James Schall and Jacques Barzun, that had a different, less utilitarian, less subjective view of education. Schall opens the book with a quote from Samuel Johnson, mourning the lack of “seriousness” with which the Ancient Greeks treated their gods. James V. Schall viewed knowledge and philosophy as one of the best and most delightful parts of being alive. So, if “serious” means sternly dower, and joyless, then the best parts of human existence are “unserious.” And the most useless thing about humans (philosophy and theology - the least utilitarian subjects) are the best things about us. [Good books: On The Unseriousness of Human Affairs, Another Sort of Learning, A Student's Guide to the Liberal Arts]

Jacques Maritain – Schall led me to Maritain. Maritain was a French Thomist who wrote on classical education. But better than his perspectives on education was his treatment of Art. Maritain was able to introduce me to an approach to Art that was serious, but not mathematical. Ultimately, Burke said it best: “Art is Man's Nature.” The best thing about humanity is not his reason, but his affection and creativeness expressed in art. [good books - Art and Scholasticism, Challenges and Renewals]

Etiene Gilson – A fellow Thomist to Maritain, Gilson introduced me to the concept of “Theologism.” Gilson critiqued some Augustinian and Reformed theologians for reasoning that whatever gives God the most Glory, is what He does. Gilson showed this could be used to defend Deism, as a God who created a world without need for supernatural interference would be most glorious. Indeed, the critique is overstated, and then is used in annoying ways by people like Norman Geisler to beat Calvinists over the head whenever they mention the glory of God. Even so, Gilson helped me nuance my thoughts and see how an appeal to the Glory of God can be heard by non-Reformed. [good books -The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. The Christian Philosophy of St. Augustine, The Arts of the Beautiful, God and Philosophy, The Unity of Philosophical Experience]

Christopher Dawson – In studying History, I soon discovered that an important question was : What is the telos (end) of History? This is not asking how the world will end, necessarily, but what is History moving towards. Marx says that History is moving towards a Socialist Utopia, where the means of production will no longer be alienated from the workers. Some say history is headed no where. There is no point or progress. But I finally came across Dawson, a Harvard professor, that told History as the story of the church on earth, History as an expansion of the kingdom of God on earth. This, a modified “City of God” approach, was the first exposure I would have to a Christian view of History. Eventually I would find Augustine himself to be preferred, but Dawson was helpful in getting there. Also, Dawson had a strange respect for Calvin. Dawson disagreed with Calvin, but respected his thought and found it the best alternative to his approach in a Christian view of History. [good books - Dynamics of World History, Christianity and European Culture]

Richard John Neuhaus – Neuhaus was a former Lutheran who converted to Catholicism. A man who died recently and helped me think constructively about death. Death on a Friday Afternoon is a wonderful reflection on time, the church calendar and death as a weekly reflection of the life of Christ. As I Lay Dying, was written as Neuhaus thought he was dying of cancer. Neuhaus recovered and collected these thoughts to describe his comfort in Christ and the beauty of a life that ends ("a life born towards dying"). [good books - Death on a Friday Afternoon, As I Lay Dying]

Peter Kreeft – Kreeft is a wonderful philosopher who engages with modern thought in a helpful way. Peterkreeft.com includes many interesting and challenging talks. But Kreeft's book “The God Who Loves You” convinced me that there were good evangelical Catholics out there. But good evangelical Catholics are often bad Catholics, and Kreeft can probably be accused of such by many hardline Catholics with what Kreeft says in appreciation of Luther in that book. Kreeft is also indebted to Pascal for his worldview, and I think he has some wonderful Jansenist tendencies (which Kreeft would deny). [good books - Christianity for Modern Pagans, The God Who Loves You, Portable Professor: “What Would Socrates Do?”]

G.K. Chesterton – In high school, I read “Orthodoxy.” This was at the same time I read “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. The two books together started me on a journey that eventually led me to seminary. “Mere Christianity” was the more weighty theologically, but Orthodoxy made Christianity read like a Beethoven Symphony. Reason goes insane because it tries to cross the infinite sea, but poetry is sane because it floats on that sea. Chesterton's Christianity was baptized 19th Century Romanticism. But when I read it in high school, I loved it. I'm a Romantic at heart, and Chesterton helped me see the Romance of and in Christianity. But even better, Chesterton, in "The Everlasting Man," told the story of History as the story of Christ. Of all the authors, I must thank Chesterton for pointing me, not to the church like Dawson, but to Christ as the central fact of history, as unfolding in the church. Of all authors, Chesterton is my favorite of this list. [Good books – Orthodoxy, What's Wrong with the World, Heretics, The Ball and the Cross, The Man who was Thursday, The Everlasting Man]

But still, even with Chesterton, I am ambivalent towards my Catholic shelf. Chesterton once wrote as a slight against Lutheranism, what I found to be the beauty of Reformation Christianity. Chesterton wrote of his dislike for the view of Lutheranism that:

“Man could say nothing to God, nothing from God, nothing about God, except an inarticulate cry for mercy and for the supernatural help of Christ, in a world where all natural things were useless. Reason was useless. Will was useless. Man could not move himself an inch any more than a stone. Man could not trust what was in his head any more than a turnip. Nothing remained in earth or heaven, but the name of Christ lifted in that lonely imprecation; awful as the cry of a beast in pain.” [-Chesterton, from St. Thomas Aquinas, Ch 8]

My heart actually races at what Chesterton finds repugnant. For all the benefit I gain from Catholics, especially in philosophy and education, I part company from as many of them see Chesterton's "insult" here as a problem, rather than a testament to the sovereign grace of God. Alas, if only Catholics could see the beauty in the grace they find distasteful.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bonhoeffer on Matt 5:17

When busy with classes, it is the time for quotes. I am preparing a lesson on a section from the Sermon on the Mount. This quote summarizes all I wish to communicate:

"Jesus, the Son of God, who alone lives in perfect communion with him [God the Father], vindicates the law of the old covenant by coming to fulfill it. He was the only Man who ever fulfilled the law and therefore he alone can teach the law and its fulfillment aright. The disciples would naturally grasp that as soon as He told them, for they knew who He was…The only way for Him to fulfill the law is by dying a sinner’s death on the cross. There he embodies in his Person the perfect fulfillment of the law.

That is to say, Jesus Christ and he alone fulfills the law, because He alone lives in perfect communion with God. It is Jesus himself who comes between the disciples and the law, not the law which comes between Jesus and the disciples.” – Bonhoeffer. The Cost of Discipleship. pg 123

Augustine: God Determines Conversion

“As to the reason why He wills to convert some, and to punish others turning away, - although nobody can justly censure the Merciful One in conferring His blessing, nor can any man justly find fault with the Truthful One in awarding His punishment (as no one could justly blame Him, in the parable of the laborers, for assigning to some their stipulated hire, and to others unstipulated largess), yet, after all, the purpose of His more hidden judgment is in His own power. So far as it has been given us, let us have wisdom, and let us understand that the good Lord God sometimes withholds even from His saints either certain knowledge or the triumphant joy of a good work, just in order that they may discover that it is not from themselves, but from Him that they receive the light which illuminates their darkness, and the sweet grace which causes their land to yield her fruit.

...For God is put to no shame or trouble when we do not obey Him, nor are we able in any wise to lessen His very great power over us.”

--Augustine. On Merits, Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism. Book II, chapter 32; 36