Archive for April, 2012
Posted on 18. Apr, 2012 by Danny Hyde.
Reformation Trust has made available the Table of Contents, Foreward by David Murray, my introductory chapter on the hermeneutics of the Old Testament tabernacle, and chapter 1 in my upcoming book, God With Us: The Tabernacle and Our Relationship with God.
Posted on 09. Apr, 2012 by Lee Gatiss.
Brian Armstrong’s infamous 1969 book Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy makes a number of strange and erroneous assertions on various subjects. Though there is not much else written on the fascinating Amyraut, and so this has become a very important monograph. Someone I know just quoted the following from Armstrong. What do you think of this? Speaking of Calvin’s doctrine of accommodation (that he accommodates his revelation of himself to our limited capacity), Armstrong writes:
This teaching practically disappeared in orthodox Calvinism; at least, I have not found a single example in seventeenth century orthodox writers. However, the Salmurian theology of Cameron, Amyraut, Cappel, and de la Place, in the tradition of Calvin himself, made the concept of accommodation all-important.” (pages 173-174)
I wonder if he had every read Owen? Consider, for example,
All other prophets [except Christ], even Moses himself, receiving their revelations by transient irradiations of their minds, had no treasure of truth dwelling in them, but apprehended only that particular wherein they were enlightened, and that not clearly neither, in its fulness and perfection, but in a measure of light accommodated unto the age wherein they lived. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 3:32.
In this lost, forlorn estate, divine goodness, by an infinite condescension, accommodates itself unto our weakness and our distress. He doth not, therefore, only propose his mind and will unto us as unto grace and glory, but useth all ways possible to ingenerate in us a confidence of his willingness to bring us unto a participation of them… Hence a great part of the Scripture, the revelation of God’s will, is taken up in promises, exhortations, invitations, discourses and expressions of love, kindness, and compassion. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 5:267.
such condescensions doth God make use of in the declaration of his divine actings, to accommodate them unto our understandings, and to give us some kind of apprehension of them. Works of John Owen, 3:118.
The Scripture, therefore, is such a revelation as doth suppose and make necessary this ordinance of the ministry, wherein and whereby God will also be glorified. And it were well if the nature and duties of this office were better understood than they seem to be. God hath accommodated the revelation of himself in the Scripture with respect unto them; and those by whom the due discharge of this office is despised or neglected do sin greatly against the authority, wisdom, and love of God; and those do no less by whom it is assumed but not rightly understood or not duly improved. Works of John Owen, 4:191.
For my part, my intention principally is, to speak to such as God chooseth,—the poor and foolish of the world. And the means whereby he will bring them to himself are not, I am sure, above that understanding which the Son of God hath given them, 1 John 5:20. And whereas the general way, in treating of faith, is, for the most part, to use strictness of expression, that so it may be delivered in a philosophical exactness; the constant way of the Holy Ghost is, by metaphorical expressions, accommodations of it to things of sense and daily usage in the meanest, to give a relish and perception of it to all that are interested in it. And so shall I labour to speak, that every one that doth believe may know what it is to believe. Works of John Owen, 9:20-21.
because, since the entrance of sin into the world, God hath either continued or increased the knowledge of himself, or accommodated it to our capacities by four ways,—namely, by the written word, by a rational conscience, by his works of providence, and, lastly, by the person of Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, and by the mystery of godliness manifested in him… Works of John Owen, 10:512.
since with God, beyond all doubt, “there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” it will be worth while strictly to examine what he means by this description of his most holy and unchangeable nature, so well accommodated to our weak capacities. Works of John Owen, 10:542-543.
To me, these extracts seem to demonstrate that Owen was well aware of divine accommodation, and was able to employ the idea in a number of settings. In quite edifying and stimulating ways in fact. Was he alone? Or was he… a closet Salmurian?! His covenant theology does, after all, have some affinities with Cameron’s. What do you think, fellow Puritans?
Posted on 05. Apr, 2012 by Mark Jones.
I am constantly amazed at the wrong answers I get – assuming I have the right ones, of course – concerning the person of Christ. For that reason, I wrote this book as a layman’s introduction to the person (and work – because the two can never be separated) of Christ. Does Christ have one or two wills? Did he live by faith? What explanation do we give for Christ’s ignorance of certain events? What is the beatific vision? Did God die on the cross? These are the types of questions I ask and answer in the pocket guide. But one issue I didn’t really deal with – after all, it is a pocket guide, not a comprehensive work – is whether or not we worship Christ according to both natures.
Both orthodox and heretics have argued that we can and must worship Christ. Nestorius maintained that though he separated the two natures, he nevertheless brings them together to worship Christ. Even Socinus worshipped Christ; he distinguished between worshipping God as the primary cause of salvation and worshipping Christ as the secondary cause of salvation. Not surprisingly, the Lutherans taught, because of their doctrine of the communication of attributes (unidirectional, that is), that Christ’s human nature was to be worshipped.
This issue was debated in some (intricate) detail among the Reformed orthodox. The Christological debate (adoratio Christi) between William Ames and Johannes Maccovius centered on whether Christ ought to be worshipped according to both natures or just his divine nature. Ames defended the position that Christ should be worshipped according to both natures. Maccovius responded, however, that Christ ought to be worshipped only as he is truly God according to his divine nature. Rivetus, Gomarus, and Voetius sided with Maccovius; Maresius and Walaeus sided with Ames. Here is yet another intra-Reformed polemic. (BTW, I hear someone has decided to do a Dutch version of my book, Drawn into Controversie).
Herman Bavinck provides a good discussion of this issue in his Reformed Dogmatics. He suggests that the Reformed argued that Christ was “indeed the proper object of worship but that the ground for that worship lay solely in his divine nature.” In other words, was the ground for worship solely in the deity of Christ or in his deity and his mediatorship? Of course, as Bavinck notes, the Scriptures speak of Christ being the object of faith and trust (Jn. 14:1; 17:3; Rom. 14:9) and the object of our religious veneration and worship (Jn. 5:23; 14:13; Rev. 5:12; 22:17). Yet, Bavinck remains persuaded that Maccovius and not Ames was right. He writes:
The word of Scripture is firm: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him” …. If the royal power of Christ or his mediatorship is also advanced as ground for religious worship, then this divine command is weakened and violated. As mediator, king, priest, and prophet, Christ is not absolutely supreme but subordinated to God …. If, then, the ground for worshiping the Mediator consists, aside from his deity, also in his mediatorship, then that ground also in fact lies in his human nature, for as the mediator Christ cannot be conceived without it. Then the Father and the Spirit, who are not mediators, have one ground less for being worshipped than the Son, and so the Son achieves a position higher than the Father and the Holy Spirit …. the foundation of worship is the [mediator's] being God alone.
Posted on 04. Apr, 2012 by Lee Gatiss.
Moses Amyraut’s doctrine of hypothetical universalism is most clearly presented in his Brief Traitté de la Predestination (1634). This was intended to present the doctrine of predestination in a manner which would give the least offense to Catholics, and find common ground with them, especially the Catholic nobility with whom he was friendly. Amyraut was a member of the aristocracy himself and was keen to pursue ecumenical relations with the Lutherans too, and this has an impact on his presentation, which is actually at a fairly popular level here (not scholastic/academic, but designed for a wider audience).
In the Brief Tract, he speaks of Christ coming ‘to procure the salvation of the human race’(procurer le salut du genre humain). The misery of men is universal, he says, and God’s desire to deliver proceeds from his compassion for all the fallen, who are equally his creatures. Hence, ‘the grace of redemption which [Christ] has offered and procured for them had to be universal’ (la grace de la redemption qu’il leur a offerte & procurée a deu estre universelle). He adds that this is ‘provided that they also are all disposed to receive it.’ So there is a condition, but Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice was offered for all and intended for all (a esté pour tous… est destiné à tous).
According to Amyraut, no nation or individual is excluded by the will of God from the salvation he has acquired for the human race, provided that they make use of the testimonies to God’s mercy given to them. Indeed, some could theoretically be saved without knowing the name of Christ; they believe in him ‘without knowing who is the author of the mercy’ (persuadés sans le connoistre de la misericoree dont il est auteur). God’s wrath is appeased and the barrier of sin removed so that anyone can be forgiven if they are not unworthy (indignes).
This is similar to but less optimistic than Roman Catholic dogma, of course, which affirms that, ‘the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4)’ (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: Lumen Gentium (1964), chapter 2, number 16).
Amyraut also cites 1 Timothy 2:4 ‘God desires the salvation of all.’ Yet he adds that there must be a gloss, a limitation put on this verse. God desires all to be saved but only ‘provided that they believe… if they do not believe, he does not desire it’ (S’ils ne croyent point , il ne le veut pas). The nature of man being what it is, the cross would have been entirely useless and had no effect unless God stepped in to also make some believe and embrace the grace offered to us (pour le faire croire & embrasser la grace qui luy est offerte).
Christ was therefore abandoned to the death of the cross ‘for the universal salvation of the world’ but God does not wish this to be of any use to us unless we believe and therefore repent. The grace which grants repentance is not universal; indeed, only a very small number are elect says Amyraut. But if people do not believe, it is not God’s fault but theirs (their unbelief does not come from their reprobation).
Amyraut also distinguishes between two kinds of predestination: what he calls ‘predestination to salvation’ and ‘predestination to faith.’ Predestination to salvation is universal and conditional (i.e. everyone is predestined, conditionally); but predestination to faith is particular and unconditional.
Those who do not believe frustrate the first predestination and the purpose of Christ’s death. This is Amyraut’s explanation for why there are both universal and particular statements about the cross in scripture, though he confesses that scripture, and especially Paul, speaks of Christ’s coming as if it had been ordained only for the elect and not for others.
By expounding two predestinations this way he believes he can avoid the accusation (the ‘horrible confusion!’) that the predestined are saved regardless of what they do, and the reprobate damned regardless of what they do – an old but crude suggestion used in the ninth century by Rabanus Maurus, and in the eighteenth century by John Wesley.
I’m not saying I like any of this. I just thought it might be useful to expound what Amyraut actually says, and with his book in front of me to spell it all out. What do people think of his idea of two predestinations? Or his speculative ideas about theoretical salvation without knowing the name of Christ? Or the thought that the elect are a very small number? Or the theory that God only wants something if we want it back?
Posted on 03. Apr, 2012 by Mark Jones.
Different people pursue PhD’s: men & women, young & old, smart & dumb, etc. Sometimes ministers/pastors pursue further studies. And sometimes those wishing to be pastors pursue higher degrees before they enter the ministry. I want to focus on those who are either pursuing the ministry or are in the ministry and wish to attain a PhD.
My own experience will, of course, guide my thoughts on this topic, but I hope a measure of objectivity doesn’t get swallowed up in the realm of subjective opinion. Regarding my own experience, I am currently supervising a PhD student who is also a pastor, and there are a few other men I know who are thinking of pursuing a doctorate. By the grace of God I was able to pastor a church and finish my PhD, and in so doing I learned a few things that may be of help to some who find themselves in the position of wanting to attain a doctorate.
First, to the student who wishes to get a PhD before entering the ministry, I would ask these questions:
- Have your seminary professors ever suggested to you that you ought to consider this route? Remember that Paul warns us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but with sober judgment (Rom. 12:3). This is not too dissimilar from the well-known internal-external call for the pastoral ministry. One is as important as the other, in my view. And here your professors – assuming they know you fairly well – are also in a position to know whether you are the type of person (1 Tim. 3) who will be a blessing to the church instead of a curse since, inevitably, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1).
- Are you wishing to teach at a seminary or use your PhD in the pastoral ministry? I know literally dozens of able, gifted men who have PhD’s but do not have a position at a Seminary. Be warned: unless you are incredibly gifted – far beyond the norm – or you have incredibly good contacts, a Seminary position will not automatically fall into your lap once you’re finished. You will no doubt find that Solomon was correct when he wrote: “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.” The right friends at the right time will prove decisive. But don’t fret; the Lord is the Lord and he will make sure to use you in a way that will be best for the church, even if that means teaching adult Sunday school classes for a while!
- Are you aiming to be a better preacher through your studies? I cannot help but agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones who argued that “Preaching is the highest and most glorious calling to which anyone could be called.” As one Seminary professor once told me, “Mark, the profs are the warm-up drivers; but the pastors are racing the cars.” The best theologians God has given to the church have invariably been pastors (e.g., Calvin, Owen, Edwards). Moreover, you must be careful that your pursuit of the PhD doesn’t make you a boring preacher who is constantly delivering academic soliloquies that even you don’t really understand! For what it’s worth – and apologies to those friends of mine with PhDs – the best preachers I have heard do not have PhDs.
- Do you have the resources to be able to complete several years of studies? There are different ways of making this work, some more difficult than others. But academic debt can kill you, especially those expensive British universities that love American students who have money coupled with transcripts full of A’s. I was able to get through my three degrees with no debt, and for the last two I even made money. This was entirely the Lord’s gracious providence to me. If you have a family, be very careful about putting yourself into debt. You do not want to be the person spoken of at the beginning of Psalm 37:21 (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8).
- Are you in a good marriage? If you are married, pursuing a PhD can be a wonderful time for you and your wife, especially spending time together in a foreign country; or, conversely, you can become so entrenched in your studies that your wife becomes a mere appendix to your life.
- Is there a good, solid church in the city where you plan to study? I regret to say this, but I ruled out several very good universities because I did not feel there was a church that I could worship in and be fed weekly. I even took a trip on my own to Manchester to check out a church because I was close to accepting my offer to study at the University of Manchester, but wanted to make sure there was a solid church there for my family (which there was in that case!).
- This is not so much a question as it is a statement: be prepared to be humbled. If you complete your studies, and if God loves you, he will no doubt humble you because you will need it. People love titles, especially “doctor”. And it gets to your head. You will no doubt think you are smarter and wiser than you were before. Of course, you may wish to be proactive in this (James 4:10)!
There are many more questions, issues, and concerns that I would like to raise, but those are some of the most important that occurred to me. Now for the pastor who wants to pursue a PhD concurrently with ministering in a church. (I’m talking, by the way, about the Senior minister, not the assistant or associate).
- First, don’t do it.
- Second, you need some very compelling reasons to do so. What are they?
- Make sure you ask your session (elders) whether they, not you – of course you do –, think this is a good idea; that is, will the flock you care for still get the required care they inevitably need while you’re chasing down PhD dissertations from various countries for your research.
- Do you manage your time carefully (Eph. 5:16)? Your family and the congregation come first, which means very little time for television or policing the blogosphere. Some nights I felt like my eyeballs were on fire from reading so many Early English Books Online into the wee hours of the morning.
- Pick a topic that will enable you to “double-dip”, that is, study a topic that you will be able to use in your ministry. Reading Thomas Goodwin’s works, as well as Owen’s, was incredibly helpful to my preaching ministry. But researching the controversy on works of supererogation in Pisa during the 15thC might not have been, assuming there was such a controversy.
- When you arrive at your office in the morning to begin your work I would strongly suggest that the first thing you do is hit your knees and pray. I often asked God to help me in my research.
- Last, don’t do it.
I am more negative about pastors pursuing the PhD because I know from experience the significant demands that are placed on a pastor apart from academic work. Unless you get on a roll – momentum is everything in completing your PhD – then you will find yourself in the company of many pastors who have been pursuing their PhD for a decade or more. Sometimes they get completed; but often they don’t – and at no small emotional and financial expense.
In conclusion, the real need of the church right now, I believe, is great preachers. We will always need great academic minds; but I know a lot more young men who are smart and PhD potential than I know young men who are gifted preachers. My prayer is not for more pastors with a PhD, but more pastors who are godly shepherds of the flock which God purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28).